and one which will carry every thing in its train, unless it is arrested and crushed out from our midst.
In response to what has been said to me here to-day, I confess when I lay my hand upon my bosom, I feel gratified at hearing the sentiments that have been uttered — that we are all willing to stand up for the constitutional rights guaranteed to every State, every community — that we are all determined to stand up for the prerogatives secured to us in the Constitution
as citizens of States composing one grand Confederacy, whether we belong to the North
or to the South
, to the East
or to the West
I say that I am gratified to hear such sentiments uttered here to-day.
I regard them as the most conclusive evidence that there is no disposition on the part of any citizens of the loyal States, to make war upon any peculiar institution of the South
, (applause,) whether it be slavery or any thing else — leaving that institution, under the Constitution
, to be controlled by time, circumstances, and the great laws which lie at the foundation of all things which political legislation can control.
While I am before you, my countrymen, I am in hopes it will not be considered out of place for me to make a single remark or two, in reference to myself as connected with the present crisis.
My position in the Congress of the United States during its last session, is, I suppose, familiar to most, if not all of you. You know the doctrine I laid down then, and I can safely say that the opinions I entertain now on the questions of the day, are as they were then.
I have not changed them.
I have seen no reason to change them.
I believe that a Government without the power to enforce its laws, made in conformity with the Constitution
, is no Government at all. (Applause.) We have arrived at that point or that period in our national history, at which it has become necessary for this Government to say to the civilized, as well as to the pagan world, whether it is in reality a Government, or whether it is but a pretext for a Government.
If it has power to preserve its existence, and to maintain the principles of the Constitution
and the laws, that time has now arrived.
If it is a Government, that authority should be asserted.
I say, then, let the civilized world see that we have a Government.
Let us dispel the delusion under which we have been laboring since the inauguration of the Government
in 1789--let us show that it is not an ephemeral institution; that we have not imagined that we had a Government, and when the test came, that the Government
frittered away between our fingers and quickly faded in the distance.
(Applause.) The time has come when the Government
reared by our fathers should assert itself, and give conclusive proof to the civilized world that it is a reality and a perpetuity.
(Applause.) Let us show to other nations that this doctrine of secession is a heresy; that States coming into the Confederacy
, that individuals living in the Confederacy
, under the Constitution
, have no right nor authority, upon their own volition, to set the laws and the Constitution
aside, and to bid defiance to the authority of the Government
under which they live.
I substantially cited the best authority that could be produced upon this subject, and took this position during the last session of Congress.
I stand here to-day before you and advocate the same principles I then contended for. As early as 1833, (let me here say that I am glad to find that the Committee
which have waited upon me on this occasion, and have presented to me their sentiments through their organ — I am glad to find that they represent all the parties among which we have been divided;)--as early as 1833, I say, I formed my opinions in reference to this doctrine of secession in the nullification of the laws of the United States
I held these doctrines up to the year 1850, and I maintain them still.
I entertained these opinions, as I remarked before, down to the latest sitting of Congress, and I then reiterated them.
I entertain and express them here to-day.
In this connection, I may be permitted to remark that, during our last struggle for the Presidency, all parties contended for the preservation of the Union
Without going further back, what was that struggle?
of the State of Illinois
was a candidate.
His friends presented him as the best Union man. I shall speak upon this subject in reference to my position.
's friends presented him to the people as the Union
I was one of Mr. Breckinridge
men presented the claims of the Hon. John Bell
for the Presidency, upon the ground that he was the best Union candidate.
The Republican party, so far as I understand them, have always :been in favor of the Union
Then here was the contest; between four candidates presented to the consideration of the people of the United States
And the great struggle between them and their advocates was, who was entitled to pre-eminence as a man in favor of the preservation of the Union
of these States.
Now where do we find ourselves?
In times gone by, you know we had our discussions and our quarrels.
It was bank and anti-bank questions, tariff and anti-tariff, internal improvement and anti-internal improvement, or the distribution of the money derived from the sale of public lands, among the several States.
Such measures as these we presented to the people, and the aim in the solution of all was how best to preserve the Union
of these States.
One party favored the measures as calculated to promote the welfare of our common country; another opposed them, to bring about the same result.
Then what was the former contest?
Bringing it down to the present times, there