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Letter from Hon. S. A. Douglas.


January/February 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, February 8, 1861.


The following letter has been addressed by Judge Douglas to the editors of the Memphis Appeal:

WASHINGTON CITY, February 3, 1861.

MESSRS. EDITORS:  I have this moment read with amazement an editorial in your paper of the 30th ult., in which you assume that I am favoring the immediate withdrawal of the remaining States from the Confederacy [In this context, before the official creation of the Confederate States of America on February 8, 1861, Douglas means the Union.], as a peace measure, to avert the horrors of civil war, and with the view of reconstruction on a constitutional basis.

I implore you, by all those kind relations which have so long existed between us, and which I still cherish with so much pleasure and gratitude, to do me the justice promptly to correct the unaccountable error into which you have been led in regard to secession, whether viewed as a governmental theory or as a matter of political expediency, I have never had but one opinion nor uttered but one language, that of unqualified opposition.

Nothing can be so fatal to the peace of the country, so destructive of the honor and of all hopes of reconstruction, as the secession of Tennessee and the border States under existing circumstances.

You must remember that there are disunionists among the party leaders at the North as well as at the South—men whose hostility to slavery is stronger than their fidelity to the Constitution, and who believe that the disruption of the Union would draw after it, as an inevitable consequence, civil war, servile insurrection, and finally the utter extermination of slavery in all the Southern States.

They are bold, daring, determined men, and, believing, as they do, that the Constitution of the United States is the great bulwark of slavery on this continent, and that the disruption of the American Union involves the inevitable destruction of slavery, and is an indispensable necessity to the attainment of that end, they are determined to accomplish their paramount object by any means within their power.

For these reasons the Northern disunionists, like the disunionists of the South, are violently opposed to all compromises on constitutional amendments, or efforts at conciliation, whereby peace could be restored, and the Union preserved.

They are striving to break up the Union under pretense of unbounded devotion to it.  They are struggling to overthrow the Constitution while professing undying attachment to it, and a willingness to make any sacrifice to maintain it.  They are trying to plunge the country into civil war, as the actual means of destroying the Union, upon the plan of enforcing the laws and protecting public property.

If they can defeat any kind of adjustment or compromise, by which the points of issue may be satisfactorily settled, and keep up the irritation so as to induce the border States to follow the cotton States, they will be certain of the accomplishment of their ultimate designs.

Nothing will gratify them so much, or contribute so effectually to their success, as the secession of Tennessee and the border States.  Every State that withdraws from the Union increases the relative power of Northern Abolitionists to defeat a satisfactory adjustment, and to bring the war, which, sooner or later, must end in final separation, and recognition of the independence of the two contending sections.

If, on the contrary, Tennessee, North Carolina, and the border States, will remain in the Union, they will unite with the conservative and Union loving of all parties in the North, in the adoption of such a compromise as will be alike honorable, safe and just to the people of all the States, peace and fraternal feeling will soon return, and the cotton States come back, and the Union be rendered perpetual.

Pardon the repetition, for it cannot be too strongly impressed upon all who love our country that secession and war will be destructive not only of the present Union, but will blast all hope of reconstruction upon a Constitutional basis.  I trust you will do me the justice to publish this note in your next issue.

I am, very truly, your friend,