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Union or Secession
  • "A state of painful suspense"
On December 7, 1860, The editor of the Clarksville Tobacco Plant feared that dividing the union was necessary to save slavery and the interests of the Southern states.
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"A state of painful suspense"

Editorial in Clarksville Tobacco Plant, December 7, 1860.

The editor of the Clarksville Tobacco Plant hoped that a compromise to preserve the union might be possible, but he feared that division would be necessary to preserve slavery in the South. "The probable disruption of the best government on the face of the earth, the dismemberment of this glorious confederacy of sovereign States," he wrote, "is no trifling matter, and the patriot statesman will look well and anxiously about him for some less radical cure for existing evils before he resorts to this extreme remedy." Clarksville is located in Mecklenburg County, in the southern region of Virginia along the North Carolina border. In 1860, almost 62 percent of Mecklenburg's population lived in slavery. In the February 4, 1861 election for delegates to the state convention, Mecklenburg County voters indicated their general support for secession by overwhelmingly rejecting a proposal for a public referendum to ratify or reject secession, should the convention decide to secede.

Editorial in the Clarksville Tobacco Plant, December 7, 1860.
The State of the Country.
There is no disputing the fact, that the present condition of the country is one of awful uncertainty. A state of painful suspense pervades all classes of society. Even the politicians of the country, men who have made matters of government the study of their lives, start back with many doubts and misgivings, from the grave and serious propositions which are forced upon their consideration. The probable disruption of the best government on the face of the earth, the dismemberment of this glorious confederacy of sovereign States, is no trifling matter, and the patriot statesman will look well and anxiously about him for some less radical cure for existing evils before he resorts to this extreme remedy.
But as in the case of physical disease of the human body, it oftentimes happens, that the only safety lies in the use of extraordinary, and even dangerous appliances, so it is in the body politic, that critical conjunctures sometimes demand the promptest resort to measures of a strong, decided and unusual character.
Unquestionably the existing disease in the body politic of the American nation has reached a crisis. Prompt, decisive and effective action must be taken. The case is one which admits of neither delay, nor hesitancy, nor half-way measures. The slavery agitation has, like a wasting fever, fed upon the vitals of this country for now full forty years, until its exhausting effects can no longer be sustained. It must be checked, and that decisively.
The Northern and Southern States must now come to a distinct understanding with each other, in which the rights of the Southern people are to receive a much surer and higher recognition that has hitherto been accorded them. Otherwise, it is impossible, in our opinion, that we can live longer together as one and the same people, under one and the same government. And in urging this, we beg not to be understood as favoring disunion, or advising it as a remedy called for by the existing state of facts. It would be uncandid in us not to acknowledge that, if we were left to our own promptings in the case, we should be very apt first to test the virtue of less violent expedients. It is no trifling matter to abandon the substantial benefits and bright glories of this great confederated Republic. Under it we have been as a people, thus free happy and prosperous beyond all hu-[one line torn] tion divided into two separate and distinct nations, none can tell.
But whatever may be the consequences, the indications of popular sentiment in the Cotton States point almost beyond doubt to a disruption. Not alone in South Carolina, but in Mississippi, Alabama, George, Florida, Louisiana and Texas, the prevailing temper of the masses is evidently to secede, unless there is a reconstruction of the government upon a basis entirely unlike the present. And we confess that, notwithstanding the intense suffering which the success of Republicanism already entails upon the North, we fear that sectionalism and fanaticism will not yield to the just demands of the Southern people.