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Doc. 243.-addresses of the Convention of the Border States.

To the people of the United States--
Fellow-citizens: The delegates to a convention of the Border Slave States, assembled in the city of Frankfort, desire to address you in relation to the present condition of the country.

None of us have ever expected to live to see the spectacle now exhibited in our distracted land. The cry to arms resounds throughout our borders, and in a few short weeks we have seen all over the land the marshalling of troops ready for the conflict. The pursuits of peace are neglected and abandoned, and the fell spirit of war has seized almost every heart, until even gentle and tender woman yields to the fierce impulse, and encourages the strife, and the maternal eye scarce gathers a tear as the son seizes his arms, and rushes toward the field of carnage and of death.

If this warlike spirit — this terrible energy — were displayed in preparing to meet the legions of an invading enemy, our hearts would exult in the exhibition of the martial spirit of our countrymen; but alas! the combatants are descendants of sires who stood side by side in the day of battle, to maintain the independence of our country, and in the approaching conflict brother is to fall by the hand of brother.

Can we hope in this day of fierce passion that our voice, crying for peace, will be heard? Will any portraiture of the horrors of civil war, that we can give, have any influence with those who are rushing madly on to destroy each other? We fear not. States which should have been with us, and whose voice would have increased the potency of our demands for peace, have been seized with the prevailing madness, and have rushed to arms. Still we feel bound to make our voice to be heard, with the hope that our words will have their influence at some day, when men shall behold the wasting and desolation that their madness has produced. [351]

All the slave States except four are arrayed in hostility to the General Government, and are demanding that the confederation which they have formed shall be recognized as a separate sovereign nation. The process by which they have attempted to form themselves into a distinct nation has been, for each State by itself to declare all connection with the General Government terminated, and then unite in forming a confederation among themselves.

Our present purpose does not require us to discuss the propriety of the acts of these States, yet it may be proper for us to say, that they find no warrant in any known principle of our Government, and no justification in the facts existing when they seceded.

While these States claim that their sovereignty as a nation shall be recognized, and have collected armies to make good their claim, the Government of the United States insists that the ordinances of secession are utterly void, and that the Constitution and laws of the United States are still in force within the seceded States, just as they are within any of the other States, and to maintain this position armies are rapidly gathering on the borders of the seceded States.

If there could be any intervention by which the shedding of blood and the desolation of civil war could be avoided, the practical good sense of the American people might discover some mode of adjusting the difficulties which would be alike honorable and beneficial to both the contending parties. But while one side demands the recognition of its sovereignty, and the other insists that such a recognition is a constitutional impossibility; it is manifest that there can be no arbiter but the sword, unless the people themselves, acting upon and through their representatives, State and national, shall interpose, arrest the strife, and enforce a settlement without bloodshed. If any terms or adjustment would be satisfactory to both parties, which would fall short of the recognition of the sovereignty of the seceded States, and still satisfy them, and short of the obedience of the seceded States to the Constitution and laws of the United States, and still satisfy the people of the United States, it is the duty of each party to notify the other of such terms as would be satisfactory, so that an attempt at adjustment might be made.

But we repeat, if the recognition of the sovereignty of the seceded States continue a sine qua non, and if the Government continue to disclaim the constitutional power to make such recognition, there is no peaceful solution of the difficulty possible, other than such as the people themselves may, by their action, produce.

It is proper for us to say that in our opinion the Constitution delegates to no one department of the Government, nor to all of them combined, the power to destroy the Government itself, as would be done by the division of the country into separate confederacies, and that the obligation exists to maintain the Constitution of the United States, and to preserve the Union unimpaired.

It has been suggested, in quarters entitled to the highest respect, that the independence of the States which have seceded might be acknowledged by a National Convention, adopting an amendment to the Constitution for that purpose, as such an amendment would have the support and acquiescence of the seceded States. But we leave that for the decision of the people and their representatives, when they shall feel the imperative necessity of such a settlement.

