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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

The union of these States is perpetual


have endeavoured to state fairly the nature of the conflict of wills which was to produce Civil War, and to explain how each side justified morally its appeal to arms. Further than that I do not think it necessary to go. But I will add just this one historical fact which, I think, supplies some degree of further justification for the attitude of the North--that concerning this matter of the Union, which was the real question in debate, though not in regard to other subsidiary matters which will demand our attention in the next chapter, the South was ultimately not only conquered but persuaded. There are among the millions of Southerners alive to-day few who will admit that their fathers fought in an unjust cause, but there are probably still fewer, if any at all, who would still wish to secede if they had the power. Jefferson Davis himself could, at the last, close his record of his own defeat and of the triumph of the Union with the words _Esto Perpetua_.

Lincoln took the oath as President on March 4, 1861. His Inaugural Address breathes the essential spirit of his policy--firmness in things fundamental, conciliation in things dispensable. He reiterated his declaration that he had neither right nor inclination to interfere with Slavery in the Slave States. He quoted the plank in the Republican platform which affirmed the right of each State to control its own affairs, and vigorously condemned John Brown's insane escapade. He declared for an

effective Fugitive Slave Law, and pledged himself to its faithful execution. He expressed his approval of the amendment to the Constitution which Congress had just resolved to recommend, forbidding the Federal Government ever to interfere with the domestic institutions of the several States, "including that of persons held to service." But on the question of Secession he took firm ground. "I hold that, in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the union of these States is perpetual.... 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." He accepted the obligation which the Constitution expressly enjoined on him, to see "that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States." He would use his power "to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts," but beyond that there would be no interference or coercion. There could be no conflict or bloodshed unless the Secessionists were themselves the aggressors. "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine is the momentous issue of Civil War.... You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I have the most solemn one to 'preserve, protect and defend it.'"

He ended with the one piece of rhetoric in the whole address--rhetoric deliberately framed to stir those emotions of loyalty to the national past and future which he knew to endure, howsoever overshadowed by anger and misunderstanding, even in Southern breasts. "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 battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

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