under the promptings of interest, or passion, or caprice, may at will, and honorably, too, strike at the Government
that shelters him, is one of utter demoralization, and should be trodden out as you would tread out a spark that has fallen on the roof of your dwelling.
Its unchecked prevalence would resolve society into chaos, and leave you without the slightest guarantee for life, liberty, or property.
It is time, that, in their majesty, the people of the United States
should make known to the world that this Government, in its dignity and power, is something more than a moot court, and that the citizen who makes war upon it is a traitor, not only in theory but in fact, and should have meted out to him a traitor's doom.
The country wants no bloody sacrifice, but it must and will have peace, cost what it may.
Before closing, I desire to say a few words on the relations of Kentucky
to the pending rebellion; and as we are all Kentuckians here together to-night, and as this is purely a family matter, which concerns the honor of us all, I hope we may be permitted to speak to each other upon it with entire freedom.
I shall not detain you with any observations on the hostile and defiant position assumed by the Governor
of your State.
In his reply to the requisition upon him for volunteers under the proclamation of the President
, he has, in my judgment, written and finished his own history, his epitaph included, and it is probable that in future the world will little concern itself as to what his Excellency
may propose to do, or as to what he may propose not to do. That response has made for Kentucky
a record which has already brought a burning blush to the cheek of many of her sons, and is destined to bring it to the cheek of many more in the years that are to come.
It is a shame, indeed a crying shame, that a State with so illustrious a past should have written for her, by her own chief magistrate, a page of history so utterly humiliating as this.
But your Legislature have determined that during the present unhappy war the attitude of the State
shall be that of strict neutrality, and it is upon this determination that I wish respectfully but frankly to comment.
As the motives which governed the Legislature were doubtless patriotic and conservative, the conclusion arrived at cannot be condemned as dishonorable; still, in view of the manifest duty of the state and of possible results, I cannot but regard it as mistaken and false, and one which may have fatal consequences.
Strictly and legally speaking, Kentucky
must go out of the Union
before she can be neutral.
Within it she is necessarily either faithful to the Government
of the United States
, or she is disloyal to it. If this crutch of neutrality, upon which the well-meaning but ill-judging politicians are halting, can find any middle ground on which to rest, it has escaped my researches, though I have diligently sought it. Neutrality, in the sense of those who now use the term, however patriotically designed, is, in effect, but a snake in the grass of rebellion, and those who handle it will sooner or later feel its fangs.
Said one who spake as never man spake, “He who is not with us is against us;” and of none of the conflicts which have arisen between men or between nations, could this be more truthfully said than of that in which we are now involved.
Neutrality necessarily implies indifference.
indifferent to the issues of this contest?
Has she, indeed, nothing at stake?
Has she no compact with her sister States to keep, no plighted faith to uphold, no renown to sustain, no glory to win?
Has she no horror of that crime of crimes now being committed against us by that stupendous rebellion which has arisen like a tempest-cloud in the South
We rejoice to know that she is still a member of this Union, and as such she has the same interest in resisting this rebellion that each limb of the body has in resisting a poignard whose point is aimed at the heart.
It is her house that is on fire; has she no interest in extinguishing the conflagration?
Will she stand aloof and announce herself neutral between the raging flames and the brave men who are perilling their lives to subdue them?
Hundreds of thousands of citizens of other States--men of culture and character, of thought and of toil — men who have a deep stake in life, and an intense appreciation of its duties and responsibilities, who know the worth of this blessed Government of ours, and do not prize even their own blood above it — I say, hundreds of thousands of such men have left their homes, their workshops, their offices, their counting-houses, and their fields, and are now rallying about our flag, freely offering their all to sustain it, and since the days that crusading Europe
threw its hosts upon the embattled plains of Asia
, no deeper, or more earnest, or grander spirit has stirred the souls of men than that which now sways those mighty masses whose gleaming banners are destined ere long to make bright again the earth and sky of the distracted South
look upon this sublime spectacle of patriotism unmoved, and then say to herself: “I will spend neither blood nor treasure, but I will shrink away while the battle rages, and after it has been fought and won, I will return to the camp, well assured that if I cannot claim the laurels, I will at least enjoy the blessings of the victory” ? Is this all that remains of her chivalry — of the chivalry of the land of the Shelbys, the Johnsons, the Allens, the Clays, the Adairs, and the Davieses?
Is there a Kentuckian within the sound of my voice to-night, who can hear the anguished cry of his country as she wrestles and writhes in the folds of this gigantic treason, and then lay himself down upon his pillow with this thought of neutrality, without feeling that he has something in his bosom which stings him worse than would an adder?
Have we, within the brief period of eighty years, descended so far from the mountain heights on which our fathers stood, that already, in our degeneracy, we proclaim our