Secession Era Editorials Project

.The Feeling in the South.

Richmond, Virginia, Enquirer [Democratic]

(2 March 1854)

Northern journals betray a gross misrepresentation of the temper of the public mind of the South, when they assume that we are indifferent to the issue of the Nebraska controversy. An absence of popular demonstrations of excitement must not be taken as evidence of a want of interest or apathy of feeling. The unstable and excitable temper of the Northern populace is such that they rush, from the most trivial cause, into the widest excesses of passion; but the dignity and gravity of the Southern character do not consist with these violent explosions of feeling. Any body and any occasion can fill Faneuil Hall or the Metropolitan with a tumultuous mob, while the people of the South are never roused but by some commensurate cause, and then they move towards their object with the silent dignity and steady step of a Roman triumph.

Throughout the South there prevails a repugnance to agitation. We had enough, and too much of excitement during the Compromise controversy of 1850, and now there exists and indisposition to popular meetings and legislative resolves. But we warn the Abolitionists against a misconception of this calm and quiet temper of the public mind of the South.

There has never been a dispute between the South and its enemies in the North, which has excited so intense and universal an interest among the people of the South, as exists now in regard to the Nebraska controversy. Heretofore the struggle has been about expedients and measures of a partial and temporary character; now the issue is one of vital principle. In behalf of this principle of non-intervention, as illustrated and established in the Nebraska bill, the entire pro-slavery sentiment of the South is enlisted with all its ardor and energy. Every previous conflict was nothing more than a skirmish, in comparison with this momentous struggle between slavery and abolitionism. Heretofore, slight advantages have been lost and won, but the issue of this controversy will determine the question so essential to the interests of the South -- whether slavery is to possess the vitality of an expansive and progressive institution, or be surrounded and crushed by the weight of an irresistible opposition. We are not so simple as to suppose, with some, that the passage of the Nebraska Bill will settle the matter in dispute between the North and the South. But it will do this: it will shift the theatre of the war -- it will detach the Federal government from its alliance with abolitionism, and it will relieve the South of an odious and iniquitous restriction. It will place the South precisely in the position which it should occupy, in contemplation of the constitution, and it will leave the question of the expansion of slavery to be determined by its own energies and volition. It is in this light that the people of the South regard the repeal of the Missouri restriction, and it is because of its effect in vindicating the rights and enlarging the basis of slavery, that they support the measure wit such zeal and unanimity.

It is absurd to say that the South feels no concern about the issue of the Nebraska controversy, in the face of the fact that the Southern people are unanimous in support of the measure. On no former occasion of sectional controversy was this the case. Is has been the misfortune of the South, that its own people have been divided in every crisis of peril to its institutions, but now, for the first time, they are thoroughly and cordially united. This fact sufficiently attests the anxiety with which the Southern people anticipate the issue of the struggle, and their conviction of the importance of the interests and the principles involved in the fate of the bill.

This document was produced as part of a document analysis project by Lloyd Benson, Department of History, Furman University. (Proofing info: Entered by Lloyd Benson. .) This electronic version may not be copied, or linked to, or otherwise used for commercial purposes, (including textbook or publication-related websites) without prior written permission. The views expressed in this document are for educational, historical, and scholarly use only, and are not intended to represent the views of the project contributors or Furman University.