previous next

[131] in spite of you. Well, suppose you then attempt to secede from the Union and resist the execution of the laws? Every lawyer in the South knows that every citizen of every State is as much bound by the laws of the United States, constitutionally enacted, as by the laws of his own State, and that it is as impossible for the State to relieve its citizens from allegiance to the United States, as it is for the latter to relieve them from allegiance to their own State. And it is the sworn duty of the President to take care that the laws of the United States shall be faithfully executed upon every citizen of every State, and as long as we have a faithful President they will be so executed, if the courts, the marshals, the army and navy, remain faithful to their respective trusts.

I know that much has been said in the South about reserved rights and nullification, secession, and not coercing a sovereign State, &c., when in fact the conventions representing the people of the several States which adopted the Constitution, made no such reservations, but bound their constituents, one and all, to allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, as firmly as similar conventions bound them to the State Constitution. And although the General Government cannot technically coerce a State, it can rightfully coerce all the citizens of a State into obedience to its constitutional laws. The pretended reserved rights of nullification and secession, therefore, are in effect nothing more nor less than an outspoken right of rebellion, when wrong and oppression become intolerable. But when the crisis comes, there are two parties who must necessarily decide, each for itself, whether circumstances justify the act — the seceders and the Government of the United States. And do you conceive that the mere election of a President entertaining obnoxious opinions, or even entertaining hostile designs against the institutions of the South, checked as he must necessarily be by a Senate and judiciary, if not a House of Representatives, without one overt act, can justify any portion of the South, even to their own consciences, in an act of rebellion?

There is one notable feature in the attitude of the South. The cry of disunion comes, not from those who suffer most from northern outrage, but from those who suffer least. It comes from South Carolina, and Georgia, and Alabama, and Mississippi, whose slave property is rendered comparatively secure by the intervention of other slaveholding States between them and the free States, and not from Delaware, and Maryland, and Virginia, and Kentucky, and Tennessee, and Missouri, which lose a hundred slaves by abolition thieves where the first-named States lose one. Why are not the States that suffer most, loudest in their cry for disunion? It is because their position enables them to see more distinctly than you do, at a distance, the fatal and instant effects of such a step. As imperfect as the protection which the Constitution and laws give to their property undoubtedly is, it is better than none. They do not think it wise to place themselves in a position to have the John Browns of the North let loose upon them, with no other restraints than the laws of war between independent nations construed by reckless fanatics. They prefer to fight the abolitionists, if fight they must, within the Union, where their adversaries are somewhat restrained by constitutional and legal obligations. No, sir; Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia do not intend to become the theatre of desolating wars between the North and the South; Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri do not intend that their peaceful channels of commerce shall become rivers of blood to gratify the ambition of South Carolina and Alabama, who at a remote distance from present danger cry out disunion.

I have said that the South has all along had a peaceful remedy and has it still. The union sentiment is overwhelming in all the Middle and Western States, constituting two-thirds of the republic. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois are as little inclined to become frontier States as Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky. Had the present Administration cut loose from the disunionists, instead of virtually ministering to their designs, and planted itself firmly on union ground, the secessions at Charleston and Baltimore would never have occurred, the “constitutional union party” would have been an impossibility, the democracy would have recovered its ascendency in the North, and an united party, embracing two-thirds of the North and of the South, would now have been marching to certain victory next November.

What ought to have been the preventive, must now be the remedy. Should Lincoln, in, secure a majority of the electors, patriotic men, North and South, without waiting for his inauguration, irrespective of party lines and throwing aside all minor considerations, must band together for the triple purpose of preventing any attempt to break up the Union, checking the republican party while in the ascendant, and expelling them from power at the next election. Let the toast of General Jackson, “The Federal Union--It must be preserved,” become the motto of the party, while strict construction of the Constitution and a jealous regard for the rights of the States shall be its distinguishing principle and unwavering practice. Let the constitutional principle be adopted of no legislation by Congress over the territories, or throw aside altogether the mischievous issues in relation to them, of no practical utility, gotten up by demagogues and disunionists, as means of accomplishing their own selfish ends. Let them inflexibly refuse to support, for any Federal or State office, any man who talks of disunion on the one hand or “irrepressible conflict between Freedom and Slavery” on the other. Throw aside all party leaders except such as “keep step to the music of the Union” and are prepared to battle for State rights under its banner.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Abraham Lincoln (1)
Claiborne F. Jackson (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
November (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: