« ZurückWeiter »
that he immediately place the same before Congress and the Executives of the several States, with a request that they lay them before their respective Legislatures. Joesolved, If the Convention be called in accordance with the provisions of the foregoing resolutions, the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Kentucky suggest for the consideration of that Convention, as a basis for settling existing difficulties, the adoption, by way of amendments to the Constitution, of the resolutions offered in the Senate of the United State by the Hon. John J. CEITTENDEN. DAVID MERIWETHER, Speaker of the House of Representatives. THOMAS P. PORTER, Speaker of the Senate. Approved January 25, 1861. B. MAGOFFIN. By the Governor: THOMAS B. MONROE, Jr., Secretary of State.
Mr. BALDWIN continued:—Now, what are we asked to do by the majority of the committee ? It is not to unite with Kentucky or to accede to her wishes for a convention of the States, under the Constitution, but to thwart the wishes of Kentucky, and to induce Congress itself to originate and propose amendments, or to propose those which we may originate. Kentucky asks that the people of the States themselves might elect delegates to a convention, who should carefully consider the whole subject. The Kentucky resolutions were transmitted to the President, who sent them to Congress, as he said, with great pleasure. Kentucky stated that she was in favor of the so-called Crittenden resolutions, but she did not request Congress to propose them as amendments to the Constitution.
How is this body constituted ? Do we, its members, represent the people of the several States? Have they had an opportunity to elect delegates, to select those in whom they had confidence and whom they could trust? Not at all. Why should we assemble here and express our wishes to Congress in reference to the Constitution without permitting California, Oregon, or many other States not here represented, to unite in our deliberations? I cannot assent to such an unfair proceeding toward other States.
Suppose one-half the States should request Congress to propose amendments, will Congress agree to it? No, sir. The Constitution provides that Congress shall not propose amendments without the consent of two-thirds of the States. Congress has not deemed any amendments necessary, so far as we know, and yet a majority of the committee of this body ask Congress to propose the amendments on our responsibility alone. It appears to me, then, that this proceeding must be regarded not as one known to the Constitution, but as a revolutionary proceeding. All the States are not represented here, nor have all had an opportunity to be so represented. Some of us are acting under the appointment of the Legislatures of our States; other delegates are simply appointed by the Executives of their States and are acting without any legal authority. We are not standing upon equal ground; some are only acting upon their own judgment; others are acting under instructions from their several Legislatures. If the Virginia Legislature itself were here, its action would differ materially from the present views of the delegates from that State. , But how is this? The Resolutions of the Legislature of Virginia make the statement that unless these questions are settled, and settled soon, there is danger of the disruption of the Union. Admit this to be so, and it furnishes no reason for changing the mode of proposing constitutional amendments. The Constitution knows no such danger. It is a self-sustaining Constitution, and was supposed to contain within itself the power to secure its own preservation. The Constitution ought not to be amended without the deliberate action of the people themselves. I cannot and I will not disregard their rights. I cannot recognize the claim that the secession of a State, by an ordinance of its Convention, can carry either the State or its people out of the Union. There is no such thing as legal secession, for there is no power anywhere to take the people out of the protecting care of the Government, or to relieve them from their obligations to it. And where is the clause in the Constitution that authorizes the call upon Congress to do what Congress is asked to do here? The Constitution was adopted “to form a more perfect Union.” The people were not to be allowed to alter it, except in the two modes prescribed in it. The Convention which adopted it did not propose that changes should be made in it without ample time for deliberation and discussion. We are here, then, simply as conferees from States expressing our individual opinions. We
are now asked to recommend to Congress amendments to our fundamental law; we have no more right to do so than members of the so-called Southern Confederacy. We, a mere fraction of the people, propose to unite in bringing a pressure upon Congress, which shall induce it to propose these amendments. This was not one of the modes contemplated or provided by the framers of that sacred instrument. General WASHINGTON presided over the Convention which prepared our Constitution. None knew better than he the reasons which made its adoption necessary to the preservation of the Government—none knew better the dangers which would probably surround it in after years. In that last counsel of his to the American people—his Farewell Address—a paper drawn up with the greatest deliberation, embodying opinions which he entertained as the result of a long life of active study and reflection, he warns us against all such proceedings as those contemplated by the majority of the committee. I am sure the delegates from Virginia will not now refuse to listen to the words of that illustrious man, uttered upon the most solemn and momentous occasion of his life. Hear his words:
“Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger natural to that solicitude, urge me on an occasion like the present to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel.”
“But as it is easy to foresee, that from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress, against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish acordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”
Are not these admonitions at the present moment peculiarly worthy of our attention ? And with them before us, can we invoke the action of Congress for the alteration of the fundamental law of the Government in any other ways than those provided in the Constitution? I earnestly hope not. If we act at all, let us act in that regular method which gives time for consultation, for consideration, and for action among the people of all the States. It appears to me, that in adopting the line of policy proposed by the majority of the committee, we are doing the very thing which WASHINGTON warned us not to do.
He said further:
“To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts, can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Constitution of Government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This Government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unmoved, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all.”
“Toward the preservation of your Government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you should steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to affect in the forms of the Constitution alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments, as of other human institutions.” \
And still further: “If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield.” If we adopt the majority report here, we attempt to correct the Constitution by an amendment in a way which the Constitution does not designate. WASHINGTON says if there is anything wrong, let it be corrected in a constitutional way; and that, sir, is just what Kentucky has said, and that is what every loyal State will say. Kentucky has inaugurated this proceeding, and it is one eminently worthy of her—true as she has always been to the Union. I cannot disregard this action of her Legislature. I do not think any exigency exists which requires us to disregard it. I am ready, and my State is ready, to confer with other States in reference to the Constitution, when asked to do so in any of the modes pointed out by that instrument. Entertaining these opinions, and with these convictions, I should be untrue to my sense of duty to the Government and the State I represent, and to the people of the United States, if I should consent to disregard the Constitution and my obligations to it. I have stated these considerations because they are powerful enough to influence and control my course. Others must act upon their own convictions. I have come to the conclusion that I ought to submit this minority report with distrust, and with distrust only, because so many of the able statesmen composing the majority of the committee have seen fit to adopt different views. My report leaves everything to the people, where I think every such question should be left. When they consult together and decide in the constitutional way I shall bow to their decision, whatever it may be. Mr. GUTHRIE:—I do not propose to follow the gentleman (Mr. BALDw1N) through all the ramifications of his speech. I have made the Constitution my study for many years, and I have looked at the causes which give it strength and the causes which give it weakness. I believe that our fathers organized this