Our Geographical Position
Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, April 20, 1861
The Spaniards have a proverb that a handful of sense is worth a bushel of learning; and the proverb is right. Fancies and speculations and theories are nice things in their way, but one stubborn fact or two before the eyes of a common sensed man outweighs whole tomes of metaphysics. If the old farmer that we have all read about could have admitted the major and minor premises of the freshman it would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to have agreed that "a jack pie might be a pigeon." But there was the difficulty. Not less absurd to the eye of intelligent observation is the fallacy of the reasoning of those in our midst who attempt, under one specious pretext and another, to entrap us into secession. The atlas kills them on sight! One glance at the map reveals our predicament. Here we are in this city, situated midway up a little narrow strip of territory—an accidental cut off from Pennsylvania—wedged tightly and narrowly between two of the most powerful and one of the most warlike States of this Union, and utterly at the mercy of either. We are as utterly powerless, were we inclined to be hostile, as an infant would be in the grasp of Hercules. They could overrun us and crush us in a day were they disposed to do so. Cannon planted on the Ohio hills could lay us in ruins in a few hours['] time, while we could not reach them with a gun, while Washington county alone, on our Eastern frontier, with her fifty thousand people, could send men enough on a day's notice, to take possession of our whole Panhandle line.—Never did any people occupy a more unenviable one for a hostile collision with their neighbors. "Woe betide the people," said Talleyrand, "that have a frontier, in time of war." And sure enough, it would indeed be woe betide us, were we, in our weakness, or our treason, to lift our hands against our Government. But our frontier is not all that would ail us.—Where, in case of collision, are we to look for help? From Richmond, away off across the Alleghanies and the Blue Ridge, hundreds of miles off? Alas, for us, when we are forced to such a disconsolate hope for succor. We can look to Richmond for taxes and treason, but for little else. We might as well look to the moon for help, as to look to that place in time of trouble. She, it would rather be, who would look and call to us, as she did once before, at the time of the threatened negro rising, and not us to her. She will have her hands full, and more than full, if she joins the enemy, and it will keep her busy enough to keep down the negroes and entertain Jeff. Davis' army of occupation. No help there for us. None in the world. The fact is sorry comfort, we know, to the secessionists among us, but before they make up their minds to get up a precipitation in our midst, they had as well look it in the face and accept it as a piece of hard fate. Whatever of military capers they expect to cut they must arrange on a purely local basis, with the certainty staring them in the face that in a few hours thereafter they will be in the hands of the Government troops from the two adjacent States. They must bear in mind this pregnant fact, that Pennsylvania has never yet abandoned her claim to this strip of country which we inhabit. On the contrary she has time and again, and very lately, too, through her most influential organs of opinion, asserted her claims to it. Only a year or two ago this claim was before her Legislature. Suppose we were now in any considerable numbers to set ourselves up against the Government—how long would it be before she would at once renew her claim and proceed to make it good? Why, she would have us in a week's time, from the upper end of Hancock to the lower end of Marshall, and that would end for all time to come the whangdoodle whine of the loafers among us about their Southern rights. They would know then their geographical position, and, perhaps, come to the conclusion that they could live under a government that was good enough for their neighbors.