"Mr. Lincoln’s Inaugural," North Carolina Standard, March 9, 1861
“Mr. Lincoln’s Inaugural,” North Carolina Standard, March 9, 1861, in Southern Editorials on Secession, ed. Dwight Lowell Dumond (New York: The Century Co., 1931), 476-477.
Wake County, North Carolina
Our readers will find this document in our paper of to-day. On all sides we hear the question, what do you think of the Inaugural? We have read it with the utmost attention—we have formed an opinion upon it, and we intend to express that opinion.—We shall do this fearlessly and firmly.
Our opinions in relation to the Chicago platform, Abraham Lincoln, and the Black Republican party are well known. We are as hostile to Mr. Lincoln and to the sectional party that elected him as any reasonable man in the South. We will never submit to the administration of the government on the principles of that party so far as they relate to slavery in the Territories; but while we say this for the hundredth time, we also hold that justice should be done even to Mr. Lincoln and his party, and that he who would deliberately fan the flame of sectional strife, instead of doing all he can to put out the fires of discord which threaten to consume the temple of the Union, is guilty of an inexpiable crime. We want peace, not war. We want Union, not disunion. We want justice for the South, but we must do justice to the North. We long for light, not darkness. We believe that the Union can be preserved, and we are willing to bear and forbear—to watch and wait—to labor in a fraternal spirit to achieve this most desirable result. When the enemy offers us the olive branch we will not reject it. When he approaches us pointing to his oath, yet in a spirit of amity, we will not rush upon him with the sword. When he pleads for the Union we will point to the Constitution; and if both of us should then pause, we would then go with him to the fountain of all power, the people of the States, and seek there, and establish there, if possible, new foundations for equality and brotherhood.
So far as coercion is concerned, Mr. Lincoln occupies the very ground occupied by Mr. Buchanan.—We have compared the Inaugural in this respect with Mr. Buchanan’s message, and the fact is so.—We cannot, as an honest man, denounce in Mr. Lincoln what we approved in Mr. Buchanan. The man had just taken an oath to support the Constitution and to enforce the laws. What was he to do? Was he to say to the seven cotton States, you are out of the Union? Who gave him that authority? Has Congress said it? No. Have the American people said it. No. The mails are still furnished to these States, and Mr. Lincoln says he will continue to furnish them unless they are repelled. But he says he must execute the laws, and in the next breath he virtually omits the cotton States as Mr. Buchanan omitted South Carolina, for the simple reason that he has no officers in those States and cannot execute them. He says that in “interior localities” where competent resident citizens will not or cannot hold the offices, “there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers” on the people. But he says he will collect the revenue in the cotton States. How? He must do it, if at all, at the Custom Houses, for he has no authority to do so on shipboard. The law provides only for the collection of the revenue at the Custom Houses. Congress has made no other provision. What then? Why he can do nothing in this respect. Mr. Buchanan could do nothing in this respect in South Carolina, yet he said, as Mr. Lincoln says, that the laws must be enforced.
If Mr. Lincoln were mad enough to attempt to subjugate the Southern States, or even if he were disposed to do so—as his Inaugural shows he is not—he has no army at his command. He might spare a thousand troops from the forts and frontiers, but what could these do against the armies of the fifteen slaveholding States? Then he has no money. The Treasury is empty. Then he has no authority for raising troops, even if he had money to pay them with. The “force bill” so-called, was defeated in the House of Representatives. What then? He is powerless. He is not only powerless at present, but the tone of his Inaugural shows that he is alarmed in view of the calamities that impend. Will he be stronger in future? We do not believe he will.—His party is already demoralized, and in addition to this, the great body of the Northern people will never consent to an aggressive war on the South.—If the seven cotton States had remained in the Union, both branches of Congress would have been against Mr. Lincoln by large majorities, and the Senate could have dictated all his important appointments. But they abandoned the Union—abandoned it selfishly and for no sufficient cause, and left us at the mercy, as they say, of a dominant sectional party. Shall we go out simply because they did? We trust not. Have we of the middle States no self-respect—no will of our own? We think we have some will of our own, for we are still in the Union.
Mr. Lincoln will have no more power to enforce the laws in the “Confederate States” than the late President had; and we all know that Mr. Buchanan enforced no law in South Carolina after that State assumed to secede, and the only coercion he attempted was in the shape of letters and newspapers which he showered from his mail batteries all over that State.
Mr. Lincoln is inclined to favor a Convention of all the States. We think the condition of the country and the progress of events will compel him to assemble Congress at an early day. If he should do that, a Convention of all the States could be called, and such a body, we make no doubt, would be able to reconstruct the Union on an enduring basis. Failing to do that, however, it could at least provide for a peaceable separation of the States.
We do not propose to comment further on this document. It is before our readers, and each one of them will read and study it carefully for himself.—We approve portions of it, and we disapprove other portions. It is not a war message. It is not, strictly speaking, a Black Republican message; for while he recognizes slavery in the States as perpetual, and as never to be interfered with in any way by the abolitionists, he deliberately refrains from pressing the main principle in his platform, to wit, the exclusion of the South from all the Territories of the Union. It is not unfriendly to the South. It deprecates war, and bloodshed, and it pleads for the Union. That any portion of it will be approved by the Disunionists we have no idea. If it had breathed violence and war—if it had claimed the government for the North exclusively, and had threatened the South with subjugation, the Disunionists would have shouted for joy, as they did in Charleston when they learned that Lincoln was elected, for they would then have been sure of the attainment of their darling purpose, the permanent and final disruption of the Union.
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