« ZurückWeiter »
of the Government is gone. Even our naval commanders are unable to negotiate Government bills abroad—are reduced to the degrading alternative of asking the endorsement of foreign States, in order to such negotiation. Some brilliant individuals have suggested that we have already become so poor that our widows and wives must bring out their stockings. Our last loan was negotiated at twelve per cent. discount. The present loan is not to be taken at any rate, unless the Government descends to the humiliating alternative of securing State endorsements. Our credit is going lower and lower every day, and it will soon come to the point where our bonds will be worth no more than Continental money was. Suppose we do nothing here. Are gentlemen blind to the consequences? Gentlemen, honest and patriotic as I know you are, have you no love for this Union ?—have you no care for the preservation of this Government? God forbid that I should say you have none! I know you too well. My relations have been too intimate with you, and have existed too long, for me to suppose it. You do love the Union. I speak for the South and to the South. I know that we can still labor to keep this Government together. If we follow the plain dictates of our judgment, any other course would be impossible. The Virginia Convention is even now in session, and what a convention it is Disguise as we may, deceive ourselves as we will, it is a convention which proposes to consider the question of withdrawing the State from the Union. Kentucky and Missouri, if we do nothing, will soon follow. If there ever was a time in the history of the Government for conciliation, for patriotic concession, that time is now. The time has come when parties must be forgotten. Let not the word party be mentioned here. It is not worthy of us. Representatives of the States, you are above party —high above. The cords that bind you together are a hundred times as strong as those which ever bound any party. Unless we do something, and something very quickly, before the incoming President is inaugurated, in all human probability he will have only the States north of Mason and Dixon to govern—that is, if he is to govern them in peace. I think there is no right of secession; such is my individual opinion. But there is a right higher than all these—the right of self-defence, the right of revolution. It is recognized by the Constitution itself. The Constitution was adopted by nine of the States only. What right had those nine States to separate from the other four ! Mr. SEDDON:—The right of secession. Mr. JOHNSON :—I won't dispute about terms. In all such discussions, Heaven save me from a Virginia politician | The opinions of Mr. MADISON upon the Constitution are certainly entitled to value. He had more to do with making it than any other statesman of the time. I desire to read an opinion of his, which will be found in number forty-two of the Federalist: “Two questions of a very delicate nature present themselves on this occasion:—1. On what principle the Confederation, which stands in the solemn form of a compact among the States, can be superseded without the unanimous consent of the parties to it? 2. What relation is to subsist between the nine or more States ratifying the Constitution, and the remaining few who do not become parties to it? “The first question is answered at once by recurring to the absolute necessity of the case, to the great principle of self-preservation, to the transcendent law of nature and of nature's God, which declares that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed.” Now, apply these principles to the présent condition of the country. The cases are exactly parallel. Mr. MADison says in substance, that if one section of the Union refuses to recognize and protect the rights of another—in other words, if the free States now refuse to guarantee the rights of the South, that there is a right of self-preservation, a law of nature and nature's God, which is above all Constitutions. I am not here to inquire whether the South has a right to go out if these guarantees are not given. That is a question which I will not argue. Some of the States have already gone. I hold that to be a fact established. Now, I put it to my friends of the North: Do you want us to go out? You are a great people, a great country—a powerful people, a rich country. No threat or intimidation shall ever come from me to such a people. I ask you in all sadness whether, in the light of all our glory, of all our happiness and prosperity, whether you will, by withholding a thing that it will not harm you to grant, suffer us, compel us to depart? Let me read what was said by the same great man of Virginia, in anticipation of the existence of the present state of things:
“I submit to you, my fellow-citizens, these considerations, in full confidence that the good sense which has so often marked your decisions will allow them their due weight and effect; and that you will never suffer difficulties, however formidable in appearance, or however fashionable the error on which they may be founded, to drive you into the gloomy and perilous scene into which the advocates for disunion would conduct you. Hearken not to the unnatural voice, which tells you that the people of America, knit together as they are by so many cords of affection, can no longer live together as members of the same family; can no longer continue the mutual guardians of their mutual happiness; can no longer be fellow-citizens of one great, respectable, and flourishing empire. Hearken not to the voice which petulantly tells you that the form of government recommended for your adoption is a novelty in the political world; that it has never yet had a place in the theories of the wildest projectors; that it rashly attempts what it is impossible to accomplish. No, my countrymen, shut your ears against this unhallowed language. Shut your hearts against the poison which it conveys. The kindred blood which flows in the veins of American citizens, the mingled blood which they have shed in defence of their sacred rights, consecrate their Union, and excite horror at the idea of their becoming aliens, rivals, enemies. And if novelties are to be shunned, believe me, the most alarming of all novelties, the most wild of all projects, the most rash of all attempts, is that of rending us in pieces, in order to preserve our liberties, and promote our happiness.”
Grant us then, gentlemen of the North, what we are willing to stand upon—what we will try to stand upon, and what we believe we can. At least, this will save the rest of the States to yourselves and to us. The States that are now in the Union will continue there.
What is it we ask you to do? It is to settle this question as to our present territory. To settle it—how? By dividing it. And how by dividing it? By the line of 36° 30'. Apparently, you think we are asking the North to yield something. I tell you it is we who are yielding. By the decision of the Supreme Court we have the right to go North of this line with our slaves. Now, all we ask you to give us here is the territory south of that line; and even as to that, we give you the right to destroy slavery there whenever a State organized out of it chooses to do so. We are, in fact, yielding to you. We abandon our rights North. Will you not let us retain what is already ours, South ?
Is it quite certain that the territory south of the line will be slave territory ! Those who repealed the Missouri Compromise, believed that Kansas would be a slave State. It did not turn out so. All we ask is, that you should leave the territory south of the line where it has been left by the decision of the Supreme Court. We freely yield you all the rest. I do not propose to discuss all the amendments proposed. I confine myself to the single one which, if satisfactorily disposed of, will settle all our troubles. In conclusion, I ask, oppressed by a consciousness which almost . overmasters me—which renders me unfit to do anything but feel —will you not settle this question here? I feel, and I cannotescape the feeling, that on your decision hangs the question, whether we shall be preserved an united people, or be broken to atoms. The States now remaining in the Union may possibly get on for a few years with something like prosperity; but if this question is not settled in some way, man must change his nature or war in the end will come. War ! What a word to be used here! War between whom? There is not a family at the South which has not its associations with the North—not a Northern family which has not its Southern ties War in the midst of such a people ! God grant that the future, that the events which must inevitably follow dissension here, may at least spare this agony to ourselves, our families, and our posterity. Mr. SEDDON:—It is very clear to me that I ought not to make a prolonged address upon a question which I favor. The only question now before us is: Shall this amendment be made plain We should deal honestly among ourselves; there should be no cheat—no uncertainty—no delusion here. Our language should be so clear that it will breed no new nests of trouble. But the address of the gentleman from Maryland requires a brief notice from me. I listened with sadness to many parts of it. I bemoan that tones so patriotic could not rise to the level of the high ground of equality and right upon which we all ought to stand. I appeal not to forbearance—I ask not for pity. I feel proud to represent the grand old commonwealth of Virginia here, and prouder still that I only come here to demand right and justice in her behalf. Aye! and it is more complimentary to you to have it so. I ask for such guarantees only as Virginia needs, and as she has the right to demand. It is far more complimentary to you to appeal to your sense of justice, to your sense of right, than to your forbearance or pity.
Virginia comes forward in a great national crisis. When support after support of this glorious temple of our Government has been torn away, she comes—proud of her memories of the past —happy in the part she had in the construction of this great system—she comes to present to you, calmly and plainly, the ques, tion, whether new and additional guarantees are not needed for her rights; and she tells you what those guarantees ought to be. Nor does she stand alone. She is supported by all her border sisters. The propositions she makes are familiar to the country. They were made by a patriot of the olden time, a time near to that of the foundation of our Government. They were such as he thought suited to the exigencies of his time. They have since then received a larger meed of approval, north and south, than any other plan of arrangement. My State offers these resolutions of her Legislature as a basis for our action here, with certain modifications acceptable to her people. One of these modifications has since been accepted by the mover of these resolutions himself. Most important among them is the provision as to future territory. The gentleman seems to think that Virginia would not insist on this provision as applicable to territory we may never have. It behooves not me to answer such a momentous question. I am only the mouthpiece of Virginia. She insists on the provision for future territory. She and her sister States plant themselves upon it. What right have I to strike out a clause which she makes specific : What right have I to esteem it of so little weight that it may be thrown aside and disregarded ? I do not propose to give my reasons, though they would not be troublesome to give. It was an element in the Missouri Compromise that it should apply to future as well as to existing territory. Does not the gentleman assert that under the laws as they now stand, we have the right to go north of the compromise line with our slaves? What, then, is our position? Under the decision of the Supreme Court we are entitled to participate in all the territory of the United States. We are offering to give up the great part and the best part of it, and in payment we are to take the naked chance of getting a little piece of the worthless territory south of the proposed line ! Such an idea was never entertained by those who made the Compromise. The idea which governed