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revolt. Though destined to succumb at length, they hesitated, fearing to make the fearful leap or join in the terrible venture. Only these six were then prepared to assume the responsibilities and take the risks involved, in becoming the nucleus of the new slaveholding federation which had been for years, not to say generations, a Southern dream, in setting up the illomened and ill-fated Confederacy, whose end was as disastrous as its beginning was disgraceful, and the bitterness of whose fruits was exceeded only by the guilt and folly of those who sowed the seed from which they sprung. But emissaries were at work with only too much success, and it was only a question of time when North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas would link their destinies with the new-formed republic. Meanwhile other events of great importance and significance were taking place, making a mention of the steps by which these last-mentioned States were finally induced to secede more appropriate farther on.
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE AND SENATE DEBATE.
Anxiety and alarm. — Message. - Opinion of Attorney-General. — Equivocal and unsatisfactory. Senate. Extreme speech of Clingman. — Lane, Iverson, Davis, and Wigfall. - Union speeches of Crittenden and Saulsbury. Speech of Hale. -Appointment of committees.
No meeting of Congress was ever anticipated with more anxiety and apprehension than that of the 3d of December, 1860. In the feverish excitement of the hour all eyes were turned towards Washington to catch the first intimations of what was to be the policy of the government in regard to the recusant and rebellious States. The well-known sympathy of Mr. Buchanan with the South filled one section of the country with hope, the other with apprehension, and both were alike eager to ascertain what the utterances of his message would be. Nor were those utterances calculated greatly to relieve the apprehensions of the patriotic or to disturb the conclusions of the treasonable.
Alluding to the "discontent" which, he contended, was generally prevalent, and which he attributed, without equivocation, to Northern and not to Southern wrong-doing, the President affirmed that "the long-continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people on the question of slavery in the Southern States has at length produced its natural effects," which were, in the language of President Jackson, he quoted, to "stimulate" the slaves "to insurrection and to produce all the horrors of civil war." "The time of Congress, he said, "has been occupied in violent speeches on this neverending subject, and appeals in pamphlet and other forms indorsed by distinguished names have been sent forth from this
central point and spread broadcast over the Union." The question could be easily settled, he said, by letting the South alone, and permitting it to manage its own affairs in its own way.
Thus aspersing the North and defending the South, he proceeded to the task of dissuading the section he had represented as so grievously wronged from the threatened remedy of secession. The election of Mr. Lincoln, which, though effected by a plurality and not a majority of votes, had been "held in strict conformity with the express provisions" of the Constitution, afforded, he said, no justification for "the destruction of the best system of government ever devised by mortals." In the absence of any overt acts there was, he contended, certainly no good reason for secession in the mere apprehension of what the government might do. Admitting that certain States may have been obnoxious to the charge of unfriendly legislation in the matter of the Fugitive Slave Act, he asserted that the laws of 1793 and 1850 had been the laws of the land, and that in all contested cases they had been faithfully executed. He admitted that in case of failure in that regard "the injured States would be justified in revolutionary resistance to the government of the Union."
But he combated the idea that because a State felt aggrieved, it had a right to secede. Such a principle being admitted, he contended that "the Confederacy is a rope of sand," and "the thirty-three States may resolve themselves into as many petty, jarring, and hostile republics, each one retiring from the Union without responsibility whenever any sudden excitement might impel them to such a course." Besides arguing ably and conclusively against the State-rights doctrine of the secessionists, quoting the language of Madison, and that of Jackson in his message transmitting the nullifying ordinance of South Carolina in 1833, he triumphantly referred to the manifest intention of the framers of the Constitution. "It was not intended by its framers," he said, "to be the baseless fabric of a vision which, at the touch of the enchanter, would vanish into thin air, but a substantial and mighty fabric, capable of resisting the slow decay of time, and of defy
ing the storms of ages." After conceding the right of revolution and asserting that secession is neither more nor less than revolution, he inquired: "What in the mean time is the responsibility and true position of the executive?" "He is bound," he answers his own question, "by solemn oath before God and the country to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and from this obligation he cannot be absolved by any human power," though, as in the case of South Carolina, where "the whole machinery of the Federal government had been demolished," he expressed the opinion that "it would be difficult, if not impossible, to replace it," except, it might be, in the collection of customs. He professed, however, his inability to find any provisions of the Constitution "to overcome the united opposition of a single State, not to speak of other States who may place themselves in a similar attitude," and he added. that it may be safely asserted that the power to make war against a State is at variance with the whole spirit and intent of the Constitution." To the question whether, if we possessed the power, it would be wise to coerce a State, he replied by saying that "the Union can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war," and that "the sword was not placed in their hands to preserve it by force."
In the absence of the power to preserve the Union by force he urged upon Congress the remedy of "conciliation," and he proposed for that purpose "an explanatory amendment of the Constitution" on three points: "the recognition of the right of property in slaves in States; the duty of protecting it in all the common Territories; and the recognition of the right of the master to have his escaping slave delivered up." "Such an explanatory amendment," he said, "would, it is believed, forever terminate the existing dissension and restore peace and harmony among the States."
With his own views thus expressed, the President laid before Congress the opinion of the Attorney-General, to whom he had propounded the question of executive power in the premises. In this elaborate paper Mr. Black had laid down substantially the same principles and conclusions which the President indorsed and proclaimed. Beginning with the
assertion that both the general and State governments were restricted in their action not only within certain limits, fixed by the Constitution, but to certain modes of procedure, he contended that there was no authority to vary from the prescribed rule, no right to "accomplish a legal purpose by illegal means." He admitted that the duty of the executive to protect the public property was "very clear," as was generally acknowledged in the raid of John Brown at Harper's Ferry, in 1859. Coming, however, to the question whether or not the President had a right to coerce a seceding State, he quoted first the law of 1807 which gave him the power to use the land and naval forces to enforce the laws wherever the militia might be called out by the law of 1795. As the latter authorized the use of the militia whenever the execution of the United States laws was "obstructed in any State by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the power vested in the marshals," so under the later law the President might use the land and naval forces for the same purpose; in other words, he was to help the Federal officers to do what they could not accomplish of themselves. But what, he inquired, is to be done if these Federal officials join in the general defection? If there are no Federal judges and marshals to be helped, then, answering his own question, he expressed the opinion that the use of troops would be "wholly illegal"; and he contended that "under such circumstances to send a military force into any State with orders to act against the people would be simply making war upon them."
"Whether Congress has the constitutional right to make war against one or more States is," he said, "a question for Congress itself to consider," though he added, "no such power is expressly given or implied." Adducing the warmaking powers enumerated in the Constitution, his conclusion was that its provisions were made to protect the States and not to make war upon them. "If this view be correct," he averred, "then the Union must utterly perish at the moment when Congress shall arm one part of the people against another for any purpose beyond that of merely protecting the