previous next
[207] that, under our constitution and laws, we had enjoyed a prosperity and made a progress, not merely in the utilitarian, but in the intellectual and refined arts of life, without an example in the world.

I said nothing of the unhappy sectional controversy that was raging the country, not because I was insensible to its dangerous character, but because nothing was said about it in the speech to which I undertook to reply. The general truth of my description of the prosperity of the country, and the genial and fostering influence of our Constitution and Laws, was as generally admitted at the South as at the North. No longer ago than the 14th of last November, Mr. Stephens, of Georgia, now Vice-President of the Southern Confederacy, and a gentleman of first rate intelligence, in a public speech at Milledgeville, declared it as his “settled conviction,” that the present Government of the United States, though not without its defects, “comes nearer the objects of all good government than any other on the face of the earth.” He pronounced it “a model republic, the best that the history of the world gives us any account of;” and he asked in triumph, “Where will you go, following the sun in his circuit round the globe, to find a government that better protects the liberties of the people, and secures to them the blessings which we enjoy?” 1

This, you will observe again, was the language of a very leading Southern statesman, the second officer.of the new Confederacy, no longer ago than last November; and, in truth, the South had and has greater cause than any other part of the Union, to be satisfied with the Government under which she lives and on which she is making war. Respected abroad as an integral portion of one of the greatest powers of the earth, mainly in virtue of the navy of the Union, of which the strength resides at the North, the South, almost exclusively agricultural in her pursuits, derives from her climate a profitable monopoly of four great staple products--one of them the most important single article in the commerce of the world; while, in consequence, chiefly of the political sympathy with each other which pervades the slaveholding States, she has ever enjoyed a monopoly scarcely less complete of the Government of the country.

At this moment, and though numbering but a third part of the free population of the Union, if she had not most unjustifiably withdrawn her members of Congress, she would have had in her interest a majority in the Senate, in the House of Representatives, and in the Judiciary. For fifty-six out of the seventy-two years, the Presidents of the United States have been either Southern men or Northern men in whom the South has confided. For the first time, last November, a President was chosen who received no electoral votes from the South, but that President has given the most distinct assurances that he contemplated no encroachments on the constitutional rights of the South, as, indeed, lacking a majority of both houses, it is impossible that he should make any such encroachments, had he ever so ardently desired it. Such is the Government in its relations with the South; such the circumstances under which she thinks herself justified in revolting against it.

I say “revolting against it,” although Mr. Jefferson Davis, in his inaugural address, declares it an abuse of language to call it a “revolution.” I cannot go into that argument at this late hour, nor would it be appropriate to the occasion to do so; but I believe it to be as demonstrable as any proposition of Euclid, that this doctrine of “secession,” that is, the constitutional right of a State to sever at will her connection with the Union, is, if possible, still more unfounded, still more fallacious, than that of its ill-omened and now universally discredited predecessor, “Nullification,” which was crushed, never to rise again, thirty years ago, by the iron mace of Webster, in the Senate of the United States.

I will only say at present, that this monstrous pretended right of “secession,” though called a “reserved right,” is notoriously nowhere expressly reserved in the Constitution, although every one feels that nothing but an express reservation, in the plainest terms, would be a sufficient ground for claiming such a stupendous power. What is maintained by the politicians of the secession school is, that the right may be inferred from one of the amendments to the Constitution, by which it is provided that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, or prohibited to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or the people.” It is to maintain a subtile and sophistical, and utterly unwarrantable inference from this amendment, that the South is now striving to break up the Government, and if resisted in that unhallowed attempt, to drench the country in blood.

But I am willing to stake the great issue on this amendment. The Constitution does expressly delegate to the United States all the powers of a sovereign State, with respect to international and interstate affairs; the whole war power; the whole admiralty power; the whole commercial power; the whole financial power; the power to regulate and dispose of the public territory; the power over the Indians, over the post-office and post-roads; over the army, the navy, the dockyards, the arsenals. All these powers and many others are expressly delegated to the United States, and as expressly prohibited to the individual States. The Constitution of the United States (to which the people of South Carolina assented on the 2d of May, 1788, as much as they ever assented to their State constitution) distinctly provides that no State shall keep troops or ships of war, or issue letters of marque and reprisal, or enter

1 See Speech of A. H. Stephens, Nov. 14, 1861, seq.

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 Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
United States (United States) (5)
South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Milledgeville (Georgia, United States) (1)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

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.
Horace Webster (1)
Alexander H. Stephens (1)
A. H. Stephens (1)
Jefferson Davis (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.
November (3)
November 14th, 1861 AD (1)
May 2nd, 1788 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: