[Concluding remarks from the "Message of the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress, at the Commencement of the first session of the Thirty-Seventh Congress]
Our popular government has often been called an experiment. Two
points in it our people have already settled--the successful establishing and the successful administering of it. One still remains--its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it. It is now for them to demonstrate to the world, that those who can fairly carry an election, can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided, there can be no successful appeal back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal except to ballots themselves, at succeeding elections. Such will be a great lesson of peace; teaching men that what they cannot take by an election, neither can they take it by a war; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of a war.
Lest there be some uneasiness in the minds of candid men, as to
what is to be the course of the government, towards the southern
States, after the rebellion shall have been suppressed, the Executive
deems it proper to say, it will be his purpose then, as ever, to be
guided by the Constitution and the laws....
He desires to preserve the government, that it may be adminis-
tered for all, as it was administered by the men who made it. Loyal
citizens everywhere, have the right to claim this of their government;
and the government has no right to withhold or neglect it....
The Constitution provides, and all the States have accepted the
provision, that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in
this Union a republican form of government." But, if a State may
lawfully go out of the Union, having done so, it may also discard the
republican form of government; so that to prevent its going out is
an indispensable means, to the end, of maintaining the guaranty men-
tioned; and when an end is lawful and obligatory, the indispensable
means to it, are also lawful and obligatory.
It was with the deepest regret that the Executive found the duty
of employing the war-power, in defence of the government, forced
upon him. He could but perform this duty, or surrender the exist-
ence of the government. No compromise, by public servants, could,
in this case, be a cure; not that compromises are not often proper,
but that no popular government can long survive a marked precedent,
that those who carry an election, can only save the government from
immediate destruction, by giving up the main point, upon which, the
people gave the election. The people themselves, and not their ser-
vants, can safely reverse their own deliberate decisions.
As a private citizen, the Executive could not have consented that
these institutions shall perish: much less could he, in betrayal of so
vast, and so sacred a trust, as these free people had confided to him. He
felt that he had no moral right to shrink, nor even to count the chances
of his own life, in what might follow. In full view of his great respon-
sibility, he has, so far, done what he has deemed his duty. You will
now, according to your own judgment, perform yours. He sincerely
hopes that your views, and your action, may so accord with his, as to
assure all faithful citizens, who have been disturbed in their rights,
of a certain, and speedy restoration to them, under the Constitution
and the laws.
And having thus chosen our course, without guile, and with pure
purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear,
and with manly hearts.