to terminate this war now is not with us. The power is with us, but not to terminate it instantly.
We will terminate it, if it is not terminated, as it should be, by those who began it. But, sir, I say, for one--I speak for myself, and myself only, but I believe, in so speaking, I utter the sentiments which will burst from every free heart in all the Northern States of the confederacy — that, if our brethren of the South do force upon us the distinct issue--‘Shall this Government be overthrown, and it and all the hopes for civil liberty, all the hopes for the oppressed and down-trodden of all the despotisms of the earth, go down in one dark, dreary night of hopelessness and despair?’--if they force upon us the issue whether the Government shall go down, to maintain the institution of Slavery, or whether Slavery shall be obliterated, to sustain the Constitution and the Government for which our fathers fought and bled, and the principles that were cemented in their blood — I say, sir, when the issue comes, when they force it upon us, that one or the other is to be overthrown, then I am for the Government and against Slavery; and my voice and my vote shall be for sweeping the last vestige of barbarism from the face of the continent.
I trust that necessity may not be forced on us; but, when it is forced upon us, let us meet it like men, and not shrink from the high and holy and sacred duties that are laid upon us, as the conservators not only of government, but as the conservators of the eternal principles of justice and freedom for the whole human family.
It is better, Mr. President, that we should understand each other; and I repeat, in conclusion, that, when the issue comes — and if it comes — it comes because it is forced upon us; it comes upon us as a hard, unwelcome necessity — I trust we shall be found adequate to the emergency; I trust that our hearts will not fail us in the day of that terrible conflict — for it is to be a terrible one, if this war goes on. If rebellion does not recover of its madness — if American citizens will continue so infatuated as to prosecute still further this unnatural war against the best and most blessed Government that the world has ever known — this issue may be forced upon us. I say it is not true, as gentlemen have ventured to assert, that, if it were known by the people of the great Northwest that, in any possible contingency, this war might result in the overthrow and extermination of Slavery, they would no longer give their support to this Government.
If it were known or believed by the people of the great Northwest that this Government should become so recreant to its duties as to shrink from meeting that great question, when forced upon us, in my opinion, they would descend in an avalanche upon this Capitol, and hurl us from the places we should be unworthy to fill.
We do not desire this issue; we do not want this necessity; but we have no power to prevent it; and it is better that the people everywhere should understand that, if the necessity is forced upon us, our choice is promptly, instantly, manfully made, and made for all time — that we make the decision, and we will abide by the decision, to stand by the government ; and, if it does go down — if not only this nation, but the great brotherhood of mankind everywhere, is to witness that unspeakable and unheard of calamity of the overthrow of constitutional government here — let us go down in a manly effort to sustain and uphold it, and to sweep away the causes that brought upon us all this trouble. * * * *
, of Va.
, having demurred to these views, Mr. Browning
rejoined, as follows:
If he understood me as announcing any wish or any intention that this war should be a war waged against Slavery, he totally misapprehended my meaning.
Mr. Carlile. I did not so understand the Senator.
Mr. Browning. For I took especial pains to say that I would rejoice to see this war terminated; and, if the institution still existed when it is terminated, I should be for giving it then, as we had always done heretofore, in the best faith in the world, every possible protection that the Constitution and laws intended it should have; but that, if the issue was forced upon us — as it might be — to make a choice between the Government, on the one side, and Slavery on the other, then I was for the Government.
Mr. Sherman, of Ohio.
I do not under-stand either the Senator from Kansas on my right, or the Senator from Connecticut, or the Senator from Kansas behind me, to say that it is the purpose of this war to abolish Slavery.
It is not waged for any such purpose, or with any such view.
They have all disclaimed it. Why, then, does the Senator [Mr. Powell] insist upon it?
I will now say, and the Senator may make tile most of it, that, rather than see one single foot of this country of ours torn from the national domain by traitors, I will myself see the slaves set free; but, at the same time, I utterly disclaim any purpose of that kind.
If the men who are now waging war against the Government, fitting out pirates against our commerce, going back to the old mode of warfare of the middle ages, should prosecute this Rebellion to such an extent that there