« PreviousContinue »
is all-powerful, and when it reaches a dangerous excess upon any question the good sense of the people will furnish the corrective and bring it back within safe limits. Still, to hasten this auspicious result at the present crisis, we ought to remember that every rational creature must be presumed to intend the natural consequences of his own teachings. Those who announce abstract doctrines subversive of the Constitution and the Union must not be surprised should their heated partisans advance one step further and attempt by violence to carry these doctrines into practical effect. In this view of the subject it ought never to be forgotten that, however great may have been the political advantages resulting from the Union to every portion of our common country, these would all prove to be as nothing should the time ever arrive when they cannot be enjoyed without serious danger to the personal safety of the people of fifteen members of the Confederacy. If the peace of the domestic fireside throughout these States should ever be invadedif the mothers of families within this extensive region should not be able to retire to rest at night without suffering dreadful apprehensions of what may be their own fate and that of their children before the morning-it would be vain to recount to such a people the political benefits which result to them from the Union. Self-preservation is the first instinct of nature; and therefore any state of society in which the sword is all the time suspended over the heads of the people must at last become intolerable. But I indulge in no such gloomy forebodings. On the contrary, I firmly believe that the events at Harper's Ferry, by causing the people to pause and reflect upon the possible peril to their cherished institutions, will be the means, under Providence, of allaying the existing excitement and preventing future outbreaks of a similar character. They will resolve that the Constitution and the Union shall not be endangered by rash counsels, knowing that, should "the silver cord be loosed or the golden bowl be broken" "at the fountain," human power could never reunite the scattered and hostile fragments.
The President followed this kindly advice by congratulations upon the Dred Scott decision as settling "principles of Constitutional law so manifestly just in themselves and so well calculated to promote peace and harmony among the States," and by the assurance that the cases of those engaged in the slave trade, especially the case of the Wanderer, were being "rigorously prosecuted."
Says Horace Greeley in his "The American Conflict":
This opinion of the justice of the decision of the Supreme Court in view of the emphatic dissent of every constitutional lawyer among the Republicans, and this statement of the rigorous prosecution of the owner of the Wanderer in face of the facts in the case, were not calculated to arouse in the North that spirit of fraternity toward the South which the President professed to desire, but, instead, kindled there the greatest indignation against both the President and the section of the country which he was serving so efficiently and with such partiality.
"THE DEATH-KNELL OF POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY."
Southern Senators Plan to Read Senator Stephen A. Douglas [Ill.] Out of the Democratic Party-Jefferson Davis [Miss.] Introduces Resolutions in the Senate Repudiating Douglas's Doctrine of Popular SovereigntyDebate on the Resolutions: in Favor, Senator Davis, Graham N. Fitch [Ind.], Robert Toombs [Ga.]; Opposed, Daniel Clark [N. H.], Senator Douglas.
HE Southern Senators determined to block the aspirations of Stephen A. Douglas [Ill.] to the Presidency by "reading him out of the party.' Accordingly, as planned by a caucus of the Administration, or "Lecompton" Democrats, Jefferson Davis [Miss.], on February 2, 1860, submitted a series of resolutions to the Senate, reiterating the "Test Resolutions" once offered by John C. Calhoun, and adding thereto the following, which repudiated Senator Douglas' "Freeport Doctrine" of "unfriendly legislation."
Resolved, That neither Congress, nor a territorial legislature, whether by direct legislation or legislation of an indirect and unfriendly nature, possesses the power to annul or impair the constitutional right of any citizen of the United States to take his slave property into the common Territories; but it is the duty of the Federal Government there to afford for that, as for other species of property, the needful protection; and if experience should at any time prove that the judiciary does not possess power to insure adequate protection it will then become the duty of Congress to supply such deficiency.
