American Eloquence, Volume 3 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 230 pages of information about American Eloquence, Volume 3.
has a constitutional right to secede from the Union.  I do not myself place the right of a State to secede from the Union upon constitutional grounds.  I admit that the Constitution has not granted that power to a State.  It is exceedingly doubtful even whether the right has been reserved.  Certainly it has not been reserved in express terms.  I therefore do not place the expected action of any of the Southern States, in the present contingency, upon the constitutional right of secession; and I am not prepared to dispute therefore, the, position which the President has taken upon that point.

I rather agree with the President that the secession of a State is an act of revolution taken through that particular means or by that particular measure.  It withdraws from the Federal compact, disclaims any further allegiance to it, and sets itself up as a separate government, an independent State.  The State does it at its peril, of course, because it may or may not be cause of war by the remaining States composing the Federal Government.  If they think proper to consider it such an act of disobedience, or if they consider that the policy of the Federal Government be such that it cannot submit to this dismemberment, why then they may or may not make war if they choose upon the seceding States.  It will be a question of course for the Federal Government or the remaining States to decide for themselves, whether they will permit a State to go out of the Union, and remain as a separate and independent State, or whether they will attempt to force her back at the point of the bayonet.  That is a question, I presume, of policy and expediency, which will be considered by the remaining States composing the Federal Government, through their organ, the Federal Government, whenever the contingency arises.

But, sir, while a State has no power, under the Constitution, conferred upon it to secede from the Federal Government or from the Union, each State has the right of revolution, which all admit.  Whenever the burdens of the government under which it acts become so onerous that it cannot bear them, or if anticipated evil shall be so great that the State believes it would be better off—­even risking the perils of secession—­out of the Union than in it, then that State, in my opinion, like all people upon earth has the right to exercise the great fundamental principle of self-preservation, and go out of the Union—­though, of course, at its own peril—­and bear the risk of the consequences.  And while no State may have the constitutional right to secede from the Union, the President may not be wrong when he says the Federal Government has no power under the Constitution to compel the State to come back into the Union.  It may be a casus omissus in the Constitution; but I should like to know where the power exists in the Constitution of the United States to authorize the Federal Government to coerce a sovereign State.  It does not exist in terms, at any rate, in the Constitution.  I do not think there is any inconsistency, therefore, between the two positions of the President in the message upon these particular points.

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American Eloquence, Volume 3 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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