Letter from August Belmont to William Sprague, December 6, 1860, Letters, Speeches and Addresses of August Belmont, Privately published, 1890, p. 236.
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.
New-York, December 6, 1860.
My Dear Sir: The deep solicitude which the events in the South must call forth in the breast of every American citizen induces me to address you these lines.
The secession of South Carolina, which must be looked upon now as an accomplished fact, will inevitably very soon be followed by the secession of all the cotton States, and a consequent dissolution of the whole confederacy, unless prompt and energetic measures are taken by the leading men of the North in order to prevent this fearful calamity.
Even the most fervent adherents of the Union in the border States despair of the possibility of maintaining their States within the Union, unless the just grievances of the South are remedied by early and prompt action.
At this moment the patriotic men in the Gulf States are using every effort in order to bring about a joint convention. In this they are violently opposed by the disunionists, who are for immediate and separate action. The latter are undoubtedly in the ascendancy, and unless some action is at once taken at the North which will strengthen the hands of our friends, no earthly power can save the Union.
If the programme of the coöperation men, composed of the Bell and Douglas leaders, succeeds, then South Carolina would, for the present, be the only State which actually secedes. The other Gulf States would declare in this convention the conditions upon which they can remain in the Union, and if these cannot be obtained from the conservative spirit of the North, they will follow South Carolina on the 4th of March next.
These conditions are:
First. The repeal of the unconstitutional personal-liberty bills by those States which have passed them.
Second. The acknowledgment of the equal rights of the South in the Territories.
My own impression is that if, by the spontaneous action of the Legislatures of even a portion of the Northern States, in repealing these objectionable laws, a spirit of returning justice were evinced, the question of the Territories might be settled by a compromise, to be embodied in the Constitution, based upon the old Missouri line, to be extended to the Pacific.
You are in the proud and enviable position to lead this movement, which alone can save our beloved republic from utter ruin and desolation.
The good old State of Rhode Island has been ever foremost in her loyalty and attachment to the Union, and she will, under your guidance, lead her sister States of New England to that path of fraternal equity toward the South, which can alone restore peace and harmony to our distracted country.
If your Legislature would, at your recommendation, efface from the statute-book of the State the objectionable personal-liberty bill, her example would soon be followed by all the other States, and this spontaneous act of justice would, I have little doubt, induce Congress to amend the fugitive slave bill, so as to take from it what is now looked upon by many people of the North as revolting to their feelings.
Prompt and efficient action is, however, indispensable; any delay is fatal in the present state of feeling at the South. My humble suggestion to you would be to convene your Legislature at as early a day as practicable. You have it now in your power to earn for yourself the eternal gratitude of every American heart, and a name in the annals of your country more imperishable than that of the proudest conqueror.
I have to crave your pardon for the liberty which I have taken in addressing you these respectful suggestions. The vital importance of the case must plead as my excuse.