23.--speech of Jefferson Davis on leaving the Senate.
I rise for the purpose of announcing to the Senate that I have satisfactory evidence that the State of Mississippi
, by solemn ordinance in convention assembled, has declared her separation from the United States
Under these circumstances, of course, my functions terminate here.
It has seemed to be proper that I should appear in the Senate and announce that fact, and to say something, though very little, upon it. The occasion does not invite me to go into the argument, and my physical condition will not permit it, yet something would seem to be necessary on the part of the State
I here represent, on an occasion like this.
It is known to Senators
who have served here, that I have for many years advocated, as an essential attribute of State sovereignty, the right of a State to secede from the Union
If, therefore, I had not believed there was justifiable cause — if I had thought the State
was acting without sufficient provocation — still, under my theory of government, I should have felt bound by her action.
I, however, may say I think she had justifiable cause, and I approve of her acts.
I conferred with the people before that act was taken, and counselled them that if they could not remain, that they should take the act. I hope none will confound this expression of opinion with the advocacy of the right of a State to remain in the Union
, and disregard its constitutional obligations by nullification.
Nullification and secession are indeed antagonistic principles.
Nullification is the remedy which is to be sought and applied, within the Union
, against an agent of the United States
, when the agent has violated constitutional obligations, and the State
assumes for itself, and appeals to other States to support it. But when the States themselves, and the people of the States, have so acted as to convince us that they will not regard our constitutional rights, then, and then for the first time, arises the question of secession in its practical application.
That great man who now reposes with his fathers, who has been so often arraigned for want of fealty to the Union
, advocated the doctrine of nullification, because it preserved the Union
It was because of his deepseated attachment to the Union
that Mr. Calhoun
advocated the doctrine of nullification, which he claimed would give peace within the limits of the Union
, and not disturb it, and only be the means of bringing the agent before the proper tribunal of the States for judgment.
Secession belongs to a different class of rights, and is to be justified upon the basis that the States are sovereign.
The time has been, and I hope the time will come again, when a better appreciation of our Union will prevent any one denying that each State is a sovereign in its own right.
Therefore, I say I concur in the act of my State, and feel bound by it. It is by this confounding of nullification and secession that the name of another great man has been invoked to justify the coercion of a seceding State.
The phrase “to execute the law,” as used by General Jackson
, was applied to a State refusing to obey the laws and still remaining in the Union
I remember well when Massachusetts
was arraigned before the Senate.
The record of that occasion will show that I said, if Massachusetts
, in pursuing the line of steps, takes the last step which separates her from the Union
, the right is hers, and I will neither vote one dollar nor one man to coerce her, but I will say to her, “God speed!”
then proceeded to argue that the equality spoken of in the Declaration of Independence
was the equality of a class in political rights, referring to the charge against George III.
for inciting insurrection, as proof that it had no reference to the slaves.
But we have proclaimed our independence.
This is done with no hostility or any desire to injure any section of the country, nor even for our pecuniary benefit, but from the high and solid foundation of defending and protecting the rights we inherited, and transmitting them unshorn to our posterity.
I know I feel no hostility to you Senators
here, and am sure there is not one of you, whatever may have been the sharp discussion between us, to whom I cannot now say, in the presence of my God, I wish you well.
And such is the feeling, I am sure, the people I represent feel towards those whom you represent.
I, therefore, feel I but express their desire, when I say I hope and they hope for those peaceful relations with you, though we must part, that may be mutually beneficial to us in the future.
There will be peace if you so will it, and you may bring disaster on every part of the country, if you thus will have it. And if you will have it thus, we will invoke the God of our fathers, who delivered them from the paw of the lion, to protect us from the ravages of the bear; and thus putting our trust in God, and our own firm hearts and strong arms, we will vindicate and defend the rights we claim.
In the course of my long career, I have met with a great variety of men here, and there have been points of collision between us. Whatever of offence there has been to me, I leave here.
I carry no hostile feelings away.
Whatever of offence I have given, which has not been redressed, I am willing to say to Senators
in this hour of parting, I offer you my apology for any thing I may have done in the Senate; and I go thus released from obligation, remembering no injury I have received, and having discharged what I deem the duty of man, to offer the only reparation at this hour for every injury I have ever inflicted.
[As the Senators
were about to retire from the Senate, all the Democratic Senators
crowded around them and shook hands with them.
were the only Republican Senators
that did so.]--Herald
, Jan. 22.