We now turn to the consideration of what ought to be done for the purpose of quieting apprehension within the few slave States which still adhere to the Union established by their fathers.

We ask no concession of new or additional rights. We do not fear any immediate encroachment upon our rights as slave States. The amendment to the Constitution proposed by the last Congress gives assurance that at present there is no danger that our rights will be assailed. But we are few in number, and the preponderance of the free States is continually increasing. The security to our rights now afforded by the sense of justice in the minds of the free States may be lost by a change of popular feeling in the future. One great object in constitutions is to protect the rights of minorities.

In the Constitution there are general grants of power to the Congress of the United States, which might be perverted to our injury, contrary to the spirit of the instrument, and still the letter of the grant be claimed to authorize the injurious legislation. Such are the power “to regulate commerce between the States,” and the power of “exclusive legislation over the District of Columbia,” and over “forts, dock-yards, and arsenals in the several States.” It would not now be claimed by Congress that these grants authorized an interference in the sale of slaves between the people of different States, nor would it be claimed that they authorized the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, while Maryland and Virginia remained slave States, nor the like abolition in forts and other places within slave States. But what will be claimed in the future we cannot know. So also, in relation to the territories belonging to the United States. While we are aware that all the territories, then unorganized, were organized by acts of the last Congress which contain no prohibition of slavery, and while we know that this was the action of a Congress in which the free States had the control at the time the acts were passed, still these are but acts of Congress, subject to repeal or alteration as public feeling may change under temporary excitement.

It is but just that the rights of the slave States, now in a small minority of the whole States, should be guarded in the particulars [352] mentioned by such constitutional guarantees as shall render them secure against future legislation in times of excitement. Our distinguished fellow-citizen, the lion. John J. Crittenden, for the purpose of securing by constitutional guarantees rights already possessed, presented to Congress certain propositions to amend the Constitution, which met with general approval, and were satisfactory to us and to our people, and those propositions, as originally offered, or any that are equivalent, would be now satisfactory and would quiet apprehensions that exist to some extent in the minds of real friends of the Union, and which are industriously excited by those who are enemies of the Union and of the people. Whether any such constitutional guarantees would have the effect of reconciling any of the seceded States to the Government from which they have torn themselves away we cannot say, but we allow ourselves to hope that the masses in those States will, in time, learn that the dangers they were made to fear were greatly exaggerated, and that they will then be disposed to listen to the calls of interest and of patriotism, and return to the family from which they have gone out. One effect of giving such guarantees, certainly will be to prove to the world, by the frank recognition of the rights of the few slave States adhering to the Union, that the States which have seceded have abandoned the best Government in the world, without any good or sufficient cause.

It may be urged that there are not now a sufficient number of States acting in the Union to ratify any such constitutional amendments as will furnish the guarantees we require. But it is to be remembered that there is no time fixed by the Constitution for such ratification, and if they should be ratified by the free States, then at the end of the present civil war, terminate as it may, either in the restoration of the seceded States to the Union, or in the establishment of their separate national existence, there will be the number of States required for the ratification.

Fellow-citizens of the United States, you are about to be engaged in a war in which the horrors that ordinarily attend that state are likely to be aggravated by the fact that you are of the same family, and have long lived together in intimate intercourse and in friendly relations. The kind feelings that once existed have been changed to bitterness, soon to degenerate, it may be, into deadly animosity. We desire to remind you that you are contending about a question of principle upon which we would fain believe that you are on each side convinced that you are right. It is no longer a question of party politics, no longer a question about the right to hold slaves in territories, or to retake them when they escape; the question now to be settled is, Whether we shall live in the same Union as formerly, or whether our fathers formed a government upon such principles that any one State may, at her own pleasure, without the consent of the others, and without responsibility to any human power, withdraw from her connection with the Government and claim to be sovereign as a separate nation. It will be readily seen that this, as a question of principle, is not affected by the number of States that have withdrawn. It would have been well if this question could have been solved in some other mode than by a resort to war; but it may be that nothing but a divine interposition now can determine it by other means. A war upon such a question ought not to produce any higher exasperation or excite any greater degree of animosity than is incident to all wars. In the mean time let the spirit of humanity and of the high civilization of the age, strip this war of the horrors that generally attend such civil strife.

