The Danger a Reality

Washington Constitution, September 6, 1860

The apprehensions excited in the minds of all conservative, patriotic men by the progress of the black-republican cause must not be confounded with the evanescent misgivings of an ordinary presidential campaign. Still less should the declared alarm felt with regard to the future of the Union be treated as the common-place manoeuvre of a zealous partisanship. The peril of the position is now realized as it was never realized before. The issue is no longer between parties entitled more or less to share the really national sentiment, but has assumed a shape in which the friends of the Union and the Constitution find themselves pitted against the enemies of both, openly or covertly intent upon the subjugation of the South under the leadership of Lincoln.

Grant, if you will, that in the republican ranks are men more moderate in their views than the Lovejoys, the Sumners, and the Greeleys of the party. What then? Is not its fundamental principle—the source of its vitality and growth—incompatible with the condition of State equality, on which alone the Union can stand? Take the most conciliatory exposition of the sectional doctrine, and what is it but a declaration that the North shall monopolize the benefits of territorial growth?—that the South shall be excluded from participation in territory acquired and held, in part, with its treasure and its blood?—that, in fact, this Union of sovereign States is to be converted into a compulsory partnership, the honors and profits of which are to inure to the controlling partner, the North? Assume, then, for the moment, that a certain portion of the republicans affect, with Mr. Corwin, great regard for existing local rights, still even they would impose terms to which the South could not, ought not to, submit. For they would rob it of the right to grow, to expand, with the ever-widening civilization of the continent. They would force upon it a construction of the Constitution destructive to the cherished feelings and interests of the Southern people. And so, in the end, they would compel the South to sever an alliance which would thus have been stripped of all semblance of justice.

But the republican party proper are not content to wait for this indirect accomplishment of their purposes. The sapping and mining policy has no charms for them. They spurn the pretence of peace. They will have none of your conciliatory counsels. The cunning which induces Mr. Seward to fence around his "irrepressible conflict" with friendly phrases, suits not their temper or their object. Having enlisted for a war against the slave institution, they insist upon attacking it on its own ground. It is not enough that the owner of slave labor shall be excluded from the Territories; not enough that the South shall be circumscribed within existing States. The conflict must be carried further. Accepting the dogma that slavery is an unmitigated evil and a wrong, they demand its limitation only as a prelude to its destruction. The logic of their fanaticism repudiates the idea of a stopping-place short of the full application of their idea. Abraham Lincoln hits it to a nicety: "This Union cannot stand half slave, half free." Slave labor, he and they declare, must be driven out. Squatter sovereignty will serve well as a beginning; that being enacted, and the emigrant aid societies in full blast, the Wilmot proviso might be dispensed with. Is this all? Are the bulk of the black-republicans prepared to tarry even here? Their candidate, Mr. Lincoln, distinctly tells us, No. "This shall be a Union of free States, or not a Union at all." They are bound, if victorious, to push their aggressive policy to its legitimate conclusion; and it were madness in us to doubt what that conclusion is. Nor are we left in doubt as to the steps contemplated—the measures one after another leading to the logical result of the black-republican doctrine. The hostility to the fugitive slave law manifested wherever that doctrine prevails, leaves no room to question the fate of that enactment should the spirit that nominated Lincoln obtain possession of the Federal authority. The unconstitutional legislation against the right of the South to reclaim fugitive labor, which has disgraced Massachusetts—the elevation of the Jerry rescue into an annual festival at Syracuse—the armed resistance at this moment offered to the United States law in Wisconsin in the case of the outlaw Booth, are so many pledges of the assault that is reserved for this portion of the compromise of 1850, in the event of a black-republican victory. And there are other measures as inimical to the South which the sectionalists are equally resolved to apply. Whatever be the trickery of their leaders, the rank and file at least are consistent. They are sworn to expel slavery from the Union and to thrust their version of constitutional obligations down the throats of the Southern people—if the latter consent, meekly and confidingly, to give them the chance.

It is no answer to say that we are presenting only the view of the extreme wing of the black-republican party. This extreme wing it is which controls the party—which enunciates its opinions in Congress and the press, which dictates its nominations in State conventions, and which is represented by the candidate who carries the party colors in the present canvass. The Sewards and Chases and Corwins of the party occupy back seats in the synagogue, and play second fiddle to Lovejoy and Sumner. The stranger who desired to pick out the prominent, ruling black-republicans in Congress might find them enumerated to his hand in the recommendatory advertisement of Helper's book. The incendiary harangues of the Senator from Massachusetts and the member from Illinois are acknowledged specimens of the oratory most in vogue where the fanatics are dominant. Your "moderate men" are nowhere amongst them. Why has Mr. Seward been unceremoniously set aside? Think you that Greeley's selfish antipathy sufficed to produce so significant a result? They know little of the disposition that thrives in black-republican quarters who can be induced to accept the puerile explanation. The New York senator had fallen short of the requirements of his party. Aiming at the presidency, he had toned down his expressions considerably. He was no longer avowedly aggressive, no longer defiant. And therefore Mr. Seward was thrown overboard at Chicago, as unsuited to the wants of the party. Bates and Chase and Banks were overslaughed for the same reason. They were not up to the mark. They were too moderate, forsooth, to satisfy the demands of the radical and ruling section. Hence the lot fell upon Lincoln, an obscure lawyer, confessedly lacking the culture and capacity which are requisite to the creditable occupancy of the high office for which he has been nominated; but an anti-slavery zealot, nevertheless—a man who realizes the expectation of his party by proclaiming uncompromising hostility to the distinguishing institution of the South, and who, if permitted to acquire power, will be forced by the sentiment which nominated and sustains him to carry out an aggressive policy by every means at his command.

Nor can it be said that any inclination has been shown since the Chicago nomination to hold the extremists in check. The opposite has been the case. The nomination of Lincoln has invested them with an influence which they are not backward in using in several of the States. True, we hear comparatively little of their stump orators in the East. Mr. Douglas is doing their work too skilfully to allow of their being anxious about accredited orators whilst he is upon the stump. But where they do put in appearances, you meet champions worthy of the candidate and the cause: here a Sumner, there a Lovejoy, there, again, a Giddings—out-and-out creatures, whom the leaders have heretofore chained in the background to save the credit of the party during the progress of a canvass. The Lincoln nomination has reversed matters—how completely the recent gubernatorial nomination in Massachusetts sufficiently attests. Driven from the stage by the preponderance of the radical element, Mr. Banks sees the abolitionist Andrew nominated as his successor; the nomination being heralded forth as a concession to those who hold with Lincoln that "this Union cannot stand half slave, half free," and would act accordingly if once installed at Washington.

We contend, then, that the anxiety, the alarm with which the contest is viewed in the South, and by national men everywhere, is not only defensible, but rational and just. Although four candidates are in the field, the struggle is really between two principles, of which Mr. Breckinridge and Mr. Lincoln are the respective champions. Were it limited personally to these candidates, we should not dread the result. The patriotic sentiment of the country would rise in its might and crush the party whose progress must render the maintenance of the Union impossible. The danger springs from the aid and comfort which the black-republicans are enabled to derive from the apostles of squatter sovereignty on one hand, and the remnants of know-nothingism on the other.