advanced by leaders of the rebel States, that in seceding from the Union
and seizing its property, they are only exercising their reserved rights under the Constitution
, is one which to every intelligent and loyal American carries with it its own refutation.
The man who attaches to it the weight of a feather, is either singularly ignorant of American history, or his reasoning powers are hopelessly perverted.
The rebels, despite their pretended plea of constitutional right, virtually admit its ground-lessness, and fall back on the right of revolution.
That is a right which no American can deny, when the causes of justification are sufficient.
The simple cry of rebel and revolutionist has no terror for us who remember that Washington
and our ancestors occupied the position of both the one and the other.
All then depends upon the reality and sufficiency of the assigned causes of this attempt at revolution.
Are they such as to justify the effort to break in pieces the American Union?
to destroy this last experiment of popular government?
The arguments offered by the insurrectionists and their friends, to show that the Federal Government
and the loyal States should quietly allow them to depart and form a separate confederacy, are these:
That the rebellion or revolution is the act of the people of those States, exercising their sovereign will.
That they have been compelled to this step in self-defence by the election of Mr. Lincoln
, and the refusal of certain Northern States to fulfil the constitutional obligation of returning fugitive slaves.
That the present position of the rebels, and the fact of their having ousted the Federal Government
from its forts and other property, exhibit their strength, make the revolution an accomplished fact, and render the attempt to subjugate the Southern
people utterly hopeless.
That even if they were subjugated, harmonious feeling could never be restored; and that for these reasons, and especially the last, a war to maintain the integrity of the Union
would be alike wicked and foolish.
These, I believe, are their strong points fairly stated, and I will briefly state some of the grounds on which we believe them to be, one and all, erroneous and delusive.
In the first place, the fact is clear that the rebellion at the South
was not in its inception like the rebellion of the American
colonies — a calm, deliberate, determined movement of the people; but that it was a conspiracy originating with a few ambitious politicians, and was by them suddenly precipitated upon the people, whose right to pass upon their acts of secession has been purposely, systematically, and practically denied.
“There is,” said Webster
— and his words were never before so fearfully illustrated--“no usurpation so dangerous as that which comes in the borrowed name of the people; which, calling itself their servant, exercises their power without legal right or constitutional sanction.”
You all remember the stern rebukes uttered by the Southern
press, of the rash precipitancy of South Carolina
, and the efforts made by their prominent statesmen, among whom Mr. Stephens
was one, to stay the efforts of the rebel leaders to plunge the South
Even after several States had by their conventions — and the convention of Louisiana
was elected by a minority of the people — been declared out of the Union
; and after delegates from those conventions had met in congress at Montgomery
, and extemporized their new confederacy, the bolder part of the Southern
press did not hesitate to denounce the usurpation.
The “Augusta Chronicle and Sentinel
” --a leading paper of Georgia
--openly declared that the result had been produced by “wheedling, coaxing, and bullying, and all the arts of deception.”
We know as well as any one living that the whole movement for secession and the formation of a new government, so far at least as Georgia is concerned, proceeded only on a quasi consent of the people, and was pushed through under circumstances of great excitement and frenzy by a fictitious majority.
And then, passing to the Montgomery congress, it added:
The Georgia convention and the confederate congress have gone forward in their work, as none can deny, without explicit and direct authority from the people.
* * * “It is time that this assumption of power should cease, and that the people should be heard.
Sooner or later they must be heard.” * * * “Before the convention assumes to ratify the permanent constitution let them submit it to a vote of the people — or else, let us have an election for a new convention.
For union — for harmony — for strength — we ask this simple act of justice.”
Simple justice was not the aim of Jefferson Davis
and his co-conspirators.
To this day the people of the South
have been allowed no opportunity of passing upon the profoundest question that can affect a nation — the preservation or overthrow of its institutions; and the rebel government is an usurpation of the grossest kind, not only against the people of the United States
in their sovereign capacity, but against the people of the States in whose name it assumes to act, and by whose will it pretends to have been established.
The declaration, so solemnly made by the seceding conventions, appealing to the world for the justice of their cause, that Mr. Lincoln
's election, the non-execution of the fugitive slave law, and the personal liberty laws of Northern States, compelled them to separate from a Government that threatened their dearest rights, is equally disproven out of their own mouths.
Listen to the following utterances from the very leaders of the rebellion:
said:--“The secession of South