The election was still more than three weeks away, but secession fever was already burning its way through Charleston, South Carolina.
On this date in 1860, the Charleston Mercury printed a long, paranoid editorial. What would a Republican victory mean for South Carolina, the South, and slavery? The editor foresaw disaster. I have added his 1,200 word rant to the Primary Documents section. Here it is in full:
"The Terrors of Submission"
Charleston Mercury [South Carolina]
October 11, 1860
A few days since, we endeavored to show, that the pictures of ruin and desolation to the South, which the submissionists to Black Republican domination were so continually drawing, to "fright us from our propriety," were unreal and false. We propose now to reverse the picture, and to show what will probably be the consequences of a submission of the Southern States, to the rule of Abolitionism at Washington, in the persons of Messrs. LINCOLN and HAMLIN, should they be elected to the Presidency and VicePresidency of the United States.
1. The first effect of the submission of the South, to the installation of Abolitionists in the offices of President and VicePresident of the United States, must be a powerful consolidation of the strength of the Abolition party at the North. Success, generally strengthens. If, after all the threats of resistance and disunion, made in Congress and out of Congress, the Southern States sink down into acquiescence, the demoralization of the South will be complete. Add the patronage resulting from the control of ninety-four thousand offices, and the expenditure of eighty millions of money annually, and they must be irresistable in controlling the General Government.
2. To plunder the South for the benefit of the North, by a new Protective Tariff, will be one of their first measures of Northern sectional domination; and, on the other hand, to exhaust the treasury by sectional schemes of appropriation, will be a congenial policy.
3. Immediate danger will be brought to slavery, in all the Frontier States. When a party is enthroned at Washington, in the Executive and Legislative departments of the Government, whose creed it is, to repeal the Fugitive Slave Laws, the under-ground railroad, will become an over-ground railroad. The tenure of slave property will be felt to be weakened; and the slaves will be sent down to the Cotton States for sale, and the Frontier States enter on the policy of making themselves Free States.
4. With the control of the Government of the United States, and an organized and triumphant North to sustain them, the Abolitionists will renew their operations upon the South with increased courage. The thousands in every country who look up to power, and make gain out of the future, will come out in support of the Abolition Government. The BROWNLOWS [Tennessee newspaper editor William G. Brownlow] and the BOTTS [Unionist John M. Botts from Virginia], in the South, will multiply. They will organize; and from being a Union party, to support an Abolition Government, they will become, like the Government they support, Abolitionists. They will have an Abolition Party in the South, of Southern men. The contest for slavery, will no longer be one between the North and the South. It will be in the South, between the people of the South.
5. If, in our present position of power and unitedness, we have the raid of JOHN BROWN-- and twenty towns burned down in Texas in one year, by Abolitionists-- what will be the measures of insurrection and incendiarism, which must follow our notorious and abject prostration to Abolition rule at Washington, with all the patronage of the Federal Government, and a Union organization in the South to support it? Secret conspiracy, and its attendant horrors, with rumors of horrors, will hover over every portion of the South; while, in the language of the Black Republican patriarch--GIDDINGS [Representative Joshua R. Giddings of Ohio]-- they "will laugh at your calamities, and mock when your fear cometh."
6. Already there is uneasiness throughout the South, as to the stability of its institution on slavery. But with a submission to the rule of Abolitionists at Washington, thousands of slaveholders will despair of the institution. While the condition of things in the Frontier States will force their slaves on the markets of the Cotton States, the timid in the Cotton States, will also sell their slaves. The consequence must be, slave property must be greatly depreciated. We see advertisements for the sale of slaves in some of the Cotton States, for the simple object of getting rid of them; and we know that standing orders for the purchase of slaves in this market have been withdrawn, on account of an anticipated decline of value from the political condition of the country.
7. We suppose, that taking in view all these things, it is not extravagant to estimate, that the submission of the South to the administration of the Federal Government under Messrs. LINCOLN and HAMLIN, must reduce the value of slaves in the South, one hundred dollars each. It is computed that there are four million, three hundred thousand, slaves in the United States. Here, therefore,is a loss to the Southern people of four hundred and thirty millions of dollars, on their slaves alone. Of course, real estate of all kinds must partake also in the depreciation of slaves.
8. Slave property, is the foundation of all property in the South. When security in this is shaken, all other property partakes of its instability. Banks, stocks, bonds, must be influenced. Timid men will sell out and leave the South. Confusion, distrust and pressure must reign.
9. Before Messrs. LINCOLN and HAMLIN can be installed in Washington, as President and Vice-President of the United States, the Southern States can dissolve peaceably (we know what we say) their union with the North. Mr. LINCOLN and his Abolition cohorts, will have no South, to reign over. Their game would be blocked. The foundation of their organization, would be taken away; and, left to the tender mercies of a baffled, furious and troubled North, they would be cursed and crushed, as the flagitious cause of the disasters around them. But if we submit, and do not dissolve our union with the North, we make the triumph of our Abolition enemies complete, and enable them to consolidate and wield the power of the North, for our destruction.
10. If the South once submits to the rule of Abolitionists by the General Government, there is, probably, an end of all peaceful separation of the Union. We can only escape the ruin they meditate for the South, by war. Armed with power of the General Government, and their organizations at the North, they will have no respect for our courage or energy, and they will use the sword for our subjection. If there is any man in the South who believes, that we must separate from the North, we appeal to his humanity, in case Mr. LINCOLN is elected, to dissolve our connection with the North, before the 4th of March next.
11. The ruin of the South, by the emancipation of her slaves, is not like the ruin of any other people. It is not a mere loss of liberty, like the Italians under the BOURBONS. It is not heavy taxation, which must still leave the means of living, or otherwise taxation defeats itself. But it is the loss of liberty, property, home, country-- everything that makes life worth living. And this loss, will probably take place under circumstances of suffering and horror, unsurpassed in the history of nations. We must preserve our liberties and institutions, under penalties greater than those which impend over any people in the world.
12. Lastly, we conclude this brief statement of the terrors of submission, by declaring, that in our opinion, they are ten-fold greater even that the supposed terrors of disunion.