American Eloquence, Volume 4 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 241 pages of information about American Eloquence, Volume 4.

I do not know, sir, that I have made my views on this point clear to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Kelley), who has questioned me upon it, and I am still more doubtful whether, even if they are intelligible, he will concur with me as to their justice.  But I regard these States as just as truly within the jurisdiction of the Constitution, and therefore just as really and truly States of the American Union now as they were before the war.  Their practical relations to the Constitution of the United States have been disturbed, and we have been endeavoring, through four years of war, to restore them and make them what they were before the war.  The victory in the field has given us the means of doing this; we can now re-establish the practical relations of those States to the Government.  Our actual jurisdiction over them, which they vainly attempted to throw off, is already restored.  The conquest we have achieved is a conquest over the rebellion, not a conquest over the States whose authority the rebellion had for a time subverted.

For these reasons I think the views submitted by the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Stevens) upon this point are unsound.  Let me next cite some of the consequences which, it seems to me, must follow the acceptance of his position.  If, as he asserts, we have been waging war with an independent Power, with a separate nation, I cannot see how we can talk of treason in connection with our recent conflict, or demand the execution of Davis or anybody else as a traitor.  Certainly if we were at war with any other foreign Power we should not talk of the treason of those who were opposed to us in the field.  If we were engaged in a war with France and should take as prisoner the Emperor Napoleon, certainly we would not talk of him as a traitor or as liable to execution.  I think that by adopting any such assumption as that of the honorable gentleman, we surrender the whole idea of treason and the punishment of traitors.  I think, moreover, that we accept, virtually and practically, the doctrine of State sovereignty, the right of a State to withdraw from the Union, and to break up the Union at its own will and pleasure.  I do not see how upon those premises we can escape that conclusion.  If the States that engaged in the late rebellion constituted themselves, by their ordinances of secession or by any of the acts with which they followed those ordinances, a separate and independent Power, I do not see how we can deny the principles on which they professed to act, or refuse assent to their practical results.  I have heard no clearer, no stronger statement of the doctrine of State sovereignty as paramount to the sovereignty of the nation than would be involved in such a concession.  Whether he intended it or not, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Stevens) actually assents to the extreme doctrines of the advocates of secession.

THADDEUS STEVENS,

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American Eloquence, Volume 4 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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