he was a firm believer in the right of secession, he regarded it as a last resort, only to be exercised in the last extremity, when all other means for securing harmony and a just respect for the rights of all under the constitution had hopelessly failed.
With the prescience of a statesman, he saw, more clearly perhaps than any other man of his time, that the inevitable result of the conditions then existing must be the dissolution of the Union
, and he strove with all his might to avert it. He exhausted all his powers of luminous exegesis in expounding the true theory of the constitution, and of the relations thereunder of the States to each other and to the federal government.
He lifted his voice in eloquent warning as to the sure result of sectional strife, as fatal to the continuance of the Union
He pleaded pathetically for the preservation of the constitutional union.
He made impassioned appeals to the patriotism of the northern people to respect the constitutional rights of the States, and to desist from their furious and insulting assaults upon the institutions of the South
, for the existence of which the whole people of the United States
shared an equal responsibility, and for the protection of which all the people of all the States were solemnly bound by the constitution.
These efforts he continued down to the last moments of his senatorial career.
He participated in the efforts of Crittenden
and of Douglas
and of other conservative men to devise some compromise of the differences between the sections which might avert secession.
He served on the committee appointed by the Senate to devise such a basis of amicable settlement.
In his last speech in the Senate before his retirement he said:
What, senators, to-day is the condition of the country?
From every corner of it comes the wailing cry of patriotism, pleading for the preservation of the great inheritance we derived from our fathers.
Is there a senator who does not daily receive letters appealing to him to use even the small power which one man here possesses to save the rich inheritance our fathers gave us?
Tears are trickling down the stern faces of men who have bled for the flag of their country, and who are willing now to die for it; but patriotism stands.
powerless before the plea that the party about to come into power laid down a platform, and that, come what will, though ruin stare in the face, consistency must be adhered to, even though the government be lost.
Is this the language of a cold-blooded conspirator?
Yet it is but