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Full text of "Address of the national executive committee of the Constitutional union party to the people of the United States"

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A. r> D R E S S 

OF THE 

NATIONAL EXECUTIA'E COMMITTEE 

constitutional" union PA1{T\' 

TO THK 

FEOIPI^E OF TKCE XTISriXEXD STA.XES. 



Rooms National Executive Committee, 

357 D street, Washington, D. C, August 1, 1860. 
Fellow-Citizens : ' We beg leave to present to you, for ^'onr con- 
sideration, a few of the reasons which, in our judgment, make it 
the imperative duty of the reflecting and patriotic voters of the 
United States to cast their suffrages at the coming Presidential 
election for John Bell and Edward Everett, the candidates of the 
Constitutional Union party. All men, whatever be their political 
convictions, and in whatever parts of the country they may live, 
must admit that our political condition at this time is at once un- 
natural and alarming. In all free countries, governed by repre- 
sentative bodies, there are, and ever must be, political parties. Thn 
natural division of these parties is in conformity with certain origi- 
nal principles in humanity itself. One party represents perma- 
nency, and one progression; one thepropellingand one the guiding 
principle. The prosperity and healthy growth of free countries 
depend upon the adjustment and proportion of the forces repre- 
sented by these two parties, moving within the sphere of the Con- 
stitution, and alike inspired by patriotic impulse. The parties 
which, under various names, have, until a few years past, divided 
the country, have represented, or professed to represent, the^e 
principles, though it has often happened that the particular issues 
ou which they were opposed were accidental, and not essential. 

THE SLAVERY QUESTION. 

But recently a change has come over the spirit of oar politics, 
and the natural antagonism of parties has been disturbed. In 
fifteen of the thirty-three States which now compose our Confed- 
eracy, the institution of African slavery exists; and all admit that, 
within these States, it is entirely beyond the sphere and'jurisdiction 
of the National Government. At the time of the formation of the 
Constitution it had a legal existence, at least, in nearly all the 
States. From that time to this it has been a subject powerfully 
moving the sympathies and passions of a portion of the commu- 
nity, a'tid it cannot be denied that it has considerably enhanced 
the difficulty of governing and administering the country. But 
the grave questions which grew out of the existence of slavery were 
always met with that wisdom and patriotism which were requisite 
for their adjustment and solution. The Constitution itself Mas the 
birth of a spirit of generous concession and magnanimous compro- 
mise; and in a like spirit the country was long governed. One 
crisis of more than common magnitude and peril occurred in 1820, 



upon the admission of Missouri : and another in 1850, upon the 
admission of Cahfornia ; but both were happily passed, and in both 
cases, after some moments of anxious suspense, the coals of strife 
were quenched, and harmony was restored. 

At the adjourimient of Congress in 1850, the country was at 
peace. There was no portion of the territory of the United States 
which had not its condition tixecl by positive, and as was supposed, 
irrepealable law. The anti-slavery agitation had been mainly con- 
fined to a few over-zealous persons in certain localities. It had 
excited a disturbing force in the politics of some of the States ; it 
had sent some ardent partisans to the nationallegislatu re ; but it 
had no marked influence upon the politics of the nation. No better 
proof can be adduced in support of this position, than the fact, that 
at the Presidential election in the autumn of 1852, Mr. Hale, the 
candidate of the Free-soil party, received but 158,123 votes, to Mr. 
Tierce's 1,596,395, and General Scott's 1,393,089. 

REPEAL OF THE MISSODRI COMPROMISE. 
But this auspicious calm was disturbed, and all the winds of sec- 
tional strife were let loose by events occurring between the Presi- 
dential election of 1852 and that of 1856. Prominent among these 
were the untoward abrogation of the Missouri Compromise in 1854, 
the acts of violence which occurred in Kansas, and the persistent 
efforts of the Federal Administration to force that Territory in the 
Union. So great was the effect produced by these causes, that in- 
stead of Mr. Hale's meagre vote of 158,128, Col. Fremont, the Re- 
publican candidate, had 1,341,514, to Mr. Buchanan's 1,838,232, 
iind Mr. Fillmore's 874,707. Since that time the Republican party 
has maintained its imposing character, and now presents as formi- 
dable a front before the country as it ever did. 

REPEAL OF THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE A DEMOCRATIC MEASURE. 

