Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 452 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02.
imposes but a single condition or prerequisite on the Executive:  he shall “by proclamation command the insurgents to disperse.”  These sections are complete, harmonious, self-sufficient, and, in their chief provisions, nowise dependent upon or connected with any other section or clause of the act.  They place under the President’s command the whole militia, and by a subsequent law (March 3, 1807) also the entire army and navy of the Union, against rebellion.  The assertion that the army can only follow a marshal and his writ in case of rebellion, is not only unsupported by the language of the act, but utterly refuted by strong implication.  The last section repeals a former provision limiting the President’s action to cases of insurrection of which United States judges shall have given him notice, and thereby remits him to any and all of his official sources of information.  Jackson’s famous force bill only provided certain supplementary details; it directly recognized and invoked the great powers of the Act of 1795, and expiring by limitation, left its wholesome plenitude and broad original grant of authority unrepealed and unimpaired.

[8] “Happily our civil war was undertaken and prosecuted in self-defense, not to coerce a State, but to enforce the execution of the laws within the States against individuals, and to suppress an unjust rebellion raised by a conspiracy among them against the Government of the United States.”—­Buchanan, in “Mr. Buchanan’s Administration,” p. 129.



As President Buchanan might have foreseen, his inconsistent message proved satisfactory to neither friend nor foe.  The nation was on the eve of rebellion and had urgent need of remedial acts, not of temporizing theories, least of all theories which at the late Presidential election had been rejected as errors and dangers.  The message served as a topic to initiate debate in Congress; but this debate, resting only on the main subject long enough to cover the Chief Magistrate’s views and recommendations as a whole, with almost unanimous expressions of dissent, and even of contempt, passed on to words of mutual defiance and open declarations of revolutionary purpose.

The conspirators in the Cabinet had done their work.  By the official declarations of the President of the United States, the Government had tied its own hands—­had resolved and proclaimed the duty and policy of non-resistance to organized rebellion.  Henceforth disunionists, secessionists, nullifiers, and conspirators of every kind had but to combine under alleged State action, and through the instrumentalities of State Legislatures and State conventions cast off without let or hinderance their Federal obligations by resolves and ordinances.  The semblance of a vote, a few scratches of the pen, a proclamation, and a new flag, and at once without the existence of a corporal’s squad, or the smell of burnt powder, there would appear on the horizon of American politics, if not a de jure at least a de facto State!

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Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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