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The President's Message.
by events over which he could have exercised no control? Such at the present moment, is the case throughout the State of South Carolina, so far as the laws of the United States to secure the administration of justice by means of the Federal Judiciary are concerned. All the Federal officers within its limits, through whose agency alone these laws can be carried into execution, have already resigned. We no longer have a District- Judge, a District-Attorney, or a Marshal, in South Carolina. In fact, the whole machinery of the Federal Government necessary for the distribution of remedial justice among the people has been demolished, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to replace it.
"The only acts of Congress on the statute-book, bearing upon this subject, are those of the 28th February, 1795, and 3d March, 1807. These authorize the President, after he shall have ascertained that the marshal, with his posse comitatus, is unable to execute civil or criminal process in any particular case, to call forth the militia and employ the army and navy to aid him in performing this service, having first by Proclamation commanded the insurgents to 'disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes, within a limited time.' This duty cannot by possibility be performed in a State where no judicial authority exists to issue process, and where there is no marshal to execute it, and where, even if there were such an officer, the entire population would constitute one solid combination to resist him.
"The bare enumeration of these provisions proves how inadequate they are without further legislation to overcome a united opposition in a single State, not to speak of other States who may place themselves in a similar attitude. Congress alone has power to decide whether the present laws can or cannot be amended so as to carry out more effectually the objects of the Constitution.
Apart from the execution of the laws, so far as this may be practicable, the Executive has no authority to decide what shall be the relations between the Federal Government and South Carolina. He has been invested with no such discretion. He possesses no power to change the relations heretofore existing between them, much less to acknowledge the independence of that State. This would be to invest a mere Executive officer with the power of recognizing the dissolution of the Confederacy among our thirty-three sovereign States. It bears no resemblance to the recognition of a foreign de facto Government, involving no such responsibility. Any attempt to do this would, on his part, be a naked act of usurpation. It is, therefore, my duty to submit to Congress the whole question in all its bearings. The course of events is so rapidly hastening forward, that the emergency may soon arise, when you may be called upon to decide the momentous question whether you possess the power, by force of arms, to compel a State to remain in the Union. I should feel myself recreant to my duty were I not to express an opinion on this important subject.
'The question fairly stated is :-Has the Constitution delegated to Congress the power to coerce a State into submission which is attempting to withdraw, or has actually withdrawn, from the Confede racy? If answered in the affirmative, it must be on the principle that the power has been conferred upon Congress to declare and to make war against a State. After much serious reflection, I have arrived at the conclusion that no such power has been delegated to Congress, or to any other department of the Federal Government. It is manifest, upon an inspection of the Constitution, that this is not among the specific and enumerated powers granted to Congress; and it is equally apparent that its exercise is not necessary and proper for carrying into execu tion' any one of these powers. So far from this power having been delegated to Congress, it was expressly refused by the Convention which framed the Constitution.
"The same insuperable obstacles do not lie in the way of executing the laws for the collection of the customs. The revenue still continues to be collected, as heretofore, at the Custom-House in Charleston; and should the Collector unfortunately resign, a successor may be appointed to perform this duty. "Then, in regard to the property of the United States in South Carolina. This has been purchased for a fair equivalent, by the consent of the Legislature of the State,' 'for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals,' &c., and over these the authority "It appears from the proceedings of that body, 'to exercise exclusive legislation' has been express-that on the 31st May, 1787, the clause authorizing ly granted by the Constitution to Congress. It is not believed that any attempt will be made to expel the United States from this property by force; but if in this I should prove to be mistaken, the officer
an exertion of the force of the whole against a delinquent State,' came up for consideration. Mr. Madison opposed it in a brief but powerful speech. from which I shall extract but a single sentence.
The President's Mesage
THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE.
The President's Mes sage.
