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$7. Our only alternative is strict construction or dissolution.
Seeing, then, that the loosest construction will not promote good objects so effectively as the strictest construction, we need not regret, that nature yields us no alternative but to be content with the good which the General Goyernment can effect within the sphere of its most restricted powers, or to weaken the bonds of our Union. Recent events show these views to be more than theoretical, and the most obtuse intellect sees that the loose construction by which Congress claims the power to circumscribe domestic slavery in the territories, interferes so sensitively with our Southern confederates as to endanger the Union.
Now, in relation to the right of a State to secede from the Union, or to redress injuries to her sovereignty by any other means in her power, the right is not constitutional, any more than our original Revolution was loyal, or than our War of 1812 was conformable to the definitive treaty made with Great Britain in 1783, and which stipulated for a "perpetual peace.” The right of secession is nevertheless among the "inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," referred to in the Declaration of Independence; and with which it says, we are endowed by our Creator; and that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.”
We all feel that secession is practicable ; and to urge a discontinuance of further annoyances against the South, we have lately seen numerously attended “Union Meetings” in our large cities, and their influence will be salutary ; but the parties have not probed to the bottom of the difficulty. Indeed, the superficial views which these meetings take of
the difficulty, is painfully indicative that the nature of our Confederacy is too little understood by its friends. They see our danger, and are desirous of averting it; but they seem moved thereto more by fear of consequences than conviction of error, in the principle from which the danger has arisen. They cry aloud for Union, and some would fight for it; but these are not the way (especially the latter) to obtain it, and humanity may rejoice it is not. But, especially, they seem not to know that slavery agitation is only the symptom of a disease, not the disease itself. The disease is a loose construction of the Constitution, and the remedy is a strict construction. Slavery is only the symptom of to-day, as a protective tariff was the symptom of 1832, and as a great system of internal improvements by the General Government may be the symptom to-morrow. The friends of Union, therefore, should understand that they must be strict constructionists of the Constitution, if they would be Union-men in an intelligent, pervading, and enduring sense.
$ 8. Wholesome restriction exceeds the conventional restrictions.
Nor need we fear that the strictest construction to which we can subject the Constitution, will be prejudicial. Our dangers lie not thitherward. The abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia is constitutionally within the power of Congress, as was the abolition therein of the slave trade; but who knows not that this legislation is distasteful to the South, and thus conflicts in spirit with the constitutional restrictions which enable the Confederacy to hold together? When, also, some years ago, the proceeds of the public lands were distributed among the States in the most equitable manner, to the great relief of some States, and to the support of education in others, yet it was
offensive to some of the agricultural States, though certainly constitutional. They saw that the money which was thus diverted from the Federal treasury would necessarily be supplied by an enhanced tariff; and that the nonmanufacturing States would thus be taxed to the benefit of the manufacturing States, as effectually as though the tariff had been enhanced for the express purpose of protec. tion.
§ 9. The most preservative principle is the danger from aggression.
But after enlightening ourselves on the preservative qualities of a strict construction of the Constitution, how can we insure its application in national legislation ? A present good has ever preponderated over a prospective evil. The strong have ever tyrannized over the weaker, to the extent that aggression was met by sufferance. Ag. gression, therefore, can be arrested only by resistance. Nor is the remedy speculative merely. When Missouri, in 1820, was refused admission into the Union, by reason that her Constitution permitted domestic slavery, nothing prevented a consummation of the aggression but unmistakable demonstrations that it would effect a dissolution of the Confederacy. So the resistance, in 1832, of South Carolina to a protective tariff, was mainly effectual in the subsequent abandonment of the principle; till now, the most which is claimed by the opponents of free trade, is an incidental protection, after the expenditures of the Government shall be reduced, as much as practicable, by economy and the land money. But to omit old examples, what caused the abandonment, at the last session of Congress, of the Wilmot proviso, though patriotism during the war with Mexico, and our armies there in imminent peril for rein. forcements, in vain could cause it to be abandoned ? And
what caused the efficient amendment of the Fugitive Slave Law, the nullification of which for many long years, had been the labored effort of States, and the favorite amusement of associated societies? and what arouses in nearly all our cities Union meetings, without distinction of party, to arrest slavery agitation, on which parties so long have lived ? It is the determined spirit evinced by some of the aggrieved States, that they will no longer submit to what outrages their interests and their feelings.
Let not the truly Union men, therefore, look with dis. approbation at the disunion agitation which is pervading the South, for it is but the tempest which is to purify the political atmosphere; and by a means which God has ordained for the purposes of longevity. Nations and society of every grade are kept peaceable and just, only by the antagonisms which nature arouses between the aggrieved and the aggressor. Sufferance, on the contrary, but facili. tates further aggression; and unrestricted submission in the intercourse of mankind with each other, would be attended with universal ravage, rapine, and outrage. Thus, had the Slave States submitted tamely to the imposition of the Wilmot proviso to New Mexico and Utah, we should, instead of Union meetings to arrest further agitation, have had meetings everywhere to spirit forward the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia; and our Confederacy,
soaring in its pride of place,” would have been continu. ally thus “hawked at by every mousing owl,” till it would have lost all its preservative elements, and become practically a huge consolidation, which the diversity of exasperated local interests, and geographical hatreds, would eventually have broken into irreparable fragments. For the aggrieved to resist aggression is, therefore, the most patriotic of duties; and the fault of the South consists in not
having resisted effectually in 1820, instead of compromising, by the circumscription of slavery, to obtain the admission of Missouri. If an injured party is subdued by force, he must submit; but he who submits without physical necessity is an accessory to his own dishonor; and in our Confederacy he becomes an accomplice in the overthrow of the Union.
§ 10. All the concessions of the South have been rendered without an equivalent.
Nor need we be surprised that the South is not quieted by the late Compromise Measures. Who sees not that the Californians formed their Constitution under the coercion of knowing that admission into the Union was impracticable, except by a prohibition of slavery. To say that the new Fugitive Slave Law is an equivalent for this aggression is to aggravate the injury by taking advantage of our own wrong; for the new law is beneficial to the South only because we practically nullified the old. The like may be said of our abandonment of the Wilmot proviso in the organization of New-Mexico and Utah-an abandonment that was useful to the South by reason only of our wrong in meditating the restriction. In short, every compromise the South has entered into has resulted in a sacrifice without any available equivalent. Capitation, and other direct taxation, was, by the Constitution, to be apportioned among the States according to the ratio of their representation ; hence, rather than be taxed for the whole number of their slaves, the South consented that every five slaves should be counted as only three persons. But no direct taxation is levied, and the loss of representation by the South is without an equivalent; aggravated, too, by the fact that every five slaves who escape into the North without being recaptured, will be represented in Congress as five persons,