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and thus secure advantages which the sober judgment and enlightened consciences of the country would never yield ? Mr. President, I have never calculated the value of the Union. Nor are these the sentiments of Ohio alone. They are the sentiments of the people throughout the free States. Here and there the arts or the fears of politicians or capitalists may suppress their utterance, but they live, and will live, in the hearts of the many. It may be, however, that you will succeed here in sacrificing the claims of freedom by some settlement carried through the forms of legislation; but the people will unsettle your settlement. It may be that you will determine that the territories shall not be secured by law against the ingress of slavery; the people will reverse your determination. It may be that you will succeed in burying the ordinance of freedom; but the people will write upon its tomb, “Resurgam:' and the same history which records its resurrection may also inform posterity that they who fancied they had killed the proviso, only committed political suicide.”
Such was the view taken by the most able as well as the most temperate of the statesmen who then swayed public opinion. They considered the Government was trustee for the whole nation, and that law and constitutional right should govern the
decision of the legislature, and not the peculiar feeling or conscience of any party or section. Curiously enough, the argument that the States had a right to exercise such a resistance and controverting power to the general Government, as is now asserted and acted on in self-defence by the South, was brought forward then by the very men who now so loudly denounce it.
Here are their solemn appeals to Congress :
Mr. Wade:-“ If this great people cannot find it to be their common interest to keep together, I know full well they will not remain united. The very moment a majority of the North and South shall find that it is incompatible with their interest to be united, they will separate, and nothing can prevent it. Let me assure gentlemen that nothing will lead to such a result sooner than the introduction of bills of this description, without any regard to the feelings and principles of the free North."
Mr. W. H. Seward said :—“I warn you, senators, that you are saving this Union at a fearful cost. This is a republican government, the first and only one that has ever been widely and permanently successful. Every man in this country, every man in Christendom, who knows anything of the philosophy of government, knows that this Republic has been thus successful only by reason of the stability, strength, and greatness of the individual States. You are saving the union of those States by tapping and undermining the columns on which it rests. You reply to all this, that there is a newly-developed necessity for this act of Federal aggrandisement."
Mr. Sumner said :-“ Suffice it to say that it is an intrusive and offensive encroachment on State rights, calculated to intervent the power of the States in the protection of the liberties of their citizens. This Act is made the occasion of a new assault on State rights. It is an assumption, by Congress, of power not delegated to it under the constitution, and an infraction of rights secured to the States. For myself, let me say that I look with no pleasure on any possibility of conflict between the State and national jurisdictions, but I trust that if the interests of freedom so require, the States will not hesitate.”
August 12th.—Mr. Berrion, of Georgia, in the U.S. Senate, said :-“But this much I have to say, that whether secession be a right, resulting from the nature of our federal compact, or must be considered as revolutionary in its nature—the ultima ratio of an oppressed people; whether it result from the provisions of the constitution, or belong to the principle of self-government; whether it be one or the other, whether it be a right to be exercised under the constitution, or an act amounting to revolution
whichever it be, whenever two, three, four, or half a dozen States of the Union shall resolve upon performing that act, call it what you will, whether revolution, or constitutional and peaceful retirement from the Union, whenever that act shall be performed the Union will be at an end. I do not know if the enunciation of this opinion may constitute treason; I do not know if it indicates that I am a disunionist; if the first, I have to say that the treason to which it may amount is of modern date, and should be comprised among the irregularities which attend the admission of California; if the latter, if it be supposed to be the opinion of a disunionist, I have only to appeal to the history of my past life, humble and unambitious as it has been, and as it will be, to repel so unfounded an imputation. It is because of my attachment and devotion to the Union that I express the opinion. It is because of my fear that the measure which you are passing may drive some of these States to an act which will, in my judgment, inevitably result in disunion; it is because of these apprehensions that I venture to express to you this opinion and these fears. I ask you, then, to pause. I have said to you before that I do not believe this Union can be preserved by the use of bayonets; I do not believe the menace of military force in any
possible contingency is calculated to allay the excited feelings of the American people. No, Sir; the disunionist is that man who uses the means by which the existing excitement, even though it were misguided, may be increased to an extent which will place the question of the Union beyond our control. Your army and your navy have been referred to to alarm us. Sir, they can enforce your laws upon individuals; but your military force, great as it is, can never coerce sovereign States to remain in this Union, when they have resolved no longer to do so. I know their gallantry and their patriotism; and especially I know, and am willing to render a cheerful tribute to, the skill, and gallantry, and patriotism, and the public and private virtues of the distinguished man at the head of that army, with whom the South has been menaced. Sir, that distinguished chieftain has been victorious on many a field; his military life has been a series of triumphs ; but there is one battle-field-God forbid that he should ever be called to it—on which he has never won, on which he can never win, a trophy. That is the field on which, commanding American soldiers, he shall encounter American citizens battling in defence of their insulted home and violated rights.”
Mr. Pratt, Maryland :-“I read this morning the abstract of a speech delivered by a member of