SPEECH OF MR. HOOKER
Mr. HOOKER then addressed the Convention as follows:
Gentlemen of the Convention of South Carolina, Coming to you as the representative of a sister sovereign State, at this most important and critical period of our history, I feel it, gentlemen of the Convention, to be my duty to speak to you, what I know to be the sentiment of the people whom I represent. I feel it my duty to possess this body with the exact condition of things which exist in Mississippi at this important crisis of our history.
I have been profoundly gratified at the cordial welcome and the kindly hospitality which has met me in the home of my nativity, and I have been more profoundly gratified when I reflected that it has been visited upon me, not so much as a matter of personal compliment, but as an indication of that homogeneous disposition of the people, to the strong ties of affinity which bind men of Missisippi to men of Carolina. [Applause.]
I am deputed, gentlemen of the Convention, to speak the sentiments of the State which I have the honor to represent, by virtue of a resolution which passed both branches of our Legislature, without a single dissenting voice. I have also the honor to announce to you that the bill convoking the sovereign people of the State of Mississippi, in Convention, was also passed by both branches of our Legislature without a single dissenting voice. [Applause.] Coming, therefore, thus authorised by the Legislature of the State, and speaking what I know to be the sentiments of the people of Mississippi, I feel authorized to say to you, it gives me profound gratification to be able to say that, coming back to the home of my nativity, I listen to-day wtih a proud pleasure and gratification to the words of wisdom and patriotism that fell from the lips of the Governor elect, and I propose to say to you that there was not one sentiment in his memorable address to the Legislature which would not have received the sound hearty plaudits in Mississippi that it met from the men of Carolina. [Applause.] And yet, I have felt that I would have been untrue to my mother adn false to the instincts of the soil upon which I was reared, did I not give a hearty response to every sentiments. I have also felt and known that I would be equally untrue to the home of my adoption and the sentiment that reigns, that rules the hearts of the people, did I not give, on her part, a cordial approbation to every sentiment that fell from his lips. [Applause.]
I do not know, Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, that the occasion requires or demands that I should go into a general discussion of the political ethics of the country. I would deem it somewhat inappropriate to the occasion - inappropriate, alone, however, because I come simply to speak to you the sentiments of the people of Mississippi, and convey to you what was the authoritative action in our Legislature, and when I have done this, I shall have felt my mission ended.
But there is a question presented by your very convocation here; and one which, perhaps, has not been understood in most of the Southern and Southwestern States of the Confederacy, to the extent and depth in which you understand it in South Carolina; I mean the question of how the features of the Federal Government, or the ties of its existence, is to be changed. There is, however, a great principle underlying all constitutions and governments - I mean the great principle which is enumerated in the very second article of the Bill of Rights attached to the Constitution of Mississippi, and most of the States of the Confederacy - to claim that it is the right of the people to alter, to change, to amend, aye, to abolish the form of government, whenever to them it shall seem proper. [Applause.] That, gentlemen of the Convention, is the great principle which underlies not only your Federal Constitution, but which lies at the basis of all your State Constitutions - the right of the people, the power of the people, aye, and the duty of the people, to resume the powers of government, with which they have entrusted their agents, whenever those agents have proven and manifested themselves to be unfaithful in the discharge of the trust. [Loud applause.] I say that it is a great principle which underlies alike the powers granted to the Federal Government, and the powers granted by the people to State Government; and when it shall fail to be recognized, when it shall fail to be admitted, then the existence of the Government is a mere question of the power of the Government to perpetuate itself. [Applause] And, in reference to the Federal Government, while it exists somewhat under different forms from State Governments, it still exists, dependent upon this great general principle, which we of Mississippi have always contended to belong alike to the Federal and State Governments. We seem to be almost oblivious to the fact, and this great question of the right of the sovereign States of the Confederacy, each acting for herself and by herself, and bound only by her own act. We seem almost to have been forgetful of the origin of the Government itself. This great right of the sovereign parties to the compact, whenever the Federal Government has departed from the orbit in which the Constitution bids it move; in the language of your great statesman, it is not a simple right, but it is the duty of the sovereign creators to speak to it in the language of master, and bid it move back again in the orbit in which the Constitution has directed it to move. [Applause.]
I say that it is the great principle which underlies the Federative Government alike, as the other great principle which I have enunciated underlies the State Constitutions. As under the State Constitutions the power of the people at all times exists to resume the authority entrusted to its agents, and to resume its government of the Convention, in the mode and manner in which they invested them with it - so the right and the power and the duty exists on the part of the States to resume the authority they have granted to the Federal Government, whenever that Federal Government shall seek to pervert it. The two great principles are alike in their application; and what I had occasion to say at home I will repeat here: that if the pen of the historian shall ever record their downfall, not merely in the Government, not merely in the Union, but their downfall in the hearts of the people, that that act recorded by him will be as much owing to the truculency of the minority in the Government as it will be to the aggressive acts of the majority. [Applause.]
We have been taught to think and believe in Mississippi that all governments are but agencies established by the people to effect certain great purposes and ends, and, therefore, being but agencies, and especially your Federal Government being an agent, acting under the strict letter of the Constitution, whenever that agent exceeds its authority, and assumes a power never granted, the States must be untrue to themselves if they fail to speak to that government in the language of master. This is our idea in Mississippi of the character of the government. We have been taught to believe, gentlemen of the Convention, that it originated precisely as your State government originated - by the consent of the people. Your State Government, having its origin by the consent of the people, your Federal Government owes its existence to the consent of the sovereign States who made it, and I say the same grand principle underlies them both, only in different degrees. In reference to a State Government, the consent of the governed gives power to the Governor. The Governor does not become the people, but their agent; and so in the Federal Government this power exists by the consent of the sovereign States who framed it. Aye, I may say in the language of the noted Mr. Randolph, of Virginia, that "the States are the breath of its nostrils, and have the power to put an end to it to-morrow by a bare refusal to elect Senators and Representatives." [Applause]
I have thus stated these two propositions, one of which pertains to State Governments, and the other to the Federal Government, in order to show that when we adopted the existing Constitution - when the States met in solemn convocation at Philadelphia, in 1787, and framed the Constitution, they acted by States, they voted by States, and they voted clause by clause that Constitution into power; but when that Convention had met, acted and adjourned, the Constitution of the United States was an idle piece of parchment, devoid of life and vitality. It required the sovereign masters of that Convention, the separate States, to breath into it vitality and power of existence. [Applause.] Hence it was that the ninth article of the Constitution is known as the Ratification Article. It required nine of the eleven states of the Union to adopt that Constitution. I mean to say, that with all the wisdom and all the patriotism that reigned and ruled in that Convention when Washington and Madison, and the Rutledges, and all the great men of power in the days of the Revolution, lived - I mean to say that even after they had performed their duties, and favored the existence of the present Constitutional Government, it was referred back to the sovereign States, each to act for herself and to be bound alone by her own act. [Applause.] I mean to say that when it was referred to the people of South Carolina they had a right, if, in their judgment they thought proper, so far as they were concerned, to have defeated its adoption, because, by the article of ratification that Constitution was a compact only between the States ratifying the same. [Applause.] Thus you see it was in the power of four of the smallest States of the Confederacy with a population of something less than three hundred thousand absolutely to have defeated the object of the Constitution itself. And then, too, by this article of ratification, no State that did ratify it possessed the power to ratify it for any other State, but only to ratify it as to herself; and hence it was taht Virginia, New York, Rhode Island, and various other States of the Confederacy in their articles of ratification, declared that whenever the power of the Government should be perverted to the destruction of the liberties of the people of the State, they had the right and authority, and the duty devolved upon them, to resume these bonds. [Applause.]
This being then the character of the government, the question arises whether or not the exigency has arisen which requires that the sovereign States of the Confederacy who made the Federal Government by their sovereign act, ought to resume to themselves the power, and authority, and duty, with which they have invested the Federal Union. And while I refer to the existing state of things in speaking to you, gentlemen of the Convention of South Carolina, I may speak somewhat in advisory terms, but not intentionally on my part; and should I do so, it is only because I believe, aye, I may say I know, that the interest and welfare, and destiny and fate of South Carolina, , is the interest, welfare, destiny and fate of Mississippi. [Loud applause.] The question arises simply as to whether or not the exigency has arisen which makes it the duty of sovereign States of this Confederacy to resume the powers with which they entrusted the Federal Government. I hope that it is unnecessary in speaking to Carolina to say, if she has the right to form the government, she has also the right to change it, and then your government exists alone to the extent and capacity and power which it possesses to make itself perpetual. In other words, I mean to say that if the authority with which you have invested the Federal Government is not subject to resumption, and if that Federal Government, whether acting through its Legislative, Executive or Judicial departments, possesses the power to determine your existence in it, then you have no other authority to reverse that government, or annul it, than have the serfs of Russia to change the form of government under which they live. I say, if the authority and right does exist under the rights of the States to resume the powers with which they entrusted the Federal Government, whether acting as one, two or three States, then they have the ability to resist the act by all the means in their power. We have thought, in Mississippi, that in all probability the great principle that all government is based upon the consent of the people, would be recognized by the federal authority: it would not be questioned that it would not be doubted, that no body of men, in any State, would be found who would question it. On that we may be mistaken. It is barely possible that the federal government as now constituted, or as it will be constituted on the 4th of March next, will forget the great fact that it is based upon the sovereign States who made it, that it owes its origin and daily existence to the volunteer act of those States remaining in the Union. I say that may object, but as was so well alluded to by the distinguished Governor elect to-day, which I had the honor to hear: "We must remember that this government was created, principally for the conduct of our foreign relations - principally to give strength to us abroad, and in order to constitute us a power on the earth." Now, what has been the history of the Federal Government for the last three years? Has it been an effort to give to the people of the United States, as a people homogeneous, alike political interest, and social welfare and elevated position on the page of history? No, my countrymen; it has been a disgraceful squabble on the floors of the National Legislature to make one portion of this people of despotic power, a controlling element in the government; in order to oppress the other portion. [Applause.] I have been told that the history of the Union was a National history, around which, in spite of the opposition to it, clung the warmest affections of our people; and I have begged leave to remind the friends who made the suggestion to me, that, in the Declaration of Independence, our fathers saw fit to declare, not that the people of the United States, but that these colonies are and ought to be free and independent States. The history of the revolution shows nothing more than that they established the great doctrine of mutual independence. [Applause.] They never intended that State lines should be obliterated; and when the mind of New England, with a great Constitutional lawyer, a man of lofty and proud intellect, and enormous power, stood in the Congress of the United States contending for this as a government operating upon the people of a State - we say it with respect - he stood there as a partizan warrior advocating the interest of his client; and the great statesman of the West, he whose name indeed has become national, and whose fame belongs to the country at large, when he stood in the Congress of the United States claiming the authority of the Constitution of the United STates, and arguing the powers of the Government to inaugurate and force it, he stood there as a great popular orator, but also as a partizan lawyer, defending the case of his client [applause]: but when your own immortal statesman, who spoke not for the glory, aye no, and not for the generation, but who spoke for all time to come, who spoke ex cathedra, because he spoke the truth, the simple truth - when your own great Calhoun was heard, he established, at least in the hearts of the people of Carolina and her sister States, the great principle that this was a Government based on the consent of the people, and that the Federal Government is but the agent of the States, and could not exist a day with out them. [Applause.]
I have thus, Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, approached the view which we of Mississippi take of this question, and I beg to say while it is true in Mississippi we have not the good fortune you have in South Carolina, yet, since the election of Lincoln, all party lines in Mississippi have been obliterated [applause], and the people stand as a mass, without reference to the distinctions which have hitherto divided them. Men, for instance, known as opposition, now stand side by side by the candidates for the Convention who are known to be fore States Rights. That is owning in a large measure to the fact that our population is infused in a greater or less degree with men of the old State of South Carolina. [Applause.]
