JOHN PARKER HALE,
OF NEW HAMPSHIRE (BORN 1806, DIED 1873.)
ON SECESSION; MODERATE REPUBLICAN OPINION;
IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE, DECEMBER 5, 1860.
I was very much in hopes when the message was presented that it would be a document which would commend itself cordially to somebody. I was not so sanguine about its pleasing myself, but I was in hopes that it would be one thing or another. I was in hopes that the President would have looked in the face the crisis in which he says the country is, and that his message would be either one thing or another. But, sir, I have read it somewhat carefully. I listened to it as it was read at the desk; and, if I understand it—and I think I do—it is this: South Carolina has just cause for seceding from the Union; that is the first proposition. The second is, that she has no right to secede. The third is, that we have no right to prevent her from seceding. That is the President’s message, substantially. He goes on to represent this as a great and powerful country, and that no State has a right to secede from it; but the power of the country, if I understand the President, consists in what Dickens makes the English constitution to be—a power to do nothing at all.
Now, sir, I think it was incumbent upon the President of the United States to point out definitely and recommend to Congress some rule of action, and to tell us what he recommended us to do. But, in my judgment, he has entirely avoided it. He has failed to look the thing in the face. He has acted like the ostrich, which hides her head and thereby thinks to escape danger. Sir, the only way to escape danger is to look it in the face. I think the country did expect from the President some exposition of a decided policy; and I confess that, for one, I was rather indifferent as to what that policy was that he recommended; but I hoped that it would be something; that it would be decisive. He has utterly failed in that respect.
I think we may as well look this matter right clearly in the face; and I am not going to be long about doing it. I think that this state of affairs looks to one of two things: it looks to absolute submission, not on the part of our Southern friends and the Southern States, but of the North, to the abandonment of their position,—it looks to a surrender of that popular sentiment which has been uttered through the constituted forms of the ballot-box, or it looks to open war. We need not shut our eyes to the fact. It means war, and it means nothing else; and the State which has put herself in the attitude of secession, so looks upon it. She has asked no council, she has considered it as a settled question, and she has armed herself. As I understand the aspect of affairs, it looks to that, and it looks to nothing else except