Southern Editorials on Secession. Edited by Dwight Lowell Dumond, Ph. D., Assistant Professor of History, University of Michigan. [Publications of the American Historical Association.] (New York: Century Company. 1931.)



The purpose of this volume of newspaper editorials is to show the variety, conflict, and concurrence of opinion in the southern States during and shortly before the crisis of secession. The files of seventy-two papers, published in all parts of the South, were examined. From them were chosen in the first instance nearly 2,000 editorials to be considered. The final selection was with a view to variety, clearness, and cogency of argument. Some preference was given to such as were extensively clipped and commented upon in other journals.

Among the editors of the papers here most used were numerous men prominent in the journalistic profession and in political affairs. Robert Barnwell Rhett of the Charleston Mercury and George D. Prentice of the Louisville Journal have been mentioned by historians as the chief journalistic spokesmen of the two major opposing popular elements in the South. This is hardly warranted, for those who stood with Rhett as disunionists per se and those who like Prentice were unconditional unionists were far fewer than those whose attitude was open to very considerable change by the repercussion of events. Rhett supported Breckinridge in the presidential campaign, and Prentice supported Bell; but in no other respect was either consistently representative of any large group of citizens; and in the newspaper world they stood alone. Rhett’s refusal to countenance a reunion of the Democratic party after the rupture at Charleston and Prentice’s denunciation of the Washington Peace Conference were typical of their individualism.

In New Orleans were two leading independent papers of established reputation and wide influence among the conservative merchant and planter classes of the lower South. The Picayune, owned by George Wilkins Kendall and Francis Asbury Lumsden, had occupied an enviable position since the days of the Mexican War. Neither of these men was active in 1860, and Lumsden was lost in a storm on the Great Lakes during the heat of the campaign. Most of the editorials were written by Alva Morris Holbrook, with occasional contributions from Kendall. The Bee, published as a bilingual sheet, was equally conservative and even more influential than the Picayune because of its large circulation among the Creole population. Both papers indicated an intention to support the nominee of a united Democracy, but supported Bell after the final schism at Baltimore. Following the election of Lincoln, they urged secession and the formation of a southern confederacy as soon as it was clear that the North was not disposed to listen to measures of conciliaton.

Of the remaining Constitutional Union journals, the Nashville Patriot and Nashville Republican Banner were outstanding. The majority of the editorials of these two papers were written by Ira P. Jones and R. K. Walker, respectively. They were insistent in asserting that William L. Yancey was the leader of a disunion conspiracy and that the disruption of the Charleston Convention was engineered to further the plans of the disunionists per se. Both papers denied the constitutional right of secession, but urged resistance by revolution following Lincoln’s call for troops.

The Richmond Examiner, edited by William Old, was undoubtedly the most fully representative of the southern-rights papers which supported Breckinridge for the presidency. The brilliance of its editorial columns was but slightly less than that of the Charleston Mercury. It was hardly less conservative than the New Orleans Bee or Picayune, as steadfast in its support of the southern-rights platform as the leading Breckinridge organs of the lower South, and more voluminous in editorial comment than any other paper with the possible exception of the Nashville Patriot. Other conservative papers of the Breckinridge Democracy were the Nashville Union and American, edited by Leon Trousdale and John C. Burch; the Raleigh Standard, the Louisville Courier, and the Kentucky Statesman. More closely allied to the Charleston Mercury were the New Orleans Delta and the Jackson Mississippian, organs of John Slidell and Jefferson Davis.

The three leading Douglas papers of the lower South were the Augusta Constitutionalist, the Mobile Register, and the New Orleans True Delta. The Constitutionalist was owned by James Gardner and edited by Henry Cleveland. Gardner was prominent in Georgia politics, frequently mentioned for the governorship, and a close personal friend of Hershel V. Johnson. The Register was owned and edited by John Forsyth, leading opponent of William L. Yancey in Alabama politics and, together with Seibels of the Montgomery Confederation and Figuires of the Southern Advocate, an organizer of the Douglas Democracy in that State after the Charleston Convention. The True Delta, edited by John Maginnis, was the official organ of Miles Taylor, Chairman of the Douglas national campaign committee, and of Pierre Soulé, who organized the Douglas party in Louisiana, wrote the resolutions adopted by that party’s convention at Donaldsonville, and headed the contesting delegation to the Baltimore Convention.

Many of these editors were delegates to the national party conventions, all were prominent in State politics, and some were nationally known. Few men were more intimately acquainted with the intricacies of party politics or more thoroughly sensitive to the trend of opinion in their several localities with regard to matters of national concern.

A rapid survey of conditions, events, and reactions will give a setting for the documents which follow. A general disquietude at the South followed John Brown’s raid into Virginia. The incident was of little consequence in itself; but the widespread sympathy expressed for Brown made those connected with the institution of slavery more keenly apprehensive of the future. Their concern arose rather from the fear of what anti-slavery agitation might effect thereafter through political action than from what it had accomplished already by violent methods. The possibility of a Republican victory in the coming presidential election stimulated the discussion of measures for the defense of southern institutions. The former Whig newspapers revived the perennial demand for commercial independence. The extreme southern-rights press disapproved of further wrangling, and advocated immediate separation if federal legislation and patronage should pass to the control of the anti-slavery party. The more liberal Democratic journals were content with enumerating an imposing array of southern grievances and calling attention to the danger of open warfare unless steps were taken to eliminate slavery agitation from the public forum.

Early in 1860 the legislatures of South Carolina and Mississippi proposed a southern conference at Atlanta and sent commissioners to urge the participation of Virginia. Concurrent state action in defense of southern rights was desired. A demand for assurances, if supported by a united South, might arrest anti-slavery agitation at the North. In any event, it was thought, cooperative action would eliminate factional feuds at home and insure harmony if more drastic measures should prove desirable. The Charleston Mercury, Jackson Mississippian, Richmond Examiner, and Richmond Enquirer labored faithfully to promote the project. The Nashville Patriot, Richmond Whig, Vicksburg Whig, and other journals opposing the project charged South Carolina with attempting to precipitate disunion by getting the South committed in advance to secession unless the North should concede the demands to be made. So strong was the general aversion to any and all tendencies toward disunion that even those papers which earnestly advocated retaliatory state legislation and military preparation for eventual hostilities opposed the project. In vain did its proponents insist that divided counsels would foster disunion. The conference did not meet, political parties were sectionalized, and separate state action became the trump card of the immediate secessionists at the turn of the year.

Meanwhile, the state convention of the Alabama Democracy framed a series of demands in behalf of southern rights, thereafter known as the Alabama Platform (Appendix II). Shortly afterward the legislature of Alabama provided for a state convention in the event of a Republican victory in November. The Alabama platform was not of novel content. Jefferson and Madison had made it a truism that the powers of the federal government were derivative and limited. Calhoun’s doctrine of concurrent majority had popularized the theory that there must be a self-protecting power in the hands of the minority. The right of slaveholders to enter the Territories with their property had been asserted clearly in the debates over the Wilmot Proviso. The doctrine of the duty of Congress to correct the action or supplement the inaction of a hostile territorial legislature had now become stereotyped in refutation of popular sovereignty; and the right of secession was in the minds of a multitude a matter of course. Other state delegations had been instructed to withdraw from national conventions unless their principles were embodied in the party’s platform. But for the first time social creeds and political theories were threatening to disrupt the Democratic party. In that event a Republican victory in the presidential election, and a dissolution of the Union in defense of southern institutions from prospective dangers, appeared to be inevitable. William L. Yancey was the leading spirit in establishing this advanced position, which the New Orleans True Delta, Mobile Register, and Montgomery Confederation condemned as the first step in a preconceived disunion program. The independent press inclined to the same opinion, the New Orleans Bee predicting that Douglas would be the nominee at Charleston, “unless Southern ultraists are bent upon discomfiture and ultimate disunion.”

Jefferson Davis and Judah P. Benjamin were pressing to a conclusion in the Senate a protracted discussion of the right of slaveholders in the territories to protection by congressional legislation, with Douglas and his doctrine of popular sovereignty on the defensive. The debate in Congress was reflected in the newspapers; and, though few slaves were in the Territories and fewer were likely to go thither, that phase of the question of the rights of slavery under the Constitution became the main theme of the presidential canvass. The situation, though anomalous, is not incomprehensible. An aggressive political party at the North, seeking control of the federal government, was professing that the exclusion of slavery from the Territories was the limit of its designs against the institution. But the champions of southern rights believed the attack upon slavery in the Territories was but a first step in a program of ultimate emancipation, and chose to fight at the outer defenses. The Charleston Mercury was almost alone in believing that slavery would have expanded under the protecting mantle of congressional legislation. Most southern-rights journals were satisfied to claim congressional protection as a constitutional right without discussing the necessity of its practical application. The former Whig papers frequently denounced the demand for congressional protection as an abstraction, but they seldom denied its validity. The Douglas Democrats contended that the territorial legislature could lawfully exclude slavery, either by non-action or by unfriendly legislation. They claimed as an historical basis for this doctrine the theory of non-intervention, and charged the southern-rights men with assuming an advanced position.

This question of the rights of slavery in the Territories, revivified and clarified for the first time by this preliminary discussion, carried over into the presidential canvass, and lines were tightly drawn on a sectional basis. The Republicans demanded congressional exclusion and received only 3 per cent of the popular vote in the upper South. The Douglas Democrats supported the doctrine of popular sovereignty, recognized as hostile to the institution of slavery. They polled only 7 per cent of the popular vote in the lower South, constituting but 3 per cent of Douglas’s total vote; and only 8 per cent of the popular vote in the upper South, representing 5 per cent of his total vote. The Constitutional Unionists denounced the doctrine of popular sovereignty and asserted the duty of protection by the federal government, although denying its immediate necessity. In the election they received only 2 per cent of the vote in the free States, representing 13 per cent of the total votes cast for Bell. Moreover, Bell received 66,058 votes in Kentucky, but only 12,194 in Ohio, 5,306 in Indiana, and 4,913 in Illinois. Douglas received 187,232 votes in Ohio, 115,509 in Indiana, and 160,125 in Illinois, but only 25,651 in Kentucky and 36,516 in the entire lower South.

