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nature of things afforded matter of comparison, in which it was not referred to as furnishing instructive examples of prosperous enterprise and hopeful progress. At home, the country grew as by enchantment. Its vast geographical extent, aug. mented by magnificent accessions of conterminous territory peacefully made; its population far more rapidly increasing than that of any other country, and swelled by an emigration from Europe such as the world has never before seen; the mutually beneficial intercourse between its different sections and climates, each supplying what the other wants; the rapidity with which the arts of civilization have been extended over a before unsettled wilderness, and, together with this material prosperity, the advance of the country in education, literature, science, and refinement, formed a spectacle, of which the history of mankind furnished no other example. That such was the state of the country six months ago was inatter of general recognition and acknowledgment at home and abroad.
THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND ITS RESULTS There was, however, one sad deduction to be made, not from the truth of this description, not from the fidelity of this picture for that is incontestable, but from the content, happiness, and mutual good will which ought to have existed on the part of a People, favored by such an accumulation of Providential blessings. I allude, of course, to the great sectional controversies which have so long agitated the country, and arrayed the people in bitter geographical antagonism of political organization and action. Fierce party contentions had always existed in the United States, as they ever have and unquestionably ever will exist under all free electivo governments; and these contentions had, from the first, tended somewhat to a sectional character. They had not, however, till quite lately, assumed that character so exclusively, that the minority in any one part of the country had not had a respectable electoral representation in every other. Till last November, there has never been a Southern Presidential Candidate, who did not receive electoral votes at the North, nor a Northern Candidate who did not receive electoral votes at the South.
At the late election and for the first time, this was not the case; and consequences the most extraordinary and deplorable have resulted. The country, as we have seen, being in profound peace at home and abroad, and in a state of unexampled prosperity-Agriculture, Commerce, Navigation, Manufactures, East, West, North, and South recovered or rapidly recovering from the crisis of 1857-powerful and respected abroad, and thriving beyond example at home, entered in the usual manner upou the electioneering campaign, for the choice of the nineteenth President of the United States. I say in the usual manner, though it is true that parties were more than usually broken up and subdivided. The normal division was into two great parties, but there had on several former occasions been three; in 1824 there were four, and there were four last November. The South equally with the West and the North entered into the canvass; conventions were held, nominations made, mass meetings assembled ; the platform, the press enlisted with unwonted vigor; the election in all its stages, conducted in legal and constitutional form, without violence and without surprise, and the result obtained by a decided majority.
No sooner, however, was this result ascertained, than it appeared on the part
SOUTH CAROLINA SECEDES FROM THE UNION.
of one of the Southern States, and her example was rapidly followed by others, that it had by no means been the intention of those States to abide by the result of the election, except on the one condition, of the choice of their candidate. The reference of the great sectional controversy to the peaceful arbitrament of the ballot box, the great safety valve of republican institutions, though made with every appearance of good faith, on the part of our brethren at the South, meant but this : if we succeed in this election, as we have in fifteen that have preceded it, well and good; we will consent to govern the country for four years more, as we have already governed it for sixty years; but we have no intention of acquiescing in any other result. We do not mean to abide by the election, although we participate in it, unless our candidate is chosen. If he fails we intend to prostrate the Government and break up the Union ; peaceably, if the States composing the majority are willing that it should be broken up peaceably; otherwise, at the point ; of the sword.
SOUTH CAROLINA SECEDES FROM THE UNION. The election took place on the 6th of November, and in pursuance of the ex traordinary programine just described, the State of South Carolina, acting by a Convention chosen for the purpose, assembled on the 17th of December, and on the 20th, passed unanimously what was styled “ an ordinance to dissolve the Union between the State of South Carolina and other States united with her, under the compact entitled the Constitution, of the United States of America.” It is not my purpose on this occasion to make a documentary speech, but as this so-called “ Ordinance " is very short, and affords matter for deep reflection, I beg leave to recite it in full :
“We, the People of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, that the ordinance adopted by us in Convention on the 23d day of May, in the year of our Lord 1788, whereby the Constitution of the United States was ratified, and also all acts and parts of acts of the general assembly of this State, ratifying the amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed, and that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the United States of America, is dissolved.”
This remarkable document is called an “ Ordinance," and no doubt some special virtue is supposed to reside in the name. But names are nothing except as they truly represent things. An ordinance, if it is any thing clothed with binding force, is a Law, and nothing but a Law, and as such this ordinance, being in direct violation of the Constitution of the United States, is a mere nullity. The Constitution contains the following express provision : “This Constitution and the Laws of the United States made in pursuance thereof, and the treaties made or which shall be made under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." Such being the express provision of the Constitution of the United States, which the people of South Carolina adopted in 1788, just as much as they ever adopted either of their State Constitutions, is it not trifling with serious things to claim that, by the simple expedient of passing a law under the name of an ordinance, this provision and
every other provision of it may be nullified, and every magistrate and officer in Carolina, whether of the State or Union, absolved from the oath which they have taken to support it?
But this is not all. This secession ordinance purports to “repeal ” the ordinance of 23 May, 1788, by which the Constitution of the United States was ratified by the people of South Carolina. It was intended, of course, by calling the act of ratification an ordinance to infer a right of repealing it by another ordinance. It is important, therefore, to observe that the act of ratification is not, and was not at the time called, an ordinance, and contains nothing which by possibility can be repealed. It is in the following terms :
“The Convention of the people of South Carolina), having maturely considered the Constitution, or form of government, reported to Congress by the convention of delegates from the United States of America, and submitted to them, by a resolution of the Legislature of this State passed the 17th and 18th days of February last, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to the people of the said United States and their posterity, do, in the name and in behalf of the people of this State, hereby assent to and ratify the same.”
Here it is evident that there is nothing in the instrument which, in the nature of things, can be repealed; it is an authorized solemn assertion of the People of South Carolina, that they assent to, and ratify a form of government, which is declared in terms to be paramount to all State laws and constitutions. This is a great historical fact, the most important that can ever occur in the history of it people. The fact that the People of South Carolina, on the 23d of May, 1788, assented to and ratified the Constitution of the United States, in order, among other objects, to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and “ their posterity," can no more be repealed in 1861, than any other historical fact that occurred in Charleston in that year and on that day. It would be just as rational, at the present day, to attempt by ordinance to repeal any other event, as that the sun rose or that the tide ebbed and flowed on that day, as to repeal by ordinance the assent of Carolina to the Constitution.
Again: it is well known that various amendments to the Constitution were desired and proposed in different States. The first of the amendments proposed by South Carolina was as follows :
“Whereas it is essential to the preservation of the rights reserved to the several States and the freedom of the People under the operation of the General Government, that the right of prescribing the manner, times, and places of holding the elections of the Federal Legislature should be forever inseparably annexed to the sovereignty of the States; this Convention doth declare that the same ought to remain to all posterity, a perpetual and fundamental right in the local, exclusive of the interference of the general Government, except in cases where the Legislature of the States shall refuse or neglect to perform or fulfil the same, according to the tenor of the said Constitution.” .
Here you perceive that South Carolina herself in 1788 desired a provision to be made and annexed inseparably to her sovereignty, that she should forever have the power of prescribing the time, place, and manner of holding the elections of
IS SECESSION A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT, OR IS IT REVOLUTION ?
members of Congress ;-but even in making this express reservation, to operate for all posterity, she was willing to provide that, if the State Legislatures refuse or neglect to perform the duty, (which is precisely the case of the Seceding States at the present day,) then the General Government was, by this South Carolina amendment, expressly authorized to do it. South Carolina in 1788, by a sort of prophetic foresight, looked forward to the possibility that the States might“ refuse or neglect” to cooperate in carrying on the Government, and admitted, in that case, that the General Government must go on, in spite of their delinquency.
I have dwelt on these points at some length, to show how futile is the attempt, by giving the name of “ ordinance” to the act, by which South Carolina adopted the Constitution, and entered the Union, to gain a power to leave it by a subsequent ordinance of repeal.*
IS SECESSION A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT, OR IS IT REVOLUTION ! Whether the present unnatural civil war is waged by the South, in virtue of a supposed constitutional right to leave the Union at pleasure; or whether it is an exercise of the great and ultimate right of revolution, the existence of which no one denics, seems to be left in uncertainty by the leaders of the movement. Mr. Jefferson Davis, the President of the new confederacy, in his inaugural speech delivered on the 18th of February, declares that it is “ an abuse of language” to call it "a revolution.” Mr. Vice-President Stephens, on the contrary, in a speech at Savannah, on the 21st of March, pronounces it “one of the greatest revolutions in the annals of the world." The question is of great magnitude as one of constitutional and public law; as one of morality it is of very little consequence whether the country is drenched in blood, in the exercise of a right claimed under the Constitution, or the right inherent in every community to revolt against an oppressive government. Unless the oppression is so extreme as to justify revolution, it would not justify the evil of breaking up a government, under an abstract constitutional right to do so.
NEITHER A GRANTED NOR A RESERVED RIGHT. This assumed right of Secession rests upon the doctrine that the Union is a compact between Independent States, from which any one of them may withdraw at pleasure in virtue of its sovereignty. This imaginary right has been the subject of discussion for more than thirty years, having been originally suggested, though not at first much dwelt upon, in connection with the kindred claim of a right, on the part of an individual State, to “nullify” an Act of Congress. It would, of course, be impossible within the limits of the hour to review these elaborate discussions. I will only remark, on this occasion, that none of the premises froin which this remarkable conclusion is drawn, are recognized in the Constitution, and that the right of Secession, though claimed to be a “reserved ” right, is not expressly reserved in it. That instrument does not purport to be a “compact," but a Con. stitution of Government. It appears, in its first sentence, not to have been entered into by the States, but to have been ordained and established by the People of the United States, for “ themselves and their posterity.” The States are not named in it, nearly all the characteristic powers of sovereignty are expressly granted to the General Government and expressly prohibited to the States, and so far from re. serving a right of secession to the latter, on any ground or under any pretence, it ordains and establishes in terms the Constitution of the United States as the Supreme Law of the land, any thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
* See Appendis A.
It would seem that this is as clear and positive as language can make it. But it is argued, that, though the right of secession is not reserved in terms, it must be considered as implied in the general reservation to the States and to the People of all the powers not granted to Congress nor prohibited to the States. This extraordinary assumption, more distinctly stated, is that, in direct defiance of the express grant to Congress and the express prohibition to the States of nearly all the powers of an independent government, there is, by implication, a right reserved to the States to assume and exercise all these powers thus vested in the Union and prohibited to themselves, simply in virtue of going through the ceremony of passing a law called an Ordinance of Secession, A general reservation to the States of powers not prohibited to them, nor granted to Congress is an implied reservation to the States of a right to exercise these very powers thus expressly delegated to Congress and thus expressly prohibited to the States !
The Constitution directs that the Congress of the United States shall have power to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy, and that the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall make treaties with foreign powers,
These express grants of power to the Government of the United States are followed by prohibitions as express to the several States :
“No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation, grant letters of marque or reprisal: no State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.”
These and numerous other express grants of power to the General Government, and express prohibitions to the States, are further enforced by the comprehensive provision, already recited, that the Constitution and Laws of the United States are paramount to the laws and Constitution of the separate States.
And this Constitution, with these express grants and express prohibitions, and with this express subordination of the States to the General Government, has been adopted by the People of all the States; and all their judges and other officers, and all their citizens holding office under the government of the United States or the individual States, are solemnly sworn to support it.
In the face of all this, in defiance of all this, in violation of all this, in contempt of all this, the seceding States claim the right to exercise every power expressly delegated to Congress and expressly prohibited to the States by that Constitution, which every one of their prominent men, civil and military, is under oath to support. They have entered into a confederation, raised an army, attempted to provide a navy, issued letters of marque and reprisal, waged war, and that war,Merciful Heaven forgive them,--not with a foreign enemy, not with the wild tribes which still desolate the unprotected frontier; (they, it is said, are swelling, armed with tomahawk and scalping-knife, the Confederate forces ;) but with their own