Page images

to such a remedy for the evils of which they complained. They certainly manifested a deep hostility to the war then existing, and a great want of respect for the Constitution, and of good feeling for the government; and to the former they proposed certain amendments, which received the sanction of two only of those States that were represented in the Conventisň, to wit, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

It-is. not at all improbable, that in the outset, the mem-bers of that Convention did contemplate a resort to some such Quixotic scheme, and that they were driven from their purpose by the universal condemnation of every patriotic voice and pen that could be raised or wielded in the land; for such was the odium and the infamy that attached to that body, from the bare suspicion of its disloyalty and treasonable design of originating separate action for the States, as sovereign powers independent of their obligations to the Constitution and their allegiance to the national government, that it was quite enough to damn the fame of any man in the nation, and to hold him up to public obloquy and contempt, if upon him could be fastened the stain of being a “Hartford Conventionist” either in fact or in sympathy of feeling; and it is not less remarkable than true, that no New England man, from that day to this, no matter what the extent of his capacity, integrity, or patriotism, bas been able to achieve for himself a great national popularity and strength, because of the odium that stuck, like the shirt of Nessus, to those States for having been held to entertain such unpatriotic and unconstitutional sentiments, and for having permitted such a Convention to have been held within their limits; and every man at all familiar with the history of the country will recognize the truth of the assertion, that for more than twenty years after that Convention was held, whenever the Southern Democracy de. termined to hunt an adversary down by blackening his reputation, or destroying his claims to public confidence, he was assailed as being a Hartford Conventionist ;" while in later years, when, in order to retain their power, they contemplated an ultimate resort to the same infamous and treasonable expedient of separation from the Union, they have singly, in pairs and in packs, hunted down and defamed the character of every antagonist by substituting the charge of being an Abolitionist in lieu of their famous cry of "Hartford Conventionist."

SECESSION ODIOUS IN THE SOUTH PRIOR TO 1832. I will take it upon myself to say here, that at the time this charge of secession" was made upon that Convention, there was not one man in any party in the Southern States that did not hold the doctrine in utter abomination, and did not openly proclaim it to be treason against the government; and if there were any who thought differently, they did not dare to give public utterance to the sentiment. Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Madison, and Judge Spencer Roane, were all open and loud in their denunciation of the "treason" on the part of those who were supposed to claim such right; while now we find, that what was imperishable dishonor and infamy at that day, is regarded as the highest test of patriotism at this; and it is almost as much as a man's life is worth to be found in opposition to this odious doctrine and to its practical application. At that time there was another gentleman who exerted a great influence over the minds of the Democracy of the state, who is now no more -I mean Thomas Ritchie, of the Richmond Enquirer. The Enquirer of that day—then under the control of the party headed by Mr. Jefferson, and with the whole body of the ablest men of the Democracy in the Union as its contributors and advisers, and when no step was taken by that paper that was not approved by the “Junto"-said,

“No man, no association of men, no state or set of states, has a right to withdraw itself from the Union of its own accord. The same power which knit us together can alone unknit. The same formality which formed the links of the Union is necessary to dissolve it. The majority of states which formed the Union must consent to the withdrawal of any one branch of it. Until that consent has been obtained, any attempt to dissolve the Union or obstruct the efficacy of its constitutional laws is TREASON-TREASON, TO ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES."

THE AUTHOR OF SECESSION. No, sir! The unfading honor, and the crowning glory of originating a measure for the practical destruction of this government, and for the annihilation of the liberties of mankind, were reserved for a disappointed aspirant for the Presidency, who, Lucifer-like, preferred to "reign in hell rather than serve in heaven.” The name of Erostratus has been handed down to posterity for centuries past as the destroyer of the Ephesian Temple; in like manner will the name of John C. Calhoun be handed down, for ages to come, as the destroyer of the last great temple of liberty left standing on the globe, provided this rebellion should prove successful.

Mr. Calhoun, who was a most plausible and ambitious, but extremely metaphysical yet popular politician in his own state, disappointed in his reckless cravings for the Presidency, first conceived, in the year 1832, the idea of establishing a separate independence for South Carolina, over which state he held omnipotent sway, and in the control of which none could compete with him for supremacy.

While he proposed this separate action for that state, it was not without hope that other Southern States would come to its aid in the event of an attempt on the part of the general government to enforce obedience to its laws in the revolted state. The pretext then set up for this absurd claim was, the oppression under which it was pretended they were suffering through the practical operation of the protective system, of which Mr. Calhoun himself had been an earnest advocate and efficient champion at an earlier period of his life.


SECESSION IN 1832. At that day South Carolina had few sympathizers any where, and a very small number only in the South who professed to believe in the right of a state to secede from the Union. But to such an extent had this fever raged in that unfortunate and discontented state, where Mr. Calhoun was idolized, that they proceeded to call a Convention, and actnally passed an ordinance declaring their connection with the government of the United States dissolved, unless the tariff was adjusted to suit their views. General Jackson was then President of the United States, and also a native of South Carolina; and whatever may be said in disparagement of this old chief, it can not be denied that he possessed many very strong and estimable traits of character, among the most prominent of which were a stern, unflinching devotion to the Union, a resolute purpose to prosecute vigorously whatever he undertook, and an iron will that was not to be controlled when his mind was once made up.

GENERAL JACKSON'S PROCLAMATION. Upon the passage of this Ordinance of Secession, General Jackson issued his celebrated proclamation, calling upon the people to retrace their steps, to repudiate the action of their leading men, and return to their allegiance to the government established by their fathers. One passage from this proclamation is here inserted, and is worthy of being stamped indelibly upon the mind and heart of every true friend of his country. General Jackson said,

“No act of violent opposition to the laws has yet been committed, but such a state of things is hourly apprehended; and it is the intent of this instrument to proclaim not only that the duty imposed upon me by the Constitution to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, shall be performed to the extent of the powers already vested in me by law, or of such other as the wisdom of Congress shall desire and intrust to me for that purpose, but to warn the citizens of South Carolina, who have been deluded into an opposition to the laws, of the danger they will incur by obedience to the illegal and disorganizing ordinance of the Convention... The laws of the United States must be executed. I have no discretionary power on the subject. My duty is emphatically pronounced in the Constitution. Those who told you that you might peaceably prevent their execution deceived you. They could not have been deceived themselves; they know that a forcible opposition could alone prevent the execution of the laws, and they know that such opposition must be repelled. Their object is disunion. But be not deceived by names. Disunion by armed force is TREASON. Are you ready to incur its guilt ? If you are, on the heads of the instigators of the act be the dreadful consequences; on their heads be the dishonor, but on yours may fall the punishment. On your unhappy state will inevitably fall all the evils of the conflict you force upon the government of your country. It can not accede to the mad project of disunion, of which you would be the

« PreviousContinue »