A General Survey
The Review, Charlottesville, Virginia.
November 23, 1860
We have been speaking carefully since the election of Lincoln and the consequent excitement which has appeared at the South.--We felt ourselves so irritated by the sectional attitude and numerical tyranny of the North that we have at moments rejoiced in the fury of South Carolina, and said to ourselves, let the storm gather--let us appeal to the sword!
Undoubtedly the position of the North, viewed upon the most indulgent principles, cannot be guarded at all points from strong and just censure.
We have attempted to disabuse our minds of preconceived opinions, to take ourselves out of the present environment, and to look from a distance, with the calmness of a spectator, upon the events now transpiring.
If we commence at Massachusetts, we find the anti-slavery feeling strongest, the Republican party most violent. In New York, there is a perceptible moderation in the feeling. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are comparatively conservative. We then reach Maryland. Here we find a new opinion as regards Slavery. The people are not pro-slavery, and they are not anti-slavery. They have the institution, and they accept it as they find it. Still there is a Republican element. We find a public man like Henry Winter Davis. We next reach Virginia. The feeling here is positive in favor of Slavery, but the State is decidedly for the Union and abiding the result of the Presidential election. When we reach South Carolina and Alabama, where we find more slaves, we encounter the most rabid pro-slavery sentiments. The African Slave Trade laws are nullified. They desire a dissolution of the Union on account of the Territorial question of Slavery.
Now we have followed a breadth of country of two thousand miles, and the sentiment on the Slavery question shades off with the precision and the regularity of the law of temperature. Give the latitude, and you can give the figure at which the negrometer stands. An opinion on Slavery is not an intelligent judgment; it is a prejudice. The bears in the North are white; the men are anti-slavery.--The bears in the South are black; the men are for the Slave Trade. There are also brown bears in Russia, and intermediate opinions of the Slavery question in Virginia and Kentucky.
It is idle for Mr. Seward to say, he knows he is right. It is idle for Mr. Toombs to say, he knows he is right. They each form their opinions according to the range of the thermometer, and the thermometer cannot settle accurately a moral question.
Even in Virginia the sentiment is graduated by the number of slaves in a county. Nottoway is very decided for the institution; Mason gives a respectable vote for Lincoln. Even on the Gulf, the matter of interest asserts its sway in tempering the feeling, as decidedly as at the North. Louisiana, at the mouth of the Mississippi, is for the Union.
Who then is right? Which is right, the republican or the fire-eater? Is the idea of coercing a seceding State to remain in the Union, because Lincoln has been constitutionally elected, or the idea of destroying the Constitution and the Government because Lincoln has been elected -- the right idea?
As we said, the Republicans, even from Northern standpoint, cannot stand entirely excused. We will just point to the nullification of the Fugitive Slave Law. Here is a patent and indefensible wrong. New Hampshire declares that the slave is, of right, absolutely a freeman. In Maine and Vermont he is free the moment he puts his foot on the soil. Other States delay and obstruct the execution of the law in various ways. Besides this, a large portion of the Republican party make war directly on the existence of the institution. They are for breaking it down by all methods. They endorsed John Brown.
On the other hand, not only the juries but the Federal judges, in South Carolina, have defeated the execution of the laws against the Slave Trade. Cargoes of slaves have been landed at various times in the South, and the community tolerates their purchase and their presence on the cotton plantations. South Carolina, also, has been steadily attempting to dismember the Union for thirty years. One of her representatives perpetrated the assault upon Mr. Sumner. The extreme South also instituted the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and carried through the iniquitous transactions in Kansas. They then admitted Oregon, but would not admit Kansas.
The position of Mr. Lincoln, the actual head of the Republican party, is clearly with the more conservative element of that organization. He is explicitly for non-interference with the institution of Slavery where it exists. He is opposed to the abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia, unless a majority of the people wish it abolished and compensation is made to the owners. He would consent to the admission of a Slave State. He is in favor of an efficient Fugitive Slave law. He is against negro suffrage. He recognizes the impossibility of abolishing Slavery except by natural causes, and the lapse of time.
This is the President of the United States--the executive branch of the Government.--The other departments of the Government are with the South--the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Judiciary.
The question is, Under the circumstances shall we dissolve the Union on account of this election?
It was admitted that the conservative element of the country could have carried the election. A united Democratic party, without even the Bell party, would probably have succeeded. Instead of effecting a solid opposition, they put three candidates in the field.
It is also admitted, that the administration of Mr. Buchanan has been singularly unfortunate. It has excited the displeasure of all parties. Its unparalleled corruption, apart from the Slavery question, had arrayed against it an undoubted majority of the American people.--It is therefore true that thousands of the voters at the North sustained Mr. Lincoln from mere dissatisfaction with the Democratic party. The Republican vote was made up in a very large proportion, not of sympathizers with Mr. Seward, but of enemies of Mr. Buchanan.
The question then comes back, What then shall be done?
Considering the whole thing, we are decidedly opposed to a dissolution of the Union. The attitude of South Carolina is not to be regarded for a moment. The present election is not the cause with South Carolina; it is merely the occasion. Mr. Yancey and his party are merely seizing the opportunity to push matters as rapidly as possible. All we want is Time.