outrages which had been borne until endurance was no longer possible.
And yet no conclusion could be further from the truth than this.
The Government of the United States
has been faithful to all its constitutional obligations.
For eighty years it has maintained the national honor at home and abroad, and by its prowess, its wisdom, and its justice, has given to the title of an American citizen an elevation among the nations of the earth which the citizens of no republic have enjoyed since Rome
was mistress of the world.
Under its administration the national domain has stretched away to the Pacific
, and that constellation which announced our birth as a people, has expanded from thirteen to thirty-four stars, all, until recently, moving undisturbed and undimmed in their orbs of light and grandeur.
The rights of no States have been invaded; no man's property has been despoiled, no man's liberty abridged, no man's life oppressively jeopardized by the action of this Government.
Under its benign influences the rills of public and private prosperity have swelled into rivulets, and from rivulets into rivers ever brimming in their fulness, and everywhere, and at all periods of its history its ministrations have fallen as gently on the people of the United States
as do the dews of a summer's night on the flowers and grass of the gardens and fields.
Whence, then, this revolutionary outbreak?
Whence the secret spring of this gigantic conspiracy, which, like some huge boa, had completely coiled itself around the limbs and body of the republic, before a single hand was lifted to resist it?
Strange, and indeed startling, as the announcement must appear when it falls on the ears of the next generation, the national tragedy, in whose shadow we stand to-night, has come upon us because, in November last, John C. Breckinridge
was not elected President
of the United States
, and Abraham Lincoln
was. This is the whole story.
And I would pray now to know, on what John C. Breckinridge
fed that he has grown so great, that a republic founded by Washington
and cemented by the best blood that has ever coursed in human veins, is to be overthrown because, forsooth, he cannot be its President
Had he been chosen, we well know that we should not have heard of this rebellion, for the lever with which it is being moved would have been wanting to the hands of the conspirators.
Even after his defeat, could it have been guaranteed, beyond all peradventure, that Jeff. Davis
, or some other kindred spirit, would be the successor of Mr. Lincoln
, I presume we hazard nothing in assuming that this atrocious movement against the Government
would not have been set on foot.
So much for the principle involved in it. This great crime, then, with which we are grappling, sprang from that “sin by which the angels fell” --an unmastered and profligate ambition — an ambition that “would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven” --that would rather rule supremely over a shattered fragment of the republic than run the chances of sharing with others the honors of the whole.
The conspirators of the South
read in the election of Mr. Lincoln
, a declaration that the Democratic party had been prostrated, if not finally destroyed, by the selfish intrigues and corruptions of its leaders; they read, too, that the vicious, emaciated, and spavined hobby of the slavery agitation, on which they had so often rode into power, could no longer carry them beyond a given geographical line of our territory, and that in truth this factious and treasonable agitation, on which so many of them had grown great by debauching and denationalizing the mind of a people naturally generous and patriotic, had run its course, and hence, that from the national disgust for this demagoguing, and from the inexorable law of population, the time had come when all those who had no other political capital than this, would have to prepare for retirement to private life, so far at least as the highest offices of the country were concerned.
Under the influence of these grim discouragements, they resolved to consummate at once — what our political history shows to have been a long cherished purpose — the dismemberment of the Government
They said to themselves: “Since we can no longer monopolize the great offices of the Republic
as we have been accustomed to do, we will destroy it and build upon its ruins an empire that shall be all our own, and whose spoils neither the North
, nor the East
, nor the West
shall share with us.”
Deplorable and humiliating as this certainly is, it is but a rehearsal of the sad, sad story of the past.
We had, indeed, supposed that under our Christian civilization we had reached a point in human progress, when a Republic could exist without having its life sought by its own offspring; but the Catilines of the South
have proved that we were mistaken.
Let no man imagine that, because this rebellion has been made by men renowned in our civil and military history, it is, therefore, the less guilty or the less courageously to be resisted.
It is precisely this class of men who have subverted the best governments that have ever existed.
The purest spirits that have lived in the tide of times, the noblest institutions that have arisen to bless our race, have found among those in whom they had most confided, and whom they had most honored, men wicked enough, either secretly to betray them unto death, or openly to seek their overthrow by lawless violence.
The Republic of England
had its Monk
; the Republic
had its Bonaparte
; the Republic
had its Caesar
and its Catiline, and the Saviour of the world had his Judas Iscariot.
It cannot be necessary that I should declare to you, for you know them well, who they are whose parricidal swords are now unsheathed against the Republic
of the United States
Their names are inscribed upon a scroll of infamy that can never perish.
The most distinguished of them were educated by the