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[192]

Abolition and Secession.

the war has put some over-nice gentlemen in a pretty pickle. These are hard times for Mr. Facing-Both-Ways. For several years he has been blandly repeating: “Our Southern Brethren! Our poor, injured, forbearing Southern Brethren!” But the Southern Brethren having so unmistakably gone to the bad-having surrendered themselves to the most unfraternal antics — having fallen feloniously upon that Constitution which has been Mr. Both-Ways' private and public and particular pet — he is forced to look about him for something to admire, and, as ill-luck will have it, he finds his ancient enemies, “the Abolitionists” (as he calls them), working devotedly for his poor Constitution, while he — where is he? Not merely outside the caucus, but pretty nearly outside all creation!

In this hot struggle there seems to be nothing in particular for him to do, except to utter warnings which nobody heeds, and to give advice which everybody laughs at. He falls into a rage, and begins an indiscriminate damnation. To the pit he consigns the North, and to the same torrid place he sends the South. He — calls loudly for “Union,” but he cannot find it in his heart to unite with anybody, and so he goes on day after day blowing hot and cold, and telling his neighbor for the five-hundredth time that he is no “Secessionist,” but egad! he is no “Abolitionist.” He fancies that this is conservative, and so it is, of brains; for in such boys' play, there will be but a [193] scanty expenditure of that article. He calls a meeting, and resolves that he is a patriot, but that he is not an “Abolitionist.” He issues an Address expressly to let the world know that he is not an “Abolitionist.” He nominates a candidate who is “No Secessionist” and “No Abolitionist,” and he solemnly votes for that candidate as the representative of what he is pleased to call his “Principles ;” when the lamentable truth is, that what he thinks to be “Principles” is merely a hodge-podge of Notions, Prejudices, Traditions and other lumbering Nonsense. Having done this, he is satisfied. Things may go from bad to worse, but he is as complacent as an old lady who, having foretold a rainy day, wakes up to find the windows of heaven wide open.

We are led to these reflections by the solemn fact that, in the Fifth Ward of the city of Boston, a little meeting of Constitutional-Union-Democrats voted the other evening, that they were for “the vigorous prosecution of the war,” but that they were not “Abolitionists.” A more unnecessary disclaimer we can hardly conceive of. It requires a modicum of brains to be anything of the kind. But we cannot blame these timid gentlemen; nor will anybody blame them who considers that an “Abolitionist” is also an Infidel, an Agrarian, a Foe of Human Government, a Dupe of his Conscience, a Woman's-Rights-Man, an Anti-Sabbatarian, a “Spiritualist,” a Phrenologist, a Water-Curer, a Vegetarian, a Fourierite and an Opponent of Tobacco and Capital Punishment. All Male Abolitionists wear Beards. All Female Abolitionists [194] are “Bloomers.” All of them being tainted by “Peace principles” are avowedly in favor of Insurrection, with Fire, Bloodshed, Rape, Anarchy, and a general whiz of everything. No wonder that a smug-faced Constitutional-Union man, just as highly respectable as it is possible for one of our fallen race to be, takes all possible pains before he so much as lifts a little finger for his country, to have it distinctly understood, though he may be in little danger, that he is not an “Abolitionist.” His dudgeon at the accusation is a portion of his respectability.

Now it is no part of our business either to attack or defend the American Anti-Slavery Society. It is a distinct organization, and it is abundantly able to take care of itself But, before we consign to the limbo of the wicked this poor word “Abolition,” we would like to ask, if there be in this whole State of New York, for instance, one well-informed and conscientious person who is not an “Abolitionist?” This is the way to put it:

Here is this Negro Slavery; it has been our torment and our curse, our daily and our nightly danger; it has brought us to this shame before the nations ; it has attempted to overthrow the institutions which we love, and which our fathers founded; it has changed peace to war, plenty to want, confidence to doubt, and ease to discomfort; it has wasted our material wealth, and it has hardened the hearts of our brethren against us; it has enfeebled the mind, contaminated the pulpit, made dim the distinctions between right and wrong, and discredited our democratic [195] professions which, but for this curse, would have been the hope of the world! God favoring, circumstances permitting, the way opened by a Providence which will indeed be Divine, shall we not rid ourselves of it and forever? Where is the intelligent Northern man, we care not how he may politically style himself, who will not say from the bottom of his heart, to such a question, “Yes!” If this is to be an “Abolitionist,” we should like to look in the face of the poor creature who will say that he is not one.

This is no longer a question of morals. It has rather become a question of common sense and of common safety; of ordinary prudence and the least possible foresight. We are arguing for no particular scheme; we are demanding no hasty action; we feel as much as any the need of a circumspect policy; but upon the naked question of “Abolition” or “No Abolition,” we believe that every honest, thinking man will be ready to own himself an “Abolitionist.” Shall we send down this inheritance of division and distraction to our children? Are we such cowards as to impose upon them a burthen which our fears and weakness shrink from? Shall the Union be restored only again to be jeoparded? Shall we have done our whole duty well and wisely, if we transmit to the next generation this frightful bequest of civil quarrel? And has our day been so full of glory and of historical achievement, that we can well afford to throw away this golden opportunity of redressing the injuries of an unfortunate race? And yet men shun [196] the subject and shrink from the problem, because its solution is difficult, and strive, by a senseless babble of Constitutional obligations, to be rid forever of the matter. Is this brave, manly, or becoming?

We say “No!” And, if saying so puts us into the “Abolition” category, we accept the place as a place of honor. Many a good, brave, loyal man shares our opinion; many a citizen who has given his blood as if it were water, and his money as if it were dross, to the Republic, thinks as we do. And by what right is such a patriot to be classed with traitors in arms against the Republic? By what law, even of the cheapest personal civility, do these libelers couple the names of the sound and the rotten, of law-abiders and law-breakers, of footpads and freebooters, with the honest names of Christian gentlemen? And who are these new Mentors who assume to direct, advise, censure, persuade and exhort an immense majority of the voters of the Union--arraigning their intelligence, questioning their motives, imputing to them selfishness or silliness, venality or incapacity? Where is the record of their political successes? Where were they when this storm was gathering, that they did not by notable pilotage save us from the cruel shore of death which threatens us?

Abolition and Secession! Light and Darkness, Truth and Falsehood, Right and Wrong, Fact and Fallacy, are as nearly alike. Heaven help us if, in these dark days, which are weighing down our very souls, we shun truth because it is not pleasant, and strive to exorcise this devil of Slavery, by the gibberish [197] nine times worn out and ninety times weaker than water, which sham-conservatives so glibly utter. Better fling at once every musket into the Potomac and recall our gallant men, than to prate follies at home, which will make their doughtiest deeds of none effect! If we must have the disgrace of a substantial defeat, let us meet it at once, and before we have murdered — yes, that is the word — any more men! If we must yield at last to the slaveholders, and think their thoughts and do their dirty work, let us at least save our money, for that will be a consolation in the lower deep of our degradation!

November 9, 1861.

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