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Now, I ask any Senator upon either side of this floor what is the plain rule of construing contracts? If a partnership is about to be entered into by individuals, and they refer it to an attorney who is to draw up the articles of agreement, and when they come to sign it, and after it has been signed by some, one of the parties inserts above his signature an additional qualification, is there a court of justice in a civilized nation that will not hold that that new stipulation is as much a part of the compact as if it had been inserted in the body of it? Then I say that, according to the law of nations, each one of these States has a right to secede, and the right would be a perfect one without any reservation, either in the ratifications or in the Constitution itself. But I go further: I say that, though this right was complete and perfect in itself, yet when New York came to ratify she made that explicit about which a quibble might have been raised between lawyers; and that, New York having reserved to herself the right to reassume the powers therein delegated whenever it became necessary to her happiness, that became a perfect constitutional right on the part of New York, and it became also a perfect constitutional right on the part of every other State which, either previously or subsequently to that time, became a party to the compact.
I heard this morning a letter read which was written by one of the Northwestern Senators [Mr. Doolittle of Wisconsin], wherein he talked about having bought us and owning us. The people of Florida are purchased, the people of Louisiana are purchased, the people of Texas are purchased, and we are not to be permitted to live under such a government as we see fit! Do they propose to irritate us still more? It can produce no such effect upon me. I feel that perfect inexplicable stillness which a man always does when he feels that he is perfectly secure. Now, sir, if I doubted as to whether the people of the State in which I live would submit to Black Republican rule or not, I might feel some degree of irritation; but, knowing, as I do, that, as soon as those people can get into convention, they will revoke the ratification of the Constitution and again assume their position of separate nationality, and govern themselves by such laws as they see fit; knowing and feeling, that, I am not at all disturbed by the presence of these Senators upon the other side, or by any idle vaporings that they may indulge in. All this will come about in good time. State after State will go out of the Union. When you have a working majority, you can declare war against us if you see fit; if you do not, probably a new treaty will be entered into between the high con
tracting parties-one of peace and amity, when we have revoked that of common defence and general welfare. We choose, at least so far as I am concerned, to give no reason for this high sovereign act. We are the judges; and when we choose to revoke the ratification of this Constitution we will do it; and if you choose to declare war we shall not object. The right it perfect on both sides; and each will exercise its own discretion as to the expediency of the act.
While I do not intend to go into any recapitulation of the wrongs that we have suffered, and the dangers that we are about to incur by submitting longer to our present condition, I will deny a single proposition of the Senator from New Hampshire, which is that we are attempting to reverse the rule that a majority should govern. Now, sir, I admit that a constitutional majority has a right to govern; and I would never have thought of resisting the inauguration of any President who was elected by a constitutional majority. I know that there is much truth, there is much philosophy in Dogberry's saying, "An two men ride of a horse, one must ride behind"; and if we proposed to remain in this Union we should undoubtedly submit to the inauguration of any man who was elected by a constitutional majority. We propose nothing of that sort. We simply say that a man who is distasteful to us has been elected, and we choose to consider that as a sufficient ground for leaving the Union, and we intend to leave the Union. Then, if you desire it, bring us back. When you undertake that and have accomplished it, you may be like the man who purchased the elephant -you may find it rather difficult to decide what you will do with the animal. [Laughter.]
There is one matter in the message in reference to which, at the proper time, I shall introduce a resolution in order to prevent any bad effects which may flow from it-I allude to the portion of the message in which the President speaks of having sent orders to the officers commanding the forts at Charleston to stand on the defensive. I wish to know the extent of those orders; and I wish to know that in order that we may now provide for the evil which he may precipitate upon us. The people of South Carolina are a law-abiding people. They are not in the habit of having mobs in that country. They propose to meet in convention-that convention being called by the government of the State; and I entertain no doubt that that convention will pass a solemn ordinance revoking the ratification of the treaty which binds them to the other States. In the meantime they, as a matter of course, will not attempt to inter
fere, by force or otherwise, with any Federal troops who may be within the limits of the State; but I say to Senators—and I wish it had been said to the President of the United Statesthat if, after that State has withdrawn from the Union and a sufficient time has been given to this Government to withdraw its troops from those forts, this Government shall authoritatively deny to that people the right of self-government, and attempt to keep hostile armies within the borders of that State, those forts will be taken and blood will flow. The President, in his message, says that there is no power on the part of this Government to keep the Union together by force; and yet, in the very same breath, he says that he will collect the revenues in the port of Charleston even after the State has seceded. He says that there can be no conflict between the Federal judicial power and the authorities or people of the State because he has no judiciary there. Is there anything to prevent him from appointing a judge? Is there anything to prevent him from appointing a marshal?
