What of the Night?
Wilkes-Barre Luzerne Union, February 13, 1861
We are constantly asked our opinion of what will be the result of the present disturbed state of the country; but we know not that our opinion is worth more than that of any other intelligent man. Not long since we fancied we saw a ray of hope for a settlement that should at least prove satisfactory to the border States. If such could be brought about, we should then have great faith that the seceding States would finally, after having staid out in the cold awhile—after finding that the government will deal firmly in never receding from the collecting of the revenue, the protection of its property and the enforcement of its laws—after the "sober second thought" should have returned, and reason resumed its sway—that then those States would retrace their steps, and resume their place and their duties in the confederacy. But however ardent these hopes have been, we confess we see little to hope for now. The retiring of Southern members of Congress has given the Republicans a majority in both branches of that body; and it is painfully evident that the controlling forces of that party are in no temper for conciliation. Only last Thursday, Mr. Kellogg, of Illinois, made a speech in the House urging his Republican friends to accede in substance to the border State proposition. He was met with the jeers and the rebuke of nearly his whole party. The cry of that party, from the conscience-keepers of Lincoln down to Miner, is "no concession or compromise with armed traitors"—"first bring them in subjection and compromise afterwards." We regard this as a wicked trifling with the only hopes to save the country, for it requires little sagacity to see, that only by satisfying the border slave States, and attaching them to the fortunes of the North and the Union, can the Union be saved. And those border States are not traitors with arms in their hands. They are loyal to the Union and the government; and, at this moment stand, as they have all the while stood, discountenancing secession, and with outstretched arms imploring the North to meet them half way, give them solid ground upon which to stand, and they will give every guarantee that through good and ill they will stand by the country—survive or perish with it. But they are met with sullen indifference or absolute denial. For their fair and just propositions for conciliation and compromise, they are answered only, "we stand upon the Chicago platform, and we cannot sacrifice principle!" What principle of the Chicago platform, Messrs. Republicans, are you asked to yield? Is not its main plank, as regards slavery, a simple declaration against its introduction into free territory? Certainly it is. Now is there a single foot of the territories the character of which, for freedom or slavery, is not already determined? Certainly not. Then where do you stand? Are you not manifesting a disposition to permit the dissolution of the Union—to plunge, it may be, the country into civil war—to drench the whole land with fraternal blood, rather than yield what is a mere abstraction—rather than yield what after all would make no man a slave nor a single acre of the common domain slave territory? You cannot escape this conclusion, for your conduct and your words place you in just this position—we mean the radical portion of the party. Now we appeal to the conservative men of that party and ask, are you willing to take the fearful responsibility of refusing to meet the patriotic men of the border States, and thus precipitate this unnatural strife till it can be determined only on the field of blood and carnage? Is the Chicago platform so sacred—a mere platform of a political party, like other platforms passing away with the occasion that created it—is it so sacred that it must be held to though the very Republic shall crumble in ruins? Is such the part of patriotic men to act? No, no! Before God and the world, the men who bring such disasters upon the country as are now gathering thick and fast around us, for such reasons, will merit and receive the execrations of humanity in all eyes to come. Better ten thousand political platforms be overthrown than that the Union of these States for one hour be dissolved.—For us, rather all the negroes in Ethiopia be enslaved, and all that ever will be there, than that the great hopes of humanity and the race go down amid the ruins of the American Republic!
Could the people have an opportunity to speak, we should have high and exciting hopes yet for the welfare of the government. But their voice is smothered. The danger is imminent—cannot long be averted, and the avenues of public sentiment, as embodied in the people, are closed up. Even the voice of Pennsylvania can be heard in the Peace Congress at Washington, only through such fanatics as Wilmot and others of his ilk, who no more represent the sentiment of her people in this crisis than they do the sentiment of French Jacobins. Congress is inactive, the States North cannot be heard, for the forces of their government are stifled by partizan zealots and by a blind and unreasoning fanaticism; and therefore it is that we see no hope of reconciliation. It cannot be long before events will transpire, that must inevitably bring every slaveholding State in concert with the others—the line of separation will be drawn, and the Union irrevocably dissevered; for we have little hope indeed, that when once the bonds shall be broken they can again be united. Fraternal feeling once supplanted by the terrible hate and animosity of sectional determination and revenge, will never again be restored. If a Union in name, it would be but a union of discordant and belligerent elements, bringing back none of the glories of the past, nor the affections of a united people for their common country and a common government.
Looking at the matter in this light, we see but one hope left for the preservation of the Union, and that is this: Let the conservative men of the North, for the sake of the Union, discard party names and party platforms, and come together on the broad platform of the Union. Indications are developing every day that a large class of the Republicans are ripe for such an object. In Pennsylvania they would be marshalled by Cameron, Morris and others; in Illinois by Kellogg and his friends; and in other States by those who have already spoken, whose names we do not now recollect, embracing several in New England; and after Lincoln shall have been inaugurated, and the cohesive power of public plunder shall begin to weaken, thousands all over the country will take their places in the ranks. Such a party will be irresistible, and then as the elections are held and the issue of conciliation and Union, or no conciliation and disunion, shall be passed upon by the people, that verdict may be made so emphatic and overwhelming as to arrest the border States and save them from being driven into the ranks of secession. This is about the only hope we have left, and we shall hail a movement in that direction as a harbinger of peace and promise. Will not the Convention at Harrisburg, on the 21st, inaugurate it? It seems to us if it would do so, it would strengthen the hands and the hearts of the border States, and that there might yet be hopes of salvation.