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IS DAVIS A TRAITOR?

CHARTER I.

Opinions respecting Secession deterntined by passion, not by reason.

The final judgment of History in relation to the war of 1861 will, in no small degree, depend on its verdict with respect to the right of secession. If, when this right was practically asserted by the South, it had been eerceded by the North, there would not have been even a pretext for the tremendous conflict which followed. Is it net vonderful, then, that a question of such magnitude and import=" ance should have been so little considered, or discussed ? Perhaps no other question of political philosophy, or of international law, pregnant with such unutterable calamities, has ever been so partially and so superficially examined as the right of secession from the Federal Union of the United States. From first to last, it seems to have been decided by passion, and not by reason. The voice of reason, enlightened by the study of the facts of history and the principles of political philosophy, yet remains to be heard on the subject of secession.

No one, at present, denies that the States had a right to secede from the Union formed by the old Articles of Confederation. Indeed, this right was claimed and exercised. by the States, when they withdrew from that Confederation in order to form “a more perfect Union.” Yet, while that Union was standing and in favor with the people, the right of secession therefrom was vehemently denied. The

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reason of this is well stated by. Mr. Madison in “ The Federalist." Having explained and vindicated the right of the States, or any portion of them, to secede from the existing Union, he adds: 66 The time has been when it was • incumbent on all of us to veil the ideas which this paragraph exhibits. The scene has now changed, and with it the part which the same motives dictate:-*

That is to say, the time has been when it became all'Antericans, as patriots and worshippers of the existing Union, to veil the right of secession; but now is the time, to, anveil this sacred right, and let the truth be seen. Accordingly, the Convention of 1787 unveiled thiş :right, and the States, one after another, seceded froin the Union ; though the Articles by which it was formed expressly declared that it should be "perpetual,” or last forever.

The same thing happened, in a still greater degree, under the new and “more perfect Union." This, unlike the one for which it had been substituted, did not pronounce itself immortal. Still it was deemed incumbent on all' men by Mr. Madison, and especially upon himself, to veil the right of secession from the new Union; which he, more than any other man, had labored to establish and preserve. But having exercised the right of secession from one compact between the States, how could he veil that right under another compact between the same parties? Having, for the benefit of his age, revealed the truth, how could he hope to hide it from all future ages? Having laid down the right of secession from one Federal Union, as the great fundamental law to which the new Union owed its very existence, how could he hope to cover it up again, and make the new compact forever binding on posterity? There is not, it is believed, in the whole range of literature, a sophism more ineffably weak and flimsy than the one employed by Mr. Madison to veil the right of secession from the new Union. *Federalist No. xlii.

The first compact, says he, was made by the Legislatures of the States, and the second by the people themselves of the States. Hence, although the States had seceded from the first compact or Union, he supposed, or hoped, they would have no right to secede from the second.* The first compact was, it is true, originally adopted by the Legislatures of the States; but then it was approved by the people themselves, who lived under it as the Constitution and government of their choice. Were not the States, then, just as much bound by this compact, as if it had been originally made by the people themselves? What would be thought of an individual, who should approve and adopt as his own a contract made by his agent, and, having derived all the advantages of it, should seek to repudiate it on the ground that it was not originally entered into by himself? He would be deemed infamous. Yet, precisely such is the distinction and the logic of Mr. Madison, in his attempt to justify the act of secession from the first Union, and to deny the right of secession from the second Union between the same parties ! The two compacts are construed differently; because the one was originally made by agents and afterwards ratified by the principals, and the other was originally made by the principals themselves ! Could any sophism be more weak or flimsy? Is it not, indeed, in the eye of reason, as thin as gossamer, as transparent as the air itself? Hopeless, indeed, must be the attempt to find a difference between the two cases, which shall establish the right of secession in the one and not in the other; since James Madison himself, with all his unsurpassed powers of logic and acute discrimination, was compelled to rely on so futile a distinction.

But the majority needed no veil, not even one as thin as that employed by Mr. Madison, to conceal the right of secession from their eyes. The mists raised by its own passions were amply sufficient for that purpose. The doc

* The Madison Papers, p. 1184.

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trine of secession was regarded, by the reigning majority, as simply equivalent to the destruction of the best Government the world had ever seen,” or was ever likely to see. Hence, before the dread tribunal of the sovereign majority, the touch of secession was political death. The public men of the country, and all aspirants after office, shrank from it as from plague, pestilence, and famine. As to whether secession was a Constitutional right or otherwise, the multitude knew nothing, and cared less; but still, in their passionate zeal, they denounced it as rebellion, treason, and every other crime in the dark catalogue of political offences. Their leaders, having studied the subject as little as themselves, were no less ignorant respecting the merits of the question, and even more fierce in denouncing secession as the sum of all villainies, treasons, and rebellions. Thus, what the logic of Mr. Madison failed to accomplish, was achieved by the rhetoric of angry politicians and the passions of an infuriated majority; that is, the right of secession was veiled. The object of this little book is simply to appeal from the mad forum of passion to the calm tribunal of reason.

But why, it may be asked, appeal to reason? Has not the war of secession been waged, and the South subjugated? Can reason, however victorious, bind up the broken heart, or call the dead to life? Can reason cause the desolate, dark, waste places of the South to smile again, or the hearts of her downcast and dejected people to rejoice? Can reason strike the fetters from the limbs of the downtrodden white population of the South? True, alas! reason can do none of these things; but still she has a high office and duty to perform. For, however sore her calamities, all is not yet lost to our bleeding and beloved South. She still retains that which, to every true man, is infinitely dearer than property or life. She still retains her moral wealth,—the glory of her Jacksons, her Sidney Johnsons, her Lees, her Davises, and of all who have nobly died or

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suffered in her cause. These are her imperishable jewels; and, since little else is left to her, these shall be cherished with the greater love, with the more enthusiastic and undying devotion.

Let no one ask, then, except a dead soul, why argue the question of secession? For, it is precisely as this question is decided, that the Jacksons, the Johnsons, the Lees, and the Davises of the South, will be pronounced rebels and traitors, or heroes and martyrs; that the South itself will be disgraced, or honored, in the estimation of mankind. History is, at this moment, busy in making up her verdict on this momentous question; which is to determine so much that is most dear to every true son of the South. Shall we, then, remain idle spectators, mere passive lookers-on, while the North is flooding the world with volumes against the justice of our cause ? Shall we stand, like the dumb brutes around us, having no word to utter in the great cause of truth, justice and humanity, which is now pending at the bar of History? Or shall we, on the contrary, contribute our mite toward the just decision of that glorious cause? The radicals themselves might, perhaps, derive some little benefit from our humble labors. For, if duly weighed and considered by them, these labors might serve to mitigate their wrath, and turn their thoughts from schemes of vengeance to the administration of justice, from persecution and ruin to peace and prosperity, Be this as it may, however, I shall proceed to argue the right of secession; because this is the great issue on which the whole Southern people, the dead as well as the living, is about to be tried in the person of their illustrious chief, Jefferson Davis.

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