Why We Must Fight and Why We Must "Conquer the South"

Rochester Daily Union and Advertiser, May 2, 1861

The Rebel leaders have "precipitated a Revolution" simply by propagating delusion, and making the masses of their people believe a lie. The first and most plausible of their fabrications was that the success of Lincoln would assure the emancipation of the Slaves and their elevation to the political status of the free Whites, unless his Administration was met by a determined resistance from the outset. And in order that they might successfully resist the scheme of forced emancipation, which those leaders imputed to the Administration, knowing it to be false, they won the people of South Carolina at least, over to the belief that they must "precipitate the Revolution" prior to Lincoln's accession; and of course prior to any "overt act" in violation of the Constitution and subversive of their sacred rights.

The revolution thus set agoing by imposture and false pretences, has been kept running through the same instrumentalities. The Rebel leaders now pretend that the "Confederate States" are fighting for "Independence" and the "Right of Self Government"—the inalienable right of the People to govern themselves. But this pretension, too, is utterly false. For in no single instance that we can recall have the People been permitted to pass a free and unbiassed judgment upon the Rebel programme; nor to indicate their own wishes in the premises. The inveterate Traitors who have been waiting for Opportunity these five, ten, twenty, thirty years, have in all cases usurped the rights and prerogatives which they now claim for the People, and have "precipitated the Revolution." They have thus wrought up the ignorant rabble to the highest pitch of excitement; and made the infuriate mob their own instruments for "coercing" the intelligent classes into endorsing their revolution policy, or at least for awing them into silence.

It is thus that the whole power of the Southern rebel States has been transferred to the hands of a few rebel leaders who recognize no practical responsibility to the People, and who will yield to no influence but that of MIGHT. Such is the foe whom we are fighting and whom we MUST CONQUER. We must conquer that foe, even though we may be obliged to "subjugate States;" or, we must ourselves be conquered. There is no other alternative. If we do not conquer; if we fail to extirpate the Secession heresy utterly and entirely, the American system of Government will be overthrown. It is we—the States and the People of the States yet remaining loyal to the Union and the Constitution—and not the Rebels, who are fighting for Liberty and the cause of Free Government.

—Let us suppose that we to-day make peace with and acknowledge the independence of the Seceded States: the right of a State to secede from the Union would thereby be affirmed; and that principle would henceforth be incorporated into the Public Law of the Anglo-American States. We say the right of a State to secede from the Union would thus be affirmed; for we should cling to the delusion that the States still left would constitute a Union such as was formed by the revolutionary fathers. But in truth there would no longer be anything left of the Union but the name.

Let us illustrate this very briefly: It is proposed to establish a naval school at Newport, Rhode Island. Let us suppose the Government has already expended some millions, at that point for the benefit of "the Union," still comprising upwards of twenty "independent States." But all of a sudden Rhode Island takes a notion to "secede" from the "Union." What can we say? We have already admitted the right of a State to secede from the Union on any provocation which she may deem a justification of the act, by having recognized the self-same right on the part of South Carolina and other Southern States. We have repudiated the idea that the Federal Government has a right to "coerce a State;" and we must let "little Rhoda" go!

The next thing we hear is that New Jersey has become restive, and has almost unanimously resolved to secede from the Union. We are thoroughly committed to the "principle" of secession; and we are obliged to recognize the independence of New Jersey. She now proceeds to make the most of her position.—She erects batteries on Hoboken Heights, from which shot and shells can be made to reach every square foot of the whole lower portion of New York city. Not a ship would be safe in any of her docks. Proceeding a little way up the river, she could erect batteries that would completely command the Hudson; and she could place other batteries at Sandy Hook which would command the approaches to New York from the ocean. Thus the little State of New Jersey, availing herself of the right of Secession would be completely master of our great emporium; and by means of foreign alliances, which she could readily form after having obtained her independence, she would become the mistress of the commerce of the Western world. For acting on the idea we have suggested, she would fortify the banks of the Delaware and control the commerce of Philadelphia as easy and as effectually as she would the commerce of New York.

It is unnecessary to go further for the purpose of demonstrating that we must extirpate the Secession heresy; or abandon all idea not only of maintaining any Government, but of protecting our own commercial and other material interests. There is no middle ground. We must destroy Secession or be ourselves destroyed. We must conquer the Rebels first of all. We cannot even negotiate with them on the basis they have assumed—the right of Secession. We may deem it expedient to cast off the Rebel States and let them form a Government of their own; but we must first reduce them to submission for our own self-protection. We have given hundreds of millions to perfect our frontier on the Gulf coast. We must not and will not allow that frontier to be changed at the will of our enemies. We will not allow a piratical State or any other inimical State to be planted in our midst. Let us have a clear conception of the principles and practical consequences which this war involves; and then let us push it with all possible vigor to a triumphant conclusion.