Изображения страниц


On the 9th of November, 1860, Mr. Horace Greeley, the great apostle of the Republican party, and who was often referred to during Mr. Lincoln's administration as the "power behind the throne -greater than the throne itself "-said in his paper, the New York Tribune:

"If the Cotton States consider the value of the Union debatable, we maintain their perfect right to discuss it; nay, we hold with Jefferson, to the inalienable right of communities to alter or abolish forms of government that have become oppressive or injurious; and if the Cotton States decide that they can do better out of the Union than in it, we insist on letting them go in peace. The right to secede may be a revolutionary one, but it exists nevertheless; and we do not see how one party can have a right to do what another party has a right to prevent."

On the 17th of December, 1860, just three days before the secession of South Carolina, he again said in the Tribune:

"If it (the Declaration of Independence) justified the secession from the British Empire of three millions of colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not justify the secession of five millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861. If we are mistaken on this point, why does not some one attempt to show wherein and why?"

Again, on February the 23rd, 1861, five days after the inauguration of President Davis at Montgomery, he said:

"We have repeatedly said, and we once more insist, that the great principle embodied by Jefferson in the Declaration of American Independence that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed-is sound and just, and if the Slave States, the Cotton States, or the Gulf States only, choose to form an independent nation, they have a clear moral right to do so."

And we know that this man was one of the foremost of our oppressors. during the war, although his kindness to Mr. Davis and others after the war, we think, showed that he knew he had done wrong. And yet, he had the audacity (and may we not justly add

mendacity, too?) to say, after the war, that he never at any moment of his life had "imagined that a single State, or a dozen States, could rightfully dissolve the Union." Comment is surely unnecessary.

On November the 9th, 1860, the New York Herald said:

"Each State is organized as a complete government, holding the purse and wielding the sword; possessing the right to break the tie of the confederation as a nation might break a treaty, and to repel coercion as a nation might repel invasion. . . . Coercion, if it were possible, is out of the question."

Both President Buchanan and his Attorney-General, the afterwards famous Edwin M. Stanton, decided about the same time that there was no power under the Constitution to coerce a seceding State.


[ocr errors]

But this "Massachusetts heresy," as the writer before quoted from calls the right of secession, was not only entertained, as we have shown, at the North before the war, but has been expressed in the same section in no uncertain terms long since the war. In an article by Benjamin J. Williams, Esq., a distinguished writer of Massachusetts, entitled "Died for Their State," and published in the Lowell Sun of June 5th, 1886, he says, among other things: "When the original thirteen Colonies threw off their allegiance to Great Britain, they became independent States, independent of her and of each other." "The recognition was of the States separately, each by name, in the treaty of peace which terminated the war of the Revolution. And that this separate recognition was deliberate and intentional, with the distinct object of recognizing the States as separate sovereignties, and not as one nation, will sufficiently appear by reference to the sixth volume of Bancroft's History of the United States. The Articles of Confederation between the States declared, that 'each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence.' And the Constitution of the United States, which immediately followed, was first adopted by the States in convention, each State acting for itself, in its sovereign and in

dependent capacity, through a convention of its people. And it was by this ratification that the Constitution was established, to use its own words, between the States so ratifying the same.' It is then a compact between the States as sovereigns, and the Union created by it is a federal partnership of States, the Federal Government being their common agent for the transaction of the Federal business within the limits of the delegated powers."


This able writer then illustrates the compact between the States by the principles of law governing ordinary co-partnerships, just as Mr. Webster did. And he then says:

Now, if a partnership between persons is purely voluntary, and subject to the will of its members severally, how much more so is one between sovereign States? and it follows that, just as each, separately, in the exercise of its sovereign will, entered the Union, so may it separately, in the exercise of that will, withdraw therefrom. And further, the Constitution being a compact, to which the States are parties, having no common judge,' 'each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode of measure and redress,' as declared by Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison in the celebrated resolutions of '98, and the right of secession irresistibly follows."

"But aside from the doctrine either of partnership or compact, upon the ground of State sovereignty pure and simple, does the right of secession impregnably rest.”

We have quoted thus fully from this writer not only because he is a Northern man, but because he has stated both the facts and the principles underlying the formation of the Union, and the rights of the States therein, with an accuracy, clearness and force, that cannot be surpassed.

But again: In his life of Webster, published in 1899, Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge, from whom we have before quoted, and who is at this time one of the distinguished senators from Massachusetts, uses this language in speaking of Mr. Webster's reply to Mr. Hayne. He says:

"The weak places in his (Webster's) armor were historical in their nature. It was probably necessary (at all events Mr. Webster felt it to be so) to argue that the Constitution at the outset was not a compact between the States, but a national instrument, and to distinguish the cases of Virginia and Kentucky in 1799, and of New England in 1814, from that of South Carolina in 1830. The former point he touched upon lightly; the latter he discussed ably, eloquently and at length. Unfortunately the facts were against him in both instances."

And in this connection, Mr. Lodge then uses this language:

"When the Constitution was adopted by the votes of the States at Philadelphia, and accepted by the votes of the States in popular convention, it is safe to say that there was not a man in the country, from Washington and Hamilton on the one side to George Clinton and George Mason on the other, who regarded the new system as anything but an experiment entered into by the States, and from which each nd eaery State had the right peaceably to withdraw a right which was very likely to be exercised."

Mr. James C. Carter, now of New York, but a native of New England, and perhaps the most distinguished lawyer in this country to-day, in a speech delivered by him at the University of Virginia, in 1898, said:

"I may hazard the opinion that if the question had been made, not in 1860, but in 1788, immediately after the adoption of the Constitution, whether the Union as formed by that instrument could lawfully treat the secession of a State as rebellion, and suppress it by force, few of those who participated in forming that instrument would have answered in the affirmative.”


And we should never forget this pregnant and, we think, conclusive fact in regard to this question, namely: the conduct of the North after the war in regard to Mr. Davis, General Lee, and others of our leaders. As is well known, Mr. Davis was indicted three times in their own courts upon charges which directly and necessarily involved a decision of the right of a State to secede from the

Union. Immediately on the finding of these indictments, he (through his eminent Northern as well as Southern counsel) appeared at the bar of the court and demanded a speedy trial, in order that he might judicially vindicate his course and that of his people before the world. This right of trial was postponed by the Federal Government for nearly three years. During two of these years, he was confined in a casemate at Fortress Monroe and subjected to indignities and tortures, by which it was attempted to break the spirit of the distinguished captive; and at the same time to degrade the people whom he represented, and for whom he was a vicarious sufferer. It is hardly necessary to say, that this conduct is to-day universally regarded as not only unworthy of the representatives of the government which held Mr. Davis as its prisoner, but that it has made a page in its history of which it ought to be, and we believe is, ashamed.

When at last the Government consented to try the case, it declined to meet the question involved, in its own chosen tribunal; and having been advised by the best lawyers and statesmen at the North that the decision must be against the North and in favor of the South, in order to evade the issue, Chief Justice (Chase) himself suggested a technical bar to the prosecution, which was adopted and the cases dismissed. The South was entirely in the power of the North, and could do nothing but accept this, their own confession that they were wrong and that the South was right.


And so we say, our comrades, that just because the States of the South did, in the most regular and deliberate way, exercise their constitutional and legal right to withdraw from a compact which they had never violated, but which the Northern States had confessedly violated time and again, a right which, as we have seen, was not only recognized by the leading statesmen of the North, but which it had threatened on several occasions to put into execution— we say, just because the Southern States did take this perfectly legal step in a legal way, these same people of the North, with Abraham Lincoln as their head, proceeded, as we shall pres

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »