clear of purpose, with a firm grasp on principle, a high sense of honor and a moral perception developed on its peculiar lines, as in the case of Calhoun
, to a quality of distinct hardness, they were yet essentially abstractionists.
Political metaphysicians, they were not practical men. They did not see things as they really were.
They thus, while discussing their ‘forty-bale theories’ and the ‘patriarchal institution’ in connection with State's rights and nullification, failed to realize that on the two essential features of their policy—slavery and secession—they were contending with the stars in their courses.
The whole world was moving irresistibly in the direction of nationality and an ever-increased recognition of the rights of man; while they, on both of these vital issues, were proclaiming a crusade of reaction.
Moreover, what availed the views or intentions of the framers of the Constitution
What mattered it in 1860 whether they, in 1787, contemplated a nation or only a more compact federation of sovereign States?
In spite of logic and historical precedent, and in sublime unconciousness of metaphysics and abstractions, realities have unpleasant way of asserting their existence.
However it may have been in 1788, in 1860 a nation had grown into existence.
Its peaceful dismemberment was impossible.
The complex system of tissues and ligaments, the growth of seventy years, could not be gently taken apart, without wound or hurt; the separation, if separation there was to be, involved a tearing asunder, supplementing a liberal use of the knife.
Their professions to the contrary notwithstanding, this the southern leaders failed not to realize.
In point of fact, therefore, believing fully in the abstract legality of secession, and the justice and sufficiency of the grounds on which they acted, their appeal was to the inalienable right of revolution, and to that might by which alone the right could be upheld.
Let us put casuistry, metaphysics, and sentiment aside, and come to actualities.
The secessionist recourse in 1861 was to the sword, and to the sword it was meant to have recourse.
I have thus far spoken only of the South
as a whole.
Much has been said and written on the subject of an alleged conspiracy in those days of southern men and leaders against the Union
; of the designs and ultimate objects of the alleged conspirators; of acts of treachery on their part, and the part of their accomplices, toward the government, of which they were the sworn officials.
Into this phase of the subject I do not propose to enter.
That the leaders in secession were men with large views, and that they had matured a