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[343] he is bound by the constitutional checks which are thrown around him, which, at this time, render him powerless to do any great mischief. This shows the wisdom of our system. The President of the United States is no Emperor, no Dictator — he is clothed with no absolute power. He can do nothing unless he is backed by power in Congress. The House of Representatives is largely in the majority against him. In the Senate, he will also be powerless. There will be a majority of four against him: This, After the loss of Bigler, Fitch, and others, by the unfortunate dissensions of the Democratic party in their States. Mr. Lincoln cannot appoint an officer without the consent of the Senate — he cannot form a Cabinet without the same consent. He will be in the condition of George III. (the embodiment of Toryism), who had to ask the Whigs to appoint his Ministers, and was compelled to receive a Cabinet utterly opposed to his views; and so Mr. Lincoln will be compelled to ask of the Senate to choose for him a Cabinet, if the Democracy of that body choose to put him on such terms. He will be compelled to do this, or let the Government stop, if the National Democratic men — for that is their name at the North--the conservative men in the Senate — should so determine. Then, how can Mr. Lincoln obtain a Cabinet which would aid him, or allow him, to violate the Constitution?

Why, then, I say, should we disrupt the bonds of this Union, when his hands are tied — when he can do nothing against us?

Warming with his argument, Mr. Stephens did not hesitate, before concluding his speech, to say:

I believe in the power of the people to govern themselves when wisdom prevails, and passion is silent. Look at what has already been done by them for their advancement in all that ennobles man. There is nothing like it in the history of the world. Look abroad, from one extent of the country to the other; contemplate our greatness: we are now among the first nations of the earth. Shall it, then, be said that our institutions, founded upon principles of self-government, are a failure?

Thus far it is a noble example, worthy of imitation. The gentleman (Mr. Cobb), the other night, said it had proven a failure. A failure in what? In growth? Look at our expanse in National power! Look at our population and increase in all that makes a people great! A failure? Why, we are the admiration of the civilized world, and present the brightest hopes of mankind.

Some of our public men have failed in their aspirations; that is true; and from that comes a great part of our troubles. (Prolonged applause.)

No! there is no failure of this Government yet. We have made great advancement under the Constitution; and I cannot but hope that we shall advance still higher. Let us be true to our cause.

This was frank and noble; yet there was a dead fly in the ointment, which sadly marred its perfume. That was a distinct avowal of the right of the State to overrule his personal convictions, and plunge him into treason to the Nation. Years before, Henry Clay, when catechised by Jefferson Davis in the Senate, set forth the true American doctrine on this point, as follows:

Mr. President, I have heard with pain and regret a confirmation of the remark I made, that the sentiment of Disunion has become familiar. I hope it is confined to South Carolina. I do not regard as my duty what the honorable Senator seems to regard as his. If Kentucky to-morrow unfurls the banner of resistance, I never will fight under that banner. I owe a paramount allegiance to the whole Union--a subordinate one to my own State.1

1 Mr. Clay, at another time, at a caucus of Southern members of Congress, was asked whether, in a certain contingency, Kentuckians would go for Disunion. He promptly replied: “No, Sir: Kentuckians view Disunion as itself the greatest of evils, and as a remedy for nothing.”

The following letter likewise embodies the ruling conviction of his life, which under no circumstances could he be induced to depart from:

Washington, Dec. 22, 1849.
my dear Sir:--My object in writing to you now is one of great importance, and I wish you to lead off in it.

The feeling for Disunion among some of the intemperate Southern politicians is stronger than I supposed it could be. The masses generally, even at the South, are, I believe, yet sound; but they may become inflamed and perverted. The best counteraction of that feeling is to be derived from popular expressions at public meetings of the people. Now, what I would be glad to see, is such meetings held throughout Kentucky. For, you must know, that the Disunionists count upon the cooperation of our patriotic State. Cannot you get up a large, powerful meeting of both parties, if possible, at Lexington, at Louisville, etc., etc., to express in strong language their determination to stand by the Union? Now is the time for salutary action, and you are the man to act. I inclose some resolutions, which, or some similar to them, I should be happy to see adopted.


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