« AnteriorContinuar »
THE CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY OF
THE UNITED STATES.
EMANCIPATION INAUGURATED AS A CIVIL POLICY BY THE
STATES AND AS A MILITARY POLICY BY THE
While the amendment to make slavery national and perpetual was on its way through Congress, the plan for a slaveholding Confederacy had been carried into effect. The cotton States, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Florida, had practically perfected a federal organization before the election of Lincoln and had made provision for representation in a Confederate Congress within a month of his inauguration. The slave-holding States north and west of South Carolina, including Arkansas and Missouri, were less aggressive in secession than the cotton States. In Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas, public sentiment was divided. The majority of the people were opposed to secession, but their political leaders were successful in bringing them into the Confederacy, though not without great labor and political craft. The people of the border States, Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, were not friendly to secession, and repeated attempts to unite them with the Confederacy failed. In the terrible struggle that followed, Tennessee, Kentucky and
THE SOUTH CAROLINA ADDRESS.
Virginia became the chief battleground of the civil war. The effort of the Confederacy to secure the border States was continuous, until its hopelessness was demonstrated by the devotion of the loyal people and the successes of the national armies.
The causes which induced, and as South Carolina asserted, justified, secession from the Union, were set forth in the Declaration and the Address of the people of that State, which have been given in the preceding chapter. These utterances can be accepted as official notice to the whole world of the nature, the principles and the purposes of the Southern Confederacy. The subject of which these two Declarations made complaint was the heterogeneity of interests, both industrial and political, among the States. The Confederacy moulded its declaration of independence on the Jeffersonian form of 1776, but substituted “the Union” for “King George." But were the interests of the slaveholding States so identical as to insure perpetuity to the new league? President Lincoln answered this fateful question in his first inaugural. "Plainly,” said he, “the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy.” A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, could be the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejected it, of necessity flew to anarchy, or to despotism. Unanimity was impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, wholly inadmissible, so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form was all that was left.
The President did not forget the position assumed by many, that constitutional questions were to be decided by
1 Mr. Lincoln's language is closely followed throughout this presentation of the national idea.
LINCOLN ON SECESSION.
the Supreme Court; nor did he deny that such decisions must be binding, in any case upon the parties to a suit, as to the object of that suit, while they were also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the government. And while it was obviously possible that such decisions might be erroneous, in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it might be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, could better be borne than the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, was to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they were made, in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people would have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor was there, in this view, any assault upon the court, or the judges. It was a duty from which they could not shrink-to decide cases properly brought before them; and it was no fault of theirs, if others sought to turn their decisions to political purposes.
One section of our country believed slavery was right, and ought to be extended, while the other believed it was wrong, and ought not to be extended. This was the only substantial dispute. The fugitive slave clause of the Constitution, and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave-trade, were each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law could ever be, in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supported the law itself. The great body of the people kept the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few broke over in each. This, he thought, could not be perfectly cured, and it would be worse in both