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Whether the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of those States is the question to be settled by our armies or by us at the coming election. If it is not, why is it not? If it is not, when and how did it cease to be?
What provision does the Constitution make for its own amendment? It provides that Congress may, by a two-third vote of each House, propose any amendment which shall be submitted to the States, and when the Legislatures of three-fourths of the States, shall have adopted it, or when conventions of those States, having been called for that purpose, shall, to the number of three-fourths of the whole number of States, have adopted it, then and then only the amendment shall become part of the Constitution. I do not think that I have slept as long as old Rip Yan Winkle did, and therefore I do not believe that the Constitution has been so amended as to relieve the so-called Confederate States from its supreme jurisdiction. I certainly have never heard that Congress, by a two-thirds vote, proposed an amendment restricting the action of the Constitution to the north side of the Susquehanna and Ohio Rivers.
I do not remember that such an amendment to the Constitution was ever submitted to the Legislature of Pennsylvania and adopted by it. If I have slept through so important an era of our history I pray some of you to tell me so. Does any man here know of the Constitution having been so amended as to allow all the States south of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, to pass from under it? If no man here knows it, and if my distinguished antagonist cannot tell us when it happened, I take it for granted that it never happened, and that the Constitution of the United States is still the supreme law of our whole country; and that when James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln, in the same phraseology, before the same God and people, swore to ''preserve, protect, and defend" it, they bound themselves by oath to maintain its supremacy over every acre of our country. Am I wrong? I think not.
I did not agree that I would answer every metaphysical question which my friend might put to me. I agreed to meet him and to discuss the principles and measures of our parties respectively, and apply those principles to the great issues of the day; but I think that if I demonstrate that our party is standing by the Constitution, the unity, and the flag of the country, and that the party which he represents has deliberately assented to the dismemberment of the country, I shall effectually answer all his questions. Each one, however, shall receive attention as the discussion progresses.
In 1832 there was a Democratic Administration presiding over the country. The dream of a Southern empire influenced leading minds of the South at that time. For, gentlemen, this rebellion, the conspiracy which is now attempting to dismember our country and overturn its Constitution, has engaged the attention of two generations. It engrossed the best years of the later life of John C. Calhoun and his compeers in South Carolina, and some other of the Southern States. In 1832 South Carolina determined to show that the State was " sovereign," and passed an ordinance by which she undertook to nullify and set at naught within her limits a law of Congress known as a Revenue Law. She assembled what she called a "sovereign convention," and that convention passed an ordinance of nullification. Word was brought to the then Democratic President, Andrew Jackson, that the ordinance of nullification had been passed. What did that distinguished Democrat do? Did he send into Congress a message saying that he had no right to coerce a State? Did he send into Congress a message saying that the Constitution of the United States was not ample for its own protection? James Buchanan did thus at a later day, but Andrew Jackson did quite otherwise. He issued a proclamation to the people of the State, reminding them of their duty to the Constitution, holding up before them the greatness of their country and its resources—showing how Heaven had enriched it; pointing them to the magnificent growth of the country under republican institutions; telling them that the people had elected him President, and that on the inauguration day he had sworn to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and enforce the laws of the United States, and that that oath should be regarded, the Constitution defended, and the laws enforced.
General Winfield Scott was then thirty-two years younger than he is now; and President Jackson ordered him to the city of Charleston with the army of the United States. He ordered all the forts in front of the city of Charleston to be reinforced, and to be put under armament. He ordered the Secretary of the Navy to disengage all the available vessels, and lay them along the coast, so that, if South Carolina should undertake to put its foot on the Constitution he might blow her ''sovereign" brains out! That is what Andrew Jackson did, when the people of South Carolina undertook to show their "sovereignty" by merely trampling on a law. Now they do it by tearing the Constitution into fragments, appropriating our country to their own exclusive use, without even proposing to refund us the money we have expended in its purchase and improvement.
Let us briefly contemplate some of the results of their action.
The Constitution of the United States provides that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States." I am a Philadelphian. I was born here; schooled here; I learned my trade here. As I approached manhood I went to Massachusetts. At the end of one year I was, under the Constitution of the United States, a citizen of Massachusetts, and as such took part in the Presidential election. You, my fellow-citizen, were, perhaps, born in New England, or in a Southern State, and under the Constitution of the United States are a citizen of Pennsylvania, and at the coming election may vote as a citizen. We all have the right, under the Constitution, to become citizens of Maryland or Virginia—ay, even of South Carolina, if it be to our taste.
