At the conclusion of his argument in an important case before this court, in December, 1860, Mr. Johnson
spoke as follows in impressive reference to passing events and in just tribute to the historical place which, in any event, must be filled by the high tribunal before which he was called to plead :--
May it please your honors, indulge me with a word or two more before I conclude.
This may be the last time that this Court will sit in peaceful judgment on a Constitution acknowledged and obeyed by all. God, in his providence, and for our sins, may in his inscrutable wisdom, suffer the folly and wickedness of this generation to destroy the fairest, noblest fabric of constitutional freedom ever erected by man. Its whole history, from the first moment of its operation even to the present hour, bears evidence of its unrivalled excellence.
Our country, our whole country has, from the first, prospered under it, and because of it
, with a rapidity, and in a manner, before or since, unknown to the nations.
That prosperity vindicates the wisdom and patriotism of its good and great founders.
Is this prosperity now to cease?
Is it now to be dashed to the earth?
Are the hopes of civilized man, the world over, now to be blasted?
Are we to become the jest, the scorn, the detestation of the people of the earth?
Are all memory and reverence for the great dead, whom living we admired and adored, to be now forgotten?
Is all gratitude for the mighty, trying struggles of our fathers now to end?
Are the warnings, the parting warnings of the peerless man of all this world now to be disregarded and despised?
Is the country of Washington
, consecrated by his valor, wisdom, and virtue to freedom and peace, now to be converted into a wild scene of disorder, fraternal strife, bloodshed, war?
May Heaven in its mercy forbid!
May it stay the arm of the madman, arrest it in mid-career before it strikes the fatal, parricidal blow.
May it give time for reason and patriotism to resume their sway!
May it remove the delusions of the misguided, strengthen the efforts of the patriotic, impart heavenly fire to the eloquence of the faithful statesman; silence, by the universal voice of the good and true men of the nation, the utterings of treason now tainting the air and shocking the ear of patriotism, and the whinings of imbecility now discouraging and sickening the honest public heart!
May it, above all, rekindle that fraternal love which bound us together by ties stronger, infinitely stronger, than any which mere Government can create, during the whole of our Revolutionary struggle, and has since cheered us on in our pathway to the power and renown which have made us, until now, the wonder and admiration of the world I
But if all shall fail us and ruin come; if chaos, worse than chaos, is to be our fate, the spirits of those who have departed, and the survivors who have administered justice in this tribunal, in the general wreck and wretchedness that will ensue, will be left this consolation: that their recorded judgments, now, thank God, the rich inheritance of the world, and beyond the spoiler's reach, will, till time shall be no more, testify to the spotless integrity, the unsurpassed wisdom, the ever-bright patriotism of the men who from the first have served their country in this temple, sacred to justice and duty, and to the matchless wisdom of our fathers, who bequeathed it and commended it to the perpetual reverence and support of their
sons, and remain a never-dying dishonor and reproach to the sons who shall have plotted or permitted its destruction.