The Demand for Civil War
Troy Daily Whig, April 4, 1861
Now, there is no mistaking the meaning of these journals [the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser and the Buffalo Express]. Their remedy for existing troubles is civil war. Doubtless after looking the ground all over, with the solicitude which all good citizens feel at this time, they have arrived at the conclusion that an appeal to arms—"a conflict" between the people of the North and South—is inevitable, and they appeal to the Administration they have brought into power to precipitate that conflict directly, openly, and without further delay.
The Republican administration is in the hands of its friends, and did the warlike advice of these and other Republican journalists to their political friends at Washington relate only to some measure of party policy, it would become us certainly to be silent, and allow the suggestions to have all the weight to which they are entitled in the party camp.
But with this question of Peace or War, the whole country, and every man of every party, has to do. Partizans have no exclusive right to deal with it. To weigh it in the scale of party "policy," watching the balance to see which will "pay" the party best, Peace or War, is a wickedness which should shame the devil.
The desperate condition of the country can scarcely be exaggerated. It is true, that in seven States the laws of the General Government are not enforced, and that the Administration is powerless to enforce them. It is true that Forts and public property have been illegally seized, and are now illegally held. It is just as true, that, from the best information that can be gained, that we cannot retake these forts easily, if at all; and that a "military necessity" will demand the evacuation of Fort Sumter by the gallant ANDERSON. It is true, that a Government has been put in operation within our Government, and that the prospects all are that this Government is to become "a fixed fact," if the people of the seven States who are parties to it, so will. It is true, that embarrassments and complications are likely to grow out of the conflicting revenue and other laws of these two governments, while the business prosperity of the people is to suffer. Worse than all, the exhibition we make before the civilized world, while it humiliates us, and discourages the friends of freedom throughout the world, teaches foreign powers that our misfortunes and follies make them their opportunities. These disagreeable facts are not only known to every intelligent man, but they will force themselves upon us,—they are the spectres at the feast; the "rooted sorrow" of every man who loves his country.
To seek a remedy is natural; to "do something" at such a time is a most rational desire.—But what can be done, or rather, what should be done?
We are very clear in the opinion as to what should not be done. The general government should make no war upon the Seceding States, nor permit war to be made upon them. Great as our calamities now are, the firing of the first gun would be [the] signal for ills ten thousand times greater. To attempt to bring back these Seceding States by force, would be the greatest folly in this age of follies.—The bare attempt would at once unite the entire Southern people in opposition to us. The Border States—every one of them—would seize arms to fight us, and foremost in the ranks opposed to us we should find the very men in Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Tennessee, who are now trying to keep them from the slough of secession. The only hope we have of this Government is in keeping the Border States with the Northern States in the glorious Old Union; and any policy which in the least tends to weaken the fraternal Union sentiment in those States is fraught with mischief incalculable. He who supposes for one moment that these States will remain passive spectators to a "conflict" between the troops of the General Government and their slave-holding brethren of the Gulf States, fails utterly to comprehend the temper of that people; he forgets in what direction their sympathies naturally are. There is not one impulse of human nature which would lead them to take sides with those who would force their brethren to live under and pay tribute to a Government which they had thrown off and disowned. We doubt if all the Federal patronage at the command of the Administration could buy up a respectable military company in all Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, to fight against the Seceding States, in such a conflict. There is reason to apprehend that if a conflict is precipitated, Washington city will be the Seceders['] first conquest and our first loss.
We are aware that it is the custom to speak of the "power" of the General Government, and the weakness of the South. "Power" has always been boastful and confident. When the Colonies revolted, the argument in England was, this handful of rebels must be put down, and with all our power, we shall make short work with them.—This pride of power has been digging the graves of tyrants and swallowing up governments ever since the world was made. Can we learn nothing? Does the history of the world furnish an instance where twenty millions of people even conquered ten millions on their own soil? Not one.
It is said that to vindicate our National honor and to show the world we have a Government, we must thrash the Seceding States into submission. Let us remember, however, that possibly we shall fail in our mission; that we may be driven back, humiliated and disgraced. How then would stand the account? How would the civilized world then regard us? Would the fact then be demonstrated that we have a Government?
But, it will be asked, and with reason, is nothing to be done? Are we to go on drifting, drifting, the sport of the winds? Are we to fall to pieces by our own weight; cease to be a power by doing nothing to show that we still have vitality left. Is one section of the country to drop off here; another there; and finally the whole structure disappear before the gaze of the civilized world, like the showman's "dissolving views?" By no means. We want no war to preserve the Government in the very best shape it can be preserved. What we want is a "policy" on the part of the Administration which will rise to the dignity of the action of strong and wise men. Let the Cotton States go. Let them alone. Interfere with them in no way. Withdraw at once all postal facilities, and abandon at once all the forts and all the custom houses of those States. They are bound to try a Southern Confederacy; try it they will; we cannot help ourselves. If we make the attempt we shall utterly, disgracefully fail. What then? Let the Northern States address themselves to the Border States, and hold out every reasonable inducement for them to remain in the Old Union, and let us have a Government, a Union, of Twenty-Seven, if we cannot have a Government of Thirty-Four States. Let us maintain Tariff Laws which will build up our Manufactures; let us attend to the business wants of the country; let us put the Army and Navy on a sound footing, and assert by all proper means that ours is the Government of the Old Union—the Government founded by WASHINGTON; that ours is the Constitution under which the people of the United States have risen to greatness and power, and that on that Constitution we stand. Let the Cotton Confederacy alone, we repeat, and attend to the business, the prosperity, the glory of the United States. We may not prosper as we have prospered for the last fifty years; but we shall live, and not only live, but advance and prosper. As to the Seceding States, it is more than probable if left alone, they will in a few years be ready to return to the Union they have left, and the Union may once more resume its integrity. A war, however, once begun, makes their return impossible, so long as memory does its office and tradition does not become extinct.