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Should fate command me, to the farthest verge
LXXXIX. — THE DOOMED INSTITUTION.
The following extracts are from the eloquent speech by Mr. Johnson of Maryland in the Senate of the United States, April 5, 1864, in support of the resolution to amend the Constitution so as to abolish slavery.
See in Index, DEFENSE OF DEFENCE, TOCQUEVILLE, JOHNSON.
1. What is the question before us? It is, Can an institution which deals with human beings as property,
– which claims a right to shackle, not only the body, but the mind and the soul, - can such an institution cease to be within the reach of the political power of
the people of the United States, not because it was not so at one time, but because at that time they failed to exercise that power? Does such a proposition consist with the preamble of the Constitution ? Does that document teach that slavery cannot now be constitutionally abolished ? How conclusive is the reply!
2. Hear what the preamble states to have been the objects that the great and wise and good men, its authors, had at heart in recommending the Constitution to the American people : — " That justice might be established, that tranquillity might be insured, that the common defense might be provided for, and the general welfare promoted, and last, and chief of all, that liberty might be secured.” Now, what right-minded man is there who will say that there is no justice in putting an end to human slavery, that there is no danger from its existence to the tranquillity of the country, that it may not interfere with the common defense and general welfare, and, above all, that it is consistent with any notion which any rătional man with a heart within his bosom can conceive of human liberty ?
3. I am not to be answered, Mr. President, by being told that because of the color of the African race, our fathers regarded them as not entitled to the rights which for themselves they declared were inalienable. There was not one in that body of truly great men, who formed the Constitution, who would not have scouted the proposition and scorned its propounders, if he had been told that there was a natural or a Christian right to make of any human being a slave.
4. Truly has it been said, that so far is slavery from being sanctioned by the Christian dispensation, Christianity is a perpetual decree of emancipation ; and he who preaches the Gospel — whether he knows it or not, whether he wills it or not — is preparing the way for freedom. One of the most philosophical writers upon our institutions, and whose whole life proves that he was as pious as he was philosophical, Alexis de Tocqueville, declares that “Christianity is a religion of freemen; neither its detractors nor its false friends can take from it this truly divine character.”
5. Sir, if slavery is suffered to continue, it will ever prove a fruitful topic of excitement and of danger. Terminate it, and the imagination of man is unable to conceive of any other subject which can plunge this country in frătricīdal strife. God and nature evidently intended us to be one. Our unity is written in the mountains and the rivers in which we all have a common, inseparable interest. The very differences of climate and of soil render each State important to every other, and alike important. And we mean that in the future, as in the past, the government shall be one!
6. Slavery is already fatally wounded. If permitted to survive at all, it can survive only to fester and to pollute. We have called upon its victims to aid us in maintaining the government. We have brought them around our standard, and have marched and are marching them under its folds to assist in its protection, and to co-operate in its triumph. To suffer these men to be reduced again to bondage would be a disgrace to the nation, even greater, if possible, than that of reviving the foreign slave-trade. Upon such a question, the heart gives answer in advance of the intellect; proclaiming at once, in a tone that fills the land, carrying rebuke strong and crushing to whoever may assert the contrary, — “No, no, never! Freedom once enjoyed, none but a brute, in this age of the world, would take it away.”
7. These being my views, I hope that the resolution before us to amend the Constitution so as to abolish slavery, will be adopted. But do as we may, and however this war shall end, the time is sure to come — and that speedily — when the institution will cease. Nothing is more true than the prediction with which Tocqueville closes his chapter on American slavery : “Whatever,” he says, “may be the efforts of the Americans of the South to maintain slavery, they will not always succeed. Slavery, now confined to a single tract of the civilized earth, attacked by Christianity as unjust, and by political economy as prejudicial, and now contrasted with democratic liberty and the intelligence of our age, cannot survive.”
8. Let me conclude with expressing the hope and the belief that this war will be brought to a successful termination ; that humanity and Christianity will enforce that result. It can be accomplished if we are true to duty, to honor, and to freedom. All other considerations should for a time be forgotten. One single purpose should ever be kept before us to animate, — to inspire : this, namely, the restoration of the Union, the reinstatement over every portion of the land of the authority of the Government.
9. That accomplished, as I trust in Providence it will be, and as I think it can be if Government exerts the power with which the people has invested it, we shall soon stand before the world again united, and with institutions, nătional and State, in which human bondage will have no place. We shall be able, to the relief of our consciences and to the honor of our name, to proclaim to Christendom that, however late we have been in carrying out the principles upon which our institutions were founded, we have at last accomplished it. See us now with a Union restored and slavery abolished !
10. The effort may cost sacrifices, but the end can only be as prosperous as it will be magnificent. Our flag may march through the war pierced with bullets and blackened with powder, but it will be seen to be more glorious than ever, with its stars brighter and more numerous, and destined to wave for all time over a nation every one of whose citizens and inhabitants will be able to challenge for himself the proud title and Christian character of a FREEMAN..
XC. — TIME AND DEATH.
LEO, the Latin for lion, is one of the zodiacal constellations; FAVONIUS is the west wind, also called Zephyrus. The PARTHIANS in battle evaded a close conflict by a rapid flight, during which they still shot their arrows backward on the enemy. LORENZO is a fictitious name for an accomplished but irreligious man of the world.
See in Index, DECEASED, WOUND, SPHERE, YOUNG.
Delivery. The blank verse of Young is very peculiar, requiring great care in the delivery, and a thorough study of his meaning. The third stanza of this lesson takes the rising slide at almost all the pauses.
Ah! how unjust to Nature and himself