Henderson Weekly Democrat, January 12, 1861
Amid the gloom of present troubles and fearful forebodings, the people of this country have one cause for sincere gratitude to heaven. That cause is—that JAMES BUCHANAN is President of the United States. Before the commencement of his Administration the country had for several years been gradually approaching the most awful crisis that could occur in its history. Political agitation tending to array one section against the other was rapidly increasing its influence and intensifying mutual sectional distrust and hatred. At the North infidelity, in an insidious and deceitful form, had slowly come to pervade the public mind and urge it to rebellion against all law not conformable with its own crude and immatured notions and incline it more and more strongly to anarchy and confusion. This spirit, we repeat was silently sapping the foundations of our social and political systems, in its mad efforts to produce greater and more extensive freedom.
In the opposite section that conservatism which shuns new-fangled dogmas and induces men to shrink from whatever has not the recommendation of experience, had vibrated the public mind backward from affection towards a Republican form of government till it has come to look upon monarchy as preferable. In the chasm thus opened between the two conditions of public sentiment, patriotism, love for the Union, regard for the Federal Constitution, and reverence for our revolutionary fathers, were gradually sinking out of sight and recollection. To further this estrangement, the mining regions of the Pa[cific] slope poured their wealth in upon us with such lavish bounty as to craze us into the belief that our store was inexhaustible, and plunging into unheard-of excesses we soon reduced the country to a condition of financial embarrassment of which the like had never been known. This misery, however, only made us more reckless.—In our plenty, we had forgotten labor, neglected economy, slighted Heaven and its laws, and the resultant evil was not sufficiently severe to bring us back to our senses; but served only to madden us, and render our calamity more certain and speedy. In fact, the violent commotions we underwent deprived us of the power of rational thought, and we acted as the creatures of a day who had upon their shoulders no responsibility for the past or the future. We went astray after every manner of social, moral, and political isms that could be conjured up in the heart of man, and gave ourselves up wholly to foolish dreaming and air-castle-building. While we abandoned ourselves to radicalism, our Southern brethren were receding into monarchism and slave-tradeism; thus each section had its faults and displayed its idiosyncracies.
In the midst of this stirring up of the very dregs of the human mind, one man stood firmly by our institutions. Coming up to us from the early depths of our nation's history, from the side of those who laid the foundations and reared the superstructure of our palladium of liberty, he had examined our institutions thoroughly and knew their inestimable value, and, hence, he stood firmly by them, yielding not a jot or tittle of their provisions. Abused, villified, wronged and slandered as few men have ever been, deceived by those whom he had befriended and denounced by such as [he] had obliged, he still stood steadfast and firm. The waves of ruin, aroused by political ambition and fanaticism, washed the earth at his feet, but he moved not. And now, in this hour of culminating madness, he is still firm as adamant. The surging billows have swept friend after friend from his side, and even the members of his cabinet have found the tempest too severe for them to struggle against and have fled for refuge, but he remains at his post undaunted; his noble form is seen erect and secure at the helm, and his age-whitened head unscathed by the blast is our assurance that the ship of State is still safe.
Men of the North rail against him because he will not make war with the South. Southern men denounce him because he will not aid them in their projects of secession. Political enemies call him traitor, and demand his death; political friends differ with him and excuse his disagreement on the ground of imbecility. But these things move him not. He continued on in the performance of his duty, swerving not a hair's breadth because of them. When the proper time arrived, he submitted to Congress a calm and faithful exposition of the state of the country, and suggesting a remedy, urged prompt action. In that exposition he blames the South only so far as every reasonable man will admit that it is to blame, nor does his censure fall unjustly upon the North, but to each section he meets out the proper measure of its fault. As Northern wrong produced Southern wrong, he urges, first, the North undo its wrong, and then that the South be called upon to follow its example, and thus bring about a reconciliation.—He showed conclusively that Northern enactments against the provisions of the fugitive slave law are unconstitutional and rebellious, but he did not deem it expedient that the Federal Government should, therefore, attempt by force to procure their repeal. He contends, too, that secession is also unconstitutional and rebellious, but under the circumstances did not deem it best that war should be therefore declared against the seceding States. More than this, he maintained what will always be admitted by American jurists namely, that the Federal Government has no power to coerce by force of arms any State to remain in the Union. Now, when South Carolina has seceded, Mr. Buchanan is striving to prevent any occasion for a collision between the Federal forces and the forces of that State. Apparently, he would not risk such collision even for the sake of preserving the Federal property in that State.
Let us suppose that Mr. Buchanan had acted differently. Suppose the federal army had been employed in Kansas to sweep from the soil of that Territory John Brown, and Jim Lane, and Montgomery and their murderous gangs? Suppose the army had been sent to Wisconsin to chastise the mob of citizens in that State who resisted the United States Marshal in the execution of the fugitive slave law against Booth? Suppose the same thing had been clone in Ohio, where a similar resistance occurred? Or in Illinois? Or that war had been declared against those Northern States guilty of nullificatory legislation? Or suppose Mr. Buchanan should now go to war against South Carolina? That the right to employ the army and call out the militia in each and every one of these instances, if such measure were necessary for the enforcement of the laws, invested in him, will be admitted by every jurist. No doubt, Southern men would have rejoiced to see the abolitionists of Kansas, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, and other Northern States, conquered and hung. No doubt many Northern men would be well-pleased to see South Carolina secessionists hung higher than Haman.
But what would have been the consequences of those acts? Cannot every intelligent man perceive that a single blow struck by the Federal arm against Northern Abolition rebels, would, in the present condition of the public mind, inflame the entire North and rendered civil war inevitable? And cannot every man perceive that a similar result would follow an attempt to coerce South Carolina? Why, have we forgotten the Mormon war? Who is there that does not remember the sympathy stirred-up in favor of the Mormons—thieves and scoundrels as they are—by the movement of the Government forces against them? Had Mr. Buchanan listened to his war-loving advisers, those valorous knights who would trample rebellion under foot and grind it out with the heel, many of us who are now enjoying the comforts of peace would be numbered with the slain in civil war, and many more of us would, this might be, crouching around camp-fires instead of enjoying the genial warmth of our own hearths. The public mind has been and is diseased, and any rash or precipitate step would inflame it beyond control. The disease must be carefully dealt with. It requires mild expurgatives and palliatives, rather than hot water and the lancet; and Mr. Buchanan has been wise enough to perceive this, and firm enough to act upon his own theory and the promptings of his own judgment, rather than follow the advice of those who have sought to divert him to the trial of their schemes and experiments. And even now the day is marked in the calendar when the people of this nation will see and acknowledge the wisdom of his course, and bless him for pursuing it; aye, and more, be thankful to Heaven for having raised up a man fitted for the emergency. For one, we are more than ever convinced that as a sagacious statesman and true patriot few men of this country deserve to rank higher than JAMES BUCHANAN.