unrivalled zeal and consummate tact, never for a single moment abating its efforts to convince the South of the advantages of separation. But all its ability and all its untiring labors failed to make any serious impression, until the great and powerful interest of slavery was enlisted in the cause, and used as the means of reaching the feelings, and arousing the prejudices of the Southern people. The theories of nullification and secession, while accepted by many leading minds in that section, never made any serious impression upon the mass of the people. Indeed, it may be said with truth, that the honest instincts of the people invariably rejected these pernicious and dangerous theories, whenever they were distinctly involved in the elections. Nevertheless, there was an undercurrent of opinion in favor of them: the minds of the people were familiarized with the doctrines, and thus made ready to embrace them, whenever they should be satisfied it was indispensable to their safety and liberty to avail themselves of their benefit.
These abstract principles, however industriously and successfully taught, would not of themselves have availed to urge the people on to the desperate contest into which they have been madly precipitated. The dogma of the right of secession was not left a mere barren idea: it was accompanied with constant teachings respecting the incompatibility of interests, and the inevitable conflict, between the North and the South; the superiority of slavery over every other form of labor; and the imminent danger of the overthrow of this benign institution by Northern fanaticism, and by the unfriendly influence of the commercial and financial policy of that section. Thus, the mischievous error of secession was roused to life and action by the exhibition of those unreal phantoms, so often conjured up to frighten the South—abolition, agrarianism, and protective oppression.
All these deceptive ideas were required to be infused into the minds of the people, in order to prepare the way for rebellious action. The right of secession was an indispensable condition, without which there could be no justification for the violent measures to be adopted. No considerable number of American citizens could be found ready to lay treasonable hands upon their government; but a great step would be taken if they could be convinced that the constitution provided for its own abrogation, and that the act of destruction could at any time be legally and regularly accomplished. The absolute humanity, justice, and morality of slavery, its excellence as a social institution, and its efficiency in maintaining order and insuring progress, must be fully established and universally admitted, in order to enlist the powerful motives of self-interest on the side of the projected revolution. And finally, it was necessary to show that the divine institution was in danger, that the free labor of the North was actively hostile to it and planning its ruin, and that this hostility was to be aided by all the selfish desires of the protectionists and the dangerous violence of the agrarian 'mudsills' of the other section. It was not of the least importance that these statements or any of them should be true. Let them be thoroughly believed by the people, and that conviction would answer all the purposes of the conspirators. Accordingly, for more than a quarter of a century, these heresies and falsehoods were most industriously instilled into the minds of the Southern people, of whom the great mass are unfortunately, and, from their peculiar condition, necessarily, kept in that state of ignorance which would favor the reception of such incredible and monstrous fallacies.
The argument as to the right of secession has been exhausted; and if it had not been, it does not come within the scope and design of this paper to discuss the question. Enemies of the United States, foreign and domestic, will continue to believe, or at least to profess to believe and try to convince themselves, that the Constitution of 1787, which superseded the Confederation, contained all the defects of the latter which it was specially designed to remedy,—that the league of the preceding period was prolonged in the succeeding organization, only to be the fatal object of future discontent and ambition. Certainly this doctrine is the basis of the rebellion, and without it no successful movement could have been made to secure cooperation from any of the States. Nevertheless, it cannot be considered one of the impelling causes which moved the rebellious States to action, for it is not of itself an active principle. It rather served to smooth the way, by removing obstacles which opposed the operation of real motives. Veneration for the work of the fathers of the republic, respect for the Constitution and love of the Union, as things of infinite value, worthy to be cherished and defended, stood in the way of the conspiracy which compassed the destruction of the government. It was necessary to remove this obstacle, and to eradicate these patriotic sentiments, which had taken strong hold of the minds and hearts of the people of both sections. For more than two generations the Union had been held sacred, beyond all other earthly blessings. It was an object of the first magnitude to unsettle this long-cherished sentiment.
The conspirators were altogether too shrewd and full of tact to approach their object directly. They adopted the artifice of arousing and studiously cultivating another sentiment of equal strength, which should spring up side by side with their love of the Union, flourish for a time in friendly cooperation with it, but ultimately supplant and entirely supersede it. This was the plausible and attractive sentiment of State pride, concealing in itself the idea of perfect sovereignty, with the right of nullification and secession. With consummate ability, with untiring industry and perseverance, and without a moment's cessation for more than a quarter of a century, this fruitful but pernicious seed of disorganization was sown broadcast among the Southern people. So long as there was no occasion to put the theory into practice, there seemed to be no ground for alarm. The question was one rather of curious subtlety than of practical importance. Meanwhile, the minds of men became familiar with the thought; they entertained it without aversion; the germs of ultimate discord and dissolution silently took root, and slowly grew up in the understandings of men. Not that the principle was adopted; it was rather tolerated than accepted. But this was the very thing intended by the wily conspirators. They expected nothing better; for they knew well that an accident or a bold precipitation of events would cause the popular mind to seize this principle and use it, as the only justification for revolutionary violence. Thus this doctrine, which is the embodiment of anarchy, was carefully prepared for the occasion, and artfully placed within easy mental reach of those who would be called upon to wield it.
Pari passu with the dissemination and growth of this dangerous opinion, the political school which cherished it endeavored to promote the object steadily held in view, by restricting and embarrassing the action of the Federal Government in every possible way. Notwithstanding the distrust and aversion of the Jackson party against them, continued long after the events of 1832, they succeeded in forming, first a coalition, and finally a thorough union with the great popular organization—the democratic party. Holding the balance of power between that party and their opponents, they dictated terms to the successive democratic conventions, and, in effect, controlled their nominations and their policy. They imposed upon that party the formidable dogma of 'a strict construction of the Constitution,' and under that plausible pretext, denied to the Government the exercise of every useful power necessary to make it strong and efficient within the