Washington (DC) National Era, “Virginia and the South,” October 22, 1857

    Source citation
    “Virginia and the South – Unjust Imputation,” Washington (DC) National Era, October 22, 1857, p. 172: 2-3.
    Original source
    Richmond (VA) South
    Newspaper: Publication
    Washington National Era
    Newspaper: Headline
    Virginia and the South – Unjust Imputation
    Newspaper: Page(s)
    Newspaper: Column
    Date Certainty
    Don Sailer, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as true to the original written document as possible. Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

    From the Richmond (Va.) South, of October 9.


    It is the apparent unanimity and resolute sprit of the South which deters its enemies from measures of the most violent aggression upon Slavery. It is from the assurance of perfect fidelity among our own people that we derive the strength and the courage to repel the assaults of our adversaries. Obviously, then, no citizen of the South should be suspected of infidelity to interests, except upon the plainest proof of his treachery. The moment we begin to distrust one another, courage will give place to despair, harmony in council will be succeeded by discord and dissension, and the effect of united and vigorous effort will be intercepted by indifference and timidity. The same cause which paralyzes the energies of the South will impart confidence and enterprise to the exertions of the Abolitionists, and the instant they detect the signs of division in our ranks, they will precipitate themselves upon us with irresistible violence. The result is evident to the least-enlightened understanding. Everybody appreciates the importance of maintaining the appearance as well as the reality of confidence and courage among the champions of the South.

    So much the greater is our surprise, therefore, when a journal, with the intelligent views of public policy which distinguish the New Orleans Delta, employs itself in propagating a suspicion of Virginia’s loyalty to the rights of the South! If the fact were true, we should lament it in silence, instead of making it the subject of public exposure and ostentatious invective. Virginia is the frontier State of the South, and, in virtue of its geographical situation, must bear the brunt of Anti-Slavery encroachment. It is the largest and oldest of the Southern Commonwealths, and, by reason of its positive power and the prestige of glorious tradition, is allowed an undisputed ascendancy among the slaveholding States. The fact–if it were a fact–of the defection of this great bulwark of the South, would be too terrible a truth to confess to ourselves, much more to proclaim to our enemies. It is not a fact; and the Delta, in entertaining such a suspicion, is unjust at once to its own intelligence and to the people of this State.

    When the Delta announces, with real solemnity of utterance, that “the Virginia Democracy is being abolitionized,” and that “the great wave of Northern fanaticism has rolled over the border into the centre of the State”–when smitten with prophetic frenzy, our contemporary cries out that “at no distant day Virginia may lead the van of Free Soilism”–when a journal of conspicuous ability and patriotism proclaims these startling conclusions, the inference is irresistible, that they stand upon some more solid ground than unwarrantable assumption and hazardous conjecture. For the relief a panic stricken public, we have the satisfaction to announce that the Delta’s dismal vaticinations are neither the outgivings of prophetic inspiration nor the well grounded result of logical deduction, but are rather the precipitate and unsubstantial conclusions of a genius addicted to paradox, and impatient of the slow process of accurate argumentation. We are happy to inform the people of the South that the Delta justifies its impeachment of the loyalty of Virginia by a statement of facts, which, if true, would not sustain its charges, and which, being incorrect in some essential circumstances, leaves its accusation without a particle of proof. Here is the Delta’s testimony, reproduced in its own words:

    “Who would have dreamed, but a few brief years ago, that this district, (the Tenth Legion,) the stronghold of the Democratic party of Virginia a party which, prior to the elevation of Buchanan to the Presidency, stood firmly by the South in its great issue with the Abolitionists–would today contain a single journal that would dare to make open proclamation that it ‘does not believe Slavery to be a source of political and moral good.’ And yet such is the fact.

    “The Rockingham (Va.) Register, one of the oldest of the Democratic papers of the State, and the organ and representative of the Tenth Legion, in the midst of a slaveholding population, recently proclaimed this sentiment, and its editor stands boldly by it, with visor up and glove thrown down.

    “The Fincastle (Va.) Democrat and the Lewisburgh Chronicle are discussing the subject. In a late number of the Chronicle, the Democrat is charged with being ‘wanting in the sympathy with the peculiar institution of the South.’ Addressing the editor of the obnoxious paper, it says: ‘Your want of Southern tone–your evident sympathy for the negro, and pleasantry at Southern sentiment–led us to believe that you were insidiously sapping and mining, and preparing the minds of your readers bolder sentiments from you, at some future day.”

    Now, what if all this were literally true, would the Delta’s indictment against Virginia be established by a sufficiency of relevant testimony? From the fact that an editor of a village paper will not acknowledge “Slavery to be a source of political and moral good,” does it follow that “the Virginia Democracy is being abolitionized, and that the great wave of Northern fanaticism has rolled over the border into the centre of Virginia?” Or, because another editor of another village paper is “wanting in sympathy with the peculiar institution,” is it logical to infer that “at no distant day, Virginia will lead the van of Free-Soilism?” We dare say few people will admit in either case that the premises justify the conclusion. During the canvass of 1856, a paper, published somewhere in the interior of Louisiana, openly avowed itself indifferent to Fremont’s election; yet nobody in Virginia was so rash as to conclude that the Delta’s State was going to turn traitor to the South.

    But the Delta’s statement is just neither to the Fincastle Democrat nor the Rockingham Register. The sentiment imputed to the Democrat is simply the accusation of an adversary, and is indignantly repudiated by the editor, who vehemently protests his devotion to the South. The words produced from the columns of the Register were employed in a connection which materially affected their sense; but the editor, whom we know to be a loyal citizen of the South, has since explained his position to the satisfaction of every impartial person.

    The Delta is less indulgent than the criminal code, which will allow no man to be convicted of treason, but upon the evidence of two witnesses to the same overt act. Our contemporary would attaint the Old Dominion of treachery to the South–would tarnish her spotless honor, and confiscate all her inheritance of glory, because a couple of editors are reported to have spoken words of suspicious ambiguity. We entreat our contemporary to recall his precipitate judgment. We assure him Virginia is obnoxious to no charge of disaffection to the interests of the South. She may be less ostentatious in her professions of patriotism than some other States; less demonstrative of concern for the rights of the South, less susceptible of affront, and less liable to panic; but for all that, she is the Bulwark of Slavery! If, because of her unwieldy weight, she wants something of the mobility of smaller associates, the effect of her ponderous blows is but the more overwhelming. The temperament of her people lacks the fiery ardor of a nativity farther South, and for that they may betray some reluctance to precipitate extreme measures. But they are not the less obstinately tenacious of the conviction that Slavery is a good and beneficent institution, nor less firm in upholding its constitutional guarantees. And what is true of Virginians in the east, is true of Virginians beyond the mountains. A few traitors may lurk in some remote corner of the State, but the great body of our people are sound to the heart. Never was the popular sentiment of Virginia so unanimous and so thorough in support of Slavery. Did the Delta not see it in the struggle of 1856, when Virginia led the van, not of Free-Soilism, but of Secession, and when the people of the West stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of the East in the resolution to resist Fremont’s election “to the last extremity?” We beseech the Delta not to mistake the false notes of a few equivocal journals for the genuine voice of Virginia. That will be heard when the time for action comes, not sounding an ignominious retreat, but rallying the South to the defense of its rights.

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