Whatever the opinion elsewhere six months ago except a few isolated Republicans the citizens of Maryland almost to a man of every party denounced the coercive policy and coercive was as fatal to the continuance or the restoration of the Union, and none more earnestly or persistently than the members and leaders of the Union party. We adhere to that opinion still. What reason have they found for renouncing a truth so indisputable?
But we are asked what good can the peace party do if they control the State? They cannot stop the war. We can and will at least refuse to aid in dragging Maryland into the slaughter-house. We can and will refuse at the bidding of the Administration to impose a war debt on her depleted treasury, to tax her citizens or to draft them for the battle-field. We can and will refuse to acknowledge that the Constitution is intermittent--performing or ceasing its functions at the will of the Executive. We can and will refuse to renounce the rights of our citizens or the sovereignty of the State, and will not by assenting to the exercise of powers not conferred by the Constitution admit that it is not supreme in war as well as in peace.
Our opponents on the other hands stand pledged to sustain the Government in its fatal coercive policy; in its most disastrous civil war; in its invasions of the Constitution; in its outrages on the rights of the citizens, and its negotiation of the rights of the State; in its doctrine of necessity well called the tyrant's plea that justifies equally the Austrian dungeon, the Siberian wilds and the casemates of Fort Lafayette, and knows no limit but an arbitrary will. They must uphold the necessary inventions of martial law, of political prisoners, of verbal treason, of permits to cross the Chesapeake or the Atlantic; they must furnish men and money, must levy taxes and impress citizens at the dictate of the Government whose right to coerce they admit and whose arms they cannot resist. For them there is no middle ground or halting place. They stultify themselves if they justify the demands of the Government na disobey them.
But they do not mean to disobey. They were eloquent and earnest in decrying coercion and war--demonstrating their folly and crime; predicting the horrors that have come to pass--until the Administration determined to coerce, and then in prudent blindness they turn from the fulfillment of their own prophecy; in submissive silence ignore the wrongs of their fellow-citizens of meekly declare that the Government is lenient because it has not done all the harm it might; it has let some innocent men escape from oppression it had no right to inflict. They shout loudly now perhaps to drown the still, small voice--the new watchword, war! to the last dollar and the last man.
They have already voted millions of dollars and half a million of men; already imposed their taxes, and the process must go on until the Government deigns to declare that it has its fill of war, the law of necessity is gratified and the Constitution may creep out into the sun. No State has yet determined to sustain the Government without creating a war debt.
Let us heed the warning of Kentucky and Missouri. Kentucky asserted absolute neutrality and just as long as her Governor and Legislature united to maintain in it was recognized by the Administration. A new Legislature determined not only to preserve this position (for which it was elected) but to strengthen it by supporting the Government also. At the word the Federal troops seized Paducah; the Confederates occupied Columbus; the Legislature rushed into the inevitable debt of two millions, and the soil of neutral Kentucky trembles