The Staunton Vindicator, November 23, 1860, p. 2, c. 2
The Crisis--National Convention.
That impulsive, mercurial sentiment that responds to sectional passion, regardless of consequences, seems to have taken possession of the leading Breckinridge papers of the State. Thoughtless and indifferent to the grave questions of which the present canvass is pregnant, they are rushing blindly into the very jaws of destruction, and suggesting a scheme that must inevitably "precipitate" a revolution in our political system, and blot us from the roll of nations as the freest and best governed people in the world. Hardly had the lightning flashed through the country the intelligence of the revolutionary movements of S. Carolina, before the metropolitan Breckinridge press, backed by the Alexandria Sentinel and Lynchburg Republican, burthen their columns with clamorous appeals for a "Southern Convention," apparently ignoring the fact that we are part of the whole confederacy, as well North as South; and regardless of the important consideration that our cause of complaint is against the North, and not the South. It seems patent to us, that a just ambition to avert the calamity of dissolution; to allay the nervous excitement incident to the election of a sectional President, and adjust the difficulties which reckless and fanatical men have thrust upon us, would have suggested the expediency of a National Convention to cure sectional diseases, rather than a sectional Convention to inflame sectional passions, brood over sectional wrongs, and estrange and embitter the feelings of the parties to the federal compact. He is a careless and superficial thinker who sees in the election of Abraham Lincoln a verdict of the American people in favor of the doctrine of the platform upon which he was elected. It is true, that through the folly and divisions of the conservative element at the North, Mr. Lincoln received a majority of the electoral votes of all the States, and by virtue thereof becomes in name the President of the United States. It is merely in name, for he goes to the White House with the moral power of less than one-third of the people to back him; with the Senate, House of Representatives, and Federal Judiciary--all the checks provided by the Constitution--against him, and as utterly powerless to do harm as he would have been had he remained at his quiet home in Springfield.
Viewing all the circumstances, therefore, attending the election of Mr. Lincoln, and calmly surveying the facts as they are presented to us, we can see no just reasons for a Southern Convention, until the more rational and statesmanlike policy of a National Convention has failed to accomplish the desired end. A Southern Convention would be utterly powerless to remove any one of the causes of complaint, and could result in nothing else than an imagined extenuation of our wrongs, driving reason from our deliberations, and substituting therefore inflamed passions. The great and crowning error of the Virginia delegation at Charleston--an error the resultant of which was the disruption of the Democratic party, the election of Lincoln, and the imperiling of the Union--was the appointment of a delegate to meet similar delegates from the Southern States in consultation. That was the first step towards the division that afterwards took place. Had the conference been national--had there been an honest desire to adjust the differences of opinion that existed, and one paramount sentiment, and that the defeat of the Black Republican party, the Democracy this day would have the President elect.
It is now proposed to pursue a like suicidal, contracted and narrow-minded policy, by holding a Southern Convention instead of a National Convention. We are well convinced that the intelligent masses are opposed to any such folly. We know they are in this section. Believing that South Carolina has recklessly and madly initiated steps of disunion, regardless not only of the sentiments, but the interests of the border States, they feel called upon, as patriots devoted to a Constitutional Union, to speak out against any movement that can be construed as endorsing her course, and to once again appeal to that stern sense of virtue and honor, which in troublous times gone by made "Virginia the break-water to sectionalism, to step forward to pour oil upon the maddened waters.
As fully carrying out this idea, and as indicating a step commensurate with the vast interests involved, the following plan suggested by Gov. Letcher in his inaugural address last January, seems the most appropriate and feasible:
"The only mode, therefore, of remedying the evil, that occurs to me, under the Constitution, is provided in the fifth article thereof. Summon a Convention of all the States, that a full and free conference may be had between the representatives of the people, elected for this purpose, and thus ascertain whether the questions in controversy cannot be settled upon some basis mutually satisfactory to both sections. If such a Convention shall assemble, and after full and free consultation and comparison of opinions, they shall find that the difference between the slaveholding and non-slaveholding States are irreconcilable, let them consider the question of a peaceful separation, and the adjustment of all questions relating to the disposition of the common property between the two sections. If they can be reconciled, let them adjust the terms, and give them such sanction as will render them effective.
"I suggest, therefore, that you adopt resolutions in favor of the call of such a Convention, and appeal to the Legislatures of the several States to unite in the application proposed to be made in Congress, in pursuance of the provisions of the article aforesaid. If the non-slaveholding States shall fail or refuse to unite in the application, such failure or refusal will furnish conclusive evidence of a determination on their part to keep up the agitation, and to continue their aggressions upon us. If the Convention shall meet, and the questions cannot be satisfactorily adjusted, the people of the South will clearly understand what they are to expect in the future."
Should this plan fail--should Northern fanaticism rise superior to Northern reason and patriotism--should they close their eyes to the fearful consequences, to them more especially, which must follow in the wake of disunion--then, conscious of having discharged our duty to our country--to the memory of the past and the hopes of the future,--we can calmly, and like men sustained in the right, proudly throw the responsibility where it properly belongs. We have no hosannahs to shout to the Union, nor do we mean to be driven to an extreme under the influence of the siren song for Southern rights, as understood by the Cotton States. We will never consent that South Carolina and Alabama shall arrange the programme by which the border States must leave the Union. If there can be no adjustment under the plan suggested by Gov. Letcher, still we are opposed to a Southern Convention. In that event, we shall favor a border State Convention. We have no idea of being "hitched" to the Cotton States upon just such terms as they may prescribe. We shall advocate a Convention of the Border States, and urge that they lay down the terms upon which they are willing to go into a Southern Confederacy--especially stipulating against the re-opening of the African Slave trade, and all "entangling alliances" with foreign powers.
But we are well convinced that a Convention of all the States of the Union, where we could meet the North face to face, and discuss the questions at issue, would be prolific of good, and quite probably remove all just cause of embittered feeling and sectional excitement and crimination.
We trust the press of the State will freely discuss the policy of the two suggestions--a National and a Southern Convention--give healthy direction to the popular mind, and thus enable our legislators, in January next, to reflect in their action the sentiments of their constituents. We are satisfied that it only requires the thoughts of the people to be brought to bear upon the idea, and they will, without division, discard, as unworthy the magnitude of the occasion, the contracted and fanatical idea of a Southern Convention, until at least the more rational remedies for the ills we bear have been exhausted.