The question of whether Congress could abdicate its power to protect persons and property in the territories threatened the disruption of the Charleston Convention from the moment of its temporary organization, April 23. The northern delegates dared not risk their political fortunes on the chance of a popular endorsement of southern rights. The southern delegates were not willing to accept popular sovereignty. The Cincinnati Convention, 1856, had postponed the crisis by referring the question to judicial determination. The decision had now come in the Dred Scott case, but Douglas denied that it fulfilled the conditions of the party compact because it did not arise out of an attack on slavery by a territorial legislature. The nomination of Douglas on the Cincinnati Platform, therefore, would give it a popular sovereignty interpretation. The nomination of a southern-rights man would operate equally to the advantage of that section. There was no escape from the dilemma.

Two delegations from New York were present at Charleston, each claiming to have been regularly appointed. The Fernando Wood delegation was solidly anti-Douglas. The Dean Richmond delegation contained forty Douglas men and thirty opposed to his nomination. The Dean Richmond delegation was seated and, operating under the unit rule, cast thirty-five votes against the southern-rights men on every important issue. By virtue of these thirty-five votes, the Douglas forces were able to establish a voting rule which released Douglas minorities in uninstructed delegations and submerged southern-rights minorities in delegations instructed to vote as a unit. The southern-rights men secured a majority report from the platform committee, but were defeated by a vote of 165 to 138 on the floor of the convention. The delegations from five States and in part from four others then withdrew and partially effected a new political organization. The Douglas forces were unable to muster the 202 votes required for a nomination, but refused to compromise. Other southern delegations were restrained from deserting the rump convention by assurances from the New York delegation that the platform would be reconsidered. That delegation drafted a new platform which was acceptable to the remaining delegates from the upper South. Howard of Tennessee introduced it as a resolution, and it was pending when the Convention adjourned to reassemble at Baltimore, June 18.

The question of disunion was brought to the fore when the opposition press denounced the proposed Atlanta Conference and the Alabama Platform as disunion projects. Douglas repeated the charges during the Senate debates and included in the ranks of the disunionists all those who opposed his nomination at Charleston. Too much had been said by the extreme southern-rights men about secession in event of a Republican victory to leave any doubt on that subject. Naturally those who advocated that action were also most insistent upon the adoption of a southern-rights platform by the national Democracy. When delegates from nine States deserted the Charleston Convention, therefore, the Douglas Democrats sought to discredit them by the charge that they were breaking up the party to insure the election of Lincoln and thus further their secession program. Irregular conventions were held in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas, and Douglas delegations were sent to the adjourned convention at Baltimore.

During the month of May the entire press of the South was engaged in discussing the important questions involved. Did the bolters break up the convention for the purpose of insuring the election of the Republican candidate? Should their constituents send them back to Baltimore to reunite the party on the basis of the Tennessee Resolution? Was that resolution a sufficient guarantee of southern rights? Should the project of the so-called Constitutional Democratic party be sustained and delegates sent to perfect its organization at Richmond? Did the former delegates have a right to seats at Baltimore unless reaccredited by state conventions of newly elected delegates?

The controversy was bitter, with the South Carolina newspapers alone opposing concession or compromise, and insisting upon permanent separation. The New Orleans True Delta, which had long advocated the nomination of Douglas at Charleston, very shrewdly complimented Rhett, Yancey, and Mouton as “frank, manly and plain spoken on this Union question. . . . They went to Charleston to make a sectional issue they had long contemplated and had conspired to mature; they made their move, got beaten, but not disgraced, and they hoisted the banner of revolution. We honor them for their frank and open proceeding, while condemning and repudiating it.” The Mobile Register, Montgomery Confederation, and Southern Advocate, whose editors were the leading Yancey opponents within the Alabama Democracy, and the Augusta Constitutionalist, which endeavored to make a distinction between non-intervention and popular sovereignty while supporting the former and had advocated the nomination of a southern man on the Cincinnati Platform, all joined in claiming that the bolters had surrendered their rights to further participation in the adjourned convention. They supported the True Delta in a demand for newly elected state conventions; participated in convening them, without too much concern about regularity and strict party lines; and secured the appointment of contesting delegations to Baltimore pledged to support the nomination of Douglas on the Cincinnati Platform.

The Richmond Examiner had endorsed R. M. T. Hunter for the nomination at Charleston, but had indicated a willingness to support Douglas if he should receive the nomination. It did not approve of forcing the issue of a southern-rights platform in the national convention. The Richmond Enquirer, Louisville Courier, and Nashville Union and American had advocated, respectively, the nomination of Henry A. Wise, James Gutherie, and Andrew Johnson. All united in urging the bolters from the Charleston Convention to resume their seats at Baltimore. They agreed that the Tennessee Resolution would be a satisfactory basis for compromise, but insisted that any further attempt to force the nomination of Douglas would result in the complete disruption of the party.

The New Orleans Bee, believing that the campaign probably would be conducted on sectional lines, had been ready to support the nominee of the Charleston Convention. It preferred Douglas on the Cincinnati Platform in view of the fact that no free State was likely to vote for congressional protection. Following the rupture at Charleston it said: “Abolitionism in one quarter, fierce and intractable, and Disunionism in another, wily and resolute, have combined to destroy its [the Democratic party’s] prestige, weaken its resources, demoralize its courage, and sap its energy.” Nevertheless, it advised the opposition to follow the previous plan and, awaiting the nomination of the adjourned convention, support its nominee. It did not endorse the policy of a separate opposition ticket until the final schism in the Democracy occurred at Baltimore. “Because Whigs and Democrats once opposed each other, when parties were national, is there any reason they should now keep up the warfare when they are confronted with a party whose triumph would imperil the Union?” asked the New Orleans Crescent, requesting the Constitutional Union Convention to endorse the prospective nominee of the Democratic party, on the ground that he alone could defeat the Republican candidate. Both papers eventually supported Bell.

The New Orleans Picayune and the Augusta Chronicle and Sentinel denied that the bolting delegations could reenter the Baltimore Convention “without abandoning their lofty positions,” denounced the Tennessee Resolution as unsatisfactory to the South, and agreed that the rupture at Charleston made necessary the nomination of a presidential candidate by the Constitutional Union party at Baltimore. A far different reason for that action was advanced by the Nashville Patriot, which sought to submerge the slavery agitation and unite conservative elements in both sections within the ranks of a truly national party. This position was assumed also by the Louisville Journal, which demanded protection for the slaveholders in the Territories, but did not intend to endorse a dissolution of the Union on the basis of its denial. It deprecated the election of any other candidate than Bell on the ground that if a Republican were elected the country would be “threatened with anarchy, treason, civil war, and disunion,” while the success of a Democrat would be followed by “the most embittered factional quarrel that one [sic] country has ever known, not so sanguinary but equally as vindictive as that of the rival houses of York and Lancaster.”

Meanwhile, the regular party organizations in the lower southern States adopted somewhat diverse courses, though they concurred in endorsing the action of the bolting delegations at Charleston. These delegations were partially reorganized and for the most part accredited both to Richmond and to Baltimore. The South Carolina delegation was accredited to Richmond only, and the Florida delegation was given permission to apply for admission at Baltimore at its own discretion. Their plans for the preservation of the party on the basis of the Tennessee Resolution, however, were foiled by the Douglas forces, who made adherence to their chief the test for admission at Baltimore. That action completed the work of cleavage begun at Charleston. Having purged the convention of southern-rights men, they converted an actual strength of 141 votes into an unanimous nomination by resolution.

On the last day of the regular session, June 23, 231 delegates who had been regularly elected to the convention and had not applied for admission, had been refused admission, or had withdrawn, assembled at the Maryland Institute for consultation. They decided to complete the organization of the Democratic Constitutional party begun at Charleston, adopt a platform, and nominate candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency. No one was allowed to participate in the proceedings unless possessing credentials as a regularly elected delegate. Each delegate was permitted to cast only the vote to which he was entitled, and no State was allowed a vote in excess of that to which it was entitled by actual representation. The southern-rights platform embodied in the second majority report at Charleston was adopted unanimously, and John C. Breckinridge and Joseph Lane were nominated as the party’s candidates.

Disunion became the all-absorbing topic in the campaign at the South after the final separation at Baltimore. A majority of those who believed that the election of Lincoln would constitute sufficient reason for secession supported Breckinridge. In an effort to combat sectionalism both North and South, the survivors of the old Whig and American parties had organized the new Constitutional Union party. Its strength was in the upper South, and it was not a Union party in the sense that its members were willing to forego resistance in any and all contingencies. They agreed that the South ought to resist a Republican administration conducted along the lines of the Chicago platform. They accused the Breckinridge Democrats of destroying the unity of their party for tl1e purpose of furthering secession. They denied the necessity of forcing to a conclusion the sectional issue of the rights of slavery in the Territories. They urged that resistance be delayed until some overt act had been committed. Many of them denied the constitutional right of secession and inclined to revolution en masse as the proper mode of ultimate resistance, but they were not inclined to deny the right of ultimate resistance in one form or another.

Both parties were interested in defeating Lincoln, the Breckinridge Democrats because they expected in sequel to his election an insidious attack upon slavery as an institution in the States; the Constitutional Unionists because they knew his election would be followed by a determined effort to consummate a dissolution of the Union. As the campaign neared its close, both parties advocated fusion in a last desperate effort to defeat Lincoln by throwing the election into the House of Representatives. They could not submerge party differences sufficiently to effect union at home, but they did concentrate upon New York as the State most favorable to success. At the South this fusion movement had an important result in softening the bitterness engendered during the heat of the campaign, an important preliminary step in the realignment of parties upon new issues following the election of Lincoln.

The New Orleans Crescent expressed the general attitude at the South toward Lincoln’s election: “we read the result in the face of every citizen upon the street. There is an universal feeling that an insult has been deliberately tendered our people, which is responded to, not by noisy threats or passionate objurations, but a settled determination that the South shall never be oppressed under Lincoln’s administration.” The press immediately applied itself to the task of clarifying new issues. Should the South acquiesce in the election and do nothing until forced into resistance by overt, acts of aggression? Should all action be postponed, at least until Congress might have time to adopt definitive constitutional amendments satisfactory to the South? Should resort be had to direct interstate negotiation, a united South submitting a statement of grievances with demands for redress to the northern States? Should a southern convention be held and the South retire from the Union as a unit? Should the South rely upon separate state secession and cooperate afterward in forming a southern confederacy?

The immediate secessionists largely favored separate state action. A few advocated concert of action along previously determined lines. All others, until January, 1861, passed under the general designation of coöperationists. After the turn of the year those who remained opposed to secession were denounced as submissionists by the secessionists and lauded as Unionists by the northern press. Coöperationists favored a convention of delegates from the slave States to discuss grievances and determine upon a program for concerted action. The fear of southern disintegration along new lines of sectionalism, and the belief that united action was the surest approach to foreign recognition and the surest escape from attempted coercion, were impelling motives. Others were sanguine of northern concessions and expected to preserve the Union by securing definitive constitutional amendments. Some favored secession in event of failure; others would wait for overt acts of aggression. Some no doubt hoped by delay to frustrate the entire movement.

