The Sacrifice Demanded
Sandusky Daily Commercial Register, February 23, 1861
The basis principle of popular government is that the will of the majority, within the prescribed limits of the Constitution and the law, shall rule. There is no such thing as popular government without this rule. That popular will may not always be right in matter of principle, and may also be wrong in matter of bare expediency or policy. But in our form of Government, the frequency of popular elections admits of the speedy application of a corrective by the people, after the sober second thought. The nicest care and the rarest wisdom were displayed in the arrangement of the machinery of our government to avoid all the evils of popular excess or error, by the checks and balances which are interposed. The election of Representatives every two years, infuses the freshness of popular life into that branch of the Legislature, while the less frequent election of Senators, holds in check the people so that, except in case of misrepresentation or actual corruption, when a concurrence in sentiment of the two branches of Congress is reached, the will of the people will necessarily be prudently and dispassionately expressed. Back of these being the Executive and Judiciary, the one still farther removed from the people and the other altogether removed from them, to hold in check the Representatives; surely the will of the people is sufficiently restrained.
Resting beneath the whole structure, and giving life to it all and animating it, is the will of the people as the governing power.—Subject that will to any restraint other than that imposed by the Constitution and the laws and you destroy the Government. You rob it of the one grand animating element. No matter what you consent to interpose it would be equally fatal. It may be an armed and organized mob, or it may be military despotism; no matter what it is, the moment the will of the people within the safe limits prescribed is deliberately defeated and purposely denied, that moment a fatal blow is struck at popular Government. That denial of the popular will may come in open and armed rebellion, may come in the shape of restraints upon free discussion, may come in the pretended form of resistance to oppression—no matter how it comes—if it succeed, popular government is destroyed in so far and so long as the popular will is denied.
It is at this very point that the great sacrifice, the fatal sacrifice is demanded of Republicans and all Union men, as it is said, to save the Union by concessions. The first step is the most fatal step of all, and that once taken, it scarcely matters what others follow. The people, the whole people, on the 6th of November last elected the executive officers of the nation, in full and complete conformity to the Constitution and the laws. In that election they indicated the policy which they wished their chosen officers to pursue. If they acted unwisely either in the choice of their officers or the approval of the principles on which they elected them, the wise forethought of the framers of our Constitution prevented any evils from flowing from their action, before the people themselves could again reconsider their verdict. Congress, in both branches, was against the new officers and the new policy, and a new election would have to be held before either branch would contain a majority of those friendly to them.
In advance of carrying out the will of the people as expressed by their votes, men band themselves together to destroy the Government, dissolve the Union and defeat the expressed will of the people. Outside of them are a multitude more who say, though in a different form of words, for fear of war, for fear of bloodshed, for fear of strife, the verdict of the people must be qualified by concessions and Compromises. The gist of the whole matter is, that the voice of the people must be denied, the fundamental principle of our Government must be set aside. The vital principle of a popular Government must be destroyed. No matter that it is claimed that the people have changed their views and would decide differently in the view of threatened war and armed rebellion than they did on the 6th of November last. That does not change the result, for at any time, threats of war, the forms of rebellion and the phantom of bloody battle fields may be evoked for a like purpose. The very engagement to concede, would make a sacrifice more fearful than all other sacrifices combined. Of course misapprehensions, perversions and misrepresentations may be corrected, but nothing more, without doing the most grievous hurt imaginable to the cause of human liberty.
We ask Republicans, we ask Democrats, we ask all men who love liberty and would jealously guard the rights of freemen as guaranteed in the Constitution framed and perfected by the wisdom of our fathers, to calmly consider this view of the present trouble. It is vastly easy to talk about compromises and concession [and] to mouth conciliation and thunder anathemas against those who refuse, but it is another thing deliberately and with premeditation, to consent to the destruction of popular government. It is one thing to breathe sentiments of peace and Union and promise concession for the sake of temporary and short-lived repose and a false and treacherous harmony, and quite another thing to carry out those pleasant words and promises, when by so doing the strong foundations of our free institutions are sapped, and a worse than the Trojan Horse is introduced to capture the citadel of freedom. If that were possible, the incipient step of a compromise of essential principles, is worse than guaranteeing the extension and spread of slavery itself. Even now, when a "Peace Congress," so called, is in session, and so many are clamoring for the perversion and denial of the will of the people, we thrust these thoughts before our readers, and ask for them the most serious attention.