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they are intelligible. Taken in connection with the steadilyprogressing increase, disclosed each ten years by the census, of population and Congressional votes and consequent political influence in the Free States as compared with the Slave, they disclose, beyond question, the true cause of the gigantic insurrection that has made desolate so many domestic hearths, and spread war and devastation where peace and tranquillity used to reign. It is, of course, not true, that the Northern States, as States, have denied the rights of Southern property, or denounced slavery as sinful. The Convention could only mean that certain citizens of these States had expressed such sentiments; or as they afterward phrase it, that public opinion in the North had given the sanction of religion to a great political error.
I pray you to remark that the South secedes from the Union because of these opinions. She will not remain in fellowship with States in which such opinions are expressed. She holds that men ought not to be allowed to say or to write that slavery is sinful, or that religion does not sanction it. She hangs those who say or write such things within her own borders.* To satisfy her, such opinions must be suppressed also among us. But the Constitution provides that "Congress shall make no law abridging the liberty of speech or of the press." Here is a difficulty. How shall we of the North satisfy a slaveholding South, unless we not only surrender the dearest of a freeman's rights, but also either violate the Constitution, or else amend it so that free thought and free speech shall be among past and forgotten things?
But these outspoken sentiments are not our only offense. We are accused of having elected a President "whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery;" and who believes that "slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction."
Because of the election of such a President, the slaveholders of the South secede. They do not wait to see what he will do. They secede before he is inaugurated. They secede, then, not because of his acts, but because of his opinions.
His opinions on the subject of slavery; the same opinions which, for a century past, have been spreading and swelling into action throughout the civilized world; the same opinions which have taken practical form and shape-which have become law-till not a Christian nation in Europe, Spain alone excepted, stands out against them. Look at the array of names !
"Let an abolitionist come within the borders of South Carolina, if we can catch him we will try him, and notwithstanding all the interference of all the Governments on earth, including the Federal Government, we will hang him."-Senator Preston, in debate in U. S. Senate, January, 1838.
"If chance throw an abolitionist into our hands, he may expect a felon's death." -Senator Hammond of South Carolina, in Senate, 1836.
England led the way. In 1834 she emancipated all her slaves. King Oscar of Sweden followed her example in 1846. Then came Denmark in 1847; France, in 1848; Portugal, in 1856; the vast empire of Russia, in 1862. Finally, with nearly thirty years' experience in English colonies and fifteen years' experience in those of France before her eyes, plain, practical, unimaginative Holland, by a vote in her Chambers of forty-five to seven, gave freedom, with compensation, to her forty-five thousand slaves; to take effect on the first of July next.
And our offense in Southern eyes-an offense so grievous that it is held to justify insurrection and its thousand horrorsour unpardonable sin is, that we have elected a President whose opinions regarding negro servitude are those of all Christendom; whose belief that "slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction," is but the plain inevitable deduction from the last thirty years' history of the civilized world.
Observe, I pray, that in thus setting forth the causes which produced this fratricidal war, I have let the South speak for herself. Nor have I cited against her vagrant opinions, carelessly expressed by her citizens. I have quoted, word for word, from her solemn deliberate " Declaration of Causes;" that document which is to Secessiondom, what the Declaration of Independence was to the United States. Out of her own mouth I have condemned her.
Yet I am not assuming to sit in judgment on her motives. I but show you where the difficulty lies, and how deep-sunk and radical it is. Opinions (she declares) stand in the way. Based on a religious sentiment, these opinions render vain (she says) all hope of remedy; for her Government is founded on opinions diametrically the reverse. And I show you further, that in this she stands alone among the nations calling themselves civilized. Alexander H. Stephens, whom, in February, 1861, she named her Vice President, with commendable frankness admits that she does so. In Savannah, the Mayor presiding, Mr. Stephens, addressing an immense crowd on the 21st of March following his election, spoke thus: "Slavery is the natural and moral condition of the negro. This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”*
Alone she stands! the first government, in the history of the world, founded on the principle-"Slavery is good; slavery is moral; slavery is just ;" the only people in all the eighteen
* Speech of Mr. Stephens as reported in the "Savannah Republican." It is thence copied into " Putnarn's Rebellion Record," vol. i., document 48, pp. 44 to 49. The Republican, in publishing this address, says: "Mr. Stephens took his seat amid a burst of enthusiasm and applause, such as the Athenæum has never had displayed within its walls in the memory of the oldest inhabitant."
centuries since Christ preached justice and mercy, who rose in rebellion because, among their brethren, His religion was appealed to in favor of that emancipation which, within the last thirty years, England, and France, and Sweden, and Denmark, and Portugal, and Russia, and Holland, have all concededa tribute to Christian civilization.
Thus, then. Opinions not carried out in practice-opinions unfavorable to slavery expressed in the North, and held by the President elect-the same opinions that are entertained and have been acted upon by almost every civilized nation-these, according to Southern declaration, were the immediate causes of the war: opinions, not acts; the acts were all the other way. Inaugurated on the 4th of March, 1861, Abraham Lincoln expressly reassumed, in his Message, the ground occupied by himself, and by a large majority of his supporters, before the election. "I have no purpose" (said he), " directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists." He went much further. Alluding, in the same Message, to an amendment to the Constitution, which had passed Congress on the 28th of February, to the effect that no amendment shall ever be made to the Constitution authorizing Congress to interfere with slavery in any State, the President said: "I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable."
This was the first act: an offer sanctioned by Congress, endorsed by the President, so to amend the Constitution, that never, while the world lasted, should the power be given to Congress, by any subsequent amendment, to interfere with slavery.
The scene when, on Mr. Corwin's motion, this amendment passed, is recorded in the newspapers of the day, "As the vote proceeded, the excitement was intense, and on the announcement of the result, the inexpressible enthusiasm of the members and the crowded galleries found vent in uproarious demonstrations. All feel that it is the harbinger of peace.'
Was it the harbinger of peace? Did this concession-bor dering surely on humiliation-a promise, as to slavery, never through all time to amend our acts no matter how we may change our opinions-did this unheard-of concession to the slave interest conciliate the South, or arrest her action? It passed by, like the idle wind. State after State seceded. Security against the encroachment alleged to be intended-the amplest within the bounds of possibility-had, indeed, been offered; but the remedy did not reach the case. Opinions remained unchanged; and the rebellion was against opinions.
*N. Y. Commercial, February 28, 1861.
Men in the North still said that human servitude was sinful. The President still believed that "slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction." No fraternity with such men! No obedience to such a President!
And yet this President, in the same Inaugural from which I have quoted, pushed forbearance to the verge of that boundary beyond which it ceases to be a virtue. "The Government" (he said to the Secessionists already in arms against lawful authorty)" the Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors." And in mild but cogent terms he reminded them of his and their relative situations, and of the final necessity which his position imposed upon him. "You have no oath" (he said) "registered in Heaven to destroy the Government: while I have the most solemn one to preserve, protect, and defend it."
He spoke to the deaf adder. As if they had sworn before God to destroy the Government under which, for eighty years, they had enjoyed prosperity and protection, they became the aggressors. Unassailed by that Government, they opened fire, on the memorable twelfth of April, from the batteries of Charleston, on Fort Sumter.
The echo of that cannonade reverberated throughout the Union. The North rose up, like a strong man from sleep. It needed not the President's Proclamation, issued three days thereafter, to call men forth. In advance of that call, the farmer had left his plow in the furrow; the mechanic had deserted his workshop. The People had taken the war in hand. Such were the causes of this rebellion; such were the acts on either side.
What have been the results? The war, as wars in their commencement always are, was popular. Men engaged in it, as in a new and stirring enterprise men are wont to do, with enthusiasm. Unmingled successes, a prompt and triumphant termination-these, as always happens, were confidently anticipated. But the usual checkered fortunes of war attended our arms; now a victory, now a defeat. The contest was protracted. Visionary hopes of speedy triumph faded away. Then came revulsion of feeling, sinking of spirit. There never was a protracted war in this world, no matter how successful in the end, without just such a reaction. How did the souls of our revolutionary fathers, sore tried, sink within them, year after yearhow often did Washington himself despair-before the final victory that heralded American Independence! England is still one of the greatest nations of the world, proud, powerful, prosperous; yet, during her five years' Peninsular war (in Spain against Napoleon) the depression in England was almost beyond ex
ample. At the commencement of that war the people accepted it with acclamation. Opposite parties in Parliament vied with each other in their zeal to vote men and money. Before a year had passed, how changed was the scene! The retreat and defeat at Corunna (the Bull Run of that year's campaign) plunged the nation in despair. Nothing was talked of but the stupid blunders of the Government, its absurd and contradictory orders, its gross ignorance of the first principles of war. Croakers spoke loudly of the folly of any attempt to check the progress of the French arms in Spain. Universal distrust seized the public mind. The Ministry kept their places with extreme difficulty. But England's pluck bore her through. She spent four hundred and fifty millions a year, bought gold at thirty per cent premium to pay her troops, persevered to the endand conquered: yet not till her Government stocks, ordinarily at 90, had come to stand habitually at 65; nay, before Napoleon was finally conquered, had fallen to 53 (payable in depreciated paper), and had been negotiated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at that rate.
Nor let it be imagined that it was the uninformed masses alone who despaired. The greatest men shared the doubt whether England was not tottering to her destruction. Sir Walter Scott wrote to a friend: "These cursed, double cursed news from Spain have sunk my spirits so much that I am almost at disbelieving a Providence. There is an evil fate upon us in all we do at home or abroad." A letter of Sir James Mackintosh is still more gloomy. "I believe, like you" (he writes to a friend at Vienna), " in a resurrection, because I believe in the immortality of civilization; but a dark and stormy night, a black series of ages, may be prepared for our posterity before the dawn of a better day. The race of man may reach the promised land, but there is no assurance that the present generation will not perish in the wilderness." *
Such is the dark valley, shadowed by despondency, through which even the most powerful nation, once engaged in a great contest of life and death, must consent to travel ere it emerges to the light. If we were not prepared to traverse its depths-if we have not courage to endure even to the end-we ought never to have entered upon the gloomy road at all. Many good men thought, at the outset, that the wiser course was to let the deluded South go in peace. A thousand times better to have done this than to falter and look back now, false to the great task we have undertaken, recreant to the solemn purpose on
* A pamphlet by C. J. Stillé, on this subject, giving many more details, is well worth studying. Its title is, "How a free people conduct a great war." Published by Collins, Philadelphia.