The Policy of the Southern States

Richmond Semi-weekly Examiner, November 27, 1860

It is very evident that there are now but two parties in the Southern States—those whose first object is to obtain ample and solid security for the Southern minority against the action of the General Government and the Northern States, and those who are content to preserve the present political relations with the North without any additional security. While we know that a large majority of the Southern people belong to the first party, we are certain that their purposes may be defeated by their own imprudence or inaction, or equally easily by taking the counsels of those who really wish to do nothing.—There is not a man of sense in the community who does not know that the action of the General Government will hereafter be in obedience to the will of a sectional majority, carried out by sectional agents—members of a purely sectional and anti-slavery party. That this is not the Government which the Constitution authorizes none will dispute, and that to allow it to change its character thus will be a most hazardous experiment, even the most extreme submissionists admit. If this last is done, then we will have seen the whole civil polity of the Confederacy overthrown and revolutionized by a mere partizan election by a majority of voters, without the assent of the sovereign parties to the compact—without a direct and open appeal to the voters in the States to alter their laws; but a mere election of a man will be the actual destruction of the political institutions of the United States. Such a practice once inaugurated, such a principle once established, and every election will be a revolution. There will be, in reality, no Constitution or fundamental law. The whole framework of Government will be like the Cabinet of the President or the bills regulating the salaries of clerks and the appointment of officers about the Capitol, the subject of change every four years. Constitutional guarantees, always an unsafe dependence for a minority, where they are to be observed and executed by the majority only, will be even more worthless still, for they will lose even the value which their being part of what was designed to be a permanent Constitution had heretofore given them. Unless some security is now given to the people, not only against sectional oppression, but against the power of a party to revolutionize the Government, this Confederacy will be as unstable and as monarchical as any of the wretched attempts at Republics in South or Central America.

Constitutional securities, every one sees, are now only to be held at the will of a sectional majority. That that majority is a mere party, seeking to make its power permanent, and to wield the Government for its own advantage and profit, no one can dispute. Then, the will of this party, expressed every four years, is to fix the destinies of these States. The Southern minority is to depend for protection and safety upon voluntary provisions made by a sectional party majority every four years. The slaveholder and the man dependent upon the profits of slave labor is to look for the security and defense of both to the friendly provisions made by a party, whose only declared principle is hostility to slavery, and whose only known purpose is to put that institution "in course of ultimate extinction."

Now, we ask those who are seeking to preserve peace by urging people to be content with things as they are, and to make no stir in consequence of this election of LINCOLN, if they really expect to secure that poor respite from trouble and agitation they seek, by separating themselves from the other people of the South, and trusting affairs to the guidance of this party?—Even if this most shortsighted policy were practicable by Virginia, it most fortunately happens that neither the party whom they wish to trust nor the people whom they would distrust, will allow it to be attempted. The policy of inertia, the policy of trusting the enemies and distrusting the people of the South, is no longer practicable. It is one of those admirable pieces of political dexterity in accomplishing ruinous folly, which has finally made its own repetition impossible.

Those who have been patching up truces between sections have at last made the anti-slavery section strong enough to rule without the aid of the honest compromising friends of quiet, or the more mischievous friends of Northern power who dwell in the South. The peace which could be bought by yielding up territory, or granting away constitutional defenses, or giving an enlarged jurisdiction to the Federal agent of the Northern majority, is no longer to be preserved. The peace so dear to all, is now to be preserved by something provided for the South. We cannot assert that the securities and defenses essential to the South will be obtained by this or that means; but this we can say, that now the peace for which so much has been granted can only be preserved by furnishing these defenses and securities.

We are happy to know one thing, that in the part of the State we hear from most, and amongst the people with whom we have been thrown most, that men who were of all parties at the last election are of but one now. All with whom we have conversed agree in declaring that Virginia must go with the South, and that she must and will sustain the States of the South which shall secede.

We hear from all States of the South, and from all sections of this State, that this is the prevailing opinion. That the States which are most interested in slavery will take one of two courses, we suppose no man can doubt. Some will secede from the Union, others will adopt a system of State legislation which will make the relations between the citizens of Northern States and the people of those Southern States more hostile and as barren of profit as the relations between Great Britain and the United States were, which, under the embargo act preceding the War of 1812, made open war more tolerable to both people than the conflict of retaliatory legislation against trade. When such a temper prevails, and such a system of measures in which actual secession and laws, rendering the Union more unprofitable and irritating than actual dissolution are the only alternative policies in the minds of the majority of the Southern people, we imagine that reflecting men of both parties in the South will concur in the opinion that the only safety, as the only hope, of renewing any relations between the States of the two sections will be in uniting the South in some common policy. We see no other measure which can possibly attain the objects sought by those whose primary object is to maintain peaceable relations in the Union, or by those whose first purpose is to be secured against the mischievous rule of a sectional, anti-slavery party. We may quarrel over measures of detail, we may desire particular remedies, we may long for peace, we may shout for the present Union, but not one can be obtained as a solid, permanent political condition or measure until those States which intend to retain slavery shall be united in a common policy.

Those Southern States which design to take their destiny with the Northern States must make up their minds to sacrifice the institution of African slavery. That is the first purchase money they must pay for that alliance. In that Union LINCOLN'S assertions will be undisputed truths—it will not exist "half slave and half free." "It will be all one thing." "Slavery (there) will be put in course of ultimate (and of rapid) extinction."

In the States which intend to retain slavery there must be a common policy, and to secure that there must be a union between them all in this struggle. If they wish to obtain the ends they have in view at the least sacrifice of private and public convenience, they should make a union in advance. They should let it be known at once that any collision between the General Government and a slave State will find them with the slave States. If they desire safety, that is their policy; if they desire a peaceable solution of these difficulties, an early union in demand for security is equally their policy.