Richmond Dispatch, March 5, 1861
The Inaugural Address of ABRAHAM LINCOLN inaugurates civil war, as we have predicted it would from the beginning. The Black Republicans have played their deep, temporizing game with profound address and subtlety; but there is no longer any need of concealment, and the veil drops from the false prophet. The Demon of Coercion stands unmasked. The sword is drawn and the scabbard thrown away. If the fifteen Slave States had gone out in a body, this would have never been. But, as it is, the Border States lie almost at the mercy of an invader. Their forts are filled with Federal troops, whilst they have not raised a finger for defence. No doubt Fortress Monroe, in a month, will be powerfully reinforced, and ere long Virginia may be engaged in a life and death struggle for independence, honor, and for all that makes existence worth living.
We have no intention of arguing the points raised by his Sable Excellency upon the right of secession. That is a subject upon which there is the most radical disagreement between the North and South, a disagreement which he proposes to reconcile by the sword. This pregnant paragraph is all that concerns us:
I therefore consider, that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the best of my ability I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it so far as practicable, unless my rightful master, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means, or, in some authoritative manner, direct the contrary. I trust that will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself. In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the National authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy and possess the property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties on imports; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.
There is but one power under Heaven that can keep this man from executing his purpose, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, which he recognizes as his Master, and in order to secure the interposition of that power, every Border State ought to go out of the Union within twenty-four hours. Even this movement, which would once have been effectual, may now be too late to avert the catastrophe, but it will at all events mitigate its force. It will increase the difficulties of the ferocious enterprise which these enemies of humanity propose; it is the only alternative, except the most abject humiliation. Henceforth, we venture to predict, there will be no difference of opinion in Virginia as to the course of duty, of interest and of honor. We have often protested against the application of the term Submissionists to any party in Virginia.—We accord to those who have counselled delay and negotiation the same sincerity of motive which we claim for ourselves. We believe that all parties are imbued with a common love of Virginia, and that the Legislature expressed the will of the whole State when it declared, by a unanimous voice, that Virginia would resist coercion. We believe that declaration will be sustained by the unanimous voice of the Virginia people; that henceforth the hatchet of internal discord will be buried, and that, shoulder to shoulder, and heart to heart, we shall stand in a solid phalanx in defence of the independence of Virginia sovereignty, and the sanctity of the Southern soil.