What Is Meant by "Getting Our Rights"
Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, February 2, 1861
It is a very common thing to hear the disunionists, and the disunion candidates for the Convention say that they are in favor of staying in the Union if Virginia can get her rights. It seems to us as if no Union man, who really is in earnest on the side of the Union, will permit himself to be deceived by such cant as this phrase. It is only thinly veiled secession. It is the only way in which secession could be advocated here in the North-west. If one of the disunion candidates should say, "I am a secessionist—I believe that secession would be a good thing for us—in fact, the best thing we could do," he would be hooted out of all foothold in public opinion.—He wouldn't have the ghost of, a chance o£ success. This the disunionists know, and therefore they don't choose—because they dare not—to play their treasonable game that way. They honey their words with expressions about the rights of Virginia, and say we, too, are for the Union, only we want our rights. Now, we have only to look at the necessary logic of this phrase to see what the consequences will be in electing such men. In the first place, it is well to bear in mind the fact that the men who use this phrase, use it only as a cover for their latent wish and purpose of secession. There is not a secessionist on our streets—people whom you know by the tenor of their lives and conversation, for years back, are ultra proslavery and secession in their feelings—who do not employ this cant about our rights when they want to make a convert to the disunion ticket. They are secessionists aside from any question of rights or any thing else, but it would not do to say so. This every man of intelligence knows. But granting what they say, and allowing that they are for the Union provided they can get their rights, what will be the upshot? Ask them what you think their rights are, and they will say the Crittenden Compromise. "Well suppose you don[']t get that Compromise—suppose the North don't concede it, what then will you do?["] "Secede, of course!["] "You will then secede, or vote for an ordinance of secession, if you can't get this compromise will you[?]" "Yes." "Well, have you an idea that you will get it?" "No, not much." ["]—The reasonable inference, then, is that you will feel yourself constrained to go for secession ain't it?" "Well I suppose it is."
Now this is the final upshot of this talk about our rights. These secessionists intend to lay down an ultimatum, as Hon. John Carlisle warned the people of Harrison county the other day, and say to the North, if you don't come up to our ultimatum we will secede. The ultimatum is only a plausible excuse for the cherished purposes of secession. They know the North will never accede to their ultimatum, and just so sure as they lay it down as the condition of the State staying in the Union, the State will go out. It will be as much as the North will ever do to concede the Border State proposition. It is as much as they ought to be expected to concede, and if Virginia lays down the Crittenden compromise as her ultimatum the State might as well save time and go out at once. She will never get it.
And now if we of the Panhandle believe that secession would be a good thing in any event for us—if we do not believe that "secession is a remedy for no evils whatever," (as Mr. Crittenden expressed it,)—let us vote for these qualified Union men, as they call themselves—but secessionists, and disunionists, and traitors, as they ought to be called. Just so sure as we elect enough of this stripe of men throughout the State, so sure will we have secession. Our advice to the voter of Wheeling who expects to see the Convention lay down an ultimatum and "get our rights" by it, is to watch an early opportunity and get shut of his real estate and other little property. For just so sure as an ordinance of secession is passed, there is not a foot of real estate in the city of Wheeling that would be worth 20 cents on the dollar. Not a foot. We will be a foreign population to the people on both sides of us. They, as a high spirited, intelligent people will forever afterwards despise us for our toadyism to Eastern Virginia and South Carolina, and will let us look to them for comfort and sustenance. We cannot insult them with impunity by proclaiming to the world that we won[']t live under the same flag with such people, and expect that they will regard us other than as aliens. We warn our people of these things. We conjure them to let reason and common sense bear sway, and not to desert the substance for a miserable shadow. Let these disunionists go to Eastern Virginia or South Carolina, if nothing but secession will do them. Those are the places where they ought to go. All their affinities and congenialities are there. Here in the extreme northwest, where we have no slaves, no cotton, no rice, no southern affiliations, but where we are the same kind of people and have identical interests with those on either side of us, it is the baldest and emptiest stuff and nonsense in the world to talk about secession. It would kill us off as a city more completely than a big fire. What little enterprise and capital we have got now would leave us at once, as indeed much of it is talking of doing anyhow.—And we should sink day by day until we got to be a poor, miserable, penniless, decayed country town. This is what is in store for us in case we get secession. If we are ready for a condition of things like this, let us all turn in and vote for the secessionists.