For What Are We Contending?

From the Charleston Mercury, Saturday, April 20, 1861

For more than thirty years the people of South Carolina have been contending
against the consolidation of the Government of the United States.
Created a Confederation of Republics whose central power, authority,
and jurisdiction, were carefully limited by the compact of the Constitution,
and made conformable to, and within its proper limits, co-ordinate
with the original and reserved powers, authority and jurisdiction
of the several States which it was composed, the United States Government
has steadily usurped powers not granted–progressively trenched
upon States Rights. Not a bald, irresponsible, unchecked, vulgar
democracy of mere numbers, was organized by the instrument of the
Federation between the States; but a well adjusted, duplicate system
harmonious and complimentary–the central common Government performing
its allotted functions within its prescribed sphere, and each State
Government performing all other functions of Government not expressly
yielded to the other. If that Government became practically omnipotent,
it was clear that it must be a most fearful despotism–a despotism
of one section of the Union over the other–a despotism of Manufacturing
over Agricultural States–of Free States over Slaveholding States.
Earnestly and faithfully have our public men at Washington contended
against this fatal consummation. It was not for free trade only
in 1833–it was not against antislavery fanaticism only in 1852,
it is not now against our preclusion from our Territories or the
vulgar crew who fill the high places at Washington, that we have
set up for ourselves a separate destiny. These are all effects of
one great cause–the consolidation of the Federal Government. As
facts, we have been obliged to meet them–but the facts themselves
were comparatively insignificant. They were like the ship money
which Hampton refused to pay–like the three pence a pound on tea,
which our fathers resisted. They proved to us that we were the slaves
of a consolidated despotism–that self government, and the security
which self government alone can impart–and liberty, and the priceless
self-esteem and proud repose, which liberty can only inspire–were
no longer our inheritance or possession. It was in vain that South
Carolina endeavored to prove that this despotism existed. We had
the forms of a free representative government. There was a party
in the Northern States professing those principles of limitation
and restriction, which might yet be restored to ascendancy in the
government, and make it again a free government. There was a deep
reverence and attachment to the Union, which blinded the understanding
of some of the brightest intelligences of the South. These all conspired
to carry the South on in the chains of a sectional despotism, which
looked, in its final consummation, to nothing short of our absolute
subjugation and ruin. South Carolina, by her secession, forced the
test of the nature of the government under which we lived. It has
proved itself. As one scale of hypocrisy after another fell off
of its poisonous surface, it stood forth a pure, fierce monster
of despotism. The National Intelligencer, of Washington, for forty
years the central organ of Consolidation, identifies its policy
with the New York Tribune. BLAIR, the mouth-piece of JACKSON Democracy
in 1833, and JOHNSON, of Tennessee, its modern prototype, and DOUGLAS
and BUCHANAN, now join with LINCOLN and CHASE and SEWARD in the
grand effort to establish, by the sword, what has long existed as
a policy–the despotism of a consolidated government under the Constitution
of the United States. The matter is now plain. State after State
in the South sees the deadly development, and are moving to take
their part in the grand effort to redeem their liberties. It is
not a contest for righteous taxation. It is not a contest for the
security of slave property. It is a contest for freedom and free
government, in which everything dear to man is involved. Shall we
submit to the sectional and remorseless despotism of a majority
of the Northern States, with no restraints on their lawless will,
no checks on their omnivorous rapacity? That is the question. Every
man, every boy in the South answers NO! And they will fight the
foul usurpers and tyrants, if they dare the issue of war, as long
as the streams run and the sun shines on our vallies.