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 It is out of my power to conceive of views in regard to our system of government, more false in their nature and more deadly in their effects, than those; and my undoubting conviction is, that but for their steady inculcation on the minds of a portion of the American people, until an entire generation have been educated to believe in them as fundamental truths, we never should have seen the terrible events of the present time. Those doctrines have undermined the broad and apparently immovable foundations of the Union, in every heart which has received them, and have accomplished, by insidious approaches and covert attacks, what open disloyalty, in the first instance, could never have effected. They have falsified and degraded the Union our fathers formed, and the government they framed to strengthen and perpetuate it; and the foreseen and designed result is, that while, a few years ago, the whole American people held their National Government to be the best the world ever saw, and their Union the most sacred object of their attachment as Americans, millions of them are now engaged in a fierce and desperate effort to destroy both, even though in doing so they destroy the best hope and refuge of freedom on the earth. Against such inexplicable and suicidal madness, I would appeal to you to-day. In doing so, I am, more than ever before, deeply convinced that a frequent and thoughtful recurrence to great fundamental doctrines and principles is the very life of a republic; and I shall therefore not rest upon the surface of passing events, but go back to the source of our grand fabric of Union and Government, and endeavor to renew our veneration and love for it, by exhibiting the organic and vital principles, upon which alone I consider it was erected, and resting upon which I believe it would endure as long as humanity itself. When was the Union formed? is a question of far-reaching import in determining what the Union is: so much so, that it is the subject of systematic and persistent falsification among those who aim to overthrow the Union. Their idol doctrine is, that the Union is a compact or league between sovereign States; and to sustain and spread the worship of that idol, they must refer to something written down, as compacts and leagues between States always are. Therefore they fix upon the Constitution, and claim it to have been the origin of the Union. The South Carolina Convention, after passing an ordinance of secession, put forth an address to the people of the slaveholding States, the first sentence of which is a repetition of historical error on this point, in these words: “It is now seventy-three years since the Union between the United States was made by the Constitution of the United States.” To say that the members of that Convention did not know this statement to be untrue, is to affirm their ignorance of history, and of the very first line of the Constitution. The Constitution itself declares why it was established — assigns several reasons; the first of which is, “in order to form a more perfect Union:” words which are meaningless, if they do not affirm that a Union had before existed. And the letter of Washington, as President of the Convention, communicating to Congress the Constitution, stated that the Convention had “kept steadily in view that which appeared to them the greatest interest of every true American--the consolidation of our Union:” a form of expression, equally with the other, declaring the pre-existence of the Union. It is, then, not only historically true, but explicitly recorded in the Constitution, that, so far from the Union springing from the Constitution, the Constitution was the offspring of the Union. Searching backward for the beginning of the Union, we find that on the first day of March, 1781, nearly five years after the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, which had been formed by the Continental Congress, in 1777, were finally adopted by the Delegates of the thirteen States, and became, during the few years of their existence, the bond, but not the origin, of Union; for we know from history that the Union existed before. Again proceeding backward, we see that the Declaration of Independence began with this remarkable expression--“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,” and closed with the announcement “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.” The phrase “one people,” applied to the people of the “United Colonies,” can leave no doubt of the view they entertained of their relation to each other. They considered themselves united, as one people, and they referred to a Union then already in being. Looking still further back in the record of events, we find that on the 5th of September, 1774, the Continental Congress, composed of delegates from all the Colonies except Georgia--which was afterwards represented — was convened in Philadelphia. Though as far back as 1637 the idea of a confederacy between some of the Colonies had been presented; though a convention was held in Boston, in 1643, to form a confederacy among the New England Colonies; though in 1754 a Congress of delegates from seven Colonies was convened at Albany, and unanimously resolved that a union of the Colonies was absolutely necessary for their preservation; and a similar Congress of delegates from nine Colonies was held in New York, in 1765; all indicating the tendency of the American mind to intrench the separate and scattered communities within a citadel of union: yet the Congress which convened in Philadelphia, in 1774, composed of delegates appointed by the popular or representative branch of the Colonial legislatures, or by conventions of the people of the Colonies, and styling themselves in their more formal acts
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