previous next

[207] crushed out of their hearts all sense of allegiance; while with a minority there, it has been so weakened that they are open to treasonable impressions and influences, which unsettle their loyalty and vitiate their patriotism; and in that whole region only a fragment remain, to resist openly the torrent of disallegiance, and hold fast to the Constitution and the Union.

This amazing and inconceivable change in the feelings of so large a portion of the Nation, towards a Government which, during its whole existence, has been controlled almost entirely by that very people, and which has never oppressed or injured them in any of their interests, but has always, and especially for the last thirty years, shaped its policy in conformity with their demands, is, to him who looks only at the surface of things, the great enigma of history; and to such it must ever remain an enigma. He, however, who looks below the surface has no difficulty in seeing that the doctrine of primary State allegiance, which was promulgated by South Carolina in 1832, and, though exploded by her own Court of Appeals in 1834, has since been diligently inculcated through the entire South, and was put forth by the Governor of this State, in his recent treasonable proclamation of war against the United States, lies at the bottom, like a subterranean fire, burning out the popular heart, and with earthquake throes upheaving the foundations of our National institutions. It is no more true that States exist, than that, but for this shallow heresy, they would not now have been arrayed against the National Government. It appeals to home attachments, to State pride, to self-interest, to local jealousy, to sectional animosity, to every passion and feeling hostile to a broad and patriotic nationality; and, like a mighty lens, focalizes the whole upon a single petty point, burning to ashes the tie of paramount allegiance to the Government of the Nation, loosing the warring elements, and bringing in chaos again. With him who takes this doctrine to his soul, true, generous, self-sacrificing love of country is as impossible as for one born blind to describe a rainbow; his State is his country, and his American citizenship is a bauble compared with his citizenship there. Point him to the flag of his country, and he sees only the one star which typifies his State; every other is, to that, rayless and cold. Talk to him of the Nation, and he replies, “South Carolina” Speak of national prosperity and happiness, and he responds, “the Old Dominion!” Refer to the honor of the Nation, and he shouts “Mississippi!” “Arkansas!” “Texas!” Lead his mind where you will, and like a cat he always returns to the particular spot he inhabits, and which he calls his State! Ever regarding that, he raises not his head to behold the glorious country, which claims his first devotion as an American, his highest love as a freeman.

To hold that allegiance is due from a citizen to one of the United States, otherwise than as the term imports mere obedience to its rightful authority while he resides there, is a gross and incomprehensible perversion of the nature and obligation of citizenship. Allegiance, in its proper sense, can be exacted only by the supreme power, which, in this land, is the government created by the Constitution of the United States. To that government every American citizen is bound, wherever he may be, on land or at sea, at home or abroad, in the States or in the Territories beyond the jurisdiction of any State. But the moment an individual leaves the soil of a State, with the intention of residing permanently elsewhere, his citizenship there is lost. There is no limit, except his own volition, to his changes of State citizenship. But wherever he goes, he is still a citizen of the United States, and a thousand changes of domicile cannot make him otherwise: through them all he owns an unbroken and unqualified allegiance to the United States.

This allegiance may not be put on and off, to suit the convenience or whims of the individual, as he may assume or cast off State citizenship. Once due it is always due, unless the National Government consent to its renunciation. The native-born citizen owes it, from the cradle to the grave; the naturalized foreigner, from the moment he acquires citizenship till his death. No such obligation exists towards a State. A State's power over any citizen begins only with his entrance upon her territory, and ends with his departure from it. Will it be said that he who was once a citizen of Florida, but removed thence to Missouri, where he has since resided, may now be called back by Florida to fight her battles, because of his former citizenship there? No sane man will hold such a doctrine; and yet if Florida may not do that, there is no allegiance to a State, except in the sense of obedience to its laws and authorities while in it. But the United States have an undoubted and indestructible right to call forth their citizens from every spot of their domain, to defend and uphold in battle the honor and power of the nation; for no citizen can find a place where the title of allegiance does not bind him to the Constitution and flag of his country.

The citizen owes allegiance in return for protection by his government, and that protection is his lawful right, wherever in the world he may be. It was the certainty and swiftness of Rome's vindication of the rights of her citizens, that gave such power everywhere to the simple words “I am a Roman citizen;” and this hour, among all civilized nations, to be known as an American citizen, is a passport and a protection. Why? Because the United States are known throughout the world, as able and ready to protect their citizens. But on another continent than this, what would it avail to be known as a citizen of any State of the Union? Who, in a foreign land, would, in extremity, proclaim himself a citizen of one of the States, when his State has no power to protect him or to avenge his wrongs, except through the Government of

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 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.
1834 AD (1)
1832 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: