Lincoln's Usurpations. [From the New York Caucasian.]
Mr. Saulsbury.--Mr. President, when the injustice and intolerance of the British ministry were forcing an issue between the parent country and the colonies in reference to the power of Parliament to impose taxes upon the latter without their consent, the remonstrances of the ablest English statesmen were treated by the advocates of power as the utterances of sedition.
It was then that the noble Chatham thus spoke:
"Sorry I am to hear the liberty of speech in this House imputed as a crime.
But the imputation shall not discourage me. It in a liberty I mean to exercise.
No gentleman ought to be afraid to exercise it. It is a liberty by which the gentleman who calumniates it might have profited."
It has been frequently said upon this floor since the commencement of this unnatural war, that we are making history.
Sir, we are but repeating it. Repeating its follies, its madness, its wickedness, instead of avoiding them, being instructed by its examples.
They would admonish us by these examples, and who would have us profit by them are, by the advocates of power and the tools of faction, charged, like Chatham, with being seditions, disloyal, and as being sympathizers with rebellion.
Well, sir, this is not strange.
Great popular commotions, great civil revolutions, always bring to the surface of society a class of wide in their own conceits, but really too ignorant and too debased to be instructed by the lessons of history.
Thrown by revolutionary force into unnatural positions, and true to their native instructs, they crawl around the feet of a temporary power, and seek their own greatness in the detraction of those who would have wisdom in counsel and moderation in action.
Such men glory in nothing so much as in writing the name of Aristides on the shell.
In his annual Message, transmitted to Congress on the first day of the session, the President thus speaks:
"We, of this Congress and this Administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves.
No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation."
A moment's lunacy after eighteen months of madness!
A flash of reason at the conclusion of an hour's incoherent raving!
What will the future think of me?
How shall I and my administration live in history?
If such questions had constantly presented themselves to the Executive, and had he honestly and uniformly acted in reference to the judgment of impartial history, how different would have been his and our situation now. But, sir, party, not country; vengeance, not justice, have been the objects most dear to this Administration; and the evidence of this fact, which they have and will continue to furnish, will light them down in "dishonor to the latest generation." I know this language may be considered harsh.
The question may be asked, as it has often been asked heretofore, why denounce the rebels?
I answer, sir, that the rebels, as they are called, are not to be affected by denunciation or praise, from you or me. They have gone out from among us, and are not to be brought back by denunciation, but by wisdom in council even more than by bravery in the field.
That there may be wisdom in council, both for the purpose of reuniting a dissevered country and for the still greater and nobler purpose of preserving civil constitutional liberty, I have a right to speak my honest convictions in reference to the executive action and of party action; and, having the right, I shall be governed in its exercise by no other consideration than that of the public good.
At the commencement of the new year, it may be well to review the political chart by which our action has been governed, that thereby we may in future avoid the errors of the past.
"We, of this Congress and this Administration, (says the President,) will be remembered in spite of ourselves.
No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us."
Since, then, sir, we are each to be "lighted down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation." it is but right that each make his own appeal to the awful tribunal of history, and vindicate his action in this national catastrophe, even before "the latest generation." But where is the necessity of making one's own defence, of condemning the action of others ? Why find fault with that which you cannot control and for which you are not responsible?
My answer is plain.
Some of us here can only act upon measures of public policy submitted to us by others.
No efforts of ours to give a proper direction to public affairs by propositions of legislation or tender of advice can avail.
An Administration policy, supported by a majority of this Congress, is submitted for our approval or rejection.
If we approve, well.
If we reject, then, as the dogma sought to be enforced is that the Administration is the Government and the Government is the Administration, we are to be charged with being opposed to the Government and in favor of rebellion.--The questions, then, upon which history is to decide are simply these: Is this Administration right or wrong ? Are its measures, as means for the restoration of the Union and the preservation of the Constitution, wise or unwise, proper or improper; and should they or should they not receive the support of the representatives of the States and of the people ?
speech of Mr. Saulsbury,
of Delaware, in the United States Senate, Jan. 8th, 1863.
A review of the past.Rightly to determine these questions we must review, to some extent, the past, and consider the situation of the present. We are, and for eighteen months have been, in the midst of the greatest political revolution the world has ever seen. We delude ourselves when we say — and we cannot deceive the judgment of history by the declaration — that such a revolution has no cause. I appeal to the history of the past for the truth of this assertion: That there never has been any great moral, social, or political revolution, without some cause more or less great, more or less justifiable. All Governments consider revolutions against their authority as without cause. Were their judgments of the rightfulness or wrongfulness of the exercise of power by themselves and of resistance thereto by others admitted as the infallible rule, liberty could not exist, but despotism would everywhere prevail. According to such a standard of judgment, the great English revolution was a stupendous crime. No Bourbon could see aught but criminality in the French revolution, and the American struggle for independence was regarded by the English King and Ministry, and even by the English people, with as great abhorrence as a wicked resistance to rightful authority as we affect to regard the resistance of the revolted States to Federal authority. The law of revolutions, or that by which their character in most generally determined, is that "might makes right;" that success is justification. The impartial student of history, however, will be forced to the conclusion that there have been revolutions which have failed that ought to have succeeded, and that there have been successful revolutions which ought to have failed. My own opinion, sir, is that this revolution ought to fail unless you make that rightful in the conclusion which was wrongful in the beginning — not because it was wholly without cause, but because its causes did not amount to a justification. No portion of the people have a right, for light or trivial causes, or from apprehended evil, and without first exhausting all reasonable and proper means to avert it, to plunge the whole country into civil war. But, sir, while I honestly believe the causes of the present revolution were not sufficient to amount to a justification of it, and while, therefore, I believe it ought not to succeed, I am equally honest in my conviction that it will succeed for all practical purposes — during this Administration, at least — unless this Administration and this Congress shall change their policy, and be governed by wiser counsel in the future than they have been in the past. This may be considered plain talk in the American Senate. Some may even effect to treat it as the honest warning of Chatham to the English Parliament was treated — as disloyal. Had the English Parliament listened to and acted upon his advice, the colonies had been saved to the crown. Had the Administration listened to and acted upon the advice of those whom they, in their superciliousness and haughtiness of power, have presumed to distrust, instead of war and carnage, peace and harmony would everywhere throughout the land have this day prevailed.
The cause of the rebellion.The causes of revolutions do not generally lie on the surface of things. They are not usually what they seem to be. They are not so often Isolated acts of oppression on the part of Government, as the assertion of the right as a principle on the part of Government to do them. It was not simply the imposition of a trifling tax upon tea that caused the American revolution, but it was the assertion of Parliament to tax the colonies without their consent. It was a controversy between the Crown and his Ministers on the one side and the people of the colonies on the other, in reference to the powers of Government, under the English Constitution. The imposition of the tax and the attempt to collect it were only the occasion of testing the right claimed by force of arms. The student of history will find no difficulty in tracing the causes of our present revolution to a radical and fundamental difference of opinion among our people in reference to the true theory of our Government, and the limitations upon Federal or State authority. Is this a Government of the people of the United States as a quasi political body, acting rightfully by force of a popular numerical majority, the voice of which majority constitutionally decides the character of legislation; or is it a Government of the people of the State, representative in character, and limited in its powers, legislative as well as executive and judicial, by the delegation of authority expressed in the Federal Constitution ? The note delivery of fugitives from service and labor, the raid of John Brown into Virginia, the election of Abraham-Lincoln as President, none of these were the cause, in my opinion, of this revolution; but it was the assertion of the power and duty of Congress, and of the people of the free States, to abolish slavery, or so circumscribe and limit it that "the public mind could rest in the conviction of its ultimate extinction." It was the assertion of the right to abolish, accompanied by such acts as evidenced the purpose to abolish, that led to this revolution.
Mr. Lincoln's indifference to it.It must have been apparent to the President, as it certainly was to everybody else, after his election, that unless some means of pacification were adopted, that an attempt at national disruption was inevitable. Such an attempt he may have regarded as unreasonable, as criminal; but neither its unreasonableness nor criminality could excuse the jocular in difference with which he seemed to regard it. He had been victorious in the political race for power, and could have afforded even to have been generous towards those laboring under apprehensions of evil to themselves from his Administration. But, sir, when he saw that the whole country was agitated and filled with alarm, and that the work of disruption had in fact commenced, it was criminal indifference on his part to give assurance to his country men that the constitutional rights of the people of the several States should be maintained, and the Union preserved unimpaired. Where, then, was his love for the Union ? When those who were patriotically struggling by day and night for the adoption of some peaceful and honorable mode of adjustment were needing words of encouragement, and were anxiously seeking assistance from those about to be installed into power, did he whisper aught of hope in their ear ?--When, in disguise, he sought the capital of the Republic, and found good and wise men, representatives of the States that had not seceded, endeavoring to devise some means to arrest the work of national dismemberment, did he aid them by his counsel or encourage them by his promise? When, before his inauguration as President, he entered this chamber and found Douglas and Crittenden and their colaborers endeavoring to procure the adoption of measures of honorable compromise, did he request one of his political friends to aid them in their patriotic efforts ? The only response he ever deigned to his inquiring and distressed countrymen was the dignified assurance that "nobody is hurt." Installed into office, he betakes himself to the agreeable work of distributing offices in his followers, and manifests no further interest in public affairs than to see whether a pretext for a war cannot be had by tempting the seceders to strike the first blow. It is struck, and immediately the cry rings throughout the land that the rebels have fired upon the national flag, that Sumter has fallen, and that the rebellion must be crushed out.--Seventy-five thousand volunteers are called into the field, soon to be followed by half a million more, and "On to Richmond !" is the cry. War exists not by the act of Congress, but by the act of Beauregard and Abraham Lincoln. Better, far better for this country, had neither of them ever been born.
The war could have been averted.Mr. President, this war was either necessary or it was unnecessary. If necessary, it was only so for the purpose of preserving national existence and the constitutional rights of the people. If indispensable for these purposes, it was justifiable. If not so indispensable, it was a crime. Was it necessary ?--Could not the Union have been preserved and the constitutional rights of the people been maintained without a resort to arms ? He who asserts the contrary falsifies history and attempts an imposition upon the public credulity. These are the only legitimate objects for which this war could have been incepted, or for which it could now or at any time be waged. It is folly to say that the people of the revolted States fired the first gun. The question immediately arises, could not the occasion inducing them, or affording the pretext, if you please, for so doing, have been honorably avoided by wise counsels ? I assert that it could, and history will so adjudge. When civil war is certain unless averted by a peaceable and honorable adjustment of differences, and when such adjustment is practicable, to refuse adjustment is to act criminally.--You know, the country knows, and history will record, and has recorded, the fact that secession never would have occurred beyond the limits of South Carolina, had Congress adopted promptly the Crittenden compromise measures, which were in substance nothing more nor less than a solemn guarantee that the Constitution should hereafter be considered to mean what it had been solemnly decided by the highest legal tribunal already to mean.--By their adoption, war would have been averted, peace maintained, and the Union preserved.
The Reign of Terror.Misjudging the temper and character of the American people, they sought to prevent all remonstrance against whatever means they chose to adopt to accomplish their purpose, by governing a free people by appeals to their fears. Mobs became their instruments of vengeance, and where these could not conveniently be invoked, executive tyranny laid its lawless hand upon the unoffending but suspected victim, and forts and bastilles opened, and closed their ponderous doors upon him.--Was not Abraham Lincoln President, and was not William H. Seward his prime minister, and who dared say aught against their infallibility ? The espionage of Napoleon sank into insignificance as an agency of oppression in comparison with that practiced under the administration of Abraham Lincoln. Men conversed in whispers; even woman dare not speak above her breath. A deadly tremor seized upon all classes, except those who, themselves being spies and informers, were conscious of reposing under the shadow of executive protection. Finally, the law and constitution were appealed to for protection against executive tyranny. That Constitution, which was made for all times, for peace as well as war, declared that no man should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. This guarantee of personal freedom had been extorted by the English barons, swords in hand, at Runnymede, from the haughty and oppressive John, five hundred years ago, and had been the birthright of every Englishman since. It was the birthright of the framers of the Federal Constitution, and they inserted it in that instrument, that no power should ever deprive their children of it.
The proclamation of September 29th.Mr. President, not with standing that Congress-alone can rightfully suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, Abraham Lincoln, elected to be President of the United States, but by his acts assuming to be tyrant over the liberties and lives of his country man, has had the audacity before man, and the temerity before Heaven, to suspend, by his proclamation of the 29th of September last, the privilege of this writ, not only in the States in revolt, but throughout the whole United States; to seize peaceable citizens in nine other States, and to "bastle" them in the "remotest part of the Union, " and "hear, oh ye heavens, and give ear, oh, ye earth," the patient and long suffering people of the country have namely submitted to this exercise of despotic power. Not satisfied with this usurpation of power, he has proclaimed that "all rebels and insurgents, their aiders and abettors," not only in the States in revolt, but "within the United States," and all persons discouraging enlistment, resisting militia drafts, or guilty of any disloyal practice"a supposed offence, one created by himself, unknown to the Constitution and laws of any civilized or barbarous people on earth, undefined even by him, and the definition of which rests solely in his own arbitrary will--"affording aid and comfort to the rebels against the authority of the United States, shall be subject to martial law and liable to trial and punishment by court-martial or military commission." And that there shall not be any possibility that the victims of his oppression shall escape his vengeance, he has declared that "the writ of habeas corpus in suspended in respect to all persons arrested," even before the pretended suspension, "or who are now or hereafter during the rebellion shall be imprisoned in any fort, camp, arsenal, military prison, or other place of confinement, by any military authority, or by the sentence of any court martial or military commission. " Since the institution of civil Governments, since the formation of human society, since God made man, there never has been such an unwarranted assumption of power, or such a despotic exercise of it; and regardless of personal consequences, I will, in behalf of my country men, in the name or the violated Constitution of my country, and in defence of civil liberty, protest against it; and he that says that for so doing I am disloyal to my country, lies before men and in the presence of high heaven. I used this language because every miserable Abolition press and Abolitionist in the land dares to charge with disloyalty a man who honestly utters his sentiments differing from the views and policy of this Administration. It may be that I manifest some feeling on this subject; it may be that I manifest more than some persons think I ought to exhibit; but I have been made to feel on this subject; my constituents have suffered; and while I stand in this Senate a representative, it is true, of the sovereignty of one of the smallest States in this Union, I will discharge my duty to the people of that State though the heavens themselves should fall.
Resist to death arbitrary Arrests hereafter.Sir, it may be said that there is no danger to the loyal citizen from this assumption of power on the part of the President; that he is honest; that his only object is to suppress the rebellion, and that the innocent will in no manner suffer. Such a confidence may well become willing slaves of power, or the conscious tools of despotism. It becomes not me. "The price of liberty is sternal vigilance." The best guarantee of liberty is the observance of the Constitution of one's country. I have no confidence in the honesty of any man who, after having solemnly sworn to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States," can so flagrantly attempt its destruction. I know that there is danger to the liberty of the citizen from this assumption of power. I know that the innocent have suffered from it. I know that peaceable and unoffending citizens of my own State have been "hastiled" in different parts of the United States--"out off from their, family, their friends, and their every connection." In behalf of the people of my State, I have appealed in person to the President and to his Secretary of War. My appeal has been in vain. I have appealed to this body to make respectful inquiry in reference to the cause of their oppression. My appeal has been refused. I make no other and no more, except to my fellow-citizens of my own State. While I ever have and ever shall counsel my State to be the last to abandon the Federal Union, into which she was first to enter, and to patiently wait and bear until returning reason shall convince all sections that the best security for their rights of life, liberty, and property, is in that Union and under that Constitution which our fathers formed, and the dismembered sections of that Union may from this conviction again become united, yet I now, and here, say to the people of my State--speaking to them as individuals who are conscious that they have ever been true and faithful to the Constitution and laws of their country — being conscious of your innocence of just cause of offence, let no minion of despotic power hereafter arrest or imprison you, unless in accordance with the law of the land. Against wrongful arrest defend yourselves; and in that defence use just that amount of force which is necessary for your protection, and whatever shall be the result, your conduct will be in accordance with the law of the land and will meet the approval of a righteous God. If you shall fall in defence of your rights, you will leave as a legacy to your children or your friends an imperishable renown. Your name will be transmitted to future generations in the glorious catalogue of those who have bravely died in defence of liberty, and will be remembered to the "latest syllable of time."
The Abolition proclamation.Another measure adopted by the President, professedly as a necessary measure to suppress rebellion, is his proclamation of the 1st inst, proclaiming freedom to nearly three millions of slaves in the revolted States. A brutum fulmen. A Pope's bull, as he himself has well said, against the comet. Are the slaves whom he declares free in his possession or that of their masters? Has he or they control over them? Can his paper bull give them practical liberty? If it can, surely it can do some other and more efficient things toward suppressing rebellion. If it is so potential, why not issue another declaring that the eyes of the rebels shall all immediately drop out?--They could not then see to fight against him. Why not still another, that the guilty sinners shall all immediately become lame? They could not then march against him. And yet another, that every nerve of every rebel shall be immediately enervated? They could not then fire a gun or draw a sword. Still another, that Richmond is taken? They then would have no capital. One more, that they are all dead without heirs? Then, indeed, their possessions would all escheat, and without the aid of a confiscation bill could be parceled out among the thousands of disinterested but hopeful and expectant patriots who are impatiently waiting for the time to come when they shall be bidden to go down and possess the "goodly land." Mr. President, while this utterly unconstitutional and abominably wicked proclamation can be of no service toward restoring the Union, it will, while unrevoked and attempted to be executed, forever prevent a peaceful reunion of the States. I say peaceful reunion, for I never dreamed of a reunion by force.--You can never conquer the South. That many people, inhabiting that extent of territory, have never been conquered since the world began so as to be made permanently to live in connection with another people against their will. You cannot restore the Union by force. It never could have been preserved by force. Would some modern slave- freeing patriot hear what a wiser man than Abraham Lincoln has said on this subject? Would some modern patriot who questions the loyalty of all those who differ in opinion from himself; would some patriotic editor of a newspaper which, perhaps, may denounce me as disloyal, because I have uttered this sentiment, listen to what a greater man than the Executive, or even than a mighty editor or a scribbler for some obscure newspaper, has said? If so, I invite his attention to the words of John Quincey Adams in reference to this very matter. Was he a disunionist, was he a Secessionist, because he did not believe that a Government created by consent, and united by the affections of the people, could be kept together and preserved by force, when the people of the different sections had become alienated? If he was not a disunionist or Secessionist for believing that, what reason have the modern pretenders to patriotism, but whose patriotism, however, in too many cases, results from public contracts, or from feeding at the public crib, to charge me, and those who think with me, with being disloyal to the Government of my country, or to the Constitution and laws of the land, because we believe as he believed? What interests have I to be disloyal to the Government and Constitution of my country? What benefit could succession bring to me and my people? Do we wish to invoke fire and sword to sweep over our little State? Do we want the contending factions, maddened, devilish, profane, to tread our soil and destroy our substance? No, sir. we only pray that the God of heaven may even now aid the benighted counsels of this Administration, that they may retrace their steps, and that by prudence of action and wisdom of counsel they may again cause one national flag to wave not only over the State of Delaware and the States now in the Confederacy, but again to wave from the lakes to the gulf, and from ocean to ocean, the emblem of a united, happy prosperous, and great people.
