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The Justification.


September 1862

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, September 25, 1862.


Emancipation is slavery’s own act.  Its own hand has evoked the vengeance which has been visited upon its head.  Had slavery been content to have enjoyed in peace its fully guaranteed rights under the Constitution, it was safe from all serious molestation.  The power did not exist, if the disposition did, to work either its overthrow or its material curtailment.  The Constitution was its bond of protection, defining for it as it did privileges and immunities about which no serious controversy could exist.  The Union was the indorser upon the bond, bound and pledged on the peril of its existence, to its scrupulous and permanent fulfillment.  Slavery in the Union and under the Constitution, was like a man clothed in armor and dwelling within a fortress.  When it discarded the Constitution, it threw away its shield, and when it seceded from the Union it abandoned its stronghold.  Henceforth it had to stand or fall according to its own weakness or strength.  Thus divested and unprotected, it challenged freedom to the conflict.

Such being the case, can any one appropriately insist that slavery is entitled to any consideration or protection in consequence of constitutional guarantees?  So far as it is concerned the Constitution is a thing of the past.  It is an instrument, once obligatory, but over every line of which the hand of obliteration has been drawn.  It has become null and void by the act of slavery itself.  Slavery has proclaimed that it will no longer have part or parcel in it. As an instrument it still exists, and for a community recognizing only free men and free labor, it is as binding as ever.  It exists, but exists as if there was not so much as a line, word or letter in it having relation “to persons bound to labor.”  It so exists, because slavery by its own volition has so determined.  Not that the Constitution means either more or less now than it ever did, or that it ever was, but that slavery, by its own act, has placed itself in a position where it can claim no protection or benefit under it.  To illustrate—every man is entitled to protection for life and liberty under the law of the land.  It is the purpose of the law to secure these to him.  If, however, he be guilty of acts of criminality, he can no longer claim the interposition of the law in his behalf, and the law, which would have guarded his life and liberty before, may now take both from him.  The Constitution has sustained no violence, save at the hands of slavery or those in its interest.  When the rebellion, which can be called nobody’s rebellion except slavery’s, broke out, it was predicated on no alleged violation of Constitutional provision.  Some other pretext had to be sought for it.  The election of a President of obnoxious political views was the acknowledged cause.  Yet it was not claimed that his election was not in all respects strictly in accordance with constitutional warrant and direction.  And consequently when the dominant political party to which the objectionable President elect belonged, proposed by way of peace-offering to so modify the Constitution as to give slavery yet additional guarantees, the proposition was met with no corresponding spirit of reconciliation.  History cannot fail to record the fact that in the Union, and while the Constitution received the acknowledged allegiance of all parties and sections, no interest was so much favored by having as scrupulous regard shown to the observance of all its legal rights as that of slavery.  It was, in fact, the spoiled child of the Republic—favored and gratified in its whims, until its petulant demands became the post of the household.

Whatever verdict the future shall pronounce upon the newly inaugurated policy of the President, as enunciated in his recent proclamation, it cannot be one of condemnation for the breach of any written ordinance, either in its spirit or letter.  If, indeed, such flagrant conduct of disobedience to the highest law of the land, as has been exhibited by slavery during the entire progress of the rebellion, were not met with the most rigorous punishment the law can inflict, it would prove itself to be scarcely worth the effort for its preservation.