Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History



Charleston, South Carolina, Mercury [Democratic]

(28 November 1859)

We are satisfied that the Harper's Ferry invasion will be of great use to Virginia and the South. No one in the South could have watched the course of the Virginia statesmen and public presses since her sad fall in 1852, without marking her steady drifting to an anti-Southern nationalism. Once the acknowledged leader of the South, she was gradually becoming identified in the Southern mind with a fixed neutrality, if not a direct hostility, to those measures of Southern redemption and safety which events, by a steady course of progression, seem to render necessary and inevitable. To go no further back than the very last year -- how wavering and unreliable was her course with respect to Kansas. Her leading Democratic organ and her Governor, under shallow pretexts, supporting WALKER and STANTON in their efforts to abolitionize Kansas, and aiding the abolitionists in Congress in the glaring outrage of rejecting Kansas from the Union on account of her Constitution tolerating slavery. Then her statesman in Congress leading the way to a compromise, which was, in fact, an inglorious surrender. And at the very time the invasion at Harper's Ferry took place, one of her organs -- the Richmond Whig -- was busy in the effort to get up a party amalgamation between Southern Whigs and Black Republicans, with a view to the spoils of office at Washington and the next Presidential election; whilst another -- the reputed organ of the staunchest States Rights men in Virginia -- was openly advocating a policy of coalescence, hardly better, between the Southern Democrats and DOUGLAS Freesoilers, on their own terms, in order that some favorite candidate might be lifted to the Presidency, and offices might be generally obtained. Virginia and Virginia statesmen seemed to be irretrievably sunk into mere party instrumentalities for grasping national honors at Washington. If the rights of the South were supported at all, no one out of Virginia seemed to suppose that any higher motive actuated her presses or here statesmen as a body, than to obtain from the confidence of the Southern States a certain political power to be used for the furtherance of Presidential and other aspirations. The Harper's Ferry emeute, like a slap in the face, appears to have wakened her up to some consciousness of her rights and dignity. The contempt in which she was held, implied by such an invasion -- the scorn heaped upon her by the whole Northern press -- the imputations of cowardice and weakness, of bullying and terror -- the subsequent elections in the North, demonstrating no sympathy with her people or fear of her power, but a direct and contemptuous support of the very men and party occasioning the invasion of her soil and the murder of her citizens, have shown Virginia, that of the South, she ought to be with the South. It is now clear that she has been for years the subject of abolition experiments. The running off of her slaves was but a part of a policy to force on her emancipation; and the late invasion showed how far it was supposed this policy was successful. She was another Kansas, ready for the operation of Sharpe's rifles and long pikes.

We are happy to perceive a decided change in the tone of the public press of Virginia, indicative, we trust, of a change also in her people. The Richmond Whig no longer advocates a union of Southern Whigs and Black Republicans to control the House of Representatives or win the Presidential election. The Richmond Examiner no longer urges that the rights of the South should be ignored in the Charleston Convention, and the Democratic party at the North be alone relied on to vindicate these rights, although they will not, or dare not, avow them. HUNTER and DOUGLAS do not make ugly faces from its columns, in kaleidescope harmony. Spoils land President-making, removed to an advantageous distance by the decided overthrow of the Democratic party throughout the Northern States, seem now subordinate to Southern safety and honor. The signs are cheering that Virginia will be herself again. The boast of one of her presses that "there are no disunionists in Virginia," if true six months ago, we trust is now a thing of history, never again to be asserted, until the South is safe and free in the Union, or independent out of it.

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