I am happy, however, to announce now, that we have no parties in Mississippi. [Applause]. And that in the town in which I live, the capital of the State, when we heard of your action, and when the day before I left home I attended a Convention in my own county, I announced to them the fact that there was entire unanimity throughout your State, a solid phalanx demanding the right and the authority to resume the powers entrusted to the Federal Government - when I made that announcement to the people of the county in which I live, not one, not two, not a dozen, but every man in the vast audience to which I spoke, rose as one man and proclaimed that he would stand by South Carolina, by her vote, for weal or for woe. [Loud and prolonged applause.]
I have alluded, gentlemen of the Convention, somewhat incidentally, but perhaps it is my duty to refer more particularly, to the action of the Legislature of the State of Mississippi. I have the pleasure of announcing to you that when the Convention bill was proposed in the House of Representatives, it was referred to a special committee for consideration, reported to the House, and adopted without debate, quietly and silently, and with that resolute determination and fixed duty of purpose which indicate that men have passed the period of discussion and debate. [Applause.] I have the pleasure of announcing to you that the other branch of the Legislature, the Senate, also adopted the measure without a dissenting voice.
When it was proposed that the Legislature should authorize the Executive of the State to send Commissioners to other States, soliciting their co-operation in the position which Mississippi has taken, that resolution was also passed without a single dissenting voice. The resolutions on Federal Relations, as we admirably term them in Mississippi, which I had the honor to present to the Executive, were introduced, not by an old States Rights man, but one regarded as with the opposition, and without whom we were not certain, even in Mississippi, of success. I will not weary you be reading the long preamble to these resolutions, for we struck it out and let the simple resolutions stand by themselves. I do not mean to state that every man in the State is pledged to it, because there are some who have said "we are with you, we are Minute Men with you, and stand by you ready when summoned to aid the Southern States. Take the advance movement and we will be there as readily as your States Rights or Secession men, but we believe it will be a war of revolution instead of a peaceful resumption by a sovereign State of the powers invested in the General Government." We have told them "we have no quarrel with your motives; we will not ask you to assign a reason. We know you to be wrong in regard to the reasons which animate you, but still we know that in the final hour, in the day of trial, you will stand heart to heart, shoulder to shoulder, hand to hand, with us." The resolutions were passed by the Legislature by an overwhelming majority, but not with the entire unanimity of the Convention Bill, or the resolution authorizing the Executive to appoint Commissioners to the various States. but still with a majority so overwhelming, that although division was called for, but a few feeble voices here and there dissented to it. I will read the resolution to which I refer:
Resolved, by the Legislature of the State of Mississippi, that in the opinion of those who now constitute the State Legislature, the secession of each aggrieved State is the proper remedy for these injuries. [Loud applause.]
I have the pleasure to announce to you, gentlemen, that this was not an idle resolution - it was not one adopted without calmness and forethought and reflection and deliberation - for I beg to assure you that the people I have the honor to represent are not in a passion upon this question, but have acted considerately, resolutely, and in a determined form. There is no excitement upon this question amongst my people. The principle of that resolution, declaring that the appropriate and proper remedy is the separate secession of each aggrieved State, is the principle which will be found the ruling and controlling element in the Convention which will meet on the 7th January next. [Applause.] And while there may be - while there doubtless will be some few dissenting voices; for, as I have said, heretofore we have not the pleasure of having the unanimity you have. Even the Opposition party of Mississippi - the frankest man of that party - the man of the most formidable intellect, and most tremendous power - a man I know and respect as a citizen but differ from in politics - has not hesitated to declare, and in print as well as by speech, that the election of Mr. Lincoln even he regarded as an open declaration of war on the part of the Northern people. [Applause].
