Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History


The New York Elections and their Meaning.

Charleston, South Carolina, Mercury [Democratic]

(24 November 1859)

A short time previous to the New York elections for members of Congress, November 9, 1858, Senator SEWARD delivered and published his Rochester speech, in which, abandoning all disguise, war to extermination was declared, against the institutions of slavery in the southern States. Many, who deluded themselves with the belief that abolitionism and sectionalism had not possession of the northern hearts and who predicted and expected a recoil of the masses from the policy distinctly set before them by this distinguished leader, were amazed to find themselves mistaken. The State was, notwithstanding, swept by Mr. SEWARD'S anti- slavery party, which, returned to Washington out of thirty-two members of Congress the pitiful number of four Democrats only.

Again, recently, after Black Republicanism had borne its natural fruit in the Harper's Ferry invasion, the Democratic Press in the North, with one accord, appealed to the State elections, then about to ensue in New York, as a grand turning point of the destinies of the Union. They argued, and argued justly, that, if the people of this great State did not, under such circumstances, repudiate and overthrow the Black Republican party in these elections, it would be proof conclusive that the South could not safely remain in the present confederacy of the United States, and would have to turn to a Southern Confederacy for security and independence. The political character of the election existed in the election of the members of the Legislature. Mr. SEWARD'S term of service in the Senate was about to expire, and the question of his re-election by the Legislature of New York necessarily involved the aggressive anti-slavery doctrines and policy he had avowed, with the practical endorsement or repudiation of them, in their late bloody developments at Harper's Ferry, against the State of Virginia. The Cabinet Ministers at Washington, and the Southern Democratic Press also, endeavored to press upon the public mind the vast significance of this election. The election is held. The Black Republicans carry both branches of the Legislature of New York by increased majorities, and Wm. H. SEWARD is certain to be returned as a Senator from New York by a most triumphant vote.

One would suppose the argument exhausted and the proof of the hostile temper and purpose of the northern people conclusive. But politicians are wonderfully fertile in finding reasons and facts to suit their views. And moreover there are men whose minds are so blindly and determinedly fixed on preserving the Union, at all events, that nothing, short of the very fires of insurrection at their own homes, and the abduction of their property when Black Republican policy shall come to its consummation in the last grand catastrophe, can wean from vain hopes of northern magnanimity, or wake from the delusive dreams of future peace. Although not now prepared to "laugh at our calamity and mock when our fear cometh," as that gaunt fanatic, GIDDINGS, has declared they will, their policy is undoubtedly onwards with the progress of their interests and their passions; and he is skeptic in religion and ignorant of history, who trusts the fate of his to the excellency and perfection of human nature.

Yet we already perceive indications that the invincibly Union press, North and South, begin to look about for consolations and possible doubts upon ascertaining the result of the New York elections. The Native Americans formed a mixed ticket, and had taken up for their support some of the Democratic and some of the Black Republican party. A few Democrats, for some inferior State offices, were thus elected. And then, the vote at the polls was very small. A large portion of the voters declined voting. Now, here is mighty comfort! Who knows but that, as some Democrats for very inferior State offices were elected, the party might have elected more? and then the refusal of the people to vote may be itself a stinging condemnation of Black Republicanism!

We suppose apologies for crimes will never cease, and that when men wish to crawl out of an unexpected or difficult position, they will always find reasons to support their recreancy; but we do not suppose that the history of public affairs contains a simpler development of the "curse submissive," than the course of which we see indications in some of our Democratic contemporaries. Let us, for a moment, glance at these paradoxical prognostications. Those who staid away from the polls intentionally were either Democrats or Black Republicans. The returns show a diminished vote by both parties. If they were Democrats, what motive could have induced them not to support their party, by refusing to go to the polls, but a determination not to aid in condemning Sewardism, as developed in the tragedy at Harper's Ferry; and if Black Republicans kept away from the polls, with a view to condemn their party, why did they not support the only expedient presented for its condemnation, by voting with the Democratic party? Their not voting for either party might be accounted for better by supposing what their papers clearly manifested -- their undoubting confidence that they would carry with ease the elections; and if this did not influence their abstinence from the polls, that the bloody excesses of the abolition invaders of Virginia did not at all satisfy them, that any active measures on their part were expedient or necessary to conciliate the people of the South to a further union with them. Their sympathies were for BROWN. Their indifference or contempt for the South. Take the most favorable view of the conduct of the people of New York, and the elections show that neither their regard for a longer continuance of the union with the South, nor a respect to their constitutional obligations towards our people, was strong enough to inspire even so small an effort as that of performing the simple duty of going to the polls. To the extent that they went to the polls, they declared distinctly their sectional hostility to the South. And we are to catch such demonstrations of indifference or contempt, or hostility, whilst abolitionism ripens into invasion, insurrection and blood in the South, wherewith to comfort ourselves with the vain and ridiculous hope that the earth or abolitionism will, by and by, stand still for our deliverance.

[<<Previous Editorial][Next Editorial>>]