The Constitution, as we have seen, gives each and every one of us that is a citizen of any State the privileges and immunities of citizenship in Texas, and in every State lying between her and Pennsylvania. Our money and our blood bought three of them; and as you know our money has built fortifications and arsenals and custom-houses and post-offices and marine hospitals, and all other national establishments throughout those States. Will my distinguished competitor, I again ask, tell us when and where and how the Constitution, in accordance with its own provisions, was so modified that we are no longer entitled to citizenship in those States, and that the custom-houses, and forts, and arsenals, &c, that we paid for, belong to a foreign people and government? Is South Carolina part of our country? Abraham Lincoln thinks it is, and so do you. Have you never heard of the healthful qualities of the climate of Florida? You have a sick daughter—a fair girl sinking into the consumption; the disease is developing in her tender system; the doctors order her to a more genial climate. You say that you will take her to Florida, where the temperature seldom varies ten degrees, and where, it is said, the atmosphere is an almost sovereign balm for incipient consumption. It is your right to take her there; and I leave it to my distinguished competitor to show by what clause of the Constitution Jefferson Davis and his armies deny you the exercise of that right.
You, young mechanic, who have no capital but your skill and health—who are tired of labor in the contracted workshop and of life in the compapt city, dream of owning a herd of cattle upon a broad prairie. Under the Constitution of the United States and the beneficent legislation of the first "Lincoln Congress" you have a right to go to Texas, or any other State in which there are public lands, and, under the Homestead law, settle on one hundred and twenty acres, if you have a wife, or if you are a single man, on eighty acres of the best land you can find. If you have children, the law gives you one hundred and twenty acres for yourself and wife, and ten for each of your children. That land in Texas or any other State is yours; all you have to do is to go and settle upon it. Ay, say you, "but Jefferson Davis won't let me!" That is so; and my patriotic competitor says that President Lincoln is violating the Constitution by trying to drive Jeff's soldiers out of your way, that you may go and "walk in glory behind the plough" on your own broad acres.
Where is the power, my laboring friend, to divest your personal interest in the public lands under the Homestead Law? Where is the power to rob us, American citizens, of the glory our ancestors achieved on Eutaw's field and Camden's plain? Where is the power to rob us of the treasure we invested when we acquired Louisiana, Florida, and Texas, and involved ourselves in the Mexican war?
"Ah ! but," says my friend, "this is your doings, you Abolitionists and Eepublicans." Let us see how that is. I ask you, my Democratic townsmen, who was President on the eighth of February, 1861, when the Southern Confederacy was organized? Who was President on the twenty-first of December, 1860, when South Carolina seceded? Was not James Buchanan? Had he not for his Cabinet Howell Cobb, of Georgia, and John B. Floyd, of Virginia, and Isaac Toucey, of Connecticut, and Jeremiah S. Black, of Pennsylvania, and Jacob Thompson, of Mississippi, and were not they and their associates all Democrats? Was not what they did the doings of the Democratic party? And did not the party turn out of its ranks every man who did not stand up for and sanction what the Buchanan administration did?
On the 21st of December, 1860, South Carolina passed her ordinance of secession; but she did not do it until James Buchanan, President of the United States, and the acknowledged head of the Democratic party, had announced to the Southern people his belief in their right to secede, and had told every loyal, Union-loving man in the Southern States that, in the event of his State's seceding, if he dared to hold on to the Union, he must expect no protection from the National Government, but would be handed over to the tender mercies of his State or any confederacy that might be built upon the ruins of our Union; and in order to strengthen this warning, had coupled with his message the opinion of his Attorney-General, Jeremiah S. Black, sustaining it. That message was sent to Congress three months before Abraham Lincoln became President of the United States.
James Buchanan and the Democratic party so understood the Constitution. I do not blame them. I do not blame the Millerite for his faith, though he does not go up at the expected time, but still believes that he will go up some time. I do not blame the Mormon, if he is honest in his faith, though I censure his practices. I do not blame these leaders of the Democratic party for their faith; they honestly believe that the Constitution of the United States is a rope of sand, and that whenever a State wants to go out of the Union, she can. That is their faith; they have a right to it; but I am not willing to let them dissolve the Union to gratify their vagaries. What I complain of is, that while holding to these baleful tenets, they humbug masses of their party by uttering delusive phrases about maintaining and defending the Union and the Constitution. If the leaders of the Northern Democracy had not believed the doctrines announced by Mr. Buchanan, they would have abandoned him and his Administration when he sent in his message of the 4th of December, 1860; but, on the contrary, those members of the party who dissented from his new-found faith were kicked out—Forney, and others able and brilliant as he, among the number.
