Senator Douglas on the Crisis.
We are in receipt of a revised copy of Judge Douglas' speech in the senate on the 3d instant, on the state of the Union. With the present demands on our columns, it is impossible to give in full this masterly and statesman like exposition of the great question of the times, but must, just now, be content with giving that portion bearing upon the remedy for existing troubles, the causes of which the distinguished senator so ably and truthfully depicts as resulting from the unjustifiable interference of northern sectionalism with the domestic institution of the south. Mr. Douglas is for peace. He cannot tolerate the idea of warlike measures until every effort at peaceful adjustment is exhausted. The sentiments of Mr. Douglas, in this regard, will, doubtless, meet the hearty concurrence of every true patriot who realizes the fearful prospect before us:
We are told that the authority of the government must be vindicated; that the Union must be preserved; that rebellion must be put down; that insurrections must be suppressed, and the laws must be enforced. I agree to all this, I am in favor of doing all these things according to the constitution and laws. No man will go further than I to maintain the just authority of the government, to preserve the Union, to put down rebellion, to suppress insurrection, and to enforce the laws. I would use all the powers conferred by the constitution for this purpose. But, in the performance of these important and delicate duties, it must be borne in mind that those powers only must be used, and such measures employed, as are authorized by the constitution and laws. Things should be called by the right names; and facts, whose existence can no longer be denied, should be acknowledged.
Insurrections and rebellions, although unlawful and criminal, frequently become successful revolutions. The strongest governments and proudest monarchies on earth have often been reduced to the humiliating necessity of recognizing the existence of governments de facto, although not de jure, in their revolted states and provinces, when rebellion has ripened into successful revolution, and the national authorities have been expelled from their limits. In such cases the right to regain possession and exact obedience to the laws remains; but the exercise of that right is war, and must be governed by the laws of war. Such was the relative condition of Great Britain and the American colonies for seven years after the declaration of independence. The rebellion had progressed and matured into revolution, with a government de facto, and an army and navy to defend it. Great Britain, regarding the complaints of the colonies unfounded, refused to yield to their demands, and proceeded to reduce them to obedience; not by the enforcement of the laws, but by military force, armies and navies, according to the rules and laws of war. Captives taken in battle with arms in their hands, fighting against Great Britain, were not executed as traitors, but held as prisoners of war, and exchanged according to the usages of civilized nations. The laws of nations, the principles of humanity, of civilization, and christianity, demanded that the government de facto should be acknowledged and treated as such. While the right to prosecute war for the purpose of reducing the revolted provinces to obedience still remained, yet it was a military remedy, and could only be exercised according to the established principles of war.
It is said that, after one of the earliest engagements, the British general threatened to execute as traitors all the prisoners he had taken in battle; and that General Washington replied that he, too, had taken some prisoners, and would shoot two for one until the British general should respect the laws of war, and treat his prisoners accordingly. May Divine Providence, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, save our country from the humiliation and calamities which now seem almost inevitable. South Carolina has already declared her independence of the United States; has expelled the federal authorities from her limits, and established a government de facto, with a military force to sustain it. The revolution is complete, there being no man within her limits who denies the authority of her government or acknowledges allegiance to that of the United States. There is every reason to believe that seven other states will soon follow her example; and much ground to apprehend that other slaveholding states will follow them.
How are we going to prevent an alliance between these seceding states by which they may establish a federal government, at least de facto, for themselves? If they shall do so, and expel the authorities of the United States from their limits as South Carolina has done, and others are about to do, so that there shall be no human being within their boundaries who acknowledges allegiance to the United States, how are we going to enforce the laws? Armies and navies can make war, but cannot enforce laws in this country. The laws can be enforced only by the civil authorities, assisted by the military as a posse comitatus, when resisted in executing judicial process. Who is to issue judicial process in a state where there is no judge, no court, no judicial functionary? Who is to perform the duties of marshal in executing the process where no man will or dare accept office? Who are to serve on juries while every citizen is particeps criminis with the accused? How are you going to comply with the constitution in respect to a jury trail, where there are no men qualified to serve on a jury? I agree that the laws should be enforced. I hold that our government is clothed with the power and duty of using all the means necessary to the enforcement of the laws, according to the constitution and laws. The president is sworn to the faithful performance of this duty. I do not propose to inquire, at this time, how far, and with what fidelity, the president has performed that duty. His conduct and duty in this regard, including acts of commission and omission, while the rebellion was in its incipient stages, and when confined to a few individuals, present a very different question from that we are now discussing — after the revolution has become complete, and the federal authorities have been expelled, and the government de facto put into practical operation, and the unrestrained and unresisted exercise of all the powers and functions of government, local and national.
But we are told that secession is wrong, and that South Carolina had no right to secede. I agree that it is wrong, unlawful, unconstitutional, criminal. In my opinion, South Carolina had no right to secede; but she has done it. She has declared her independence of us, effaced the last vestige of our civil authority, established a foreign government, and is now engaged in the preliminary steps to open diplomatic intercourse with the great powers of the world. What next? If her act was illegal, unconstitutional, and wrong, have we no remedy. Unquestionably we have the right to use all the power and force necessary to regain possession of that portion of the United States in order that we may again enforce our constitution and laws upon the inhabitants. We can enforce our laws in those states, territories, and places only which are within our possession. It often happens that the territorial rights of a country extend beyond the limits of their actual possessions. That is our case at present in respect to South Carolina. Our right of jurisdiction over that state for federal purposes, according to the constitution, has not been destroyed or impaired by the ordinance of secession, or any act of the convention, or of the de facto, government. The right remains; but the pos[unknown line] we regain possession? is the principal inquiry. It may be done by arms, or by a peaceable adjustment of the matters in controversy.
