The Crittenden Compromise

Republican Banner, Nashville, January 25, 1861 (Taken from Drummond, Southern Editorials on Secession, pp. 413-414.)

The Resolutions* adopted by the General Assembly, published in our paper a few days since, define the position of Tennessee satisfactorily, as we believe, to the great mass of the people. They substantially adopt the Crittenden Compromise as a basis of adjustment of the pending issues between the North and South, and Tennessee will say to the people of the North, not in a spirit of braggadocio, but firmly and calmly, and with a sincere and honest desire that this adjustment may be accepted -- we demand nothing more -- we will accept nothing less. This settlement can be agreed upon by the people of both sections without the sacrifice of a principle or of any material interest. It would be acceptable, we believe, to a majority of the people in the seceding States, and the State of Tennessee could take no course better calculated to befriend and conserve the interests of those States than by maintaining such a position as will enable her, in conjunction with other Southern States, to negotiate the adoption of this compromise with the North. That the sympathies of Tennessee are emphatically Southern, no one will deny. She will take no course, in any event, calculated to militate against the interests of her Southern sisters. But the question for her to decide -- and it is a question upon which hangs her own and the destiny of the South and the Union -- is what course is most judicious, most patriotic, and best calculated to conserve the interests of her Southern sisters, and if possible preserve the Union? Upon this question there is a difference of opinion. Some are for precipitate secession. Others for maintaining our present attitude, prepared, when the time comes, to act as mediators upon the basis of the Crittenden adjustment. If the policy of the former party is pursued, we lose the advantage of our position as pacificators, and gain nothing that we could not gain at any future time, when it shall be demonstrated, as it unfortunately may be, that a settlement is impracticable. We are therefore opposed to hasty action. We do not think the friends of a fair and honorable settlement, in the seceding States, desire Tennessee to follow their example until all honorable endeavors to secure such a settlement are exhausted. Doubtless there are many in those States who do not desire a settlement -- who prefer disunion and a Southern Confederacy to any reconstruction of the Government. There are a few, even in Tennessee, who sympathize with these disunionists per se, but they are very few, and thus far have been very modest in the avowal of such sentiments. Tennessee is emphatically a Union State, if the Union can be preserved upon terms of equality and justice, and is for making an attempt to preserve it before abandoning the hope. The difference of opinion among her people is merely as to the best policy to be pursued to accomplish a given end, at which all seem to be driving. We should rejoice to see this difference of opinion reconciled or compromised, so that we might all move in solid phalanx, and as a unit. It would add immensely to our influence in the crisis, and might, indeed, be the means of securing what, under existing circumstances, may not be attained -- a perpetuation of the Government.

In confirmation of our opinion above expressed that the Crittenden Compromise will be acceptable to the seceding States, we call attention to the following extract from a leading editorial in a late number of the New Orleans Bee, a secession paper:

Of the various plans of adjustment called forth by the crisis, that of Mr. Crittenden is the only one that seems fully inspired by a sense of justice. It offers something tangible -- something which the South could and probably would agree to take into consideration, and which the North, or that porion of it which boasts its nationality, might accept without the smallest sacrifice of dignity or right. Mr. Crittenden himself entertains such entire confidence in the validity of his scheme of settlement that he is anxious to submit it to the ordeal of popular suffrage. Now, the Black Republicans boast that the people of the North are with them. We believe that with the possible exception of a few of the New England States, there is not a non-slaveholding Commonwealth of which the people would not accept the Crittenden amendments by an overwhelming majority. Give them but a chance to do so, and our firm conviction is that they would record a sentence of condemnation against Black Republicanism such as it has never yet received.

* The resolutions referred to here are titled: "Resolutions of the Legislature of the State of Tennessee, relative to the present condition of National Affairs, and suggesting certain Amendments to the Constitution." They were published as a U.S. House of Representatives document, House Mis. Docs., 36th Cong., 2 Sess., Doc. 27, and are available on this web site by clicking here.