law in conformity with her constitutional obligations; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own laws and by the laws of Congress.
Now, were this statement true in every particular, relating, as it does, only to the action of particular States
, it would not constitute the shadow of a justification for rebellion against the General government
In 1842 the Supreme Court of the United States
decided that the power of legislation in relation to the recapture of fugitive slaves, is, by the Constitution
, vested exclusively in Congress
. In 1850 Congress enacted a Fugitive Slave Act, prepared by Southern Senators
and Representatives, so stringent in its provisions that Mr. Rhett
, of South Carolina
, one of the arch instigators of treason there, expressed doubts of its constitutionality; and that Act is still in force.
So far, then, as there is constitutional requirement to provide by legislation for such recapture, it was fulfilled to the letter, by the only body having authority to act in the premises, and in the very terms prescribed by the South
When, therefore, they allege that “in none of them [the States named] has the State
Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution
,” they attribute to the States an authority and obligation which the Supreme Court has declared does not exist, and they proclaim a separation from those States, because they have not done what that tribunal holds they have no constitutional right to do.
But that statement is false in a material allegation of fact — even more so than the message of Jefferson Davis
, to which I have previously referred.
Of all the fourteen States named, as having “enacted laws which either nullify the acts of Congress, or render useless any attempt to execute them,” it is absolutely true that only four--Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin
--had any such laws on their statute books!
But had such been enacted by every non-slaveholding State, they were unconstitutional and void, and the Constitution
provides ample means to have them declared so; and the. laws of the United States
give full redress against all persons who should undertake to act under them.
To that Constitution and to those laws the South
was bound by the most sacred obligations to appeal, and not to the sword.
The next justification advanced is in the following words:
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted, have been defeated, and the Government itself has been destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States.
Those States [mark the words!] those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions: and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States, and recognized by the Constitution: they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery, they have permitted the open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloin the property of the citizens of other States.
They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remained have been incited by emissaries, books, and pictures to servile insurrection.
To say nothing of the puerile absurdity of declaring that the General Government
“has been destructive” of the ends referred to, “by the action of the non-slaveholding States
,” let us look at the charges preferred here against those States.
Without the least hesitation, it must be declared that the whole list is without foundation.
That fanatical individuals
in the Northern States
have done the acts complained of, is certainly true; but that any of those States
has lent itself to such ignoble work, is no more true, than that South Carolina
was faithless to the cause of liberty in the Revolution, because within her borders more Tories were found — and long held their ground too — than in almost all the other States together.
And it is impossible that the South Carolina Convention did not know their charge was unfounded, unless they were wretchedly ignorant.
Let an impartial world judge what respect is due to the “Declaration” of an assembly, which thus slanderously imputes to an entire body of States the sins of individuals, and for the crimes of a proportionately meagre troop of fanatics, arraigns twenty millions of people at the bar of mankind.
The third and last justification presented is in the following paragraphs:
For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the common Government.
Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself.
A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to Slavery.
He is to be intrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that ‘Government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free ;’ and that the public mind must rest in the belief that Slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
On the 4th of March next this party will take possession of the Government.
It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunal shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.
The guarantees of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will then be lost.
The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government