Walter Clarke.

The state of the country. An oration delivered at Buffalo, July 4th, 1862 online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryWalter ClarkeThe state of the country. An oration delivered at Buffalo, July 4th, 1862 → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

I 458



s*v ^ • • • joj ^

%- '•-" ^y



















18 62,





Mr. Mayor, Gentlemen of the Common Council, and Fellow
Citizens: —

We celebrate to-day, the Eighty-sixth Anniversary of our National
Independence. And were the country in a more peaceful and
pro.sperous state, duty to the past would doubtless require that we
should make the occasion a festival of memory', rehearsing with
grateful eulogy and patriotic pride, the deeds by which our fathers
achieved immortality for themselves, and left to us, as a precious
and pei'petual legacy, a free State — an open School — and a Church
— the seminary of virtue, the citadel of truth.

But the Republic, which came into existence, in that first act of
independence, has reached at length the period of its second na-
tivity: and existing events fraught with all imaginable destinies for
the future, summon lis from the cradle, where Liberty was born,
to the scene of present agony, where tbe same Liberty is passing
through the anguish and the fear of a second birth.

I have thought, therefore, fellow citizens, that I might best ac-
complish the grateful task to which your good will has called me
to day, by avoiding all the common places which have made this
anniversary so fantastic in former times, and setting before you an
earnest, and so far as T can make it, a thorough exposition of the
present state of the country.


What is the meaning of this huge and frightful revolt which has
driven the States of the South into madness, and treason and war?

Has our once united and happy country come so soon to its
death struggle? Is Time the enemy of freedom, and are Republics
the children of disease, doomed to a brief existence and a violent
end ? Are the powers of inevitable destruction setting in from the
South? Or is the mighty life of the North, rushing with a gene-
rous impetuosity into the distempered members, and flooding the
whole body of the State with a new vitality? What is the his-
toric significance, and what the true solution of this great National
convulsion ? To such inquiries we devote the present hour.

The American Independence was the birth — fur us — and for all
the Nations, of true liberty. For centuries the idea had been
slowly shaping itself, in the minds of martyrs, and patriots, and
sages, till when it was fully ripe, it broke forth and became one of
the fixed realities of time. True liberty, I say, for it is essential
to any just estimate of our"fathers, or any correct understanding
of the institutions which they founded, to distinguish two very
diftorent kinds of Popular Freedom.

All vices, of individuals and nations — all despotisms, single or
collective — whatever errors men embrace, whatever crimes they
cultivate, whatever tyrannies they befriend — all these pernicious
and unhuly things, demand for their accommodation, an unlawful
license — liberty to exist, liberty to expatiate, liberty to lay waste.
Here is one kind of freedom — freedom for thino's that are injuri-
ous, and unlawful, and base This kind of liberty had been long
in the world — to the grief of nations, to the ruin of governments.
Our fathers believed that it was time to introduce a new order
into the course of this world: time to lay restraint on oppression,
and give liberty to that which benefits and erniobles man. Flying
therefore to this far-off Continent, which seemed to have been
waiting through all the centuries for their arrival, they said — "this


shall be the home of (he new liberty; here we will build an em-
Y>'vG in which all just and beniticent things shall have freedom;
and all other things hindrance and censure and restraint."

It should never be forgotten, that the only liberty which the
founders of this Republic sought for themselves, or won for us, was
a lawful liberty ; enfranchisement for whatever ennobles au'l bene-
fits the race.

And, that they might not be misunderstood in a matter so fun-
damental, and might not let loose upon this great Continent, under
the name of liberty, the elements of universal misrule, they care-
fully determined the limits, and wrote down the boundaries within
■which American freedom should forever reside. Master-builders
as they were, they ei'ected around every estate, and privilege, and
right, and person, the barrier of a well defined constitution ; the
bulwark of intelligible and authoritative law.

