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Doc. 143.-speech of Reverdy Johnson, at Frederick, Md., May 7, 1861.

Mr. Johnson appeared upon the stand shortly before four o'clock, and, after an eloquent and fervent prayer by Rev. B. H. Creager, spoke as follows:

I am before you by the request of the patriotic Ladies of your city to present in their behalf a standard, the work of their hands, which they desire to intrust to your custody and protection. With this request I comply with the truest pleasure.

In this existing crisis of our country's fate every indication of a national, patriotic spirit is hailed with joy by every loyal heart. And when, as in this instance, it is exhibited by those whose thoughts are instinctively pure, having no partisan motives to influence them, no partisan prejudices to gratify, no petty ambition to subserve, no interest other than in their country's prosperity and good name, we rejoice at it even the more from a conviction that it must tend to strengthen the resolves of the loyal, encourage the hopes of the desponding, and bring to a pause the plottings of the rebellious.

Before doing the mere act I am delegated to perform, I hope you will consider the occasion as justifying a few thoughts as to the duty and interest of our State in the present emergency. In the original causes which have produced it she, thank God, had no share. Amongst the foremost and bravest in winning our independence; amongst the truest and wisest in forming our Government, and amongst the first in adopting it, her sons have uniformly given it a faithful and zealous support. No treasonable thought, so far as we know, ever entered the mind of one of them; certainly no threat of treason was ever whispered by them. They ever felt the immense advantage of the Union; they saw evidenced by every thing around them the blessings it conferred upon Maryland and upon all: prosperity unexampled, a national power increasing every year with a rapidity and to a degree never before witnessed in a nation's history, and winning for us a name challenging the respect and admiration of the world. They saw in the extent of the country, and the differences of climate and habits, elements of strength rather than of weakness, and apprehended therefore no parricidal efforts in any quarter to destroy the Government. If occasionally murmurs of dissatisfaction were heard elsewhere, they were attributed to the whining disposition of some and the disappointed ambition of others. They were ridiculed, subjected to no other punishment, but left to stand as “monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” No “whiskey insurrection” ever occurred within our borders; no ordinance of nullification was ever threatened by us; and, if we continue true to patriotic duty, no ordinance of secession, direct or indirect, open or covert, will ever be adopted by those in authority, or, if madly adopted, be tolerated by the people.

To this steadfast attachment to the Union we are not only bound by gratitude to the noble ancestry by whose patriotic wisdom it was bequeathed to us, and by the unappreciable blessings the bequest has conferred upon us, but by the assurance, which the most stolid intellect can hardly fail to feel, that its destruction would not only, and at once deprive us of all [200] these, but precipitate us into irreparable ruin. In this ruin all would more or less participate, but our geographical position would make it to us immediate and total. A peaceable disseverance the good and great men who have heretofore guided our public councils ever predicted to be impossible. The proclamations now trumpeted through the land, the marshalling of hosts by thousands and tens of thousands, the whitening of our waters with an immense naval marine, the blockade of ports, the prostration of commerce, the destruction of almost, all civil employment, the heated tone of the public press of all sections, belching forth the most bitter enmity, all, all testify to the truth of the prediction. How this is to result, Heaven alone knows.

But to my mind one thing is certain. The Government by no single act of its own, has given cause for resistance to its rightful authority. The powers which it was exercising at the moment when rebellion began to muster its “armies of pestilence,” were clearly conferred upon it by the Constitution. And if the Executive, then just legally chosen, had meditated any illegal policy, the friends of constitutional rights were numerous enough in Congress, had they remained at their posts, as they were bound to do by their oaths and their duty to the holy cause of Constitutional Government, successfully and peacefully to have thwarted it.

The professed especial friends of Southern rights, instead of this, rudely shot from their spheres, and, under the utterly ridiculous claim of constitutional right, advised State secession. Madmen — if not worse — they desecrated, too, in support of this dogma, the name of Calhoun. He may have committed political errors — who has not? His doctrine of nullification was certainly one, in the judgment of all his great compeers, sanctioned by almost the entire country, but he never maintained the nonsensical heresy of rightful secession. On the contrary, long after that of the short-lived nullification, in February, 1844, writing to his “political friends and supporters” refusing to permit his name to be presented before the then approaching Baltimore Convention, he said:

That each State has the right to act as it pleases in whatever relates to itself exclusively no one will deny; but it is a perfectly novel doctrine that any State has such a right when she comes to act in concert with others in reference to what concerns the whole. In such cases it is the plainest dictate of common sense that whatever affects the whole should be regulated by the mutual consent of all, and not by the discretion of each.

That great philosophical statesman understood, as in another letter of the 3d of July, 1843, he invites his countrymen to understand “in all its great and beautiful proportions, the noble political structure reared by the wisdom and patriotism of our ancestors, and to have the virtue and the sense to preserve and protect it,” and declared it the “duty of the Federal Government, under the guarantees of the Constitution, promptly to suppress physical force as an element of change, and to keep wide open the door for the free and full action of all the moral elements in its power.”

The truth is, and I regret sincerely to believe it, that fear of a violation of Southern rights was with the prompters of the rebellion but a pretence.

What they have done and arc still doing at the sacrifice of the nation's welfare, and of the welfare of their own section, exerting every nerve to accomplish, was and is but to retain official power, which they fancied was passing from them. Look at the usurped government at Montgomery. The mention of names is unnecessary — they are destined to an unhappy immortality. Those who plotted the seizure of forts, arsenals, mints, navy-yards, customhouses, the admitted property of the United States, seducing soldiers and sailors from their sworn allegiance — using the very Senate chamber, dedicated and sacred to duty, as a spot from which to issue their treacherous telegrams — are there to be seen all in power, actual or prospective. The fact too clearly tells the revolting story. Men long enjoying public honors, earning through many years of service a national fame, owning their renown because of the world-wide fame of a glorious Government, are striving, day and night, to reduce it to dishonor and destruction. Thank God, our consolation is that the effort, however pregnant with the present calamity, will fall short of its horrid aim. They may “as well strike at the heavens with their arms” as lift them against the “American Union.”

