What are we fighting for?
[From the Louisville
The war commenced by the people of the North
against slavery was really a war against the Constitution
and against the Government
based on that instrument.
Slavery was recognized in the Constitution
; and directly and indirectly the right of the owner in his slave was fully guaranteed by it. Any interference, therefore, by the Federal Government
with the institution of slavery, or with the right of the owner to his slave, was in violation of the Constitution
; and as one violation of the Constitution
acquiesced in would open the way for future interactions of it, it necessarily followed that the success of this anti-slavery movement would sweep away all the safeguards of the Constitution
and leave the people of the country at the mercy of a bare majority, whose whims and caprices would be subject to no restraint.--The Constitution conferred upon the Federal Government
no power to interfere with slavery in the States, or with the right of slave-holders to their property in the Territories
; and so it followed, that any such interference was an assemblage of undelegated powers which, if submitted to, opened wide all the floodgates of usurpation, and prepared the way for a complete overthrow of the Government
as founded by our fathers.
So the irrepressible conflict assumed proportions really far greater than the mere property interests involved.
The success of the anti-slavery movement would destroy, it is true, $4,000,000,000 worth of property; it would do more, for it would overthrow the social institutions of fifteen sovereign States and leave great districts of country now covered with prosperous towns and cities and teeming with evidences of agricultural wealth, a desert waste; but above all these, it was foreseen it would open the way for the overthrow of our constitutional government and the destruction of the liberties of the whole people.
If the rights of the owner of slave property were taken from him, what security could the owner of any other species of property have?
If the institutions of slaveholding States might be overthrown by the exercise of undelegated power by the Federal Government
, what security was there for those or any other State?
If the General Government
were permitted to do one act for which it could find no warrant in the Constitution
, what limit would there be on its power?
The war on slavery was mangurated and conducted by able, sagacious, and ambitious men, who cared nothing for the condition of the slave, and was not influenced by any moral, or social, or political considerations, but who preferred using it to conceal their designs against the Constitution
and against the Government
of the Constitution
An open attempt to change the form of our Government they knew would alarm and arouse the whole people, and cover them with merited infamy.
The liberties of the Northman were as dear as the liberties of the Southman — the freedom of the poor man was as much cherished as the freedom of the rich one.
All hated slavery alike.
All equally loved liberty.
All were proud of our Government.
All boasted of the glorious inheritance won for them by the heroes of the revolution.
Our institutions were regarded as the gift of heaven.
It were folly to propose openly to overthrow the Government
and reduce the people to slavery.
It were folly to propose to build a despotism on the ruins of the Republic
and to rob the people of the birth-right of freedom.
Yet this was what the originators of the anti-movement desired to do; for this, abolitionism was conceived; for this, the anti slavery men of the past generation labored not less earnestly than those of today labor.
Keeping out of view the objects to be accomplished, they sought to array the North
against the South
, the non-slave-holder against the slaveholder, one class and one section against another class and another section.
Clamoring against slavery in order to avert attention from their attacks on the Constitution
They proposed measures which they knew were unconstitutional, knowing that every vote recorded on any pretext for an unconstitutional measure weakened the defences of that instrument and tended to the purpose they had in view.
The property interests at slake were so momentous that it absorbed the attention of the people; and while those directly interested in negroes and slavery were considering the social and economical results of the proposed nieasures, and showing by the most conclusive logic the disastrous effect upon the country of the emancipation of the slaves, the people of the Free States
and the non-slaveholder in the South
were being taught that they had no concern in the question.--The Constitution was forgotten.
The danger to the Government
The liberties of the people and the independence of the States were ignored.
Fatal mistake! --Step by step the people were led on in the path marked out for them.
Finally, the free States in sold column gave their sanction to a policy that was in conflict with the Constitution
, not intending to destroy the Constitution
, but to cripple, and limit, and ultimately to destroy slavery.
They struck at slavery, and they pierced the Constitution
to the heart.
They would have destroyed the rights of the slaveholder and their own liberties perished.
They consented that one provision of the Constitution
should be violated; and soon it was announced that the whole instrument was suspended.
They agreed, never dreaming of the consequences, thinking only to "lift the artificial weights" from the shoulders of the slave, that the Federal Government
might usurp one power reserved to the States; and soon it had usurped every power so reserved.
They acquiesced in the usurpation of uncirculated and reserved powers by the Federal Government
; and then they must needs stand by while all the powers delegated to the Federal Government
or usurped by it, were usurped in turn by a single department of the Government
Less than a year has elapsed since the people of the North
, blinded and deceived by the arts of the master minds of the conspiracy against the Government
, voted to disregard one provision of the Constitution
, in order to enable them to abolish, sooner or later, slavery in the Southern States
; and by a regular, but rapid process, as far as the free States are concerned, the Constitution
has been swept away, the rights of the States have been blotted out, till power has been consolidated, first, in the Federal Government
, and next, in one department thereof, the liberties of the people have been taken from them, and instead of a Federal Republic, a worse than Oriental
despotism rears its frightful form.
So rapid has been the strides of the Revolution that we can scarcely realize its progress.
It was only when the iron hand of the new Government was laid on our people, when the gates of its fortress-prisons had been closed on the first of those they had loved and trusted, when bristling bayonets and mercenary soldiers before their eyes and around their homes, reminded them of the decree of their subjugation, that they awoke in a consciousness of the situation of the country, and perceived the alternative presented to them — resistance to the death, or chains and slavery.
Then they sprung to arms, and from their hills and valleys, and broad plains, and towns, and cities, turned out to defend their constitutional rights, to preserve their liberties, to maintain the independence of the State
, and to protect their property, and homes, and families.
Property is involved in the struggle, it is true.
The existence of slavery depends on the success of the Southern
But without property, without slaves, with nothing but our wives and little ones, and strong arms and stout hearts, we might be contented and happy, with liberty
--without liberty there can be no happiness.
We are all united in a struggle for liberty.
each equally interested, and each equally determined.
All may not be able to see that an invasion of the rights of any one citizen is any invasion of the rights of all — that the non-slaveholder is really as much interested in protecting the property of the slaveholder as the latter is in protecting the right of the former to vote — but the lowest equally with the highest, the most ignorant with the best informed, the poor and the rich, all must see that life and liberty.
common to all, and dear to all, equally with lands and negroes, are dependent on the result of the war between the sections; for if the North
shall succeed in its a owed purpose of subjugation, then the President
will become the master of us all and we will hold property, liberty, and life at his pleasure.
If there is one native Kentuckian who will take up arms for the enslavement of his countrymen--one who will not fight for the preservation of the liberty he inherited from his father — he, God help him; is already a fit associate for the mercenaries bought by the Administration like so many sheep in the shambles, to fight its battles, or fit even now for companionship with the negroes to whose level he would be reduced by the triumph of the Northern