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the Union? The North could not and would not believe it. But there was a strong party at the South which was fully convinced that the election of Lincoln was the crown of a series of grievances which justified the South in withdrawing from the Union; that such withdrawal was a clear constitutional right; and that the honor and interest of the South demanded that it be made.
FACE TO FACE
To understand the meaning of secession and the Civil War which followed it, we must fathom the thoughts and feelings of the opposing parties. Let us suppose two representative spokesmen to state their case in turn.
Let the Secessionist speak first. The Secessionists were not at first a majority of the people of the Southern States, but it was their view which prevailed. What that view was we know certainly and from abundant evidence, the formal acts of secession, the speeches of the leaders in Congress and at home, the histories since written by the President and Vice-President of the Confederacy, and countless similar sources. This, substantially, was the Secessionist's position
“ This Union is a partnership of States, of which the formal bond is the Constitution; the vital principle is the enjoyment by each section and community of its rights; and the animating spirit is the mutual respect and good-will of all members of the Union. The Northern people have violated the provisions of the Constitution; they have infringed the essential rights of the Southern communities, and threatened to invade them still further; and they have displaced the spirit of mutual good-will by alienation, suspicion, and hostility. The formal bond of the Union being thus impaired, and its vital spirit lost, we propose explicitly and finally to dissolve this partnership of States, and reorganize our Southern communities in a new Confederacy. “We charge you of the North with explicit violation of
the Constitution in the matters of the territories, the Supreme Court and the fugitive slaves.
“You deny our right to carry a part of our property, our unquestioned property under the Constitution,-into the territories which belong equally to the whole nation, and which have been acquired by our treasure and our blood not less than by yours. You prevent slave-holders from participating in the colonization of this domain, and thus determine in advance that its future States shall exclude our institutions. You thus unfairly build up a political preponderance, which you use for the discouragement and injury of our industrial system.
“ Against this wrong we have appealed to the Supreme Court, and secured its express affirmation of the right to carry slave property, equally with any other property, into the territories. This solemn decree of the highest judicial authority you set at naught and defy. You say you will reorganize the court and reverse the decision. You do not even wait for that; you assume in party convention to reverse the mandate of the Supreme Court. You not only contradict its declaration that slavery in the territories is protected by the Constitution; you go farther, and affirm that Congress has no authority to protect it there.
“The Constitution affirms that fugitives from labor must be returned to their masters. A Federal statute provides for such return. That statute is not only decried by your orators and resisted by your mobs; it is contravened and practically nullified by statutes in all the free States.
“These specific wrongs against us are inspired by a disposition which in itself dissolves the bond of friendship between you and us,-a spirit of open and avowed hostility to our social and industrial system. The Union as our fathers established it, and as alone it has any value, is not a thing of mere legalities,-it must be a true union of hearts
and hands, a spirit of mutual confidence and respect among the various communities of one people. But for many years our most characteristic Southern institution has been widely and loudly denounced among you as wicked and inhuman. It has been proclaimed as the sum of all villainies.' We have been held up to the reprobation of the world as tyrants and man-stealers. Those at the North who disapproved of such abuse have failed to silence or repress it. This denunciation has spread until apparently it has won the preponderating sentiment of the North. A national household in which we are thus branded as sinners and criminals is no longer a home for us.
“This hostility has borne its natural fruit in open attack. A peaceful Virginia village has been assailed by armed men, its citizens shot down while defending their homes, and the summons given for servile insurrection with all its horrors. The leader in this crime, justly condemned and executed under Virginia's laws, has been widely honored throughout the North as a hero and martyr. By the light of that applause we must interpret the real feeling of the North, and its probable future course toward us.
“The Presidential election has now been won by a party whose avowed principle is the restriction of slavery, while its animating spirit is active hostility to slavery. We cannot trust the Republican party in its profession of respect for the Constitution. Even in its formal declaration it ignores a Supreme Court decision, and advances a revolutionary doctrine as to slavery in the territories. Its elected candidate has declared that 'this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.' The party's only reason for being is opposition to slavery, and there is every probability that this opposition will, with growing power and opportunity, be directed against the system as it now exists in our Southern States.
“The spirit of the American Union is dissolved already, when its chief magistrate has been elected by the votes of one section and by a party animated solely by hostility to the industrial and social system of the other section. The formal bond of the Union can hereafter be only an instrument to harass and destroy our liberties. We therefore propose that that bond be at once and finally cancelled. It is and has been from the beginning the right of any State to withdraw from the national partnership at its own pleasure. We call on our brethren of the South to take prompt action for the deliberate, legal and solemn withdrawal of their States from the Union, and their organization in a new Confederacy."
So in effect spoke the leading spirits of the Gulf and Cotton States as soon as Lincoln was elected in November, 1860. Less promptly, coming only gradually into unison, but with growing clearness and emphasis, spoke the dominant spirit of the North in the months between Lincoln's election and inauguration. This in substance was the Northern reply to the Secessionist:
“We deny that we have violated the Constitution, that we have wronged you, or that we intend to wrong you. We have taken no advantage of you beyond the legitimate victories of political controversy. We are loyal to the Constitution, and to that which is deeper and higher than the Constitution,—the spirit of American nationality.
“ Taking up your specific charges,—the status of slavery in the various territories has been debated and battled in Congress and among the people for seventy years, and as now one decision and now another has been reached it has been accepted by all until peaceably changed. For six years past it has been the cardinal question in national politics. Within that period three views have been urged, -that slavery goes by natural and constitutional right into