Are We Ready for Revolution?
Nashville Republican Banner, December 18, 1860
The Revolutionists assume that the general Government is, as they assert, a contract, and as some of the parties to that contract have violated or disregarded some of its obligations, the other parties to it have the right to regard the contract as at an end, and the Government established by it as dissolved. Thirty-three men own as many houses, inhabited by themselves, their wives, their children, and their servants. These thirty-three houses were built by their respective fathers, and are enclosed by the same common outward walls, and covered by the same roof. The demolition of any one of them will involve the destruction of all of them, by destroying the common outward walls, and the common roof, and will bring distress and suffering upon the owners and inhabitants of all. What would be thought of the moral conduct of the owner of any one of these houses, who should insist upon his right to pull down his own house, and thereby endanger the safety of all the other houses, and bring ruin and misery on the owners and inmates of all the others, upon the ground that the contract under which his father and the father's of the other owners had erected them, had, by the owners of some of the houses, been violated? To be sure he might urge that the house was his own, and he had the right either to let it stand or pull it down, as his own judgment should dictate. Would not the owners of the other thirty-two houses have the right to answer him, that right, reason and sound morals required him so to use his own house as not to inflict an injury upon them, and if he persisted in the demolition of his own house, and thereby brought ruin and misery upon the others, their wives, children and servants, would he not be guilty of the perpetration of a great wrong against them? If the owners of the other fourteen houses, standing immediately adjoining his, had always been his friends—had never violated or disregarded the contract of their fathers—and were greater sufferers from the alledged violation of the contract by others than he was, and if the demolition by him of his house would injure them and theirs as much or more than the alledged violations of the contract, would not the moral wrong to those fourteen be greatly aggravated? Would it not be, indeed, without palliation? And if he had refused to hold any conference or consultation with those owners who had suffered as much or more than himself, before he proceeded to his act of destruction, would not insult be added to the great moral wrong he inflicted upon them? Yet, that is exactly what South Carolina proposes to do, with the exception that it is a Government with which are bound up the destinies of thirty-three States, and the lives, liberties, property, business, prosperity and happiness and religion of thirty-one million of men, women and children, instead of a house, which she means to destroy. All right and morals, all reason and justice, all laws and constitutions, condemn the act. "Society is, indeed," said Burke, "a contract." Subordinate contracts for objects of mere ocasional interest may be dissolved at pleasure. But the State ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco, or some other such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties. It is to be looked on with other reverence, because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence, of a temporary and perishable nature. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are dead and those who are to be born. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society, linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting the visible and invisible world, according to a fixed compact, sanctioned by the inviolable oath, which holds all physical and all moral natures, each in their appointed place. This law is not subject to the will of those, who, by an obligation above them, and infinitely superior, are bound to submit their will to that law. The municipal corporations of that universal kingdom are not morally at liberty, at their pleasure, and on their speculations of a contingent improvement, wholly to separate and tear assunder the bands of their subordinate community, and to dissolve it into an unsocial, uncivil, unconnected chaos of elementary principles. It is the first and supreme necessity only—a necessity that is not chosen, but chooses; a necessity paramount to deliberation, that admits no discussion, and demands no evidence—which alone can justify a resort to anarchy. This necessity is no exception to the rule; because this necessity itself is a part, too, of that moral and physical disposition of things to which man must be obedient by consent or force. But, if that which is only submission to necessity should be made the object of choice, the law is broken, nature is disobeyed, and the rebellious are outlawed, cast forth, and exiled from this world of reason, and order, and peace, and virtue, and fruitful penitence, into the antagonistic world of madness, discord, vice, confusion, and unavailing sorrow. The first of the Revolutionary earthquake has shaken the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific—from the Lakes to the Gulf—from its centre to its circumference—destroyed all confidence and credit—closed the vaults of most of the Banks—depreciated the value of the stocks of the general Government some ten per cent., and of State securities some twenty per cent.—reduced the values of slaves in some parts of the South at least one-fifth, and all other property in a greater or less degree—paralyzed all business and deprived the producers of their usual ready market for their products. What will be the effect of the inward march of the revolution over Government, general and State? And who is responsible for all these evils, and yet greater evils to come? The Abolition parsons of New England and their deluded followers, there and elsewhere in the North, and the revolutionary leaders of South Carolina, and their disciples elsewhere, who have, for thirty years, schemed and labored for the disruption of the government of the Union.