The Message

New Haven Morning Journal and Courier, December 6, 1860

Mr. Buchanan's last Annual Message, as President of the United States, will have a more wide and careful reading than is often accorded to such documents. As the chief officer in the government—the man especially entrusted with the enforcement of the laws, and the protection of the Constitution, his opinion and purpose are naturally looked for with intense interest by the whole nation. Very little attention will be bestowed upon those parts of the Message which relate to foreign affairs. Our relations with other nations are generally satisfactory, and excite no comment. Our home affairs are generally in a most depressed condition, but Mr. Buchanan has little to say about them, except to recommend an increase in the tariff. The great subject of interest is the treason plots being hatched at the South—the doctrine of secession, and the right and power of the government to perpetuate its existence. It is about these things that the public is concerned, and it is to see how the President stands in relation to them that his Message will be so widely read. We regret to say that Mr. Buchanan shows a weakness, imbecility and inconsistency which proves him utterly unfit for the emergencies of the times, and that he has no better remedy for preventing a dissolution of the Union, than a concession of all and every thing asked by the disunionists.

Letting pass, as idle misrepresentation, his assertion that the North is an aggressor upon the South, and the originator of all the present agitation, we come to his argument against the right of a State to secede. He argues this point well, and we had a right to expect that having established it, and proved that our government was meant to be perpetual, and had delegated to it all the power necessary to maintain its perpetuity, he would proceed to declare that he, as the head of the government, would see that it was maintained and perpetuated, and advise with Congress as to the proper and most judicious way of doing so. But no, the man turns face upon his own argument, and declares that after all secession is simply rebellion, and then says neither he nor Congress has the right or power to prevent rebellion because no authority is given to "make war upon a State."—This then is the end of his powerful argument against secession—call it by another name, and it becomes another thing. It is a melancholy exhibition of servility and incompetency for Mr. Buchanan to call the enforcement of the laws of Congress and the Constitution of the country as making war against a State. Did any body before discover that the collection of duties at the port of Charleston; the arrest and trial of criminals before the United States Courts, or the transportation of the mails and maintainance of Post Offices, even if maintained by force, and against the menace of South Carolina, was "making war upon the State?" If Mr. Buchanan is right in this, how can he enforce the Fugitive Slave law in any State which resists its operation? It is a dead letter the moment any State declares it shall not be obeyed within its limits. The fact is that the execution of the laws is the duty of the government, and if resistance is offered, then sufficient force must be used to secure their execution. The resistance comes from the individuals, the State is not known in the transaction. It may legislate as much as it chooses, but its legislation is simply void, because it is inconsistent with the Constitution. But the United States will not make war upon it for its legislation. It will punish the individuals who oppose the law, but it neither knows or cares for the State in the matter.

Mr. Buchanan cannot see this perfectly palpable distinction, and so he surrenders the duty of the President and Congress to enforce the law, because there is nothing in the Constitution authorizing making war against a State. Mr. Buchanan proceeds to avow his inability to execute the law in South Carolina because judges, Marshals and Post Masters have resigned. It never seems to occur to him that he can appoint successors, and afford them sufficient protection to enable them to discharge their duties. He has a little hope of collecting the revenue because the Collector at Charleston has not yet resigned, and he thinks when he does, he may appoint a successor to him. What wretched drivel this is, to come from a President of the United States!

But the worst is yet to come. Mr. Buchanan after having labored hard to prove that the government cannot hold itself together, proposes that the trouble shall be remedied by amendments to the Constitution. Not amendments which will give it that power of self-preservation he thinks now wanting. Not amendments to enable it to do what he thinks it ought to do, but cannot for want of authority. But amendments which shall entice the seceders back again until they, or some other States choose to disorganize the government in the same way. He very coolly proposes to the people of the United States that they shall coax South Carolina back into the Union by making the Breckinridge platform a part of the Constitution! The people, by a vote of 3,900,000 to 600,000 have just voted clown that platform, and yet Mr. Buchanan proposes that the thirty-nine hundred thousand shall surrender to the six hundred thousand, and fasten their obnoxious platform forever on the country, by incorporating it in the Constitution!

This, Mr. Buchanan thinks, and this only, will restore peace and unity. We never have seen the experiment tried in a free country, of restoring power and unity by the submission of six sevenths of the people to one seventh, but we doubt the feasibility of the scheme. This Message of Mr. Buchanan's removes the last hope of a reliance upon the Chief Executive of the nation. His remaining ninety days of office will be only so much more time given for disunion to augment its forces, and Mr. Lincoln's position will be all the more embarrassed by the encouragement his impotent predecessor has given to the violators of the laws, and the destroyers of the nation. There is far less hope now of the preservation of the Union than there was a week ago. It may be that there is wisdom and sagacity enough in Congress to effect it, without the aid of the President, but we doubt it, and are more than ever prepared to witness, within the next month, the sloughing off of some half dozen of the disaffected States.