Southern Editorial Supports South Carolina’s Secession from the Union
South Carolina’s secession from the Union on Dec. 20, 1860, dramatized what had been clear for several years: slavery and states’ rights were two irreconcilable differences dividing North and South that would fracture the country. While the Northern press, predictably, condemned South Carolina’s action, many newspapers in the South supported this fellow slave state’s actions. Some, as in the following editorial, predicted other Southern states would soon follow South Carolina’s example.
This editorial, from a Louisiana newspaper, defiantly states: “What South Carolina has done, other States are now prepared to do. Her example will be rapidly followed by other slave commonwealths.”
However, this same editorial notes that the thought of the Union fracturing “is a mournful one.”
It also adds this observation: South Carolina “has assumed also a terrible responsibility, for should an aggressive act of hers, following secession, break the peace of the country, it may be questioned if she be guiltless.” This comment is especially prescient in light of the fact that the first hostile action that triggered the Civil War, the attack on Fort Sumter, was done by South Carolina troops firing on a Union fort in Charleston Harbor.
Ominously, the editorial ends with the warning that the Southern States need to cooperate because they now “tread upon the warm ashes of a rumbling volcano.”
This editorial was printed by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana) on Dec. 22, 1860:
The telegraph of last evening brought the news of the secession of South Carolina from the Union. The golden bond that gathered the States in one sheaf is broken. The fabric of the Union, so beautiful in the symmetry of its parts, has received a blow that threatens it with speedy ruin.
The thought that a Government so rich in promise as well as in its blessings, the model for imitation and the object of admiration of the world, should scarcely continue for one generation before its day of inexorable fate arrived, is a mournful one. A striking lesson is afforded of the weakness of forms of civil life, however carefully guarded from the accidents of time, when human passions pervert its objects and wrest its powers from their natural manifestation to purposes of oppression.
The result in South Carolina has not been unexpected; indeed, patience has waited on provocation longer than had been anticipated. Nor will the people of her sister Southern States feel disposed to censure her for her decision. The threads of her destiny are in her own hands, and she is doubtless prepared to meet the consequences of her act.
For ten years she has waited for the occasion. Nominally with the Union she has not been heartily attached to it. Chivalric and sensitive, her honor has been wounded and her sensitiveness shocked, when others felt no necessity of the last degree of resentment.
But the time predicted by her statesmen has come, when she is not driven alone to assert her rights, and to determine to maintain them. Nullified laws, torrents of taunts and menace from the press, the lecture room, the pulpit, and even from the Senate chamber of the nation, followed by a union of the North to force into the chair of State honored by Washington, the chief of sectionalism [i.e., President Abraham Lincoln—ed.], and the proclaimed establishment, by the mandate of hostile communities, of a policy destructive of constitutional rights and equality in the Union, have moved the South to a determination no longer to postpone the day of resistance. What South Carolina has done, other States are now prepared to do. Her example will be rapidly followed by other slave commonwealths. The revolution is in progress that forces all to act for common safety.
Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are moving forward to the same goal and with the same object, and Louisiana is not less thoroughly moved or determined to maintain the cause of the South. It is vain for the North to talk of any temporary expedients for the Union; or to hope that the deep indignation at its wrongs is less felt outside of South Carolina than within its borders. It is folly to think that New Orleans has any sympathies with the non-slaveholding States, or will not act with direct reference to Southern security.
The action of South Carolina will hasten the movement to the end. It makes the effort at cooperation more important. It utters, trumpet-tongued, the warning to the Southern States to unite together to make its movement irresistible. Cooperation is no delaying of the course of events. Rather does it promise to hasten the time when the North shall find itself compelled to act for its own safety—the government itself falling in ruin around it. All will look with interest to the subsequent action of South Carolina. She has a great work to perform to make her act of secession a practical thing. She must take time to reconstruct what she has by the secession act destroyed. She has assumed also a terrible responsibility, for should an aggressive act of hers, following secession, break the peace of the country, it may be questioned if she be guiltless.
No one act could have been consummated that renders so necessary immediate steps for a conference and consequent cooperation of all the slave States as this of South Carolina. Until this is effected we tread upon the warm ashes of a rumbling volcano.
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