Mr. Lincoln's Inaugural
Philadelphia Evening Journal, March 5, 1861
With the slave States in the Union, Republicanism is POWERLESS. With the slave States out of the Union, Republicanism would be USELESS. There can no longer be any doubt that anti-slavery is the corpus, the strength, the visible life of the party which has now assumed the reins of government, and that however carefully it may be concealed, from existing prudential motives, that antagonism to human bondage, whether it be confined within its present limits, or its extension be attempted, is the innate, controlling principle of the present administration.
This truth we gather from Mr. Lincoln's Inaugural, which, taken as a whole, is one of the most awkwardly constructed official documents we have ever inspected. It abounds in platitudes, incoherencies, solecisms, illogical deductions, non sequiturs, and is pitiably apologetical for the uprising of the Republican Party and his own election to the Presidency by it.
We sincerely regret this, and to be thus, in justice to our common country, North, South, East and West, compelled to speak; but in accepting the responsible, arduous and dignified duties of journalism, we promised the public to be independent, and to discharge those duties according to the best of our humble abilities, and we shall certainly endeavor to keep that promise inviolate.
At the close of his administration, under better advisers, and rid of Southern traitors, Mr. Buchanan began to speak bravely, but as we, on more than one occasion expressed it, tampered with the crime of Secession, until it assumed a magnitude which was well calculated to alarm a man of his timid nature.
Mr. Lincoln, from whom much was expected on the score of determination, makes a very forcibly feeble start, and with a rash hand robs his administration of the weak initiative prestige which it had.
What then! would we counsel coercion? Nay, far from it, for the cost of American treasure and blood would ineffably exceed the value which the United States Government would receive by attempting to coerce States, governed and controlled by the present race of seceders, with their lax notions of the value of oaths and the binding character of covenants among honorable men. On the other hand, we cannot and we will not approve of Mr. Lincoln, as President of these UNITED THIRTY FOUR STATES, appealing to rebels, with arms in their hands, and forts, arsenals and custom houses taken by furtive violence from the Government, as "dissatisfied countrymen." This language will be thrown away on men who disregard the difference betwixt meum et tuum. When the reigning secessionists shall have been gathered to their fathers by violent or natural deaths, the imploring language used by Mr. Lincoln might be addressed to their children, when they shall have become ashamed of the name and fame of their fathers—but NEVER BEFORE!
Should Mr. Lincoln then have pronounced a coercion or. civil war policy? Again we say, no! But the respect due to the States which remain loyal to the General Government, demanded from him expressions of opinion as to overt acts of treason committed by the Secessionists. What if the rebels be now so strong as to defy the execution of the laws, there remains yet the proud privilege appertaining to every AMERICAN CITIZEN of expressing his sentiments in a free, frank, bold and manly manner!
Mr. Lincoln would have the country believe that he altogether ignores the fact of secession, and will administer the government under the impression that the Union is unbroken. He will execute the laws "as far as practicable," (Mr. Seward must have suggested this phrase,) unless his "rightful masters, the American people, withhold the requisite means, or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary." This is virtually pre-supposing that the governed may refuse to be governed, and thus commit a governmental suicide. It puzzles us to know how the American people are to decide whether the Chief Magistrate, who has been sworn to execute the laws, shall so execute them or not, unless it be at town meetings by resolutions. But, we opine, Mr. Lincoln, with all his submission to his "rightful masters," would be loth to grant obedience to such resolutions, with his experience and knowledge of the nature and character of the men who "get up" resolutions.
We wish no more political heresies. Let the Cotton States monopolise them. We would utterly fail in an attempt to imitate them in their wild invention of political errors.
For their own especial benefit, the American people have parted with certain powers—such powers have been delegated, and will remain so, until revoked by the sovereign people in the mode [they] themselves have prescribed in the Constitution and by the laws.
If, however, Mr. Lincoln, by his ambiguous language, refers to Congress, does he mean to say that he will never exercise the VETO POWER? But why should we be thus compelled to endeavor to interpret an inaugural address to the country, which ought to be plain, simple, direct, and easily understood, and the more so, in this unprecedentedly alarming juncture of public affairs? Mr. Lincoln declares that he will use his power "to hold, occupy and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties on imports," but he does not say one word as to what the government will do, as to the forts, arsenals and custom houses of which it was robbed. Is NO DEMAND TO BE MADE FOR THEM? Has not the government the face to ask for its own, even if sound policy dictates no coercion?
Is it asked what would a demand amount to, if no force is to be used in case of a refusal? Much every way. It would keep alive the claim of the government, which, unsatisfied, would be continually hanging over the seceded States, keeping them in the eyes of the world in a wrong position and injuring their cause, should international laws be invoked and executed, and reminding the civilized world that treaties with such a people would possess no binding force. Aye, the President should have advertised the country that a demand would be made of the rebels for the restoration of all Government property, and if there should be a refusal—then the coercion of contempt for those who have betrayed a solemn trust—then the coercion of pity for men, who in the madness of demagogueism and through the lust of political ambition, and the insane craving for power, have organised the mob—the rabble, according to military rules and tactics—and armed them to the teeth, thus placing themselves, the idle and aristocratic leaders, at the mercy of those who erewhile were held in the strictest subjection.
Coercion! no! for coercion will be inaugurated in the seceded States. THE PEOPLE, with their military armaments, will coerce their quondam leaders, when the United States government shall force into the minds of seceders the idea of being left to themselves, by declaring their ports no longer ports of entry; by closing their post offices, and thus bring to their senses, the foolish, the infatuated men, who have become traitors and rebels on the strength of their being with a majority of several millions in the North, East and West!
Shall this Union, then, be broken? NEVER! But it cannot be maintained by forcible measures. The consent of the governed, in a free government, is essential to its perpetuity. Do we, therefore, justify secession? No! for we CONTEMN AND CONDEMN TRAITORS. But now, as ever, we are in favor of compromise and concessions, and a CIVIL WAR WHICH SHALL BE BLOODLESS, and COERCION which is NOT PHYSICAL, and the time will come when the seceded States will need the aid of the loyal States to disband their rebel army, when it is discovered that loyal brains have been too much for disloyal stomachs, and that the let alone policy was the severest punishment which could be meted out to political parricides.
Yes, if Gen. Davis does not find his hands full with the Southern army, when it is discovered that the opposing army is altogether an imaginary thing, then is he a greater and a wiser man than was Washington, who discovered, after the final declaration of peace, that the disbanding of the army was the most difficult task ever imposed on him by the claims of patriotism.
But, we cannot, to-day, further pursue this subject, and conclude by asserting that, by Mr. Lincoln's Inaugural, the Republican party has performed its mission. The great, the chief, perhaps the sole aim of its adherents, will be accomplished. Some of them will get office, and we may now reasonably hope that peace will once more be restored to all sections of our common country, for Republicanism has quietly and gently died in the arms of its own triumph, and Mr. Lincoln has pronounced its funeral oration.