TEST RESOLUTIONS OF JEFFERSON DAVIS
SENATE, FEBRUARY 2-MAY 24, 1860
Upon this resolution Senator Davis remarked:
Mr. President, I have presented these resolutions, not for the purpose of discussing them, but with a view to get a vote upon
them severally, hoping thus, by an expression of the deliberate opinion of the Senate, that we may reach some conclusion as to what is the present condition of opinion in relation to the principles there expressed. The expression even of the resolutions is, to a great extent, not new. The first and second are substantially those on which the Senate voted in 1837-'38, affirming them then by a very large majority. I trust opinion to-day may be as sound as it was then. It was my purpose to rest the propositions contained in these resolutions upon the highest authority of the land-judicial as well as other; and if it be possible to obtain a vote on them without debate it will be most agreeable to me. To have them affirmed by the Senate without contradiction would be an era in the recent history of our country which would be hailed with joy by every one who sincerely loves it.
Resolutions stating that it was "the privilege of citizens of all the State to go into the Territories with every kind and description of property recognized by the Constitution" had already [on January 18] been submitted to the Senate by Albert G. Brown [Miss.]. On February 3 Graham N. Fitch [Ind.], an antiDouglas Democrat, spoke upon the Brown resolutions.
The resolutions of the Senator from Mississippi [Mr. Brown] affirm, first, that the citizens of the Southern States have a constitutional right to go into the Territories with their property, recognized as such by the Constitution of the United States, and there possess and enjoy that property. This is the assertion of a right, in my estimation, undoubted-one I hardly deem even respectably debatable-yet it is a right the entire Republican party deny; a right but half admitted by certain Democrats; and one which, while thus but half admitting, such Democrats would create the means of practically denying. It is a right, we are told—and in such terms and manner that we cannot question the sincerity of the declaration-by every Southern Senator and Representative, that their section will never yield.
We are told by some of them, and I think by the Senator from Georgia among the number, that the recognition by their section of the Senator from Illinois with his present territorial views, as their candidate for the presidency, would be tantamount to a surrender of that right; hence their opposition to the nomination of that Senator. Well, sir, Northern Democrats thinking with me are likewise opposed to his nomination, because
we deem his territorial views sectionally unjust and unconstitutional. If citizens of the South are disposed to maintain their constitutional rights, there are those in the North who will aid them to the extent of their ability, and for the reason that, under the Constitution, we would expect similar aid from the South if our rights were threatened, and such aid necessary. Such was the mutual agreement of our fathers; such the bond. But if they voluntarily surrender their rights we of the North will accept the surrender as unconditional-never to be recalled; and use the power it bestows upon us as a gift never to be reclaimed. An army may be defeated in battle; but if, in its retreat, it preserve its discipline and retain its munitions of war, it commands the respect even of its enemies, the sympathy and aid of its friends, because of its readiness and ability to renew the struggle, and perhaps successfully to prosecute it; but if that army yield without battle; and especially if it invite and receive as its commander one who, though under the garb of friendship, has previously proclaimed his intention to deprive its members of a portion of their rights, and their liberties, it becomes disorganized, surrenders its means of defence without any equivalent, without any consideration, has not the respect of its enemies, and forfeits the sympathy and aid of its friends.
If the South nominate the Senator alluded to [Mr. Douglas] with his present views, the entire North will deem the act an expression of willingness upon their part that his views shall become the future settled policy of the Government; the united North will act upon that policy, carry it out to the full, and no aid must be expected by the South from any portion of the North in any effort they may thereafter make to prevent the progress of that policy to the end. When by such act it establishes his policy the South, and the Senator from Illinois [Mr. Douglas] will have done more to accomplish the favorite and avowed scheme of the Republican party than any effort of that party could have done-the scheme of surrounding the Southern States with free territory and starving out their institution.
On February 20 Senator Daniel Clark [N. H.] characterized the purpose of the resolutions as the manufacture of political capital for the coming presidential campaign.
Mr. President, I have observed one thing in the history of this slavery agitation: that whenever the Democrats, by their delegates, go into a convention on the eve of a presidential elec