American Liberty, therefore, is not liberty in any absolute, am-
biguous or universal sense — is not the liberty which demagogues
covet, or reprobates conceive, or rebels assert. It is a defined, a
limited, a legitimate, a constitutional liberty. Having achieved
this form of freedom and desiring to detain the invisible guest in
some fit inclosure, our fathers set tip the constitution. And
that single instrument is the sanctuary and stronghold of Ficedom,
not for this Continent alone, but for the whole world as well.
When that goes down, Liberty having no fortress and no shelter
on earth, will escape to the skies from which she came.

But the founders of the Republic understood as we do, that it
was essential to the stability of a free government, nay to its very
existence indeed, that libeity should be balanced and harmonized
by another sentiment of equal strength and equal puritj', the
sentiment, to wit, of Loyalty. No government can exist, no interest
thrive, no people be safe, where laws are wanting — or being


had are nut obeyeiL In despotic states, the laws must be executed
by force, U-cause with them, government rests not upon the con-
sent of the people, but upon the power of the rulers. In Repub-
hcs, on the contrary — law derives its foi'ce, not from the power of
the magistrate, but from the consent of the governed. This vol-
untary consent then on the part of all the free, this spontaneous,
cordial, quick allegiance to the law, is absolutely essential, not to
the stability only, but to the very existence of a free State. Our
fathers understanding the need and the woilh of this sentiment,
made the Constitution a chart of American loyalty, as well as a
measure of American liberty. That instrument uses a precision
no more exact, and employs a care no more circumspect, when
defining the rights of the people, than when declaring their
duties. And this gives us the true and only true conception of the
loyalty which our country requires of its subjects. Our liberty is
an American liberty. Our loyalty must be American also. And
American loyalty holds inviolate and sacred the American law;
holds as most inviolate and most sacred, that which is the basis of
all governmiMit and the source of all authority, the Constitution,
the Law's law. To obey as subjects, to execute as magistrates,
to defend a> citizens, to yield homage and allegiance to American
law, whether it be recorded in constitutions, or written in codes, or
expounded in courts, obedience to A.raerican law, that is American
loyalty. Whatever is other or less than that, is secession, is

Loyalty and Liberty in the sense of the Constitution, are the
two pillars on which the Republic stands. Remove either of them
and you overturn the government. Take away Liberty and the
laws have nothing to guard, and nothing to perpetuate, and noth-
ing to do. For that is the one office of American law, to protect
and preserve, and perpetuate the liberties of the people. Take
away Loyalty and Freedom has no guardian, and no ho})e, and no
hjme; for it is only under the shelter of Law that Liberty can


live. Loyalty and Liberty unite in the American Constitution, as
the centripetal anl centrifugal forces combine, in the systems of
the stellary world. Preserve them as they are, and every orb ad-
heres to its ciicuit, and every satellite keeps its place, and the order
of the heavens is as enduring as time. Nothing is wanting to the
instant ruin of the Republic, but to impair one of these two forces;
to corrupt the spirit of Loyalty on the one hand, or enfeeble the
sense of Liberty on the other. On the contrary nothing is needed
to perpetuate the Republic through countless generations and to
the end of time, but to keep alive in the popular mind, and in
due proportion, the two great sentiments on which the government
rests. In astronomy, just so long as the centi-ipetal force is matched
and balanced by the centrifugal, the worlds will revolve peaceluUy
and happily, as at the first. And just so long as the American
people will preserve their liberties on the one side, and their loyal-
ties on the other, that is to say, just so long as they will be faith-
ful to that Constitution, which is the covenant of liberty, and the
charter of law, the Republic will remain secure and happy. It
may extend to whatever limits; it may embrace whatever terri-
tory; it may include whatever institutions; it may acquire what-
ever population; it may encountiu- whatever trials; but just so
long as the people will guard with becoming vigilance, and pre-
serve with patriotic care, the two essential factors of the common-
wealth, — ^just so long as they can retain Liberty and Loyalty, the
Republic will be safe. When either begins to falter, the Republic
is in peril.

Our fathers gave us liberty. They could not give us loyalty
also. For, while freedom is a social condition, into which we can
be put by others — allegiance on the other hand is a popular senti-
ment, which we must unfold for ourselves, and a public habit
which we must exercise in person.

