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Government; and while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice.
“At the same time the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon the vital question affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by the decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, as in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own masters, unless baving to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.
“Nor is there in this view any assault upon the Court or the Judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink, to decide cases properly brought before them; and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes. One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended; and this is the only substantial dispute ; and the fugitive slave clause of the Constitution, and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave-trade, are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports the law itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, can not be perfectly cured, and it would be worse in both cases after the separation of the sections than before. The foreign slave-trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived, without restriction, in one section; while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at all by the other.
" Physically speaking we can not separate ; we can not
remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country can not do this. They can not but remain face to face; and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before ? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws ? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends ? Suppose you go to war, you can not fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you.
“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I can not be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the National Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendment, I fully recognize the full authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself, and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose, a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it.
“I will venture to add, that to me the Convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish either to accept or refuse. I under
Serious Injury Impossible.
stand that a proposed amendment to the Constitution (which amendment, however, I have not seen) has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments, so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.
"The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have conferred none upon him to fix the terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves, also, can do this if they choose, but the Executive, as such, bas nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present government as it came to his hands, and to transmit it unimpaired by him to his successor. Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences is either party without faith of being in the right ? If the Almighty Ruler of nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail by the judgment of this great tribunal, the American people. By the frame of the government under which we live, this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief, and have with equal wisdom provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals.. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years.
“My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.
Precipitate Action Unwarrantable,
A Government at Last.
“If there be an object to hurry any of you, in hot haste, to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time : but no good object can be frustrated by it.
"Such of you as are now dissatisfied, still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either.
“If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there is still no single reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who bas never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulties.
"In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Gov. ernment will not assail you.
“ You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the Government; while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect, and defend' it.
“I am loath to close. We are not evemies, but friends We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
" The mystic cords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and bearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
One point was established, at least, by this inaugural, whatever uncertainties might cluster about it—we had, at last, a Government. No Buchanan ruled the hour. Loyal men of every shade breathed more freely. At the same time, the whole drift was toward securing, if possible, an honorable reconciliation. If, after this lucid, temperate statement of
The New Cabinet.
the plans and purposes of the new Administration, the blow must fall, which all wished to avoid, it was encouraging to feel-as every one who heard Mr. Lincoln on that eventful day must have felt that a man was at the helm who had firm faith that the organic law, so far from providing for the dissolution of the Union, had vitality and force within itself sufficient to defend the nation against dangers from within as well as from without.
The announcement of the President's cabinet, likewisecomposed, as it was, of the ablest men in his own party, the majority of whom had been deemed worthy of presentation as candidates for the high office which he held—imparted confidence to all who wished well to the country. The able pen of the Secretary of State was at once called into requisition to communicate, through the newly appointed ministers abroad, the true state of affairs to the European powers. As speedily as possible the Departments were purged of disloyal officials, although the deceptions and subterfuges which constituted a goodly portion of the stock in trade of the rebellion rendered this a work of more time than was satisfactory to many.
The Davis dynasty, at Montgomery, having, on the 9th of March, passed an act to organize a Confederate army, two persons—one from Alabama and the other from Georgia, announced themselves, three days later, as “Confederate Commissioners,” accredited for the purpose of negotiating a treaty. The President declined to recognize these “ Commissioners,” who were referred to a copy of his inaugural en'losed for a full statement of his views.
On the 21st of March, Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia, Vice-President of the Montgomery traitors, up to that time regarded as one of the most moderate-as he certainly was one of the ablest of the conspirators, in a speech at Savannah, silenced all questionings as to the intent of himself and co-workers.
He said on that occasion :