Critics who waive the sub-sacredness of the Constitutional obligations,—binding “in honor and in justice,” Lib. 14.45.
to use Webster
's words,—and tolerate the revolutionary view in order to expose its impracticability, deny that the agitation for peaceful separation could ever have attained its object.
This prophecy—for it is nothing more—neglects altogether the role of the South
in the settlement of the question; and it is certainly conceivable that the spread of disinterested abolitionism at the North
might have induced the slaveholding States to withdraw without violence.
Be this as it may, there was but one of two ways to purge the North
of its complicity with slavery—either to dissolve the Union
as Mr. Garrison
proposed, or to eradicate the pro-slavery compromises from the Constitution
The impossibility of the latter course has been forever settled by the fact of the Rebellion
, which was kindled long before there was the remotest possibility of disturbing the status quo
Moreover, no party ever seriously aimed to undo the compromises, so that still we may ask for a more practical policy than Mr. Garrison
's, which in fact had no rival, being rootand-branch as no other was. Half-way measures, like half-way principles and men, abounded, but all came to naught.
Substituting hindsight for foresight, we can now see that there was, in the very nature of the Government
, an irrepressible conflict, tending to produce either rupture or a homogeneous public sentiment with regard to slavery, whether for or against.
To a rupture it was to come, and the Garrisonian abolitionists must have the credit, as practical men, of being the first to put themselves in line with the inevitable.
It has absurdly been said, in depreciation of them, that they wished the North
to withdraw in peace, whereas the South
made a bloody exit; as if such evidence of the nature of the partnership did not justify their prevision and their mode of avoiding all the cost and misery of the civil war. But indeed on this head they stand in the peculiar position of being charged, both