On February 14, 1861, the New York Times published an editorial addressing the secession crisis. The Times struck an optimistic tone that in retrospect seems misplaced and naive, but reflected the hopes raised in North at that moment by the Washington Convention that, with substantial constitutional concessions to protect slavery, it might halt secession in the Upper South and set the stage eventually to coax the Lower South states peacefully back into the Union.
The Times‘ editorial proposals reflected in broad outlines what the Washington Convention would present a day later. In returning for the slaves states recognizing the authority of the federal government and repudiating secession, the following “Measures of Adjustment” should be implemented:
3. All our present territory north of the northern boundary of New-Mexico shall be admitted as one State, — and all south of that boundary as another State, — each with its present institutions, and each to be divided hereafter according to the provisions of the Constitution of the United States.
The Times asserted, “If measures substantially like these could be adopted, we should have a solid, permanent and vigorous Union, — which could hold its forts, collect its revenues, and, in due course of time, convince the Gulf States that their only chance of safety, of growth, prosperity and continued existence, lay in their again placing themselves under the protection and cherishing care of the United States.” The editorial did not reckon with the determination of Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party to stop the spread of slavery into the West, but it signaled the New York Times’ editorial support for the Washington Convention and the reality that appeasing slaveholders was the key to any compromise that might preserve the Union at that late date–and that slavery was at the heart of the sectional crisis.