Imágenes de páginas

every covering, it is but the annunciation of the right of the people to choose their servants, indicate their policy, and live under the laws they themselves have created. When you depart from this principle, you forsake the underlying principle of national government; and when this is done, surely you drop out of the nations which exercise an abiding power upon civilization. To enable our country to consummate its destiny, this vital principle, at the risk of weariness of expression, must be kept close to the hearts of the people. It is the golden thread, which at every stage of our national existence, through storm and battle and change, has been held by the patriots to inhere into the very texture of national life. When this principle is abandoned or impaired, “Our own Like free states foregone, is but a bright leaf torn From Time's dark forest, and on the wide gust thrown

To float a while, by varying eddies borne;
And sink at last forever !”

Says Montesquieu: “It is plain, then, that if the government, whether State or Federal, controls or disposes of suffrage, or allows it to be disposed of, without warrant in the Constitution, it strikes at the very vitals of the republic from which it derives its entire existence and power.”

In all the ages, the ruin of free nations has been wrought through the insidious sapping and impairing of the fundamental principle vitalizing the government. I appeal to the historic past as the unerring guide to the future. I am reminded that the power of the Great Republic stretches this year into two hemispheres; that in ships and money and all of the elements of power and grandeur and civilization since the morning stars sang together she has not had her equal. Permit me, sir, to recall to you that the real impairment of the integrity of the governing principle of every historic state dated from the brightest splendor of its existence and not from the hour of its weakness. I call from the solemn past the phantom memories of Greece and Judea and kingly Rome. When the silks and purple and fine linen of Tyre and Sidon were in every market-place, and the light of the star of the Blessed Redeemer was already touching with its holy fires the lofty towers of the Temple of the Living Jehovah, Judea was stricken. When the genius of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, and Euripides held in mortal thrall the intelligence of the world, and the statue of Pallas Athenae and the columned Parthenon looked down on the Piraeus, filled with the ships from the Euxine, the AEgean, and from beyond the Pillars of Hercules, and when the glory from Salamis and Thermopylae thrilled the people and lighted up the beacons of Democracy on Naxos and Delos and the Islands of the Sea, Greece was stricken. When her arms extended from Dacia to the Desert of Libya, and the thunderous tread of her legions shook the known world, and her mariners plucked the fruit from the mystic Garden of the Hesperides, and the oar-beat of her triremes shook the mist of the Hyperborean Seas, and Gaul and Scythian and Christian appealed to her royal power, Rome was stricken. But, sir, the student of the philosophy of government points to the important distinction that Rome and Greece were guarded by the genius of the philosophers, and Judea by the patriarchs, the prophets, and the lawgivers, but that neither Greece nor Rome nor Judea was illumined by the Master, upon whose teachings are founded the principles of the modern state. In reply, sir, Holland, a modern state, is an illustration of the immutable rule that, whether under the teachings of the brows encircled by the chaplet of ivy and laurel or by the Crown of Thorns, the basic principle of civil life controlling the state cannot be impaired without ultimate ruin. Under the inspiration of religion, uplifted by the genius of freedom, grasping the great principle of representative union of Hansetown and Provence, defying Spain, establishing her colonies in all the earth, bidding fair to become a great, abiding, historic people and divide with England the control of the commercial and civilizing influences of the world, Holland, intoxicated with power, forgot the basic principle which made her great, and sank to the rank of a lesser national power having no future historic importance. Then, sir, reasoning from the past, with all the intensity of my life, I plead for the maintenance, in its original integrity, of the underlying principle of our Republic. It is supremely vital to liberty. Dethrone the principle from its high estate, and the temple of Liberty is already tottering. Political apostasy is terrible in its reach and grasp of power and in the quick emulation of its example. The infraction of the right of franchise, the impairment of the constitutional right of the citizen to exercise the franchise in South Carolina or in Alabama, provoke the desire and willingness to commit the same wrong in the populous city of New York or in Pennsylvania. The passing of enactments at Montgomery or Charleston, interfering with and restricting the franchise against the spirit of the Constitution and its amendments, provokes the terror of the Force Bill in the National House and Senate. The impairment of the constitutional right in the States causes equal emulation for the destruction of our constitutional guarantees by laying the hand of political apostasy upon the Constitution of the United States. “Familiarize yourself with the chains of bondage and you prepare your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the strength of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you.” Men desiring to grasp unconstitutional power heed little the cry of a people that any infraction of that great instrument by them was caused by the overweening necessity of preserving their civilization from destruction. At this transition period of the world’s history, the conservative forces of the country should be on their guard to save the Republic from any impairment of its fundamental principles. The times are surely propitious for such injury to our governing principle, and the example of its infraction too recent to brook denial. The growth of the sentiment that the Constitution is what the majority of the people wish it to be, the growing power of wealth and class in the elections, the increasing control of the central government and its gradual infringement upon the rights of the States, the overweening power of the Federal Courts upon every pretext seeking to control State tribunals and exercise jurisdiction never contemplated by the Constitution, the lessening respect for the elective franchise, and the want of regard for the dignity of the States, sadly illustrated to-day by the warring governments of a free commonwealth, all show the vital demand for the jealous care of the Constitution in all of its original vigor. Now, sir, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, “That the right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” is as much a part and parcel of the organic law governing this country as any section of the Constitution. Whether wisely or

« AnteriorContinuar »