This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 Government. ( “They cannot do it!” “Never!” ) This glorious Government, this Government which has stood more than seventy years, and brought such prosperity and such blessings upon the people as was never known in the history of the world--( “That's so” )--which has enabled us to prosper — which has built up this great city — which has founded institutions of learning, and schools, and benevolent institutions, and enabled the poor man to educate his children, and to grow up and be somebody in the land — these institutions are now to be crushed. And why? Because they did not succeed at an election. Is that the talk? ( “No.” ) What would Henry Clay have said to his followers if they had said, We have not elected you, and now we will break up the nation? He would have said, Get out of my sight. What would Jackson or anybody have said? What would any American have said, because we have not succeeded in this election, we will go out of the Union? Will that do? ( “No.” ) Well, now, gentlemen, these people have made war upon this great, this cherished, this glorious principle, which has thus far conducted us to renown, to the happiness which we now enjoy, and made our flag, which is the emblem of this principle, known, respected, honored and feared all over the civilized world, and has never been dishonored except by these rebels. (Great applause.) Now, my friends, what I want is that you shall every man this day take the oath inwardly in your own consciences that you will maintain this principle of republican liberty. (Applause.) That is the fortress. That flag (pointing to the American flag) is the emblem of republican liberty; and you, my fellow-citizens of foreign birth, who have sworn to support the Constitution, and you, my fellow-citizens, born on the soil, who are equally bound to support that Constitution, I want you to stand up for the principle for which our fathers fought for seven years--for the principle that the people are capable of self-government, and that the majority shall rule. And now let us see what has been done on the other side. They tell you that they have the right of revolution. Every people, when oppressed beyond endurance, have a right of revolution. When the people of this country were oppressed by Great Britain, they exercised the right of revolution; but what did they do first? They saw that there were no other means of redress but by revolution. Then our friends at the South, whom some of us here have aided to redress their grievances, can they say that their grievances, such as they complain of, cannot be redressed without a revolution? ( “No.” ) Why, my friends, at this very election which made Abraham Lincoln President of the United States, the very people that put that party into power in the executive department of the country, put the majority and the representatives of the people in both branches of the Legislature in the hands of the opposition. ( “That is so.” ) They would have had, if they had stayed in the House of Representatives, now to come into existence, thirty majority, and they would have had a majority in the Senate. They would have had, as they have, the Supreme Court on their side; and now, my friends, what could they complain of? ( “Nothing.” ) Some of us believe that when the four years commenced they would have had a majority if they had only given the time, and only given the room for free discussion; but they could not wait. Having a majority in the branches of the Legislature, if the President had done what he said he was going to do, they could have restrained him; but they must break away from this Union; they must destroy this Government, and now what comes to pass? We now find that this is the result of a conspiracy; a conspiracy which has been formed secretly for years by designing political men to overturn the Government of this country. ( “That is so.” ) Now let us see. I have said that they mean to overthrow popular Government, let us see if I cannot prove it. They have attempted to form a Government; they have attempted to form a Union. They have made a Constitution; have they submitted it to the people? ( “No, they dare not.” ) When the Constitution of the United States was formed, what was the process? ( “It was submitted to the people.” ) The process was this, my friends: A convention met and formed this Constitution; a convention properly chosen met and formed it, and then this Constitution was reported to the Congress of the United States. Then the Congress ordered the people in each State to choose representatives and to form conventions; and then the Constitution was to be submitted to these conventions, debated freely without fear; and then, and not till then, until the will of the people had been ascertained — not till then, did it become the Constitution of the people of the United States. That is the way that the Constitution under which we live, which we have sworn to defend, was formed. It is the Constitution of the people, made by the whole people for the whole of the people, and can only be abolished and altered in the way that the people themselves have directed in the instrument itself. Now, what is the other course? They rush into a convention hastily and in a passion, and, after a heated conflict, they rush into a convention. They send delegates, and these delegates meet, form a Constitution without having any power given to them, because the question simply was, “Shall we secede?” They met, they formed a convention, and they made a new Constitution, and there are efforts made to have it submitted to the people, and they won't submit it to the people; they have never submitted it to the people; they dare not submit it to them. It is not the people's Government. They do not mean to have a people's Government. They mean to have a military despotism which shall rule the people. ( “That's so.” Applause. “Never.” ) And now, my friends, there are thousands and tens of thousands of good Union men in these very States which profess to have seceded. There are thousands and tens of thousands there who think as you and I think here to-day, but they dare not utter their sentiments. They would be hanged by the neck if they uttered their sentiments. They would be put down by villains; and now it is for their sake as well as ours, it is for the sake of the liberty of this Union, and for the liberty of the people, that we contend this day. (Great cheers.) Now, my friends, there are those who will follow me, but let me leave this impression strong on your minds, that we make no war, we have not been the aggressors. We stand by the Constitution and the principles of our fathers. We stand by popular liberty; we stand by the right of the people to make their own laws by the majority of their votes, and that is the principle which they have attacked and which they mean to destroy, and which, by the blessing of God, we mean to defend to the last--(great applause)--defend in argument, defend in the press, defend on the stump, defend with our lives. (Tremendous applause.) Fellow-citizens, I leave the subject. I leave you to contemplate upon it. I leave you to decide whether this Government
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.