The fathers did what they could ; gave us liberty, and defining
in the charter which conveyed the costly inheritance, the loyalty


which we must acquire and practice, left us to gain that wanting
sentiment, by whatever discipline the future should chance to
furnish. And, until the people should acquire that second lesson,
and become as loyal as they are free, and as secure as they were
loyal, those wise and cautious fathers called to the aid of the Re-
public the tutelar service of religion. Centuries of spiritual cul-
ture had sunk in the popular mind a deep reverence for God; a
consciousness of His presence; a sense of His justice; a dread of
His wrath. Among all ordei's and ranks, an oath was held as
especially sacred. That was a bond which no man might violate;
that was a pledge which none might despise. Our fathers, fearing
for the safety of the new Confederacy, said: " Till loyalty has had
time to grow, and patriotism to become strong, let us put liberty
under the care of an oath.'" They did as they devised, laid upon
the whole Nation a religious vow — bound rulers and ruled by an
oath, to respect the Constitution, to obey the laws, to practice loy-
alty in form till allegiance should be theirs in spirit. That oath
remained the bond of union and the strength of law for more
than three-fourths of a century. But for that, the Nation would
have gone asunder long since, as did the Republics of the Old
World, as have the Republics of more modern times. That oath
kept even the South from the apostacy she so early intended, and
so conhtantly and so shamefully desired. And had not the gan-
grene of Slavery eaten its way into the Southern Church, corrupt-
ing the ancient religion, and giving to the people a depraved con-
science, a degraded manhood, a loose Christianity, and an apostate
pulpit; treason had never had the strength, nor sedition the cour-
age to break the allegiance, and dissever the oath, and do violence
alike to the laws of God and the covenants of man.

Till the people could attain to a loyalty which should equal
their rights, and be as cheerfully obedient, as they were willingly
free, our fathers relied upon the force of the cath to make them
submissive, and orderly, and true.


ludepeuclonco had been achieved, liberty acquired, and the
Nation conducted safely through the first stadium of its history.
It rnust now enter upon a new probation and pass the ordeal of a
second stage. The fathers had undertaken with their virtues, to
acquire liberty for themselves and their children. Now the nation
starting upon a new career, must decide whether with liberty it can
achieve loyalty also, completing the fabric which the fathers com-

To gain Loyalty, that was the task to which the American Peo-
ple were sent, eighty-six years ago. Was there anything in the
traditions, habits or circumstances of the Nation at that time to
make the experiment perilous or the event doubtful ? Any con-
cealed enemy to threaten the existence? any unknown obstacle to
hinder the growth of that much needed sentiment, the soul of the
Republic, the life of liberty, popular allegiance to law ?

Alas! we must confess it, there were four deadly elements hid
in the heart of the Nation, an<l biding their time, with which gov-
ernment wouhl one day be obliged to contend, in a conflict that
should bring to our liberties everlasting triumph or utter extinc-
tion. Three of these malignant foices were great lusts, that had
been nurtured by indulgence and envenomed by abuse; the
fourth was a horrid crime consolidated into an unsightly custom,
and set forth as a social institution. Neither, was the product or
the pet of the new government. They were within the Republic
but not of it. The sins of a former age, they had drifted down
to their descendants, and were present not as partners, but as ene-
mies; not to build up, but to demolish; not as guests awaiting a
welcome, but as assassins athirst for blood. These four enemies
destined to make war on the Republic, and destined to perish in
the strife which they should provoke, were Party Spirit, Greed of
Wealth, Southern Despotism, and Negro Slavery.

It needs no argument I am sure at this late day, to convince
any candid observer that these four malignant powers are so hos-


tile to every principle of a Free government, that if they ;)ppear
single or together, in a Republic, they or the government must one
day perish.

Party spirit, what is it but the very opposite of true patriotism 1
overturning what the fathers gave their lives to erect. Elevating
the unscrupulous demagogue to the place of the authorized ruler —
substituting a selfish rabble, scrambling for spoils, for a discarde<l
Nation asking for government, making office an occasion for
plunder, and law a tool for interest — discarding justice, despising
honor, disowning truth — a fierce, multitudinous, many-headed
tyrant, whose one method is seizure, and its one end success; party
spirit has only to acquire opportunity and power, and it will
sacrifice to itself the fairest Republic that the sun ever looked upon.

