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nations, I enter upon the duties of the office to which I have been chosen with a hope that the beginning of our career as a confederacy may not be obstructed by hostile opposition to our enjoyment of the separate existence and independence which we have asserted, and, with the blessing of Providence, intend to maintain. Our present condition, achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history of nations, illustrates the American idea that governments rest upon the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish governments whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established. The declared purpose of the compact of the Union from which we have withdrawn was "to establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity;" and when, in the judgment of the sovereign States now composing this Confederacy, it had been perverted from the purposes for which it was ordained, and had ceased to answer the ends for which it was established, a peaceful appeal to the ballot box declared that, so far as they were concerned, the Government created by that compact should cease to exist. In this they merely asserted a right which the Declaration of Independence of 1776 had defined to be inalienable ; of the time and occasion for its exercise they, as sovereigns, were the final judges, each for itself. The impartial and enlightened verdict of mankind will vindicate the rectitude of our conduct, and He who knows the hearts of men, will judge of the sincerity with which we labored to preserve the Government of our fathers in its spirit. The right solemnly proclaimed at the birth of the States, and which has been affirmed and reaffirmed in the bills of rights of States subsequently admitted into the Union of 1789, undeniably recognize[s] in the people the power to resume the authority delegated for the purposes of government. Thus the sovereign States here represented proceeded to form this Confederacy, and it is by abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution. They formed a new alliance, but within each State its government has remained; the rights of person and property have not been disturbed. The agent through whom they communicated with foreign nations is changed, but this does not necessarily interrupt their international relations.
Sustained by the consciousness that the transition from the former Union to the present Confederacy has not proceeded from a disregard on our part of just obligations or any failure to perform every constitutional duty; moved by no interest or passion to invade the rights of
others; anxious to cultivate peace and commerce with all nations, if we may not hope to avoid war, we may at least expect that posterity will acquit us of having needlessly engaged in it. Doubly justified by the absence of wrong on our part, and by wanton aggression on the part of others, there can be no cause to doubt that the courage and patriotism of the people of the Confederate States will be found equal to any measures of defense which honor and security may require.
An agricultural people, whose chief interest is the export of a commodity required in every manufacturing country, our true policy is peace, and the freest trade which our necessities will permit. It is alike our interest and that of all those to whom we would sell and from whom we would buy that there should be the fewest practicable restrictions upon the interchange of commodities. There can be but little rivalry between ours and any manufacturing or navigating community, such as the Northeastern States of the American Union. It must follow, therefore, that
a mutual interest would invite good will and kind offices. If, however, passion or the lust of dominion should cloud the judgment or inflame the ambition of those States, we must prepare to meet the emergency and to maintain by the final arbitrament of the sword the position which we have assumed among the nations of the earth. We have entered upon the career of independence, and it must be inflexibly pursued. Through many years of controversy with our late associates, the Northern States, we have vainly endeavored to secure tranquillity and to obtain respect for the rights to which we were entitled. As a necessity, not a choice, we have resorted to the remedy of separation; and henceforth our energies must be directed to the conduct of our own affairs and the perpetuity of the confederacy which we have formed. If a just perception of a mutual interest shall permit us peaceably to pursue our separate political career, my most earnest desire will have been fulfilled. But if this be denied to us, and the integrity of our territory and jurisdiction be assailed, it will but remain for us, with firm resolve, to appeal to arms and invoke the blessings of Providence on a just cause.
With a Constitution differing only from that of our fathers in so far as it is explanatory of their well-known intent, freed from the sectional conflicts which have interfered with the pursuit of the general welfare, it is not unreasonable to expect that States from which we have recently parted may seek to unite their fortunes with ours under the Government which we have instituted. For this your Constitution makes adequate provision; but beyond this, if I mistake not the judgment and will of
the people, a reunion with the States from which we have separated is neither practicable nor desirable. To increase the power, develop the resources, and promote the happiness of a confederacy, it is requisite that there should be so much of homogeneity that the welfare of every portion shall be the aim of the whole. Where this does not exist antagonisms are engendered, which must and should result in separation.
Actuated solely by the desire to preserve our own rights and promote our own welfare, the separation of the Confederate States has been marked by no aggression upon others, and followed by no domestic convulsion. Our industrial pursuits have received no check, the cultivation of our fields has progressed as heretofore, and even should we be involved in war, there would be no considerable diminution in the production of the staples which have constituted our exports, and in which the commercial world has an interest scarcely less than our own. This common interest of the producer and consumer can only be interrupted by an exterior force which should obstruct its transmission to foreign markets — a course of conduct which would be as unjust toward us as it would be detrimental to manufacturing and commercial interests abroad. Should reason guide the action of the Government from which we have separated, a policy so detrimental to the civilized world, the Northern States included, could not be dictated by even the strongest desire to inflict injury upon us; but otherwise a terrible responsibility will rest upon it, and the suffering of millions will bear testimony to the folly and wickedness of our aggressors. In the meantime there will remain to us, besides the ordinary means before suggested, the well-known resources for retaliation upon the commerce of the enemy. . . .
