A Firm Position
Pottsville Miners' Journal and General Advertiser, February 23, 1861
Notwithstanding the changes in the aspect of the Southern rebellion have been since its commencement, as numerous as those of the kaleidoscope, rendering any definite opinion of the result, almost impossible; yet it now seems conclusive that secession in word though it be, is confined to the States that have rushed into it, rashly and inconsiderately. The votes of the people of the Border States, decide that they will have nothing to do with the perilous business in which South Carolina and the other seceding States are engaged. One of the greatest evils which has arisen from this difficulty, and [from] the attendant want of firmness on the part of Mr. Buchanan's Administration, is the estimation placed upon our Government by Foreign Powers. Had he acted with firmness in the first place, and discharged his duty, rebellion would have been crushed, and our strength been assured.
In glancing at the present position of the country, and the means which must be adopted to bring it back to the position from which it receded through want of firmness on the part of the President, it is manifest that the only plan to adopt is the one which unfortunately, was neglected at the outset. Certain States are found in open rebellion, and proclaiming that they will not submit to the laws until they have received all they demand.—Many Unionists and Democrats say that what all these States demand should be yielded. They say that everything should be conceded ere the Union should be dissolved. On the other hand, the Republicans take a bolder and a better course. They say that as none of the just rights of any State have been infringed, those States who are in open rebellion have no right to dictate the terms upon which they will resume their allegiance. They say that this Government is not one depending for its existence upon the will of any one State, and that when a State thinks her rights invaded she must seek redress by lawful means. They say that this Government must be preserved, and that the way to preserve it is to be firm—to show rebels that they must return to their duty, and that no sacrifice of principle will be made to them. The idea of sacrificing any principle to preserve a Government, which is to be broken up whenever a State cho[o]ses to think that she is aggrieved, is simply ridiculous. If this Government be what the Secessionists claim that it is, then the sooner we change it the better. The Republicans believe, however, that our Government is all that is needed, and that whatever it has seemed to lack in strength, has been only an apparent weakness, resulting from a want of firmness in those who administered it. They propose to restore it to its normal condition, merely by enforcing the Constitution and the laws. Such a course is evidently the only one by which rebellion can be put down, and our Government proved to be what its founders intended it should be.
It seems that the views of the Republicans are somewhat similar to those entertained by those abroad who are interested in this country. In a letter to a gentleman in Boston, Mr. Peabody, the London banker, says that the credit of this Government is now on trial in Europe, and that concessions to rebels, in the purchasing of the permission to peacefully inaugurate the President-elect, would give that credit a fearful blow—that people there will not trust a Government which, when its foundations are attacked, instead of upholding law and order, treats with the traitors.
Now, the London Times may proclaim that this Federation has been shipwrecked, and the President of the so-called Southern Confederacy may add one hundred speeches to the twenty-five he has already made, declaring that the time for all compromise has passed, that Southern independence must be preserved, and that no propositions for reconstructing the Union be entertained; but notwithstanding all this, rebels will be brought to their senses, and our Government, proved to be full as strong as is necessary. Every day only gives proof that the vaunted vigor of the new Confederation is rapidly declining. Time effects wonderful cures, and in the present case of Secession, it is already doing its work. Sober, second thought is very apt to lead to a business view of affairs. Secession, theoretically, is no doubt very promising. It leads to thoughts of future greatness, and of the acquisition of immense territory. Secession, practically, is evidently very unprofitable, so much so that the seceding States are yet unwilling to yield up the practical benefits of Union. Facts show, too, that secession is not the desire of the majority of the South, and when the madness of the Secessionists is fully spent, the voice of the Unionists will be fairly heard. Had Mr. Buchanan dealt promptly and firmly with that miserable little piece of territory denominated South Carolina, the conservative portion of the South would have been able to exert its influence. The people of that State need strait-jackets in the shape of blockaded ports and the stoppage of the mails. They already kick in their new harness. Nothing but firmness on the part of the Federal Government can restore their reason. This firmness may be looked for after the fourth of next month. When the people of the Southern Confederacy find that there is still some firmness and some strength in the Federal Government, they will not be long in discovering how silly a game they have played.—Mr. Davis will then be compelled to seek something more profitable than making treasonable speeches, and constructing Cabinets.