February 6, 1861: Compromise is pointless

An editorial from the bilingual New Orleans Bee makes it clear that the efforts of the Peace Conference are going to be in vain, at least in one cotton state editor’s opinion.

The editor rightly posits that there’s not going to be a compromise satisfactory to the cotton states — I’m sure it would have to include the expansion of slavery into the territories, as in the Crittenden Compromise, and that had been turned down more than once in Congress already. He also, with less justification, thinks that coercion would be suicidal to the North. Perhaps this is some of that “one Southron can whip five Yankees” bravado. Finally, he hopes that Lincoln is dishonest in the views he has expressed.

Excuse the question marks — the original (see link) is a pdf image, and some words were hard to make out.

The Black Republicans and Their Leader

It is really amusing to note the truculent tone assumed by a number of the Black Republican presses when speaking of the possibility of an adjustment. They seem deeply apprehensive of the vacillation of their Representatives, and are constantly appealing to them to stand firm, to make no compromises with rebels and traitors, and to surrender no jot or tittle of those immortal principles upon which the Republican party was established and the election of Lincoln secured. The Black Republican journals give themselves quite and unnecessary amount of trouble in the process(?).

The superfluous and misplaced efforts of the border States at patching and revamping the Constitution, with a view to arrest the march of secession, have probably led the Black Republicans to infer that the cotton States only needed a decent pretext to retrace their steps – but this is an egregious error. So far from wishing to extort concession from the North, the cotton States have repeatedly intimated their rooted aversion to all compromises, and their disbelief in the sincerity of Northern professions of friendship. A forced acknowledgment of the rights of the slaveholding States would argue no revolution in public opinion, and without some such radical change the South is immutably convinced of the impossibility of preserving the Union upon terms satisfactory to both sections.

Knowing this, the cotton States ask for no concessions, and are only annoyed and embarrassed by the persistent attempts of their too officious brethren of the border States to obtain them. The Black Republicans may consequently spare their urgent appeals. The Northern Representatives have manifested no disposition to tender such terms of settlement as the South would be justified even in considering. They will not grant nor will we demand any concessions whatever. All we ask is to be let alone. We deprecate a resort to force, because it would be a deplorable calamity, as well for one side as the other, and would utterly fail to accomplish the object for which it was invoked; but if it must come, the South is prepared to return blow for blow.

Much stress is laid by the Union sheets on Mr. Lincoln’s opinions. At one time, an exceedingly aesthetic exponent of the views of the President elect is cited to prove that he is resolved to execute the laws, to put down rebellion, and to maintain the integrity of the Union unimpaired. At another, an equally reliable journal or individual, as the case may be, affirms most positively that Lincoln is favorable to compromise; that he has no idea of interfering with slavery in the States, the forts, dockyards, and arsenals, or in the District of Columbia; that he has no objection to the restoration and extension of the Missouri line, or to the repeal of the Personal Liberty bills.

Now these manifold contradictory and conjectural outgivings may serve to tickle the curiosity of political gossips, but with respect to any influence they may be supposed to exert on the intentions or conduct of the South, they might just as well be suppressed. It is a little remarkable, indeed, that while hundreds of people are anxious to know what Mr. Lincoln thinks, the gentleman himself preserves an unbroken silence – a tolerable sure evidence to our mind that he keeps his own counsel, and has let none of the busy tribe of newsmongers into his confidence.

What his opinions are we may in some measure divine from his past record, and what his policy will be we shall know when he delivers his inaugural address next month. Prior to that period his unofficial sayings, his random expressions of sentiment, though eagerly caught up and disseminated by the crowd of sycophants and parasites which surround him, are of the slightest possible consequence to the Southern States. On the fourth of March Mr. Lincoln will probably inform the South whether she is to expect to be allowed without molestation to carry on an independent government, or whether he is determined to use the power conferred upon him by his office for further aggressions, injustice and tyranny. We shall know at that time definitely whether Mr. Lincoln is for peace or war, and we shall govern ourselves accordingly. We are inclined to think that by the fourth of March the various slaveholding commonwealths which are not yet out of the Union will have regulated their future policy so clearly that Mr. Lincoln will perceive much better than he probably does now the suicidal folly of attempting coercion, and at the same time will appreciate the inutility of further experiments in the way of compromise.

The problem remains to be solved whether Abraham Lincoln is a statesman or a fanatic. If anti-slavery has been embraced by him simply as a passport to promotion and power, the native sagacity in which he is not deficient will admonish him o f the wisdom and prudence of a tranquil enjoyment of the lofty station his ambition has reached. If he is the slave of that frenzy which has already wrought so much mischief, and has driven the South to the stern extremity of separation, he may follow the insane counsels of those who would wage a war of extermination upon the slave States rather than suffer them to depart in peace. We shall not be left many weeks in ignorance of his determination.

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