hands of some of the Northern States
, as the continued slavery agitation, the incendiary effusions of a portion of the Northern
pulpit and press, the personal liberty statutes, the operations of the underground railroad, and the emigrant-aid societies, and the occasional non-extradition of fugitive slaves.
These are unquestionably offences against Southern peace and against all good neighborhood, and they ought to cease, as I doubt not in time they will, or at least be materially mitigated; but these grievances lie not at the door of that parental federal Government
, whose blessings drop upon us as gently as the dews of heaven, nor are they now for the first time existing.
They existed and we endured them under the Democratic
administrations of Mr. Polk
, Mr. Pierce
, and Mr. Buchanan
, never dreaming of making them a cause for the dissolution of the Union
; and I presume if Mr. Breckinridge
had been elected they would never have been even heard of as causes for disruption.
Patiently and meekly we bore these grievances when Democratic Presidents
held sway; but under the rule of Mr. Lincoln
they became wrongs so enormous and intolerable that for them we must in an instant shiver this blessed Union into fragments.
But the practical
inquiry here arises — that which so much concerns the masses of the people — shall we redress these grievances or make them lighter, or remedy any wrong by disunion?
Most assuredly not. Whatever ills we are suffering will be a thousand times aggravated by a separation of the States.
The slavery agitation will be intensified; we shall lose scores of slaves where now we lose one; because, by the abolition of the Fugitive Slave Law
, and by reason of the readier facilities for escape, there will be no effectual impediment to such escape; the underground railroad will be sped, and its operations vastly extended; emigrant-aid societies will be augmented in number, and means, and efficiency; and for one Henry Ward Beecher
, we shall have a thousand.
The alienation which will be left behind disunion, the bitter and deep-seated sectional hates, and incessant border feuds and wars that must and will flow from the source of disruption, will as surely bring about these lamentable results as God's sun will send down his rays upon the earth when his broad disc glories above the horizon.
These Senate resolutions, Mr. Speaker
, are evidently designed as a stepping stone to the secession of the State
--as the entering wedge — the preliminary notice — a scheme to “fire” the Virginia
heart and rush us out of the Union
; and, so regarding them, I might inquire by what warrant it is we may retire from the confederacy?
But I shall not argue this doctrine of secession.
The simple history of the Constitution
; its simpler and yet plainer reading; the overwhelming authority of our fathers against it; the crushing weight of opinion against it in our own State-her Jefferson
declaring that even the old Confederation, a Government far weaker than the present Federal Union, possessed the power of coercion — her Madison
, the very father of the Constitution
, solemnly asserting that its framers never for one moment contemplated so disorganizing and ruinous a principle — her great and good Marshall
decreeing more than once, from the bench of the Supreme Judiciary
, that the Federal Constitution
did not constitute a mere compact or treaty, but a government of the whole people of the United States
, with supreme powers within the sphere of its authority--Judge Spencer Roane
, the Ajax Telamon
, in his day, of her State-rights republicanism, endorsing the sentiment: “It is treason to secede!” --her Thomas Ritchie
, the “Napoleon of the press” and Jupiter Tonans of the modern democracy, heralding through the columns of the Richmond Enquirer
, the impregnable maxims that “no association of men, no State or set of States has a right to withdraw from the Union
of its own accord,” and that “the first act of resistance to the law is treason to the United States
;” the decisions of some of the most enlightened of the State
judiciaries in repudiation of the dangerous dogma; the concurrent disavowal of it by the Marshalls, and Kents, and Storys, and McLeans, and Waynes, and Catrons, and Reverdy Johnsons
, and Guthries, and all the really great jurists of the land; the brand of absurdity and wickedness which has been stamped upon it by Andrew Jackson
, and Webster
, and Clay
, and Crittenden
, and Everett
, and Douglas
, and Cass
, and Holt
, and Andrew Johnson
, and Wickliffe
, and Dickinson
, and the great body of our truly eminent statesmen: these considerations and authorities present the doctrine of secession to me with one side only.
But I do wish to inquire of my colleagues, if they have seriously reflected on the consequences
of secession, should it come?
Do you expect (as I have heard some of you declare) that the power and influence of Virginia
are such that you will have peaceable secession, through an immediate recognition of the separate independence of the South
Alas! you hug a delusion.
Peaceable secession — secession without war I You can no more have it than you can crush in the rack every limb and bone of the human frame without agonizing the mutilated trunk.
(said Mr. Webster
) peaceable secession!
Sir, (continued the” great expounder, “) your eyes and mine are not destined to see that miracle.
The dismemberment of this vast country without convulsion!
The breaking up of the fountains of the great deep without ruffling the surface!”
No! Secede when you will, you will have war in all its horrors: there is no escape.
The President of the United States
is sworn to see that the laws be faithfully executed, and he must and will — as Gen. Washington
did, and as Gen. Jackson