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Right of self-government.

When the man has this idea planted in his soul, it becomes a moral force which dreads treason to the Almighty Sovereign more than all the threats of human authority, and makes resistance to tyrants obedience to God. The personal right of the man to his liberty is asserted from his deepest self-consciousness against the government that would abridge or destroy it. The great battle that was fought by our fathers at the formation of the Federal Constitution in 1787 was for the protection of this right of self-government, and in opposition to the centralization of power in the Federal head. They believed that centralization of power in the general government would show itself in a too great tendency to control, regulate and direct the industry and enterprise of the individual man. They believed that such a centralization of power would build up a paternal government, the patria potestas of ancient despotism, and merging the man into the mass and directing the destiny of all, would sacrifice the interest of the toiling, home-staying citizen to the grasp and greed of the few fawning parasites, who crowd the lobby and swarm the corridors of legislative bodies. They believed that paternity in government would beget class legislation, which instead of [358] leaving each man to enjoy the fruits of his own toil, would pool the earnings of society, upon which to fatten its favorite children in palaces of splendor, while it would starve its foundlings in hovels of squalor and misery.

It was for local self-government as embodied in the doctrine of States' Rights, as we had learned it from our fathers, that the South fought. It had grown with our growth; strengthened with our strength, and become the very warp and woof of our natures. To us it was a principle, not a shadowy sentiment; but a principle whose foundations were deep down below the grasp of political earthquakes, and whose spires pierced the stars beyond the sweep of storms of fanaticism. The bitter feelings and sectional animosities to which I have referred became intensified as the years went by. The Constitution of our fathers, as we understood it, was set at naught, and its provisions, as we construed them, were disregarded, and that solemn compact which to us was sacred, was declared by many leading men of the North to be ‘a league with death and a covenant with hell.’

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1787 AD (1)
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