He made that memorable declaration in the British Parliament, “If I was an American citizen instead of being as I am, an Englishman, I never would submit to such laws — never, never, never!”
A single voice was
raised in dissent from these inculcations.
A Mr. Elseffer
having proposed to amend one of the reported resolutions by an assertion that, if the Federal Government
should undertake to “use force,” “under the specious and untenable pretense of enforcing the laws ,” it would “plunge the nation into civil war,” and been warmly supported therein by Mr. Thayer
and others, Hon. Geo. W. Clinton
, rose in opposition, and said:
We all agree in detesting the very thought of war. [Applause.] But is our country gone?
Is the Union dissolved?
Is there no government binding these States in peace and harmony!
Why, the proposition was before you, ten minutes ago, that this Union was dissolved, and you voted it down.
God grant it may for ever continue!
let us conciliate our erring brethren who, under a strange delusion, have, as they say, seceded from us; but, for God's sake, do not let us humble the glorious government under which we have been so happy!-which has done, and, if we will by judicious means sustain it, will yet do, so much for the happiness of mankind.
Gentlemen: I hate to use a word that would offend my Southern brother, erring as he does; but we have reached a time when, as a man — if you please, as a Democrat--I must use plain terms.
There is no such thing as legal secession.
There is no such thing, I say, unless it is a secession which is authorized by the original compact,--and the Constitution of these United States was intended to form a firm and perpetual Union.
[Cheers.] There is no warrant for it in the Constitution.
Where, then, do you find the warrant for it?
It is in the unhappy delusion of our Southern brethren, who doubt our love for them and our attachment to the Constitution.
Let us remove that illusion.
We will try to do it. But if secession be not lawful, oh!
what is it!
I use the term reluctantly but truly — it is rebellion!
[Cries of “No!
No! Revolution.” ] It is rebellion!
rebellion against the noblest government that man ever framed for his own benefit and for the benefit of the world.
[A voice: We are all rebels, then.]
Judge Clinton: May be so, sir. Gentlemen, this secession doctrine is not a new thing.
The people have passed upon it. They passed upon it in the last war. Y may do what you please, my friend; but I never, never can be prevailed upon to see, by any process of reasoning, by any impulse of feeling, that the Hartford Convention was not what the people of the Union pronounced it — a damnable treason.
[Applause.] What is it — this secession?
I am not speaking of the men. I love the men, but I hate treason.
What is it, but the nullification of all the rights of the United States, and the execution of the laws!
A threat to reject them, in arms!
It is nullification by the wholesale I, for one, have venerated Andrew Jackson, and my blood boiled, in old time, when that brave patriot and soldier of Democracy said--“The Union--it must and shall be preserved!”
[Loud applause.] Preserve it!
Why should we preserve it, if it would be the thing that these gentlemen would make it — that this amendment would make it!
Why should we love a government that has no dignity and no power?
[Applause.] Admit the doctrine, and what have you?
A government that no man who is a freeman ought to be content for one day to live under.
Admit it, and any State, of its own sovereign will, may retire from the Union!
Look at it for a moment.
Congress, for just cause,--for free trade or sailor's rights — declares war. Oh!
where is your government!
Why should it!
What right has it to declare war!
The Constitution invested that power in it, but one State says, “ War is not for me — I secede.”
And so another and another, and the government is rendered powerless. * * *
I understand this amendment to have this point, and no other.
It is perfectly nugatory and useless, unless it has this point, because all the other points for which it can provide are already provided for in the resolution.
It is this: You shall use no force to protect the property of the United States, to retain it in your possession, or to collect your revenue for the common benefit, and the payment of the common debt.
Now, I am willing to say, that the government is false to itself, false to us, and false to all, if it should use more than necessary force for these purposes; but I am not prepared to humble the general government at the feet of the seceding States.
[Applause.] I am unwilling to say to the government, “ You must abandon your property — you must ”