The American Conflict

Author: Thurlow Weed  | Date: 1864

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A Basis of Reconciliation (1860)


Augusta, Nov. 23, [1860].

A RESOLUTION was offered in the Georgia Legislature, demanding the repeal, by Northern States, of laws obstructing the rendition of fugitive slaves; also, an enactment of Congress for removing obstructions by Territories in the introduction of all property; such action being contingent on Georgia remaining in the Union.

Here is something tangible. It suggests a basis on which negotiations can be inaugurated. South Carolina goes ahead without "rhyme or reason." There, it is not Disunion for cause, but Disunion per se.

Assuming the possibility of coming together in a fraternal spirit for the purpose of effecting "a more perfect union among the states," we are not without hopes that the result may prove auspicious. With a mutual desire to harmonize differences, let us suppose that in the place of a vindictive Fugitive Slave Law—a Law repugnant to manhood and honor—one should be enacted which arms the Federal Authorities with all needful power for its execution, together with a provision making Counties where Fugitives are rescued by violence, from Officers who have them in charge, liable for the value of the Slaves so rescued.

And in regard to the other vexed question, viz: the right of going into the Territories with Slaves, why not restore the Missouri Compromise Line? That secured to the South all Territory adapted, by soil and climate, to its "peculiar institution." . . .

The suggestions, in a recent number of The Journal, of a basis of settlement of differences between the North and the South, have, in awakening attention and discussion, accomplished their purpose. We knew that in no quarter would these suggestions be more distasteful than with our own most valued friends. . . .

To our dissenting friends, who will not question our devotion to freedom, however much they may mistrust our judgment, we submit a few earnest admonitions:

1. There is imminent danger of a dissolution of the Union.

2. This danger originated in the ambition and cupidity of men who desire a Southern despotism; and in the fanatic zeal of Northern Abolitionists, who seek the emancipation of slaves regardless of consequences.

3. The danger can only be averted by such moderation and forbearance as will draw out, strengthen, and combine the Union sentiment of the whole country.

The Disunion sentiment is paramount in at least seven States; while it divides and distracts as many more. Nor is it wise to deceive ourselves with the impression that the South is not in earnest. It is in earnest; and the sentiment has taken hold of all classes with such blind vehemence as to "crush out" the Union sentiment.

Now, while, as has been said, it is easy to prove all this unjust and wrong, we have to deal with things as they are—with facts as they exist—with people blinded by passion. Peaceable Secession is not intended; nor is it practicable, even if such were its object. Mad, however, as the South is, there is a Union sentiment there worth cherishing. It will develop and expand as fast as the darkness and delusion, in relation to the feelings of the North, can be dispelled. This calls for moderation and forbearance. We do not, when our dwelling is in flames, stop to ascertain whether it was the work of an incendiary before we extinguish the fire. Hence our suggestions of a basis of adjustment, without the expectation that they would be accepted, in terms, by either section, but that they might possibly inaugurate a movement in that direction. The Union is worth preserving. And, if worth preserving, suggestions in its behalf, however crude, will not be contemned. A victorious party can afford to be tolerant—not, as our friends assume, in the abandon merit or abasement of its principles or character—but in efforts to correct and disabuse the minds of those who misunderstand both.

Before a final appeal—before a resort to the "rough frown of war"—

we should like to see a Convention of the People, consisting of delegates appointed by the States. . . .

It will be said that we have clone nothing wrong, and have nothing to offer. This, supposing it true, is precisely the reason why we should both propose and offer whatever may, by possibility, avert the evils of civil war, and prevent the destruction of our, hitherto, unexampled blessings of Union.

Many suppose that the North has nothing to lose by a division of the Union. Some even say that we must be gainers by it. We do not, for obvious reasons, intend to discuss this aspect of the question. But it is a mistake—a serious and expensive mistake. The North and South were wisely and by a good Providence united. Their interests, their welfare, their happiness, their glory, their destiny, is one. Separated, while the North languishes, the South becomes, first, a despotism, running riot, for a season, with unrestrained African Slavery, to share in time the fate of every tropical nation, whether despotism, monarchy, or republic. That fate, induced by the indolence, luxury, and laxity of the privileged few over the oppressed, degraded, and enslaved many, is anarchy and destruction. That fate is written in the history of all enslaved nations—its ancient, seared, and crumbling, but instructive, monuments are seen in Egypt, in Italy, in Central America, and in Mexico.

These are the evils—and they are not imaginary—that we desire to avert. But, conscious of the feebleness of a single voice in such a tempest, there is little to expect but to abide its peltings. The Republican party now represents one side of a controversy fraught with the safety and welfare of this Government and nation. As an individual, we shall endeavor to do our duty; and, as we understand it, that duty does not consist in folded arms, or sealed ears, or closed eyes. Even if . . . the North stands, in all respects, blameless in this controversy, much is needed to correct the impression of the Southern people; many of whom, truly informed, would join us in defending the Union. We do not mistake the mission of the Republican party in assuming that, while defending free territory from aggression, it maintains and upholds the supremacy of the Constitution and laws. The people have intrusted the Government to our keeping; and we must not abuse their confidence or disappoint their expectations.

Albany Evening Journal, November 24 and 30, 1860; reprinted (in part) in Horace Greeley, (Hartford, etc., 1864), I, 360–361.


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Chicago: Thurlow Weed, "A Basis of Reconciliation (1860)," The American Conflict, ed. Horace Greeley in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903), Original Sources, accessed September 21, 2019,

MLA: Weed, Thurlow. "A Basis of Reconciliation (1860)." The American Conflict, edited by Horace Greeley, Vol. I, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 4, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1903, Original Sources. 21 Sep. 2019.

Harvard: Weed, T, 'A Basis of Reconciliation (1860)' in The American Conflict, ed. . cited in 1903, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 21 September 2019, from