It is joyous, in the midst of perilous times, to look around upon a people united in heart, where one purpose of high resolve animates and actuates the whole; where the sacrifices to be made are not weighed in the balance against honor, and right, and liberty, and equality. Obstacles may retard, they cannot long prevent, the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice and sustained by a virtuous people. Reverently let us invoke the God of our fathers to guide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles which, by His blessing, they were able to vindicate, establish, and transmit to their posterity, and with a continuance of His favor ever gratefully acknowledged, we may hopefully look forward to success, to peace, and to prosperity.
The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Fourth Series (Washington, 1900), I, 104–106 passim.
CHAPTER XI- QUESTION OF COMPROMISE
63. A Basis of Reconciliation (1860)
BY THURLOW WEED
As a journalist and politician Weed exerted great influence in the Whig and Republican parties, especially in New York. He was Seward's warmest supporter and friend throughout the political career of the latter, and this utterance was supposed to reflect Seward's opinion. During the Civil War he was able, in an unofficial capacity, to perform valuable services for the Union cause, both at home and abroad. These extracts are from editorials in his paper, the Albany Evening Journal, under dates November 24 and 30, 1860.- For Weed, see T. W. Barnes, Memoir of Thurlow Weed; F. Bancroft, William H. Seward, passim. - Bibliography: Channing and Hart, Guide, § 207.
Augusta, Nov. 23, . RESOLUTION was offered in the Georgia Legislature, demanding the repeal, by Northern States, of laws obstructing the rendition of fugitive slaves; also, an enactment of Congress for removing obstructions by Territories in the introduction of all property; such action being contingent on Georgia remaining in the Union.
Here is something tangible. It suggests a basis on which negotiations can be inaugurated. South Carolina goes ahead without rhyme or reason." There, it is not Disunion for cause, but Disunion per se.
Assuming the possibility of coming together in a fraternal spirit for the purpose of effecting "a more perfect union among the states," we are not without hopes that the result may prove auspicious. With a mutual desire to harmonize differences, let us suppose that in the place of a vindictive Fugitive Slave Law - a Law repugnant to manhood and honor-one should be enacted which arms the Federal Authorities with all needful power for its execution, together with a provision making Counties where Fugitives are rescued by violence, from Officers who have them in charge, liable for the value of the Slaves so rescued.
And in regard to the other vexed question, viz: the right of going into the Territories with Slaves, why not restore the Missouri Compromise Line? That secured to the South all Territory adapted, by soil and climate, to its "peculiar institution."
The suggestions, in a recent number of The Journal, of a basis of settlement of differences between the North and the South, have, in awakening attention and discussion, accomplished their purpose. We knew that in no quarter would these suggestions be more distasteful than with our own most valued friends. . . .
To our dissenting friends, who will not question our devotion to freedom, however much they may mistrust our judgment, we submit a few earnest admonitions :
1. There is imminent danger of a dissolution of the Union.
2. This danger originated in the ambition and cupidity of men who desire a Southern despotism; and in the fanatic zeal of Northern Abolitionists, who seek the emancipation of slaves regardless of consequences.
3. The danger can only be averted by such moderation and forbearance as will draw out, strengthen, and combine the Union sentiment of the whole country.
The Disunion sentiment is paramount in at least seven States; while it divides and distracts as many more. Nor is it wise to deceive ourselves with the impression that the South is not in earnest. It is in earnest; and the sentiment has taken hold of all classes with such blind vehemence as to "crush out" the Union sentiment.
Now, while, as has been said, it is easy to prove all this unjust and wrong, we have to deal with things as they are—with facts as they exist -with people blinded by passion. Peaceable Secession is not intended; nor is it practicable, even if such were its object. Mad, however, as the South is, there is a Union sentiment there worth cherishing. It will develop and expand as fast as the darkness and delusion, in relation to the feelings of the North, can be dispelled. This calls for moderation and forbearance. We do not, when our dwelling is in flames, stop to ascertain whether it was the work of an incendiary before we extinguish the fire. Hence our suggestions of a basis of adjustment, without the expectation that they would be accepted, in terms, by either section, but that they might possibly inaugurate a movement in that direction. The Union is worth preserving. And, if worth preserving, suggestions in its behalf, however crude, will not be contemned. A victorious party can afford to be tolerant - not, as our friends assume, in the abandonment or abasement of its principles or character-but in efforts to correct and disabuse the minds of those who misunderstand both.
Before a final appeal — before a resort to the "rough frown of war”