Peace or War
Pittsburgh Post, March 18, 1861
Compromise only can now save this Union of States. War can only result in dissolution and desolation. From the inability of the government to reinforce Fort Sumter, the first step towards peace has been taken by the administration from necessity and not from choice. The voice of the country approves the step which has been taken, without stopping to inquire into the reasons which have induced it. At once it has given confidence, and has given a stimulus to the paralyzed business of the country. It has renewed the hope in the breasts of those who really love the Union, that a settlement of the difficulty can yet be made. It is a bitter pill to the ultra Republicans, but what of that? The medicine will do them good and teach them that a President is subject to laws, and not to partizan platforms—the dictates of his own will, or the insane desires of his followers.
It is obvious that as yet Mr. Lincoln has performed few of those things which the Republican press has been endeavoring to convince the people he would perform. He has not arrested the Southern commissioners for treason, as the Republican press insisted the late administration should have done. He has determined not to reinforce Fort Sumter, and a few days will probably show that the administration will utterly fail to perform those things in regard to the Southern difficulty which a large part of the Republican party expected of it. The intention to carry out the programme announced by the Republican press, and re-enunciated in the inaugural may be good enough, but the legal authority is lacking. The Chicago Convention adopted "the law" of the Republican party, but the Constitution of the United States and the acts of Congress are the laws by which the President of the United States must direct his course of action.
When President Lincoln, from his present point of examination, shall have fully ascertained the power entrusted to him, and shall have carefully examined, with a practical eye, the question which presents itself to him, it is impossible that he can see any way by which the Union can be preserved except the policy of peace be maintained. If in truth and at heart he means to preserve the Union, and will disregard party clamor, he can yet do it by adopting and preserving a peace policy.
It is admitted by the Republicans that Fort Sumter possesses no value in [as?] a strategic point. The Tribune says, "the evacuation of Fort Sumter involved a point of honor only." There is no doubt that the question of holding or abandoning the forts in the seceded States is a most delicate and embarrassing one, but where the very existence of a nation, and the happiness and prosperity of many millions of people are concerned we must not draw points of honor too nicely. The question should be decided, not in a court of honor, but of practical common sense, and should be determined by the fact whether the great end sought to be accomplished could be best subserved by holding or abandoning them. Let the decision be such as will revive the love for the Union. These forts were built to protect the States where located against foreign aggression, not to be used against the people of the States themselves. If their occupancy by Federal troops irritates the people and makes them antagonistic to the general government, and their evacuation would tend to bring back the South to its allegiance, it is certainly the best policy to abandon them and thus remove a preliminary difficulty in the way of settlement. There is no humiliation in the abandonment. The reason of it will be fully appreciated by the nation and by the world. It will be regarded as a willingly offered, a voluntary peace measure, magnanimously adopted to save the Union.
None but the ultra Republicans would object to this course. They seem to feel as though they had something in the shape of vengeance to wreak against the South.
If the same policy is made general in regard to the forts of the South, which necessity has compelled the Administration to adopt in relation to Fort Sumter, the good effects will be immediate and most manifest. The Border States will at once relinquish all ideas of secession, and in the States which have gone out, the secessionists will be disarmed of their power, and the argument that the Administration designs to oppress them, would be destroyed. The Union sentiment, which in the Border States would be overpowering, would lead back the seceded States to their allegiance, and with such guarantees on the part of the Administration as would satisfy the good and moderate men of the South, what is there to stand in the way of re-union?
Of peace, thus secured, would come a renewal of confidence and of business prosperity. Men would know where they stood, and could calculate upon the future with a reasonable degree of certainty, and the country would re-enter upon a career of progress.
Of war, would come disunion, desolation, the destruction of the hopes of men, and the honor of the nation. All good men hope that Mr. Lincoln will inaugurate the reign of peace, and adopt such a conciliatory course of action as will result in an adjustment of our national troubles.