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Doc. 227.-Senator Rousseau's speech in the Kentucky Senate, May 21, 1861.

[The question before the Senate was on discharging the Committee on Military Affairs from the further consideration of a petition of sundry citizens of Paducah, praying for an appropriation for the purpose of establishing a fort at that place. Senator Johnson made available speech against the discharge of said Committee.]

Senator Rousseau said:--I shall vote for the discharge of the Committee. The petition comes from the respectable constituents of the Senator from McCracken--Dr. Johnson. They ask for an appropriation to fortify Paducah. Their request has been duly and respectfully considered by the Committee on Military Affairs, and said Committee desires to be discharged from the further consideration of the subject. The Senator from McCracken says he has but little hope of obtaining the appropriation, or that his people will be heard by the Legislature, that they are defenceless, and provision should be made for their defence. I asked that Senator against whom they would defend themselves? He was then on the floor of the Senate, but declined to answer. There could have been but one reply to the question, and that he would not give. I will give him the answer. The assumed preparation for defence was, in fact, a preparation to fight our own Government. Of this I have no doubt, and hence no reply to my question. Can it be that defensive measures are desired to oppose Jeff. Davis? Manifestly not. He would be sustained by that Senator, and those that act with him. But who threatens Paducah? Who offers to assail her? Who will assail her? Will our own Government assail her? Surely not. Then why fortify Paducah more than Covington, Newport, Louisville, Maysville, and other exposed points on the Ohio River? There is no reason for it. But the Senator tells us that Louisville, too, might be fortified. I am much [330] obliged to him. Louisville is in no danger. She is already fortified by the strong arms of her brave and patriotic citizens. They are and true to the Union. She has no fears of our own Government. She knows that the United States Government is hers, and she loves it for its blessings, and relies upon it for her protection. If assailed by the seceded States, and hard pushed, she knows where to find defenders, and she will have them. Her people will not tolerate the enormous expense necessary to her fortification, nor will she, in any event, fortify against her own Government. As her representative here, I'll lend myself to no such atrocious purpose. I will not fight, nor prepare to fight, against my own Government, nor countenance the schemes of those who do. Never! No, sir, let those who would fight the United States, and like the work, go at it. I will not aid them in their treasonable projects, but will resist them to the last.

But I wish to sum up, Mr. Speaker. Permit me to tell you, sir, what I think of this whole atrocious scheme of secession. I speak for myself only, and am alone responsible for what I say; and I thank God that I may still speak what I think on Kentucky soil. Yes, sir, good, brave old Kentucky, my mother, “my own native land,” is still free. There is no reign of terror here. We still have free speech, a free press, and, as yet, we are free men. Kentucky is true and loyal to the Government. She still rests her head in peace and security upon the fond breast of her mother — the Union; and there may she rest forever. She has called upon her gallant sons to rally around her, and beat off the Vandals who would tear her away from her earliest and holiest associations, and bear her to certain destruction.

But Kentucky is in a false position. I felt it from the first. Yet, she having assumed a neutral attitude, I felt it to be my duty to stand by her, and I have faithfully done so. I am willing still to stand by the position of Kentucky, if we can do so in peace and security. But the position is an awkward one, and may be more awkward yet before our difficulties are ended. The Union is threatened; the Government is threatened by those who have not one well-grounded complaint to make against it — by those who have controlled its destinies for years. I denounce the effort, and those who make it. I say it is wrong — infamous; and if successful it must entail ruin upon us and ours. We see the work of mischief going on, and quietly sit by with folded arms while it is done.

Kentucky has as much interest in the Union as any other State. She loves it as devotedly and shares its benefits and blessings in common with her sister States. She owes it her allegiance and her aid. Her people work for the Union; they talk for it; they pray for its preservation; yet they stand idly by, and let others, who have no more interest in it than themselves, defend it, and save it if they can. It is in a death struggle for existence, yet we have not a hand to raise in its defence. You say that it is the best government that ever existed on earth — it has ever protected and never oppressed you. But we are told that this is a fratricidal war — a wicked war! Well, who began it? Who caused it? Who attempted to break up the Government? Who set the will of the people at defiance, and overturned the “best government on earth” ? Let recently passed events, and those which are daily being enacted, answer.

I say the laws should be enforced if we have any. If we have a government let it be maintained and obeyed. And if a wicked, factious minority, without cause, undertakes to override the will of the majority, and rob us of our constitutional and vested rights, let that factious and wicked minority be put down — peaceably if we can, but forcibly if we must. If you don't, they will put you down as certain as fate. Make your election. Don't stand passively by and see your own laws violated; your own Government destroyed, and your liberties swallowed up in tyranny, for fear of a “fratricidal war.” If your fellow-citizen turns out to rob and murder you and yours, stop him. If you have to hang him why stop him in that way. But when he commits a murder and you would execute the law on him, he says, “O none of that — no coercion; I am your brother; you must not hurt me;” and for fear of hurting your “brother,” as he calls himself, you would permit him to go on in his work of crime. Let the will of the sovereign people be respected and obeyed. Let the laws of the land be enforced on all alike. If they are obeyed peaceably, so much the better; but, let them be obeyed. Then you will have peace and security at home, and power and respectability abroad. Unless you do this, you will have neither.

But the position of Kentucky will soon be more awkward than it is now. Secessionists will not allow you to maintain your armed neutrality one moment longer than they can help it. You will see it. They will destroy it when they can, and in any way they can. They have constantly denounced it, and have only submitted to it till they could do better. They will soon get up another programme of disunion, and make, or try to make, you play your part. The old game, in a new form of bloodshed and sensations, will be reenacted for your destruction. You know not what may come; you may be overpowered by these men at home, or from abroad, and that is threatened now. What would you do then? Yield up your liberties into the hands of these broken-down, disappointed, and disgraced politicians? Will you submit to the sway of anarchy and the reign of terror now existing in all the seceded States? If not, what will you do? Why, you will call on your Government to do its duty and take care of you. That is what you will do, and you will not call in vain. And will it not be a little embarrassing to call on a [331] Government to aid you in your extremity which you would not help when it was assailed by treasonable foes? I think it would. But you would get the help; no doubt of that. The Constitution of the United States pledges every State, and all the people of the United States, to put down insurrections and rebellion, and secure to all within its limits a republican form of government. And, unless the State shall disregard — as some would have us do ours — its constitutional pledges and obligations, it will receive the protection of the General Government. I hope we shall never need it. It would be the last resort, but when the Union men of Kentucky are driven to that necessity, the appeal will be made. Mark that.

The truth is, our duty at first was to stand by our Government, and protect and defend it. If fit to live under, it was entitled to our respect and confidence and allegiance. If unfit, it should have been abandoned at once, and another formed more perfect. But while we owe our allegiance to it, let us acknowledge it like true men, and not turn our backs upon its greatest peril. We should not do this if we desire its preservation. We should stand by it like men, or pull it down at once. But we should not stand by and see others pull it down over our heads against our will, to the destruction of our liberties, and say:

We oppose you. We love the Government. It is the Government of our fathers; bought with their blood, and bequeathed to us. It is the best Government on earth, and in its destruction we see ruin to us and ours; but as you and we live in slave States, go on and do as you please. We will not resist you. Ruin us if you will.

And so never lift a hand to save us and our children the blessings of liberty. In my heart I do not approve of this course, and what I do not approve, no power on earth shall make me say. I am for the old Constitution of Washington and his compeers. For the old flag, the Stars and Stripes. God bless them; and I am against all factions that would take them from me. It matters not who they are or whence they come. Whether they come from England, France, Massachusetts, or South Carolina. If they would destroy the Government of our fathers, I am against them. No matter what may be the pretext. No, sir, I am for the Union, and I am willing to defend it by any and all proper means. Our Government is the best in the world. It has answered well all the ends for which governments are made. We all know this. It has oppressed no man, nor has it burdened us a feather's weight. It has brought us nothing but blessings. Under it we have been happy, prosperous, and free. What more can we ask. All that Government can do, our Government has done for us. We have been free, as no nation was ever free before; we have prospered as no nation ever prospered before, and we have rested in peace and security. Yet all this would not do. Mr. Lincoln was elected, and corrupt politicians lost their places. They had controlled the Government in their own way for years. When they lost their power, they declared that the Government was corrupt and oppressive, and that they would destroy it. They robbed it of its arms and munitions of war, sending them South; they involved the Government in a debt of nearly a hundred millions of dollars; robbed the treasury; and thus leaving the Government impoverished and distracted they commenced the atrocious business of secession. They had lost the offices, and they thought it necessary to create new ones for the benefit of the defunct politicians, and they did it.

