RECURRING TO FIRST PRINCIPLES.
THE FOURTH OF JULY., (July 4, 1861)
The Confederate States of 1861 are acting over again the history of the American Revolution of 1776. The actions of the British King, which were recited in the Declaration of Independence as "a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States” have been repeated in spirit, and literally copied in many of the measures of the Government at Washington. The same despotic purpose to suppress political rights and destroy civil liberty by the employment of armies of invasion, "already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the head of a civilized nation," is as distinctly marked in the movements of the Federal Executive as it was in those of the British monarch, rendered more atrocious in character by the violent assumptions in the prosecution of the will of the American despot, of lawless powers which the people of England would never have permitted to the King.
The resistance of the South has been based on the same eternal principles which justified and glorified the patriots of 1776. What was won by their struggles, their long endurance, their heroism and their triumph, was the common inheritance of their children, in trust for the liberty and happiness of mankind. They established, as they thought forever, the great maxim of freedom, that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed," and that " whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to afford them safety and happiness.”
These fundamental truths are still devoutly cherished in the Southern States of America. The people of the South are in arms to defend them against the aggressions and invasions of the degenerate sons of the illustrious patriots who went shoulder to shoulder with the men of the South, in wresting them, by battle, from the unwilling hands of a mighty monarchy. The North, inflamed by the same lust of dominion and the same arrogant confidence in superior strength, has renounced these free maxims for those which enlightened monarchy has since abandoned, and is spreading its banners and arraying armies and fleets to re-establish, in the person of King Mob, the obsolete dogmas of the divine right of government to passive obedience.
In this frightful apostasy of a corrupt generation from the faith of their fathers, the people of the Confederate States of the South alone remain loyal to the principles of the Revolution-the great truths of the Act of Independence. They are the sole guardians left of constitutional liberty in America. They alone have kept unimpaired their inheritance in the glories of the Revolution, and their trust in its beneficent creed. To them now belongs of right to the custody of all the hopes of human progress, of which the Fourth of July is the symbol in history, and it is by their swords that it is to be saved for mankind
As the States of the South are alone in having stood steadfast to the principles of the Revolution, so it is their glory that they were among the first to assert them in the face of frowning despotism. Among the earliest to announce and firmest to uphold opposition to the tyrannous doctrines of the English King, the Southern Colonies took the lead in tho crowning work of declaring independence. The first popular act proclaiming independence was that of the people of Mecklenburgh, in North Carolina, and the first declaration by any Colonial Legislature, for a public declaration of independence by the Colonies in Congress, was made by the Legislature of tile same State, the 22d of April, 1776. Virginia was the next, and on the 15th of May, unanimously instructed her- delegates in Congress to propose the declaration without waiting for the joint declaration. Virginia assumed her own sovereignty, and at once proceeded to provide for a constitution and bill of rights for her own people.
The mover in Congress for a declaration of independence, was Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia. The Declaration was written by Thomas Jefferson, of Virginia, and the General whose wisdom and whose sword won the battles which established it, was George Washington, a Virginian. North Carolina and Virginia, and their Southern associate States, peopled by the descendants and kindred of these great southerners, are in arms for the same independence for which the treachery and tyranny of the North have demanded from them a new declaration, and the dedication anew of life, fortune, and honor to the same glorious cause.
It is impossible to read the history of those times without finding on every page new proofs of the complete identity of principles between the struggle of the colonies then and trial of the Confederate States now, and new weapons for the defence of the great conservative doctrine of State sovereignty, in the destruction of which every vestige of American liberty is threatened. The declaration of July was the announcement by all, of what was true of each, that the Colonies, one and all, were free and independent. There was no assumption that the people of the, Colonies formed one nation-they formed States, united to make known their common resolve to, support the sovereignty which each had reclaimed from a tyrannical government. The Congress of the Colonies was a voluntary league, recognized as an agency, and frequently applied to as a counsellor.