The use of | served, render us the most pow-
He observed: force against a State would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment; and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.' Upon his motion, the clause was unanimously postponed, and was never, I believe, again presented. Soon afterward, on the 8th June, 1787, when incidentally adverting to the subject, he said: Any Government for the United States, formed on the supposed practicability of using force against the unconstitutional proceedings of the States, would prove as visionary and fallacious as the Government of Congress,' evidently meaning the then existing Congress of the old Confederation. "Without descending to particulars, it may be safely asserted that the power to make war against a State is at variance with the whole spirit and intent of the Constitution. Suppose such a war should result in the conquest of a State, how are we to govern it afterward? Shall we hold it as a province, and govern it by despotic power? In the nature of things we could not, by physical force, control the will of the people, and compel them to elect Senators and Representatives to Congress, and to perform all the other duties depending upon their own volition, and required from the free citizens of a free State, as a constituent member of the Confederacy.
"But, if we possessed this power, would it be wise to exercise it under existing circumstances? The object would doubtless be to preserve the Union. War would not only present the most effectual means of destroying it, but would banish all hope of its peaceable reconstruction. Besides, in the fraternal conflict, a vast amount of blood and treasure would be expended, rendering future reconciliation between the States impossible. In the meantime, who can foretell what would be the sufferings and privations of the people during its existence?
"It is not every wrong-nay, not every grievous wrong-which can justify a resort to such a fearful alternative. This ought to be the last desperate remedy of a despairing people, after every other constitutional means of conciliation had been exhausted. We should reflect that under this free Government there is an incessant ebb and flow in public opinion. The Slavery question, like everything human, will have its day. I firmly believe that it has already reached and passed its culminating point. But if, in the midst of the existing excitement, the Union shall perish, the evil may then become irreparable. Congress can contribute much to avert it by proposing and recommending to the Legislatures of the several States the remedy for existing evils, which the Constitution has itself provided for its own preservation. This has been tried at different critical periods of our history, and always with eminent success. It is to be found in the 5th article providing for its own amendment. Under this article amendments have been proposed by two-thirds of both Houses of Congress, and have been 'ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States,' and have consequently become parts of the Constitution. To this process the country is indebted for the clause prohibiting Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or of the right of petition. To this we are, also, indebt
The fact is, that our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it cannot live in the affections of the people, it must one day perish.ed for the Bill of Rights, which secures the people Congress possess many means of preserving it by conciliation; but the sword was not placed in their hand to preserve it by force.
against any abuse of power by the Federal Government. Such were the apprehensions justly entertained by the friends of State rights at that period as to have rendered it extremely doubtful whether the Constitution could have long survived without these amendments.
"But may I be permitted solemnly to invoke my countrymen to pause and deliberate, before they determine to destroy this, the grandest temple which has ever been dedicated to human freedom since the "Again, the Constitution was amended by the world began? It has been consecrated by the blood same process after the election of President Jeffer of our fathers, by the glories of the past, and by the son by the House of Representatives, in February, hopes of the future. The Union has already made 1803. This amendment was rendered necessary to us the most prosperous, and, ere long, will, if pre-prevent a recurrence of the dangers which had seri
The President's Mes
The President's Message.
ously threatened the existence | Constitution has already been
of the Government during the pendency of that election. The article for its own amendment was intended to secure the amicable adjustment of conflicting constitutional questions like the present, which might arise between the Governments of the States and that of the United States. This appears from cotemporaneous history. In this connection, I shall merely call attention to a few sentences in Mr. Madison's justly celebrated report in 1799 to the Legislature of Virginia. In this he ably and conclusively defended the resolutions of the preceding Legislature against the strictures of several other State Legislatures. These were mainly founded upon the protest of the Virginia Legislature against the Alien and Sedition Acts,' as 'palpable and alarming infractions of the Constitution.' In pointing out the peaceful and constitutional remedies, and he referred to none other, to which the States were authorized to resort on such occasions, he concludes by saying, 'that the Legislatures of the States might have made a direct representation to Congress with a view to obtain a rescinding of the two offensive acts, or they might have represented to their respective Senators in Congress their wish that two-thirds thereof would propose an explanatory amendment to the Constitution, or two-thirds of themselves, if such had been their option, might, by an application to Congress, have obtained a convention for the same object.' "This is the very course which I earnestly recommend in order to obtain an explanatory amendment' of the Constitution on the subject of Slavery. This might originate with Congress or the State Legislatures, as may be deemed most advisable to attain the object.
"The explanatory amendment might be confined to the final settlement of the true construction of the Constitution on three special points:
"1. An express recognition of the right of property in slaves in the States where it now exists or may hereafter exist.
