previous next

[118] growing with a rapidity unequaled in the history of the world, that our national increase is great, and that the emigration from the old world is increasing, requiring us to expand and acquire new territory from time to time, in order to give our people land to live upon. If we live upon the principle of State rights and State sovereignty, each State regulating its own affairs and minding its own business, we can go on and extend indefinitely, just as fast and as far as we need the territory. The time may come, indeed has now come, when our interests would be advanced by the acquisition of the Island of Cuba. When we get Cuba we must take it as we find it, leaving the people to decide the question of slavery for themselves, without interference on the part of the Federal Government, or of any State of this Union. So, when it becomes necessary to acquire any portion of Mexico or Canada, or of this continent or the adjoining islands, we must take them as we find them, leaving the people free to do as they please — to have slavery or not, as they choose. I never have inquired and never will inquire whether a new State, applying for admission, has slavery or not for one of her institutions. If the Constitution that is presented be the act and deed of the people, and embodies their will. and they have the requisite population, I will admit them with slavery or without it, just as that people shall determine. My objection to the Lecompton Constitution did not consist in the fact that it made Kansas a slave State. I would have been as much opposed to its admission under such a Constitution as a free State as I was opposed to its admission under it as a slave State. I hold that that was a question which that people had a right to decide for themselves, and that no power on earth ought to have interfered with that decision. In my opinion, the Lecompton Constitution was not the act and deed of the people of Kansas, and did not embody their will, and the recent election in that Territory, at which it was voted down by nearly ten to one, shows conclusively that I was right in saying, when the Constitution was presented, that it was not the act and deed of the people, and did not embody their will.

If we wish to preserve our institutions in their purity, and transmit them unimpaired to our latest posterity, we must preserve with religious good faith that great principle of self-government which guaranties to each and every State, old and new, the right to make just such Constitutions as they desire, and come into the Union with their own Constitution, and not one palmed upon them. Whenever you sanction the doctrine that Congress may crowd a Constitution down the throats of an unwilling people, against their consent, you will subvert the great fundamental principle upon which all our free institutions rest. In the future I have no fear that the attempt will ever be made. President Buchanan declared in his annual message, that hereafter the rule adopted in the Minnesota case, requiring a Constitution to be submitted to the people, should be followed in all future cases, and if he stands by that recommendation there will be no division in the Democratic party on that principle in the future. Hence, the great mission of the Democracy is to unite the fraternal feeling of the whole country, restore peace and quiet, by teaching each State to mind its own business, and regulate its own domestic affairs and all to unite in carrying out the Constitution as our fathers made it, and thus to preserve the Union and render it perpetual in all time to come. Why should we not act as our fathers who made the Government? There was no sectional strife in Washington's army. They were all brethren of a common confederacy ; they fought. under a common flag that they might bestow upon their posterity a common destiny, and to this end they poured out their blood in common streams, and shared, in some instances, a common grave.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
James Buchanan (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: