The Constitution was not formed merely to guard the States against danger from foreign nations, but mainly to secure union and harmony at home, for if this object could be attained, there would be but little danger from abroad; and to accomplish this purpose, it was felt by the statesmen who framed the Constitution, and by the people who adopted it, that it was necessary that many of the rights of sovereignty which the States then possessed should be ceded to the General Government; and that in the sphere of action assigned to it, it should be supreme, and strong enough to execute its own laws by its own tribunals, without interruption from a State or from State authorities. And it was evident that any tiling short of this would be inadequate to the main objects for which the Government was established, and that local interests, local passions or prejudices, incited and fostered by individuals for sinister purposes, would lead to acts of aggression and injustice by one State upon the rights of another, which would ultimately terminate in violence and force, unless there was a common arbiter between then, armed with power enough to protect and guard the rights of all, by appropriate laws, to be carried into execution peacefully by its judicial tribunals. The language of the Constitution by which this power is granted, is too plain to admit of doubt or to need comment. It declares that ‘this Constitution, and laws of the United States which shall be passed in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land, and tile judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.’ This tribunal, therefore, was erected, and the powers of which we have spoken conferred upon it, not by the Federal Government, but by the people of the States, who formed and adopted that Government, and conferred upon it all the powers, legislative, executive, and judicial, which it now possesses.I will not detain you longer by referring further to the authority of our best and greatest men in opposition to the heresy. I will but add this further suggestion: The obligation of a State, whilst in the Union, to submit to the authority of the Union, is admitted by all. She is bound to this, not only because of the powers delegated to the Government of the Union, but because of the express restraints upon her own. This obligation, created with the consent of herself or of her people, and conceded to be in full force whilst she is in the Union, and to be then beyond her power, it is asserted, on the strength of the secession heresy, that she can, at any time, at her own good pleasure, in the exercise of her own exclusive discretion, and not only without but against the consent of all the other States and their citizens, and of the minority of her own citizens, honorably, legally, constitutionally escape from, by retiring from the Union. As long as she is a member, the Constitution and the laws are binding on her, and may be legally enforced. The moment she ceases to be one, though the cause be only her own will, they are not binding and cannot be so enforced. How idle the careful provisions in the Constitution, to procure obedience to its rightful authority by the citizens individually of all the States, and by the States themselves, where that action is necessary to the continuance of the Government, if all can be avoided and nullified by the single act of State secession. The folly of the proposition is so gross, that it is difficult to see how a sound mind can entertain it, even for a moment. And yet it is entertained by men wise on all other subjects, and as patriotic as they are wise. It is but another illustration, to the many that history supplies, how the finest intellect and the purest heart at times fall even into mischievous absurdities. But I leave the subject for another. A few months since no people were happier than ours — none more prosperous or more respected by the world. In that short period what a sad reverse! all now is apprehension; solicitude fills the land; private enterprise is paralyzed; every industrious pursuit is suffering; individual credit, so vital to prosperity, is almost gone. National credit, yet more vital, almost totally lost; war — civil war, greatly imminent; bitter hostility of section disgracefully and dangerously prevailing; and our Government itself, the very citadel of our safety — the chief source of our past countless blessings, in certain quarters despised, reviled, and threatened with destruction. To what is all this to be referred? Within that time no oppressive or unconstitutional act has been done by Congress or the Executive, or any other that even tends to injure States or people; and no act has been done by a single State having that tendency. The Government of the United States, as such, has complied with all its obligations to the States and people. There is not on the statute book a single law affecting the peculiar institution of labor in the Southern States, except for its protection; a fugitive labor act is there, passed for that very purpose, drafted by a Southern Senator, supported, I believe, by
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