previous next
[258] with Mr. Crittenden's propositions, were repeatedly and severally rejected in this House by the almost unanimous vote of the Republicans.

Mr. Crittenden's Compromise, which received the vote of every Southern member upon this floor, excepting one from Arkansas, never on any one occasion received one solitary vote from the Republicans in the Senate or House.

The so-called Adams' Amendment, moderate as that was, was carried through this chamber by the bare majority of one, after a severe struggle. Sixty-five Republicans voted to the last against it.

Up to twelve o'clock on the 4th of March, peace seemed to be the policy of all parties, when Mr. Lincoln delivered his inaugural, and which left thirty millions of people in doubt whether it meant peace or war. Under this confidence in the restoration of peace, the prosperity of the country revived, Secession in the past languished, and Secession in the future was arrested by the course of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, all of which declared for the old Union.

The national heart beat high with hope — the elections in Rhode Island, in New York, and in the western States gave abundant evidence that the people were resolved on the most ample, satisfactory, constitutional guarantees as the price of the restoration of the Union--then it was that a long and agonized howl came up from defeated and disappointed politicians. The newspaper press teemed with appeals and threats to the President; the mails groaned under the weight of letters demanding a change of policy, while a secret conclave of the Governors of the States of Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and other States convened in this city and promised men and money to carry on the irrepressible conflict; and thus it was that a party in the pangs of dissolution, in the very hour and article of death, demanded vigorous measures which could restore it to life, but at the expense of civil war-and nothing else.

But there was yet another cause — the passage of the ill-digested and unstatesmanlike tariff bill, (Morrill's.) About the same time the Confederate Congress adopted our tariff act of 1857--the result was inevitable. The trade and commerce of the West began to look to the South, from which it had been directed years ago by the canals and railroads of Pennsylvania and New York, at a heavy cost to the West. They threatened to resume their ancient and accustomed channels — the water-courses of the Ohio and Mississippi, and political association and union, it is well known, must soon follow the direction of trade.

The city of New York began then to clamor loudly for the repeal of the tariff act. Threatened thus with the loss of both political power and wealth, New England and Pennsylvania--that land of peace — began now, too, to demand coercion and civil war as the price of the preservation of their wealth; began to demand the subjugation of the South-aye, the subjugation of the South. He spoke not to children, and not a man in sound of his voice but knew that the South could not be restored to obedience to the Constitution except through subjugation.

The subjugation of the South and the closing up of her ports, first by force and then by law, was resolved upon, and when this policy was once established, the self-same motive of warning commerce and of threatening trade impelled the city of New York to place herself first in the ranks of the uprising which swept over the North and West.

He would not now assert what subsequent acts of the Administration may make apparent, that its frequent infractions of the Constitution, its high-handed usurpations of power, formed part of a conspiracy to overturn republican institutions and establish a strong consolidated government; but rather that, in the beginning, they rushed needlessly into acts which were designed to revive the fallen fortunes of a party, and the woeful consequences of which were not then foreseen.

Whatever may have been the purpose, he now asserted that every principal act of the Administration has been a glaring usurpation of power and a palpable and dangerous violation of the Constitution, and every one of which acts might well have been postponed until the assembling of Congress.

The whole responsibility of the war has been boldly assumed by the Executive, and all the powers deemed necessary for his purposes are boldly usurped, either from the States, the people, or Congress; while the judiciary, that last refuge of hope and liberty, was turned away from with contempt. Now he comes and asks Congress to support the army he has raised in plain violation of the Constitution, and to ratify his usurpation by a law ex post facto, and thus to make ourselves parties to our own degradation, and to his infractions of the supreme law of the land.

Beginning with these wide breaches of the Constitution, these enormous usurpations of the most dangerous of all powers, the power of the sword, the sanctity of the telegraph was invaded, though it turns out significantly enough that the only traitor discovered, so far, is one of the appointees and special pets of the Administration. One step more will bring upon us search and seizure of the public mails, and finally, as in the days of the Russells and Sydneys of English martyrdom, the drawers and secretaries of the private citizen. Though even these tyrants had the grace to look to the forms of the law, and the execution was then judicial murder, not military slaughter.

Rights of property having been wantonly violated, it needed but a little stretch of usurpation to violate the sanctity of the person, and a victim was not wanting. A private citizen of Maryland, not subject to the rules and articles of war, not in a case arising in the

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.
Crittenden (2)
Morrill (1)
Abraham Lincoln (1)
House (1)
John Adams (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.
1857 AD (1)
March 4th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: