Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/377
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the constitution which enables us t<> sit in this house to a rebel- lion.
The future historian will note with astonishment that the Southern struck' for independence began, not with committees of public sati-ty, with declarations of the rights of men, or enunciation of the miglity doctrine, that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, but it began with public statutes, general elections, and constitutional conventions. Mr. Davis himself rested, in his inaugural, the case of the new nation at the bar of the public opinion of the world, not upon revolution, but upon legal right. He said: " The rights soelmnly proclaimed at the birth of the States, which have been affirmed and reaffirmed, in the bills of rights of States subsequently admitted into the Union of 1789, invariably rec- ognise in the people, the power to resume the authority delegated for the purposes of government. Thus the sovereign States here repre- sented, proceeded to form this Confederacy, and it is by abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution." He might also have said that the very Constitution of the United States was adopted by acts of secession, violating the Articles of Confede- ration.
ONLY EXERCISED A RIGHT.
The South learned its constitutional law from Jefterson, Madison and Calhoun ; not from Hamilton and Marshall. They considered secession as a constitutional remedy in 1861. They believed a sep- arate confederacy with their constitutional rights retained better than a union with these rights trampled upon and ignored or held together by physical force.
The junior senator from Massachusetts has written these words: "When this Constitution was adopted by the votes of the States at Philadelphia, and accepted by the votes of the States in popular conventions, it is fair to say that there was not a man in the country, from Washington and Hamilton on the one side, to George Clinton and George Mason on the other, who regarded the new system as anything but an experiment entered upon by the States, and from which each and every State had the right to peaceably withdraw, a right which was very likely to be exercised." The Southern States only exercised a right which had often been threatened by New Eng- land, and which was generally conceded to be a constitutional right. But in 1 86 1 the Union had grown with the growth of the American people, and strengthened with its strength, until, like a young oak,