That the end must fail, who can doubt? The recent census furnishes pregnant proof of this. It shows that the Free States have a population of males between eighteen and forty-five of 3,778,000, and all the Slave States only 1,655,000, and the seceding States, excluding Virginia, but 631,000; and if to this vast difference of men is added that of wealth, inventive skill, habits of industry, and the absence of any element of domestic danger, the disparity is infinitely greater. In a struggle between such hosts — which may God in his mercy avert — who can fail to see what must be the end?

But to our State these facts teach a lesson that all can understand. If mad and wicked enough to attempt it, what could we do to resist this immense power on our borders? Call on the South? Make our State the battle-field? How long could the entire South, if flying to our succor, remain with and aid us? They might assist in drenching our land with blood; they might witness with us our desolation, but that doom in such a contest it would be. They would be driven back within their own limits and we left alone in our calamity, to be rendered the more acute when, as we should, we awoke to the insanity and crime which occasioned it. Looking, therefore, to interest alone, adherence to the Government is our clear policy. But [201] when, as in my judgment it obviously is, that policy is demanded by the most obvious demands of patriotic duty, we should not hesitate one moment in adopting and abiding by it.

Let those who have produced the rebellion exclusively share its certain adverse fate. Let them not, by specious promises of assistance and future prosperity, swerve us from our allegiance. They are even now promising themselves comparative exemption from the perils of the struggle. A recent Secretary, after having used his high position to produce the result, and by his grossly ignorant or faithless measures bankrupt the Treasury, is now addressing the people of his immediate section to persuade them that the coming war and its horrors will be kept far from them, and confined to the Border States. Let us, as far as ours is concerned, be wise enough to frustrate this cowardly policy. If to gain their traitorous views war is to be waged, let them bear its entire brunt. Let us not be their deluded victims.

What is there in the modern history of South Carolina which should recommend her teachings to Maryland? What is there in the intellects of the Rhetts, the Yanceys, the Cobbs, and id genus omne, to make them our leaders? They did all they could to achieve the election of Mr. Lincoln, and hailed its accomplishment with undissembled delight. They thought they saw in it the realization of their long-cherished hopes — the precipitation of the Cotton States into a revolution; and then fancied exemption from the worst of the perils — and they now seek to effect it — in the intervention of the other Slave States between them and the danger. Short-sighted men, they never anticipated the calamities already upon them, and the greater certain to follow. Besides relying on the fact just stated, they also counted securely on a large and influential support in the Free States. Little did they know the true patriotic heart of the land. The first gun fired on the nation's flag raised that feeling in the Northern heart. That gun, fired without cause, and upon a noble garrison about to be starved into a surrender, by being, through timidity or a worse cause, left in that condition, caused every man able to bear arms to rush to the support of the Government. Where, in the past, the South could count its friends by thousands and hundreds of thousands, not one is now to be found. The cry is the Government must be sustained — the flag must be vindicated. Heaven forbid that the duty of that vindication should be forgotten by Maryland! A temporary cause may have made it prudent in a part of the State (I have not the heart to name the locality) to suppress it. It may have happened that the Stripes, so often borne by her sons to victory or a proud death, were justly esteemed the national emblem to outrage, which the constituted authorities (though before justly boastful of their power to preserve the peace, as they had before faithfully done) were unable to prevent or quell, and were immediately made to share the fate of the rebellious standard. But it is not less true that there is in every true Maryland bosom a devoted attachment to the national emblem, which will cause every man of us, whenever and wherever hearing the inspiring sounds, to unite in the chorus of our national anthem, “Oh long may it wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Though not especially impulsive, I cannot imagine how an American eye can look upon that standard without emotion. The twenty stars added to the first constellation tell its proud history, its mighty influence, and its unequalled career. Are these now to be forgotten and lost? Tell me not that this is sentiment. Sentiment, to be sure it is, but it is one that purifies and animates and strengthens the national heart. God may be worshipped (I make the comparison with all proper reverence) in the open field, in the stable — but is there no virtue in the cathedral? Does not the soul turn its thoughts heavenwards the moment its sacred threshold is crossed? This too is sentiment, but it is one that honors our nature, and proves our loyalty to the Almighty.

So it is with our national emblem. The man who is dead to its influence is in mind a fool or in heart a traitor. It is this emblem I am the honored organ now to present to you. I need not commend it to your constant, vigilant care; that, I am sure, it will ever be your pride to give it. When, if ever your hearts shall despond — when, if ever you shall desire your patriotism to be specially animated, throw it to the winds, gaze on its beautiful folds, remember the years and the fields over which, from ‘76 to the present time, it has been triumphantly borne; remember how it has consoled the dying and animated the survivor: remember that it served to kindle even to a brighter flame the patriotic ardor of Washington — went with him through all the struggles of the Revolution, consoled him in defeat, gave to victory an additional charm, and that his dying moments were consoled and cheered by the hope that it would forever float over a perpetual Union, and you at once feel its almost holy influence and swear to stand by and maintain it till life itself shall be no more.

Here it is, citizen soldiers. It is now yours, and with the assurance of its fair donors that they commit it to brave and loyal hands, and with their prayers for your individual happiness — for the restoration of our Government to its recent peaceful and glorious unity, and its continuance as such forever.--National Intelligencer, May 11.

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