During the month of November the editorial columns of the newspapers were devoted to a discussion of southern grievances, prospective evils either in the Union or out of it, the possibility of securing definitive amendments to the Constitution, and the proper action demanded by the result of the election. “The day of compromise passed away with the seizure of California by the North, and the expulsion of the South from the Territories. The day of concession passed away with the election of Lincoln.” Thus spoke the New Orleans Delta, with the concurrence of the Charleston Mercury, Columbia South Carolinian, Jackson Mississippian, Montgomery Advertiser, Wilmington Journal, and other former Breckinridge papers. The Richmond Enquirer was disposed to recommend delay of action until the northern people gave some further indication of their general attitude, saying as late as November 20 that the question before the South was, “What will the Northern States do, or leave undone?” Within two weeks it joined in denouncing as submissionists all who were not actively supporting secession. The Louisville Courier, Nashville Union and American, and Kentucky Statesman were willing to make one more effort at conciliation in Congress or through the medium of a southern convention.

The trend of opinion in the lower South is clearly indicated in the editorial columns of the New Orleans Crescent. Speaking of the election, November 9, it said: “The Northern people, in electing Mr. Lincoln, have perpetrated a deliberate, cold-blooded insult and outrage upon the people of the slave-holding States. . . . Last Tuesday there was no disunion party in New Orleans. Today we would not care about trying the issue at the ballot-box.” Next day it said: “that the country is threatened with fearful perils, there is not room for the shadow of doubt. That a dissolution of the Union is imminent, admits scarcely room for question. That we are on the eve of revolution and war, is equally clear.” Four days later it declared that all prospect of concession from the North was “remote and shadowy,” and raised the banner of immediate secession. Another Constitutional Unionist paper of New Orleans, the Bee, declared after the election that there was “no possible excuse for hasty and precipitate action on the part of the South.” A week later it believed it to be the “palpable and undeniable duty of the South to seek redress within the Union, if possible.” Three days before Congress convened, it approved immediate secession on the ground that “Whatever may have been the former belief or hope of conservative men, the issues of Northern injustice and Southern rights have gathered such rapid and overwhelming power as to extinguish all expectations of tinkering the difficulty by compromise.” Equally rapid was the conversion of three Douglas papers, the Mobile Register, Montgomery Confederation, and Augusta Constitutionalist.

Most of the papers in the upper South, without distinction of previous party affiliation, agreed in sentiment with the Nashville Patriot when it said: “We desire to exhaust all peaceful and temperate remedies for a redress of our injuries, before resorting to those of violence and war . . . but let the Republican party understand that being for the Union is not to be for the principles on which their party is based.” The restraining power of Congress and the Supreme Court, the conservatism of Lincoln, and a friendly reaction in the North following the election were urged as evidence that the South had nothing to fear for at least two years.

In order to promote harmony and concurrent action without a general conference and its attendant delay, the immediate secessionists resorted to the device of interstate commissioners. They became the diplomatic corps of the secession movement. Before the program was well under way they had arranged for a conference of delegates from any and all States to follow promptly upon their secession; and thus they robbed the cooperationists of their principal ground of argument. On the other hand, the precipitate action of the lower South, without first consulting those States which would suffer most in event of war, created a resentment not easily effaced. “Of all coercion that we ever heard of, this is the most arrogant, the most despotic, the most unnatural, ungrateful and monstrous,” said the Nashville Patriot. That action gave countenance to the already prevailing idea that the lower South did not want to preserve the Union on any basis. Nor was the statement that separation was neither a remedy for past grievances nor a guarantee of future security easily answered. In large measure the press of the lower South resorted to the expedient of ignoring unpleasant issues, and trusted to time, Republican intransigence, and a natural affinity of interests to overcome opposition in the upper South.

Meanwhile opponents of secession sought in Congress to procure an intersectional compromise. Early in December special committees for the consideration of the state of the country were secured in both houses of Congress, and innumerable measures of conciliation were proposed. Neither house was able to arrive at any practical solution of the problem. Failing to secure favorable action on proposed constitutional amendments, the advocates of conciliation turned their attention to securing a national convention. Their efforts in that direction likewise failed, the Republican majorities steadfastly refusing to countenance the southern demands for additional guarantees and indicating an intention to resort to arms in the maintenance of national authority.

Without entering into a detailed account of congressional proceedings, the peculiar composition of the Committee of Thirty-three, the refusal of Republican congressmen to enter into the spirit of conciliation or agree to a national convention, and the speeches of Senators Hale, Wade, and Seward must be indicated as important elements in the shaping of majority sentiment in the South. Those who had urged delay on the ground that the immediate secessionists had incorrectly judged the strength of the anti-slavery sentiment at the North, and those who hoped that definitive constitutional amendments of such nature as to allay the apprehensions of the southern people would be forthcoming, were completely discomfited. The inflexible opposition of Republican congressmen to the several proposals designed to prevent civil war broke down differences of opinion and united the two great parties in the lower South. South Carolina seceded December 20, and secession majorities were elected in all the gulf States before January 8. By that time the only paper of importance in that section still opposed to secession was the New Orleans True Delta, and it was wavering in response to the shifting of Buchanan’s attitude on coercion.

The Louisville Courier dispelled all doubts of its position, December 27, when it said: “Death itself is no more inevitable than that they [the border slave States] will have to stay with their enemies of the North; or go with their friends of the South; or, making enemies of both the North and the South, set up for themselves.” The Augusta Chronicle and Sentinel, Gallatin Examiner, and New Orleans Bee, all former Constitutional Unionist journals, surrendered to secession about the same time and for the same reason. The Nashville Union and American announced its new platform after Seward’s speech in the Senate: “Aged men will turn from the perusal of his speech mourning that they should have lived to see the genius of our Constitution destroyed by the fierce fires of Fanaticism. . . . The day of submission is past and the day of our exodus has arrived. We will risk the danger of the wilderness.” “Why will not men see and acknowledge the truth?” said the Wilmington Herald, February 7, admitting that there was no longer hope of compromise and urging the immediate secession of North Carolina. Three days later the Nashville Republican Banner, one of the few prominent journals which had not raised the banner of resistance, gave advance notice of its ultimate position: “We would not have the people of the Free States misunderstand our position. . . . They must not suppose because the disunionists made an attempt—abortive though it was—to stigmatize the majority as ‘submissionists,’ that that majority have any purpose of submitting to the Republican electioneering dogma that the people of the Southern states are to be excluded by legislation from the privilege of settling in the Territories with their slaves.”

The last phase of the secession movement began with the removal of Anderson to Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor and Slemmer to Fort Pickens at Pensacola. Popular excitement reached such proportions in the lower South that state authorities resorted to the extreme means of seizing federal forts and arsenals in order to prevent collisions between federal troops and irresponsible mobs. The advanced position already taken by these seven States left no doubt that a southern confederacy would be formed early in February. The rapid sequence of events completely transformed the problem presented to the upper South for solution. There was no longer a question as to whether the election of Lincoln justified a dissolution of the Union. It was dissolved already. Constitutional guarantees which in the first instance would have been satisfactory to the upper South if approved by Congress would no longer suffice, because conciliation was now virtually hopeless. The Republicans had indicated a willingness to witness the development of a situation from which final separation or civil war were the only escapes. The right of coercion thus replaced the right of secession as the most important issue, and to the advantage of the separationists. Moreover, in event of final separation, the upper South must go with the southern Confederacy or remain as a hopeless minority in the Union without protection for their peculiar institution or markets for their slave surplus. Some favored joining the Confederacy in event of final separation. Others favored resistance in event of attempted coercion. A few advocated armed neutrality to prevent hostilities.

The disruption of Buchanan’s cabinet, followed by the sending of reinforcements to the southern forts, was interpreted both at the North and at the South as indicating a determination to enforce federal authority in the seceding States. Northern state legislatures passed resolutions endorsing that program, and the Republicans in Congress sought to force the issue to a conclusion under a Democratic administration. Every state legislature in the upper South had endorsed the Crittenden amendments or similar proposals, and had indicated a determination to resist coercion. Civil war was dangerously near when Virginia, January 19, proposed the Washington Peace Conference and sent emissaries to the South and to Washington to prevent hostilities. That action arrested a rapid trend of popular sentiment in favor of immediate secession, defeated the proposed state conventions in Tennessee and North Carolina, and elected conservative delegates to the Virginia convention. “We mean to push the experiment of adjustment and settlement of this controversy to the last honorable and reasonable limit, and when we have done that unsuccessfully, we will set up for ourselves in a lawful way, and accept the consequences whatever they may be,” said the Nashville Patriot.

The Washington Conference Convention met February 4. Its sessions were secret, and no intelligent discussion in the press of its probable success was possible. Moreover, Lincoln was journeying leisurely to Washington during the month of February, and his first public utterances since the election diverted attention from everything else. It may be said safely that his speeches at Springfield and Indianapolis converted more people to secession than did his inaugural address a month later, the Wilmington Herald tersely remarking: “Lincoln is on his way to Washington, with the Chicago platform for his gospel, and coercion for his motto.” The Nashville Patriot also went a step further in the direction of resistance when it said: “Mr. Lincoln, we hope, will learn by the 4th of March that the Chicago platform was made for a Presidential Campaign; that it was totally repudiated by about fourteen States of the Union, and that if the government is administered strictly according to its provisions, the government must go to pieces.” From that position it was but a short step to the denunciation of his inaugural as evidence that “he appeared to regard his own personal consistency . . . as of more importance than the preservation of the Union.” Little opportunity was ever presented to the press for a discussion of the report of the Washington Conference Convention. News of its failure reached the people at the same time as the inaugural. From that time until Lincoln’s call for troops nothing occurred to bring definitive action in the remaining slave States; but that event may be regarded as less of a cause and more in the nature of an occasion than surface indications show.

The Louisville Journal, regarding destruction of the Union as the certain extinction of American freedom, had opposed the Washington Conference Convention on the ground that it was a secession snare. Defiant rather than representative of public opinion in either section, it called upon Kentuckians, April 23, to stand by their State and “let her soil be the asylum for the moderate men of both the North and the South, where they may sojourn in peace and avoid the strife and horror of civil war.”

