Is There a Mode of Settlement?
New Orleans Daily True Delta, December 18, 1860
The question is perpetually put to us by correspondents whether, in our opinion, there is a possible way of extricating the country from the dangers in which it is involved by fanatical conspirators on one side, and disappointed and designing demagogues in combination with its chronic and consistent foes on the other; and if so, whether we think Congress will be able to accomplish it? Those who propound these questions entirely forget our persistent discrimination between the steadfast and consistent disunionists of South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi, and such people as the Clingmans, the Iversons, the Fitzpatricks and the John Slidells, would lead in their train. The former are sincere, frank, bold and resolved men, whatever many of the mere rampant and extravagant of their pseudo-leaders may be, and with them now, as heretofore, the destruction of this Union is, of all political catastrophes, that upon which their hearts are most firmly set. Until the present they were unfortunate in always finding opponents of their designs sufficiently powerful to defeat them in the administration of the government; but Buchanan and his surroundings encouraged, abetted, and perhaps, stimulated their disposition, and now, without apprehension of obstruction or hindrance from them, they will, we are sure, undertake to go out of the Union and set up for themselves. But Texas, which has taken advantage also of the opening Buchanan has provided for the destruction of the government he was sworn to uphold, is operated upon by very different feelings from those which animate South Carolina and those states which she leads, for, grievously disappointed at the poor results which followed to her from the merging of her independence in the federal Union, and animated by great expectations from European alliances which her public men fancy will enable her greatly to extend her present territorial limits—indeed, at once to prolong them to the Pacific, and as far on her south-western frontiers as may be desirable—she is now ready to cut adrift from a connection which has ceased to give her that assurance of future development and greatness she had been led to promise herself from its formation. Besides, Texas has every reason to expect from both England and France encouragement and support in the early annexation of Mexico, if not Central America also, to her present territory, so that by means of an unlimited supply of cheap labor from the east, which at small cost and with great safety, could then be transported across the Pacific, would enable her to compete in the yield of cotton and tropical productions with the southern states of our North America and the West Indian Islands besides.
We will not stop to examine the correctness of this view or these calculations; it will be sufficient for our present purpose to say that they are entertained and believed to be realisable by men of the most enlarged views and deep reflection in our sister state, although having very little in common with the considerations which animate the Wigfalls and chance medley speculating politicians, who now float like foam on the wave of popular opinion among our neighboring brethren. From two sides, then, may we confidently consider the Union to be in imminent peril; namely, from the honest and determined disunionists we have alluded to as controlling Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and from Texas, because of the brilliant future a disconnection from us so gorgeously presents. This is apparent to all. In view, then, of this exact condition of affairs, we do not see how a withdrawal of these states from the confederacy can possibly be prevented, least of all when the affairs of the general government are in control of men notoriously hostile to the Union, and the chief magistrate himself, with treasonable activity and zeal, is doing all in his power to facilitate it. Besides, we must continually bear in mind that the genuine secessionists aim at the dissolution of the Union not because of any actual wrong done them by the free states, for, as Iverson frankly stated, the cotton states are not affected by personal liberty bills or the enforcement of the fugitive slave law, those only hurt the border states, and they unanimously decline to accept a dissolution of the Union as the remedy for the wrongs to which they are subject and from which they suffer.
To reconcile, then, the states we have enumerated to a continuance in the Union, by any conciliatory proceeding of Congress, we frankly confess we consider almost impossible—save, perhaps, in the event of the other slave states adopting a general scheme of settlement, and employing their whole power with them to induce them to accede to it. Nor does it appear to us an easy matter for Congress to undertake; for, apart from what we have stated as to the real intentions of the seceding states, it must be obvious to every one that save in the exclusion of the slave question from Congress, now and for all future time, and leaving it in the territories of the Union to be determined as those to be affected by it deem right and proper —nothing can be done. The fugitive slave law is a good and sufficient measure as far as it goes, as good as any new law that can be passed, and if it cannot be enforced by moral means neither can any compact looking to similar results ever command respect or its mandates obedience, in the absence of the employment of force to give it validity. This force it was the duty of President Buchanan and his immediate predecessor to have employed, even if the streets of Boston had been dyed in blood, or the fields of those states which defied the laws and violated the constitution had been crimsoned in the gore of their rebellious citizens. No compact will be binding in the absence of the needful power to enforce its stipulations; and that neither Pierce or Buchanan enforced the fugitive slave law, is proof either that they connived at the violation of the laws, or were aiming at the production of a state of affairs which would render a dissolution of the Union inevitable. Men determined to do wrong will not listen to justice or change their purposes by appeals to their reason, their interests, or their patriotism.