The same is to be said of the insane greed for wealth, which
inflames and maddens the masses. Pursuing its one object,
regardless of all scruples, and indifferent to all rights — making tho
elements its menials, and the earth its helpers, this insatiate
spirit of gain will one day ask, whether the American government
cannot be converted into a house of merchandise, and Liberty hei-
self, sold for a price at the shambles. And when that day comes.
Liberty will be compelled to rescue herself by setting her heel on
the neck of her enemy.

Then there is at the South, as we all know, a widely difi'use<l
spirit of despotism — the creature in part of an idle, wild and cava-
lier ancestry — in part of the habits of the plantation and the pres-
ence of the slave; a proud, a supercilious, a barbaric temper — a
feeling to which Mr. Calhoun gave full utterance and frank ex-
pression when in 1812 he had the impudence to proclaim, "We
Southrons are essentially aristocratic, and when we cease to con- i
trol this Nation we shall then resort to a dissolution of the Union."
That proud feeling of aristocracy, that conceit of self which
accepts the Republic only while it can wield the lash, and guide


the rein, and be an acknowledged despot, can anybody doubt that
if the lathers give us hberty, liberty will one day have to eojie in
deadly battle with that e.nciny ?

And finally, nobody who knows what slavery is, will need to be told
that if it be tolerated in the new Republic, it will at no very distant
day rise up, like a spectre of darkness, and attemj)t to avenge
itself by overturning the government. Our fathers, laying the
foundations of a free State, had' to do not only with the choice
material which should enter into the composition of the coming
Republic, and be part of the enduring and everlasting fabric, but
with much other base and spurious material as well, which, while
it was unfit for the intended structure, was on their hands never-
theless, and must be disposed of in some way.

One of these incongruous and incompatible things, was the sjs-
tora of Negro Slavery. It was already on the ground, accepted,
tenacious, and ineradicable. The founders of the Republic had
not produced and could not displace it. Here it was. What
should they do with it? Happily it was altogether a municipal
evil — the creature of local customs, the subject of State authority.
Our fathers taking note of this circumstance said: "Let it remain
altogether with those who have the lawful charge of it. The
American Government shall not go down to slavery to deal with
ii; slavery shall not come up to the American Government to
have partnership with it. As respects the States, it may be, if they
so elect, domesticated and at home with them. As respects the
Repuljlic, it shall be fore\er an alien and a stranger. Since the
American Government is for free men and not for slaves, for lib-
erty and not for oppression, it will leave Slavery to the care of
those who choose to care for it — neither invading it on the one hand,
nor protecting it on the other."

That was the way in which our fathers disposed of the question
of slavery. The Republic they said, shall tolerate the evil till it


has time to take itself away: but it shall be endurance not adop-
tion; hospitalitv, njt partnership; concession not concurrence.

But how inevitable that such a system should refuse to submit
to these restrictions. Eating up the fruits of the soil like locusts,
like locusts, the enslaved and hungry horde must move often to
new places and alight upon fresh herbage. Consuming the face of
the earth like fire, like fire, the system of slavery must spread, or
die of that it feeds upon, devouring and being devoured.

Slavery, we might be sure of it, would utterly reject the res-
traints of the Constitution, and come forward to claim, not tolera-
tion, as an alien, but acceptance as a partner; not the mere per-
mission to die unmolested, but the full freedom of the Republic;
liberty to expand, liberty to endure, liberty to ascend to seats of
power and reign.

Such was the character of the enemies with which the American
Republic would be compelled to contend so soon as she started
upon her course in history.

