New York Herald, “The Meeting of Congress,” November 28, 1860

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    "The Meeting of Congress - Union Programme of Southern Conservatives," New York Herald, November 28, 1860, p. 4: 2-3.
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    New York Herald
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    The Meeting of Congress- Union Programme of Southern Conservatives
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    Leah Suhrstedt, Dickinson College
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    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

    The Meeting of Congress- Union Programme of Southern Conservatives.

    We are informed, through our telegraphic advices from Washington, that with the meeting of Congress a conference of the Southern conservative members thereof will be held, for the purpose of devising, if possible, some new, comprehensive and satisfactory compromise for the preservation of the Union and the restoration of harmony between the North and the South.

    Every patriotic citizen will approve this undertaking.  It originates in the right quarter.  It will represent the great conservative body of the people of the South, and especially of the border slave States, whose grievances against their Northern anti-slavery brethren are positive, oppressive and substantial.  The Cotton States, in reality, suffer directly very little from our Northern Job Brown invasions, abolition emissaries, underground railroads, Jerry rescue mobs, and the anti-Fugitive Slave law Personal Liberty bills of Northern Legislatures; but these things operate immensely to the demoralization of the slaves, the depreciation of slave property, and to render life and society insecure and subject to constant alarms and dangers, and at any time liable to bloody disturbances.  In the single item of the escape of slaves, via the underground railroad, Governor Magoffin, of Kentucky, puts down the losses of the people of that State as amounting to not less than $200,000 per annum.

    The conservative representatives in Congress, therefore, from the border slave States, whose interests, Union or disunion, are and must be more immediately affected, for good or for evil, than any other portion of the South, may properly undertake this important duty of arbitration between the two sections for the maintenance of the Union.  Of course the proposed conference will comprehend the Union members from every quarter of the South in which a member of this class may remain; but the right, we say, of initializing a compromise will understand, also, that Northern conservative members will be admitted to a participation in this proposed conference, and that when matured, the propositions of compromise resulting from their joint deliberations will be laid before the two houses. 

    Such, as represented to us, is the programme contemplated in behalf of the conservative elements of Congress to arrest these revolutionary Southern movements which threaten to destroy the Union, with the grand entrée of Abraham Lincoln into the White House.  These questions then recur:- First, what are the grievances of the South against the North?  And, secondly, what measures of atonement will suffice to arrest the Cotton States from the revolutionary act of secession?  The Southern States justly complain that the constitution of the United States, and the laws of Congress passed under it for the recovery of fugitive slaves, are outrageously trampled under foot and that obedience to them, in many of the Northern States, is rendered a civil and criminal offence by State legislation.  Our Southern brethren also complain that in every shape and form, by abolition mobs, conspiracies, emissaries and agents, slaves are spirited away, not only from the officers of the law in the free States, but from the farms or plantations of their masters in the slave States, and that all these offenders and offences against the constitution are directly or indirectly encouraged by the local authorities of the Northern States.

    These are among the grievances of the South, and there can henceforth be no peace between the two sections until they are remedied.  But suppose that every State of the North should by New Year’s day repeal all these offensive local laws, and provide for the fullest enforcement of the Fugitive Slave act; for the most stringent pains and penalties against abolition emissaries and agents intermeddling in any way to the prejudice of slave property, and for full compensation to the master for every fugitive or kidnapped slave escaping through any free State to Canada, would that suffice to save the Union?  Perhaps not; but let the Northern States be brought to these concessions, and they will be in a proper frame of mind to do something more.

    The first thing demanded is the absolute suspension of Mr. Seward’s “irrepressible conflict,” and the recognition by the North of the rights of our Southern slaveholders to their slave property, wherever it may be found within the limits of the Union.  That point conceded by each of the Northern States, even Massachusetts will be ready for the next proposition, which is that the Southern States, in behalf of their institution of slavery, are entitled to such additional checks and balances in the general government as may be necessary to render them hereafter secure against Northern anti-slavery parties and popular majorities.  This proposition will, of course, comprehend a reconstruction of the organic law of the Union, and a new constitutional convention of all the States to do this important work.  It is probably, too, that this very proposition may emanate from this approaching Congressional conference, and it may be suggested in the President’s annual message.

    To carry any proposition of this story through Congress, some assistance will be needed from the republican members.  But can we expect any such co-operation from the republican party in Congress?  We cannot say; but we know that this party must prepare at once to co-operate with the conservatives of the North and the South to maintain the Union, or that it will be destroyed with the disrupture of the Union.  The party, in brief, which has reached the election of a President upon its “one idea” of the abolition of Southern slavery, must abandon the destructive idea before the 4th of march, or the inauguration of “Honest Abe Lincoln” may prove to his devoted followers only “a mockery, a delusion and a mare,” barren of spoils and plunder to expectant lobby jobbers, and fruitful only of the terrible elements of revolution.

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