The Founding Fathers vs. Abraham Lincoln
(A Constitutional and Legal Rebuttal of Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address)
By: Invictus Veritas
The sole purpose of this expositional comparison of Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address is to examine the statements that are made within this speech in comparison to the words of the Founding Fathers themselves, and to the words of the documents that give us our entire legal foundation for this country i.e. the Constitution and other founding documents. This entire article is written with the motivation of exposing what is true and what is false, based on the side by side comparison of what the Founding Fathers said, and what Lincoln said in this speech. This article’s intent is neither to promote nor to demonize the institution of slavery. Neither is it a debate on the morality of slavery. The purpose of this article is to examine what was legal and constitutional at the time this speech was written. My desire is that in the mind of the reader, he or she would imagine that this speech is being put on legal trial. Morality plays no role in the purpose of this article. The sole question I want the reader to consider is, “Is what Lincoln is claiming here legal or constitutional?”. Whatever your personal moral feelings are about any subject(s) addressed in this article, they are entirely inconsequential. What matters is this…was this a constitutional right or wasn’t it? Was this legal or wasn’t it? Ask yourself a simple question, “If this speech was being put on trial in a court in 1861, would the claims and statements being made by Lincoln stand up as being legally valid in a court of law?” (not in a court of morality).
My most sincere and honest prayer is that you, the reader, will read this article with both an open heart and mind. The sole goal of each individual reading this should be the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom and truth.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” – Hosea 4:6 KJV.
“Truth crushed to the earth is truth still and like a seed will rise again.”
– President Jefferson Davis, CSA
The First Inaugural Address of Abraham LincolnIntroductions and personal stance on the “Fugitive Slave Act” and Article 4 Section Two of the Original U.S. Constitution. It is in these opening statements that Lincoln addresses the legality of slavery and his position on its constitutionality. It is also here that he reiterates his stance on the subject and that he has no intention of interfering with the institution, nor does he have legal authority to do so.
MONDAY, MARCH 4, 1861
Fellow-Citizens of the United States:
Section 1“In compliance with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President before he enters on the execution of this office.
I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement.
Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that—
1. Contrary to popular opinion today, Lincoln was not an abolitionist nor was he opposed to the institution of slavery. Here in some of the very first lines of his speech, he, in his own words states his position on that very institution. If any group of people are fearful that by assuming the office of the Presidency, Lincoln would interfere with that institution, Lincoln states his position as one of endorsement, not one of opposition. He clearly states that anyone fearful that he will oppose the institution can rest assured knowing he does not oppose them or the institution and “ There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you.” Right here Lincoln states that not only is he saying he does not oppose the institution today, but support for it (or at the very least, no opposition to it) “is found in nearly all the published speeches.”
2. Lincoln lays out his feelings on slavery and his legal authority to interfere with the institution, which he claims is none. This belief would later be abandoned when it serves his purposes as a military tactic in defeating the South. The Emancipation Proclamation will highlight this hypocrisy when he frees the slaves in the South (which legally he has no authority to do, because the South is by then a separate nation) while simultaneously freeing none of the slaves in the North where he still has no authority to do so because at this time the Constitution has yet to be amended, but he at least has a position within the Presidency of that Northern country known as the United States. Either way Lincoln had no authority to issue an Emancipation Proclamation in either country, but least of all in a separate nation (The CSA) where he had no legal authority of any kind.
3. Many Lincolnites and Lincoln apologists will claim that despite Lincoln’s many repeated racist remarks towards black people, he later evolved as a person and as a politician, and changed his mind and heart towards the people of color. Here we find Lincoln at his first inaugural speech, well after the Lincoln/Douglas debates of 1858, where Lincoln declared, “I have no purpose to introduce political or social equality between the white and black races”. Lincoln once again solidifies that contrary to the Lincoln apologists’ assertion, that by this time he had grown and matured, and he no longer held those once racist viewpoints and even more so, neither did his Northern constituents that elected him. In his own words he absolutely destroys this apologist notion when he says, “Those who nominated me and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them.”
Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.
4. This statement is clearly a lie of such epic proportions, that it really needs no further dissection when looked at through the tunnel of time. This statement is the exact opposite of what Lincoln would ACTUALLY do, in just a very short amount of time after having made this speech, when he orders the lawless invasion of the Southern States, by an armed force. The hypocrisy here is just astounding!
There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause (Article 4 Section 2) I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:
“No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”
It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution--to this provision as much as to any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause "shall be delivered up" their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not with nearly equal unanimity frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?
There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by national or by State authority, but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to others by which authority it is done. And should anyone in any case be content that his oath shall go unkept on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?
Again: In any law upon this subject ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be not in any case surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well at the same time to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States"?
I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules; and while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed than to violate any of them trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.”
5. I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed than to violate any of them trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.” -Lincoln
Lincoln not very long after having made this comment, will completely abandon this belief and constitutional principle, when he issues his unconstitutional “Emancipation Proclamation” completely circumventing the constitutional process of having the people/States vote on and repeal a constitutional amendment. But then again, that’s how Lincoln operated. He would say or do anything he needed to, in order to get what he wanted. He was anything but “Old Honest Abe”. He was just a politician, and politicians lie.
Reflections and Concerns: It is here that Lincoln reflects on the history of the office of the Presidency since its inception and begins to comment on his concerns of the state of the Union, which he, in his own words calls, “A disruption of the Federal Union”.
Lincoln’s belief that the Union of States at the founding is “Perpetual”. This is in direct conflict with the words of the Founding Fathers themselves.
“I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever, it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.
Again: If the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it--break it, so to speak--but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?
Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was "to form a more perfect Union."
But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity. (This statement by Lincoln is of personal opinion. Opinion does not make something “lawful”.)
It follows from these views (once again a viewpoint does not constitute constitutionality) that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.
I therefore consider (Lincoln’s personal opinion) that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it so far as practicable unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself. (This is the true reason for the War Between the States, the maintaining of the Union.)
In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; (Yet again we find in Lincoln’s own words the reason the war will be fought on the part of the Union, to maintain the Union and to continue to collect the taxes and tariffs imposed upon the Southern people) but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. (We now know that this would turn out to be one of MANY lies from the Lincoln administration) Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating and so nearly impracticable withal that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices.”
Let us now take a moment to address and rebut the various claims and personal views of Lincoln’s belief in a “Perpetual Union”. At this time I’ll address each of these claims line by line and compare them to the words of the actual men who wrote and framed this country and it’s Constitution:
1. “I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, -Lincoln
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation……That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,….. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government” – Declaration of Independence –Thomas Jefferson
2. “It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.” -Lincoln
Once again, I will quote from the excerpt from the Declaration of Independence: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”
“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.” – John Adams, Thoughts on Government 1776
3. “Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778.” -Lincoln
While the Articles of Confederation in its beginning does use the words ‘perpetual Union”, the context of this application is further defined and expounded on, immediately after these terms are used. Article 2 “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right”. Article 3 further explains what this “perpetual” Union’s roles and responsibilities are, “The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.”
Contrary to Lincoln’s assertion that the Articles of Confederation acted as an unbreakable chain which forever bound the states to a governmental entity that held sway over the laws and affairs of the states, the actual document defines what that “perpetual Union” was. It was a “league of friendship” and one that did NOT by entering into it, surrender the States “sovereignty, freedom and independence”. Webster’s dictionary defines the word “sovereignty” thus: 1) supreme power especially over a body politic. 2) Freedom from external control. 3) One that is sovereign; especially: an autonomous state. Other definitions of “sovereignty” include: 1) Supreme power or authority. 2) The authority of a state to govern itself. 3) A self-governing state. It should also be noted that the words “perpetual Union” are to be found NOWHERE in the Constitution. This is an incredibly important point that can not be overstated, as each and every word that went into the Constitution was HIGHLY debated. If the founding fathers wanted the words “perpetual union” in the Constitution, then it would be there. The fact that those words appear nowhere in the Constitution, speaks volumes!
Today, in the terms of the 1700’s, we find ourselves in another “perpetual Union” as it is defined in the Articles of Confederation. Today we call it the “United Nations”. We have the exact same agreement between the different nations which compose and make up the United Nations. We “enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.” However, no one in their right mind would assert that each of the different countries or “States”, have surrendered their sovereignty or their independence as a nation. It was no different with the founders. They came together in perpetual friendship, but still were individual, their own independent “States’ or countries.
4. “We find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774.” –Lincoln
There exists no such claim of a Union much less a “perpetual” one, in the Articles of Association. This statement is nothing more than an entire and complete fabrication. The Articles of Association is a document of a list of grievances by the colonies against the crown and an agreement between the colonials to a series of actions (mostly in the nature of boycott and civil disobedience) in defiance of the crown’s infringement of their rights. Lincoln lied. This is the beginning of that document: “We, his majesty's most loyal subjects, the delegates of the several colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode-Island, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the three lower counties of Newcastle, Kent and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, and South-Carolina, deputed to represent them in a continental Congress, held in the city of Philadelphia, on the 5th day of September, 1774, avowing our allegiance to his majesty, our affection and regard for our fellow-subjects in Great-Britain and elsewhere, affected with the deepest anxiety, and most alarming apprehensions, at those grievances and distresses, with which his Majesty's American subjects are oppressed ; and having taken under our most serious deliberation, the state of the whole continent, find, that the present unhappy situation of our affairs is occasioned by a ruinous system of colony administration, adopted by the British ministry about the year 1763, evidently calculated for enslaving these colonies, and, with them, the British Empire. In prosecution of which system, various acts of parliament have been passed, for raising a revenue in America, for depriving the American subjects, in many instances, of the constitutional trial by jury, exposing their lives to danger, by directing a new and illegal trial beyond the seas, for crimes alleged to have been committed in America: And in prosecution of the same system, several late, cruel, and oppressive acts have been passed, respecting the town of Boston and the Massachusetts-Bay, and also an act for extending the province of Quebec, so as to border on the western frontiers of these colonies, establishing an arbitrary government therein, and discouraging the settlement of British subjects in that wide extended country; thus, by the influence of civil principles and ancient prejudices, to dispose the inhabitants to act with hostility against the free Protestant colonies, whenever a wicked ministry shall chose so to direct them.
To obtain redress of these grievances, which threaten destruction to the lives, liberty, and property of his majesty's subjects, in North-America, we are of opinion, that a non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreement, faithfully adhered to, will prove the most speedy, effectual, and peaceable measure: And, therefore, we do, for ourselves, and the inhabitants of the several colonies, whom we represent, firmly agree and associate, under the sacred ties of virtue, honour and love of our country, as follows:” After this begins the list of grievances.
5. “It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary” –Lincoln
“If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” – Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address 1801
If any state in the union will declare that it prefers separation with the 1st alternative, to a continuance in union without it, I have no hesitation in saying, “Let us separate.” I would rather the states should withdraw, which are for unlimited commerce & war, and confederate with those alone which are for peace & agriculture. I know that every nation in Europe would join in sincere amity with the latter, & hold the former at arm’s length by jealousies, prohibitions, restrictions, vexations & war. -Thomas Jefferson to William H. Crawford June 20, 1816.
“Nations acknowledge no judge between them upon earth, and their Governments from necessity, must in their intercourse with each other decide when the failure of one party to a contract to perform its obligations, absolves the other from the reciprocal fulfillment of his own. But this last of earthly powers is not necessary to the freedom or independence of states, connected together by the immediate action of the people, of whom they consist. To the people alone is there reserved, as well the dissolving, as the constituent power, and that power can be exercised by them only under the tie of conscience, binding them to the retributive justice of Heaven.
With these qualifications, we may admit the same right as vested in the people of every state in the Union, with reference to the General Government, which was exercised by the people of the United Colonies, with reference to the Supreme head of the British empire, of which they formed a part – and under these limitations, have the people of each state in the Union a right to secede from the confederated Union itself.” – John Quincy Adams 1839
“Whether we remain in one confederacy, or form into Atlantic and Mississippi confederacies, I believe not very important to the happiness of either part. Those of the western confederacy will be as much our children & descendants as those of the eastern, and I feel myself as much identified with that country, in future time, as with this; and did I now foresee a separation at some future day, yet I should feel the duty & the desire to promote the western interests as zealously as the eastern, doing all the good for both portions of our future family which should fall within my power.” -Letter from Jefferson to Dr. Joseph Priestly, January 29, 1804.
“The future inhabitants of the Atlantic & Mississippi States will be our sons. We leave them in distinct but bordering establishments. We think we see their happiness in their union, & we wish it. Events may prove it otherwise; and if they see their interest in separation, why should we take side with our Atlantic rather than our Mississippi descendants? It is the elder and the younger son differing. God bless them both, & keep them in union, if it be for their good, but separate them, if it be better.” –Thomas Jefferson Letter to John C. Breckenridge, August 12, 1803.
“That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government” –Thomas Jefferson, The Kentucky Resolutions 1798
“It is inherent in the nature of sovereignty not to be amenable to the suit of any individual without its consent. This is the general sense and the general practice of mankind; and the exemption, as one of the attributes of sovereignty, is now enjoyed by the government of every State in the Union…. The contracts between a nation and the individuals are only binding on the conscience of the sovereign, and have no pretensions to a compulsive force. They confer no right of action, independent of the sovereign will.” - Alexander Hamilton The Federalist Papers number 81
"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite." -James Madison The Federalist Papers, No. 45, January 26, 1788. (This meaning that the power of a State to decide for itself on how to govern or what to be a part of is absolute.)
Furthermore the 10th Amendment of the Constitution states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” The tenth amendment is a very simple concept. Any authority that is not granted to the Federal Government in the Constitution, by the States, is reserved or still held by the State, and more importantly by the people. This means there is no constitutional amendment that says that the States have forfeited their sovereignty, therefore the States and its people retain that power because it was not given to the Federal government, and as such maintain the power to self-govern i.e. secede. Simply put, anything not listed in the Constitution as being a power granted to the Federal Government by the States and the people, remains in the people’s and the States’ control. So, unless it is listed in the Constitution, the Federal Government has no authority over that matter and its authority to preside over whatever topic it is, is solely within the jurisdiction of the State, not the Federal Government, because that authority was not delegated to the Federal Government by the people.
It is also of interest to note this quote by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America. Although not a Founding Father, he was a French diplomat, political scientist and historian, and as such can give insight into American politics as it was viewed through the eyes of the rest of the nations of the world at the time. The United States and its government was of great interest to the rest of the world, in that it was essentially a huge experiment in terms of politics and government. “The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; and in uniting together they have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the states chooses to withdraw from the compact, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so, and the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims directly by force or right.”
6. Lincoln further goes on to say, ‘that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary.”
However Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase the 6th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court would later remark after the war, on the subject of whether the leaders of the Confederacy had indeed committed insurrection, rebellion or treason, and said, “If you bring these [Confederate] leaders to trial it will condemn the North, for by the Constitution secession is not rebellion.”
The bottom line on the whole argument that the Founders never set up a system of government that was intended to ever been overthrown or for the States not to be able to secede is preposterous at best. All of the Founding Fathers were revolutionists. They were men who set up a country upon the literal and physical foundation of insurrection and revolution. To say that men who fought with blood, sweat, and tears against a tyrannical system of government to overthrow it and cast off the shackles of oppressive government would in turn, on the heels of revolution, establish a government that could not itself be revolted against if it became tyrannical, is the epitome of stupidity. In fact, it was Thomas Jefferson the author of the Declaration of Independence who said, ‘Every generation needs a revolution.” Thomas Jefferson also wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” He is once again quoted as saying, “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing and as necessary the political world as storms of the physical.”
7. But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity. –Lincoln
Contrary to Lincoln’s idea that secession would render the Union “less perfect than before the Constitution”, John Quincy Adams (who was a Founding Father) in his speech celebrating the Jubilee of the Constitution in 1839, refutes this idea when he said, “But the indissoluble link of union between the people of the several states of this confederated nation, is after all, not in the right, but in the heart. If the day should ever come, (may Heaven avert it,) when the affections of the people of these states shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give away to cold indifference, or collisions of interest shall fester into hatred, the bands of political association will not long hold together parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies; and far better will it be for the people of the disunited states, to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the Constitution, to form again a more perfect union, by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separated parts to be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the center.”
Lincoln’s promise that the current governmental functions will continue to be executed and that the restoration of public relations between the aggrieved parties will come to a resolution.
“The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts of the Union. So far as possible the people everywhere shall have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and reflection. The course here indicated will be followed unless current events and experience shall show a modification or change to be proper, and in every case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised, according to circumstances actually existing and with a view and a hope of a peaceful solution of the national troubles and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and affections.”
Lincoln attempts to appeal to the crowd and his constituents on the dangers of secession and tries to assert that there is no reason for secession because, as he states, no one has been deprived of any of their constitutional rights. In Lincoln’s mind no party or state actually has a grievance.“That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events and are glad of any pretext to do it I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the Union may I not speak?
Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from, will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?
In Lincoln’s mind no party or state actually has a grievance. He also uses fear tactics that claim that the “ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from…Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from.”, meaning he feels that the States are going to be worse off by shedding their shackles than to be free. But whether or not that statement is true, is of no consequence, for it is the States and the States alone that must by the will of the people, decide “to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” As the Declaration of Independence tells us.“All profess to be content in the Union if all constitutional rights can be maintained. Is it true, then, that any right plainly written in the Constitution has been denied? I think not. Happily, the human mind is so constituted that no party can reach to the audacity of doing this. Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied. If by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might in a moral point of view justify revolution; certainly would if such right were a vital one. But such is not our case. All the vital rights of minorities and of individuals are so plainly assured to them by affirmations and negations, guaranties and prohibitions, in the Constitution that controversies never arise concerning them. But no organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can anticipate nor any document of reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions. Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by national or by State authority? The Constitution does not expressly say. May Congress prohibit slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.”
1. “All profess to be content in the Union if all constitutional rights can be maintained. Is it true, then, that any right plainly written in the Constitution has been denied? I think not…Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied… But such is not our case.” –Lincoln
So, having now had the gauntlet once more thrown before us to yet again compare the truth versus the declarations of a man who wouldn’t know how to tell the truth if his very life depended on it, let us once again juxtapose between fact and Lincoln’s oratorical pronouncements.
We have been challenged by the very words of the man himself, to find ONE SINGLE INSTANCE of the Constitution being denied or broken.
1A. Article I Section 8
“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”
The Southern States had been paying between 70-90% of the entire nation’s taxes. This does not include tariffs, such as the “Tariff of Abominations” of 1828, or the Morrill Tariff of 1861. This is a direct violation of Article I Section 8 Clause 1. “All Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be UNIFORM throughout the United States.” If the South was paying even .01% more than their Northern counterparts, then the Constitution was being broken. They were paying far more than that. Lincoln challenged that just one instance be presented. I believe we have accomplished that end.
2. “May Congress prohibit slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.” – Lincoln
Although the Constitution did not expressly say, apparently Mr. Lincoln had definitely “expressly said”, on this exact topic in Peoria, Illinois, on October 16, 1858, when he said, “Whether slavery shall go into Nebraska, or other new territories, is not a matter of exclusive concern to the people who may go there. The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these territories. We want them for the homes of free white people. This they cannot be, to any considerable extent, if slavery shall be planted with them. Slave states are the places for poor white people to move from…..New free states are the places for poor people to go and better their condition.” In other words, Lincoln did not oppose the extension of slavery, because he felt slavery was a bad thing or a moral evil. He opposed the extension of slavery, because these new territories were to be “white only paradises”. Lincoln knew that this could not be possible if slavery was allowed to extend into these new territories, and so he opposed it, not out of benevolence towards people of color or because of moral principles, but because he didn’t want blacks in the new territories at all.
Lincoln once again uses his oratorical skills to try and convince the audience in attendance that the country cannot separate and that it would be more advantageous to force people to live together that despise one another and cannot agree, than to just part in the knowledge that opposing sides who cannot relate to one another would do well to just agree to disagree and wish each other well as they go on their separate ways. I will do very little in this section to rebut Lincoln’s speech as most if not all of the necessary rebuttals have been accomplished in prior sections, namely especially Section 3.
“From questions of this class spring all our constitutional controversies, and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the Government must cease. There is no other alternative, for continuing the Government is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them, for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. For instance, why may not any portion of a new confederacy a year or two hence arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it? All who cherish disunion sentiments are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this.Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new union as to produce harmony only and prevent renewed secession?
Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.
I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court, nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case upon the parties to a suit as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the Government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.
One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive- slave clause of the Constitution and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave trade are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports the law itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, cannot be perfectly cured, and it would be worse in both cases after the separation of the sections than before. The foreign slave trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived without restriction in one section, while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at all by the other.
Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you.” (See Section 3, Point 7 on the topic of this last paragraph)
“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I can not be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the National Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add that to me the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others, not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution--which amendment, however, I have not seen--has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”
1. “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”
I’ll not belabor this point ladies and gentlemen as I have no doubt that the reader(s) here, can see the ridiculousness of such a statement by Lincoln as he would in just a very short while, after having made this speech, declare war on the people of the South, for doing this very thing.
2. “I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution--which amendment, however, I have not seen--has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service… holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”
Here we find that Lincoln is not just aware of the ‘Corwin Amendment’, but he fully endorses it. For those of you who are new to the topic of the ‘Corwin Amendment’, the ‘Corwin Amendment’ was a constitutional amendment passed by the 36th United States Congress on March the 2nd, 1861. It was passed as an effort to coax the Southern States that had seceded, back into the Union, by granting them a constitutional amendment that would forever guarantee the institution of slavery and render it untouchable by Congress. The South refused. This is a very curious thing for the South to do indeed, for if the South was fighting for the preservation of slavery, why did they not accept the offer of the ‘Corwin Amendment”? They would have gotten exactly what they “supposedly” wanted and never had to fire a single shot. Instead they refused. Something doesn’t add up here, unless you’re willing to accept the truth that the war was NOT over slavery.
The text of the ‘Corwin Amendment’ reads: “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said States.” Of this amendment Lincoln states, “I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.” Clearly to Lincoln the issue of having slaves was not one of legality or morality. The more important point to Lincoln was that individuals could not own slaves if they were not part of the United States of America.
“The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have referred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves can do this if also they choose, but the Executive as such has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present Government as it came to his hands and to transmit it unimpaired by him to his successor.”
1. Yet again we find a complete contradiction on the subject of secession. On one hand Lincoln proclaims that it can’t be done or that it is illegal. On the other hand, we find him saying that the people have the ability to do this but “they have referred none upon him (the Chief Magistrate) to fix terms for the separation of the States.” and that “The people themselves can do this if also they choose”.
Lincoln’s final pronouncements and closing statements“Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with His eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American people.
By the frame of the Government under which we live this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief, and have with equal wisdom provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance no Administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years.
My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you in hot haste to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new Administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.
In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it." (we once again find in Lincoln’s own words what the cause on the side of the North will be in the War Between the States, preservation of the Union and not the abolition of slavery)
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”