For facilitation and cordial assistance I am indebted to Miss Edna J. Grauman of the Louisville Public Library; Mrs. Mary M. Pohlmann, custodian of the city archives of New Orleans; Miss Harriett Smither, State Librarian of Texas; Mrs. Mary B. Owen, State Librarian, Montgomery; Joseph P. Breedlove, Librarian of Duke University; H. R. Mc Ilwaine, State Librarian, Richmond; Ernest W. Winkler, Librarian of the University of Texas; Miss Stella M. Drumm, Librarian of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis; Robert J. Usher, Librarian of the Howard Memorial Library, New Orleans; Miss C. S. Freret, Louisiana State Museum Library, New Orleans; Mrs. John Trotwood Moore, State Librarian, Nashville; Miss Ella Mae Thornton, State Librarian, Atlanta; and Donald Coney, Assistant Librarian, University of North Carolina. Dr. Dunbar Rowland, Director of the Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi, increased an already deep sense of gratitude by giving unrestrained access to the department’s valuable collection. J. B. Bassick of New Orleans eliminated difficulties in the way of making photostats from newspaper files in the City Archives and the Cabildo. Miss India W. Thomas, Assistant House Regent of the Confederate Museum, Richmond, performed a similar service. E. R. Dabney, in charge of the newspaper files at the University of Texas, Peter A. Brannon and Miss Margaret Hails, of the Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, and Liston Lewis of the Carnegie Library, Nashville, extended many courtesies, in addition to giving freely of their time and advice.

Northern Editorials on Secession. Edited by Howard Cecil Perkins, Bradley Polytechnic Institute. [The American Historical Association.] Two volumes. (New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1942).


The four hundred and ninety-five editorials contained in the two volumes of Northern Editorials on Secession have been selected from the files of eight hundred newspapers scattered among one hundred and forty libraries and newspaper offices in seventeen states and Washington, D. C. Of the hundred thousand editorials originally examined, perhaps five thousand were subjected to study. Those finally selected represent one hundred and ninety newspapers. The papers consulted were published in an area containing the northern free states of 1860 and, in addition, the District of Columbia, that part of Virginia which subsequently became West Virginia, and Kansas, after its admission as a state in January, 1861. Except for California, Oregon, and the territories, the editorials of these volumes speak for that portion of the United States not represented in Professor Dwight L. Dumond’s Southern Editorials on Secession, also a Beveridge Memorial Fund publication.

The editorials presented here have been taken exclusively from the English language press and from what might be called the “political” or “news” press. Accordingly, trade, professional, and religious papers have been excluded. A number of abolitionist “sheets” were examined, notably the Liberator and the National Anti-Slavery Standard, but with a single exception no editorials from them have been included. This exclusion appears justified by the great length of the better editorials, the general availability of the files, and the probability that most of their readers were also subscribers to other journals. The exception to the rule of exclusion is an editorial from a rare issue of James Redpath’s Pine and Palm.

The files of northern newspapers of the secession period have survived in remarkable number. There are fewer than a dozen incomplete files of the daily newspapers of the twelve or fifteen largest cities, each of which had from four to eight dailies. Most notable of the papers with broken files are the Chicago Times, the Chicago Democrat, the Philadelphia Evening Journal, and the New York Day-Book. Files of the Philadelphia Evening Argus and the Cincinnati Courier appear to be unknown. The surviving volumes of county-seat and village weeklies are almost beyond number. While there are only ten or twelve extensive newspaper libraries in the North, nearly every city has files of local papers in the public library or in a city or county historical society collection. Yale and Harvard have the only large holdings belonging to universities, but a number of state historical societies possess important collections, some of which are readily accessible to graduate schools. Three of these deserve special mention: those of Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. There are good collections in the public libraries of Boston and New York, in the Library of Congress, and at the American Antiquarian Society. In some states local files have been deposited with county auditors or clerks of courts. Most newspaper offices have preserved their own papers, and some have acquired the files of defunct rivals. Winifred Gregory’s Union List of Newspapers, published in 1937, is an accurate and helpful guide to newspaper depositories.

The editorials in these volumes express the sentiments of northern editors during what were perhaps the most crucial ten months since the winning of American independence. In that brief time, events moved rapidly. September, 1860, opened the active phase of the presidential campaign, and editors wrote of secession and the preservation of the Union and perhaps of coercion, just as they had in 1852 and 1856, but nobody in the North bought a gun or refused a southern order for goods. By the following June all was different. From the confusion of counsel emerged the resolution to impose the northern will by force of arms. The rapidity of the transition left some editors dismayed, others prayerful, still others buoyant, but none speechless. As one of them remarked, “We have lived a century in six months.” June closed with a rising clamor for “traitors’ blood.” Within three weeks the northern press coerced the administration into the battle at Bull Run.

The search for the solution to such a riddle of human conduct leads to the exploration of the documents of those startling days: the letters, diaries, public records, sermons, magazines, and newspapers. In all of them together may be .found the best answer, not the perfect but the best possible answer. Newspaper editorials, for their part, reveal the sentiments of northern editors, not the sentiments of the North. It seems, however, that the editors of 1860-1861, free from copyrighted sentiments and newspaper chains, representing every rural and urban section of the North, every political party, every economic and religious group, must have been almost “representative” in their thoughts and feelings. In small ,population centers their offices were the favored exchanges of “local intelligence,” and almost invariably the editors themselves paired off to cross quills in provincial politics. Many became party leaders by way of editorial exposition; others became editors to make vocational capital of party leadership. Most of them had the common touch: What else could have sold the bleak sheets of 1860? They were certainly far better spokesmen of their times than are the editors of modern newspapers; and the conclusion seems warranted that they were the best spokesmen of their day.

The transition from peace to war suggests many questions: questions concerning the promises and fears of each party in the presidential campaign, the evaluation of secession threats, the impact of the ordinances of secession, the acceptance or rejection of compromise, the feasibility of peaceable separation, the score of conciliation proposals, the conduct of Buchanan, Davis, and Lincoln, the restiveness and hopefulness of the North during the apparently policyless months of February and March, the gradual realization of the administration’s decision to coerce, the challenge at Sumter, the early confusion in the public’s resolution to support the administration, the emergence of a consolidated northern Unionism, and the fanciful strategy of composing-room generals. In the gifted language of Horace Greeley and in the rustic phrase of printer-editors, free-state journals urged their answers to all these and like questions of the sectional crisis. Their editorials are historical documents filled with the emotionalism of one of the greatest tragedies in history: hate, hope, greed, charity, resolution, resignation, humor, even humor. The authors were the northern editors who experienced the metamorphosis of 1860-1861 that is the subject-matter of these volumes.

The secession crisis may be said to have begun with the Democratic National Convention of 1860, meeting on April 23 at Charleston, South Carolina. The convention adopted a platform which reaffirmed the Cincinnati resolutions of 1856 and promised to abide by future decisions of the Supreme Court on the status of slavery in the territories. Then, finding it impossible to nominate a presidential candidate under the rule requiring two-thirds of a full convention, it adjourned to meet in Baltimore on June 18. At Baltimore the forces of Stephen A. Douglas controlled the seating of delegates and preferred the claims of newly elected Douglas delegates to those of delegates originally accredited to the Charleston convention. The southern-rights men, including some Northerners, withdrew, and in a separate assembly nominated John C. Breckinridge and Joseph Lane on a platform which asserted the constitutional obligation of Congress to protect slavery in the territories. Meanwhile, the Douglas party had nominated Douglas and Herschel V. Johnson. It retained the Charleston platform but added a resolution again to pledge its support of all decisions that might be handed down by the Supreme Court on the status of slavery in the territories.

Two other parties with their nominees had already entered the campaign. The new National Constitutional Union party, representing twenty-four states but dominated by the border slave states, met in Baltimore and nominated John Bell and Edward Everett. Its platform was simply a vow to support “the Constitution of the country, the union of the States, and the enforcement of the laws.” In May the Republicans at Chicago had nominated Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin. Their platform denounced the principle of popular sovereignty, denied the power of Congress or territorial legislatures to sustain slavery in the territories, condemned secession as treason, and approved the homestead measure which had already passed the House of Representatives.

Early in the campaign, a so-called Fusion movement appeared in all of the northern states, but was especially active in the East. Its sponsors endeavored to combine the opposition to the Republicans in order to maneuver Lincoln out of a majority in the electoral college and thus throw the election into the House of Representatives. There-in balloting by states-it was hoped that a compromise Democratic-Unionist candidate might be elected. Fusion was actually effected in only four states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

The campaign itself was vigorous and colorful. Orators of all parties crossed and recrossed the land, speaking in music halls, opera houses, and from specially built platforms in public squares. Torch-light processions led by Lincoln “Wide-Awakes” caught the popular fancy and evoked parades of equally gla,morous “Little Giants.” The candidates themselves were everywhere acclaimed by the shouting faithful. Despite the volleying and thundering and viewing with alarm, few nonpartisan editors attributed to the election that crucial and decisive character that historians have assigned to it. The confident Republicans swore by the Constitution and the laws, and so did the other parties. The Democrats deplored the schism that foretold defeat, but they vowed party reunion and victory in 1864. Campaign tactics were not more reprehensible than on earlier occasions, the Springfield Republican even declaring that the country had achieved new and higher standards of political sportsmanship.

The issues of the campaign were confused. The status of slavery in the territories, supposedly the dominant issue, was subject not only to the fortunes of the election but also to the actions of the Supreme Court. The Republicans pledged themselves to a program apparently declared unconstitutional in the Dred Scott case. Just how was that decision to be reversed? The Douglas Democrats and the Constitutional Unionists pledged themselves to the rulings of the court, whatever those might be. The Breckinridge Democrats accepted the Dred Scott decision, but denied the validity of a possible reversal. Thus, control of the Executive and Congress would in itself be insufficient to enable any party to choose and enact a particular territorial policy. The tariff was a local issue, and neither Republicans nor Democrats had identical principles in Iowa and Pennsylvania. The Republicans were emphatic in support of homestead legislation, but Douglas himself had repeatedly championed homestead proposals. Republicans appealed to labor votes by emphasizing the unfairness of the competition of free and slave labor, while to win the same votes Democrats pictured the migration of hordes of free Negroes from the cotton states to northern mill towns. Charges of corruption against the Buchanan administration, particularly of the Department of War, and condemnation of the “Lecompton fraud” provided grist for party mills, but honesty in public office did not figure in the debates between Douglas men and Lincoln men, for the Buchanan blessing had gone to Breckinridge, and he alone was called upon to defend the administration. The feelings between Douglas and Buchanan were bitter.

