previous next

Poor Kentucky.

--The most difficult of all paths to pursue at present is the path of neutrality. The gate may not be wide, or the way bread, but, like the highway to Perdition, it nevertheless leadeth to destruction.--Neutrality is itself revolution, but it is thuld hallway, skulking revolution, and revolution is a thing that must go forward to the extreme end, or not move at all. The Constitution recognizes no such thing as a status of neutrality. A State must either be in the old Union or out of it. If in the old Union, it is in legal epithet participant in all its constitutional acts, and particeps criminis in all its unconstitutional ones. Its only escape from responsibility for the acts of the old Union is by means of secession.

Kentucky's neutrality does not take her out of the old Union. She remains part and parcel of it, be she ever so neutral. Neither the Federal or her own State officers can recognize her neutrality, which is a condition unknown to the Constitution and to the Laws. If she forces them, against their legal and constitutional duty, to pay regard to this hypothetical neutrality, she, to that extent, requires of them unconstitutional and revolutionary acts. Neutrality, if effective at all, is revolution, it is secession in effect and intent, though secession in disguise. It is secession in an illegal form; it is secession bastardized, demoralized, and emasculated.

If Kentucky did not wish to take part with the North in its outrageous proceedings against the South, there were two courses to pursue. The first was simply to secede, and in her character as an independent sovereign State, to put herself in that attitude of armed neutrality so fully recognized, and so well defined in all its relations, by the Law of Nations.--The other course was not only to secede, but also to take the further step of uniting herself with the Southern Confederacy, and making common cause with them against the common enemy. If she cherished no more affection for the South than for the North, of course she would not take the second step, but would remain as a neutral and at the same time an independent and sovereign State.

The attitude she did assume, however, was the most undignified, and at the same time the most ruinous one possible. She remained in the old Union. She had not the pluck, the candor, or the self-respect, to cut loose from the contaminating and hateful association. She shrank from assuming a distinct and independent nationality. As to the rest of the world she remained a province and a dependency of the old Union. She could not constitutionally claim a distinct recognition, or assume that attitude of neutrality to which independent States only are competent. Her protestations of fealty to the Union and of neutrality between the sections, were contradictions in terms. To affect neutrality before she seceded, was grossly to stultify herself without succeeding in making a dupe of either the North or the South.

Lincoln never did recognize her neutrality, and never could do so consistently with constitutional duty. The South agreed to treat her as a neutral as a measure of policy and prudence, well knowing that without first seceding from the old Union, it was a status which neither the Constitution nor the laws permitted her to assume.

It has been the peculiar characteristic of the politicians who control the destiny of Kentucky to prefer chicanery to logical truth and candor. To affect neutrality while remaining a part of the old Union, bound constitutionally or politically by all its acts, was in keeping with the factious of Crittenden and Guthrie Leslie Coomes and Joe Holt, parson Breckinridge and partisan Prentice. This was the artful dodge by which those cunning men beguiled over from the ranks of the Secessionists proper, the great body of the good people of Kentucky. This is the delusive bait by which they have succeeded in hooking a great and gallant Commonwealth into the toils of Lincoln. This is the net which they have thrown over the limbs of the Secession party there, and prevented them from following John C. Breckinridge, Magoffin, Powell, Burnett, Stephenson, Brown, and the other true men who would have led them into the Southern Confederacy.

The time has passed for the secession of Kentucky. Crittenden and Prentice and Guthrie have done their evil work. The people have been beguiled and deceived by a honeyed word cunningly contrived for their undoing. All further proceedings in Kentucky must be revolutionary, violent and convulsive. There is no legal path by which it is possible now to extricate her from her constitutional association with the North. That association is gulling to the feelings of the better class of her people; but there is no process by which they can effect their deliverance except by revolutionary action. By force and arms, by bloodshed and violence must they now carve out their way to honor, liberty, and independence, for that is the only alternative left a gallant State by its Crittendens and its Holts.

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.

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.
Prentice (2)
A. Lincoln (2)
Crittenden (2)
John C. Breckinridge (2)
Stephenson (1)
Powell (1)
Magoffin (1)
Holts (1)
Joe Holt (1)
Guthrie (1)
Guthrie Leslie Coomes (1)
Burnett (1)
William G. Brown (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: