« ZurückWeiter »
Government in great wisdom. Its strength was in the affections of the people. It never had any other strength, and it was never intended it should have. It was not intended to be sustained by standing armies. Its strength was intended to be placed in the affections of the people, and I had hoped it would endure forever. Without the affections of the people it is the weakest Government ever established. The people ! What a spectacle do we witness now ! One portion of the people has lost confidence in the Government, and now seven States have left it. The Government cannot realize that they are gone. We have es: tablished the right of revolution, and that right gave to the world this splendid Government. This was the first precedent; it will stand for all time. It will always be acted upon when the people have lost confidence in the Government. I hate that word secession, because it is a cheat! Call things by their right names? The Southern States have framed another Government; they have originated a revolution. There is no warrant for it in the Constitution, but it is like the right of self-defence, which every man may exercise. The gentleman from Connecticut has forgotten that the Government made Congress the recipient of petitions. Why was this? It was that Congress might be influenced by the wishes of the people and act upon them. We are twenty States assembled here. Congress has been in session more than two months. The Government is falling to pieces. Congress has not had the sagacity to give the necessary guarantees, the proper assurances to the slaveholding States. This session will make a shameful chapter in the history of this Government, to be hereafter written. Why should this Congress refuse to give the people guarantees? The proudest Governments in the world have been compelled to give their people guarantees. We are assembled here to consult, and see what can be done; to consult as representatives of the States. Is there any impropriety in our stating what would restore confidence, to our putting this in writing, and to our proposing the plan of restoration we think should be adopted to Congress, and asking Congress to submit that plan to the people? Are we not the representatives of the people, sent here to do what we think ought to be done, and to ask Congress by way of petition to repair the foundations of the Government? It is all legitimate, and legitimate in the most technical sense. Suppose we ask Congress to act on this proposition. We come directly from the people. We ask Congress to submit a plan which we think will save the Government, to the people. Is this taking any advantage of the States? They can take all the time they wish for deliberation, and we can bring no pressure to bear on them. In these times of great peril and trouble, we ask Congress, backed by the moral force of the States we represent, to act and save the country. Two or three years hence will not answer. The foundations of the Government are undermined and growing weaker every day, and if the people who may give to it the necessary repair and strength do not do so, they will be called to a fearful account. When the building is on fire, it is no time to inquire who set it on fire. The North say the South did it, and the South say the North did it. We are all interested in this Government; we love the Constitution; we love the Union; we want to repair it—we want to lay the foundation for bringing back the States who have left us, by reason and not by the sword. The delay which the gentleman proposes is too long; the Constitution has provided a shorter way. In adopting that we are only recognizing the right of petition. I, sir, will answer to Kentucky; I don't want the gentleman to come between me and the people of Kentucky. He has no right to speak for the people of that State—her representatives here have that right and will exercise it. Why were these resolutions passed ? Because Congress had failed to provide the means needful to our safety. The resolutions under which the Kentucky delegation came here were passed on the 29th, not the 25th of January. They were passed after the resolutions to which the gentleman refers. They ought to be regarded, as they are in fact, as the deliberate expression of the Legislature of Kentucky in favor of this Conference. In them it is stated that Kentucky heartily accepts the invitation of her old mother Virginia. She acts in no unwilling spirit, she hastens to avail herself of any opportunity to save the Government. She believes a favorable opportunity is offered by this Conference. I repeat again: Adopt the report of the majority of the committee and I will answer to Kentucky. I will go farther. I will answer that Kentucky herself will adopt the very proposals of amendment to the Constitution contained in the committee's report. But the gentleman insists that the action proposed is not only improper but that it is revolutionary. I deny that it is revolutionary. It is no more revolutionary than any other form of petition. It is a petition sustained by the moral force of twenty States—a petition which Congress will not disregard. But if the report of the majority is revolutionary, what of the gentleman's report? Is that provided for by the Constitution? Is that according to the forms of the Constitution? No, sir. Every argument he has brought against the report of the majority, applies with equal force to his own. His views will answer for those who are willing to stand by and see this Government drift toward destruction—to see this country involved in civil war. It will answer for those who will oppose all action, and who wish to do nothing at all. His report is a new excuse for inaction. It will not answer for us. Sir, we are acting under a fearful responsibility. The eyes of every true patriot in the nation are turned toward this body. The people are awaiting our action, with anxious and painful solicitude. They know and we know that, unless the wisdom of this Conference shall devise some plan to satisfy the people of the slaveholding States—to quiet their apprehensions, a disruption of the Government is inevitable. If we adopt the gentleman's views, go home and do nothing, we take the responsibility of breaking up the Government. I do not propose to discuss the merits of the majority report at the present time. I have only sought to answer the arguments of the gentleman against our acting at all. But I claim that this way of proceeding is entirely irregular. The report of the gentleman is not in order. The report of the majority was first presented, and should be first acted upon. I move to lay the report of the gentleman from Connecticut upon the table. Mr. LOGAN :—I would ask Mr. GUTHRIE to withdraw his motion. If the motion were adopted it would prevent discussion. It was expected that we were to discuss the subject to-day. It is not of much consequence which report is first acted upon. They are all before the Conference, and the merits of all of them are under discussion. Mr. GUTHRIE withdrew the motion to lay on the table. Mr. MoREHEAD, of Kentucky, took the chair. Mr. CURTIS :—I am a member of the present Congress; I have faithfully attended its deliberations, and have anxiously watched its course. Mr. GUTHRIE will find that there are other and different objections to the line of policy he proposes, to which he has not alluded, and which he does not understand. But they are objections which have determined, and will determine, the action of Congress. I would ask Mr. GUTHRIE if the adoption of his propositions, previous to their action, would have prevented the States which have already seceded from going out. Mr. GUTHRIE:—I think it would have prevented them; all but South Carolina. I did not intend to assail Congress, or any member of it, personally. o Mr. CURTIS:—I do not agree with the gentleman. We know, and the gentleman knows, that there has been for a long time a purpose, a great conspiracy in this country, to begin and carry out a revolution. That has been avowed over and over again in the halls of Congress. Can you expect a member of Congress to do more than reflect the will of his constituents, the will of his people? Would you have him do any thing different? There were forty or fifty different propositions before the Congressional Committee of Thirty-three. There are many here. There are many difficulties attending the solution of this question in every respect. But we may as well speak plainly. I cannot go for the majority report of the committee, and among other reasons, for this reason: Their proposition makes all territory we may hereafter acquire slave territory. Mr. JOHNSON:—No; such is not the fact. Mr. CURTIS:—I have read it, and such is my construction. Mr. JOHNSON :—Such is not the intention. Mr. CURTIS:—Any future territory which we acquire must be from the south; we have extended as far as we can to the north and the northwest. Mr. WICKLIFFE:—Will you agree to divide all future territory? Mr. CURTIS:—I will do almost anything to save the Union.
I will reflect the will of my constituents. I think it ought not to be divided equally, but the South ought to have its share. There is another trouble. Look at the difficulty of getting any proposition through Congress. Congress has only fifteen days of life. I ask you, even with general unanimity, if you can hope to pass at this session any new proposals of amendments? If you do, you will get along faster than is generally the case. There is one proposition before Congress that I believe can pass. It is the Adams proposition, to admit all the territories south at once. It is already slave territory. It is now applying for admission. If this is acceptable to the South, I will go for it. We are bound to admit it under the ordinance of 1789. Mr. GOODRICH:—Do I understand my friend to claim that the ordinance of 1789 involves a proposition to divide the territory? Mr. CURTIS :—I understand that in connection with the subsequent legislation it does. Mr. GOODRICH:—The concession of territory from North Carolina contains a prohibition from acting on the subject of slavery in the territory ceded. Mr. CURTIS:—I agree entirely with the gentleman. I am opposed to slavery, but we must divide the territory. Let us leave slavery where it is, and admit the territory for the purpose of settling the question. I do not agree with Mr. GUTHRIE that this Government depends on the will of the people. It is a self. supporting government; it will support itself. There is no justification for the action of the seceded States, and I cannot agree that Congress is responsible for their action. The secession plot was formed before Congress assembled. There was a power to check it. If our President had acted as Jackson did, there would have been an end of it. The day for hanging for treason has. gone by. We must look at things as they are. Even in battle the white flag must be respected. Let this subject be frankly discussed in a conciliatory manner. If any State has the right to
- 'go out of the Union at its own volition, then this Government, in
my opinion, is not worth the trouble of preserving. The President is sworn to protect and uphold the Government. So long as there is a navy, an army, and a militia, it is his sworn duty to uphold it—to uphold it as well against an attack from States as