John Quincy Adams on Coercion.But, sir, I have digressed. I call attention to the utterances of Mr. Adams in reference to these questions, that we may see whether those who now entertain the opinions he did are properly to be charged with being actuated by a different sentiment from that by which he was actuated. I presume it will not be denied that Mr. Adams uttered the words which I am about to read I have not the address in pamphlet form, but I have it from a newspaper professing to give the time and place, and the persons who were present on the occasion. The extract which I shall read is contained in an address before the Historical Society of New York, delivered in the city of New York on the 30th of April, 1839. Mr. Adams argued in the address that no State had a right to nullify an act of Congress, that no State had a right to secedes from the Union. I believe every word he said in reference to both those matters, and I choose now, sir, to believe what he further said on that occasion when he declared: "But the indissoluble link of union between the people of the several States of this confederated nation is after all not in the right, but in the heart. If the dog ever come (may Heaven part it) affections of the people of these States shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give way to cold indifference, or collisions of interests shall fester into hatred, the bands of political association will not long hold together parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies; and far better will it be for the people of the disunited States to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the Constitution to form again a more perfect union, by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separate parts to be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the centre." Mr. President and Senators, I want no dissolution of the Union; I want to see all the States reunited; but I do not believe in your policy of doing it. You had better take warning in time. Do you not hear in every breeze the utterances, in a very populous and powerful section of this country, that the folly of extremes has dissolved the Union and plunged us into war, and that the time may come when self interest may dictates that they to escape the burdens which you impose, and to have security for the future, may be bound to form a union among themselves? It may be that the thing now is but imagination. It is for you to consider whether a persistence in the insane policy of this Administration will not lead to such a lamentable catastrophe.
Consent the only way to restore the
The only means by which the Union can be restored is the consent of the contending parties, based upon such terms as-shall be agreeable to both.
This proclamation declares that "the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said slaves." The effect of this declaration is, that if the people of the South shall at any time hereafter be willing to return to their allegiance to the Government of the United States, and to live under the Constitution as it is and the Union as it was, they shall not be permitted to do so; that an absolute condition to their return shall be the freedom of their slaves and a continuance of the war until that freedom is recognized by them.
The proclamation solemnly commits this Administration to prosecute this war for the freedom of the slave, even should every other cause of difficulty be adjusted; the object for which I verily believed it was accepted and prosecuted by the Administration from the beginning, and without which no war would have been waged.
More effectually to prevent a re-union, this proclamation invites a servile insurrection; for while impotently advising the slaves to abstain from all violence, this is given upon the condition that they are not opposed by their masters in their efforts to become free; for when acting in self-defence they may, even under Presidential advice, act with violence--"And I hereby enjoin upon the persons so declared to be free," says the President, "to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self defence. "--These words, uttered amid the fiery ordeal through which we now pass, will light "their author down in dishonor to the remotest generation." Let him not lay the flattering unction to his soul that he will, on account of either "personal insignificance or significance," escape history.
John Brown may be forgotten, but the memory of Abraham Lincoln will never die. This proclamation further declares that the slaves of suitable condition will be received into the armed service of the United States, to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service. " The slave to become the murderer of his master!
And this done to restore the Union, and cause his master to consent to live in political fellowship with those who cause and approve it!
‘ "Judgment hath fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason."