« PreviousContinue »
remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country can not do this. They can not but remain face to face; and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws ? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends ? Suppose you go to war, you can not fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you.
“ This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I can not be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the National Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendment, I fully recognize the full authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself, and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose, à fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it.
“I will venture to add, that to me the Convention modo seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish either to accept or refuse. I under.
Serious Injury Impossible.
stand that a proposed amendment to the Constitution (which amendment, however, I have not seen) has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments, so far as to say that, bolding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.
“ The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have conferred none upon him to fix the terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves, also, can do this if they choose, but the Executive, as such, bas nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present government as it came to his hands, and to transmit it unimpaired by him to his successor. Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people ? Is there any better or equal hope in the world ? In our present differences is either party without faith of being in the right ? If the Almighty Ruler of nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail by the judgment of this great tribunal, the American people. By the frame of the government under which we live, this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief, and have with equal wisdom provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years,
“My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.
Precipitate Action Unwarrantable.
A Government at Last.
“If there be an object to hurry any of you, in hot haste, to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time: but no good object can be frustrated by it.
“Such of you as are now dissatisfied, still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new administration will bave no immediate power, if it would, to change either.
" If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there is still no single reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who bas never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulties.
“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Gov. ernment will not assail you.
“ You can have no conflict witbout being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the Government; while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend it.
“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
“ The mystic cords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and bearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
One point was established, at least, by this inaugural, whatever uncertainties might cluster about it—we had, at last, a Government. No Buchanan ruled the hour. Loyal men of every shade breathed more freely. At the same time, the whole drift was toward securing, if possible, an honorable reconciliation. If, after this lucid, temperate statement of
The New Cabinet.
the plans and purposes of the new Administration, the blow must fall, which all wished to avoid, it was encouraging to feel—as every one who heard Mr. Lincoln on that eventful day must bave felt—that a man was at the helm who had firm faith that the organic law, so far from providing for the dissolution of the Union, had vitality and force within itself sufficient to defend the nation against dangers from within as well as from without.
The announcement of the President's cabinet, likewisecomposed, as it was, of the ablest men in his own party, the majority of whom had been deemed worthy of presentation as candidates for the high office which he held—imparted confidence to all who wished well to the country. The able pen of the Secretary of State was at once called into requisition to communicate, through the newly appointed ministers abroad, the true state of affairs to the European powers. As speedily as possible the Departments were purged of disloyal officials, although the deceptions and subterfuges which constituted a goodly portion of the stock in trade of the rebellion rendered this a work of more time than was satisfactory to many.
The Davis dynasty, at Montgomery, having, on the 9th of March, passed an act to organize a Confederate army, two persons—one from Alabama and the other from Georgiaannounced themselves, three days later, as “Confederate Commissioners," accredited for the purpose of negotiating a treaty. The President declined to recognize these “ Commissioners," who were referred to a copy of his inaugural en"losed for a full statement of his views.
On the 21st of March, Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia, Vice-President of the Montgomery traitors, up to that time regarded as one of the most moderate-as be certainly was one of the ablest of the conspirators, in a speech at Savannah, silenced all questionings as to the intent of himself and Co-workers.
He said on that occasion :
Early Statesmen Wrong.
The Confederate Constitution.
Slavery the Foundation,
“ The new Constitution (that adopted at Montgomery) bas put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions-African slavery as it exists among us -the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this as the rock upon which the old Union would split. He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprebended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas, entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen, at the time of the formation of the old Constitution, were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with ; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away.
“Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas. Its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new Government, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
It is upon this, as I have stated, our social fabric is firmly planted; and I can not permit myself to doubt the ultimate success of a full recognition of this principle throughout the civilized and enlightened world.
This stone, which was rejected by the first builders, “is become the chief stune of the corner' in our new edifice."
On the 13th of April, the President was waited upon by a committee from a Convention of the State of Virginia, which Convention was discussing the question whether to go with