To the Readers of the Constitution

Washington Constitution, January 30, 1861

Circumstances of recent occurrence, both of a public and private nature, have made it expedient for me to suspend for a short time the publication of the Constitution, until I can complete arrangements, now in progress, for its reissue elsewhere under better and more favorable auspices.

To-morrow's paper will be the last which I shall issue in Washington City.

On the first of July last, immediately after the adjournment of the Baltimore Convention, I assumed the proprietorship and editorial control of the Constitution. During the exciting and momentous Presidential canvass that ensued, I used my best efforts to secure the election of JOHN C. BRECKINRIDGE and JOSEPH LANE, not merely because I was convinced that those distinguished men possessed, in an eminent degree, all the qualities requisite for the proper discharge of the duties of the high offices for which the national democracy had nominated them, but because I was firmly persuaded that their election, by entrusting the power of the Executive to men who would truly and faithfully administer the Government for the benefit of the whole nation, with an equal regard for the rights of all sections, and a stern devotion to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, was the only means of saving the Union from the dissolution which is now an accomplished fact. I believed that if the republicans succeeded in electing their candidate by a purely sectional vote, on a sectional platform of principles directly antagonistic to the rights, interests, safety, and honor of the Southern States, the Union must perish, because I knew that those States would neither submit to oppression nor degradation, and I felt that they ought not to do so.

When the result of the election was made known, and it was ascertained that Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was elected President of the United States from the 4th of next March, in compliance, it is true, with the forms of the Constitution, but in palpable contempt of the spirit of that sacred instrument, I hesitated not to defend the South, thus assailed in all her vital interests, and to commend and applaud the courage, the dignity, the patriotism, and the wisdom which she displayed in her prompt resolution not to submit to the degrading rule of a sectional majority banded together for the sole purpose of oppressing her, and animated by no other feeling than deadly hate of her and her institutions. I felt that the South ought to insist on perfect equality in the Union, or on independence out of it. When it became evident to all that she could not obtain the former, I hoped that she would promptly secure the latter, and I have faithfully used every exertion of which I was capable to aid her in striking the blow which was to free her from a partnership which had been diverted from the pious purposes of its founders, and made an instrument of oppression and insult.

Whether the right of secession were considered a right legitimately exercisable under the Constitution as belonging to the residuary mass of powers reserved to the people of the several States, and not delegated to the Federal agency, or whether it were considered as the right of revolution, did not appear to me to be a matter of much practical importance. I believed that the right of secession was specially reserved to the States by the framers of the Constitution, and the history of the formation of that compact distinctly justified the belief. But, even as a right of revolution, secession was, in my mind, not merely justifiable, but essential to the security of the Southern States, from the moment that the Chicago platform was declared by the dominant party to be the fundamental law of the land in place of the Constitution of the United States. On no day since the sixth of November would I have counselled a single Southern State to abate one jot or one tittle of her just rights, or to submit for one hour to the practical execution of the doctrines of the republican party.

I advocated secession. I hoped, and still hope, that all the Southern States will secede. 1 thought that an attempt to coerce a State to remain in the Union after she has solemnly declared by a vote of her people in sovereign convention that she will secede, would be the extreme of wickedness and the acme of folly. To "enforce the laws" within the limits of a State which had so seceded without collision with the people who had abjured those laws, was clearly an impossibility. It must lead to war,-a war the most calamitous, the most unholy, the most infamous that was ever declared since the world began.

The stealthy despatch of the Star of the West to carry Federal soldiers to reinforce Fort Sumter, and thus in all human probability bring on a conflict with the South Carolina troops, devised by General Scott and executed by Mr. Holt, I denounced as it deserved. It is not to the foresight of the Commanding General or the Secretary of War that we are to attribute our escape from a conflict which, had their plans been carried out, was inevitable.

By condemning the coercive policy of these officials, by a fearless avowal of my honest convictions, by an outspoken declaration of what I believe to be the duty which the South owes to herself, I necessarily incurred the increased enmity of my enemies; the displeasure, and, I may say, the hostility of those whose private interests are affected by secession, and who are, therefore, for the Union no matter at what sacrifice of principle or consistency; and I have been visited with the most vindictive animosity of certain members of the President's Cabinet, who never held an office of popular trust, and know nothing of the popular heart, because I did not permit their irresponsible and unwarranted conduct, exposing the country to war, and implicating the honor of their chief, to pass unrebuked. Having deceived the President,-informing him of orders issued when it was too late for him to recall them, and knowing that those orders were opposed to the President's policy and in violation of his assurances to others,-these men, elevated by chance, and to the country's misfortune, to the high offices they now hold, are the fit originators and executors of the petty vengeance which, in the abused name of the President, they have wreaked upon me. I regret that the President did not punish their treachery; but my knowledge of his character will never suffer me, to believe otherwise than that his kindness yielded what his judgment condemned, and that if he had been previously consulted as to General Scott's and Mr. Holt's strategical dodges, he would never have permitted the Star of the West to have been chartered and sent to Fort Sumter. It was very unfortunate that the President should have permitted such men to complicate him by acting in the most vital matters without previous consultation with him, since he must know that the world and posterity will hold him responsible for their proceedings.

I do not allude to the official persecution with which I have been visited for the purpose of complaint or remonstrance. Had the punishment been heavier than the withdrawal of the patronage of the Executive, I could have borne it cheerfully as the most signal tribute to my consistency, and fidelity to the principles I have always advocated. Secession being now a great, a glorious fact, which only pert Post Office clerks can affect to ignore; a Southern Confederacy on the eve of formation, with all the elements of power, prosperity, and greatness in its possession; most of the friends with whom I have associated and acted in political concert having followed the fortunes of their respective States and having withdrawn or being about to withdraw from this city; the approaching advent of an administration not only foreign, but hostile to those with whom I am bound by every tie of sympathy, I have resolved to adopt the counsel of those in whom I place most confidence, and to publish my paper within the limits of the Southern Confederacy as at present constituted, hoping, as I do most fervently, that in a short time, Washington, and the State to which she belongs, may be included within those limits. Within four weeks my arrangements will be complete, and the publication of the Constitution will be resumed. I trust that my friends and patrons will pardon the temporary suspension, and continue to me in the more genial atmosphere of the Southern Republic that generous support which they gave me in the capital of the late United States. To those of them who have paid their subscriptions in advance, and are unwilling to hear from me in my new locality, I shall promptly repay the sum in which I am indebted to them on their notifying me of their wishes. The Publishers who have sent me their journals in exchange will, I trust, continue to do so. I shall notify them promptly when my arrangements are complete.

I go hence with well-grounded hope of success; but not without regrets. I am indebted to friends whom I leave behind for many acts of courtesy and kindness. To all such I bid a respectful and cordial farewell.

WASHINGTON, January 29, 1861