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same inlets and harbors, the same Ægean, the same Olympus — there is the same land where Homer sung, where Pericles spoke — it is, in nature, the same old Greece; but it is "living Greece no more!"
Descendants of the same people inhabit the country; yet what is the reason of this mighty difference? . . . I answer this, their Institutions have been destroyed. . . . And, my countrymen, if we shall, in an evil hour, rashly pull down and destroy those Institutions, which the patriotic hand of our Fathers labored so long and so hard to build up, and which have done so much for us, and for the world; who can venture the prediction that similar results will not ensue? Let us avoid them if we can. I trust the spirit is amongst us that will enable us to do it. Let us not rashly try the experiment of change, of pulling down and destroying; for, as in Greece and Italy, and the South American Republics, and in every other place, whenever our liberty is once lost, it may never be restored to us again.
I look upon this country with our Institutions as the Eden of the world, the Paradise of the Universe. It may be that out of it we may become greater and more prosperous, but I am candid and sincere in telling you that I fear if we yield to passion, and without sufficient cause shall take that step, that instead of becoming greater or more peaceful, prosperous, and happy instead of becoming Gods, we will become demons, and at no distant day commence cutting one another's throats. This is my apprehension. Let us, therefore, whatever we do, meet these difficulties, great as they are, like wise and sensible men, and consider them in the light of all the consequences which may attend our action. Let us see first, clearly, where the path of duty leads, and then we may not fear to tread therein.
Now, upon another point, and that the most difficult, and deserving your most serious consideration, I will speak. That is, the course which this State should pursue toward those Northern States which, by their legislative acts, have attempted to nullify the Fugitive Slave Law.
. . They have violated their plighted faith. What ought we to do in view of this? That is the question. What is to be done? By the law of nations, you would have a right to demand the carrying out of this article of agreement, and I do not see that it should be otherwise with respect to the States of this Union; and in case it be not done, we would, by these principles, have the right to commit acts of reprisal on these faithless Governments, and seize upon their property, or that of
their citizens, wherever found. The States of this Union stand upon the same footing with foreign Nations in this respect.
... Let your Committee on the state of the Republic make out a bill of grievances; let it be sent by the Governor to those faithless States; and if reason and argument shall be tried in vain - if all shall fail to induce them to return to their Constitutional obligations, I would be for retaliatory measures, such as the Governor has suggested to you. This mode of resistance in the Union is in our power.
Now, then, my recommendation to you would be this: In view of all these questions of difficulty, let a Convention of the people of Georgia be called, to which they may be all referred. Let the Sovereignty of the people speak. . . . I have no hesitancy in saying that the Legislature is not the proper body to sever our Federal relations, if that necessity should arise.
. . . Sovereignty is not in the Legislature. We, the People, are Sovereign! I am one of them, and have a right to be heard; and so has every other citizen of the State. . . Our Constitutions, State and Federal, came from the people. They made both, and they alone can rightfully unmake either.
Should Georgia determine to go out of the Union, I speak for one, though my views might not agree with them, whatever the result may be, I shall bow to the will of her people. Their cause is my cause, and their destiny is my destiny; and I trust this will be the ultimate course of all. The greatest curse that can befall a free people, is civil war.
.. Before making reprisals, we should exhaust every means of bringing about a peaceful settlement of the controversy. . . . At least, let these offending and derelict States know what your grievances are, and if they refuse, as I said, to give us our rights under the Constitution, I should be willing, as a last resort, to sever the ties of our Union with them.
. My own opinion is, that if this course be pursued, and they are informed of the consequences of refusal, these States will recede, will repeal their nullifying acts; but if they should not, then let the consequences be with them, and the responsibility of the consequences rest upon them. . . .
I am for exhausting all that patriotism demands, before taking the last step. I would invite, therefore, South Carolina to a conference. I would ask the same of all the other Southern States, so that if the evil has got beyond our control, which God in his mercy grant may not be
the case, we may not be divided among ourselves; but if possible, secure the united co-operation of all the Southern States, and then, in the face of the civilized world, we may justify our action, and, with the wrong all on the other side, we can appeal to the God of Battles, if it comes to that, to aid us in our cause. But do nothing, in which any portion of our people, may charge you with rash or hasty action. It is certainly a matter of great importance, to tear this Government asunder. You were not sent here for that purpose. I would wish the whole South to be united, if this is to be done; and I believe if we pursue the policy which I have indicated, this can be effected. . . .
. . . I am, as you clearly perceive, for maintaining the Union as it is, if possible. I will exhaust every means, thus, to maintain it with an equality in it. My position, then, in conclusion, is for the maintenance of the honor, the rights, the equality, the security, and the glory of my native State in the Union, if possible; but if these cannot be maintained in the Union, then I am for their maintenance, at all hazards, out of it. Next to the honor and glory of Georgia, the land of my birth, I hold the honor and glory of our common country. . . .
Alexander H. Stephens, A Constitutional View of the late War between the States (Philadelphia, etc., ), II, 279–299 passim.
54. Constitutional Doctrine of Secession (1861)
BY SENATOR ROBERT TOOMBS
This extract is from the constitutional exposition of one who as an old-time Whig sincerely loved the Union, and as an able lawyer understood the advantages of it; but who as a representative of slaveholders and an advocate of states' rights was willing to go to extremes rather than submit to any derogation of southern principles. The speech was delivered in the Senate a short time before his withdrawal. In the Civil War Toombs took a prominent part on the southern side, and remained irreconcilable throughout his life. - For Toombs, see P. A. Stovall, Robert Toombs. Bibliography as in No. 53 above. - For earlier expositions of this doctrine, see Contemporaries, III, No. 161; IV, No. 19.
HESE thirteen colonies originally had no bond of union whatever; no more than Jamaica and Australia have to-day. They were wholly separate communities, independent of each other, and dependent on the Crown of Great Britain. All the union between them that was ever made is in writing. They made two written compacts.
Senators, the Constitution is a compact. It contains all our obligations and duties of the Federal Government. . . . All the obligations, all the chains that fetter the limbs of my people, are nominated in the bond, and they wisely excluded any conclusion against them, by declaring that the powers not granted by the Constitution to the United States, or forbidden by it to the States, belonged to the States respectively or the people. Now I will try it by that standard; I will subject it to that test. The law of nature, the law of justice, would say — and it is so expounded by the publicists—that equal rights in the common property shall be enjoyed. . . . This right of equality being, then, according to justice and natural equity, a right belonging to all States, when did we give it up? You say Congress has a right to pass rules and regulations concerning the Territory and other property of the United States. Very well. Does that exclude those whose blood and money paid for it? Does "dispose of" mean to rob the rightful owners? You must show a better title than that, or a better sword than we have.
But, you say, try the right. I agree to it. But how? By our judgment? No, not until the last resort. What then; by yours? No, not until the same time. How then try it? The South has always said, by the Supreme Court. But that is in our favor, and Lincoln says he will not stand that judgment, Then each must judge for himself of the mode and manner of redress. But you deny us that privilege, and finally reduce us to accepting your judgment. We decline it. You say you will enforce it by executing laws; that means your judgment of what the laws ought to be. Perhaps you will have a good time of executing your judgment. The Senator from Kentucky comes to your aid, and says he can find no constitutional right of secession. Perhaps not; but the Constitution is not the place to look for State rights. If that right belongs to independent States, and they did not cede it to the Federal Government, it is reserved to the States, or to the people. Ask your new commentator where he gets your right to judge for us. Is it in the bond?...
. . . In a compact where there is no common arbiter, where the parties finally decide for themselves, the sword alone at last becomes the real, if not the constitutional, arbiter. Your party says that you will not take the decision of the Supreme Court. You said so at Chicago; you said so in committee; every man of you in both Houses says so. What are you going to do? You say we shall submit to your construction. We shall do it, if you can make us; but not otherwise, or in other
manner. That is settled. You may call it secession, or you may call it revolution; but there is a big fact standing before you, ready to oppose you — that fact is, freemen with arms in their hands. The cry of the Union will not disperse them; we have passed that point; they demand equal rights: you had better heed the demand. . . .
I have, then, established the proposition—it is admitted — that you seek to outlaw $4,000,000,000 of property of our people in the Territories of the United States. Is not that a cause of war? Is it a grievance that $4,000,000,000 of the property of the people should be outlawed in the Territories of the United States by the common Government? . . . Then you have declared, Lincoln declares, your platform declares, your people declare, your Legislatures declare there is one voice running through your entire phalanx that we shall be outlawed in the Territories of the United States. I say we will not be; and we are willing to meet the issue; and rather than submit to such an outlawry, we will defend our territorial rights as we would our household gods.
You will not regard confederate obligations; you will not regard constitutional obligations; you will not regard your oaths. What, then, am I to do? Am I a freeman? Is my State, a free State, to lie down and submit because political fossils raise the cry of the glorious Union? Too long already have we listened to this delusive song. We are freemen. We have rights; I have stated them. We have wrongs; I have recounted them. I have demonstrated that the party now coming into power has declared us outlaws, and is determined to exclude four thousand million of our property from the common Territories; that it has declared us under the ban of the Empire, and out of the protection of the laws of the United States everywhere. They have refused to protect us from invasion and insurrection by the Federal Power, and the Constitution denies to us in the Union the right either to raise fleets or armies for our own defense. All these charges I have proven by the record; and I put them before the civilized world, and demand the judgment of to-day, of to-morrow, of distant ages, and of Heaven itself, upon the justice of these causes. I am content, whatever it be, to peril all in so noble, so holy a cause. We have appealed, time and time again, for these constitutional rights. You have refused them. We appeal again, Restore us these rights as we had them, as your court adjudges them to be, just as all our people have said they are; redress these flagrant wrongs, seen of all men, and it will restore fraternity, and peace, and unity, to all of us. Refuse them, and what then? We shall then ask