their own laws by their own officers.
And this may be true.
But still it is the duty of the States to deliver fugitive slaves, as well as the duty of the General Government
to see that it is done.
Northern States, on entering into the Federal
compact, pledged themselves to surrender such fugitives; and it is in disregard of their obligations that they have passed laws which even tend to hinder or obstruct the fulfilment of that obligation.
They have violated their plighted faith; what ought we to do in view of this?
That is the question.
What is to be done?
By the law of nations you would have a right to demand the carrying out of this article of agreement, and I do not see that it should be otherwise with respect to the States of this Union; and in case it be not done, we would, by these principles, have the right to commit acts of reprisal on these faithless Governments, and seize upon their property, or that of their citizens wherever found.
The States of this Union stand upon the same footing with foreign nations in this respect.
But by the law of nations we are equally bound, before proceeding to violent measures, to set forth our grievances before the offending Government, to give them an opportunity to redress the wrong.
Has our State yet done this?
I think not.
Suppose it were Great Britain
that had violated some compact of agreement with the General Government
, what would be first done?
In that case our Minister would be directed in the first instance to bring the matter to the attention of that Government, or a Commissioner be sent to that country to open negotiations with her, ask for redress, and it would only be when argument and reason had been exhausted that we should take the last resort of nations.
That would be the course towards a foreign Government, and towards a member of this Confederacy I would recommend the same course.
Let us, therefore, not act hastily in this matter.
Let your Committee on the State
of the Republic
make out a bill of grievances; let it be sent by the Governor
to those faithless States, and if reason and argument shall be tried in vain — all shall fail to induce them to return to their constitutional obligations, I would be for retaliatory measures, such as the Governor
has suggested to you. This mode of resistance in the Union
is in our power.
It might be effectual, and if in the last resort, we would be justified in the eyes of nations, not only in separating from them, but by using force.
[Some one said the argument was already exhausted.]
continued — Some friend says that the argument is already exhausted.
No, my friend, it is not. You have never called the attention of the Legislatures of those States to this subject, that I am aware of. Nothing has ever been done before this year.
The attention of our own people has been called to this subject lately.
Now, then, my recommendation to you would be this: In view of all these questions of difficulty, let a convention of the people of Georgia
be called, to which they may be all referred.
Let the sovereignty of the people speak.
Some think that the election of Mr. Lincoln
is cause sufficient to dissolve the Union
Some think those other grievances are sufficient to dissolve the same, and that the Legislature has the power thus to act, and ought thus to act. I have no hesitancy in saying that the Legislature is not the proper body to sever our Federal relations, if that necessity should arise.
An honorable and distinguished gentleman, the other night, (Mr. T. R. R. Cobb
,) advised you to take this course — not to wait to hear from the crossroads and groceries.
I say to you, you have no power so to act. You must refer this question to the people and you must wait to hear from the men at the cross-roads and even the groceries; for the people in this country, whether at the cross-roads or the groceries, whether in cottages or palaces, are all equal, and they are the sovereigns in this country.
Sovereignty is not in the Legislature.
We, the people, are the sovereigns.
I am one of them and have a right to be heard, and so has any other citizen of the State
You legislators, I speak it respectfully, are but our servants.
You are the servants of the people, and not their masters.
Power resides with the people in this country.
The great difference between our country and all others, such as France
, is, that here there is popular sovereignty, while there sovereignty is exercised by kings and favored classes.
This principle of popular sovereignty, however much derided lately, is the foundation of our institutions.
Constitutions are but the channels through which the popular will may be expressed.
Our Constitution came from the people.
They made it, and they alone can rightfully unmake it.
--I am afraid of conventions.
--I am not afraid of any convention legally chosen by the people.
I know no way to decide great questions affecting fundamental laws except by representatives of the people.
The Constitution of the United States
was made by the representatives of the people.
The Constitution of the State of Georgia
was made by representatives of the people chosen at the ballot-box.
But do not let the question which comes before the people be put to them in the language of my honorable friend who addressed you last night.
Will you submit, to abolition rule or resist?
--I do not wish the people to be cheated.
--Now, my friends, how are we going to cheat the people by calling on them to elect delegates to a convention to decide all these questions without any dictation or direction?