All parties appealed to the robust American nationalism, everywhere interpreted as “Unionism.” On this issue the Republicans, strictly a northern party, were on the defensive, yet they insisted that the only assurance of perpetual union lay in the triumph of the Republican candidate, and they urged his election to defeat the sectionalism which they attributed to Douglas and Breckinridge. Thus, while Lincoln editors denounced Breckinridge Democracy as disunionism, Douglas Democracy as treason, and Bell Unionism as evasion, they preached the preservation of the Union through the destruction of the slave power in the councils of the nation. Slavery, they argued, was sectional, freedom was national; the victory of freedom, therefore, was the victory of nationalism. They declared that they harbored no intentions of invading the legal rights of the southern states and that they sought only to use the authority that would be assigned to Congress when the Supreme Court correctly interpreted the Constitution. They professed to believe that southern rights would remain uninjured so long as Congress worked within constitutional limitations, as it must. In answer to this contention the Democrats repeatedly pointed out that either the Republican party would prove false to its antislavery platform or it would declare war on southern rights, for the greatest of those rights was that of maintaining and cherishing the institution that supported southern economy and the southern social system.

The Douglas press, next to the Republican the most powerful in the North, declared that a Douglas victory was the one guarantee of the Union. Popular sovereignty alone, its journals asserted, offered the inhabitants of a territory an opportunity to determine their own institutions, and it alone was loyal to the sacred American principle of government by consent of the governed; it was the golden mean between the Breckinridge ultimatum of slavery protection and the Republican mandate of abolition. To the Douglas Democracy, Republicanism was offensive northern sectionalism, Breckinridge Democracy was equally offensive southern sectionalism, and Bell Unionism was without principle, conviction, or hope.

Breckinridge editors paraded the grievances of the South and frequently pointed out extenuating factors in slavery. They denounced abolitionism and all its prophets and implored Americans to see that southern institutions and southern economy would collapse if the country accepted the leadership of .northern politicians who aimed at political revolution. Not in the South and not in Breckinridge Democracy, they declared, but in the North and in Black Republicanism lay the peril to the Union. The Constitution, they insisted, was the ark of safety and union when correctly understood. To them, of course, a correct understanding meant the acceptance of the Dred Scott decision.

The Bell journals exalted the Union, glorified the Constitution, and pleaded for a return to the good old days of harmony and national pride. The crisis was to them a matter of feeling and not of measures; and for its alleviation they asked a change of heart and not an array of acts and resolutions. The Bell strength was in the Border States and was popularly regarded as including a disproportionately large number of older men. John Bell himself was sixty-three and his running mate was sixty-six.

The Union-saving professions of all four parties when the preservation of the Union was itself not a formal issue prompted questions on the underlying intentions of party leaders and on the eventual result of party programs: disunion might be a secret ambition or it might be an unlooked-for consequence. Thus the voters of 1860 developed a general suspicion and confusion of mind; devoted to the Union as they were told they should be, they sensed a fundamental moral issue, but only individually could they translate it into right and wrong ways of voting. This elusive moral issue concerned the theory of the Union, the right of self-government, and the “arrogance” of the “slaveocracy.” Somehow, government by consent of the governed and majority rule did not square, yet both were part and parcel of the American faith. If “the destiny of the republican model of government” were “staked on the experiment intrusted to the hands of the American people,” as Washington declared, how would an American of 1860 vote to sustain republicanism? Did the Declaration of Independence, presumably rejecting slavery, take precedence over the Constitution, accepting slavery? Was “popular sovereignty” a territorial right or only a national privilege? Did minorities have any rights that majorities were bound to respect? Was the “arrogance” of southern “Bombastes Furiosos” a threat to republicanism or a resolution to defend republicanism? Surely, in all this, there was a moral issue. What was it?

Widely branded as abolitionists who preferred disunion to slavery, the Republicans defended themselves by insisting upon the identity of Republicanism and Unionism. Northern voters, they realized, must not be permitted to regard votes for Lincoln as votes for disunion. It was true that Northerners hated slavery, but equally true that many of them were resolved that there must be no encouragement of a party which, if elected, might violate southern rights and provide moral if not constitutional grounds for secession. Consequently, Republican editors had no choice but to deny the seriousness of southern threats to withdraw from the Union in the event of Lincoln’s election. Almost unanimously they responded to secession threats with charges of “humbug,” “bullying game,” “scare stuff,” “empty sham,” and “chronic disease.” The attitude of the Central Illinois Gazette, of Champaign City, was representative. On November 7 it declared that after “some sharp crimination and recrimination among the Quattle bums . . . all will be quiet and peaceful, and the Union will be safe-not having been in danger.”

Douglas editors, on the other hand, sought to blast Republican chances by insisting that the secession threats of southern journals were the pronouncements of desperate men and that Lincoln’s election would bring disunion. To these editors, secession was an imminent danger which they implored the North to avert. They took up the cries of compromise, concession, peaceable separation, each in its own setting of circumstance. Perhaps to win reconciliation through northern envy, perhaps to intimate the unthinkableness of coercion, they pictured the prosperity of a southern confederacy. They always laid the crisis to the sectionalism of the Republicans, and they frequently blamed New England Republicans in particular. The attitude of the Douglas press was fairly stated by the Bedford Gazette, of Pennsylvania, on October 12: “No man with a thimblefull of brains in his head can fail to see that the triumph of a sectional party, whose avowed object is to make war upon the other half of the Confederacy, leads inevitably to a dissolution of the Union.”

The Breckinridge press divided in responding to charges of disunionism. Some of their organs, like the Boston Post and the Hartford Times, denied that the southern states intended secession and termed disunion threats a “panic game” begun by the Republicans. Other Breckinridge papers, like the New Haven Register and the Philadelphia Pennsylvanian, expected secession to follow Lincoln’s election. Bell editors generally feared the secession threats.

With the approach of November 6, a Republican victory became a foregone conclusion. Douglas editors urged their fellows to courage and industry, but their bitterness against the Breckinridge Democracy suggested expectations of defeat. Following the election, Republicans described secession threats as called bluffs and dismissed Carolinian steps toward a state convention as moves to save face. They expected separationist brag to “fizzle out” as it had on many occasions since the bitter debates on the Missouri Compromise, and they looked to see southern hot-heads overwhelmed by southern Unionism. With the growing realization that secession was more than idle talk, Republican editors divided their admonitions to the South between “be gone and good riddance” and “a million men will spring to arms to defend the Union.” The opposition parties, now merging into a compromise front, implored the Republicans to choose their course with patriotism rather than partisanship.

The editorial discussions of southern policy led naturally to appraisals of the “right of secession.” During the weeks following the election, editors of all parties assumed that secession as a constitutional right was not in question, for they had not yet arrived at the point where they sought legal justification for coercion. On the contrary, the southern claim to a right of peaceable withdrawal was countenanced out of reverence for the natural law principle of government by consent of the governed. This response constituted another rejection of “coerced allegiance,” a rejection proclaimed countless times during the months preceding the outbreak of war. With many editors, however, changing tempers later produced a willingness to oppose the southern course with whatever arguments were available, and of those the denial of secession as a constitutional right ranked first among a people with a stubborn faith in legal processes. The southern program, editors then asserted, actually invoked not a right of secession but the right of revolution. To this doctrine northern editors without exception gave lip service, but almost unanimously they declared that it could be exercised only for proper cause. The determination of the propriety of the cause they reserved to themselves; such an argument, of course, denied the right of revolution. Thus, without ever having admitted the right of secession, many editors veered from acquiescence to opposition on the practical question of peaceable separation.

During late November and early December, editors of all parties looked with eagerness to President Buchanan’s approaching message to Congress. Yet the message, like Buchanan himself, never had a chance. Editorial pens, dipped in party ink, were poised on December 5 as they were later on March 4. Buchanan supporters were too few; their approval was lost in the clamor of Lincoln and Douglas editors who denounced as a fallacy the President’s contention that the absence of a constitutional right of secession did not imply a right of executive coercion.

The winter months of 1860-1861 produced bitter argument on the appropriate policy of the government. As topics germane to the controversy, editors wrote at length on the economics and morality of slavery, the attitude of foreign powers in the event of disunion, the role of the tariff in the economics of the nation, sectional resources, Andrew Jackson’s disposition of the South Carolina nullification venture, the meaning of the Constitution, the interpretation of Lincoln’s inaugural, and countless others. Democratic journals urged conciliation and compromise and almost frantically approved most of the many “plans”; Republican journals, with few exceptions, rejected the principle involved in “concession” and opposed all specific measures aimed at reconciliation. Repeatedly, a host of Democrats and a few Republicans pleaded for “peaceable separation,” while just as often Republicans demanded “the enforcement of the laws.” In their fight for northern concessions Breckinridge Democrats and Douglas Democrats stood side by side, and the Bell Unionists, already without even the sentimental integrity present during the presidential campaign, stood with them. Pleas for compromise and pleas for peaceable separation appeared in the same journals at about the same moment. Always, Democratic editors preferred compromise and Union to disunion, but when it appeared that the Republicans might eschew all settlement proposals and choose between peaceable separation and coercion, the choice of most Democrats was peace and disunion. When changing prospects suggested that the issue was compromise or peaceable separation, then the Democrats rejected disunion and fought for compromise. It was altogether a matter of getting the best that could be had.

Northern editors took little notice of the firing on the Star of the West, the successive ordinances of secession, or the organization of the Confederate States of America. They were more interested in the progress of southern military measures and in the expropriation of federal properties in the South. Still more, however; they were concerned with the reports of southern bombast and trickery, and those reports, extravagant and inciting as they were, they fashioned to partisan ends.

Inevitably, President Lincoln’s inaugural evoked Republican praise and Democratic censure. Later, his taking of the northern pulse by a reported decision to abandon Fort Sumter disclosed the reluctance of Republicans to yield to Confederate pretensions and the eagerness of Den;10crats to taunt the administration with charges of retreat. The response of the Democrats may have figured significantly in suggesting a conditional quality to their peace professions. On the appearance in early April of an apparent willingness on the part of the administration to attempt coercion, Democratic editors with virtual unanimity protested, but Republican editors acclaimed the impending struggle as a “mission for humanity.”

