Secession Era Editorials Project

HARPER'S FERRY OUTBREAK -- IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES

Raleigh, North Carolina, Register [Opposition]

(2 November 1859)

From our paper of to-day our readers will see that Brown's foray upon Harper's Ferry is assuming a more important and interesting type than it presented at first, inasmuch as correspondence brought to light, implicates some very prominent men at the North, as accessories to Brown's designs, although, he may have acted prematurely in carrying, or attempting to carry, them into execution. -- These disclosures are "startling" indeed, and show a settled determination on the part of the abolitionists to leave no means untried to deprive the South of its slave property, and to let no cost of blood stand in the way of the attempt. As long as such men as Garrison, Phillips, & Co., raved, ranted and blasphemed, and did nothing else, conservative men might afford to look on in anger, sorrow or contempt as the mood prompted them, but when we see Senators of the United States, listening calmly to, and by silence acquiescing in cool and deliberate plans for making actual war upon half of the Union, the subject becomes vastly more grave and important, than any which has been submitted to the consideration of the people of the South and the Union, since the foundation of the government.

We are told that the people of the North by a vast majority hold the late invasion of the South in unmitigated abhorrence. We hope they do. Certainly the tone of the press of the North would warrant us in believing that such is the state of opinion in that section. But, we would ask, why has not the suggestion of the Boston Courier been acted upon? Why have not public meetings in the cities and towns of the North, been held to give expression to the conservative feeling of that portion of the Union, and their utter abhorrence of Brown's, and all similar modes, of interfering with the rights and property of of the South? They have in their midst rich and powerful men, who are known to have aided and abetted in Brown's outrage, but who perhaps cannot be reached by that law which they have outraged. Should not the conservative neighbors of these men, enforce upon them the law of public opinion at their own homes, and brand them as the incendiary and diabolical miscreants they have proved to be? We know not what others may think about it, but villainously bad as Old Brown is, and dangerous as he has proved to be, we cannot help entertaining for him a quasi respect, when we compare him with Gerrit Smith, Horace Greeley and Wm. H.. Seward. Brown, although in the worst of classes, has displayed pluck and manhood, while Smith, Greeley and Seward", have played the part of sneaking, cowardly miscreants, who would send forward others to do for them deeds of treason, blood and murder, which they have feared to undertake themselves.

As it regards Seward, we do not hesitate to say that it can be proved that he knew of this conspiracy against the lives and property of the citizens of one of the States of this Union -- that the plot was unfolded to him, and he, either by his silence, or by the words attributed to him, acquiesced in it -- he should be at once expelled from the Senate of the United States, as wholly unworthy of a seat in that body, and to be the associate of honorable men. He will have forfeited his oath to support the Constitution of the United States, and proved himself to be a conspirator against the government of the country. As long as Seward talked about his "higher law," and was content to merely talk about it, he might safely be visited by the mere contempt of honorable men, but when he becomes the associate of conspirators -- when he lends his influence to plots of treason, by silently acquiescing in them, his presence in the Senate chamber becomes intolerable, and he should be driven from it in ignominy and disgrace. Nor would any "higher law" be called into requisition by this eviction of Seward from the Senate. The Senate, or any other legislative body, has the right to expel from its midst any member who may be guilty of an infamous offence. The offence of cheating at cards, committed by a member of the House of Commons of this State, was, some years ago, punished by the expulsion of the offending member from that body. Subsequently a member of the Senate of this State was expelled on what was believed to be a well-grounded charge that he had committed forgery. Infamous as both these offenses are, they sink into insignificance, when compared with a connivance at a plot of blood, murder and treason, and the more especially in the case of Seward, when it is remembered that his course in the Senate and out of it, (at Rochester for instance) was well calculated, if not designed, to incite the treasonable plot, and conspiracy at which by his silence, or worse than silence, he connived. If Forbes tells the truth -- if after his plans were unfolded to Seward, the latter "expressed regret that he had been told, and said that he, in his position, ought not to have been informed of the circumstances," Seward's course wears a double aspect of infamy. -- First, it shows his consciousness that his "position" as a Senator of the United States demanded a prompt discountenance and denunciation of the treasonable scheme, and second, it conveys a caution to Forbes not to trust his plans to others occupying a similar "position," and whose consciences might not be as convenient as his own. It matters not that Brown's exploded plot was not Forbes', It matters not that Forbes discountenanced Brown's mode of operations. He did so because he believed his own plan -- the plan submitted to Seward -- was more efficient than that of Brown. Forbes' plan was by force of arms to stampede, or run off parties of slaves from the frontier States, and thus continually drive slavery inwards, until it was finally extirpated at the centre, and to this plan, according to Forbes, Seward either did not object, or by his language consented.

Commenting on the disclosures of Forbes, the New York Times makes the following remarks:

These revelations of Col. Forbes will increase the anxiety and indignation of both sections of the country. They prove that there are Abolitionists among us fully capable of organizing a military crusade, and of stirring up a servile insurrection in the Southern States -- though they do not give us any very alarming notion of the numbers or the resources of these men. Brown and Forbes, the one a fanatic and the other an Englishman, were the only two men of any military experience whom they could enlist, and their military chest seems to have been insufficient to keep them both in the service. But they show -- what is more important -- that some among our eminent public men have felt constrained by their party relations to palter with virtual treason and to wink at insane sedition. They failed to expose and denounce these plots when brought to their knowledge, lest such exposure should cost them votes. The calculation will prove to have been eroneous. The conservative spirit of the people will punish their default much more severely than the plotters of sedition could have punished their open hostility. The virtue of patriotism has not yet succumbed to the violence of fanaticism; and public men will never find it safe to wink at schemes which menace the peace of the country and the integrity of the Union.


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