Government provides for its own death; therefore there can be no constitutional right to secede.
But there is a revolutionary right.
The Declaration of Independence
establishes what the heart of every American acknowledges, that the people-mark you!
The people!--have always an inherent, paramount, inalienable right to change their Governments, whenever they think — whenever they
think — that it will minister to their happiness.
That is a revolutionary right.
Now how did South Carolina
come into the Union
I They came into it by a Convention representing the people.
alleges that she has gone out by Convention.
So far, right, She says that when the people
take the State
rightfully out of the Union
, the right to forts and national property goes with it. Granted.
She says, also, that it is no matter that we bought Louisiana
, and Florida
No bargain made, no money paid between us and France
, could rob Florida
of her right to remodel her Government whenever the people found it would be for their happiness.
So far, right.
the people — mark you!
presents herself to the Administration at Washington
, and says, “There is a vote of my Convention, that I go out of the Union
“I cannot see you,” says Abraham Lincoln
(Loud cheers.) “As President
, I have no eyes but. constitutional eyes; I cannot see you.”
(Renewed cheers.) He was right.
said, the Fathers said, in 1789, “No man but an enemy of liberty will ever stand on technicalities and forms, when the essence is in question.”
could not see the Commissioners
of South Carolina
,: but the North
could; the nation could; and the nation responded, “If you want a Constitutional Secession, such as you claim, but which I repudiate, I will waive forms — let us meet in convention, and we will arrange it.”
(Applause.) Surely, while one claims a right within the Constitution
, it may without dishonor or inconsistency meet in convention — even if finally refusing to be bound by it. To decline doing so is only evidence of intention to provoke war. Every thing under that instrument is peace.
Every thing under that instrument may be changed by a National Convention.
The South says, “No!”
She says, “If you don't allow me the constitutional right, I claim the revolutionary right.”
responds--“When you have torn the Constitution
into fragments, I recognize the right of the people of South Carolina
to model their Government.
Yes, I recognize the right of the three hundred and eighty-four thousand white men, and four hundred and eighty-four thousand black men, to model their Constitution.
Show me one that they have adopted, and I will recognize the revolution.
(Cheers.) But the moment you tread outside of the Constitution
, the black man is not three-fifths of a man — he is a whole one.”
(Loud cheering.) Yes, the South
has a right to secede; the South
has a right to model her Government; and the moment she will show us four millions of black votes thrown even against it, I will acknowledge the Declaration of Independence
is complied with (Loud applause)--that the people, south of Mason
's line, have remodeled their government to suit themselves: and our function is only to recognize it.
I say, the North
had a right to assume this position.
She did not. She had a right to ignore revolution until this condition was complied with; and she did not. She waived it. In obedience to the advice of Madison
, to the long history of her country's forbearance, to the magnanimity of nineteen States, she waited; she advised the Government
, in his inaugural, indicated that this would be the wise course.
hinted it in his speech, in New York.
The London Times
bade us remember the useless war of 1776, and take warning against resisting the principles of Popular Sovereignty.
, whose unflinching fidelity and matchless ability, make it, in this tight, “the white plume of Navarre,” has again and again avowed its readiness to waive forms and go into convention.
We have waited.
“We said, any thing for peace.”
We obeyed the magnanimous statesmanship of John Quincy Adams
Let me read you his advice, given at the “Jubilee of the Constitution
,” to the New York Historical Society, in the year 1839, he says: Recognizing this right of the people
of a State--mark you, not a State, the Constitution
knows no States; the right of revolution knows no States; it knows only the people.
The people of each State in the Union have a right to secede from the Confederated Union itself.
Thus stands the right.
But the indissoluble link of union between the people of the several States of this Confederated Nation is, after all, not in the right, but in the heart.
If the day should ever come (may Heaven avert it) when the affections of the people of these States shall be alienated from each other — when the fraternal spirit shall give way to cold indifference, or collisions of interest shall fester into hatred, the bands of political association will not long hold together parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies; and far better will it be for the people of the disunited States to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint.
Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the Constitution, to form again a more perfect Union, by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separated parts to be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the centre.
said “Amen,” to every word of it. They waited.
They begged the States to meet them.
They were silent when the cannon-shot pierced the flag of the Star of the West