Lincoln’s attempt to provision Fort Sumter was widely interpreted in the northern press as revealing a decision by the administration to force the issue of submission or war. The Confederates accepted the challenge. The Republicans at once gave the war full support; many Democrats, however, withheld their approval until President Lincoln’s call for troops on April 15 made the war policy explicit rather than implicit. The issue was then one of loyalty, and the response was overwhelmingly in support of the administration. Most Democratic journals announced support of the war but at the same time proclaimed its needlessness, its wickedness, or its futility. They would not be traitors, they insisted, but they would remember and punish the war guilt of the Republicans. Here and there, however, a powerful journal called upon the Republicans to reverse the war policy; a few sought to arouse opposition.

The general acceptance of the administration’s leadership neither rested upon nor immediately inspired a common view of the purposes of coercion. In rapidly mounting numbers, however, editors accepted the objective of the preservation of the Union, but differed widely as to the meaning of the phrase. It did not commonly have the geographical connotation that it has to-day; to many it was a political or legal term, and it meant the maintenance of sovereignty, stability, prestige, or honor. Its power vindicated, some editors argued, the federal government could honorably permit disunion. A few contended that it should then even compel the withdrawal of the disaffected states. Other editors viewed the abolition of slavery rather than reunion as the condition of peace. With this discussion of war aims the country was fairly launched into civil war.

The Southerners of 1860-1861, in seeking to alter the status quo, had to choose a line of action before the North could formulate a policy in response to that action. Thus, while the course of at least seven southern states was set with the adoption of their ordinances of secession and became almost unalterable on the organization of the Confederacy on February 4, at the time of the latest of these events northern newspapers were filled with discussions of the right of revolution, peaceable separation, the enforcement of the laws, compromise proposals, the Republican platform, and a hundred other subjects related to the crisis. So far as northern editorials reveal it, there was no northern “stand” on February 4, 1861, or even on the inauguration of Lincoln a month later. The bulk of significant southern editorials on the secession crisis therefore appeared before the ordinances of the Gulf states; the bulk of northern editorials followed them.

The determination of northern policy was not left to argument alone: emotionalism was as real throughout the Secession Winter as in any crisis in American history. A free press exploited its freedom to print and broadcast a thousand inciting rumors taken from “correspondence to the editor” and frequently purporting to reveal the experiences of “a gentleman lately traveling in the South.” Editors, like tradesmen and farmers, rallied to the defense of long cherished interests and ideals, frequently, of course, concealing punitive and selfish purposes with the nobler arguments of constitutional and moral “rights” and “duties.” On many occasions, however, they spoke straight from the heart-spoke bitterly about plots to assassinate the President-elect or to capture the city of Washington, about obstruction of the Mississippi, abuse of Northerners in the South, the cruelty of slavery, grandiose schemes of southern empire and monarchy, free-trade competition, repudiation of southern debts, confiscation of federal property, southern alliances with European powers, denial of the suffrage and representative government in the South, and countless other “wrongs,” actual or rumored. These revelations of feeling, lacking the logic and dignity of constitutional argument, were nevertheless very much a part of northern newspaper sentiment and must be included in a selection of representative editorials.

While northern editors were often concerned with the legality of the right of secession and with the morality of the right of revolution, their denial of either or both of these did not inevitably lead to a support of coercion. A thousand incidents of fact and fancy divorced the question of coercion, compromise, or separation from abstract and dispassionate constitutionality and morality. Consequently, few northern journals presented any consistency through the secession months. A declaration for coercion or for peaceable separation on one date offered scarcely more than a presumption as to the attitude of the editor on a later date. An extreme but not an isolated example was Horace Greeley’s shift from his “depart in peace” benediction of November to his “death to traitors” invocation of March.

By virtue of its numbers and the influence of certain of its members, the leading party press in the northern states during the Secession Winter was the Republican. Its journals outnumbered those of the combined opposition; and it dominated the presses of the four largest urban centers: New York and Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Boston, and Cincinnati. In the New York area, the Tribune, the Times, the Evening Post, the Courier and Enquirer, and the Commercial Advertiser were Lincoln papers. In addition, the Brooklyn City News, the Advertiser and the Mercury of Newark, and the Courier and Advertiser of Jersey City, all in the New York urban area, were Republican. The newly established New York World professed independence but expressed radical Republican sentiments.

Philadelphia had three Republican organs: the Daily News, the Evening Bulletin, and the old and influential North American and United States Gazette. Boston had five: the Advertiser, the Atlas and Bee, the Journal, the Traveller, and the Saturday Evening Gazette. Cincinnati had two: the Gazette and the widely quoted Commercial.

Here and there, outside these urban areas, other journals of importance carried the Republican banner. In New England the leading ones were the Portland Advertiser, the Providence Journal, the Springfield Republican, the Hartford Courant, the Hartford Evening Press, the New Haven Journal and Courier, and the New Haven Palladium. Outside of New England in the East were the Albany Evening Journal, the Commercial Advertiser and the Express of Buffalo, the Rochester Evening Express, the Syracuse Journal, the Harrisburg Telegraph, the Pittsburgh Gazette, and the National Republican, established in early 1861, in Washington, D. C. The Intelligencer in Wheeling; the Leader and the Herald in Cleveland; the State .Journal in Columbus; the .Journal in Indianapolis; the Advertiser and the Tribune in Detroit; the Tribune, the journal, and the Democrat in Chicago; the State journal in Springfield; and the Sentinel and the Wisconsin in Milwaukee-these belong in the roll of the more important Republican journals of the nation. Still smaller cities, covering the North from Bangor to Des Moines, had able and locally influential Republican organs.

The prominent Douglas papers of the North were the Boston Herald, the Providence Post, the Albany Atlas and Argus, the Buffalo Courier, the Buffalo Republic, the Brooklyn Evening Standard, the Philadelphia Press, the Washington States and Union, the Pittsburgh Post, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Indianapolis Sentinel, the Detroit Free Press, the Chicago Times, the Springfield Register, and the Milwaukee Press and News. Only the religious Sun and the weekly Leader supported Douglas in New York City. The Boston Herald early approved coercion; and the editor of the Philadelphia Press, John W. Forney, sold out to Lincoln, as earlier, abandoning Buchanan, he had sold out to Douglas. The Chicago Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the Providence Post proved the stanchest of Douglas journals.

The leading organs of the Breckinridge Democracy were the New York Herald, the New York Journal of Commerce, the New York News, and the Brooklyn Eagle. All of these, however, were lost to the Breckinridge candidacy-not to the Breckinridge platform-when they joined in the Fusion anti-Republican clamor and then later accepted the Fusion ticket. More persevering Breckinridge papers were the Boston Post, the Newark Evening Journal, the Philadelphia Pennsylvanian, and the Washington Constitution. The Journal opposed the war even after Sumter, while the Pennsylvanian and the Constitution ceased publication before that date. The editor of the Constitution, William M. Browne, became assistant secretary of state in the Confederacy. Lesser Breckinridge organs were the Bangor Daily Union, the Concord Democratic Standard, the Hartford Daily Times, the Syracuse Courier and Union, the Harrisburg Patriot and Union, the Columbus Capital City Fact, and the Cleveland National Democrat. With the exception of the Madison, Wisconsin, Argus and Democrat, there was no influential Breckinridge paper west of Ohio. The Bangor Daily Union, the Concord Democratic Standard, and the Cleveland National Democrat died before the close of 1861; the Madison Argus and Democrat disappeared in 1862 and the Columbus, Capital City Fact in 1864. Thus, only five of the twelve leading northern papers loyal to Breckinridge in 1860 survived the Civil War.

The leading Bell papers were the Washington National Intelligencer, the Boston Courier, the Philadelphia Evening Journal, the Cincinnati Times, and the Jersey City American Standard. The Intelligencer was one of the most respected journals in the country; the Courier was supposedly popular with Harvard people; the Evening Journal failed to survive the War; the Times was early won to coercion; the Standard was clamoring against war long after Sumter. The Troy Whig also supported Bell.

It was not only in these metropolitan and larger city journals, however, that the thoughts and sentiments of the North were expressed; they were presented in the papers of a score of smaller cities: Burlington, Lynn, Roxbury, Worcester, Lowell, Newport, Utica, Trenton, Camden, Reading, Erie, Toledo, Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Peoria, Quincy, Davenport, Dubuque, Des Moines, St. Paul, and many lesser centers of population. Perhaps, as they stood between the metropolitan centers of the day on the one hand and the villages and farms on the other, these small cities most fairly represent the United States of secession times.

The editorials of the secession months came from the pens of some of the greatest figures in the history of American journalism. It was indeed a propitious moment for editorial greatness, for personal journalism was in its heyday: the cheap press with its wide circulation had arrived, but stock-company ownership and staffs of editorial writers were uncommon, and syndicated features were unknown. The New York Tribune, for instance, was “Horace Greeley’s paper” and had been for almost twenty years. Other New York journals were likewise the personal organs of their editors and always they were linked: Henry J. Raymond with the Times, James Gordon Bennett with the Herald, James Watson Webb with the Courier and Enquirer, Gerard Hallock with the Journal of Commerce, and William Cullen Bryant with the Evening Post.

Even outside of New York City there were editors of national reputation: William Winston Seaton of the Washington National Intelligencer, Joseph Medill of the Chicago Tribune, Samuel Bowles of the Springfield, Massachusetts, Republican, John Forney of the Philadelphia Press, Thurlow Weed of the Albany Evening Journal, and Murat Halsted of the Cincinnati Commercial. The editors were legion whose reputations extended the length and breadth of their own states and frequently beyond. There was George Lunt of the Boston Courier, Morton McMichael of the Philadelphia North American, Charles Gordon Greene of the Boston Post, James Hawley of the Hartford Evening Press, James Gray of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Samuel Medary of the Columbus Crisis, Edward McLean of the Cincinnati Enquirer, John Wentworth of the Chicago Democrat, E.W. McComas of the Chicago Times, and James Sheahan of the Chicago Post. Scores of other editors of the secession period have surviving local reputations. The men behind all of the newspapers quoted in these volumes are listed at the close of the second volume.

Northern Editorials on Secession has been compiled with particular regard to the faithfulness with which it presents the sentiments of the northern press and, within that press, the sentiments of the journals of the various sections and parties of the North. The editorials of this selection are therefore apportioned among the states in the ratio of the distribution of population in 1860 and among parties in the ratio of the popular vote in the election of the same year. While two factors -the varying size and number of cities in the respective states and the Fusion vote in four states-complicate this distribution, it is relatively accurate. The District of Columbia, Rhode Island, and, to a lesser degree, Massachusetts, are somewhat overrepresented, due to the number of good newspapers and the relatively small population in each. Indiana, on the other hand, is underrepresented because it had a population disproportionately large for the number of its urban inhabitants. In the party distribution, the Breckinridge press is overrepresented at the expense of the Douglas press, a disparity arising from the situation in the New York metropolitan area. The Fusionists are not regarded as a party, but their supporting newspapers are credited to the candidates which they favored before Fusion was effected. Only by this classification can the attitude of the papers toward slavery be indicated.

