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On the Kentucky Border (81)
Harper's Weekly, February 1, 1862

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Two cousins argue over which side to take in the Civil War. One cousin says he will take their younger cousin to the Confederate army with him, while the other cousin says he will join the Union army. Three months later, the Confederate cousin returns home maimed, and must tell his uncle that his young son is dead. The uncle refuses to remove his Union flag from over his house, even though the maimed man tells him Confederate soldiers are coming. When the soldiers arrive, the cousin tries to keep them from destroying the house. They beat the cousin, then try to storm the house. The uncle, a neighbor and the uncle’s daughter fight them off. The three manage to pull the cousin into the house, and the Union army, led by the Union cousin, arrives in time to save the family. The Confederate cousin realizes his error in judgment, and the Union cousin marries the daughter.

Harper's Text

"On the Kentucky Border"
February 1, 1862, pages 70 (1) – 71 (3)


"A Few Figures"
May 11, 1861, page 290 (1-2)

Military Background

"The War in the Border States"
January 17, 1863, page 42 (1)


"The War in the Border States,"
January 17, 1863, pages 40 (1) – 41 (4)

"John Morgan’s Highwaymen Sacking a Peaceful Village,"
August 30, 1862, page 548 (1-4)

"The Situation in Ohio,"
September 20, 1862, page 608 (1-3)


"The Gentlemen of the Border"
August 2, 1862, page 482 (4)

There are a great many friends of the President, and loyal supporters of the Government, who are and have been exceedingly troubled by what is called his Border State policy. If the Border men are loyal, these persons have said, let them support the Union at any cost; if they are not, the sooner we are rid of them the better.

The argument is apparently conclusive; but how if they are not wholly loyal but may be made so? How if there are loyal men enough in those States to save them to the Union, provided that the matter is wisely managed? Are those States not worth saving; and if so, must there not be some consideration of their actual position? They are between the two sections. Their prejudices draw them one way, their interests another. Their heads turn Northward, their hearts Southward. Are they not worth saving?

They have been the battle-ground. Do we prefer to have it moved from Virginia into Pennsylvania, from Kentucky into Ohio, from Missouri into the Northwest? With the Border States partly with us our hands have been pretty full; how if they had been unitedly against us? And if we can hold them fast, not by the arms of our soldiers but by the will of their own citizens, have we done nothing toward the final subjugation of the rebellion?

"Oh! Then you would sacrifice the country and liberty to the testy whim-whams of the Border States!" No; perhaps not. To beg a question is not to argue it. Nor, because a man may be willing to say thank you for an article, does it follow that he is ready to pay a million of dollars for it. The question is not whether the country is to be given over to the Border States, but, simply, on what honorable common ground can all loyal citizens in all the States stand, and which will secure the adhesion of those States to the Union. If there is no such ground—amen; they must do what seems wisest. If there is, what is wisest for us?

The President thinks there may be such a ground. He thinks that a system of compensated emancipation is the security of the loyalty of the Border States; and if those States will assent, there is no question that the President is right. If Kentucky so strongly, and Tennessee so lightly, lean to us now, for what conceivable reason should they lean to the rebels when their slave system is gone? It is the social sympathy, and common political action, and partial identity of civilization and interest which make them doubtful now. Take those away, and why should they be doubtful any longer?

If they decline, they know the ground that the President and the country will take. The President is reported to have said, "You must fish, cut bait, or go ashore." He will do for them all that can fairly be done. If they want more they must take their chance. And if they call this coercion, the reply is short and clear: "It is coercion, to prevent your coercing the country into ruin." It is the business of this nation to coerce all opposition to its unity and existence, just as it is its duty to subjugate the Davis rebels; and if the Border States say there are some measures for the maintenance of the Union to which, although strictly military, they will never consent, the war—will be greatly prolonged.


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