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.