The subjects chosen for this selection are those most relevant to the theme of the transition from peace to war. They are listed in whatever of chronological order may be possible, and within each subject-group the editorials also are presented in chronological sequence. The subjects, twenty-seven in number, may be defined as follows: I. The Campaign of 1860—Discussions of the issues of the election by Lincoln, Douglas, Breckinridge, Bell, and independent editors. Lincoln journals numbered fully half the newspapers of the North; and Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell papers followed in decreasing numbers. “Fusion” won sporadic support in most states, particularly in the East, and powerful support in metropolitan New York. Important independent journals numbered fewer than half a dozen.

The main formal issue in the election was the status of slavery in the territories, but editors adopted far-reaching implications of that issue as the subject matter of their editorials. They ventured into discussions of secession, the morality of slavery, alleged southern and Republican conspiracies to disrupt the Union, and a host of related matters. Notwithstanding the height of party feeling, the campaign itself was regarded by the press as not more bitter than certain earlier ones. On October 2 the Springfield Republican, of Massachusetts, declared that the freedom of the campaign from personalities and vituperation demonstrated the capacity of democratic governments for spiritual growth.

II. The Prospect of Secession—Speculations on the future of the secession movement in the southern states. These editorials fell within the period between the election and the secession of South Carolina; and they discussed the possibility and consequences of actual recourse to ordinances of secession in an attempt to withdraw from the Union. In them Republican editors continued their preelection skepticism into December, whereas Democrats hailed developments in the South as the vindication of their campaign warnings. In addition to speculations on the resort to secession ordinances, editors advanced guesses on the course of the federal government in the event of the adoption of such ordinances, they painted both bright and somber pictures of the future of a southern nation, and they raised questions about the attitude of foreign powers toward a free-trade, cotton-growing American republic. Frequently, editors asserted that the South should not be coerced into allegiance. The classic statement of this sentiment came from Horace Greeley on November 9: “We hope never to live in a republic whereof one section is pinned to the residue by bayonets.”

III. Buchanan’s Message to Congress—Reviews of that portion of President Buchanan’s Message to Congress on December 5 which dealt with the sectional crisis and the prospective secession of South Carolina and other southern states. The President charged the North with aggressions on the South, and in a narrowly legalistic interpretation of the Constitution denied both the right of secession and the right of the President to coerce states of the Union. He pleaded with the North to cease its attacks upon slavery and the South, and he urged the repeal of the Personal Liberty Acts enacted by a number of the northern states. This stand was denounced as cowardly, inconsistent, and traitorous by practically every Lincoln paper and by most Douglas journals. The speech was approved in the North by the Breckinridge press, a few Douglas papers, an occasional Bell organ, and a few independent journals, notably the Providence Evening Press.

IV. Secession: Right or Revolution?—Characterizations of secession through unilateral action as a “right” and as “revolution,” drawn from the period between November 6 and December 20. Editorials before November 6 were written with the prime object of winning votes, whereas after December 20 they were written in an atmosphere that was already filling with rumors and criminations that made consideration of the right of secession increasingly less abstract. In the six weeks between the presidential election and the secession of South Carolina, northern editors most closely approached an objective contemplation of the right of secession asserted by southern constitutionalists. Through a supposed identity with the principle of government by consent of the governed, many northern editors, including Republicans, at first gave acceptance to the right of secession; soon, however, they began to qualify their acceptance with stipulations of procedure; and they concluded by denying the right in toto. This course, step by step, was followed again and again by northern editors. A perfect example was provided by the Indianapolis Journal; another, almost as good, was presented by the New York Tribune.

V. “The Enforcement of the Laws”Appeals for the restoration of federal authority in the seceded states. “The Enforcement of the Laws,” a phrase suggestive of law and order and good citizenship, was the battlecry of editors prepared for a resort to arms. “Have We a Government?” and “Is the Union a Rope of Sand?” were likewise popular among “coercionist” editors. These editorials first appeared in large number in mid-December as the compunction against “coerced allegiance” lost its flush; they continued in strength until on the eve of Fort Sumter the war preparations of the administration set for their authors the congenial labors of justifying the employment of military force and proclaiming the objectives of coercion. It was a truly exceptional Lincoln paper, like the Fort Wayne Times or the Newburyport Herald, that was not thoroughly coercionist by the time that the war policy of the administration became apparent. The four great Lincoln dailies of New York City were then coercionist: the Tribune, the Times, the Evening Post, and the Courier and Enquirer. An occasional Douglas paper, like the Boston Herald, and an occasional Bell paper, like the Cincinnati Times, were ready for war before the engagement in Charleston harbor.

VI. Conciliation and Compromise—Discussions of the principle involved in proposals to restore the Union by granting some of the demands of the seceded states. “Conciliation,” suggestive of reasonableness and good will, was an approving Democratic word; “compromise,” suggestive of abandoned morality, was a disapproving Republican word. Some Lincoln editors, however, would accept “conciliation,” but by the word they meant little more than a willingness to point out the error of southern ways. “Concession” had the same flavor as “compromise,” and so was unacceptable to Republican editors. The Chicago Tribune waged the most relentless campaign in the northern press against the relinquishment of any part of the Chicago Platform; and even Greeley, in the New York Tribune, announced that he preferred the platform to fifty Unions. The prevailing Republican attitude was one of resolute opposition to the principle of conciliation and compromise; occasionally, however, editors promised more friendly consideration for compromise proposals once southern acceptance was assured. Democratic editors, of both Douglas and Breckinridge leanings, and Bell editors were generally favorable to compromise.

VII. Measures for Peace—Analyses of specific proposals for averting both secession and war. These editorials suggest the possible results of compromise programs and then pass judgment on their acceptability. On any particular proposal the attitude of the editors of the various parties was just about their stand on the principle of compromise: Republicans demurred and Democrats approved.

Measures for peace were at times mere proposals for setting up the machinery of negotiation. Examples of such measures were a national convention and the Washington Conference Convention. Other proposals dealt with concrete issues and made definitive stipulations. Examples of these were the Crittenden Compromise, the Border States Plan, the Kellogg Plan, and the Adams Plan.

VIII. Peaceable Separation—Pleas in defense of peaceful disunion. Repeatedly, northern editors insisted that “we want no conquered provinces”; and as frequently they deplored all thought of “subjugating millions of freemen fighting in defense of their homes.” William M. Browne, editor of the Washington Constitution, might rejoice that the South had seceded, but the rank and file of Democratic editors felt differently. They might condone secession, but they also lamented it. When they spoke for peaceable separation, as most of them did on occasion, they did so only because they loved peace and self-government more than union, or because they hated disunion, alone, less than they hated disunion with war. There was, however, another set of alternatives: on the one hand was peaceable separation, on the other conciliation. Coercion was outside, unthinkable. Presented in this fashion, the choice of Democrats was conciliation; then, conciliation denied, a harder choice took its place. Then it was that most Democratic editors chose separation in peace.

While peaceable separation was as yet only a possible future course and an alternative to compromise, and while the abrasive concomitants of the separation process were as yet unexperienced, Republicans frequently accepted it; but when it became an immediate issue and the alternative to compulsory union, they rejected it. In the sense in which the Democrats favored peaceable separation when they believed that it was an issue in practical politics, the Republicans never accepted it. It was as an actual, present issue that a separation in peace was discussed in the editorials in this group.

IX. New Confederacies and a Free City—Speculations on new political alignments to supersede the old American Union. Some imaginative editors envisaged new confederacies, perhaps empires, rising on the North American continent, for, they insisted, once the constitutional compact was broken, the several states would enter into such new affiliations as promised most for their security and prosperity. Editors dreamed of new nations on the Pacific, in the Southwest, in the Northwest, in the Mississippi Valley, and in New England. Sometimes in these visions Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands played unwitting roles. Mayor Wood, of New York, perhaps a dreamer but a politician first, spoke to his Common Council of possible future greatness for a Free City of New York.

While editorial empire-building was not widespread-nor perhaps seriously regarded-it was pursued by able editors and powerful journals. It was, moreover, seldom condemned. In a signed letter appearing in the Washington National Intelligencer on January 18, General Winfield Scott sketched the boundaries of four confederacies which he believed that Nature had decreed for North America. Not only did the general do this without a word of reproof from any paper of the North, but he remained throughout the crisis the nation’s foremost symbol of patriotism and union.

X. “The Everlasting Negro”—Editorials dealing with the status, the characteristics, and the future of the Negro. Editors discussed his significance in the culture, the economics, and the politics of the nation. Two widely copied articles, “The Niggerism of the Secession Movement” and “The Everlasting Negro,” respectively charged many traits of southern character to association with slaves and pointed out the presence of the Negro in every problem of American life. These editorials were widely reprinted without credit and their authorship is not altogether certain. The New York Times, recognizing the problem of “the everlasting Negro” and some of the difficulties of emancipation, proposed measures to modify the harshness of the institution of slavery.

XI. The Morality of Slavery—Editorial judgments on the ethics of slaveholding. The most uncompromising northern champions of slavery were the Concord, New Hampshire, Democratic Standard, the New York Evening Day-Book, and the New York News. Other journals, too, defended slavery; far more frequently, however, they merely condoned or extenuated it. The views of Lincoln papers ranged from abolitionism to apology, but they never reached downright defense. Most Douglas organs were evasive or apologetic. Antislavery editors usually assumed the immorality of slavery and only now and then wrote in condemnation of the institution. Its more valiant defenders, on the other hand, accepted the burden of proof and on occasion wrote explicitly and at length. Consequently, this selection of editorials on the morality of slavery is not representative of the numbers of the opponents and defenders of slavery but only of their sentiments.

XII. The “Chivalry”—Delineations of southern character as viewed by northern editors, mostly written in the heated days of early 1861. “Chivalry” was a term of contempt applied by unfriendly journalists to the slaveholding aristocracy and the non-slaveholding white men of the South who accepted and sustained the political and social philosophy of the planter class. That philosophy, these writers contended, was undemocratic and antisocial; it encouraged selfishness, brutality, and immorality, and so “sapped the foundations” of the republic. This dark picturing of southern character was long the special province of Republicans, but with the emergence of the war policy in April it was used by editors of all parties to arouse the fighting temper of the North. Provocative as such writing must have been, it had long been a favorite device with many newspapers, including, to list a few, the Boston Atlas and Bee, the New York Tribune, the Philadelphia News; the Philadelphia North American, the Chicago Tribune, the Toledo Blade, the Peoria Transcript, and the Quincy Whig.

