previous next

Their apostasy to Republican principles.

Nothing has been more conspicuously revealed by the war than the universal ignorance of the North of the principles of the Federal Constitution. The South stands amazed at the disclosure. They well knew that a large party in that section held the Union to be a nation, and the Federal Government to be armed with sovereign, supreme and coercive powers over the States. They were well aware that such old line Federalists as Lincoln held the State to be no more to the Union than the county is to the State.--But they supposed that this class of politicians were as small in the North as it is in the South; and that the sound and controlling opinion of the other section was in harmony with the principles long-taught by the South.

It is true, that under the administration — we might almost call it the reign — of the elder Adams, alien and sedition laws were passed by the dominant North, authorizing the President, of his own mere volition, to expel foreign-born residents from our shores, and to imprison and prosecute the men who boldly denounced the acts of the President as unconstitutional and tyrannical. But this gross usurpation of powers by Congress and the Executive brought about a discussion which settled the principles in controversy upon the basis of the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of '98 and '99, and which produced the repeal of the obnoxious laws. The emphatic doctrines then annunciated, and which, as the South had supposed, had been acquiesced in ever since, were, that the States were sovereign; that they had delegated certain of their powers to the General Government, reserving all the rest; and that, when the General Government should ‘"pervert those powers to their injury and oppression,"’ they would have the right to withdraw them from it and resume them to themselves.

Such were the clearly defined and ably enforced doctrines of that eventful era of our constitutional history; and the South has fondly reposed, ever since, in the belief that they were accepted by the North. They certainly were the doctrines of the Democratic party, who repeatedly proclaimed them as a part of their national platform, and carried many elections upon that platform. It is true, that in 1832 they came indirectly under review in connection with the nullification movement of South Carolina; but the right asserted by that State to resist Federal aggressions in the Union, and to nullify acts of Congress by laws of her own, was not precisely in accordance with the doctrines of '98, which rather taught that the proper remedy of the States for infractions of the Constitution by the Federal Government was to be found in a withdrawal from the Union. The result of the contest of 1832 was a drawn battle--South Carolina refusing to abandon her doctrine, and the Federal Government declining any serious attempt at coercion.

But whatever may be thought of nullification — a doctrine not unpopular at the South--nothing, until this time, has ever occurred to unsettle the principles of '98 and '99. The South has persisted in asserting them, and a party at the North, which long held the reins of power in that section, was in the habit of proclaiming them in the most solemn forms.

Judge, then, of the amazement of the South at seeing the leaders of that very party at the North, Pierre, Douglas, Buchanan, Cass, and even Cushing, either under the influence of the terror which the mob has established throughout that section, or else in willing and deliberate apostasy from the creed to which they have so often sworn faith, renouncing their solemnly proclaimed opinions of the past, and expressing their zealous concurrence in the military preparations going on around them for "crushing out" these ancient and salutary doctrines of State Rights. Why, it was no longer ago than last December that President Buchanan denied, in his Message, the right of the President to attempt that coercion, in attempting which he now bids Lincoln God speed; and this denial was based upon a formal and conclusively argued opinion of a Pennsylvania Attorney General.--The language of these men now is, not that the Government shall be required by the North to desist from exercising these unconstitutional powers, but that the North must as one man unite in supporting its measures of coercion, whatever may be the constitutional principles infracted in so doing.

Thus has the Government at Washington ceased to be a constitutional power, and assumed the arbitrary license of a revolutionary tribunal. It has degenerated into a naked despotism, conducted by the most depraved and reckless men. It sets at defiance individual rights, no less than State rights; and its war the South is waged in utter disregard of every common-law right of the citizen, and of every constitutional right of the State. Most portentous of all the evil auguries connected with their mad proceedings, is the fact that none can be found in their whole section to maintain the doctrines of the Constitution as held for sixty years, and as proclaimed by the most conspicuous of the men who now ignore and repudiate them. In view of so appalling an apostasy, well may the South persist in her determination to cut loose from the degrading contact forever.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (2)
Fort Pierre (South Dakota, United States) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Abraham Lincoln (2)
Buchanan (2)
Douglas (1)
Caleb Cushing (1)
Cass (1)
Adams (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1832 AD (2)
December (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: