State, should be referred to the people, or not. By an unusual, unprecedented majority, the people decided, substantially, that no change should be made, either in our allegiance to the Constitution of the United States or in our State Constitution, without having first received the sanction and approval of our people. The second article of our Bill of Rights declares “that all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.” Therefore no act or ordinance of the Convention changing our Government, either State or Federal, can be of any force or effect until the people have, by a free, deliberate, and unconstrained vote, passed upon it; and then only subject to the Constitution of the United States. This leads us to the next, and yet more important question, as to the power, effect, and obligation of the Constitution of the United States. In this address we intend to speak with perfect frankness and candor. Claiming to understand our rights, we know that we are addressing those of equal intelligence, and who, whilst understanding their rights, have the courage and manhood to vindicate and maintain them. The Hon. Jefferson Davis, President of the so-called Confederate States, on the 29th of the last month, sent a message to the Congress at Montgomery, convened in extra session. He has availed himself of this occasion, as the head and chief of the States who have attempted to withdraw themselves from our Federal Union, to “declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” He says to the Congress: “The occasion is indeed an extraordinary one. It justifies me in a brief review of the relations heretofore existing between us and the States which now unite in warfare against us, and a succinct statement of the events which have resulted in this warfare; to the end that mankind may pass intelligent and impartial judgment on its motives and objects.” When our fathers declared their country's independence, it was not the act of one man; but the instrument bore the signatures of men the story of whose lives is the history of the times in which they lived. This message of Mr. Davis is the authoritative declaration of the Seceding States, and we receive it in the character he has assumed for it. The single, naked proposition upon which rests the whole claim of the right of secession is distinctly stated in the second of the “Articles of Confederation” adopted by the original Thirteen States during the War of the Revolution, as framed by the Delegates of the United States of America in Congress assembled, on the 9th of July, 1778. This article is in these words:
Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.This was the vital defect in the articles of Confederation, and on the 21st of February, 1787, the Congress, after declaring the inefficiency of the Federal Union, and the necessity of devising such further provisions as should render the same adequate to the exigencies of the Union, and being satisfied that a Convention was-- “The most probable means of establishing in these States a firm National Government, resolved that it was expedient that a Convention of Delegates appointed by the several States should be held on the second Monday in May then next, at Philadelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several Legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall, when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States, render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government and the preservation of the Union.” The Congress and the patriotic men of that day had become satisfied, from the experience and trials of the Revolutionary War, and the few years which had elapsed subsequent to its close, that the so-called “sovereignty and independence,” reserved to the States under the Articles of Confederation, were the fruitful source of all the manifold troubles and difficulties they encountered. They found that their Government was so imperfect as to be inadequate to the great ends of all Governments, as laid down in their Declaration of the 4th of July, 1776, and that it had therefore become their duty “to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them should seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” The Convention which assembled in May, 1787, at Philadelphia, and which immortalized itself in the Constitution of the United States, thoroughly reflected the will of those whom they represented. They framed that Constitution in the name and on behalf of the people of the United States, and not of the several States, as separate and distinct sovereignties. In the debates had in that Convention, on the formation of the Constitution, the following language was used by that distinguished son of Virginia, James Madison:
Some contend that States are sovereign, when in fact they are only political societies. There is a gradation of power in all societies from the lowest corporation to the highest sovereign. The States never possessed the essential rights of sovereignty. These were always vested in Congress. Their voting as States in Congress is no evidence of sovereignty. The State of Maryland voted by counties, did this make the counties sovereign? The States at present are only great corporations, having the power of making by-laws, and these are effectual only if they are not contradictory to the General Confederation.