Let me demonstrate the truth of my assertion by reading from the message of James Buchanan, communicated to Congress on the 4th of December, 1860:— _.,
"The question, fairly stated, is: Has the Constitution delegated to Congress the power to coerce into submission a State which is attempting to withdraw, or has actually withdrawn, from the Confederacy? If answered in the affirmative, it must be on the principle that the power has been conferred upon Congress to declare and make war against a State. After much serious reflection, I have arrived at the conclusion that no such power has been delegated to Congress, or to any other department of the Federal Government. It is manifest, upon an inspection of the Constitution, that this is not among the specific and enumerated powers granted to Congress; and it is equally apparent that its exercise is not necessary and proper for carrying into execution any one of these powers."
Now, that either was or was not the doctrine of the Democratic party as an organization. Let us test it. Is not James Buchanan in full faith and communion with the Democratic party to-day? Does he not support the Chicago platform and nominees? And have not the party expelled from its ranks every man who dissented from the doctrines and measures of Buchanan and his Administration?
Accompanying that message of James Buchanan was the .opinion of Judge Black, his Attorney-General, in which that eminent friend of Pendleton and McClellan said: "If it be true that war cannot be declared, nor a system of general hostilities carried on by the central Government against a State, then it seems to follow that an attempt to do so would be ipso facto an expulsion of such State from the Union. Being treated as an alien and an enemy, she would be compelled to act accordingly. And if Congress shall break up the present Union by unconstitutionally putting strife and enmity and armed hostility between different sections of the country, instead of the 'domestic tranquillity' which the Constitution was meant to insure, will not all the States be absolved from their Federal obligations? Is any portion of the people bound to contribute their money or their blood to carry on a contest like that?"
Now, I say that James Buchanan and Jeremiah S. Black, and the Democratic party of the North, that sustained them, in the promulgation and support of the message and opinion from which I make these extracts, served notice on the Union men of Virginia, and Tennessee, and Missouri, and all the Southern States, to this effect: "If the majority of the people of your respective States want to secede, we will let them; and if you resist them and try to keep the State in the Union, you do so at your peril, for there is no power in the Constitution to prevent secession, or under which we can or will protect you." My Democratic friends, is not that true? Did they not thus invite the dismemberment of your country? Did they not impel and encourage the Southern conspirators to rob you of more than half of your national birthright?
Is the Constitution the supreme law? Did Gen. Jackson understand the doctrines of the Democratic party when he said, "The Union must and shall be preserved"? If he did, Abraham Lincoln is bound to preserve the Union, and every honest Democrat should sustain him in the effort, for every inch of that Union is our country, and over all the Constitution which he has sworn to maintain and defend is the supreme law. The truth is, my fellowcitizens, that since 1847 the Democratic party has abandoned its old faith. I belonged to that party. I grew to manhood in it, and devoted the best years of my life to its interests, and on the very day when I ran as an independent candidate for Judge I voted for William Bigler and the whole Democratic ticket except that for the judiciary. In 1852 I worked and voted for the election of Pierce and King. It was not till I discovered that the doctrine of Calhoun, which Jackson supposed he had crushedf had got control of the party, that I abandoned it and went forth to resist its great power for evil.
I have, however, only shown you what the doctrines of that party were. Now let me show you the practical effects of those doctrines, how, by withholding the support of the Government from the Union people of the South, the Democratic party forced the contemplated separation of our country. When the eight States met to organize a Confederate Government, they represented 2,656,948 white people, and 2,312,046 slaves. The Southern States that did not go with them at that time contained 5,633,005 white people and 1,638,297 slaves. So that of the people, who composed that Confederacy, black and white, bond and free, there were 4,968,994, while of those who then refused to go into it there were 7,271,302. And had James Buchanan and the Democratic party adhered to the old Jacksonian Democratic doctrine, and announced that the Union must be preserved, that the Constitution was the supreme law of the land—had President Buchanan ordered General Scott, old as he was, to concentrate the army in the North, and to reinforce Sumter and all other forts on the Southern coast, and ordered the Secretary of the Navy to concentrate the Navy on our coast—said to the Union men of the South, as Jackson did in his proclamation, stand true to your country, its Constitution and its flag, and we will sustain you, no State would have seceded—no foreign Confederacy would have been reared upon our soil—no war would have deluged it with blood. That was the time to prevent war. This was the way to prevent it. But the new faith of these new leaders of the party would not permit them to act thus. What did they do? South Carolina, as I have said, seceded on the 21st of December, 1860. When the news was carried to Mr. Buchanan, did he, as old Jackson did, straighten himself up, point to the heavens, and swear by the Eternal^ that the Union should be preserved? No; take up the files of your Democratic newspapers and read, and you will find that he sat in the executive chamber like an old woman crying. Every day the telegraph brought us intelligence of the new floods of tears that the Democratic president was shedding. He assumed the attitude and aspect of a dejected old woman, and cried: "Oh, dear me! you ought not to do it; but oh, dear me! I have not the power to prevent or to punish you." So the work of the attempt to sever the grandest country God ever gave to man, and to abolish that miracle of modern civilization, the Constitution of the United States, went on.
But more than this, that Democratic Administration, with the sanction of the party that brought it into power and sustains the Chicago platform and nominees, armed the rebels and gave them a navy. John B. Floyd, of Virginia, was Secretary of War, and had charge of our arsenals and our armories. He sent into the seceding States from every Northern arsenal and armory every available gun, pistol, cannon, sword, or set of uniform. Don't you remember, my friends, that the last heavy guns that were being shipped were stopped by the patriotic citizens of Pittsburg, among them the venerable Judge Wilkins—that distinguished Democrat, whose career in the United States Senate still reflects lustre upon our State—that distinguished statesman, now tottering toward the grave, presided over the meetings of citizens that stopped those cannon. They were, law-abiding citizens of Pennsylvania, and they telegraphed to the President, saying that they had arrested certain heavy guns, in transitu, because they believed they were being sent to a Confederacy that was being established upon our own soil in violation of our Constitution, and they were determined that those guns should not go for any such purpose. What did Messrs. Buchanan and Floyd, speaking for the Democratic administration, reply? They replied that the guns in question were on their way, under the orders of the Secretary of War, to a new fortification on Ship Island. Now, let me ask whether there is a soldier here who has been to Ship Island? If there is, I wish him to say so, for I want him to make a brief part of my speech. There is no fortification on Ship Island; there was no fortification on Ship Island; there was no contract for a fortification on Ship Island; there had never been an order issued to build a fortification on Ship Island. The story was a lie. It was one of the nefarious practices by which the people of the eighteen States .of the North were stripped of arms and the rebels of the South furnished with the means to overawe and intimidate the Unjon men of the Southern and Border States, and ultimately make war on us.
What did your Secretary of the Navy do—your Democratic Secretary of the Navy? He is a Northern man; he is a son of despised New England—the "land of Abolitionists!"
And here, by the way, I must make a brief digression; I must, as a Pennsylvanian, protest against my friend robbing Pennsylvania of the brightest jewel in her coronet and throwing it at the feet of New England.
The doctrine of man's absolute right to wages for work did not spring from New England; I claim it as a great Pennsylvania truth. While yet the Revolutionary war was pending— on the 1st of March, 1780, three years before the declaration of peace—the Legislature of Pennsylvania passed an act by which slavery was "extinguished and forever abolished" within the limits of the Commonwealth. It was done in grateful recognition of God's goodness in securing the near prospect of speedy freedom to all the people of that State. And in the literature of America, there is no prouder or grander chapter than the preamble to that law which secures to every laboring man, woman, and child within the limits of our own dear Pennsylvania, wages for their work—which secures to all the people of the State the rite of marriage, and raised from their degradation, thousands of women who were compelled to live in prostitution that their wealthy owners might sell their children like sheep at the shambles. To Pennsylvania, our own State, sir, belongs the honor of establishing, by special law, human freedom, and the right of the laboring man to his wages; and I will not, without an earnest protest, allow any man to deprive my ancestors of their share in so great an honor. But to resume: What did your Secretary of the Navy—a son of despised New England—do? Our navy consisted of 69 vessels, manned by 7000 men, exclusive of officers and marines. It carried 250 guns of different calibre. What did your Secretary of the Navy do with them—vessels, men, guns and all? Knowing that a foreign government was organizing within the limits of our country; knowing that John B. Floyd avowed his allegiance to it and had armed it; knowing that he had handed over your army to it as prisoners (for under Twiggs he surrendered one half, and under Canby he compelled the surrender of nearly the other half, so that before Abraham Lincoln became President, the Confederacy had some eight, ten, or twelve thousand prisoners, wh'om they paroled) what, I ask, under these circumstances, did this Democratic Secretary of the Navy do to maintain the Constitution and un^ty of our country? Did he send the largest vessels of the navy into the Delaware or the Hudson, or to Charlestown, Mass., or to Kktery and Portsmouth, upon the confines of the two States of Maine and New Hampshire? Oh, no, my fellow citizens: he was in the conspiracy to divide and dishonor your country. He was of the cabinet that agreed to James Buchanan's message of December, 1860, announcing to the Union men of the South that the government would not protect them. Under his direction, the twenty seven largest vessels of our navy were dismantled or laid up in ordinary in Southern yards, within the limits of the proposed Confederacy. Thus did James Buchanan and his Democratic cabinet, their conduct being approved by the Democratic party, hand over our patrimony and the means of defending it, to avowed conspirators who were forming a foreign government on our soil. But what did the Democratic Secretary of the Navy do with the rest of our vessels? Did he send them into our Northern yards? No ; he sent them to the coast of Africa; to the far Pacific; to the Mediterranean; to the Indian ocean; in a word, to the most distant stations to which armed vessels had ever borne the flag of our country; so that, when Abraham Lincoln became President, he had at his immediate command in the yards of the North, but the four smallest vessels of our navy, munned by 250 out of the 7,000 men, and carrying less than 25 out of the more than 250 guns.
