previous next

[288] Can she soil her pure hands with its booty? She possesses the noblest heritage that God has granted to his children; is she prepared to barter it away for that miserable mess of pottage, which the gratification of the unholy ambition of her public men would bring to her lips? Can she, without laying her face in the dust for very shame, become a participant in the spoliation of the commerce of her neighbors and friends, by contributing her star, hitherto so stainless in its glory, to light the corsair on his way? Has the war-whoop, which used to startle the sleep of our frontiers, so died away in her ears that she is willing to take the red-handed savage to her bosom as the champion of her rights and the representative of her spirit? Must she not first forget her own heroic sons who perished, butchered and scalped, upon the disastrous field of Raisin?

The object of the revolution, as avowed by all who are pressing it forward, is the permanent dismemberment of the Confederacy. The dream of reconstruction — used during the last winter as a lure to draw the hesitating or the hopeful into the movement — has been formally abandoned. If Kentucky separates herself from the Union, it must be upon the basis that the separation is to be final and eternal. Is there aught in the organization or administration of the Government of the United States to justify, on our part, an act so solemn and so perilous? Could the wisest of her lawyers, if called upon, find material for an indictment in any or in all the pages of the history of the Republic? Could the most leprous-lipped of its calumniators point to a single State or Territory, or community, or citizen, that it has wronged or oppressed? It would be impossible. So far as the Slave States are concerned, their protection has been complete, and if it has not been, it has been the fault of their statesmen, who have had the control of the Government since its foundation.

The census returns show that during the year 1860 the Fugitive Slave Law was executed more faithfully and successfully than it had been during the preceding ten years. Since the installation of President Lincoln not a case has arisen in which the fugitive has not been returned, and that, too, without any opposition from the people. Indeed, the fidelity with which it was understood to be the policy of the present Administration to enforce the provisions of this law, has caused a perfect panic among the runaway slaves in the free States, and they have been escaping in multitudes into Canada, unpursued and unreclaimed by their masters. Is there found in this reason for a dissolution of the Union?

That the slave States are not recognized as equals in the Confederacy has, for several years, been the cry of demagogues and conspirators. But what is the truth? Not only according to the theory, but the actual practice of the Government, the slave States have ever been, and still are, in all respects, the peers of the free. Of the fourteen Presidents who have been elected, seven were citizens of slave States, and of the seven remaining, three represented Southern principles, and received the votes of the Southern people; so that, in our whole history, but four Presidents have been chosen who can be claimed as the special champions of the policy and principles of the free States, and even these so only in a modified sense. Does this look as if the South had ever been deprived of her equal share of the honors and powers of the Government? The Supreme Court has decided that the citizens of the slave States can, at will, take their slaves into all the Territories of the United States: and this decision, which has never been resisted or interfered with in a single case, is the law of the land, and the whole power of the Government is pledged to enforce it. That it will be loyally enforced by the present Administration, I entertain no doubt. A Republican Congress, at the late session, organized three new Territories, and in the organic law of neither was there introduced, or attempted to be introduced, the slightest restriction upon the right of the Southern emigrant to bring his slaves with him. At this moment, therefore,--and I state it without qualification — there is not a Territory belonging to the United States into which the Southern people may not introduce their slaves at pleasure, and enjoy their complete protection. Kentucky should consider this great and undeniable fact, before which all the frothy rant of demagogues and disunionists must disappear as a bank of fog before the wind. But were it otherwise, and did a defect exist in our organic law, or in the practical administration of the Government, in reference to the rights of Southern slaveholders in the Territories, still the question would be a mere abstraction, since the laws of climate forbid the establishment of slavery in such latitudes; and to destroy such institutions as ours for such a cause, instead of patiently trying to remove it, would be little short of national insanity. It would be to burn the house down over our heads merely because there is a leak in the roof; to scuttle the ship in mid-ocean merely because there is a difference of opinion among the crew as to the point of the compass to which the vessel should be steered; it would be, in fact, to apply the knife to the throat, instead of to the cancer of the patient.

But what remains? Though, say the disunionists, the Fugitive Slave Law is honestly enforced, and though, under the shelter of the Supreme Court, we can take our slaves into the Territories, yet the Northern people will persist in discussing the institution of slavery, and therefore we will break up the Government. It is true that slavery has been very intemperately discussed in the North, and it is equally true that until we have an Asiatic despotism, crushing out all freedom of speech and of the press, this discussion will probably continue.

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) (3)
Kentucky (Kentucky, United States) (2)
Raisin (Texas, United States) (1)
Canada (Canada) (1)

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.
Abraham Lincoln (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.
1860 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: