« PreviousContinue »
The Vice-President resumed the chair.
Mr. Bright submitted the following motion ; which was considered, by unanimous consent, and agreed to:
Ordered, That the Secretary inform the House of Representatives that a quorum of the Senate has assembled, and that the Senate is ready to proceed to business.
Mr. Bigler submitted the following resolution ; which was considered, by unanimous consent, and agreed to:
Resolved, That a committee, consisting of three members, be appointed to join such committee as may be appointed by the House of Representatives, to wait on the President of the United States and inform him that a quorum of each house has assembled, and that Congress is ready to receive any communication he may be pleased to make.
On motion by Mr. Bigler, Ordered, That the committee on the part of the Senate be appointed by the Vice-President; and
Mr. Bigler, Mr. Mason, and Mr. Collamer were appointed.
Ordered, That the Secretary notify the House of Representatives thereof.
On motion by Mr. Fitzpatrick, Ordered, That the hour of the daily meeting of the Senate be twelve o'clock, meridian, until otherwise ordered.
A message from the House of Representatives, by Mr. Forney, its Clerk:
Mr. President : I am directed by the House of Representatives to inform the Senate that a quorum of the House has assembled, and that it is ready to proceed to business.
The House of Representatives has passed a resolution for the appointment of a committee to join such committee as may be appointed on the part of the Senate, to wait on the President of the United States, and inform him that a quorum of the two houses has assembled, and that Congress is ready to receive any communication he may be pleased to make; and it has appointed Mr. Morehead, Mr. Bocock, and Mr. Adams, of Kentucky, the committee on its part.
On motion by Mr. Seward, The Senate adjourned.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1860.
The honorable William M. Gwin, from the State of California, the honorable James Harlan, from the State of Iowa, the honorable Alfred Iverson, from the State of Georgia, the honorable Andrew Johnson, from the State of Tennessee, the honorable John R. Thomson, from the State of New Jersey, and the honorable Morton S. Wilkinson, from the State of Minnesota, attended.
On motion by Mr. Lane, Ordered, That John Anderson have leave to withdraw his petition and
Mr. Bigler, from the committee appointed to join such committee as may be appointed by the House of Representatives to wait on the President of the United States and inform him that a quorum of each house has assembled, and that Congress is ready to receive any communication he may be pleased to make, reported: That they had performed the duty assigned them, and that the President replied that he would make a communication to the two houses of Congress at twelve o'clock to-day.
The following message was received from the President of the United States, by Mr. Glossbrenner, his Secretary : Fellow-citizens of the Senate
and House of Representatives : Throughout the year since our last meeting, the country has been eminently prosperous in all its material interests. The general health has been excellent, our harvests have been abundant, and plenty smiles throughout the land. Our commerce and manufactures have been prosecuted with energy and industry, and have yielded fair and ample returns. In short, no nation in the tide of time has ever presented a spectacle of greater material prosperity than we have done, until within a very recent period.
Why is it, then, that discontent now so extensively prevails, and the union of the States, which is the source of all these blessings is threatened with destruction ?
The long continued and intemperate interference of the northern people with the question of slavery in the southern States has at length produced its natural effects. The different sections of the Union are now arrayed against each other, and the time has arrived, so much dreaded by the Father of his Country, when hostile geographical parties have been formed.
I have long foreseen, and often forewarned my countrymen of the now impending danger. This does not proceed solely from the claim on the part of Congress or the territorial legislatures to exclude slavery from the Territories, nor from the efforts of different States to defeat the execution of the fugitive slave law. All or any of these evils might have been endured by the South, without danger to the Union, (as others have been,) in the hope that time and reflection might apply the remedy. The immediate peril arises, not so much from these causes, as from the fact, that the incessant and violent agitation of the slavery question throughout the North for the last quarter of a century has at length produced its malign influence on the slaves, and inspired them with vague notions of freedom. Hence a sense of security no longer exists around the family altar. This feeling of peace at home has given place to apprehensions of survile insurrections. Many a matron throughout the South retires at night in dread of what may befall herself and her children before the morning. Should this apprehension of domestic danger, whether real or imaginary, extend, and intensify itself, until it shall pervade the masses of the southern people, then disunion will become inevitable. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and has been implanted in the heart of man by his Creator, for the wisest purpose; and no political union, however fraught with blessings and benefits in all other respects, can long continue, if the necessary consequence be to render the homes and the firesides of nearly half the parties to it habitually and hopelessly insecure. Sooner or later the bonds of such a Union must be severed. It is my conviction that this fatal period has not yet arrived; and my prayer to God is, that he would preserve the Constitution and the Union throughout all generations.
But let us take warning in time, and remove the cause of danger. It cannot be denied that for five and twenty years the agitation at the North against slavery has been incessant. In 1835, pictorial handbills and inflammatory appeals were circulated extensively throughout the South of a character to excite the passions of the slaves, and, in the language of General Jackson, “to stimulate them to insurrection and produce all the horrors of a servile war.” This agitation has ever since been continued by the public press, by the proceedings of State and county conventions, and by abolition sermons and lectures. The time of Congress 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.
How easy would it be for the American people to settle the slavery question forever, and to restore peace and harmony to this distracted country! They, and they alone, can do it. All that is necessary to accomplish the object, and all for which the slave States have ever contended, is to be let alone and permitted to manage their domestic institutions in their own way. As sovereign States, they and they alone are responsible before God and the world for the slavery existing
For this the people of the North are not more responsible, and have no more right to interfere, than with similar institutions in Russia or in Brazil. .
Upon their good sense and patriotic forbearance, I confess, I still greatly rely. Without their aid it is beyond the power of any President, no matter what may be his own political proclivities, to restore peace and harmony among the States. "Wisely limited and restrained as is his power under our Constitution and laws, he alone can accomplish but little for good or for evil on such a momentous question.
And this brings me to observe, that the election of any one of our fellow-citizens to the office of President does not of itself afford just cause for dissolving the Union. This is more especially true if his election has been effected by a mere plurality and not a majority of the people, and has resulted from transient and temporary causes, which may probably never again occur. In order to justify a resort to revolutionary resistance the federal government must be guilty of “a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise” of powers not granted by the Constitution. The late presidential election, however, has been held in strict conformity with its express provisions. How, then, can the result justify a revolution to destroy this very Constitution? Reason, justice, a regard for the Constitution, all require that we shall wait for some overt and dangerous act on the part of the President elect, before resorting to such a remedy. It is said, however, that the antecedents of the President elect have been sufficient to justify the fears