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[288]

Northern Independence.

we must conquer this Rebellion or it will conquer us. This is a fact of which we are reminded — and there is need that we should be — by the boasts of fugitive Secessionists in Canada, who, it is reported, “openly declare that the Union shall not be broken, but that if the North is beaten, it shall be subjected to the rule of Jefferson Davis, who will be next President of the United States.” “There is nothing sacred,” said Napoleon, “after a conquest.” The theory of this war is plain enough. The Northern people well understand that they are contending for the Constitution and the Laws; but it may be questioned if more than a small minority of thinkers have permitted themselves to look — for they cannot do so without shuddering — into that seething hell of anarchy and confusion and ceaseless apprehension which would be our fate in the event of a Confederate triumph. Large as this continent is, it may be safely assumed that it is not large enough for two distinct nationalities, with natural limits ill defined, with military ambition upon one side of the line, and with a tantalizing opulence upon the other, and with reminiscences of success taunting continually a stern, sad memory of defeat; while a common language, instead of promoting peaceful alliances, would become merely a more convenient medium of debate and defiance. If we never knew it before, we know now, that Slavery is aggressive. It is unnecessary to say that it is more so than any other marked and distinctive [289] form of social life would be. It is only necessary to understand that, being of an absolutely peculiar character, and at war with the general moral conclusions of the age, Slavery, as it now exists in the American States, is in that position of desperate and dogged defiance, in which it will dare all things in self-defence. For reasons which we need not recapitulate, a component part of that defence must be its extension. It can no more exist within confined limits than a rat can live under an exhausted receiver. It is clear, therefore, that in the event of a military triumph of the system, the spirit of territorial aggrandizement, which has heretofore sought for new man-markets upon the frontier of the Southwest, would begin to exert itself in a Northern direction. Of the inability of the Slave Power to conquer such States as Illinois, Ohio, or Indiana, we might be tolerably certain, so long as a Northern Union should remain; but the grave and alarming question is, how long, after the establishment of a Southern Confederacy, the Northern Union would continue to exist. Itself a fragment, into how many smaller fragments might it not, even within a quarter of a century, be precipitated? Disunion is of bad example, and might prove contagious; while the Slave States, united in a bad brotherhood, and by the ties of a common iniquity, might not find it difficult to cope with and to subjugate individual States, themselves exposed to the assaults of each other, and weakened by intestine disorder.

That it is no part of Slaveholding chivalry to spare [290] a State, either because it is weak or inoffensive, let the fate of Mexico attest! But inoffensive the Northern States, even with the best intentions, could not possibly be. The recognition of the Confederacy however absolute and complete, would not for a day silence the Anti-Slavery discussions of the North. It is certain that they will never cease until Slavery is abolished. No laws, however rigid, no considerations of international comity, would be sufficient to restrain the voices of men who as much believe that Slavery is horrible in God's sight as they believe that there is a God at all. This of itself would be sufficient to keep up a perpetual irritation at the South, and to afford a continual pretext for an aggressive war. But the question of Fugitive Slaves, and of their rendition, would be a crowning difficulty, and one which, it seems to us, would be absolutely incapable of a peaceful solution. If we know anything of the temper of the Northern people, we can hardly believe that they will be ready to do that of their free — will which they have been so unwilling to do upon compulsion. Treaties might be made, but treaties would be perpetually broken. Laws, founded upon such compacts, might be passed, but who would obey and who would enforce them? Meanwhile, the Government of the North would be constantly involved in difficulties with its own recalcitrant citizens; and, the question of Slavery still coloring our politics, the people would be pretty sure to keep out of office “Northern men with Southern principles.” War must inevitably follow., Peace, by infinite nursing [291] and coddling, would be only the exception; and War-beggaring, blasting, and weary War — would be the rule. Into the probable history of this people, so agitated and assaulted, it would not be pleasant too closely to inquire. If the Slave States, stimulated only by imaginary injuries, have shown themselves ready to shoot from a condition of ill-temper into that of sanguinary hostilities, what will be the popular feeling of the North when it is found that all these lives have been given in vain, and that all our treasure has been expended only with the prodigality of the fool?

If the question, then, of the Union was an open one before, it is so no longer. We cannot afford to concede-we cannot afford to be conquered. There is a deadly duel between Freedom and Slavery, and one or the other must fall. The issue is but a matter of time. Freedom in the end must conquer. But over what dreary years of suffering and struggle, of paralyzed industry and social commotion, of private agony and of public bankruptcy, must that struggle, if we now temporize, extend! If there be in this great metropolis any man who, in his devotion to the pursuit of gold, thinks that we should give up all, and retire from this contest, we bid him look well to his money bags, when the arrogant and hot-headed Confederacy shall have triumphed and commenced its political career. If there be here any man who wearies of the noise and confusion of this conflict, we bid him beware of lending his influence to the adoption of any measure which may merely postpone the [292] final adjustment of this quarrel, and leave us, mean-while, certainly for more than one generation, the sport of political chances. If there be any philanthropist who shrinks, as well he may, from the butchery of battle, we warn him that the longest war, however bloody, is better for humanity than the smoothest of hollow truces. Do not let us be-deceived! There is no safety for this republic but in its integrity; there is no peace for it but in its indivisibility; there is no economy ill ending one war only that we may begin another; there is no happiness for us, there is none for our children, save in the complete victory of our Government. Five years of war would be better-yes, fifty years of war would be better than a century of imaginary peace and continual collisions. The time to acknowledge the Confederacy, if at all, was when Anderson pulled down the flag of Fort Sumter. That time has gone by forever!

September 12, 1862.

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