Our States desire, and have indicated a purpose to take no part in this war, and we believe, that in this course we will ultimately best serve the interests of our common country. It is impossible that we should be indifferent spectators; we consider that our interests would be irretrievably ruined by taking part in the conflict on the side where the strongest sympathies of our people are, and that our sense of honor and of duty requires that we should not allow ourselves to be drawn or driven into a war in which other States, without consulting us, have deliberately chosen to involve themselves. Our safety and our dignity as among the most powerful of the slave States demand of us that we take this position. If the time shall come when our friendly mediation may arrest the further progress of the strife, our most earnest and strenuous efforts shall not be wanting to bring about peace, and it is by such efforts that we hope to serve the interests of our country.

And now, in conclusion, we make our solemn appeal to the people of the United States. This is your Government — its preservation is your preservation — its overthrow is your ruin, and you are the rightful arbiters of its fate.

We hope you will take the subject of this address to your own consideration. Act with the energy and decision of a free people. In you and you alone we have confidence. You have the intelligence and the power to rule this fearful crisis. Make known your will in some emphatic form, that shall give it authority with your representatives everywhere.

May we not earnestly hope that you, the people, the whole people, without regard to parties or sections, will be able to command a settlement of the national difficulties, and will see the propriety and necessity of having a cessation of present hostilities, so that the measures of pacification which your wisdom may devise, can be calmly considered by your constitutional authorities.

We venture to suggest for your consideration and action, two specific propositions as most likely to lead to pacification:

1st. That Congress shall at once propose [353] such constitutional amendments as will secure to slaveholders their legal rights, and allay their apprehensions in regard to possible encroachments in the future.

2d. If this should fail to bring about the results so desirable to us and so essential to the best hopes of our country, then let a voluntary convention be called, composed of delegates from the people of all the States, in which measures of peaceable adjustment may be devised and adopted, and the nation rescued from the continued horrors and calamities of civil war.

To our fellow-citizens of the North we desire to say: Discard that sectional and unfriendly spirit, manifested by teaching and action, which has contributed so much to inflame the feelings of the Southern people, and justly create apprehension on their part of injury to them.

To our fellow-citizens of the South we desire to say: Though we have been greatly injured by your precipitate action, we would not now reproach you as the cause of that injury, but we entreat you to re-examine the question of the necessity for such action, and that if you find it has been taken without due consideration, as we verily believe, and that the evils you apprehended from a continuance in the Union were neither so great nor so unavoidable as you supposed, or that Congress is willing to grant adequate securities, then we pray you to return promptly to your connection with us, that we may be, in the future, as we have been in the past, one great, powerful, and prosperous nation.

Indications have already been afforded that a Divine power is ready to interpose and prevent brethren from slaughtering each other. While the bombardment of Fort Sumter continued, no life was lost. When a Providential interposition was no longer needed to prevent the effusion of blood in civil strife, several lives were lost in the performance of a mere ceremony. We would invoke the presence and aid of that Power to preserve our fellow-citizens, on both sides, from slaughter, and we would commit the interests of our distracted country to His hands who can bring forth peace and order out of strife and confusion when man's wisdom utterly fails.

To the people of Kentucky.

Having been elected by you as your delegates to “A Convention of the Border Slave States and such other slave States as have not passed ordinances of secession,” with power to meet with delegates from other States in convention, “to consult on the critical condition of the country, and agree upon some plan of adjustment ;” and having met, at Frankfort, on the 27th of May, in pursuance of the act; we deem it proper to inform you, briefly, of what was done by us in the Convention.

