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It was well said by Henry Clay, in the above-mentioned report on the public lands, that "the relations between the General Government and the Members of the Confederacy are happily those of peace, friendship, and fraternity, and exclude all idea of force and war." Therefore, if arms and violence were resorted to on your part, you must not say that you do it in order to enforce upon the seceding States the laws of the Union; nor that you act by powers given you by the Articles of Confederation or by the Constitution. There are no such laws; nor does either of these instruments give you any such power.
But, if you wish those States to reenter the Union, we think you have no other means but to get their consent for it. This consent, we suppose, you might possibly obtain, if, having been the aggressors, and being in the wrong, you confess it publicly, as public have been the injuries you have offered to the South. Renouncing, at the same time, your political faith in regard to abolition or restriction of slavery, and any interference with it in States or Territory, you should profess to leave that matter exclusively to those who are the only concerned in it.
If the North has courage enough to make such a confession and profession, it will be more honorable to her than her past opposition to the South might have been disgraceful. Besides, it will go a great way toward soothing the wounded feelings of the South, because it looks like a retraction, and begging pardon; which, if honestly meant (and, under the circumstances, you could not but honestly mean it), is most effectual to pacify the injured party and bring about a reconciliation. This we ardently wish for, and earnestly recommend. Nor could it take place but to the great advantage of all, and to the brighter shining of the stars of the Union. And, after the North has done this, if the slaveholding States persist in remaining separate, or wish for separation, we may have something to say to the South also.
BOST.-" Durus est hic sermo:" it were well matters
could be settled by compromise. This was tried two years ago, when many good citizens, both within and out of Congress, did frequently meet in bodies under different names, and were at work, endeavoring to hit on some means capable to restore a good understanding between the parties, and save the Union. It did not succeed then, but it might at last. One, perhaps the less impracticable, mode of effecting a reconciliation, and thus giving peace and plenty to the country, seemed to be the dividing the area of the United States' Territory into two parts, by drawing a line on a certain point, which neither the South may pass with her slaves, on the one side, nor the North with her freesoilers, on the other. It might be regarded as a permanent bar fixed there by the common consent of the parties, excluding, as it were, Slavery from one side of the line, Free
dom from the other.
WASH.-This description would represent the Union as sitting astride upon that line with one foot free, the other in fetters! What difference, or advantage do you find in such an arrangement for either party? As if, by relegating Slavery into the extreme corners of this continent, you could imagine you had driven her out of the Union! She would still be in the Union; since both sides of the line belong to the confederacy, and are occupied by States who live under her laws, as sisters, so to say, who dwell under the same roof: for the Constitution covers all.
In the reports and plans digested for this adjustment, which were successively presented in different aspects, and modified, there was said that Slavery was to be " recognised south of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes." This looks like an old line; which, if it has been found to be of no use when new, we do not think could do any service now. But this recognition of Slavery in the United States goes further than we went, and is more than we would do. We allowed Slavery, because it was here existing since many generations, and we did no more by it than secure to the slaveholder in the Union those rights which he was
already possessed of out of it. As to the rest, we did not even mention slaves nor Slavery; and much less did we recognise it in the United States. We would not recognise Slavery in Turkey.
Even at the time when I was yet President, there was in our political parties a propensity of characterizing themselves by geographical discriminations, "Northern and Southern-Atlantic and Western:" and in my Farewell Address I warned the people to beware of the danger that might threaten the Union from such sectional demarcations. My second successor in the Presidency, beside others, has expressed in stronger language the same views and predictions in his letters; and the same conclusion shall any thinking man arrive at from the same premises.
We cannot but commend the good intention and zeal which animate those Union-loving citizens, to whose laudable endeavors you have alluded; but we, at the same time, believe that no good can come from compromises, and should wonder if any did. At best they are patches that break the evenness of the Union, and deform it; stumbling-blocks, both for those who enter into the compromise, and for their posterity, to whom they entail in it a never-ending harvest of discord, to say nothing worse. It is most properly termed compromise; that is, not a fact, or action, done to last, but only a promise; a common promise if you will, because it is made by the two parties; yet still a promise, which both make and perhaps neither intends to keep.
If not contained by a superior power which both of them are bound to obey, but are left to themselves and expected to fulfil their word because they have given it, certain it is that the party who thinks herself aggrieved by the agreement will break it at the first opportunity, and take hold of even the shadow of a pretext for it.
Many are the examples of compromises, in public as well as private affairs, which have been sooner or later broken as surely as they had been entered into; or have
produced far greater evils than those were which they had been intended to heal. But, laying instances of other times and places aside, how many compromises since 1820 have been proposed and apparently agreed to by both parties in our own, then modified, renewed, repealed, after long and fierce debates, on which so much time and talent has been spent? And all for nothing.
And the less can compromises, especially on certain matters, be spoken of in our Government, because the Constitution itself is a compromise. Only it was entered into with full knowledge and recognition of the rights belonging to the parties; each of whom did willingly give up a part of them in the measure agreed upon, with the view and persuasion that the partial renunciation of her rights would be more than compensated by the benefits accruing to her from the Union. Now, to engraft compromises on the original one, chiefly in substantial points which might be considered as the very roots of the first, would be, if not fatal, exceedingly dangerous. Not to mention that, whoever intends to make alterations in the original compromise, with far greater facility will he cause alterations to be made in the subsequent one, or break its terms.
Generally speaking, a compromise may well take place in doubtful questions, whose decision is not easily attainable with any reliance of certainty on either side. Here the matter is reasonably compromised; and the agreement entered into, as it gives not all to one party, nor denies all to the other, but, striking, as it were, a middle way between them, adjudges to each a part of what was the subject of contest, may be prudently believed to be observed by both as a fact fixed forever. Of which the plain reason seems to be that each party has then as much reason to fear as she has to hope: for, if what is in controversy were to be tried to the last, and the truth finally ascertained, she might possibly lose as well as gain all she seeks after.
It is this uncertainty and doubt equally balanced between the parties, which makes them surrender their
consent to the agreement at first; and the same it is which keeps it standing, and its terms observed by both of them, afterward. Each will compare what she has got by the compromise, not with the whole she might possibly have obtained, but with the whole she might possibly have lost. The result of this comparison must be that she has reason to account herself a gainer, and therefore stick to the agreement.
But, when the matter is as certain as that two and two make four, and as clear as the sunlight when there is no cloud in the sky, certainly, there is no possibility of a compromise being made upon it; a compromise, we mean, that might be expected to last; for the same reason as, by dint of speeches and ambiguous words, by deviating from the subject, or overcharging it with heterogeneous matters, it is impossible to alter the condition of that on which the compromise is made. One may, by such means, confound the matter somewhat, and then call it a question; but not for that it is a question. In the conviction of both parties it remains yet as certain and clear as it was before.
Any such compromise, therefore, can be the effect only of force on the one side, and of necessity, or constrained yielding, on the other: for nobody can be supposed to renounce without cause, or voluntarily give away, such rights as he feels sure he is possessed of; although circumstances prevent him from effectually asserting or exercising them, or even oblige him to act so as if he had them not. Whence it is manifest that the sentiments which, in the act of compromising, and ever afterward, animate the two parties, can be no other but these: in the one, the sentiment of wrong done; in the other, the sentiment of wrong received. The former sticks to the agreement, because she is interested to keep what she has got, unless she desires to break it for getting more. Besides, she intends to contain the other party in subjection, and bring her lower, if possible, in order to prevent her from acquiring strength enough to revolt; well knowing this to be her constant wish and expectation.