"2. The duty of protecting this right in all the common Territories throughout their territorial existence, and until they shall be admitted as States into the Union, with or without Slavery, as their Constitutions may prescribe.
"3. A like recognition of the right of the master to have his slave, who has escaped from one State to another, restored and delivered up' to him, and of the validity of the Fugitive Slave law enacted for this purpose, together with a declaration that all
State laws impairing or defeating this right are violations of the Constitution, and are consequently
null and void.
"It ought not to be doubted that such an appeal to the arbitrament established by the Constitution itself would be received with favor by all the States of the Confederacy. In any event, it ought to be tried in a spirit of conciliation before any of these States shall separate themselves from the Union.
"When I entered upon the duties of the Presidential office, the aspect neither of our foreign nor do- . mestic affairs was at all satisfactory. We were involved in dangerous complications with several nations, and two of our Territories were in a state of revolution against the Government. A restoration of the African slave-trade had numerons and powerful advocates. Unlawful military expeditions were countenanced by many of our citizens, and were suffered, in defiance of the efforts of the Government, to escape from our shores, for the purpose of making war upon the unoffending people of neighboring republics with whom we were at peace. In addition to these and other difficulties, we experienced a revulsion in monetary affairs, soon after my advent to power, of unexampled severity and of ruinous consequences to all the great interests of the country. When we take a retrospect of what was then our condition, and contrast this with its material prosperity at the time of the late Presidential election, we have abundant reason to return our grateful thanks to that merciful Providence which has never forsaken us as a nation in all our past trials." In the house its reading was followed by a motion by Mr. Boteler, of Virginia, as follows: Resolved, That so much of the President's Message as relates to the present perilous condi
tion of the country, be referred to a special committee of one from each State, with leave to report at any time.
This, after several amendments and substitutes had been offered, was adopted—the last clause," with leave to report at any time," being omitted.* The vote stood, on its adop
*One of the substitutes offered by Mr. McClernand
"It may be objected that this construction of the of Illinois, was as follows:
CLING MAN'S DISUNION SPEECH.
tion, 145 to 38; not voting, 52. This latter nutaber embraced all the South Carolina delegation, and most of the delegations from Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. The reason openly offered by these members was, that their States had, in their sovereign capacities, ordered conventions to consider this very question of Federal Relations, and that they alone had power to settle the matter. This very position was, in itself, a direct avowal of a purpose to thwart all legislation looking to settlement or compromise. The Florida member added to his excuse for not voting, that "he was against all compromises now, as he had been in times past." We may remark that, with one or two personal exceptions, up to the time of the withdrawal of these delegations from Congress, after the passage of secession ordinances in their respective States, they studiously and persistently struggled against compromise, and sought by all possible means to prevent legislation looking to that end.
Union Resolution Rejected.
Mr. Morris, of Illinois,
ed leave to introduce it:-
Ruffin, of North Carolina, and other South. ern members, streneously opposed its introduction. To stay the consideration of the resolution, an adjournment was moved and carried.
This first day's proceedings indicated pretty clearly the predetermined disunion character of the Southern opposition. It became painfully apparent that no settlement or compromise was wanted.
In the Senate, the opposition assumed the shape of a violent attack upon the President's Message by Mr. Clingman, of North Carolina. He regarded submission as impossible on the part of the South, asserting that Mr. Lincoln was elected because he was a dangerous man-that he was taken up to make war on the South. The President said truly that, in the hands of the Senate and House, Mr. Lincoln would be powerless for harm; but the Speaker said the same majority which elected him would soon entirely control both houses. Against the rule of a majority he disclaimed the Constitution never contemplated such a state of affairs as a sectional majority." The course of the South, he maintained, was one of defence. He thought South Carolina "had shown commendable patience." He said, in regard to the Border State conservatism :
Gentlemen say that these Border States have the most reason to complain. But what has been the past history of the country? We all know that in 1850, when there was a great struggle going on to get a fuir settlement, which would have placed the South in a fair position, the Border States were the first to leave us in the struggle. They were the first to be satisfied with the Fugitive Slave law. I do not mean to say that all of them did, for the Senators from Virginia were not satisfied so well. And again, last winter, the State of South Carolina sent a Commissioner to Virginia. There was a great howl from the Press, North and South, of Unionism, and Virginia was called upon not to go into any of the South Carolina disunion schemes. I think it unfortunate that no action was taken then. Their position is like two persons who have received contempt, and one says that the other shall not go away, for then
"Resolved, That so much of the President's annual message as relates to the matters of grievance between the States, and the proposal by Congress of amendments to the Constitution of the United States for the ratification of the several States, and to the question of State secession from the Federal Union, be referred to a select committee, to consist of one from each State, to be appointed by the Speaker; and that such committee be instructed to inquire and report by bill, or by proposing an amendment or emendments to the Constitution of the United States, or otherwise, upon such subject; and particularly whether any further legislation or amend-all the blows will fall upon him, and wants the other ment of the Constitution is necessary to give prompt, certain and full effect to the last clause of the second section of the fourth Article of the Constitution, concerning the return of fugitives from service or labor.