Great pains have been taken in the northern States by Republican 
speakers to represent the disturbance of the Missouri Compromise 
as a Southern measure, and one of the acts of what they are wont 
to call the slave power ; but such speakers show more party zeal 
than love of truth. The feelings in regard to that compromise was 
substantially the same in both sections of the countrj'; each con- 
ceived that it had yielded something of constitutional right, but 
both acquiesced in the result as a measure of healing and peace. 
Its repeal took the jSTorth and South alike by surprise ; iiot a peti- 
tion to that effect was presented from any southern State, and the 
hand that set this disastrous ball in motion was the hand of a 
northern Senator. Thirteen Senators voted against him, butthirty- 
ftoveu voted with him, and of these fourteen were from the northern 
States ; had these fourteen voted the other wa}^ the compromise 
would not have been disturbed. The measure was a Democratic 
measure, and the leaders of the Democratic part}- are alone respon- 
sible for it, and for its consequences. They having sown the wind, 
are now reaping the whirlwind. The retribution which has fiillen 
upon their once powerful organization can awaken no sympathy, 
for it is r)o more than the righteous penalty exacted from those who 

In Exchange 






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break the law of right. Their party is now cloft in twain, and tho 
two divided portions turn towards each other a countenanec of 
"irrepressible conflict" and uncxtinguishuhlc animositv. There 
are no quarrels like family quarrels, and Mhmo is no hatred liko the 
hatred that once was love. 

iMR. DOUGLAS AND MR. BRKClCINUlix;!;. 

Mr. Douglas, representing the principle or rather the policy (for 
we deny it the name of principle) of popular sovereignty, is strong 
at the North. Mr. Breckinridge, representing the doctrine of na- 
tional intervention in behalf of slavery, and identified with the 
present Administration, is strong at the' South. Mr. Douglas will 
probably command a larger popular vote than Mr. .Breckinridge, 
but he certainly cannot carry a single southern State, aiid unairh-d 
by other parties his success in any northern State is questionable. 
It is doubtful whether Mr. Breckinridge can obtain the vote of 
more than one southern State, and he ca'iuiot hope to carry a singU; 
one in the North. 

NO CHANCE FOR DOUGLAS OR BRECKINRIDGE. 
But we deem it unnecessary to speculate upon an event which 
can never take place. The election of either Mr. Douglas or Mr. 
Breckinridge is simply an impossibility, and the Democratic party 
North and South may as well look this fact steadily in the face 
to-day as hereafter, for to this conclusion they must come at last. 
A political house divided against itself cannot stand. Every man 
in the country of sound mind, whose wish is not father to his 
thought, must be convinced that neither of the Democratic candi- 
dates can be chosen by a popular vote. 

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY A SECTIONAL PARTY. 

Before the people of the United States the contest is between 
Mr. Bell and Mr. Lincoln.; and, assuming this as a fixed fact, we 
proceed to state some of the reasons which should induce all well- 
wishers to their country to vote for the former rather tli:in the 
latter. These reasons apply with equal force .to the North and the 
South. 

The great, the obvious, the insuperable objection to Mr. Lincoln's 
claims is founded upon the fact that he is a sectional candid. ite, and 
that the Republican party is a sectional party.' In fifteen out of the 
thirty-three States which compose our Union, the Republican party 
has no substantial existence; and, should Mr. Lincoln be chosen, 
his. administration could have no southern support, but only south- 
ern opposition. We are well aware how energetically the Republican 
•party disclaims all designs hostile to the constitutional rights of the 
South; we believe that many of its members are sincere in these 
disclaimers; the distrust awakened throughout the South by the 
existence and attitude of the Republican party may be a groundless 
distrust. That the Republican party is honestly believed through- 
out the whole South to be a sectional party, and as such is viewed 
v/ith uncompromising hostility, is enough for the purposes of our 
argument. If they have earned such a reputation without deserv- 
ing it, it is a misfortune, to the consequences of which they must 



submit. But surely they have not earned it without cause. To say 
nothing of the atrocious and unwarrantable language which their 
most popular speakers are in the habit of using — to say nothing of 
the fact rhat many of their campaign documents are mere abolition 
harangues, made up of the foulest and fiercest abuse of the entire 
South — the unconstitutional statutes which some of the Northern 
States have passed, against the execution of the Fugitive Slave law, 
are in direct opposition to the professions of the party, and justify 
the distrust which the South entertains of them. We do not say 
that the election of Mr. Lincoln would be fatal to the Union. We 
are no disunionists ; and no disunionistshas a right to be a member 
of the Constitutional Union party. Under any possible combina- 
tion of circumstances, we cannot conceive of a dissolution of the 
Union as anything but the greatest of calamities. Come what will, 
we shall stand by the Union as the most precious jewel of our souls. 
But knowing the proud and sensitive spirit of the Southern people, 
we do say that the election of Mr. Lincoln would expose the Union 
to a peril to which no true patriot should wish to see it exposed. 
And, further, we do say that the attempt to govern the country 
upon the distinctive and peculiar principles of the Eepublic party 
would be fatal to the Union. In other words, the attempt on the 
part of the National Government, by positive law, to exclude sla- 
very from such portion of the national domain as would become 
slave territory but for such exclusion, would, in our opinion, break 
up the Union. And the converse of the proposition is equally 
true; any attempt on the part of the National Government to force 
slavery, by positive law, into such portion of the national domain 
as would become free territory but for such intervention, would 
also break up the Union. 

The calm and dispassionate observer can see in the Republican 
movement only a combination of the northern States to take the 
government of the whole country into their hands, and to administer 
it with reference to an exclusively northern policy. And in like 
manner, the supporters of Mr. Breckinridge propose to take the 
government of the whole country into their hands, with a view of 
administering it with reference to an exclusively southern policy. 
In either case, the result would be a diversion of the General Gov- 
ernment from its legitimate sphere ; or rather an assumption of 
powers on the part of the General Government, not delegated to it, 
which one-half of the Confederacy would regard as a usurpation, 
and to which it would refuse to submit. The fact that our Union 
is composed in part of slaveholding States, and in part of non-slave- 
holdiug States, imposes grave duties upon both sections — duties of 
forbearance, concession, and conciliation ; respect for each other's 
convictions; tenderness in handling each other's sensitive points — 
in short, such rules of self-control and self-government as regulate 
in social life, and in the relations of business, the intercourse of 
gentlenum who may chance to diifer widely on the gravest ques- 
tions. To these duties we would fain recall both the North and 
the South. The Union is a blessing, the continuance of which im- 
poses some sacrifices on both portions of the country. Neither pro- 



5 

slavery zealots uor anti-slavery zealots can use the powers of the 
General Government for the advancement of their own peculiar 
views, however honestly entertained. 

SLAVERY AND ANTI-SLAVERY AGITATION. 

It is a necessary consequence of the unhappy fact that our politi- 
cal contests have become mere strnggles for the possession of power 
between the North and the South ; that our political discussions 
have become little else than mutual criminations and recrimina- 
tions. The people no longer listen to arguments, addressed to their 
reason, in defence of particular measui'cs, or a certain course of 
policy, but to exciting appeals to their sectional prejudices, which 
only heat the blood and inflame the passions. The North is taught 
to hate the South, and the South is taught to hate the North. On 
both sides, language is used which is studiously selected for its 
galling and exasperating qualities. There is no recognition of the 
law of charity which suffers long and is kind; there is no admis- 
sion of the tremendous difficulties which environ the whole subject 
of slavery ; northern speakers denounce the South for maintaining 
the 83'stem, and yet they are unable to suggest any scheme f(jr get- 
ting rid of it; southern speakers make no distinction between the 
rankest abolitionism, and that abstract opposition to slavery in 
itself, which is an almost universal sentiment at the North. And 
out of the immense mass of speeches on the subject of slavery which 
have been inflicted upon the country, in Congress and out of it. 
not one hint or suggestion can be gathered of the least practical 
value towards the solution of the problem of slavery, or even a 
mitigation of its assumed evils. 

The consequences of this miserable agitation have been of the 
most melancholy kind. The attachment which formerly united 
the North and the South is fast disappearing, and estrangement, 
alienation, and ill-will are taking its place. The two sections of 
the country are learning to look upon each other as natural_ ene- 
mies. This state of feeling renders it impossible for the National 
Legislature to legislate calmly, judiciously, dispassionately, for the 
common good of the whole country. Congressional debates have 
degenerated into mutual vituperations and denunciations, and are 
disgraced by the most offensive personalities. All propositions are 
judged of, not by their essential expediency, but by the quarter from 
whi'ch they come. Of what use is it, then, for the Republican party 
to spread forth in their platform an elaborate array of measures and 
principles, so long as a sectional division exists in our poll tics which 
makes one-half of the country look with suspicion and distrust 
upon every movement of the other? 

Nor is this all. The tendency of this sectional excitement is to repel 
Avise and good men from the sphere of politics, and thus lo lower the tone 
of government. Men endowed with statesman-like powers will not take 
part in an agitation which dwarfs the understanding while it inllames the 
passions. The consequence is, that while we are rapidly increasing in 
wealth and all the indications of material civilization, and surely not de- 
clining in virtue and intelligence, the series of our public men marks a 
descending scale, and the standard of Congressional debate is constantly 



lowering. Intelligent toreigners who come among us are puzzled to ac- 
count for ilie singular fact, that so few men of superior ability are taking 
part in the government of the country. Indeed, the virtue and the intelli- 
gence o-f the country are fast ebbing away from the sphere of politics, and 
its vices and passions are usurping their places. 