I present this to you, gentlemen of the Convention, in order to properly explain the attitude of even the opposition men in Mississippi. Even they feel that the emergency or exigency has arisen which imperiously requires of her, in her sovereign capacity, to resume the authority entrusted to the Federal Government. We have been anxious, Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, to secure co-operation in every Southern slaveholding State. It was recommended by our Governor, in a message sent to our Legislature, that a bill be revived which formerly stood on the statute books of Mississippi, interdicting the introduction of slaves from border slave States. We felt that the true policy at this time, and in this emergency, and under the circumstances in which we are placed, that we should do aught which indicated the slightest distrust of any slave State of the Confederacy, and therefore that portion of the message was not favorably acted upon by the Legislature.
I have said that we earnestly desired co-operation; and while I say this, as i feel it my duty to say to you, we have not thought of obtaining it. I beg to say again, that even the opposition party have said that while they demanded that this co-operation should be invited, it did not follow that we should refuse to act. The argument advanced is simple, and is intended to give out that we do not intend to attach ourselves to anybody but what is assimilated to ourselves. [Applause.] And, therefore, I say, gentlemen of the Convention, as a simple act of courtesy to the other slave States, the Executive has appointed, or will appoint, delegates to all these States, simply soliciting action, but not to feel that Mississippi is bound by any refusal to act. [Applause.]
Allow me to say that, acting upon a principle which has been inaugurated in Mississippi years ago, that profound as is our respect, deep and abiding as is our love for that State which has ever stood in the first rank in defending the liberties of the country, even South Carolina could not control Mississippi. [Applause.] In other words, she claims for herself the right to act upon this matter as you claim for yourselves the right to act. We learned the lesson from you, gentlemen, that is is not only the right, but the solemn duty of each State, now that a Northern sectional majority has or will have control of the Government, to declare for secession. Why longer continue in this government? May I not say, in the language of an eloquent Virginian, "Why stand you here idle?"
We stand here to-day on the face of the earth, with all the financial embarassments which surround us, the sole and single people who have, by their social system, explained the relation between capital and labor. Why at the North and in England there is a constant warfare.
The simple question then, as I said before, gentlemen of the Convention, is as to whether or not you will resume the powers with which you have invested the Federal Government. WE had hoped, in Mississippi, that we would be able to take action with you simultaneously. We had hoped that we should hear a voice coming from the land of flowers, and the prairies of Texas, and from the banks of the great Father of waters where it washes the shores of Louisiana and Mississippi, and from Georgia and Alabama, all at the same time; but circumstances having convoked your Convention at a period somewhat prior to that at which the Conventions of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi were to act, the question is presented whether or not South Carolina should declare her own separate independence. Upon this subject, gentlemen, I have modestly made my suggestions to some gentlemen of the Convention. At one time I thought it might be politic and proper that the States should all act together, but since my arrival I doubt whether the postponement of the question would not have a tendency to throw a damper upon the South and the Southwest. [Applause.]
I believe that the people of South Carolina will snatch her star from the galaxy in which it has hitherto mingled and plant her flag earliest in the breach of the battle, sustaining revolution by the bold hearts and willing arms of her people. Should the government forget its origin, forget that it is based upon the consent of the sovereign States, and appeal to force, the first federal gun fired at the bosom of the mother will boom across the continent and bring back to her defence the willing hearts and ready arms of a thousand true sons, (applause), and side by side along with them will come hundreds whose footsteps never pressed your soil, but whose hearts are deeply imbued with the great living principles of government which owes its origin to the soil of South Carolina. [Loud applause.]
Holy cow, Anderson! What a service you are rendering us. Long live your kind!
Please stay on the subject which is The South Carolina Secession convention, and not slavery, its definition, origin, connection to the South etc. Plenty of other threads to discuss slavery, whether slavery was the cause of the war, the motive for secession etc. This one is about the convention.
Any irrelevant post will be deleted. Repeated attempts to derail the thread will result in thread banning.
Posted as a moderator
As Host a gentle reminderNot a quite gentle reminder