Although the Election of 1860 was now over a month old, the voices of secession were still sounding off. The editor of the Charleston Mercury in South Carolina was just as impatient as ever to initiate the Revolution of 1860.
On this day in 1860, he published an editorial titled, “Delay,” which outlined the reasons why secession needed to occur immediately. Not only is the editor angry with the “Abolition Administration to be installed the 4th of March next,” but he also blames the state of Virginia and the “daring submissionist” Crittenden for prolonging South Carolina’s time in the Union.
I have added today’s editorial to the Primary Documents section. Here it is in full:
The Charleston Mercury, December 3, 1860
One of the ablest and most influential men in Mississippi, has been kind enough to send to a friend in this city, the proceedings of the people of Lowndes county, held at Columbus, on the 19th November. After various details, to show the encouraging state of things in Mississippi, he concludes his letter as follows: The developments since I wrote you some days since, confirm me in the opinion that it is wisest for South Carolina to act—that co-operation will surely follow; and in a little while all the States of the South will be under a new government. Delay is dangerous. It is the only policy our enemies have yet been able to suggest; and if they secure its adoption, their ultimate purpose will be accomplished. This, believing in the imminency of the danger to the South, is the opinion of our people here; and while they feel great hesitation in suggesting any policy to South Carolina, they feel confident that this is the wisest course.
In our issue of Saturday our readers will see from our correspondent in Washington that this policy of delay is in full development in Washington, and, we doubt not, has been sent all over the Southern States by the agent of the Administration. We are to delay “until Virginia can be heard,” according to the modest proposal of the Hon. Mr. GARNETT, at the late Essex meeting. We are to delay, until we shall see whether their Personal Liberty Acts will not be repealed by the Legislatures of Northern States. We are to delay, until all the Southern States shall meet in Convention for conference. We are to delay, until Mr. LINCOLN’S Administration shall show, by “overt acts,” its hostility to the South. We propose briefly to take up these several causes for delay:
1. We are to delay, “that Virginia may be heard.” Why should the Southern States delay any action of theirs, “that Virginia may be heard?” Did not Mississippi and South Carolina speak to Virginia last winter, through their Commissioners formally sent to her, and did Virginia heed their counsels? No. She rejected their proposal, simply, to hold a conference with them and the other Southern States. Virginia declined counselling with us, because her views of her interests differed from ours. She set up an alienation and separation from us, against our most earnest remonstrances and efforts; and if she now seeks to be heard by us, what is her object? Is it to aid us in our views of policy—to preserve our rights or save our institutions? Not at all. It is to defeat our policy by a Southern Convention, and to drag us along in subserviency to her views of her border interests. If we respectfully decline to delay in our course, that she “may be heard,” we only treat her, as she has previously treated us. We will be very glad to hear her at all times; but to pause in the vindication of our rights, when, not nine months ago, she refused even to counsel with us for their preservation, would be the sheerest weakness and folly.
2. But what does Virginia propose that we should do? Why, that the Southern States should make another begging appeal to the Northern States, “to preserve the guaranties of the Constitution.” Suppose one man should deliberately violate a compact with another man, every year, for thirty years, and then should give him notice that he intended to kill him—what would be thought of the manhood or the wisdom of the poor oppressed devil, should he go to his oppressor, and beg him “once more” to observe “the guaranties of the Constitution” with him? Would not any unbiased observer, believe him to be an idiot? If such a “method of redress” was proposed by Virginia, after the Southern States had seceded from the Union, there might be some little reason in it, although the Northern States have shown that they are utterly incapable of observing any compact with any people. They would then, however, have a motive to recede from their aggressive and insulting course towards the South. But the South is to delay—she is to do nothing she is not to secede—only beg. What does “delay” mean, under such circumstances, but submission, and the perpetuation of that “blessed Union” which Virginia would not venture even to disturb last winter, by the poor expedient of conference amongst the Southern States ?
3. But we are to delay action further, to see if the Northern Legislatures will not repeal their Personal Liberty Laws. So far as the Cotton States are concerned, these laws, excepting in the insult they convey to the South, and the faithlessness they indicate in the North, are not of the slightest consequence. Few or none of our slaves are lost, by being carried away and protected from recapture in the Northern States. Nor to the frontier States, are they of much consequence. Their slaves are stolen and carried off—not by the agency of these Personal Liberty Laws—but by the combination of individuals in the Northern States. What are these acts as indications of the hostility and faithlessness of the Northern people towards the South (and they are nothing more), when compared with the mighty sectional despotism they have set up over the South in the election of Messrs. LINCOLN and HAMLIN to the Presidency and Vice-Presidency of the United States? Repeal that, and there would be something to invite delay. The real causes of dissatisfaction in the South with the North, are in the unjust taxation and expenditure of the taxes by the Government of the United States, and in the revolution the North has effected in this government, from a confederated republic, to a national sectional despotism. To prevent these evils, the South has already delayed thirty-five years. She is to “delay” longer, upon the mere speculation that the Northern States, without any inducement created by our action, may, in some eighteen months or two years, repeal their Personal Liberty Laws. What does such a policy mean, but submission?
4. The last motive for delay goes beyond the 4th of March next. It is that the Abolition Administration to be installed the 4th of March next, in Washington, has not yet made an “overt act” in the way of Abolitionism against the Southern States. Although you see your enemy load his rifle with the declared purpose of taking your life, you are to wait, as a wise expedient of defense, until he makes the “overt act” [and] shoots you. This is one of those glaring absurdities, which only such daring submissionists as BOTTS and CRITTENDEN are capable of proposing. No ordinary man, can hope to comprehend its mysterious sublimities.