THIS AGITATION UNNECESSARY. 
The pro-slavery and anti-slavery agitation which has been so long con- 
vulsing the country, is as unnecessary as it is mischievous. The more 
conservative portion of the Republican party have tacitly acquiesced in the 
fugitive slave law, in the existence of slavery in the District of Columbia, 
and in the right to carry slaves from one State to another; and they have 
always disclaimed any right, or any intention, to interfere with slavery in 
the Stales themselves. The subject of slavery in the Territories, and the 
power of Congress over it there, are the only points they leave for discus- 
sion and dilference. If government be a practical art, as surely it is — if 
the object of government be, not to enunciate principles, but to provide for 
each emergency as it arises — all this excitement, and all this conflict, are 
utterly purposeless and idle. We have been familiar with slavery long 
enough to know by what laws it is regulated and controlled. Experience 
and observation have shown that slavery is dependent upon conditions of 
soil and climate, and lies beyond the reach of political combinations. These 
will not force slavery into regions where it is not profitable ; nor will they 
exclude it from regions where it is profitable. At this moment no one will 
question the correctness of the statement that there is not a foot of the ter- 
ritory of the United States, the condition of which in reference to slavery 
is not already fixed, and there is no place within the Federal domain, upon 
which the abstract theories of the extremists of either section, in regard to 
the exclusion of slavery from the Territories or its introduction into them, 
can be practically applied. The whole question of slavery in the Territo- 
ries, as now presented, is an abstraction pure and simple, incapable of prac- 
tical appllication, and prolific of serious mischief. It has already produced 
sectional alienation, and now menaces the integrity of the Union. 

REPUBLICANS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS AGITATION. 

To create and maintain this unhappy agitation. North and South, Demo- 
crats and Republicans — we need not stop to inquire in' what proportions — 
have both contributed in times past; but at this moment, the Republican 
party are mainly responsible for its continuance. The great object which 
they proposed to accomplish was the admission of Kansas as a free State. 
This was the excuse and justification for the formation of a purely sectional 
organization. This element gave theni their great strength in 1856. It 
was for this that many moderate and conservative men in the northern and 
middle States gave them their votes at that time. But that object is now 
accomplished. No one doubts that Kansas is to be admitted as a free State. 
The Democrats have lost the stake for which they played so desperate a 
game. What need then is there for the further continuance of sectional 
agitation, and for keeping it up by a mischievous sectional organization. 
What immediate end do they propose to accomplish? What tangible object 
have they in view? They have not now that moral element which gave 
them strengtli in 1856. 'I'hey can now take no higher attitude than that of 
:i combination of aml)itious aspirants and greedy olHce-seekers, who. having 
tasted the sweets of power, and its substantial rewards, in many of the 
States, are panting for the more splendid prizes of a national victory, and 
for that purpose are diligently fanning the fires of sectional hate, which 
every truf; patriot should wish to have extinguished. 



QUALIFICATIONS OK MR. LINCOLN. 

So lar as the claims and qualifications of candidates am concerned, wp 
surely need not shrink from comparison with the Republican party. For 
the first time in the history of tlic conntry, a great i)arty has nominated 
for the Presidency a man unknown, even by name, to a majority of the 
people. Mr. Lincoln, we admit, is a respectable man, a respectable law- 
yer, and as a popular speaker, of probably more than average ability ; but 
what a meagre catalogue is this of claims for the highest ofTice ! Nothing 
whatever is known of his executive or administrative capacity — nothing 
of his views as to the great questions of foreign and domestic policy which 
are likely to arise in the conduct of the CJovcrnment — nothing as to his 
knowledge of the great interests and relations of the country. He served 
but a ."ingle term in the House of Representatives, and there earned no con- 
spicuous distinction. His nomination was extorted from the Chicago Con- 
vention by the force of local pressure, and presents the most glaring exam- 
ple of the pitiful doctrine of availability that the political annals of this 
country have ever shown. His claims for the office of President of the 
United States rest npou the fact that, in a popular contest before the people 
of Illinois with Mr. Douglas, he sustained himself with energy and fair 
ability. Nor need we do more than advert to the fact, which is another 
illustration of the sectional character of the Republican organization, that 
their candidate for the Presidency is taken from the extreme Northwest, 
and their candidate for the Vice Presidency is ta^dn from the extreme 
Northeast. What means can they have for knowing or ascertaining the 
qualifications of persons to fill the Federal offices in the Southern States '. 

MR. BP:LL and MR. EVERETT. 

