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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

October 21, 1861

Georgia Mentioned in Speech

Georgia was mentioned in this item from the Richmond Times Dispatch, printing excerpts from a speech from Kentucky’s John Breckinridge, a former Senator from Kentucky, Vice-President under James Buchanan, and presidential candidate in 1860. Breckinridge served for the South during the war, therefore it is not surprising that his speech asserted that there was no “United” States.

There are no United States. –The arrogance with which the Yankees affect to call their Government the “United States,” and to regard those who do not subscribe to Yankee rule as rebels, has often been well exposed, but never so well as by Mr. Breckinridge, in his late address to the people of Kentucky. The United States exist no longer as a political association. The Constitution by which the Union was created, and without which it cannot exist, is gone forever. It has been rent into a thousand fragments. Its provisions can no more be carried out than can the Constitution of Draco, or the Laws of the Twelve Tables. By the withdrawal of twelve States, parties to the compact by which it was created, has come to an end. The war waged upon us, therefore, is no civil war; it is a war waged by one nation upon another. The object of the one is conquest; the object of the other is defence. Let us follow the argument of Mr. Breckinridge, and see if it is not conclusive. When it becomes impossible to execute the stipulations of a contract, that contract ceases to exist. No court upon earth will decide that each stipulations shall be carried out. Now, the Constitution of the old United States required that there should be two Senators and two Representatives from each State. It is obvious that this stipulation cannot be carried out, for twelve of the States have already left the Union, and there is nobody to represent them, either in the Senate or the House. It requires that duties shall be uniform throughout the States; but in twelve of the States no duties can be collected. It gives to Congress the power of regulating commerce between the several States. It is plain that Congress - meaning the old Congress - cannot regulate commerce between Virginia and North Carolina, or between Georgia and Massachusetts, or between any of the Yankee States and any of the States of the Confederacy, or between any two members of the latter. The Constitution prescribes one uniform rule of bankruptcy and of naturalization, and gives to Congress the power to fix that rule. Congress, at present cannot do it. Congress had power to establish post-offices and post- routes. It has no longer that power in twelve States of the old Union. The Constitution requires all the States to appoint electors for President and Vice-President, and makes a majority of such electors necessary to a choice. Now, as more than one-third of the States will not appoint electors, there can be no election by the people. Nor can there be any election by the House of Represenatives, for the Constitution requires that two-thirds of the States shall be represented in that body which at present is simply impossible. The Constitution requires that three-fourths of the States shall concur in any amendment of the Constitution. But more than one-third of the States have already withdrawn, so that no future amendment can be made. Here we have the whole truth in a nutshell. The withdrawal of twelve States whose active co- operation is necessary to carry out the stipulations of the Constitution, has rendered it impossible to comply with the provisions of that instrument. It is therefore absolutely void, and of no effect, according to a principle of law common to every code that ever had existence among men. Even in every State had still continued in the Union-even if every State now sent its Representatives and Senators to Congress - even if it was still possible to elect a President according to the powers of the Constitution - still that Constitution would be no longer in existence. It has been overthrown by Lincoln himself, and by the Congress under whose inspiration he acts. He has destroyed every safe guard which it provided for public liberty.–The Constitution divided the Government into three departments - Legislative, Judicial, and Executive - and defined their several limits with the greatest particularity. Lincoln has usurped all the powers thus separated and defined, and has united them all in his own person. He is, at this moment, as absolute as Alexander II or Napoleon III. He arrests any person he thinks proper, without a judicial warrant, although by the Constitution such warrant is rendered absolutely necessary. He has set aside the writ of habeas corpus, the great bulwark of liberty, in order to deprive all persons, whom he may think proper to incarcerate, of their right to be heard in their own defence. The victims of his tyranny are thrown into dungeons without knowing why they were arrested, and there they stay as long as he thinks proper to detain them. The Constitution gives Congress the power to declare martial law within a limited space, for a limited time, and under certain peculiar circumstances. Lincoln not only declares martial law himself, without the advice or consent of Congress, but he confers upon every one of his Generals the power to declare it within the district in which he commands. Arming himself with these tremendous powers thus usurped, and proclaiming that the States have no rights but such as they derive from the General Government, he does not hesitate to imprison every member of a State Legislature who may think it his duty to criticise his acts or whom be even suspects of an intention to vote in favor of measuses which are not acceptable at Washington. This is the tyranny against which the Southern people have taken up arms, and which they will resist as long as there is a man a gun, or a dollar in the South. It is for resisting this tyranny that they are called rebels by the tame slaves that live on the other side of the Potomac. We glory in the name. It is always the reproach which rulers cast upon those whom their tyranny drives to resistance. It was the title which North and his Government bestowed upon Washington and Franklin, and the very fact of its having been borne by them renders it sacred in the eyes of all men who really love freedom. We would not willingly be called anything else. And yet it is ridiculously inappropriate.–Against whom are we rebels? Not against the United States Government; for that no longer exists. We are rebels, it seems, against the Yankee Nation - that nation whose masters we always have been and always will be - who are our shoemakers, our tailors, and our workers of all work. We shall hear next of the gentlemen of the South rebelling against their negroes.