State of Parties in the Union
Richmond Semi-weekly Examiner, May 18, 1860
It is impossible for any observer, however deeply interested, at this time to predict the result of present political movements in the United States. One thing is certain, the crisis is pregnant with such consequences and productive of such excitement that it cannot endure. If pressing difficulties are not overcome by judicious and prompt action, the Gordian knot will be cut by the people. Neither public sentiment nor public interests will admit of protracted discussion, nor procrastinated conflict. Those who have forced this fierce struggle on the people must solve the dangerous enigmas which they have propounded, or they will be speedily dismissed from public position and confidence.—We trust we are in no bad temper towards any party in this Confederacy. Some we certainly condemn with all the sincerity of hostile conviction. Some actions of those to whom we are more friendly we cannot approve, and the evil consequences of those actions we are anxious to avert. But as we are fully convinced that interests, the most vital, are dependent upon the wise action of the contesting parties in the political organization of which we are an humble member, we have endeavored to bring to the consideration of these controversies a calm temper and a liberal spirit. Our view of the proper course to be pursued was given long ago, and very often repeated. It failed to have the effect we desired on many, both in the North and South, who had the destinies of our party, and, we believe, of the country, in their hands. The controversies of the different and contending sections of our party were carried to Charleston, and failed to obtain a satisfactory settlement there. Their decision has been postponed, and the controversialists appeal at no distant day for a final hearing before the most authoritative tribunal known to our polity. The contestants had an appeal to CAESAR, and they have made it. What judgment they will receive we have no authority nor power to predict.
In common with the whole people of the Union, we have a deep interest and as deep a feeling as to the mode and character of this decision. The people have a right to demand a prompt and just decision of those long canvassed and perplexing matters which have produced such distraction in their counsels, and have menaced every interest in the country with dangers so alarming and extensive. Let those who have thrust them upon the country so sternly, and at a time so inauspicious, relieve the community from the anxiety incident to so ominous and perilous a conflict.
The most potent and conservative political engine in this land has been threatened with destruction, and has been paralyzed at least for a time. Around it were clustered the hopes of thousands of citizens whose all was, and is, staked upon the destruction and overthrow of the aggressive sectional majority which is still threatening the most precious rights and interests of the country with oppression and ruin. The time-honored policy of the great Democratic party of the country has been sternly (and, possibly, not very considerately) condemned. It is the duty of those who have undertaken to set aside and supersede this trusted political agency to bring something before the country which shall relieve it from the sharp and trying anxiety this movement has brought upon it. The exigency cannot be ignored. The anxious hopes and reasonable fears of an endangered people demand and are entitled to an explicit and prompt relief.
The enemies of the Constitution and the assailants of the rights and property of the South have possession of the largest and most potent branch of the legislature of the country. They have the control of the local legislatures and recognized authorities in a majority of the States of this Confederacy. By the action of those who have paralyzed the Democracy, they have now at their command the most efficient and best disciplined, as well as numerically the strongest popular political organization in the Union. The Democracy and the Black Republicans were, a few weeks since, the solitary stable partizan organizations existing in this Union with power to direct the legislation and political action of the Confederacy. The Black Republican party is still existing, and existing in full vigor and vitality. Where is the Democratic party, and what is its condition? Virginia and a few large slaveholding States in the Union have secured to that party a short space for consideration—an opportunity for concentrating its distracted energies and girding itself for its last and most decisive battle in defense of right, justice, and the Constitution and Union of these States. Who have the power to reunite and strengthen that mighty political power? Two portions of the country have at their command the means of arraying, disciplining and leading that great popular agency to a victory more decisive and beneficial than it has yet won.
The Northern States have a deeper interest in this conflict than any portion of the people of the Union. They have a stronger reason for removing distracting questions that afflict this organization than any others. Let this conservative organization be broken, and they and theirs are in the hands of the Philistines. They and their property are given over to a power which hates peace and revels and lives in constant revolution and disturbance.
What concession is demanded of them now? Is there any they cannot grant? We think not. We admit that the pressure of such demands as have been made upon them was not required by any exigency, even by any real necessity. But let them remember that the people who are struggling with them against their aggressors in the North have been robbed, pillaged and insulted in this Union by free State majorities.—That not only their rights of property, but their property itself, are subjects of constant and open and extensive spoliation. They cannot wonder that people so circumstanced and so wronged should be very jealous, and even over-exacting in demanding the fullest acknowledgment of their rights. The demands may be pressed unwisely and needlessly, but much must be granted to a wronged and persecuted people.
The South has not now, or at any time, demanded anything more than an acknowledgment of what it, and most conservative men in the United States, consider an established right.—Such demands should not be refused on slight grounds at any time, and certainly not when such refusal ensures the triumph of a corrupt and tyrannous party.
There is another party which can reunite the Democracy and secure the defeat of the Freesoilers. The Southern seceding Democrats may again rally the popular party of the Union, and secure a triumph over the enemies of the Constitution and their section. They have made, unwisely in our judgment, a needless issue with those whose aid is essential to the maintenance of the sole power which can prevent the actual existing government of these States from being administered to the loss and damage of Southern rights and property. The action of Virginia and other border slave States has secured them an opportuntiy of again fighting for their rights and the Constitution inside of the Democratic organization. Pride of opinion may keep weak men or passionate men in a state of antagonism to this party. But patriotism and every incentive of interest, as well as mandate of duty, would seem to urge a combination with the conservative Democratic elements in the next Presidential canvass. How they will accomplish this great and patriotic result, we have no right to advise or press upon them. But we, and the people of the frontier slave States, who are to feel the first and most severe effects of civil commotion and an anti-slavery war, have a right to ask that their condition should be considered and their fortunes regarded. The union of these States with the other slaveholding States is no matter of doubt, no question of probability. The State of Virginia is bound by every social, political and moral bond to the other slave States of this Confederacy. Their fortunes cannot be sundered. This largest and leading slave State has striven, and is still striving, to protect and defend the rights and property of her sister States in the Union. She has appealed to the conservative men of both sections to make one more effort to overthrow the fanatical and corrupt hordes, who are striving to make the Government and the Union "a den of thieves."—Will the men of the South reject her counsels and contemn her appeal in this their hour of extremity? We trust not. We hope to see the Baltimore Convention solve these perplexing difficulties. With the aid of the patriotism, wisdom and power of the whole slaveholding States, we are confident that such a result can be achieved.