Following the advance of public opinion in the colonies, Congress, in May, 1776, passed advisatory resolves, in which they recommended the several. colonial governments no longer to consider themselves as exercising any power derived from Great Britain, but to adopt such governments is the people of each should consider most advisable. On the very day on which this resolve finally passed, at Philadelphia, Virginia, acting without concert, took steps to erect her own independent government. It is a curious fact, too, in history that New Jersey did this even more thorough and effectually than Virginia, for her Colonial Convention actually formed and adopted an independent government, and put it into action before the 4th of July,, 1776. The preamble recited that, by reason of the oppression of the King of Great Britain, "all civil authority under him is necessarily at an end, and a dissolution of government in each colony has consequently taken place. The Constitution of July 2, 1776, with this preamble, remained the Constitution of New Jersey for more than sixty years, with only the alteration of a single word, which was made in 1777.
Virginia and New Jersey were, therefore, separately independent in fact, and by declaration, before the general declaration was made by the assembled delegates on the 4th of July. That declaration was consistent in comprising by a unanimous vote the concurrence of all in the proclamation of the same fact, and the joint resolve for maintaining it by the arms of all. In accordance with the same principles, Congress expressly and by resolution delegated to the colonial Legislature, and subsequently to the States, as solely belonging to them, the duty of providing laws for the punishment of treason, and the right and duty which were exercised with a great deal of energy in some of the Middle States, particularly New York, for confiscating the estates of adherents to Great Britain.
The Fourth of July is, therefore, preeminently an anniversary to be preserved and commemorated by the adherents to the doctrine of' State sovereignty. It was the work of men who laid the corner-stone of constitutional freedom on that rock. The confederation which followed the declaration was simply a league, and- a very imperfect one, which without any national strength, carried the country through the war. The confederation of the States which became, by the Constitution of 1787, the Union of the States, reserved the individuality of the States, as the indispensable element of liberty and good government, The North, after a long series of perversions and abuses, by which the forms of the Constitution were made powerful to overthrow the rights of the South, and establish over us a sectional despotism, with pretended authority against its original and essential provision, has at last thrown off the appearances of respect for it and is marching its armies openly to overthrow State authorities and State existence with fire and sword. The Constitution of 1787 is superseded by a military despotism, and the authors of these usurpations avow without scruple that they have a mission to repair the errors of 1776, and establish institutions against which the independence and individuality of the States have been heretofore obstructions, which the Constitution offered them too slow aids in overcoming. The Secretary of State proclaims that the war will never be ended until the “miserable " casuistry of State rights is effectually disposed of, and there shall be no longer any distinction of citizenship, according to State lines. The confidential counsellors of the Administration, and the press, proclaim that it will be the chief duty of Lincolnism “to efface the old colonial geography," and to abolish "the admited powers of States," as “the source of all present evils." The creation of a nationality by the “removal of State power “ is the end proposed by this war, and the means are not less boldly avowed. In the language of one of the foreign Ministers of Mr. Lincoln, it is by "national unity and power," "combined, condensed, and concentrated in army and navy."
These are open war upon every principle of freedom which the Declaration of 1776 asserted and the Revolution won. They go further: they are war upon every principle of freedom which existed and was nurtured in the colonies before the war of independence, and by which the people bad been trained up in the knowledge of virtue and heroism, which instructed them in the value of independence and enabled them to win it.
The Confederate States, in resisting these abominable doctrines, and the atrocious acts by which they are sought to be enforced, are guarding with their swords the ancient British liberties, which educated and disciplined the original thirteen for their work of overthrowing the armed tyranny of a great empire, as well as the new and grander principles of human rights and popular self government, which that independence achieved for themselves, their posterity, and mankind.
To them, therefore, belongs the most sacred right of property in the memories of Independence Day, as the loyal inheritors of its principles and its glories. They will be so ranked in impartial history when the Monument at Bunker Hill, which was reared to commemorate the willing sacrifice of patriot blood for the noble cause of liberty, may stand in a land of willing slaves as a statue of Cato might stand over the manger of the horse of whom Caligula made a consul for debased Rome.
-New Orleans Picayune.