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three claiming to be sovereign States, and on the express ground that the coercion proposed was not legal, proves that such was the view taken and acted on some time after the question had been fairly raised and discussed. Arkansas also, by the regular and constitutional exercise of her lawful powers,
dissolved the connection. Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri refused to join in coercing the Southern States on the same ground. Surely, without some strong authority, the force of which has never been disputed — the mere assertion in speeches and newspapers, that all this deliberate action is rebellion, cannot be accepted as having a legal or moral force with any one who has the slightest acquaintance with the political action of history. We have, as a fact, fourteen States openly dissolving the Union, and in a formal manner seceding from the general body of the nation. How, then, even in the popular view of vote by majority, can there remain a sufficient quorum to make up the constitutional number for a legislative act? We cannot, therefore, on all these grounds, resist the conclusion that, as a fact, the United States exist no longer; that there is no such government as the Union; and that the exercise of power as such, and on the supposition of a status quo, is
unfounded in law and unsupported by any principle whether of national or general jurisprudence.
There cannot be a better illustration of the position I have laid down, that the power claimed and exercised, where possible, is a mere absolutism, acquiesced in because in accordance with the present feeling and bias of the masses, than the proceedings now taking place in Baltimore with regard to the forcible suspension of habeas corpus. Judge Tarney there plainly asserts that the President, by sanctioning the arrest of Merriman, and refusing to deliver him up on the writ of the judicature, “ has trampled the laws of the country under foot,” and I imagine few Englishmen would be found to gainsay it.
The whole course of the argument based on what is supposed to be the principle of the American constitution, results in this : that the consent of the people is requisite for every act and every form of government. What the peculiar force of State rights and Federal rights may be, depends apparently on individual cases, and have been the most fiercely argued, without any apparent definite solution but that the people are the source of all power, and that to them must inevitably be referred, as arbiters, every question of public policy, is the only tangible principle to be found.
Until then the
action of Government has been so indorsed and ratified it wants its proper stamp; and upon that and that alone depends the legality and sufficiency of its action. Does any one presume to assert that this has been done? The legislators and philosophers seem to take it for granted, that, in providing for the strength and greatness of the state they sufficiently provide for the happiness of the people, and cant about the duty of sacrificing everything to a country, the laws of which they will not permit to be peaceably put in force.
Senator Wade, of Ohio, declared, the evening the Kansas-Nebraska Bill passed, in 1854, “Henceforth there can be no political connection with the whigs of the South. An impassable gulf separates us. The North must pass under the yoke again. But not for long. No man can see the consequence of the deed about to be done. The future of the Republic is shrouded in gloom. All further compromises are at an end. The war must be carried on by the North with a resolute and uncompromising obstinacy, until things shall be put in statu quo ante bellum. I will appeal to the people and stimulate them to action, consoled by the assurance that if offences must come there is woe for those through whom they come.'
Now, what is the inference to be drawn from all this assertion of rights and privileges of the free North? Why, surely, that these very gentlemen who are now ostensibly the leaders of public opinion in the Federal Government, who are most of them in actual office, and all of them the supporters of the Lincoln programme, not more than six years ago, openly advocated the doctrine, and advised the course on their own side of the question, which when taken by the other they denounce as treason, rebellion, and fratricide. Do they suppose the people of England cannot see these things, or if they see them will not heed ?
Constitutionally speaking, according to the law of the United States, the Southern Confederation had an indefeasible right to withdraw from the Union, and had exercised that right legally. The position which the President assumed for the Northern section as constituting the State, and the Southern as in rebellion, is not founded either in fact or in reason. In plain truth, the exact expression is embodied in the witticism that the United States are become Untied. I now propose to test the proceedings of the Electoral Government in support of my proposition. Has there been any act of the legislature passed to define the relative
positions of the two contending sections ? Not one. Has there been any declaration or State paper issued for the information of foreign Governments, or, in fact, any other than their own dependents, as to the rights claimed by the Government, the laws violated by the seceding States, or the legal powers by which the President and his Government are authorised in restraining by armed force a resistance against his rule ? Not one. We are left to gather all these most vital points from speeches delivered irregularly, and often most obscurely worded, before tumultuous meetings. All the acts done are solely on the authority of the President quâ President of the United States, by the plenary power of himself alone, without any action of what in every people, government, or nation under the sun is supposed to represent the will of the body politic.* Even the autocrats of Russia have never, in their proudest day of power, wielded so despotic a sway. What, then, is the secret of its easy adoption so far? It is the taking the lead in the onward rush of the mob, the embodiment into political action of the passions which rage in the minds of the masses ; not the deliberate march of authority legally con
* The Congress of 1861 begins by recognising this in passing an Act to legalise the present proceedings up to the date of July.