This is the grand secret of the whole affair. Had they retained their grip upon the offices, you had never heard of secession. All our losses, all our troubles and suffering, are the legitimate results of secession. We must bear all, we must submit to all this in silence, that those disappointed politicians may be presidents, ministers, and high officials. Their day was ended by the election of Lincoln. They knew this, and seceded — made new offices and filled them.

Now behold the result of secession. Distress and ruin stare men in the face; strong men, honest and industrious men, cannot get bread for their wives and children; the widow and the orphan, helpelss and destitute, are starving; in all the large cities the suffering is intense; work is not to be obtained, and those who live by their labor get no money; property of every description has depreciated until it is almost worthless; in the seceded States, Union men are driven penniless from their homes, or ranged; and all this, Mr. Senator from McCracken, that peaceable secession may go on, and that politicians may fill offices. And after you gentlemen bring all these calamities upon us, you falsely say that “Lincoln did it,” and that we Union men are abolitionists and aid him. But I tell you that Lincoln has not done it. He was elected President by your help. You ran a candidate for the Presidency that the Democratic party might be divided, and Lincoln elected. That was your purpose, and you accomplished it; and now you have elected Lincoln thus, you must break up the Government because he is elected. Nothing can satisfy you but secession. You will accept no compromise. To talk of compromise irritates secession gentlemen — it irritates them to talk of the rights of anybody but themselves — they are indeed a very irritable set of people. If you speak of enforcing the laws of the land, why it's coercion, and at this word they forth — with go into spasms. They can't stand it at all. It is subjugation of the South by the North. If they threaten to hang you when they get the power — because you are true to the old Constitution and the old flag of Washington — and you get arms to defend yourself, why, it irritates them, and they won't stand it.

The Union men of Kentucky, seeing the condition [332] of Union men in the seceded States, and seeing that they had to be hanged or be silent, and still wishing to be free as of yore, have lately purchased arms with which to defend themselves. This act is pronounced as a crime — a great crime. And how it irritates them. Garrett Davis received 1,200 stand of arms the other day, and a young gentleman of the secession persuasion became so irritated that he could not stand it at all; that the “States' rights” men would not submit to it — no, never. Well, said I, I would not put up with it if I were in your place. I tell you what I would do, I would go and take Garrett's guns away from him. But — he didn't.

South Carolina was irritated at the presence of Major Anderson and fifty-five men at Fort Sumter, so irritated that she could not bear it. She tried to starve him to death; she tried to knock his head off, and burn him up. She bombarded the people's fort; shot into the flag of our Government, and drove our soldiers from the place. It was not Mr. Lincoln's fort; not his flag nor his soldiers, but ours. Yet after all these outrages and atrocities, South Carolina comes with embraces for us, saying: “Well, we tried; we intended to kill that brother Kentuckian of yours; tried to storm him, knock his brains out, and burn him up. Dont you love us for it? Won't you fight with us, and for us, and help us to overthrow your Government?”

Was ever a request so outrageously unnatural; so degrading to our patriotism? And yet, Mr. Speaker, there were those among us who rejoiced at the result, and termed the assault upon their own fort and the capture of their own flag and their own soldiers a heroic victory!

Mr. Speaker, I am sick and tired of all this gabble about irritation over the exercise by others of their undoubted right, and I say once for all to you secession gentlemen, that we Union men know our rights, and intend to. maintain them; and if you get irritated about it, why — get irritated. Snuff and snort yourselves into a rage; go into spasms if you will; die if you want to, and can't stand it — who cares? What right have you to get irritated because we claim equal rights and equality with you? We are for peace; we desire no war, and deprecate collision. All we ask is peace. We don't intend you any harm. We don't want to hurt you, and don't intend you shall injure us if we can help it. We beg of you to let us live in peace under the good old Government of our fathers. We only ask that. Why keep us ever on the alert watching you, to prevent you from enslaving us by a destruction of that Government?

Senator Johnson--It is already destroyed.

