windows in your city to-day proclaim your affection and reverence for the Union
You will gather in battalions,
Patient of toil, serene amidst alarms,
Inflexible in faith, invincible in arms;
and as you gather, every omen of present concord and ultimate peace will surround you. The ministers of religion, tho priests of literature, the historians of the past, the illustrators of the present, capital, science, art, invention, discoveries, the works of genius — all these will attend us in our march, and we will conquer.
And if, from the far Pacific, a voice feebler than the feeblest murmur upon its shore may be heard to give you courage and hope in the contest, that voice is yours to-day ; and if a man whose hair is gray, who is well-nigh worn out in the battle and toil of life, may pledge himself on such an occasion and in such an audience, let me say, as my last word, that when, amid sheeted fire and flame, I saw and led the hosts of New York as they charged in contest upon a foreign soil for the honor of your flag; so again, if Providence
shall will it, this feeble hand shall draw a sword, never vet dishonored — not to fight for distant honor in a foreign land, but to fight for country, for home, for law, for government, for constitution, for right, for freedom, for-humanity, and in the hope that the banner of my country may advance, and wheresoever that banner waves, there glory may pursue and freedom be established.
(Loud and prolonged applause.)
, of Fort Sumter
, was here introduced to the audience, and made his bow amidst enthusiastic cheers.]
I received the request to address you but a few hours since, and being wholly unprepared, shall therefore detain you but a few moments.
This greatest popular meeting ever assembled in the history of the world, has a deep significance.
The hundred thousand freemen whom I now address, have assembled here for a great and glorious purpose.
It is a sublime spectacle, and the greatest epoch in the history of the world.
The question is, shall this Union be maintained and perpetuated, or shall it be broken and dissolved?
(Cries of “Never.” ) No question so important has ever occurred in the history of our race.
It involves not only the fate of this great country, but the question of free institutions throughout the world.
The case of self-government is now on trial before the forum of our country and of the world.
If we succeed and maintain the Union
, free institutions, under the moral force of our example, will ultimately be established throughout the world; but if we fail, and our Government is overthrown, popular liberty will have made its last experiment, and despotism will reign triumphant throughout the globe.
Our responsibilities are fearful.
We have a solemn duty to perform — we are this day making history.
We are writing a book whose pages can never be erased — it is the destiny of our country and of mankind.
For more than seventy years this Union has been maintained, and it has advanced our country to a prosperity unparalleled in the history of the world.
(Applause.) The past was great, but the future opened upon prospects beyond the power of language to describe.
But where are we now?
The world looks on with scorn and derision.
We have, it is said, no government — a mere voluntary association of independent States--a debating society, or a moot court, without any real power to uphold the laws or maintain the constitution.
We have no country, no flag, no Union; but each State at its pleasure, upon its own mere whim or caprice, with or without cause, may secede and dissolve the Union
Secession, we are told, is a constitutional right of each State, and the constitution has inscribed its own death-warrant upon its face.
If this be so, we have indeed, no government, and Europe
may well speak of us with contempt and derision.
This is the very question we are now to solve — have we a government, and has it power to maintain its existence?
This question is not for tho first time presented to the consideration of the American
It arose in 1832, when South Carolina
nullified the revenue laws of the Union
, and passed her secession ordinance.
In that contest I took a very active part against the doctrines of nullification and secession, and upon that question, after a struggle of three years, I was elected by Mississippi
as a Senator of the United States
A contest so prolonged and violent had never before been witnessed in this country.
It was fought by me in every county of the State
under the banner of the Union
The sentiments contained in the many speeches then made by me, and then published, are the opinions I now entertain.
They are all for the Union
and against secession, and they are now the opinions of thousands of Union men of the South
, and of Mississippi
(Applause.) These opinions are unchanged, and deeply as I deplore our present situation, it is my profound conviction that the welfare, security, and prosperity of the South
can only be restored by the re-establishment of the Union
I see, in the permanent overthrow of the Union
, the utter ruin of the South
and the complete prostration of all their interests.
I have devoted my life to the maintenance of all their constitutional rights and the promotion of their happiness and welfare; but secession involves them and us in one common ruin.
The recognition of such a doctrine is fatal to the existence of any government — of the Union
--it is death — it is national suicide.
(Applause.) This is the question now to be decided — have we a Union--have we a flag — are the stars and stripes a reality or a fiction — have we a government, and can we enforce its laws, or must the whole vanish whenever any one State thinks proper to issue the despotic mandate?
Is the Union
indissoluble, or is it written on the sand, to be swept away by the first angry surge of State or sectional passion which may sweep over it?
It was the declared object of our ancestors to found a perpetual Union.
The original articles of confederation, by all the States, in 1778, declared the Union
to be “perpetual,” and South Carolina
(with all the States) then plighted her solemn faith that “the union of the States shall be perpetual.”
And in modifying these articles by the formation of the constitution in 1787, the declared object of that change was to make “the Union
But how more perfect, if the Union
is indissoluble in 1787, but might at any moment be destroyed by any one State after the adoption of the constitution?
No, my countrymen, secession is not a constitutional right of any one State.
It is war — it is revolution — and can only be established on the ruins of the constitution and of the Union
We must resist and subdue it, or our Government will be but an organized anarchy, to be surely succeeded, as anarchy ever has been, by military despotism.
This, then, my fellow-citizens, is the last great contest for the liberties of our country and of