A Few Reflections on Coercion

Wilmington Daily Herald, January 3, 1861

Some weeks ago we wrote an article, which we had the satisfaction to see copied extensively in the papers of the country, under the caption "A Few Reflections on Secession." In that article we refrained from any discussion of the right of secession, and confined ourself entirely to a consideration of its consequences. We said then, that peaceable secession was an impossibility, and we believe our prediction will prove true.

We propose to say something to-day about "coercion" which is the correlative of secession. To our mind it is becoming more and more apparent every day, that in spite of the efforts of moderate men, both at the North and at the South, the present contest is rapidly culminating in a war, in which the whole North, will be arrayed against the whole South. The news from Washington and the North reveals, more plainly each day, the fact that there is a growing unanimity in that portion of the country, in favor of enforcing the federal laws. The Black Republicans are a unit on the subject, and the conservative men there, with few exceptions, while deprecating Lincoln's election, can see no other course to pursue. The secessionists of the South are a unit for immediate resistance, and the more moderate men here, while they deprecate the course of South Carolina, will never agree to have the troops of a Black Republican administration garrisoned on Southern soil, to awe the people into submission. Coercion means civil war, and, though we have been educated in the Federal school of politics, and do not believe in the right of secession, we would never, as a Southern man, suffer a Southern State to be driven into subjection by armed force, as long as we could stagger under a musket. We have argued and protested against secession, we have denounced our friends for being disunionists, we have done our utmost, in a feeble way, to prevent the present deplorable state of affairs, but we should be recreant to our nature, and our name, and should dishonor the blood which flows in our veins, and which was freely shed to establish American Independence, if we hesitated to beat back the armed aggressor, come from what quarter he may. We have no argument to offer against coercion except the argument of the sword. We hope it will not be attempted. We believe it will. We know it will fail. We believe an attempt will soon be made to blockade the ports of the seceding States. An attempt may also be made to garrison all Southern forts. If so, it will be, and ought to be resisted. It will not dofor Mr. Buchanan to place troops in these forts for Mr. Lincoln's benefit. If this civil war is to be inaugurated—and there can now be but little doubt of it—the Southern people ought to be prepared for it as much as is possible. We regret that Mr. Bledsoe's amendment to the Military Bill, proposing a million instead of three hundred thousand dollars for the purchase of arms &c., was defeated in our Legislature. We hope the amount appropriated for that purpose will be more than $300,000. These piddling appropriations have been the ruin of our Internal Improvement system, and have generally been caused by demagoging politicians, who did not dare to be decently liberal, for fear of unpopularity.

It is hardly necessary for us to say that we deeply lament the necessity for expressing such views as these, but lamentations and regrets furnish no remedy for the evil with which we are threatened. We are satisfied that the argument on this matter is exhausted. We have used it freely, as long as it could be used effectually, and we now await the issue of events. The same honest motive which has actuated us in our cause, heretofore, impels us to the utterance of these sentiments, and will always govern us in the expression of our opinions as a public journalist. Events march so rapidly, and changes develop themselves in such quick succession, that a course of action which might have been proper a week ago, would be unwise and injurious to-day, or a week hence. We have little regard for any man who is fickle in his opinions, or cowardly in giving utterance to them; but we have less for him who stupidly adheres to a blind and unyielding prejudice, or violently advocates a useless and impracticable theory.