Mr. Rousseau--Not a bit of it. The Union will never be dissolved. I know you say it is; but, believe me, it will never be dissolved. We may have much suffering; we may endure many calamities. War, pestilence and famine may befall us; our own good old Kentucky may be overrun and trodden under foot, and her soil may be drenched in blood, but the Union will never, never be dissolved. I have never had a doubt on this subject, never. I know we must suffer, but we must preserve the Union.

You, Mr. Senator from McCracken, are a sanguine man. You think the Union is destroyed. Well, you sometimes err. I believe you had a correspondence with “Uncle Abe,” in which you committed a glaring error. But that was only a semi-official correspondence, and perhaps should not be alluded to here.

Senator Johnson (good-humoredly)--Oh! yes; tell.

Mr. Rousseau--I thank you. Well, as one of the Senators of Kentucky, you made your most solemn protest against the stationing of troops at Cairo, Ill. The protest was very elegant, as is generally what comes from you — a little highfalutin, it is true. You forwarded your protest to “Uncle Abe,” and, in due time, received a reply, which was too good a joke for a good-natured gentleman like yourself to keep all to yourself, and so you disclosed it. Uncle Abe replied to you that your letter had been received, duly considered, and in reply, he had to say to you, (one of the Senators of Kentucky,) that if he had known that Cairo, Ill., was in your Senatorial District, he would not have sent any soldiers within a hundred miles of that point.

Mr. Speaker, I have blt a word to say. Kentucky is an armed neutral, it is said. I submit, with others, to that position. I hope that circumstances may not drive us from it. I hope that our secession friends will be, in fact, neutral. If we remain so, it is said we shall have peace. I hope so; but the neutrality that fights all on one side I do not understand. Troops leave Kentucky in broad daylight, and our Governor sees them going to fight against our own Government, yet nothing is said or done to prevent them. Is this to be our neutrality? If it is, I am utterly opposed to it. If we assume a neutral position, let us be neutral in fact. It is as little as we can do.

Our Government, constitutionally administered, is entitled to our support, no matter who administers it. If we will not support it, and yet enjoy its blessings, in Heaven's name let us not war against it, nor allow our people to do so. Let us be true to our position, whatever it may be. We are nullifying at any rate. Our Government has not objected to it. But who can look an honest man in the face, while professing neutrality, refusing to help his Government to preserve its existence, yet secretly and traitorously warring against it? For one, sir, I'll none of it. Away with it. Let us be men, honest men, or pretend to be nothing but vagabonds.

I hear it said that Kentucky will go out of the Union; that if she goes anywhere she will go South, &c., &c.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you, sit, Kentucky will not “go out.” She will not stampede. [333] That has been tried. Secessionists must invent something new in the way of secession appliances before they can either frighten or “drag” Kentucky out of the Union. I tell you, sensation gentlemen, that your exciting events have ceased to affect us. Try something else. Get up a fight at Cairo, that you may get us to side with you. That is your game, and you will play it whenever you think you can succeed at it. You tried to scare us, but you failed in your purpose. And if you illegally and against right assault Cairo, I hope every man of you will get his head knocked, or be taken prisoner, and that the Cairo folks will never permit you to come to Kentucky again. That's what I wish, and what I believe would happen in such an event.

But we won't “go out” --have not the least notion of it in the world. You must take us out according to law and right, or take us dead. Believe this, and act accordingly. It would be better for all of us. We shall be but too happy to keep peace, but we cannot leave the Union of our fathers. When Kentucky goes down it will be in blood. Let that be understood. She will not go as other States have gone. Let the responsibility rest on you, where it belongs. It is all your work, and whatever happens will be your work. We have more right to defend our Government than you have to overturn it. Many of us are sworn to support it.

Let our good Union brethren of the South stand their ground. I know that many patriotic hearts in the seceded States still beat warmly for the old Union--the old flag. The time will come when we shall all be together again. The politicians are having their day. The people will yet have theirs. I have an abiding confidence in the right, and I know that this secession movement is all wrong. There is, in fact, not a single substantial reason for it. If there is, I should be glad to hear it; our Government has never oppressed us with a feather's weight. The direst oppression alone could justify what has brought all our present suffering upon us.

May God, in his mercy, save our glorious Republic.--N. Y. Tribune, June 3.

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