The candidates presented by the Constitutional Union party have every 
possible claim upon the confidence and support of the American people. 
There is little need of setting forth these claims in detail and by particu- 
lars, for to suppose any one ignorant of the merits and services of John 
Bell and Edward Everett, is to suppose him ignorant of the history of 
the country during, the last thirty years. Both have been distinguished 
and influential members of both branches of Congress. Mr. Bell has been 
Speaker of the House of Representative.<; and Secretary of War. Mr. Ever- 
ett has been Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to Great Britain, and 
Secretary of State. Both are men of great political experience, and both 
have proved their fitness for the highest trusts. Both are animated by the 
spirit of a generous and comprehensive patriotism. Of all southern states- 
men, none is more popular at the North than Mr. Bell; of all northern 
statesmen, none is more endeared to the people of the South than Mr. 
Everett. So commanding, indeed, is the merit of both our candidates, that 
it is fully and freely conceded by all our opponents. Republicans, sup- 
porters of Mr. Douglas, and supporters of Mr. Breckinridge, all admit that, 
while they prefer others, the interests of the country would be entirely safe 
in the hands of Mr. Bell and Mr. Everett. All would acquiesce in the 
election of our candidates. Indeed, the argument most generally and most 
persistingly pressed against them is, that they cannot be elected. We need 
not say how grave a charge against the intelligence and integrity of our 
people is involved in this declaration, and that every man who resolves to 
vote for them, be the result what it may, does something to lesson the 
weight of this objection. Let us have the vote of every man in the country 
who sincerely believes that ours is the best ticket, and we ask no more. 



DUTIES OF THE PEOPLE. 

Such, I'ellow-citizens, are a few of the most obvious arguments in behalf 
of the candidates of the Constitutional Union party. We cannot disguise 
it from you that we look forward to the future with grave anxiety. This 
is natural when we consider the excitability of the American people, and 
the inflammatory character of the political issues which now divide them. 
Surely, great dangers lie in the path on which we are moving. Our appeal 
is to tlie patriotism, the reason, and the conscience of the country to leave 
these perilous edges of sectional strife, and thus avoid these dru^ers. ^Ve 
would fain recall the American people to a fresh sense of the utfectionate 
and fraternal wisdom which breathes through the Farewell Address of th^i 
Father of his Country. There are men now living who, when tuis address 
first appeared, were of an age to comprehend its spirit, and to be touched 
by its counsels ; what a change have they lived to witness in the sentinrient"^ 
entertained towards each other by the alienated sections of our once united 
countr}'. And how do our altered hearts and averted countenances vindi- 
cate the prophetic sagacity of Washington? We readily admit that there 
have been grave faults on both sides ; let us not employ ourselves in t!u 
ungracious ofHce of comparing offences and weighing provocations, \>\\t let 
us open wide the arms of reconciliation, and cease to use the language of 
reproach. The blessing promised to the peace-makers shall rest upon all 
who address themselves to this benificent work. We vi'ish to preserve the 
Union, and transmit it to our children; and a Union animated by the .< 
blood of a paternal spirit, without which it is a shadow, and not a substaiic . 

Let us revive in the hearts of our countrymen the prophetic declaration 
of the patriot Clay, in his memorable speech before the Kentucky Legisla- 
ture, wlien he was called, in 1850, to breathe out his life in the last grai ! 
eflbri to give peace to a distracted country : 

" I may be asked as I have been asked when I would consent to a dissolution of the 
Union. 1 answer, Never ! Never .' 'Never \ * '" * If the agitation in regard to the 
fugitive slave law should continue and increase, and become alarming, it will lead to 
the formatiou of two new parties, one for the Union, and the other against the Union ; 
■* * * and the platform of that Union party will be the Union, the Constitution, 
AND THE Enforcement of the Laws. And if it should be necessary to form such a party, 
and it should be accordingly formed, J announce myself in this place a member of that party, 
whatever may be its component elements.'' 

The time so eloquently and graphically predicted has arrived. That 
Union party is now organized. It appeals to the countrymen of Washing- 
Ion and Clay for their support. It entreats them to gather in serried pha- 
lanx around the Union and the Constitution, and defend them from the 
fierce assaults of sectionalism whencesoever they may come ; and by the 
election of our national aad patriotic candidates, to preserve for our sons 
the glorious heritage bequeathed us by our sires, so that it shall remain the 
boast of American citizens that they have "one country, one Constitution, 
and one destiny." 

In behalf of the Committee : 

ALEX. R. BOTELER, Chairman. 

L. A. Whiteley, Secretary. 



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W. II. Moons, PrinUr, Washington, D. C. 



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