to stand by him. If any foreign power had treated us so, we should have had war immediately. Gen. tlemen talk about the repeal of these laws, but I am free to say that such repeal would not be satisfactory to
the State from which I came. I do not see how any | turned loose to speculate on the foundations Southern man can make that proposition."
He thought the wisest thing Congress could do would be to divide the public property fairly. He did not understand the President's purpose to collect the revenue when he confessed his want of power to coerce a seceded State. He thought it was not right to wait for any overt act of Mr. Lincoln, who, he thought, would try to provoke a fight between the people of the South. He added:
"They want to get up a free debate, as the Senator from New York (Mr. Seward) expressed it, in one of his speeches. But a Senator from Texas told me the other day that a great many of these free debaters were hanging from the trees of that country. I have no doubt they would run off a great many slaves from the Border States, so as to make them Free States, and then, Sir, when the overt act was struck, we should have a hard struggle. I say, therefore, that our policy is not to let this thing continue. That, I think, is the opinion of North Carolina. I think the party for immediate secession is gaining ground rapidly. It is idle for men to shut their eyes to consequences like this, if anything can be done to avert the evil while we have the power to do it." This speech, coming from
a North Carolina man, somewhat surprised the Senate. It proved how deep-seated the disunion disease had struck. Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, replied, deeply regretting the utterance of such sentiments. He plead for Union, conciliation, compromise. He did not wish to make a speech, but could not refrain from expressing the hope that the example of the gentleman would not be followed, and that they would not allow themselves to be involved in any such discussion. They had better not have come at all, if they did not come with the intention to solemnly deliberate in the great questions thus thrust upon us. This Union was established by great sacrifices, and it is as worthy of great sacrifices and great concessions for its maintainAnd he trusted there was no Senator but was willing to yield and conciliate, and to compromise, in order to preserve the Union to the nation and to the country. He looked with dismay, and with something like despair, to the condition of this country when the Union is stricken down, and we shall be
of a new government. He looked at it with fear and trembling, which pre-disposed him to the most solemn consideration that he was capable of feeling, and to search out, if possible, some means for the reconciliation of the different sections and members of this Union, to see if we cannot again restore that harmony and fraternity that belong to the Union, which has given us so much blessing and prosperity. He hoped they should not have anything irritating or angry, when their duties required solemn deliberation and thought. He trusted they would not allow themselves to be involved in angry discussion now; that we should have no expressions to be detailed over and over again. Let us look to the fu ture and the present only to see what can be done to avoid the evil and to lead to the adoption of good feeling in every portion of this House, and see if we cannot arrive at a satisfactory conclusion of the question. He would not now allude any further to any question of the Message; but as to the question of Mr. Lincoln's election being cause for disunion, there is a great diversity of opinion. He did not believe there was a man in the State of Kentucky who was in favor of disunion. They were Union-loving men, and he believed such men were to be found in North Carolina, judging from the noble character of the State and her representatives here. She has always, with the noble firmness in her character, carried the olive branch in her hand, and he hoped the gentleman, on re-consideration, would unite with them, not doubting but that he had as true a respect for the country as any one.
These remarks seemed to reassure the conservatives in the Senate of the cooperation of Mr. Crittenden, and the country looked hopefully to him to pour oil upon the troubled waters.