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[426]

Such of you as are now dissatisfied still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either.

If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there is still no single reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulties.

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you.

You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You can have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the Government; while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend” it.

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break, our bonds of affection.

The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.


The habitual tone of this remarkable paper is deprecatory, not to say apologetic. Mr. Lincoln evidently composed it under the fixed impression that “the South” needed but to be disabused of her impressions and apprehensions of Northern hostility to restore her to loyalty and the whole land to peace. If she can be made to feel that the new rule does not desire to meddle with Slavery in the States which cherish it, but will hunt and return fugitive slaves to the extent of its ability, then Secession will be given up, and the country restored to peace and harmony! That, certainly, is an amiable view of the situation; but it was not justified by a close study and thorough comprehension of our recent political history.

Mr. Lincoln's suggestion that the dictum of the Supreme Court, though law to the suitor whom it bore hard upon, does not bind the people not to entertain and vote in conformity to an adverse conviction, though in full accordance with the action of “the South” in regard to the Alien and Sedition laws, the Creek and Cherokee treaties,1 etc., and, in fact, to the action of all parties when overruled by that Court, was not calculated to please and conciliate “the South.” Yet no adversary of a United States Bank ever felt himself restrained from opposing and voting against such a Bank as unconstitutional by the fact that the Court had adjudged it otherwise. No one imagines that a decision by that Court that Slavery had no right to enter the territories would have been regarded and treated by “the South” as the end of controversy on that point.2 But, having obtained, in the Dred Scott case, an opinion that slaveholders might take their human chattels to any territory, and there hold them, claiming ample protection from the Government in so doing, they were fully resolved to make the most of it, and not at all disposed to acquiesce in the suggestion that, on questions essentially political, the American People are a higher authority than even their Supreme Court.

The weakest portion of this document is its inconsiderate talk about an “invasion” of the States by the Federal Government, and its quasi pledge not to appoint Federal officers

1 See pages 105-6.

2 See Mr. John Van Buren on this point, page 213. For Mr. Jefferson's views, see pages 83-4; for Gen. Jackson's, see pages 104-6.

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