It is therefore important that there should be a construction put upon this message; it is important that it should be known what the President means; and if he intends to carry out that policy, or this Congress intends to do it-when that is made manifest I, for one, would urge forbearance no longer. Frederick the Great, on one occasion, when he had trumped up an old title to some of the adjacent territory, quietly put himself in possession and then offered to treat. Were I a South Carolinian, as I am a Texan, and I knew that my State was going out of the Union and that this Government would attempt to use force, I would, at the first moment that that fact became manifest, seize upon the forts and the arms and the munitions of war, and raise the cry "to your tents, oh, Israel! and to the God of battles be this issue.'
WILLARD SAULSBURY [Del.].-I do not rise, Mr. President, for the purpose of protracting this unnecessary and most unfortunate debate, but simply to say, in the presence of the representatives of the different States, that my State, having been the first to adopt the Constitution, will be the last to do any act or countenance any act calculated to lead to the separation of the States of this glorious Union. She has shared too much of its blessings; her people performed too much service in achieving the glorious liberties which we now enjoy, and in establishing the Constitution under which we live, to cause any son of hers to raise his hand against those institutions or against that Union. Sir, when that Union shall be destroyed by the
madness and folly of others (if, unfortunately, it shall be so destroyed), it will be time enough then for Delaware and her representatives to say what will be her course. [Applause in the galleries.]
The effect of the President's message was most disastrous upon the prestige of the United States abroad. Said the London Times, on January 9, 1861:
Never for many years can the United States be to the world what they have been. Mr. Buchanan's message has been a greater blow to the American people than all the rants of the Georgian governor or the "ordinances" of the Charleston convention. The President has dissipated the idea that the States which elected him constitute one people. We had thought that the federation was of the nature of a nationality; we find that it is nothing more than a partnership.
During the entire session the President's message formed a subject of incidental discussion in the debates on more specific questions.
On January 3, 1861, Senator Stephen A. Douglas [Ill.] spoke as follows:
FEDERAL PROPERTY INTEREST IN THE SECEDED STATES
I do not know that I can find a more striking illustration of this doctrine of secession than was suggested to my mind when reading the President's last annual message. My attention was first arrested by the remarkable passage, that the Federal Government had no power to coerce a State back into the Union if she did secede; and my admiration was unbounded when I found, a few lines afterwards, a recommendation to appropriate money to purchase the island of Cuba. It occurred to me instantly what a brilliant achievement it would be to pay Spain $300,000,000 for Cuba, and immediately admit the island into the Union as a State and let her secede and reannex herself to Spain the next day, when the Spanish Queen would be ready to sell the island again for half price, or double price, according to the gullibility of the purchaser! [Laughter.]
During my service in Congress it was one of my pleasant duties to take an active part in the annexation of Texas; and,
at a subsequent session, to write and introduce the bill which made Texas one of the States of the Union. Out of that annexation grew the war with Mexico, in which we expended $100,000,000, and were left to mourn the loss of about ten thousand as gallant men as ever died upon a battlefield for the honor and glory of their country! We have since spent millions of money to protect Texas against her own Indians, to establish forts and fortifications to protect her frontier settlements, and to defend her against the assaults of all enemies until she became strong enough to protect herself. We are now called upon to acknowledge that Texas has a moral, just, and constitutional right to rescind the act of admission into the Union; repudiate her ratification of the resolutions of annexation; seize the forts and public buildings which were constructed with our money; appropriate the same to her own use, and leave us to pay $100,000,000 and mourn the death of the brave men who sacrificed their lives in defending the integrity of her soil. In the name of Hardin, and Bissell, and Harris, and of the seven thousand gallant spirits from Illinois who fought bravely upon every battlefield of Mexico I protest against the right of Texas to separate herself from this Union without our consent.