The Folly of Secession
Providence Daily Post, November 8, 1860
The Republicans have a great deal to say of the "folly of secession." First, they prove to us it would be very unreasonable. Next, that it would be very unprofitable. And finally, that all that is said on the subject, by the South, is the merest bosh. So, what is begun, sometimes, in seriousness, is sure to end in ridicule; and plain facts, which can be seen by any person not stark blind, elicit only a pooh-pooh or a sneer.
While the election was pending we uttered our own opinion in regard to secession and its prospects—in regard to the temper of the South, more especially—with plainness and with frankness. The Republicans treated our statements and cautions with all the appearances of contempt. It was all done, they said, for partisan effect.
There is no election pending just at this moment; and we certainly, in what we now write, have no wish to influence any man's vote. But we nevertheless repeat the utterances which our enemies had the pleasure of laughing over one week ago. A few short weeks will witness a formidable effort for a dissolution of the Union by the secession of three or four of the Cotton States; and there will probably result from it such a panic and crash in business circles as has never been witnessed in this country.
This is our belief; and all the sneers of all the Republicans in Christendom will not change it. Nothing but time can show to us its unsoundness, unless these pooh-poohs will open to us some sources of information, touching Southern temper, to which we do not now have access. That the movement will injure the South, we do not deny. We do not deny that it is unwise, unreasonable—nay, very foolish and very reckless and very criminal. But all this does not reach the fact that it will be made.
And we say, too, that this Southern indignation is not wholly without a cause. The attitude of the Republican party goes far to justify their apprehensions of evil. We do not wonder, that they are apprehensive, or that they are indignant. In our honest opinion, if they knew the Republicans better, they would fear them more and love them still less.
It is undeniable that the Republican creed is based upon hatred of slavery and hatred of the South. Their leaders may tell us, fifty times a day, that they have no wish to interfere with slavery in the States, and that they stand ready to protect the slave States in all their constitutional rights. But the fact that they insist upon using the federal government to interfere with slavery in the Territories, is sufficient proof that they hate the institution and its supporters, even if no other proof existed. The fact that they have assailed slavery in the District of Columbia, assailed the internal slave trade, assailed the fugitive slave law—that they have charged the Southern people with being thieves and robbers and barbarians; with ignorance and cowardice and hypocrisy; with almost every crime under heaven; have complained of their slave representation in Congress, and of the large expenditure in which they involve the government, especially for the support of the army and navy; and finally, have adopted a course of legislation in the free States which has had no other motive than to virtually and practically trample under foot a plain provision of the Constitution of the country;—all this has had the effect to irritate and exasperate the South. And it seems to us that that man must be blind or insane, who wonders that the South should feel indignant when such a party—embracing all the outright abolitionists, all the John Brown sympathizers, all the anti-slavery fanatics in the land—gets hold of the reins of government.
Secession may be foolishness—resistance may be madness; the South may be the most unreasonable community on the footstool of the Creator,—but we tell this Republican party in plain language, that with a feeling of deadly hostility towards an institution which exists, almost as by an act of God, in fifteen States of the American Union, you have no right to expect a peaceful reign. You will not get it. The South will resist. The excuse for resistance may not be a good one, in your estimation; but it will answer the purpose, for the long-harrassed and indignant people of the South. They do not look upon slavery as you do; and much as they may love the Union—greatly as it may be for their interest to remain in it—they will assuredly make an effort to go out, before submitting to the rule of an organization whose very life-blood is hatred of their cherished institutions. Bring the case home. How would you feel, should the government fall into the hands of a party whose great leading principle was based upon bitter hostility to an institution which existed in the New England States—which had existed here two hundred years—which was interwoven with your social as well as your political organizations—which formed the basis of your industrial policy—and to destroy which would be to revolutionize your social condition, and deprive you of your greatest source of wealth? Would you stand it? You threatened secession when Texas was annexed, and when Kansas and Nebraska were organized. What would you do in the case we have supposed?
"But if the South attempts to secede," say our Republican friends, "we will subdue them." Can this be done? How large an army would it take to march into and subdue the four States which are supposed to be foremost in the Disunion work—Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina? Could an army less than one hundred thousand strong, succeed in crossing their lines? And if it got there, and found a people asking only to be let alone, what could it do? Allowing that the ties of kindred and friendship offered no restraint, yet how long could this army employ itself profitably—profitably to the North—on this Southern soil? Nay, suppose it should succeed in subduing the South, and its commander should issue his proclamation announcing "It is all right," what would the Union, thus held together, be worth? How long would it last? Have you ever counted the cost of thus preserving it?
We are not now speaking as a politician. We are not after votes. Mr. Lincoln is elected, and there is no help for it. But we deem it right to call the attention of the people to the evils which threaten them. We say that we are standing upon the brink of a fearful precipice. It is too late to avert the danger by a resort to the ballot box. But it is right that the people should understand what the danger is. By and by, we predict, their lips will be red with curses upon the men who have led them on, and laughed and pooh-pooh'd at our warning. Before that time arrives, would it not be well to ask themselves, "What may we best do, when secession is attempted? Will it be better to attempt to subdue the seceding States, than to let them alone?" These are questions which will, we fear, have to be discussed; and instead of this everlasting harping upon "the folly of secession," our Republican friends would do well to consider them.