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suddenly broke out into violent remonstrance and dashed into immediate efforts to annul all their obligations to the constitution. Such a step had never before been taken in any quarter. The same spirit directly manifested itself in the region round about, and it has continued ever since to spread until it has more or less affected the loyalty of ten or twelve of the States. At the precise period of this occurrence no new provocation had been given, unless it were to be found in the single fact that the successful candidates were persons for whom those States had not voted.
A similar instance had never occurred. There have been several cases of popular resistance to federal laws. South Carolina had herself furnished a memorable one. But here was an example of resistance to a constitutional election of
The former may be conducted without necessarily shaking the very foundations of the social system. But the latter at once denies the validity of the only process by which the organic law can be executed at all. To refuse to acknowledge the constituted authorities of a nation when successfully carried out is revolution; and it is called rebellion when it fails under every code of laws known over the globe.
It is an appeal to physical force, which depends for its justification before God and man only upon the clear establishment of proof of intolerable tyranny and oppression. It is sometimes the last resource of patriots who feel themselves impelled to overthrow a despotism, but oftener the contrivance of desperate adventurers, who seek for their own private ends to establish one.
Had the present outbreak seemed to me the consequence of mature deliberation and deep-settled convictions among the people, I should at once have despaired of the republic. But apart from the merely outward indications of haste and
of passion that attended it I had other reasons for believing differently. During the previous summer the representative candidate of the most extreme party in the slaveholding States had labored more than once to declare himself a devoted friend of the Union. Whilst on the other hand the distrust in him inspired by the character of his principal advocates, had had the effect of alienating from him numbers even in his own State, who preferred the security offered to them by the friends of another candidate brought forward exclusively as the upholder of“ the Union, the constitution, and the enforcement of the laws."
The slaveholding States were thus divided between these two influences, neither of them venturing before the people to whisper the theory of disunion. A very large minority of the aggregated voters sustained the most thoroughly pledged candidate whilst Tennessee and Kentucky gave him their electoral votes and even the Old Dominion, never known before to waver in the course marked out by her acknowledged and ancient leaders, was seen to transfer her votes to the more loyal side.
All these events were not the natural forerunners of premeditated disaffection to the constitutional government. They can only be accounted for by presuming a fund of honest attachment to it at bottom. And the inference which I draw is, that the feelings of a majority of well-disposed persons have been suddenly carried away by sympathy with their warmer and more violent friends in South Carolina, so that they have not stopped calmly to weigh the probable consequences of their own precipitation.
If I were to need more evidence to prove to me the absence of deliberate intent, outside of South Carolina, to set aside an election regularly made, I think I could find it in
the earnestness with which other causes have been set up in justification of resistance. It has been alleged that various grievances have been suffered, much oppression has been endured, and certain outrages have been committed upon the people of the slaveholding States, which render their longer stay in the Union impossible, unless confidence can be inispired that some remedies may be applied to stop the evils for the future. They aver that their rights are no longer secure in remaining with us, and that the alternative left is to withdraw themselves before acquiescence shall have prepared them for ultimate subjugation. They come to us and demand that these complaints shall be listened to and these apprehensions allayed before they can consent to farther abide under the authority of a common head.
And here some of my friends on the right reply, with equal warmth and not less reason, that they are unconscious of having done wrong in electing a President according to the constitution; that they are not aware of any real grievances that demand redress; and that they feel disinclined to enter upon any experiment to quiet apprehensions which are in their opinion either artificial or imaginary; that they appeal to the constitution as it is—and if obedience to its requisitions be not voluntarily rendered in any quarter the only proper remedy is coercion.
I should perhaps be disposed to concur in this view were this a case of deliberate and wilful conspiracy to subvert the government. I am not sure that I would not apply the doctrine to the people of South Carolina, who have long been known to be generally disaffected. They neither demand nor expect any redress, or even a consideration of their grievances. They declare themselves only to be executing a treasonable project that they have been meditating for twenty
years. They have therefore put themselves without the pale of negotiation. There is not even a minority of the citizens who remonstrate. The case is otherwise with the other States. There is evident hesitation and reluctance in adopting the irrevocable policy of disunion. There is a lingering desire to receive assurances that this step is not absolutely needed. Now I, for one, am not ready yet to take the responsibility of absolutely closing the door to reconciliation.
I cannot permit myself to forget the warnings that have descended to us from many of the wisest and best statesmen and patriots of all time, against this rigid and haughty mode of treating great discontents. I cannot overlook the fact that in the days of our fathers the imperious spirit of Chatham did not feel itself as sacrificing any of his proud dignity by proposing to listen to their grievances, and even to concede to every reasonable demand, long after they had placed themselves in armed resistance to all the power of Great Britain.
Had George III listened to his words of wisdom he might have saved the brightest jewel of his crown. He took the opposite course. He denied the existence of grievances. He rejected the olive branch. He insisted upon coercion. And what was the result? History records its verdict in favor of Chatham and against his king. And who is there in the mother country at this day who does not regret the blunder, if he does not condemn the motive of the monarch? When the great grandson of that same king, on his late visit to this capital, so handsomely made his pilgrimage to the tomb of the arch-rebel of that time, do you imagine that his countrymen and future subjects would have applauded the act if they still believed that the stiff-backed old king had been right in shutting the door of reconciliation ?
For my part, Mr. Speaker, I am more inclined to accord with that philosophical statesman, Edmund Burke, who during the same struggle was not afraid to bring forward his plan of conciliation with America. And in the elaborate speech which he made in its defence he used the following language-not entirely inappropriate to these times :
Now, in such unfortunate quarrels among the component parts of a great political union of communities, I can scarcely conceive anything more completely improvident than for the head of the empire to insist that, if any privilege is pleaded against his will or his acts, his whole authority is denied, instantly to proclaim rebellion, to beat to arms, and to put the offending provinces under the ban. Will not this, sir, very soon teach the provinces to make no distinctions on their part? Will it not teach them that the government, against which a claim of liberty is tantamount to high treason, is a government in which submission is equivalent to slavery? "
Mr. Speaker, it is not my custom to lean much upon allthority. As a general thing it appears to me to pass for more than it is worth. But there are persons who are always more or less influenced by the source from which anything comes, and who are better disposed to believe in the testimony
of a witness two centuries old than if the same reasoning were issued from the lips of the best of living contemporaries. To such I will commend a passage drawn from the most profound of British statesmen and philosophers, Francis Bacon:
“ Concerning the materials of seditions it is a thing well to be considered; for the surest way to prevent seditions (if the times do bear it) is to take away the matter of them; for if there be fuel prepared it is hard to tell whence the spark shall come that shall set it on fire.
“As for discontentments, they are in the politic body, like to humors in the natural, which are apt to gather a preter