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adduced for the step his State had taken was the proclamation and persistent defence of the position of the North that the doctrines of the Declaration of Independence sustained the dogma of the equality of races. He contended that these doctrines could have no reference to the slave, as he was not put on an equality with white men, even paupers and convicts, being represented in the government only in the numerical proportion of three fifths. He claimed that the principles on which the American Union was based involved the right of secession. To deny the latter was to ignore the former. Regarding himself as "the type of the general feeling of his constituents," he assured the Senate that he left with no feelings of hostility," unencumbered of the remembrance of any injury received." He hoped for peaceful, though separate relations with each other. If, however, the reverse should follow, "we will trust," he said, "the God of our fathers, who delivered them from the power of the lion, to protect us from the ravages of the bear; and thus, putting our trust in God, and in our own firm hearts and strong hands, we will vindicate the right as best we may."
This action of the recusant States and their retiring Senators could not but lead to debate in the Senate. The next morning a motion was made that the places on the committees, left vacant by the resignation of the Senators, should be filled, which was unanimously adopted. Immediately on the declaration of the vote, the Vice-President asked instruction as to the course to be pursued, on three points, whether the resignations should be noted on the journal of the Senate, whether their names should be called when votes were taken by yeas and nays, and whether he should proceed to fill the vacancies thus created. As there were no precedents to guide, there was much difference of opinion, some, with Mr. Wilson, regarding them as still members of the Senate, who might, if so disposed, reconsider their action and return; others, with Mr. Douglas, looking upon the step as irrevocable, so far as the individuals were concerned, whatever views might be taken of the action or condition of the States they represented. The mover, Graham N. Fitch of Indiana, gave as a reason for
his motion his desire to shun discussion of these difficult points by quietly filling the vacancies thus created. This, however, Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana questioned, deeming it, he said, "impossible to avoid some determination of the questions presented." He expressed his great surprise that there were any who could question the fact of the absolute secession of the four States which had passed ordinances to that effect, and could maintain that they were "still members of the Union." The Vice-President having stated the fact that no entry had been made upon the journal, he moved that the record be so corrected as to state the fact. Mr. Seward of New York opposed any entry of the transaction, thinking "the less there is said about it the sooner it will be mended." He was in favor, too, of leaving the seats vacant until the retiring Senators, or some others from the States then unrepresented, should come back to occupy them. William P. Fessenden of Maine, while agreeing that the State act of secession was of no significance, admitted that there were "some difficulties" about the "legal effect" of the resigning members. They had not resigned in the method provided by the Constitution, and the question was, Were they, or were they not members of the Senate? The subject was considered at some length, but was finally, on motion of Mr. Seward, laid upon the table by a vote of thirty-two to twenty-two.
On the 4th of February John Slidell of Louisiana sent to the Secretary of the Senate a copy of the ordinance dissolving the union between his State and the United States, resuming all rights heretofore delegated to the latter, and absolving her citizens from their allegiance to the same. His speech, on taking his leave of his associates, "some forever, and others," he said, "in trust to meet again and to participate with them in the noble task of constructing and defending a new confederacy," was especially defiant and contumacious. He spoke of the seceding States as containing within themselves "the elements of greatness." With "the capacity and will, through the forms and in the spirit of the Constitution under which they have been born and educated," and with their "State governments already shaped to their hands," he predicted a
sure success, both immediate and enduring, in their new departure on their course of self-government. Those States who might not choose to unite their destiny with them, he said, shall be esteemed "as enemies in war, in peace friends." "You will find us ready to meet you," he said, " with the outstretched hand of fellowship or in the mailed panoply of war, as you may will it; elect between these alternatives." Conjecturing that the North might madly attempt coercion and inaugurate war, he assured the Senate that they would reject Northern manufactures, that the sea would swarm with their privateers, and that, though at first relatively weaker, they would soon gain the ascendency. Accusing New York and New England of furnishing the means for the rigorous prosecution of the African slave-trade, he said from the same sources would be provided the privateers that would sweep the commerce of the North from the ocean. "Your mercantile marine," he said, "must either sail under foreign flags or rot at your wharves." Repeating the remark of the French general at the battle of Fontenoy, he said, we shall not "fire first." Notwithstanding the notorious fact that the secession movement was emphatically the work of leaders, he made the gratuitous and false affirmation that it was "not the work of political managers, but of the people"; and that the cause lay not in Mr. Lincoln's election, nor in any unfriendly legislation, but in the conclusive evidence of the determined hostility of the Northern masses toward Southern institutions. He gave warm expression to the feelings of regret with which he and his associates parted company from their fellow-members on the floor of the Senate, especially from those Northern Democrats who, with diminishing numbers, had defended the South in its unequal struggle with the encroaching North. "They have," he said, "one after another, fallen in their heroic struggle against a blind fanaticism, until now but few-alas, how few! - remain to fight the battle of the Constitution."
He was followed by his colleague, Judah P. Benjamin, who, with his acknowledged ability and plausible eloquence, went as far as any of his fellows in the work of making "the worse appear the better reason." He began by indorsing most fully
the action of his State, whose behests he not only obeyed, but obeyed most readily. Alluding to the argument that, if members of the old thirteen States could be justified in seceding from a compact to which they were the original parties, Louisiana must be denied that right, as she occupied territory that had been purchased by the common treasure of the nation, he would not, he said, discuss the repulsive dogma of a party which asserted the right of property in freeborn white men, to destroy the right of property in slave-born black men. He denied, however, that the United States did own Louisiana, and elaborated at some length the point that the sovereignty was conveyed in no other way than "in trust." To the objection that the admitted right of secession would make the Federal government "a mere rope of sand," he interposed for answer that for two thirds of a century the States, though claiming the right, had never threatened seriously its exercise but in two instances, and those were the movements of Massachusetts in the war of 1812 and in connection with the annexation of Texas. But, with wild, extravagant, and meaningless rhapsody, he added, suppose it were so, "better, far better, a rope of sand, ay, the flimsiest gossamer that ever glistened in the morning dew, than chains of iron and shackles of steel; better the wildest anarchy, with the hope, the chance, of one hour's inspiration of the glorious breath of freedom, than ages of hopeless bondage and oppression, to which our enemies would reduce us." Could senseless fanfaronade and brazen effrontery go further? When a leader in a crusade, whose animating spirit and purpose was the perpetuation of American slavery, can thus speak of even "the chance of one hour's inspiration of the glorious breath of freedom," can any limits be prescribed to the false and unmeaning use of words?
As to the charge that secession was rebellion and that seceders were traitors he was especially denunciatory and defiant. He claimed that they were only walking in the footsteps of the reformers of England, and of the patriots of the American revolution. Hampden and Vane, Henry and Adams, were but exemplars of the same spirit and purpose that glowed in the breasts of the new confederacy which was to rise, on the ruins
of the American Union, at the South. With sarcastic contempt he spoke of "a senile Executive," proposing to secure a better execution of the laws by arming the military and blockading Southern ports. What imperial Britain could not attempt against the colonies without the vehement protest of her greatest statesmen, is now proposed "against independent States." He closed with a most eloquent peroration, pronouncing, for himself and for those he represented, his heartfelt farewell, especially grateful towards those Northern men who had made common cause against what he was pleased to stigmatize the growing tyranny of the then dominant party. With feeble foresight, as subsequent events proved, he exhibited singular misapprehension of the probable verdict of history in regard to the Northern sympathizers with the Rebellion and its cause, as he sought by confident predictions to inspire and keep alive the courage of those of whose cause he was so eloquent a champion. "When, in after days," he said, "the story of the present shall be written, — when History shall have passed her stern sentence on the erring men who have driven their unoffending brethren from the shelter of their common home, your names will derive fresh lustre from the contrast; and when your children shall hear repeated the familiar tale, it will be with glowing cheek and kindling eye, their very souls will stand a-tiptoe as their sires are named, and they will glory in their lineage from men of spirit as generous and of patriotism as high-hearted as ever illustrated or adorned the American Senate."
The subject did not come up again until the special session of Congress. On the 13th of March Mr. Fessenden of Maine introduced a resolution, reciting the names of the seceding Senators, and moving that they, having announced that they are no longer members, their seats are vacant, and that their names be stricken from the roll of members. Mr. Bayard of Delaware moved as a substitute, that the Secretary be directed to omit their names in calling the roll of the Senate. Quite an animated discussion sprung up, in which the mover, Mr. Bayard, Mason of Virginia, Douglas of Illinois, and Clark of New Hampshire took part. In vainly attempting to fix the