The Southern leader was no secessionist per se
. His antecedents, his history, his services, his own earnest words often uttered, attest his love of the Union
and his hope that it might endure.
In 1853, in a letter to Hon. William J. Brown
, of Indiana
, he repudiated the imputation that he was a disunionist.
pardon the egotism, in consideration of the occasion, when I say to you that my father and uncles fought in the Revolution of 1776, giving their youth, their blood, and their little patrimony to the constitutional freedom which I claim as my inheritance.
Three of my brothers fought in the war of 1812; two of them were comrades of the Hero of the Hermitage, and received his commendation for gallantry at New Orleans.
At sixteen years of age I was given to the service of my country.
For twelve years of my life I have borne its arms and served it zealously, if not well.
As I feel the infirmities which suffering more than age has brought upon me, it would be a bitter reflection indeed if I was forced to conclude that my countrymen would hold all this light when weighed against the empty panegyric which a time-serving politician can bestow upon the Union, for which he never made a sacrifice.
In the Senate I announced if any respectable man would call me a disunionist I would answer him in monosyllables.
But I have often asserted the right for which the battles of the Revolution were fought, the right of a people to change their government whenever it was found to be oppressive and subversive of the objects for which governments are instituted, and have contended for the independence
and sovereignty of the States; a part of the creed of which Jefferson was the apostle, Madison the expounder, and Jackson the consistent defender.