It was a matter of regret to us that while the call for this Convention originated in Virginia and had, apparently, the concurrence of all the Border Slave States, yet there were delegates in attendance from Kentucky and Missouri only. One representative chosen by the counties of McMinn and Sevier, in Tennessee, appeared, and, although not coming with such credentials as were necessary to constitute him a delegate, lie was invited to participate in our deliberations.

After a continuous session from day to day, during which the condition of the country, and the various causes that led to it were maturely considered, it was resolved that the Convention should address an appeal to the people of the United States, and the delegates from Kentucky determined to present to you a separate address, in which views of your members should be embodied. In the discharge of this duty we now attempt to address you.

Your State, on a deliberate consideration of her responsibilities — moral, political, and social — has determined that the proper course for her to pursue is to take no part in the controversy between the Government and the seceded States but that of mediator and intercessor. She is unwilling to take up arms against her brethren residing either North or South of the geographical line by which they are unhappily divided into warring sections. This course was commended to her by every consideration of patriotism, and by a proper regard for her own security. It does not result from timidity; on the contrary, it could only have been adopted by a brave people — so brave that the least imputation on their courage would be branded as false by their written and traditional history.

Kentucky was right in taking this position — because, from the commencement of this deplorable controversy, her voice was for reconciliation, compromise, and peace. She had no cause of complaint against the General Government, and made none. The injuries she sustained in her property from a failure to execute laws passed for its protection, in consequence of illegal interference by wicked and deluded citizens in the free States, she considered as wholly insufficient to justify a dismemberment of the Union. That, she regarded as no remedy for existing evils, but an aggravation of them all. She witnessed, it is true, with deep concern, the growth of a wild and frenzied fanaticism [354] in one section, and a reckless and defiant spirit in another, both equally threatening destruction to the country; and tried earnestly to arrest them, but in vain. We will not stop to trace the causes of the unhappy condition in which we are now placed, or to criminate either of the sections to the dishonor of the other, but can say that we believed both to have been wrong, and, in their madness and folly, to have inaugurated a war that the Christian world looks upon with amazement and sorrow; and that Liberty, Christianity, and Civilization stand appalled at the horrors to which it will give rise.

It is a proud and grand thing for Kentucky to stand up and say, as she can, truthfully, in the face of the world, “We had no hand in this thing; our skirts are clear.” And, in looking at the terrorism that prevails elsewhere — beholding freedom of speech denied to American citizens, their homesteads subjected to lawless visitation, their property confiscated, and their persons liable to incarceration and search — how grandly does she not loom up, as she proclaims to the oppressed and miserable, We offer you a refuge! Here, constitutional law, and respect for individual rights, still exist! Here is an asylum where loyalty to the name, nation, and Flag of the Union predominates; and here is the only place, in this lately great Republic, where true freedom remains — that freedom for which our fathers fought — the citizen being free to speak, write, or publish any thing he may wish, responsible only to the laws, and not controlled by the violence of the mob.

Is not this an attitude worthy of a great people, and do not her position and safety require her to maintain it? If she deviates from it; if she suffers herself in a moment of excitement to be led off by sympathy with one side or the other — to ally herself with either section — inevitable and speedy ruin must fall upon her. What reason can be urged to incline her to such a fatal step? She is still, thank God, a member of the Union, owing constitutional allegiance to it — an allegiance voluntarily given, long maintained, and from which she has derived countless benefits. Can she, by her own act, forfeit this allegiance, and by the exercise of any constitutional power sever herself from that Government? In our opinion the statement of the proposition insures its rejection. It is of no more rational force than the argument of the suicide to commit self-slaughter. Secession is not a right. That the right of revolution exists, is as true in States as the right of self-defence is true of individuals. It does not exist by virtue of legal enactment or constitutional provision, but is founded in the nature of things — is inalienable and indestructible, and ought to be resorted to only when all peaceable remedies fail. Revolution is an extreme remedy, finds its justification alone in an escape from intolerable oppression, and hazarding the consequences of failure, as success or defeat makes the movement one of rightful resistance or rebellion, it becomes the stern duty of Kentucky to look not only to the motives that might impel her to revolt, but to the probable results. She must contemplate her condition in a complex character — National and State--and see what must be her fate in the event of a separation.