Are we prepared for war? I do not mean that kind of preparation which consists of armies and navies, and supplies, and munitions of war; but are we prepared IN OUR HEARTS for war with our own brethren and kindred? I confess I am not. While I affirm that the constitution is, and was intended to be, a bond of perpetual Union; while I can do no act and utter no word that will acknowledge or countenance the right of secession; while I affirm the right and duty of the Federal Government to use all legitimate means to enforce the laws, put down rebellion, and suppress insurrection, I will not mediate war, nor tolerate the idea, until every effort at peaceful adjustment shall have been exhausted, and the last ray of hope shall have deserted the patriot's heart. Then, and not till then, will I consider and determine what course my duty to my country may require me to pursue in such an emergency. In my opinion, war is disunion, certain, inevitable, irrevocable. I am for peace to save the Union.
I have said that I cannot recognize nor countenance the right of secession. Illinois, situated in the interior of the continent, can never acknowledge the right of the states bordering on the seas to withdraw from the Union at pleasure, and form alliances among themselves and with other countries, by which we shall be excluded from all access to the ocean, from all intercourse and commerce with foreign nations. We can never consent to be shut up within the circle of a Chinese wall, erected and controlled by others without our permission; or to any other system of isolation by which we shall be deprived of any communication with the rest of the civilized world. Those states which are situated in the interior of the continent can never assent to any such doctrine. Our rights, our interests, our safety, our existence as a free people, I forbid it! The north-western states were ceded to the United States before the constitution was made, on condition of perpetual union with the other states. The territories were organized, settlers invited, lands purchased, and homes made, on the pledge of your plighted faith of perpetual union.
The constitution being made as a bond of perpetual Union; its framers proceeded to provide against the necessities of revolution, by prescribing the mode in which it might be amended, so that if, in the course of time, the condition of the country should so change as to require a different fundamental law, amendments might be made peaceably, in the manner prescribed in the instrument; and thus avoid the necessity of ever resorting to revolution. Having provided for a perpetual Union, and for amendments to the constitution, they next inserted a clause for admitting new states, but no provision for the withdrawal of any of the other states. I will not argue the question of the right of secession any further than to enter my protest against the whole doctrine. I deny that there is any foundation for it in the constitution, in the nature of the government, or in justice, or in good faith.
Nor do I sympathize at all in the apprehensions and misgivings I hear expressed about coercion. We are told that inasmuch as our government is founded upon the will of the people, or the consent of the governed, there fore coercion is incompatible with republicanism. Sir, the word government means coercion. There can be no government without coercion. Coercion is the vital principle upon which all governments rest. Withdraw the right of coercion, and you dissolve your government. If every man would perform his duty and respect the rights of his neighbors voluntarily, there would be no necessity for any government on earth. The necessity of government is found to consist in the fact that some men will not do right unless coerced to do so. The object of all government is to coerce and compel every man to do his duty, who would not otherwise perform it. Hence I do not subscribe at all to this doctrine that coercion is not to be used in a free government. It must be used in all governments, no matter what their form or what their principles.
But coercion must always be used in the mode prescribed in the constitution and laws. I hold that the federal government is, and ought to be, clothed with the power and duty to use all the means necessary to coerce obedience to all laws made in pursuance of the constitution. But the proposition to subvert the de facto foreign government of South Carolina, and to reduce the people of that state into subjection to our federal authority, no longer involves the question of enforcing the laws in a country within our possession; but does involve the question whether we will make war on a state which has withdrawn her allegiance and expelled our authorities, with a view of subjecting her to our possession for the purpose of enforcing our laws within her limits.
We are bound, by the usages of nations, by the laws of civilization, by the uniform practice of our own government, to acknowledge the existence of a government de facto, so long as it maintains its undivided authority. When Louis Philippe retired from the throne of France, and Lamartine suddenly one morning found himself the head of a provisional government, I believe it was but three days until the American minister recognized the government de facto. Texas was a government de facto, not recognized by Mexico, when we annexed her; and Mexico was a government de facto, not recognized by Spain, when Texas revolted. The laws of nations recognize governments de facto where they exercise and maintain undivided sway, leaving the question of their authority de jure to be determined by the people interested in the government. Now, as a man who loves the Union, and desires to see it maintained forever, and to see the laws enforced, and rebellion put down, and insurrection suppressed, and order maintained, I desire to know of my Union loving friends on the other side of the chamber how they intend to enforce the laws in the seceding states, except by making war, conquering them first, and administering the laws in them afterwards.
In my opinion, we have reached a point where disunion is inevitable, unless some compromise, founded upon mutual concession, can be made. I prefer concession to a dissolution of the Union. When I avow myself in favor of compromise, I do not mean that one side should give up all that it has claimed, nor that the other side should give up everything for which it has contended. Nor do I ask any man to come to my standard; but I simply say that I will meet every one half way who is willing to preserve the peace of the country, and save the Union from disruption upon principles of compromise and concession.
In my judgment, no system of compromise can be effectual and permanent which does not banish the slavery question from the halls of congress and the arena of federal politics, by irrepealable constitutional provision. We have tried compromises by law, compromises by act of congress; and now we are engaged in the small business of crimination and recrimination, as to who is responsible for not having lived up to them in good faith, and for having broken faith. I want whatever compromise is agreed to, placed beyond the reach of party polities and partisan policy, by being made irrevocably in the constitution itself, so that every man that holds office will be bound by his oath to support it.