The Existing Evils – The Disease and the Remedy.
Is there a remedy for the existing evils in our government, which threaten and will almost surely cause a separation of the States of this confederacy? This is a question that each man who loves the American Union – who has a pride in the greatness of our country – who reveres the memory the memory of the Fathers, by whose labors and wisdom order was brought out of confusion – and who indulges a belief in the future destiny of the American Republic, should seriously and earnestly consider. We assume that nobody in this latitude desires a dissolution of the Union; but no one can hide from himself the fact that such dissolution is seriously threatened, at least, if it has not already progressed too far to be stayed now. We shall speak within the bounds of truth when we assert that the fundamental mistake of the republican party of the North, the fatal error which has led to most of the troubles now pressing like an incubus upon this country, consists in the meddlesome spirit which ever prompts them to interfere with the affairs of other communities, and to seek to regulate and control them as they rightfully do their own. They seem to consider it their mission to dictate to the people of the South what shall be their domestic institutions – what the relation of master and servant, and how all their matters shall be regulated, precisely as they act upon the same questions at home within their own proper jurisdiction. They forget, first, that they have no business with these questions, and that Southern men have a right to complain of their meddlesome interference; and secondly, conceding their premises that negro slavery is wrong, it is but a few years since they were themselves involved in the guilt, and would not even now be rid of it except by the concurring circumstances of climate and production, which renders it unprofitable in the northern States. The extraordinary idea appears to have seized upon the republican party in most of the free States, that it is the mission of the people of those States to correct what they deem the wrongs of other sections of the Union, and hence they have set about the task in a most censorious spirit, and a manner deeply offensive to those whom they seek to influence. In their political blindness, the republican party seem to forget that when we entered the Federal Union and became parties to the Federal compact we surrendered to the General Government such powers as were essential to provide for the general good, and to give to the United States the strength needful to maintain its rank and position among the powers of the earth, but we reserved to the States respectively the control of their immediate domestic affairs, and especially the control of the whole subject of African slavery within their borders. And we agreed – as a constitutional right between the several States – that “fugitives from service or labor,” escaping from one State into another, should be surrendered by the State to which they had fled, on claim being made by their masters. Now if this provision means anything, it certainly means that when slaves from one State escape into another, they shall be freely and honestly surrendered, and all reasonable facilities afforded, for carrying into effect the provision in question. If it does not mean this, then were we guilty – in subscribing to it and ratifying the Constitution in which it is contained – of a fraud and a cheat, unworthy of the character of honest and Christian men. Right here let us inquire what has been of the republicans, as a party, in this respect? Have they discharged this solemn constitutional obligation? Have they lived up to their deliberate agreement, and fulfilled their engagement toward their sister States? These are questions of self-examination, self-inquiry, which every honest republican should put to himself in this time of excitement and national peril. It is notoriously true that, as communities and States, the republican party have failed to abide by the compact made at the time of the formation of the Government, and have placed in the way of its fulfillment all the obstacles which they have been able to throw around it. In many of the States laws have been passed, expressly designed to prevent its full and complete operation, hedging it about with difficulties and offering [. . .] such States to practically resist the execution of the laws of Congress designed to carry into effect the obligations imposed upon us by the Constitution. But it is not in these State laws, infamous as some of them are, that we find the most serious obstacles to the full discharge of their Constitutional engagements. The difficulty lies deeper than State legislation. It is to be found imbedded in the public sentiment of the New England and many other northern States. The people have been educated, through the agency of a sectional press, a sectional and prostituted pulpit, to a code of morality which teaches that meddling with the rights and affairs of others is not only a privilege but a Christian duty; that the most solemn and deliberate agreements may be broken when they stand in the way of the modern standard of governmental relations; that to deprive sovereign States of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution, and individuals of the possession of property which by the Federal compact, they have promised to return to them when found within their borders, is an act of philanthropy, fully justified by the standard of religious teachings now recognized by a large proportion of the people. Instead of inquiring what duties and obligations they owe to others, and how they can most surely and effectually discharge them, they undertake to pronounce upon the question of slavery, in its moral and religious aspects – not as a question of right or wrong for themselves, but for other communities having separate governments and laws to regulate their conduct in this respect, and then they go to work as law-makers – as Executive officers and private citizens, to see how the laws of Congress can be rendered null by their action, and the provisions of the Constitution negated through their agency. In common with others, we have recommended and urged the repeal of the States laws conflicting with the statutes of the United States, and the honest fulfillment of all our obligations respecting the return of fugitives, measures of the first importance, if we expect to maintain the Union of the States, and preserve intact our present form of government. But this is not all. We must go farther, beginning with the people themselves, but demand not only of every public functionary, but of every citizen, that moral support without which no remedy, however powerful the legal pains or penalties, can be of the slightest avail. We must demand from the press and the pulpit the inculcation of lessons of honesty and morality, and we must insist that they shall abandon the new-fangled doctrine, that to rob our neighbor of his slave, or to prevent his return, is a Christian duty, while the repudiation of a deliberate contract between the parties to the confederacy of States, is also considered a compliance with our duty to God and to man. The republican party must return to the golden rule – or if the party will not do it, individuals must perform their duty and leave the party to its fate – of doing to others as they would that others should do unto them, and thus render unto States and individuals that equal and exact justice which is due from one State or person to another. Such a reform in the republican sentiment of the northern States will cure the evils now existing, but which, if unchecked, will surely overthrow the government. We dare not hope for the change, and yet we do not believe that, without it, the Union can last for any considerable time. Great responsibilities rest upon the people of both sections – the North and the South – but the former (as the aggressors) owe it to themselves, to justice, and to public faith and honor, to correct their own errors before demanding of the latter submission to new demands or additional injuries. Let them fast pull out the beam from their own eye, before complaining of the mote in their brother’s eye.