Under the National Government, she has a right to the protection of thirty-three great States, and with them, thus protected, can defy the world in arms. Under it, she becomes prosperous and happy. Deprived of it, she finds herself exposed to imminent danger. She has a border front on the Ohio River of near seven hundred miles, with three powerful States on that border. She has four hundred miles on the South by which she is separated from Tennessee by a merely conventional line. Her eastern front is on Virginia, and part of her western on Missouri--thus making her antagonistic, in the event of collision, to Virginia, which is our mother, and to Missouri, which is our daughter. Hemmed in thus on every side by powers — each one of which is equal to her own — her situation, and her sense of loyalty to the Union, imperatively demand of her to insist on the integrity of the Union, its Constitution, and Government. Peace is of vital consequence to her, and can only be secured to her by preserving the Union inviolate. Kentucky has no cause of quarrel with the Constitution, and no wish to quarrel with her neighbors; but abundant reason to love both. Of the great West she was the pioneer, and became the starting point of emigration to all around her. There is not a western or a south-western State in which Kentucky families are not settled, and she is bound to all by ties of interest and brotherhood. She has ever been loyal to the Government, answering to its requisitions, and sharing its burthens. At the command of that Government, when war was declared to protect the rights of sailors, although she had no vessels to float on the ocean, yet she offered up her blood freely in the common defence from the Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Again, when war, growing out of a territorial controversy, far from her own borders, was proclaimed, she was amongst the foremost in the fight, and Monterey and Buena Vista were made famous in history by the valor of Kentuckians. Never has she faltered in her duty to the Union.

In declining to respond to a call made by the present Administration of the Government, and one that we have reason to believe would not have been made if the Administration had been fully advised of the circumstances by which we were surrounded, Kentucky did not put herself in factious opposition to her legitimate obligations; she did not choose to throw herself in hostile collision with the slave States of Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware, which have not seceded on the one hand, nor the slave States which have and are in process of secession on the other, and shed the blood of brethren and [355] kindred at the very moment when she was striving to be an apostle of peace. Nature herself revolted at the thought, and her conduct in this matter had so much of love to God, and love to man, in it, that it will meet the sanction of an approving world. So far from being denounced for this action, it is everywhere looked upon as an act of purest patriotism, resulting from imperious necessity, and the highest instincts of self-preservation — respected by the very Administration that alone could have complained of it, and will, we doubt not, be ratified by it; if not in terms, at least by its future action. That act did not take her out of the Union.

Kentucky, in so grave a matter as this, passes by mere legal technicalities and a discussion of theoretical difficulties of Government, poises herself upon her right to do what the necessities of her condition imperatively demanded of her, and relies upon the good sense and magnanimity of her sister States, seeing that there is no parallel in her condition and theirs to do her justice.

In all things she is as loyal as ever to the constitutional administration of the Government. She will follow the Stars and Stripes to the utmost regions of the earth, and defend them from foreign insult. She refuses allegiance with any who would destroy the Union. All she asks is permission to keep out of this unnatural strife. When called to take part in it, she believes there is more honor in the breach than in the observance of any supposed duty to perform it.

Feeling that she is clearly right in this, and has announced her intention to refrain from aggression upon others, she must protest against her soil being made the theatre of military operations by any belligerent. The war must not be transferred, by the warring sections, from their own to her borders. Such unfriendly action cannot be viewed with indifference by Kentucky.