XIII. The Mississippi—Discussions of the threatened closing of the great inland waterway by seceded riparian states or by the southern Confederacy. The Chicago Tribune alone was voluble on the subject; other journals spoke infrequently but grimly. “The great Northwest,” they insisted, could never submit to the control of the mouth of the Mississippi by another power; and they used Vallandigham’s words to say that the Northwest, rather than be cut off from the sea, would “cleave its way to the sea-coast with the sword.” Eastern editors wrote occasionally on the economic necessity of an open river, and they usually concluded that “the great Northwest”not the federal governmentshould and would defend it with might of arms. One or two editors advanced the idea that railroads and canals had altered the course of western trade and that the Mississippi might well be left to shift for itself.

XIV. The Economics of Union—Attempts by northern editors to analyze secession, disunion, coercion, and civil war in terms of production, markets, southern indebtedness, commerce, the national debt, and other items. The results are disappointing, for they fail to show objective thinking on the economic aspects of the crisis. Most of these editorials were mere attempts to fashion public thought and action by alarmist pictures of economic changes to come, in the event of the rejection of a particular policy. They were usually Republican.

XV. Inaugurals South and North—Appraisals of the inaugural address of Jefferson Davis on February 11 and of Abraham Lincoln on March 4. President Davis’ address was not widely reviewed in the northern press; Lincoln’s inaugural, on the other hand, was eagerly awaited and anxiously studied. Republicans commonly viewed it as meaning the preservation of the Union, peacefully if possible, while Democrats variously regarded it as inflammatory, confused, and evasive. A few Democrats approved.

XVI. The Emergence of a Policy—Editorials of late March pleading for a definite stand on secession, and others of early April acclaiming or denouncing the administration’s preparations for war.

Soon after Lincoln’s inauguration, rumors reached the press that the President proposed to abandon Fort Sumter. Within a few days what had been only rumored was said “with authority.” The response of the press to these reports was a demand for action. A policyany policywas better than continued uncertainty. Democrats clamored along with Republicans, for they felt that the administration dared not begin civil war; therefore, they believed, the “decisive policy” to issue from Washington would be one of vigorous efforts for compromise, or, failing that, one of peaceable separation. In early April the administration’s stand became apparent. Republicans rejoiced, notwithstanding their lack of agreement on the objectives of coercion. Democrats, bewildered, turned savagely on the administration and the Republican party. They were resisting the war policy when the Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter on Friday, April 12.

XVII. The Strategy of Sumter—Editorials purporting to see in the clash at Fort Sumter deeply laid plans of President Lincoln or of President Davis. Some of the expressions of views preceded the event and others followed it. The earlier ones may well have suggested a course of action to President Lincoln. Perhaps the most prophetic of all editorials published during the Secession Winter was that printed in the Providence Post, April 13, 1861, with the title, “Why?” Another noteworthy one appeared in the Indianapolis Journal on April 11. The one suggested the possible strategy of Lincoln at Sumter, the other that of Davis.

XVIII. The Sequel to Sumter—Responses of northern editors to the firing on Fort Sumter and to Lincoln’s call for troops. Directly and in itself, the battle in Charleston harbor swung few journals to the support of the administration. Republican papers were already cheering the war policy, and Democratic papers, for the most part, stood for peace through the fight at Sumter and until the President’s proclamation of April 15. Then came the storm, and it is this storm that may be regarded as “the sequel to Sumter.” Even northern Breckinridge papers, like the Columbus Capital City Fact, were ready for the fight. The generally recusant New York Herald urged war support on April 16.

XIX. Post-Sumter Pleas for Peace—Denials that the attack on Fort Sumter need precipitate civil war and prayers for delayed military action, further efforts at reconciliation, and peaceful separation. Protesting editors, Democratic with few exceptions, were in most instances converted to war support by Lincoln’s call for troops. Without enthusiasm and with strong and explicit reservations on the necessity and humanity of the war, they declined to be traitors when the issue became one of loyalty or treason. The decision was a hard one, and they confessed that it was with “hearts filled to overflowing” that they set “trembling hands” to “paper wet with tears.” They cried to Heaven and to “impartial history” to witness their protestations against “the unholy war.” They would fight for the Union and the flag, but with the coming of peace they would turn grimly to the business of punishing the “authors of the conflict.”

By April 20 the North was resolute and substantially united. Only a few of the powerful journals persisted in efforts for peace: the Boston Courier, the Brooklyn Eagle, and the Cincinnati Enquirer. A few lesser ones also protested: the Hartford Times, the Jersey City American Standard, and the Dubuque Herald. Here and there county-seat and village papers likewise dissented.

XX. Objects of the War—Views of the purposes of the coercion policy. These are opinions written after the administration’s call to arms, and so are discussions of the objectives accepted at a time when war 1 was generally approved in the North. The preservation of geographical integrity, the maintenance of the government’s authority, the abolition of slavery, the retention of markets, the relief of southern Unionists, and revenge were variously regarded as war aims during the week following the fall of Sumter, but during the closing days of April agreement developed rapidly on the indefinite objective of “the preservation of the Union.”

XXI. The Border States—Discussions of the conduct and policy of the Border States, particularly Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky. The northern press was divided between admiration for the Union-saving efforts of the Border States and scorn for their qualified Unionism. Virginia was roundly applauded and soundly abused for her leadership in reconciliation moves; and Kentucky was both toasted and denounced for her venture in “armed neutrality.”

XXII. Western Virginia—Speculations and advice on the course of the loyal portion of the Old Dominion. Within western Virginia, editors fought bitterly on the issue of secession from the Richmond government, and loyalty to the Union was frankly subordinated to intra-state issues of taxation and representation. The Wheeling Intelligencer vigorously espoused both the division of the state and common action with the North. Outside editors relished the prospect of adding another free state to the Union.

XXIII. The American Experiment—Editorials insisting that the experiment of self-government “entrusted to the hands of the American people” was-or was not-in the moment of its supreme trial. Asserting that self-government was in its final issue, editors might interpret success as the maintenance of the Constitution to which all states had explicitly or tacitly subscribed; or they might view success as the preservation of government by consent of the governed. Both of these groups might assert the finality of the test in America. Still other editors scorned all suggestions of trial or test; the Union was at stake, they agreed, but not democratic government, for in the event of disunion democracy would prevail in both nations. Republicans had more to say on the subject than Democrats.

XXIV. Foreign Relations—Expressions of hope and fear arising from the problematical attitude of foreign powers, particularly England, toward the threatened disruption of the United States; and speculations on sweeping territorial changes in the New World in response to forces loosed by secession. Throughout the winter editors exchanged guesses on English intervention and they came to no conclusion. Occasionally, they ventured arm-chair conquests of Canada or Mexico to offset the loss of the seceding states. Powerful metropolitan journals were not outdone by village sheets: On December 26 the New York Times approved the conquest of Mexico, and on January 27 the New York Herald followed suit with Canada. On June 8 the Herald proposed the subjugation of the British Empire as a means of ending civil war in America.

XXV. Personalities—Character sketches of the leading men of the North and the South. While Buchanan and Lincoln were the most frequent subjects, many others were measured in the public press: Seward, Davis, Wade, Greeley, Scott, Bennett, and Stephens. The man always stood against the background of the current political crisis. Both friendly and unfriendly editors frequently ventured to prophesy final historical judgment.

XXVI. “Sensationism” and Propaganda—Opinions on the origin and reliability of the news letters and telegraphic reports that performed the “heavy” role in the drama of the secession crisis. Throughout the Secession Winter, northern journals carried a constant stream of news items depicting the “true” state of affairs in the South: cruelty, censorship, contempt for law, persecutions, slave insurrections, hatred of Northerners. True or untrue, these reports must have been incendiary. Although usually vague as to place, time, and authority, they were generally accepted as authentic by northern editors. Now and then a journal charged “sensationism” and protested against their acceptance. These charges and protests, appearing almost invariably in the Douglas press, invite a more serious study of the psychological factors in the evolution of the coercion policy.

XXVII. Moral and Spiritual Values—Editorials suggestive of moral and spiritual concepts. They provide the material for a revealing study of the ideology of Northerners on the eve of the great conflict. Many journals, for instance, proclaimed the “salutary” effects of war: the Madison Patriot believed blood-letting “a great purifyer”; the Springfield Republican termed war “a means of grace”; the Boston Transcript called the impending conflict “eminently a Christian war”; the Providence journal declared that rarely had it ever been “so glorious and joyful to have a life to give” and called for more hate and less fraternizing on the battle-field. The Washington, Pennsylvania, Reporter demurred at the idea of killing on Sunday; and the Albany Evening journal held that after the war “purer aims and more exalted conceptions of Truth and Justice will animate the People.” Other journals, however, declared that war could produce only moral and spiritual loss. The New York journal of Commerce protested that religious and philanthropic standards would be thrown back a quarter of a century.

The general northern support of the coercion policy completed the transition from peace to war. Within ten months, twenty million Northerners had put aside the blessings of peace and taken up the “mission for humanity” or the “unholy war.” The vision of a great and powerful nation aroused to the defense of democracy and self-government, of Christianity and God, began to fade. Before the close of June editors no longer wrote of the “sublime spectacle,” as many of them had written in mid-April. Instead, they voiced charges of greed and inefficiency: the “soldiers of freedom” were being issued shoddy uniforms, paper shoes, and rotten food; peculators· and leeches and profiteers of every kind were everywhere; favoritism and bribery were sending trained men to the ranks and officering the army with incompetents and drunks; the government would not fight the rebels, but preferred to hurl its military might against aged Chief Justice Taney as he stood in defense of constitutional liberty. Meantime, the Lincoln administration prepared for war.

A decade later the Republicans emerged from the ordeal of civil war and reconstruction as the self-styled preservers of the Union, and for services rendered they billed the American people at four-year intervals for a quarter of a century. As for the Democrats, they learned the impregnability of success. They stilled their charges of war guilt, for they could not assail the righteousness of a cause for which countless thousands had given “their last full measure of devotion.” Northern coercion, like southern secession, had been transformed from a practical intra-sectional issue into a not altogether academic intersectional issue.