The Growth of Lawlessness.
Perhaps no sign of the times is more threatening to the republic than the rapidly growing alienation and indifference of the popular mind to the principles and restraints of the constitution and law. It is but one stop from admiration of a government by force to advocate its establishment; and it really seems that both political parties in the loyal states of this government are drifting to such a state of feeling as must reduce us to chaos or to the establishment of a central despotism. The party in power, perceiving its unpopularity caused by its flagrant oppressions of the people, find its unwarranted abuses of authority, foresees its inevitable downfall at a popular election, and is fanatically grasping more tightly the reins of power, and unmistakably avowing its determination to perpetuate its dominion, as it has commenced in Kentucky and other states, by the force of its military. This force will beget force; and backed by the deep-felt indignation of the people at its usurpations, and disgust for its imbecility, the administration must either pause in its course, or find itself shortly in open collision with the people.
Abolitionists, in days gone by, talked long and loudly about the "aggressions of slavery." These aggressions have been absolutely nothing, compared with the aggressions of abolitionism. When the National Anti-Slavery Society was organized in 1833, with its branches and auxiliaries, the people of the north still cherished their love of law and compromise, and their allegiance to the constitution. They believed that slavery was a question for the southerners alone to discuss; a subject with which we of the north had no more to do than with the habits and customs of the Fejee Islanders. Their instincts taught them that sending incendiary documents by these abolition societies into the south was a crime, and ought to be so punished. They plainly saw that the tendency of such a course was to foment serious discontent which might eventuate in civil war between the people of the two sections. Much as they loved free speech and a free press, abolitionists were in danger of being very severely dealt with in many localities of the north. Their doctrines, from the outset, inculcated violation of the constitution, a disregard of the principles upon which our republic was based; and the people of the north, in that case, adopted as their motto, one of the watchwords of the revolution — "obsta principiis" — "resist the beginnings" of mischief and oppression.
Public feeling at the north was, indeed, so strongly opposed to the abolition movement that the American Anti-Slavery Society found it wise to issue an address in vindication of their views and principles of action. The points laid down in that address are worthy of attention now. They would be hooted at by the abolitionists of to-day as absurd and disloyal. The abolitionists of 1830 thus defined their political creed:
1st. We hold that congress has no more right to abolish slavery in the southern states that in the French West India Islands. Of course we desire no national legislation on the subject.
2d. We hold that slavery can only be lawfully abolished by the legislatures of the several states in which it prevails.
3d. We believe that American citizens have the right to express and publish their opinions of the constitution, laws, of any and every state and nation under heaven; and we swear never to surrender the liberty of speech, of press, or of conscience, blessings which we have inherited from our fathers, and which we intend, so far as we are able, to transmit to our children.
These positions, taken up thirty years ago by the leaders of the anti-slavery agitation, demonstrate the strength of the hold which constitutional ideas then possessed upon the public mind and public heart. So profoundly has that hold been shaken by the subtle and demoralizing efforts of organized fanaticism, that conservative journals and conservative leaders who venture to reassert these same principles to-day are threatened with the last extremities of violence and outrage by the men whom abolitionism has lifted into power!
But our noble president himself furnishes a most notable instance of the progress of anti-constitutional ideas, and their rapid growth in the congenial soil of an abolition mind. In his inaugural address, he declared—
"I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states, where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."
In an astonishingly brief space of time he outgrew this belief, recanted his declaration, and interfered most directly and pointedly, with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. His numerous other infractions of the constitution; his disregard of state and individual rights and his declaration that he possesses the power to set aside all written law and make his will the sole power in the nation, are legitimate outgrowths of the same disposition of mind and of reasoning. As we intimated above, the people are not, nor will they ever be, prepared to acknowledge such doctrines. They will never surrender, without a desperate struggle, the rights inherited with the constitution of their fathers.