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land; but you must not enforce it, for fear you offend the people of the South! That is the doctrine of the Peace Democracy. The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of ,the land; but, but, but, you must not enforce it. If you will only coax the men of the Southern Confederacy abjectly enough, they will come back to the Union without this war! At least we think they will, and we are pretty sure they will, if you will go for the "Union as it was," without New England. General Jackson did not talk that way—he said: "The Constitution is the supreme law of the land; and if you attempt to trample upon it, I will blow you into eternity." Jackson's is the Lincoln doctrine of to-day. We mean to maintain the supremacy of the Constitution; and when the war is over, if it needs amendment, we will do what the Eepublican party proposed to do before this war began. My friend forgets that, to appease these people whom the Democratic party of the North were hissing on to war—whom the Democratic party were arming and providing with a navy—we united in a resolution to amend the Constitution, so that by no future amendment could slavery ever possibly be interfered with by the people of the North. That proposition passed both nouses of Congress, many Eepublicans in both houses voting for it. It passed the Senate by 24 to 12 and the House by 133 to 65, largely more than the requisite two-thirds vote, and by the generous support of the Eepublican party. I claim to belong to the Abolition section of the Eepublican party. I do not believe that any man has so good a right to a babe as the woman who carried it for nine months, and suffered the pangs of maternity in giving it birth. I believe that every man, whether his father under the barbarous laws of the Southern States might sell him on the auction block or not, is entitled to wages for all the work he does. I do not believe that one man has a right to be lord and master, and hold others as his slaves. And I despise the system under which a heartless and sensual aristocracy have been in the habit of selling their daughters into whoredom and their sons to lives of unrequited toil. In so far, I am what they call an abolitionized Eepublican; and many members of the wing of the party to which I belong, in the hope of securing peace, sustained the proffered amendment, whereby the Constitution would have been peaceably amended, and it would have been made impossible through all time, for the people of theNorth to free a slave.
My friend's third proposition is that " Whenever any department of Government exercises any power beyond or antagonistic to the Constitution, it is revolution."
This is certainly novel, and rather startling doctrine. It comes from the modern school of Democrats. There used to be great discussions about the Constitution between Henry Clay and Daniel Webster on the one hand, and certain Democrats of the Calhoun school on the other; and in those good old days, the theory was that if Congress or any administration should at any time adopt an unconstitutional measure, the people would rally in their might at the next election and turn out of office those who had made the mistake or perpetrated the wrong; and that in the meantime those who thought the act unconstitutional and were injured by it should raise the question before the Supreme Court of the United States and have it decided. Now sir, what is the Supreme Court of the United States for, and why have we elections recurring at such short intervals if the object be not to guard against any enduring reason for rebellion or revolution? The object in iimiting the Presidential term to four years and the Congressional to two was that, if anybody who might get into power should behave badly, we might have an early opportunity to turn him out. The Supreme Court was provided, so that if Congress should pass an unconstitutional law, and the President approve it, that tribunal might declare it unconstitutional and set it aside. So the patriots who framed our Constitution vainly imagined that they had made a frame of Government under which rebellion and revolution would be impossible. Not so, according to the doctrine of my distinguished adversary. He argues that whenever an unconstitutional law is passed, it is revolution, and anarchy follows, and war is the just consequence. If that be correct doctrine, pray what is the use of the Supreme Court? It has no place in his theory of our Government. My friend has put a string of questions to me, and he will allow me to put one to him: According to his theory, what is the use of the Supreme Court of the United States, and why have we provided for elections at intervals, in no case greater than four years? I say that the framers of the Constitution never dreamed that a doctrine such as that announced by him would be propounded by any