Time: Fri Dec 12 17:36:35 1997
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: Lincoln's 1st Inaugural Address (Supreme Court Warning) (fwd)
Bcc: sls

>Subj:	Lincoln's 1st Inaugural address
>                           FIRST INAUGURAL ADDRESS
>                       Abraham Lincoln (March 4, 1861)
>Fellow-citizens of the United States: In compliance with a custom as old is
>the Government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to
>take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United
>States to be taken by the President "before he enters on the execution of
>his office."
>I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of
>administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement.
>Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by
>the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace
>and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any
>reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to
>the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It
>is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you.
>I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that "I have no
>purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of
>slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to
>do so, and I have no inclination to do so." Those who nominated and elected
>me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar
>declarations, and had never recanted them. And, more than this, they placed
>in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the
>clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:
>"Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and
>especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic
>institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that
>balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political
>fabric depend, and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the
>soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the
>gravest of crimes."
>I now reiterate these sentiments; and, in doing so, I only press upon the
>public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is
>susceptible, that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be
>in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that
>all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws,
>can be given, will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully
>demanded, for whatever cause-as cheerfully to one section, as to another.
>There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service
>or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as
>any other of its provisions:
>"No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof,
>escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein
>be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim
>of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."
>It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made
>it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of
>the lawgiver is the law. All Members of Congress swear their support to the
>whole Constitution-to this provision as much as to any other. To the
>proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this
>clause, "shall be delivered up," their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they
>would make the effort in good temper, could they not with nearly equal
>unanimity frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous
>There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced
>by national or by State authority; but surely that difference is not a very
>material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little
>consequence to him, or to others, by which authority it is done. And should
>any one, in any case, be content that his oath shall go unkept, on a merely
>unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?
>Again, in any law upon this subject, ought not all the safeguards of liberty
>known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced so that a free
>man be not, in any case, surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well at
>the same time to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the
>Constitution which guarantees that "the citizen of each State shall be
>entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several
>I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations and with no
>purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules. And
>while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper
>to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in
>official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts
>which stand unrepealed, than to violate any of them trusting to find
>impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.
>It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under
>our National Constitution. During that period fifteen different and greatly
>distinguished citizens have, in succession, administered the Executive
>branch of the Government. They have conducted it through many perils, and
>generally with great success. Yet, with all this scope of precedent, I now
>enter upon the same task for the brief constitutional term of four years
>under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union,
>heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.
>I hold that, in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the
>Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed,
>in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert
>that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its
>own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our
>National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever-it being impossible
>to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument
>Again, if the United States be not a Government proper, but an association
>of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be
>peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a
>contract may violate it-break it, so to speak, but does it not require all
>to lawfully rescind it?
>Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that, in
>legal contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the
>Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed,
>in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and
>continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further
>matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted
>and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in
>1778. And, finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and
>establishing the Constitution was, "to form a more perfect Union.
>But if the destruction of the Union by one, or by a part only, of the States
>be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the
>Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.
>It follows from these views that no State, upon its own mere motion, can
>lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect
>are legally void; and that acts of violence, within any State or States,
>against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or
>revolutionary, according to circumstances.
>I therefore consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the
>Union is unbroken; and to the extent of my ability I shall take care, as the
>Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be
>faithfully executed in all of the States. Doing this I deem to be only a
>simple duty on my part; and I shall perform it, so far as practicable,
>unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the
>requisite means, or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I
>trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared
>purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain
>In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be
>none, unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to
>me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places
>belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but
>beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion,
>no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to
>the United States, in any interior locality, shall be so great and universal
>as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices,
>there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for
>that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to
>enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so
>irritating, and so nearly impracticable withal, that I deem it better to
>forego for the time the uses of such offices.
>The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts of
>the Union. So far as possible, the people everywhere shall have that sense
>of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and reflection.
>The course here indicated will be followed unless current events and
>experience shall show a modification or change to be proper, and in every
>case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised according to
>circumstances actually existing, and with a view and a hope of a peaceful
>solution of the national troubles, and the restoration of fraternal
>sympathies and affections.
>That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the
>Union at all events, and are glad of any pretext to do it, I will neither
>affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To
>those, however, who really love the Union may I not speak?
>Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national
>fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be
>wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a
>step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly
>from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are
>greater than all the real ones you fly from-will you risk the commission of
>so fearful a mistake?
>All profess to be content in the Union, if all constitutional rights can be
>maintained. Is it true, then, that any right, plainly written in the
>Constitution, has been denied? I think not. Happily the human mind is so
>constituted, that no party can reach to the audacity of doing this. Think,
>if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the
>Constitution has ever been denied. If by the mere force of numbers a
>majority should deprive a minority in any clearly written constitutional
>right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution-certainly
>would if such a right were a vital one. But such is not our case. All the
>vital rights of minorities and of individuals are so plainly assured to them
>by affirmations and negations, guaranties and prohibitions, in the
>Constitution, that controversies never arise concerning them. But no organic
>law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every
>question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can
>anticipate, nor any document of reasonable length contain, express
>provisions for all possible questions. Shall fugitives from labor be
>surrendered by national or by State authority? The Constitution does not
>expressly say. May Congress prohibit slavery in the Territories? The
>Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the
>Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.
>>From questions of this class spring all our constitutional controversies,
>and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the minority will
>not acquiesce, the majority must, or the Government must cease. There is no
>other alternative; for continuing the Government is acquiescence on one side
>or the other.
>If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a
>precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them; for a minority of their
>own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by
>such minority. For instance, why may not any portion of a new confederacy a
>year or two hence arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the
>present Union now claim to secede from it? All who cherish disunion
>sentiments are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this.
>Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a
>new Union as to produce harmony only, and prevent renewed secession?
>Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority
>held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always
>changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments,
>is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does, of
>necessity, fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible; the rule
>of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that,
>rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all
>that is left.
>I do not forget the position, assumed by some, that constitutional questions
>are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decisions
>must be binding, in any case, upon the parties to a suit, as to the object
>of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and
>consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the
>Government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be
>erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being
>limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled
>and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could
>the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must
>confess that if the policy of the Government, upon vital questions affecting
>the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme
>Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties in
>personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having
>to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that
>eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or
>the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases
>properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to
>turn their decisions to political purposes.
>One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be
>extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be
>extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive-slave clause of
>the Constitution, and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave
>trade, are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can ever be in a
>community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports the law
>itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in
>both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, cannot be perfectly
>cured; and it would be worse in both cases after the separation of the
>sections, than before. The foreign slave trade, now imperfectly suppressed,
>would be ultimately revived without restriction, in one section; while
>fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at
>all by the other.
>Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective
>sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A
>husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence and beyond the
>reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this.
>They cannot but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or
>hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that
>intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than
>before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can
>treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among
>friends? Suppose you go to war, you cannot fight always; and when, after
>much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the
>identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you.
>This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it.
>Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise
>their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to
>dismember or overthrow it. I cannot be ignorant of the fact that many worthy
>and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the National Constitution
>amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the
>rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in
>either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under
>existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose, a fair opportunity being
>afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add that to me the
>convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate
>with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or
>reject propositions originated by others, not especially chosen for the
>purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either
>accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution
>-which amendment, however, I have not seen -has passed Congress, to the
>effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic
>institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To
>avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose, not to
>speak of particular amendments, so far as to say that, holding such a
>provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its
>being made express and irrevocable.
>The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they
>have conferred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the States.
>The people themselves can do this also if they choose; but the Executive, as
>such, has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present
>Government, as it came to his hands, and to transmit it, unimpaired by him,
>to his successor.
>Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the
>people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present
>differences is either party without faith of being in the right? If the
>Almighty Ruler of Nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your
>side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice
>will surely prevail by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American
>By the frame of the Government under which we live, this same people have
>wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief; and have,
>with equal wisdom, provided for the return of that little, to their own
>hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and
>vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can
>very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years.
>My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject.
>Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry
>any of you in hot haste to a step which you would never take deliberately,
>that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be
>frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied, still have the old
>Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own
>framing under it; while the new Administration will have no immediate power,
>if it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are
>dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single
>good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity,
>and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are
>still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.
>In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the
>momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can
>have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath
>registered in Heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most
>solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."
>I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.
>Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
>The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot
>grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will
>yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will
>be, by the better angels of our nature.

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