Having thus referred to this subject in its general aspects, we would invite your individual attention to its direct bearings upon yourselves.

It is not now a question of party politics, although it may be the interest of some to make it so. The day of mere party platforms has, we trust, gone forever. It has passed from being a mere struggle for place that may gratify personal ambition, to one for the present and future welfare of a whole people, for the safety of homes and firesides. Whatever divisions have heretofore existed should now cease. In times past, in our elections, the questions which divided men related to mere party differences, and the members of all the parties rivalled each other in their expression of devotion to the Union, and were equally clamorous for their rights, in the Union and not out of it. Now these party differences are passed away and forgotten. The direct question is Union or no Union--Government or no Government — Neutrality or no Neutrality. Before this grand and commanding question every thing else gives way.

All can see that such a state of things cannot continue without war, and that such a war was unnecessary. It resulted from the ambition of men, rather than from the wrongs done the people. There was a remedy for every thing, already provided by the Constitution, which, with wise foresight, provided against the trials to which it might be subjected. There were countervailing powers to check encroachments, whether by a President or by Congress; and it so happened that at this dangerous crisis, when a sectional President had been elected, there was a majority in opposition to him in both houses of Congress, by which ho could have been controlled, and the people protected. It was the duty of the opposition to have stood to their posts till the danger of encroachment had passed away. But Senators and Representatives, following the example of their States, vacated their seats and placed a President who would have been in a minority at the head of a triumphant majority. It was a great wrong for which they must answer to posterity. Kentucky remained true to herself, contending with all her might for what were considered to be the rights of the people, and although one after another of the States that should have been by her side ungenerously deserted her, leaving her almost alone in the field, yet she did not surrender her rights under the Constitution, and never will surrender them. She will appear again in the Congress of the United States, not leaving conceded the least item of power to the Government that had not heretofore been granted, and retaining every power she had reserved. She will insist upon her constitutional rights in the Union, and not out of it.

Kentucky is grieved to think that any thing should have been done by her sister States that has made it necessary for her to assume the position she now occupies. It is not one of submission as it has been insultingly called — it is one of the most exalted patriotism. But if she had no higher or holier motive; if she were not earnestly for peace among her brethren; the great law of self-protection points out her course and she has no alternative. Already one section declares that there will be no war at home, but that it shall be in Kentucky and Virginia. Already the cannon and bayonets of another section are visible on our most exposed border Let these hostile armies meet on our soil and it will matter but little to us which may succeed, for destruction to us will be the inevitable result. Our fields will be laid waste, our houses and cities will be burned, our people Will be slain, and this goodly land be re-baptized “the land of blood.” And even the institution, to preserve or control which this wretched war was undertaken, will be exterminated in the general ruin. Such is the evil that others will bring upon us, no matter which side we take, if this is to be the battle-field. [356] But there is danger at home more appalling than any that comes from beyond. People of Kentucky look well to it that you do not get to fighting among yourselves, for then, indeed, you will find that it is an ill fight where he that wins has the worst of it. Endeavor to be of one mind, and strive to keep the State steady in her present position. Hold fast to that sheet-anchor of republican liberty, that the will of the majority constitutionally and legally expressed must govern. You have, in the election by which this Convention was chosen, displayed a unanimity unparalleled in your history. May you be as unanimous in the future; may your majorities be so decided that a refusal to obey may be justly called factious. Trust and love one another. Avoid angry strife. Frown upon the petty ambition of demagogues who would stir up bad passions among you. Consider, as wise men, what is necessary for your own best interest, and in humble submission trust and look to that Almighty Being, who has heretofore so signally blessed us as a nation for His guidance through the gloom and darkness of this hour.

--Louisville Courier, June 8.


I have signed the foregoing address, because I approve of the policy therein indicated, of refusing to furnish troops to the General Government to prosecute the civil war now going on, and the policy of neutrality, without considering myself committed to all that is said upon other matters.

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