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ARTICLE VIII.–OUR UNITY AS A NATION.
Do we fully realize all that is expressed by these simple words? Do we even now comprehend all that we shall lose if this unity shall pass away definitely and beyond the hope of recall ? We have been a great, proud people, springing into existence with almost magical rapidity; able to take our place among the nations of the world, and make our flag respected wherever it might wave. With an ever-expanding territory; with an ever-increasing commerce; possessing in the bosom of our own land all varieties of climate; and accustomed to look on the peace and prosperity of our country as things immutable; how will it please us to have the boundary of the cluster of States remaining in the Union cut down to the Pennsylvania line? For, in the event of the final recognition of the Southern Confederacy, it would not be easy to hold back from them Maryland and Delaware. IIow shall we endure the loss of prestige which will reduce us to a second rate power? Shall we be pleased to have the loyal States of Kentucky, and Kansas, and the divided State of Missouri, dragged from us by force, or, if they succeed in remaining in the Union, exposed to the continual attacks of the surrounding rebel States?
In fine, how shall we, of the Northern and Eastern States, exist, separated by only an imaginary line, from a people who openly profess hatred and contempt for our characteristics and our institutions; and whose ambition will cause their interests to clash with ours at every moment? For we should be wrong to imagine that, after a formal recognition of their separate existence as a nation, our relations would assume an amicable form! A thousand motives for discord would arise continually; and our dissensions and wars would be interminable. Those who know the spirit of the South can never be the victims of such an illusion. So completely has slavery undermined the tendency of our institutions, that the slave States, to-day, are far more inclined to feudalism than to republicanism. With this retrograde movement has grown up the spirit of antagonism to ourselves; and it may be asserted, with all truth and justice, that so indifferent have these people become to the honor of the American name, so false to the heritage of. their fathers, that they would gladly accept the protectorate of any foreign power. In contemplating this disloyalty, not to a Government but to their nationality, we pause and ask in amazement, what could have produced such a change? What could thus have perverted the hearts and minds of a portion of our countrymen?
We are in the midst of the great crisis of our national history. We are passing through an epoch of transition ; such epochs as are recorded in the annals of all nations, and from which they never emerge as they have entered them. Every event of this kind has an end to work out; a mission to accomplish; and takes its origin in a great underlying cause, which is but too apt to escape for a long time general recognition. Thus, if we were to ask what was the original cause of the present revolt of certain States, and their war upon the Union, very many would reply, "Abolitionism is the cause;" and yet, in this, how greatly would they err, for Slavery, and not Abolitionism, is the basis and motive power of this rebellion.
Without entering into the merits or demerits of the institution, it is enough to state that it is one which the unanimous voice of civilized humanity is every day more and more loudly condemning. The Southern States, at the commencement of our career as a nation, were fully aware that slavery was an evil, and a clog on the progress of any people where it exists. They acknowledged this freely then; urging in extenuation that they had been hampered with the institution, and that it had not been established among them by any will of their own.
We find the following in Winterbotham's View of the American United States, published in 1795. It shows conclusively how greatly the spirit of Southern slave-holders has changed since that date.
“In countries where slavery is encouraged, the ideas of the people are, in general, of a peculiar cast; the soul often becomes dark and narrow, and assumes a tone of savage brutality. Such, at this day, are the inhabitants of Barbary and the West Indies. But, thank God! nothing like this has yet disgraced an American State. We may look for it in Carolina, but we shall be disappointed. The most elevated and liberal Carolinians abhor slavery; they will not delude themselves by attempting to vindicate it; he who would encourage it, abstracted from the idea of bare necessity, (there can be no necessity of acknowledged wrong), is not a man, he is a brute in human form. For, 'disguise thyself as thou wilt, 0 slavery, still thou art a bitter draught ! It is interest, louder than the voice of reason, which alone exclaims in thy favor.”
