Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- January 08, 1861The Union Meeting in Bryan Hall (Editorial)
Many Republicans believed that a demonstration should be held for the Union and for the enforcement of the law, and in order to make this demonstration very impressive, they called all Chicago citizens, irrespective of party affiliation, to a meeting at Bryan Hall. The proposed resolutions were to be presented to the world as the sentiments of all the people in Chicago. There was nothing objectionable about that. However, the Republicans committed the error of making concessions to the Democrats in the interest of unity. Of course the Committee on Resolutions would not admit this, but the statement made by Democratic Chairman S. S. Hayes shortly before the vote was taken, to the effect that the words "great concessions" must be retained if he and the other Democrats were to approve of the resolutions, proves conclusively that the objectionable expression was merely to serve as a loophole by which the Democrats intended to evade "enforcing the law at any price, and 2by the entire power of the nation".
We admit that the words of the last resolution to the effect that the men of all political parties in both sections of the country should be ready to make great concessions in order to restore harmony between the various sections of the country are, to say the least, ambiguous, and can easily be misinterpreted.
J. N. Arnold, who was elected a member of Congress from this district, took note of the strong Republican opposition to the above passage, and he advised that the objectionable part be omitted.
However, he was not insistent enough, and the President was careful not to regard Mr. Arnold's advice as an amendment, or to inquire whether this advice was meant to be an attempt to improve upon the report of the Committee.
The result was that the desired unanimity was not attained, and that the report of the Committee was adopted by a small majority. There is some doubt 3that a majority really voted in favor of adoption, but the President insisted upon exercising his authority and declared that the proposed resolutions had been accepted.
The report of the Committee was written by C. C. Learned, a well-known Republican, and it was good in every respect except that it was too long. But in Learned's original draft it was provided that only such concessions should be made which did not involve the sacrifice of a principle. The Committee did not think that these last words were definite enough, and they were deleted; but this deletion merely served to make the resolution in question even more indefinite, and a contradiction was inserted into the otherwise definte wording. Thus, by attempting to be fair, by trying to please the Democrats and obtain their approval, the votes of the true Republican were lost. Through the attempt to "cover the whole ground" the mistake of saying too much and of including opposite opinions was made, and thus the effect was weakened. Everyone will adhere to the resolutions which he favors, and while the Republicans may justly point to the definite language of most the resolutions, the Democrats 4will cling to the expression "great concessions," and will justify their reluctance to approve "the enforcement of the law" by saying that the Republicans are too slow in making "great concessions".
We believe that those present at this meeting who advocated a more definite wording of the resolution in question would have won, if Forrest had not permitted the "hand of Wentworth to be visible," and thus changed the whole matter into a fight between various factions to make political capital.
The proposals of Forrest, Bradely, and Swift could have been a bit more moderate and should have included "the exhaustion of peaceful means".
The conduct of the President obstructed the endeavors of those who advocated the insertion of the above phrase. His introduction of the proposals was correct from the viewpoint of parliamentary law, it is true, but the majority of those who were present at the meeting did not always understand the import of the proposals; and finally, he permitted men like "Edgar" and the 5Kentuckian, Waller, to speak, although the public voiced strenuous opposition. Only a few supported Waller's recommendations, which included the Crittenden Compromise.
Thus much time was lost, and at eleven o'clock the crowd demanded that the vote be taken, although the resolutions had not been thoroughly discussed, and, accordingly, were not fully understood.
In general, it is difficult to conduct these meetings" without respect to party," and, generally, the results are not satisfactory. This is evident from the so-called "currency meeting". The party system has made people one-sided. They are so accustomed to being led by publications and speakers that they attend the meetings somewhat like nonparticipating spectators, and do such little thinking that they are not able to make independent decisions. They take their directions from "prominent persons," vote for those whom they like personally, and are offended by the opinions of the opposing party. This is less true of Republicans than of Democrats, and we even admit that the leading 6Republicans of the Committee were well aware of the danger to which they were exposing themselves by being too obliging to the Democrats. But they were bent on a unanimous decision for Chicago, and in their zeal to insure it, they went too far. We are convinced that they could have attained unanimity without the insertion of the expression "great concessions".
Finally, it must be observed that the local organs of Democracy, the German as well as the American, do not regard themselves or their party as bound by the adopted resolutions, and, as the Times points out, the majority of the members of the Democratic party refused to participate because they looked upon the meeting as a means of trapping the Democrats. Thus the Republican Committee members who yearned for unanimity wasted their endeavors and their "concessions" upon ingrates, and are offended because the uncompromising Republicans accuse them of being "poor diplomats," while the Democratic newspapers are happy on account of the victory of the "Conservatives" in the Republican party. Of course there is really no reason for their joy, but during trying times like the present even appearances are sufficient to 7decrease the effect of otherwise definite resolutions.
Saturday's meeting was a failure because it was poorly organized and because the "great concessions" resolution was passed. Anyone who wishes to rejoice may do so in view of the fact that the Democrats indorsed resolutions to preserve the Union and enforce the laws, but we did not think that Northern Democrats would be so low as to side openly with the Rebels. The point in question was the declaration of the Republicans that they would abide by their previous stand, and that although they were willing to exercise patience, they could not relinquish any of their principles, since all arguments had been exhausted during the presidential campaign, and the verdict of the people had placed the stamp of approval and authority upon the Republican interpretation of the Constitution.
Since a meeting of German Republicans will be held this evening at the German House, and since they will express their opinion, we consider it unnecessary to repeat either the long resolutions of the Committee or the brief proposals 8of Bradely, Forrest, and Swift. The difference between the two is simply this: The proposals of Bradely, Forrest, and Swift are opposed to any compromise or concessions, while the adopted resolutions refer at least to "great concessions," even though the Committee gave assurances that only such "concessions" were meant which would not involve the relinquishment of a principle. In these turbulent times ambiguity is the death of effectiveness.
I G, I J
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