"A Constitutional Union," North Carolina Standard, July 11, 1860
“A Constitutional Union,” North Carolina Standard, July 11, 1860, in Southern Editorials on Secession, ed. Dwight Lowell Dumond (New York: The Century Co., 1931), 142-144.
North Carolina has been for the space of seventy years a member of the federal Union. She entered this great sisterhood of States after mature deliberation. She did so believing she would thereby best promote her own interests, and more effectually than in any other situation protect herself from encroachments by foreign States. Strong in her own arm and in her own determined purpose to maintain the right under all circumstances, she was nevertheless not unmindful of the fact that in union there would be strength beyond that which any individual State could possess. During this long period she has been faithful to all her Constitutional obligations; and on the other hand, while her rights as a slaveholding State have not always been as fully respected and maintained as they should have been, yet no deliberate wrong has been put upon her, and none of her vital interests have been assailed or threatened by the common government. When her co-States of the South have complained of unjust tariff laws, or protested against the encroachments of the non-slaveholding States upon their rights in the common territories, she has sympathized with them in these complaints and protests; but when they have nullified the laws, or taken steps to dissolve their relations with the other States, she has mildly but firmly interposed to prevent the calamitous consequences which would flow from nullification and disunion. She has never been either a nullifying or a disunion State, and she is not so now. Some great cause must move her—some great wrong must either be inflicted or must overshadow her, before she will seriously contemplate by her own act a severance of the Union. She feels that while Virginia, and Tennessee, and Maryland, and Kentucky are safe in the Union she will be safe also; and that her honor, as sensitive and as untarnished as theirs, has been confided to her own keeping, and not to that of South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi. She is a bread-stuff rather than a “cotton State.” Her interests are central among the southern States, relying as she does for protection not more on the slaveholding States south of her than on those of the north and west. She is not so much of a “cotton State” as to be ready just now to pitch into the vortex of disunion and revolution. She will not rush into this vortex herself, and she will hold others back, if she can.
During this long period of seventy years, North Carolina has enjoyed almost uninterrupted repose. The battles rendered necessary by a just regard for the honor of the country, have been fought elsewhere than on her soil. Her people are now contented, prosperous, and happy. Her fields smile with plenty, and the hum of industry is heard in all her workshops. Her credit in the money market is equal to the best. Her internal improvements are progressing, and prospering as they progress. Her Common School system is the best in all the Southern States. Her slave property is secure. No menace even is uttered against her, save by the more radical portion of the black Republicans. The national Democrats of the non-slaveholding States have defended and are defending her rights as a slaveholding State both in Congress and before their fellow-citizens.
In a word, no reason exists why North Carolina should contemplate at this time a dissolution of the Union.
While we would surrender no right of our State, and while we would preserve her honor untarnished among her sisters, yet disunion is one of the last things to be thought of. Disunion would be fraternal strife, civil and servile war, murder, arson, pillage, robbery, and fire and blood through long and cruel years. It would unsettle all business, diminish the value of all property, put the lives of both sexes and all ages in peril, and launch the States on a sea of scenes which no eye has scanned and no navigator sounded. It would bring debt, and misrule, and oppressive taxes, to be followed, perhaps, by the military rule of titled tyrants. It would wrench apart the tenderly entwined affections of millions of hearts, making it a crime in the North to have been born in the South, and a crime in the South to have been born in the North. It would convert the great body of the conservative men of the North, who are now our friends, into either deadly enemies or indifferent spectators of our intestine struggles, which would increase in intensity until law, order, justice, and civil rule would be forgotten or unknown. We repeat, there is no good cause now for dissolving the Union. The cause may arise, but let us not hasten to make or meet it.—Who desires it now? Who would cause it? Who would “precipitate the States” into bloodshed and revolution? Who would darken the stars that now flash in the flag of the Union? Who, without cause and for no sufficient reason, would have war instead of peace, discord in the place of concord, and all the calamities which must result from the dissolution of a government such as ours? If such a man exists, let him stand forth to be blasted by the indignant maledictions of patriotic millions. Voices from the past, voices. innumerable in the present, appeal to us not to peril rashly our Constitutional Union. From all battle-fields where Southern blood has mingled with Northern blood beneath one common and glorious banner; from the shores of Delaware, over whose breaking ice, on that stormy night, pressed the weary and bleeding feet of those two thousand soldiers, the only, the forlorn, the last hope of great WASHINGTON himself; from the kingdoms of the earth, in which the down-trodden millions struggle beneath the iron hoof of despotism, casting longing and hopeful glances towards this, the first, as it may be the last great experiment of self-government among men; from the whole civilized world, interested in our material prosperity and in the progress and happiness of man, there comes up to us with thundering sound—and over all of it, and ringing through all of it as with the blast of a trumpet, the spirit-voice of the immortal Jackson, speaking from his record and from his whole military and civil life—”THE FEDERAL UNION—IT MUST AND SHALL BE PRESERVED!” Preserved, not as a consolidated, aggressive, usurping Union, but as a Constitutional Union, protecting all equally, and dispensing its benefits and blessings as much to one section as another. Let us cling to such a Union as “the mariner clings to his last plank when night and the tempest close around him.” As long as the Constitution is preserved inviolate we shall have nothing to fear. It will be time enough when that instrument, which is the bond of the Union, shall have been broken, or its spirit disregarded, to dissolve existing relations and provide new guards for future security.
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