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[17] Clay, Webster, or Calhoun. They had all, through lives of long public service, participated in the great discussions which involved every phase of this question of slavery, and had weighed all considerations affecting it in any degree. They did not in all things agree; in one they did, that slavery was under the express protection of the Constitution of the United States. In another matter, they also agreed. As death summoned each of them to his departure from earth, he turned his thoughts to his country. In the throes of dissolution he was reminded of its sad impending fate and, intensifying his plea by the solemnity of his situation, almost in his last breath, he warned his countrymen of the danger, and plead with them for forbearance towards each other.

They had anchors of hope cast within the vail to save them when death should prove conqueror; and, reminded by these of the necessity of a steadfast anchorage for their beloved country, they pointed the people to the Constitution, and implored them to hold to it, and trust it. The people quoted their great arguments in the Senate to support their convictions and strengthen their resolves, but left their dying admonitions unheeded.

If the war was a crime, it was a crime of the people of both sections infatuated by a zeal that incriminated every man who voted his honest opinions; and so every man was guilty who fought to maintain them. If those only were innocent who, having voted for war, refused to fight, but preferred to coin the blood of the people into gold through base speculations or the emoluments of civil offices, it were better to have been guilty. There are men who refused to fight as they voted, and now, with epigrammatic insolence, advise men who were honest soldiers to vote as they shot.

A recurrence to these matters would be without profit or fitness on this occasion, when peace is the subject of our reflections, only that the truth of history, as revealed in the actions of those who fought in the civil war, is the only test by which we can determine whether that peace, which has at last hung its white banners in the heavens, is a true and genuine reconciliation, or only a hollow truce. Is it a restoration of the country to the solid foundations of confidence and regard, whence peace flows like a river from its fountains beneath the eternal hills; or is it a mere soothing of angry resentments which linger in malicious concealment awaiting the hot breath of some fanatical demagogue to kindle them again into fury?

If it is merely an allayed excitement smoothed into temporary quiet by the silken hand of policy there are bad and dangerous men who will arouse it again.

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