The Propositions of Virginia
Springfield Daily Illinois State Journal, January 30, 1861
The question, as to the duty of Illinois, to send Commissioners to consult with Virginia upon the troubles of the hour, is one that ought not to be passed over without some consideration. It is due to Virginia, not less than to ourselves, that the position of Illinois Republicans should be clearly defined, and being defined, should not be departed from without some higher motive than that of fearing a dissolution of the Union. If the propositions of the Democratic Legislature of the State of Virginia were simply to ask at the hands of those who differ with her a free and frank consultation upon our present difficulties, it would doubtless be our duty to listen to them with some degree of consideration. What is this proposition of Virginia? She does not ask us to come to her, cherishing the principles and policy of the Republican party, but she insists that before she meets us upon terms of equality, we must give up every thing that is dear to us as Republicans. We are not permitted to talk over these difficulties unless we can do so upon the terms prescribed to us by Virginia. She prescribes to us terms, and seems to make those terms the condition of her continuance as a member of the Confederacy. She says to us, unless you see fit to comply with our terms, we will lead our people to the commission of treason, and compel you to coerce us to obedience to the laws. She proposes to us that we should adopt the Breckinridge platform as a basis of settlement. Not only this; but she insists that in all territory that may hereafter be acquired, slavery shall be protected by constitutional amendment. That is the proposition. And we can scarcely consider it with that degree of patience its importance would seem to demand. The character of the proposition can find a parallel only in the demand, that Mr. Lincoln having been constitutionally elected, shall resign, and allow tra[i]tors and rebels to fill the offices, which the people have decided, shall be filled by Republicans the next four years.
We would not be understood as having any objections to a consultation with Virgin[i]a, if she will come to us with clean hands, proclaiming her determination to stand by the Union in every emergency. But when she asks us to meet her, upon terms so dishonorable as those we have indicated, we feel that we but utter the sentiment of Illinois Republicans, when we say that they will not give up either principle or honor, for the purpose of inducing even Virginia to remain in the Union. We insist that all national troubles shall be settled IN THE UNION, that those States that have rebelled and those that threaten to do so, shall convince us by their acts that they are again devoted to the Union—having done that we will meet them in a spirit of fraternal kindness, and pledge ourselves to secure to them every right to which they are entitled under the Constitution as it is. The Democratic Legislature of Virginia asks Republicans, Douglas men, and Bell men to give up every principle that they struggled for in the last election, and accept in place of them the Breckinridge doctrine of a Slave Code for the Territories. The modesty of this demand will doubtless be appreciated by those who but a few months since were saying that the platform of NonIntervention, or of “the Union, the Constitution and the Enforcement of the Laws,” was sufficient for all national purposes. There is something more to be taken into consideration, in deciding what disposition shall be made of this proposition of Virginia. The Commissioners she has authorized to represent her at Washington, on the 4th of February, come clothed with no power to make any adjustment of present difficulties. They come to present Virginia’s ultimatum, and to report back what they have done, to the Legislature of that State. Their action will be repudiated by Virginia if they shall make any departure from her propositions as indicated by her Legislature. We are rejoiced to know that Illinois Republicans look with no favor upon propositions for concession or compromise, which demand such base surrender of principle, as is demanded by the propositions of Virginia. We do not like the idea of buying the right to control the offices which the people have given the Republicans a Constitutional right to hold for the coming four years. We do not like to have those who did not contribute to that result, prescribe to us the terms upon which Republicans shall administer this Government. We say to Virginia, and to all other States, that are asking us to “compromise” and “concede” something, that we are not aware of having done any wrong to them or their people. That we propose to do no wrong either to her or them—or to any of the States of the South. That being our position, we do not propose to make either concession or compromise—if in doing so we are required to yield up any essential principle of Republican faith.