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[18]

In 1860-1861, four of these very States that had formed the Union, with seven other States that had been added, assumed to “ retrace” their steps, and cease to be members of the Union. They formed or had come into the Union freely, voluntarily; they proposed to go out by the same door.

Their reasons for this step need not be stated here and now. One thing at a time.

A grave question of law and duty arose, deeper than the Constitution itself—viz:

Has a State that has once ratified the Federal Constitution and formed or come into the Union, a right to retrace her steps, and go out and apart, and be, as she was originally, free and independent?

Where shall, where could, citizens look or listen for an answer to this question—conclusive, authoritative?

For more than thirty years political doctrine and controversy had flamed around this question until the masses of population came unconsciously to a welding heat, and a local unity of sentiment upon one side and the other. Hot and united, the people were ready to act; and they acted.

Eleven States, acting in an orderly manner, by conventions lawfully called, retraced their steps with accuracy, and supposed themselves to have become once more free and independent.

They went on accordingly. The old partnership dissolved, they offered to “divide the effects by negotiation.”

Now it happened that certain ports, custom-houses, post-offices, and other real estate, lay within the bounds of these States, that supposed themselves once more free and independent. Real estate cannot be moved off. The soil remains in its place. It must be given over to the State within whose bounds it lies or stands. The United States officers must cease from function, surrender office, title, keys and cash.

This logical demand was made, refused, enforced by arms, resisted, and a great civil war began.

Then, speaking for those graves and for these, as I, in his great name and stead, now speak for these graves and for those, Mr. Beecher continued:

It is not known what those dead men think of the battle of Gettysburg, at whose cost it was fought.

From out of bodies, shot, shattered, bloody, battered, the souls

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