In this age and country all institutions, human and divine, are discussed, and so they ought to be; and all that cannot bear discussion must go to the wall, where they ought to go. It is not pretended, however, that the discussion of slavery, which has been continued in our country for more than forty years, has in any manner disturbed or weakened the foundation of the institution. On the contrary, we learn from the press of the seceded States that their slaves were never more tranquil or obedient. There are zealots — happily few in number — both North and South, whose language upon this question is alike extravagant and alike deserving our condemnation. Those who assert that slavery should be extirpated by the sword and those who maintain that the great mission of the white man upon earth is to enslave the black, are not far apart in the folly and atrocity of their sentiments. Before proceeding further, Kentucky should measure well the depth of the gulf she is approaching, and look well to the feet of her guides. Before forsaking a Union in which her people have enjoyed such uninterrupted and such boundless prosperity, she should ask herself, not once, but many times, why do I go, and where am I going? In view of what has been said, it would be difficult to answer the first branch of the inquiry, but to answer the second part is patent to all, as are the consequences which would follow the movement. In giving her great material and moral resources to the support of the Southern Confederacy, Kentucky might prolong the desolating struggle that rebellious States are making to overthrow a Government which they have known only in its blessings; but the triumph of the Government would nevertheless be certain in the end. She would abandon a Government strong and able to protect her, for one that is weak, and that contains, in the very elements of its life, the seeds of destruction and early dissolution. She would adopt, as the law of her existence, the right of secession — a right which has no foundation in jurisprudence, or logic, or in our political history; which Madison, the father of the Federal Constitution, denounced; which has been denounced by most of the States and prominent statesmen now insisting upon its exercise; which, in introducing a principle of indefinite disintegration, cuts up all confederate governments by the root, and gives them over a prey to the caprices, and passions, and transient interests of their members, as autumnal leaves are given to the winds which blow upon them. In 1814, the Richmond Enquirer, then, as now, the organ of public opinion in the South, pronounced secession to be treason, and nothing else, and such was then the doctrine of Southern statesmen. What was true then is equally true now. The prevalence of this pernicious heresy is mainly the fruit of that farce called “State rights,” which demagogues have been so long playing under tragic mask, and which has done more than all things else to unsettle the foundations of the republic, by estranging the people from the Federal Government, as one to be distrusted and resisted, instead of being, what it is, emphatically their own creation, at all times obedient to their will, and in its ministrations the grandest reflex of the greatness and beneficence of popular power that has ever ennobled the history of our race. Said Mr. Clay: “I owe a supreme allegiance to the General Government, and to my State a subordinate one.” And this terse language disposes of the whole controversy which has arisen out of the secession movement in regard to the allegiance of the citizen. As the power of the State and Federal Governments are in perfect harmony with each other, so there can be no conflict with the allegiance due to them; each, while acting within the sphere of its constitutional authority, is entitled to be obeyed; but when a State, throwing off all constitutional restraints, seeks to destroy the General Government, to say that its citizens are bound to follow in this career of crime, and discard the supreme allegiance they owe to the government assailed, is one of the shallowest and most dangerous fallacies that has ever gained credence among men. Kentucky, occupying a central position in the Union, is now protected from the scourge of foreign war, however much its ravages may waste the towns and cities upon our coasts or the commerce upon our seas: but, as a member of the Southern Confederacy, she would be a frontier State, and necessarily the victim of those border feuds and conflicts which have become proverbial in history alike for their fierceness and frequency. The people of the South now sleep quietly in their beds, while there is not a home in infatuated and misguided Virginia that is not filled with the alarms and oppressed by the terrors of war. In the fate of this ancient Commonwealth, dragged to the altar of sacrifice by those who should have stood between her bosom and every foe, Kentucky may read her own. No wonder, therefore, that she has been so coaxingly besought to unite her fortune with those of the South, and to lay down the bodies of her chivalric sons as a breast-work, behind which the Southern people may be sheltered. Even as attached to the Southern Confederacy she would be weak for all the purposes of self-protection as compared with her present position. But amid the mutations incident to such a helpless and self-disintegrating league, Kentucky would probably soon find herself adhering to a mere fragment of the Confederacy, or it may be standing entirely alone, in the presence of tiers of free States with populations exceeding by many millions her own. Feeble States, thus separated from powerful and warlike neighbors by ideal boundaries, or by rivers as easily traversed as rivulets, are as insects that feed upon the lion's lip — liable at every moment to be crushed. The recorded doom of multitudes of
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