and assume a separate and independent attitude. No higher sovereignty than this could be claimed; for it asserts the right of a single State, a part of the Nation — whether it be Florida with her 82,000 white inhabitants, or New York with her 3,800,000--to abrogate, as to itself, “the supreme law of the land,” ordained by the whole nation. One would think that merely to state such a proposition would be to condemn it utterly and forever; but from just that absurdity springs the gigantic treason of this day. In the face of the fact that this is pre-eminently a country of written constitutions, wherein the people themselves — not some reigning potentate — grant powers of government, and define the boundaries of authority and right; in spite of the acknowledged fact, that this claim is not affirmed by any word in the National Constitution, or in the Constitution of any State; and in disregard of the plainest common sense, teaching us that a government framed with a reserved right in any part of its people to renounce it at pleasure, would merit and receive the contempt of the world for its incongruity and imbecility; this dogma of a reserved State sovereignty superior to that of the Nation, is flaunted abroad with as much assurance as if its apostles really believed it themselves, and as greedily swallowed by their followers as if it were a new gospel of freedom.
Jefferson Davis' message.True, the State Rights leaders profess to appeal to the Constitution itself in support of their views; but with such a conscious hopelessness of aid from that quarter, that they are driven to actual falsification of its terms, plain as they are, and open as they be to the perusal of every reading man. The latest and most authoritative, and therefore most flagrant, of all the efforts to blind and mislead the people on this subject, is that of Jefferson Davis, in his message of April 29, 1861, to the Congress of the insurgent States; wherein he attempts a vindication of this State Rights doctrine, ostensibly from the words of the Constitution, but, in fact, with a strange and most daring perversion and suppression of them; to which let us briefly direct attention. Mr. Davis, referring to the occasion of convening the Congress, characterizes it as “indeed an extraordinary one,” and adds--“It justifies me in a brief review of the relations heretofore existing between us and the States which now unite in warfare against us, and in a succinct statement of the events which have resulted in this warfare; to the end that mankind may pass intelligent and impartial judgment on its motives and objects.” When the leader of a great rebellion thus appeals to the public opinion of mankind, all men have a right to require that he shall, above all things, exhibit a supreme regard for truth in his statements of facts. His deductions from premises truly stated maybe honestly erroneous; but when, in regard to facts, he is guilty of either suppressio veri or suggestio falsi, he forfeits the respect of the people to whom he appeals. That such is Mr. Davis' position, seems to me beyond dispute. His message opens with an argument in support of the fundamental heresy, which strips the Constitution of the United States of its character of government, and degrades it into a mere compact between sovereign States, creating an agency to manage certain affairs for them as States, and therefore a mere creature, and they its creators. I will not stop to dwell upon the simple language with which the Constitution, in its first line, refutes this dogma, by declaring itself to have been formed by “the people of the United States;” nor to array before you the repeated judicial decisions, including those of the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Court of Appeals of South Carolina, expressly affirming that the United States are organized by their Constitution into a Government, and are, in that respect, greatly in advance of the United States under the Confederation; nor to present the almost infinite testimony of our Revolutionary fathers, who framed both systems, that the constitution superseded the Confederation, because the latter was, in practical effect, no government, and without an effective government the nation could not be held together; but will direct your minds to the particular point in which Mr. Davis ventures to defend his favorite theory, at the sacrifice of truth in a matter of fact. Alluding to the confederation, he remarks:
In order to guard against any misconstruction of their compact, the several States made explicit declaration, in a distinct article, that ‘each State retained its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the united states in Congress assembled.’Proceeding then to refer to the adoption of the constitution in lieu of the confederation, and to “the earnest desire evinced to impress on the constitution its true character — that of a compact between independent States,” he presents the following paragraph:
The Constitution of 1787 having, however, omitted the clause already recited from the Articles of Confederation, which provided in explicit terms that each State retained its sovereignty and independence, some alarm was felt in the states when invited to ratify the Constitution, lest this omission should be construed into an abandonment of their cherished principle, and they refused to be satisfied until amendments were added to the Constitution placing beyond any pretence of doubt the reservation by the States of all their sovereign rights and powers not expressly delegated to the United States by the Constitution.Now, my friends, you can judge to what straits Mr. Davis was driven to sustain himself before the world, when you note the fact that