The President's Message

Buffalo Daily Courier, December 6, 1860

The message of President Buchanan, which we issued in an extra, yesterday afternoon, in advance of our contemporaries, appears in our regular edition this morning. We shall confine the few remarks we have to make to that portion of the message devoted to secession, reserving other topics for future comment. The President has our full concurrence in all that he says in regard to the palpable violations of constitutional duty by the Legislatures of Northern States. It will always be the duty of the President to execute the Fugitive Slave Law, against the conflicting enactments of State Legislatures, and without regard to the public sentiment which may prevail in any locality. The whole power of the Federal Government should be exercised to enforce this, a part of the Supreme Law of the land. After establishing this point, the President enters upon an elaborate and conclusive argument to prove that there is no such thing as voluntary secession—that secession is neither more nor less than revolution—that the Union was designed by the framers of the Constitution to be perpetual, and that it clothed the General Government with the power to protect itself from foes without and foes within—that the government created by the Constitution, and deriving its authority from the sovereign people of each of the sovereign States, has precisely the same right to exercise its power over the people of the States, in the enumerated cases, that each one of them possesses over subjects not delegated to the United States, but "reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." The President also says that "he is bound by solemn oath before God and the country 'to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,' and from this obligation he cannot be absolved by any human power." Never was a case more complete at every point.

But following this perfect vindication of the Constitutional power of the government, and this statement of the duty of the President, comes an ill-timed confession of weakness. What if the President finds it impracticable to discharge his duty? What if federal officers resign? We ask in response, "What is the federal government good for, if it has no resources in an emergency? Why should the citizens maintain this government, with all its costly machinery and expensive officers, if it is a mere rope of sand?["]

If the federal officers resign, has not the President power to appoint others to the vacancies, and the power to sustain them in the discharge of their duties? Has the President the right to assume that the population of South Carolina "would constitute one solid combination to resist him?" And if this were the fact, does it constitute sufficient reason why he should not execute the laws? There is a deep-seated aversion to the execution of the Fugitive Slave Law in some of the Northern States; but the President congratulates the country that he has performed his whole duty in this regard, "though with great loss and inconvenience to the master, and with considerable expense to the government."

Does he propose to permit secession, which he proves unconstitutional, revolutionary and treasonable, because he is informed that a majority of the people are opposed to the exercise [of] the duty he has, by solemn oath before God and the country, sworn to discharge? State sovereignty has nothing whatever to do with this question. If there is any resistance to law and its processes, it must come from citizens of the United States—men who, with the President have sworn allegiance to the Constitution. Whether they live in Vermont or South Carolina is of no importance, so far as the Federal Government is concerned. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, the laws of any State or the declarations of any body of men to the contrary notwithstanding, and the President is bound "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

We are not advocates of any aggressive movement by the General Government toward the disunionists. The threatening position of some of the Southern people is not too lightly spoken of, nor are they to be frowned or bullied into loyalty to the Union. But the Executive of the Union owes it to the confederacy to put down revolution in South Carolina as he would in Vermont or New York. It is true, as the President says, that if the Union "cannot live in the affections of the people, it must one day perish;" but can it long live in the affections of the people, if they are informed that the Union is powerless, when its integrity and perpetuity is menaced? The present crisis in National affairs requires great prudence and forbearance on the part of the Executive; but it does not demand the virtual abdication of executive power by the President. The government should not have one policy toward the Abolitionists of the North, and another toward the disunionists of the South.—The extremists of both sections would glory in the dissolution of the Union, and they have been agitating the slavery question for years in the hope of accomplishing their treasonable purpose. And now, when the shadow of impending ruin clouds the land, the duty of patriotic citizens is plain. They must insist upon "The Union, the Constitution and the Enforcement of the Laws."