that we would be better off without it. I do not so think; if we can bring about a correction of these evils which threaten — and I am not without hope that this may yet be done — this appeal to go out, with all the provisions for good that accompany it, I look upon as a great and I fear a fatal temptation.
When I look around and see our prosperity in every thing, agriculture, commerce, art, science, and every department of education, physical and mental, as well as moral advancement, and our colleges, I think, in the face of such an exhibition, if we can without the loss of power, or any essential right or interest, remain in the Union
, it is our duty to ourselves and to posterity to — let us not too readily yield to this temptation — do so. Our first parents, the great progenitors of the human race, were not without a like temptation when in the garden of Eden
They were led to believe that their condition would be bettered — that their eyes would be opened — and that they would become as gods.
They in an evil hour yielded-instead of becoming gods they only saw their own nakedness.
I look upon this country with our institutions as the Eden of the world, the paradise of the universe.
It may be that out of it we may become greater and more prosperous, but I am candid and sincere in telling you that I fear if we rashly evince passion and without sufficient cause shall take that step, that instead of becoming greater or more peaceful, prosperous, and happy — instead of becoming gods, we will become demons, and at no distant day commence cutting one another's throats.
This is my apprehension.
Let us, therefore, whatever we do, meet these difficulties, great as they are, like wise and sensible men, and consider them in the light of all the consequences which may attend our action.
Let us see first clearly where the path of duty leads, and then we may not fear to tread therein.
I come now to the main question put to me, and on which my counsel has been asked.
That is, what the present Legislature should do in view of the dangers that threaten us, and the wrongs that have been done us by several of our Confederate States
in the Union
, by the acts of their legislatures nullifying the fugitive slave law, and in direct disregard of their constitutional obligations.
What I shall say will not be in the spirit of dictation.
It will be simply my own judgment for what it is worth.
It proceeds from a strong conviction that according to it our rights, interests, and honor — our present safety and future security can be maintained without yet looking to the last resort, the “ultima ratio regum
That should not be looked to until all else fails.
That may come.
On this point I am hopeful, but not sanguine.
But let us use every patriotic effort to prevent it while there is ground for hope,
If any view that I may present, in your judgment, be inconsistent with the best interests of Georgia
, I ask you, as patriots, not to regard it. After hearing me and others whom you have advised with, act in the premises according to your own conviction of duty as patriots.
I speak now particularly to the members of the Legislature present.
There are, as I have said, great dangers ahead.
Great dangers may come from the election I have spoken of. If the policy of Mr. Lincoln
and his Republican associates shall be carried out, or attempted to be carried out, no man in Georgia
will be more willing or ready than myself to defend our rights, interest, and honor at every hazard, and to the last extremity.
What is this policy?
It is in the first place to exclude us by an act of Congress from the Territories
with our slave property.
He is for using the power of the General Government
against the extension of our institutions.
Our position on this point is and ought to be, at all hazards, for perfect equality between all the States, and the citizens of all the States, in the Territories
, under the Constitution of the United States
If Congress should exercise its power against this, then I am for standing where Georgia
planted herself in 1850.
These were plain propositions which were then laid down in her celebrated platform as sufficient for the disruption of the Union
if the occasion should ever come; on these Georgia
has declared that she will go out of the Union
; and for these she would be justified by the nations of the earth in so doing.
I say the same; I said it then; I say it now, if Mr. Lincoln
's policy should be carried out. I have told you that I do not think his bare election sufficient cause: but if his policy should be carried out in violation of any of the principles set forth in the Georgia Platform
, that would be such an act of aggression which ought to be met as therein provided for. If his policy shall be carried out in repealing or modifying the Fugitive Slave
law so as to weaken its efficacy, Georgia
has declared that she will in the last resort disrupt the ties of the Union
, and I say so too. I stand upon the Georgia Platform
, and upon every plank, and say if those, aggressions therein provided for take place, I say to you and to the people of Georgia
, keep your powder dry, and let your assailants then have lead, if need be. (Applause.) I would wait for an act of aggression.
This is my position.
Now, upon another point, and that the most difficult and deserving your most serious consideration, I will speak.
That is the course which this State should pursue towards these Northern States, which by their legislative acts have attempted to nullify the Fugitive Slave
law. I know that in some of these States their acts pretend to be based upon the principles set forth in the case of Prigg against Pennsylvania
; that decision did proclaim the doctrine that the State
officers are not bound to carry out the provisions of a law of Congress — that the Federal Government
cannot impose duties upon State officials; that they must execute