Hopes Doomed to Disappointment
Richmond Semi-weekly Examiner, December 18, 1860
We have been much surprised at the varying expressions of hope and despair which we see in the newspapers on the reception of the daily news from Washington. If politicians, Presidents or Congressmen could have quelled the present popular agitation or quieted discontent, it would have been done long ago. The evil was aggravated by Congress, but was far above its control. The mischief rules the Northern power which rules Congress, and will rule the Government. The men who but await the 4th of March to seize on the power and gain the processes, to get which are the true sources of disturbances, are the men whose agency is the only means of giving even the delusive hopes of peace through the Government. To make even a pretended effort to satisfy the South, those men must dissolve their party, resist those from whom they hold their positions, and, in the face of the country, abandon at once the principles and objects of their organization. Their bond of Union, their weapons of defense, their tenure of political power and of social position, are all summed up in one intelligible, practical policy—it is to make this Government an agent to repress and extinguish African slavery. The men whose hopes and political existence are dependent upon a zealous and energetic support of this policy, are the men who must co-operate with slaveholders even to enable Congress to send forth the valueless indication of a disposition to attempt to devise the worthless deception of a possible legislative compromise of a difficulty which the sovereign popular authorities of the different States will find it difficult to cope with. And yet it is by the vague givings-out from members of Congress, who have no connection with this potent party, that the hopes and fears of men are raised and depressed.
Every reasoning man must see that hopes from Government action, so far as permanent quiet is concerned, are futile. The nature of the evil, the very constitution of Congress, forbid men to hope for a solution of these difficulties through that agent. The recent election settled the power of Government over the public disturbances. It has not now, and it will not have, the trust or respect of the men whose dangers and whose wrongs cause disquiet. But the action of Congress and the Executive have confirmed what reason and the election made sufficiently clear.
The Executive recommends to Congress and the people, as the sole means of satisfying the discontented and securing the endangered, remedies which Congress cannot grant, and which will, if granted by the Freesoil Legislatures of the North, put fetters on the people and representatives of the ruling party in that section.—Thus he sends the question before another tribunal, because the Government has not power to adjust it. But the action of Congress has been still more disheartening to those who hoped for peace through it. The first and only move came, most unhappily for the compromisers, from the endangered and assailed section. What wanted Black Republicanism more to strengthen and confirm it in its purposes? Nothing. The cry for peace came in advance of the combat from the wronged and the endangered. The shout for mercy and justice came from Harper's Ferry, the scene of Black Republican atrocity, sent up to the endorsers of HELPER and the agents of JOHN BROWN's sympathizers. And how acted the stern, inflexible agents of anti-slavery on the proposition? They granted a committee to consider it, to be appointed by a member of their party; and he did the work admirably. Out of thirty-three, he appointed fifteen known anti-slavery men. When he came South he took men from that section at war with the sentiment and feeling of the discontented people; men, whenever he could get them, who thought, and acted on the idea that the South had no wrongs to complain of or apprehend—DAVIS, NELSON, MILLSON, &c.—who see no danger in Black Republican ascendency. And yet, it is on the action and words of this committee that men, otherwise rational, have been actually founding hopes.
Still another demonstration, more conclusive against looking towards the Federal Government with the least hope, has been given. In the Senate the Black Republican party has either made no move on this absorbing question, or when it has, has but given indication of a firm adherence to its policy, and of resolve to enforce it even by arms. In the House of Representatives, the party has kept silence, refused to give the least sign of ruth or change of purpose. The South appears begging, entreating, craving the boon of justice and mercy; their inexorable foe pursues its ordinary avocations, goes on with the routine of business, and calmly awaits the hour when it shall wield the Government and inaugurate with authority and plenary power its declared policy.
There is nothing in these constant watchings and prayings over Congressional movements but shame, sorrow and humiliation for the South. Nothing can come from it but the bitterness of disappointment, rendered more torturing by the memory of the weakness which brought it on us. The Congress could not stop the meetings of the sovereign States; it cannot stop their action; it will now scarce have weight or consideration in the conventions of the South. The politicians in their sphere have failed. Power over the people's affairs and destiny has passed from them. The sovereign authority in this Confederation, long dormant, has been awakened.—Sovereignties will be in counsel in a few weeks. Their Federal agents may go on with their ordinary business. They have no control over what the sovereign States choose to do. Elements too powerful for them are at work. The people of the South will scarcely hear or read the proceedings of the Committee of Thirty-Three. If it choose to employ its time resolving or sitting, we suppose nobody will care.