How actual and how serious has been the struggle which has
occurred in fact; how these eighty-six years, and especially the
latter portion of them, have been years of ceaseless conflict between
the liberties of the loyal, and the loyalties of the free, on the one
hand, and all the forces of party spirit, and greed, and despotism,
and slavery, on the other — all this is too well known to need re-
hearsal now. Enough to say, that after many years of growth,
and violence, and rude aggression, each one of these malignant
forces has at last reached its head: party spirit in the conflicts and
ruptures of the Charleston Convention — avarice and greed in the
huge and unscrupulous plunder of the last administration — despo-
tism in the act of secession — and slavery in the setting up of the
Southern Confederacy. Four cancers coming to the surface to
declare the latent disease, four craters spouting forth their hidden
fires, the ruptures at Charleston, the thefts of the traitors, the


Soutliren secession, and the new Confederacy, are so many signs,
telling us that American history has reached at length her second
crisis, and her great battle. It has taken us eighty-six years to
bring out, into their full strength, and array in their proper malig-
nity, these once concealed and peaceful elements of ruin.

But let us observe the changes which this great and healthful
ciisis has produced in the South, on the one hand; and in the
North, on the other. We shall see that the States which have
stood by the government, and those which have revolted, have both
gained and lost much: but gained and lost in exactly opposite
ways. The South once had the republic, the constitution, liberty,
loyalty, and the oath. All these, the very elements and principles
of a free State, they have cast away and abandoned, The North,
on the other hand, had, till of late, its full share of party spirit, and
avarice, and cowardly concession to slavery. But how, like hurry-
ing mists, have all these shameful sentiments been swept away from
the face of these loyal States, by the events and the responsibilities
of the present hour

Despotism we never had. The Southren chivalry monopolised
and kept that feeling. The other three we have shared with them
till recently, these too, have left us; and greed, and theft, and
party sj^irit, and slavery, and despotism, and treason, and falsehood
have banded together into an empire by themselves, to worship
their idol, and devour their plunder, and wait till, from the
heavens above or the pit below, judgment and doom arrive together.
The revolted States have cast away all the elements, emblems and
safe-guards of liberty ; have renounced allegiance, rejected authority,
refused the constitution, disowned the oath, disobeyed the laws,
made freedom an exile, made patriotism a crime. The Noilh, on
its part, letting go all the old passions which made war upon free-
dom, has welcomed, with an enthusiasm which knows no bounds,
and an unanimity which has no exception, the spirit of patriotism


for that of party, of self-sacrifice for that of greed, of freedom for
compromise and connivance and pro-siavery. Aod from this day
the conflict upon this Continent is not territorial only, but moral as
well. It is not commonwealths alone, that contend in this great
battle of Freedom — not commonwealths, nor races, nor armies.
Ideas are at war now. The providence of God has sifted the
Nation, and drawn to one field all the passions, instincts and vices,
that are at war with liberty ; and to the other, all the powers, ideas
and virtues, that foster a fi'ee government. And these opposing
elements are now to determine, for all countries, for all time, which
shall triumph, and which submit.

Whoever understands the American constitution, will perceive
that there are but two ways in which the government can be mal-
admiuistered to the injury of the people; and consequently, but two
kinds of grievance of which a citizen or a State may lawfully com-
plain. The government may so administer law as to oppress lib-
erty, or so indulge liberty as to imperil law. In the former case,
the aggrieved people, acting in the interest of invaded liberty, would
complain of the unconstitutional and injurious aggression of the law.
In the other, taking part with the imperiled law, they would indit-e
and accuse the overreaching liberty. Had the seceding States raised
either of these two issues; had they so said, the American govern-
ment is invading our liberties, by enacting unconstitutional laws, or
is outraging the laws by an unconstitutional use of liberty ; that,
though unfounded, would have been a legitimate charge. For that
would have been taking part with American loyalty against an
ofiending liberty, or with American liberty against unjust and in-
trusive law. But these infuriate and unthinkiag States took part
neither with liberty on the one hand, nor with loyalty on the other;
but renouncing both, committed a double ti-eason. The North, on
the other hand, taking part with the rejected constitution, and that


Online LibraryWalter ClarkeThe state of the country. An oration delivered at Buffalo, July 4th, 1862 → online text (page 1 of 2)