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My Fellow Countrymen: Upon what manner of times have we fallen? Is our supposed experiment of self-government about to prove a failure? Are we so blind as not to see the abyss into which we are about to plunge? Section hostile against section; States arrayed against the Constitution; Churches sundered; the springs of intelligence poisoned at their source; treason stalking at noonday; insurrection rife; the equality of States and citizens denied, and derided; justice rebuked; treachery applauded; traitors canonized; anarchy inaugurated; monarchy calculating the end of republicanism; and the wheels of government clogged by the minions of despotism! All this, my Countrymen, and you passive, silent, sightless; reckless of your own and your children’s doom? And while all this is true, you go about your usual avocations, as though the eyes of the civilized world were not upon you; as though the great, the good, the magnanimous of all lands were not breathless, and spell-bound, and appalled at the spectacle; as though the prophetic admonitions of the Father of our Country were forgotten, and nature, with an ominous silence, conspired to lull you into forgetfulness, the more to astound you with the wonders and the woes of an approaching catastrophe!

What fatal error is there in our Republican principle? What virus sickens our body politic? What fascination lures us from the shrine of freedom? What infatuation hath seized the American people, that they should put to hazard this priceless inheritance, the home, and refuge, and hope, of the down-trodden nations?

I aver there is a fatal fallacy adopted by a large number of the American people, which, if not rejected, will lead us down to national oblivion. That fallacy is exposed in the following pages, by showing what is right, and what is wrong, and explaining the fundamental error by which our public opinion is divided, and the way of a reunion pointed out. No one can desire to remain in error. It is the desire to do right which animates the great mass of the American people. It was, perhaps, the desire to do right, that made John Brown a rebel and a traitor, and which consigned him to a traitor’s doom. There is no safety, then, in desiring to do right; but to know what is right, and to do it. The time has now arrived when the American people must do right, or suffer the penalty of doing wrong.

Good intentions will not do. Good Deeds are demanded, actions founded upon truth and justice, and in accordance with nature’s irrevocable laws. We boast of our greatness, and power, and intelligence. Of what avail are all these, if they will not save us from national ruin? What boots it that a slumbering giant dreams of his strength while he is falling upon the bosom of a burning lake? The mightiest empires have sunk to oblivion. Are we soon to follow them?

Our material greatness and vigor seem to forbid the idea of premature decay; but let us not be blind to the delusive dream of an immortality springing from mental imbecility, nor the chimera of a political finality in governmental system which establishes and tolerates injustice, nor the permanence of a State in the midst of preponderating elements of fluctuating popular delusion.

Either the institutions under which we live are founded in truth, or they are founded in error. Our constitution is the work of wisdom, or of folly. It is founded in justice, or injustice; in right, or wrong. Shall we honor the astuteness of its founders, and perpetuate these institutions to remotest ages? or shall we prove recreant to this trust, unworthy of these manifold blessings, and in our mental blindness and moral imbecility invoke the scorn of future ages, and the just exécrations of all mankind?

The material elements of greatness of the Great American Republic, must be vivified and enlivened by a corresponding degree of intellect; they must be permeated by an adequate element of illuminating soul, or they will fall, a lifeless mass, into chaotic ruin. Let us remember

“That trade’s proud empire hastes to swift decay,
As ocean sweeps the labored mote away;
Whilst self-dependent power can time defy,
As rocks resist the billows and the sky.”