Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- February 04, 1861The Conference of State Commissioners at Washington (Editorial)
In another column we are publishing the resolutions by which the Illinois Legislature has limited the authority of the Commissioners invited by Virginia to attend a conference at Washington to deliberate on a peaceful settlement of the present difficulties. Similar resolutions were passed by the legislatures of Ohio, Indiana, and New York. They all declare that by sending delegates to the Conference they do not obligate themselves to negotiate on the basis suggested in the invitation; they also accord the delegates only conditional authority, reserving their approval and the right to give the delegates further instructions before they may indorse any action of the Conference. The Indiana resolutions expressly provide that no action of the Conference shall be binding on the state of Indiana unless nineteen states are represented, and that the Conference must recess 2until all states have had opportunity to take action on the invitation.
The granting of only conditional power and the reservations referred to clearly indicate that the Republican legislatures were very reluctant to take the degrading step of acceding to the wish of a state like Virginia, which declares with remarkable calmness and insolence that the Crittenden Compromise is a good basis on which the controversy may be settled.
In our last issue we described the dangers connected with sending a deputation to an extra-constitutional convention. Even the information that Illinois sent only Republican delegates, and Ohio all Republican delegates with the exception of one, cannot allay our anxiety.
There are only two possibilities. One is that this Conference will adopt a sort of Crittenden Compromise and insist that Congress embody it into the 3Constitution, which would require that two thirds of our congressmen and three fourths of the state legislatures favor the procedure.
In this case, demoralization, not only of the Republican Party, but also of the whole country, would be the inevitable result. That would be too high a price to pay for freedom. A compromise of this sort would buy the right to continue the Government, and would rob the Government of its internal stability as well as of the honor and dignity it has in the sight of the world in general. And what would be gained thereby? We would have several very unreliable boundary-slave states in the Union, and their loyalty would endure only as long as they were satisfied with the concessions granted in the compromise. If the Government of the Union can be maintained only under permission of a threatening minority and by submitting to the demands of that minority, the Union is not worth preserving.
The other alternative (and we hope they choose it) is that the Washington 4Conference will not accept a compromise. And what will be the result? Rejection of Virginia's ultimatum will become a means whereby the Virginia Disunionists, Wise, Floyd Hunter, etc., will incite the masses in Virginia and throughout the South to seize all forts and make an attack upon Washington. The plan of Floyd, Cobb, and others--to take possession of the Federal Government and to proclaim from the steps of the capital a Southern Government to be the de facto government--was revealed when Major Anderson took Fort Sumter and the traitors resigned from Buchanan's cabinet; but the plan was not cast aside. At present Governor Wise is quiet, but he will spring forth suddenly, like a tiger when it rushes upon its prey; for even small communities in East Virginia have invested thousands of dollars in weapons and munitions. In the meantime, Washington only has about six or seven hundred soldiers under General Scott to defend itself.
The Cincinnati Press gives the following description of the danger arising from the situtaion:5
"The Commissioners from the free states will be harassed in the convention on February 4; sessions will be held in the shadow of a revolution which may break out at any moment in the boundary states and spread throughout the entire South. Deliberations will go on amid fear and panic. The delegates come at the call of Virginia, and strictly speaking, the invitation makes attendance conditional upon accession to certain demands.
"If the delegates from the free states submit to the conditions, then it will be demanded that their legislatures immediately acknowledge that these conditions are amendments to the Constitution, under the pretext that immediate action is necessary to save the Union. If they refuse, the northern Democrats will call constitutional conventions which will approve of the amendments, whether the legislatures consent or not. According to their calculations, the secession panic will leave the people no time to consider what the concessions granted really imply; they expect to force the concessions under some well-sounding name, like Missouri Compromise.6
"The better informed among the Secessionists do not intend to subdue the northern delegates; they will make the demands of the South as humiliating as possible, in order to prevent their acceptance; and their plan to scare the northeners into taking any course to preserve the Union will be so arranged that everything will occur before February 13, when Congress meets to count the presidential votes and to proclaim the result of the election.
"As soon as the Commissioners refuse to accede to the requested conditions, telegrams will be sent to the entire South, informing the people that the North has refused to make any compromise, and therefore is to blame for the inevitable conflict, the purpose of which is to crush the South. The people of the South will be told that the only means of saving the South, the Constitution, and the Union, will lie in the immediate secession of all the slave states, after which they must take possession of the Capitol and the Government, and denounce as rebels the inhabitants of all the free states. And though the movement may not be begun by force, since General Scott has made 7preparations to meet these eventualities, still, as soon as the Northern delegates refuse to accept the required conditions, the boundary states will recall their delegates from Congress and leave that body without the quorum necessary to do business and proclaim the election of Lincoln.
"Preparations to this end have already been made; so many fighting forces have been assembled in Virginia, Maryland, and their neighboring states, that any resistance by the few troops of General Scott would merely involve the useless destruction of life and property. That is the program which our Illinois Legislature is helping carry out, and which is disguised as 'conservatism which changes partisans into patriots, and meets the patriotic Unionists of the South in the patriotic spirit of reconciliation! In the drama of secession this 'conservatism' plays the same role that Yancy's secret societies played in the cotton states, and later in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and Maryland. They plunged the cotton states into a revolution, and now the northern states are being used to plunge the 8boundary-slave states into a revolution."
We wish that we and the Cincinnati Press were in error, but we cannot conceal our fear that even the Republicans are not aware of the grave danger which may suddenly strike our country unless measures other than holding peace conferences with semi-rebels are taken to defend Washington.
I J, I G
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