Humility, however, though a Christian virtue, is not a general characteristic of human nature, and certainly not of the races that formed the strata of the Southern population, and they soon wearied of apologizing for an institution which they imagined to be for their interest to perpetuate. Self-sufficiency and arrogance succeeded; for when we have once resolved on pursuing the wrong, it is far easier to assert that we are right than to
it. Meanwhile, the Free States, by the same obedience to a natural law, had moved in exactly the opposite direction. From indifference they had passed to a comprehension of the moral evil of slavery, and this, of course, engendered a tacit, if not avowed dislike and condemnation of it. However, to a large party in these States, this spirit was obnoxious. They would have stopped the progressive movement of mind, and rolled back the popular sentiment. “Better to leave these things alone,” was the cry. True, it might have been better, according to this way of reasoning, if there had never been a Luther, or a French revolution, or an uprising of our own people against oppression; but it was not in the God-ordained progress of humanity that these things should fail to be at their proper time.
Then came the aggressive and exacting spirit of the slave power, growing in strength and audacity every day; not content to be and remain what it was, but, following the bent of despotism everywhere, desirous of engrossing all power, and becoming the ruling element of the country.
The growth of opposition to this spirit in the South was very slow of development in the North. It was continually held in check by the law-and-order-loving character of the people; by their appreciation of the magnitude and importance of the question, and the immense complication of difficulties that lay in the way of its solution. It is owing to these causes that we have for years been striving to reconcile the two antagonistic systems, which have for ages agitated the world. We have claimed to believe in freedom; we have made it our boast that we have proved before the face of the world, despite the incredulity and sneering comments of the upholders of other forms of government, that a people are capable of ruling themselves in liberty and harmony; and yet here, in the very midst of a nation proud of their freedom and enlightenment, has existed, and exists, a relic of the darkest and most absolute despotism. We have believed that we might permit a system at variance with everything around it; an anomaly which has been the creator of anomalies, such as the existence of a Democratic pro-slavery party. We have striven to wrest harmony from these discordant elements, and we have persisted in refusing to believe that from the working ont of a natural law, as inevitable, and as much beyond our control as the great ocean-tides, the two systems diverged from the outset, and that no point of contact, no sympathy, no bond in common was in the nature of things possible.
We do not as a people realize this yet. A dim consciousness is dawning in many new quarters, but, in general, though we know that we are sundered, and that our nationality is imperiled, we do not yet comprehend that this is the cause of the present convulsed state of our country.
De Tocqueville long ago perceived in the South elements dangerous to the Union. He says :
“Of all the Americans the Southerners should most desire the Union, for they alone of all the rest would suffer in being abandoned to themselves; and yet they are the only ones who threaten the existence of the Union.”
He doubted, too, the power of the Federal Government to maintain itself in case a dissolution should be attempted; but he did not count on the love of country that springs up insensibly and inevitably in the heart; nor on the great necessity of our oneness as a people, which now, for the first time during our existence as a nation, we have been aroused to feel. The mother country is putting forth her mightiest energies to protect the birthright of her children; and is it not our duty to ponder well on the cause that is arming brother's hand against brother; and which has long since destroyed all the ties that naturally bind together the people of one country, one religion, one language?
There is a vague idea abroad that this rebellion once crushed we shall return to our previous condition; but this is impossible. Neither nations nor individuals ever pass through a great stirring experience and remain what they were.
Had it been possible for things to remain in statu quo; had the slave-power been less exacting, or the spirit of opposition to it less strong in the free States, we might have been better pleased to live on tranquilly, leaving the great inevitable contest to our posterity; but this could not be; and if not possible in the past, still less will it be so in the future. The step of a decided rupture was a thing that needed years of preparation : hereafter it will be but a continuation of an old feud, ever increasing in bitterness and rancor. While then these momentous events are passing, it becomes us, the People, to be equal to the emergency, and not strive by lagging behind to detain the irrepressible course of events.
Suppose that we succeed with great loss, and infinite suffering and toil, in quelling this rebellion, leaving the institution of slavery intact, what shall we have gained? The South will have suffered a double humiliation ;-that of a defeat, and the old consciousness that they possess an institution that in the opinion of the free States is such an evil and shame that its extension cannot be permitted. Even should there be a Union party at the South, strong enough to reconstruct the Union on its old basis, will there be there men wise and just and moderate enough to tamely accept this position, which it must be admitted is humiliating, and continue to love the Union? Is it logical to believe that a people, who on this very ground have revolted, without awaiting actual grounds for complaint against the Federal Government, will so entirely change in views, and even in nature, as to subsequently acquiesce willingly in the measures which even in theory provoked their revolt?