The one great evil from which all other evils have flowed, is the overthrow of the Constitution of the United States. The Government of the United States is no longer the government of a confederate republic, but of a consolidated democracy. It is no longer a free government, but a despotism. It is, in fact, such a government as Great Britain attempted to set over our fathers, and which was resisted and defeated by a seven years struggle for independence.
The Southern States now stand exactly in the same position toward the Northern States that our ancestors in the colonies did toward Great Britain. The Northern States, having the majority in Congress, claim the same power of omnipotence in legislation as the British Parliament. "The general welfare" is the only limit to the legislation of either; and the majority in Congress, as in the British Parliament, are the sole judges of the expediency of the legislation this "general welfare" requires. Thus the Government of the United States has become a consolidated Government, and the people of the Southern States are compelled to meet the very despotism their fathers threw off in the Revolution of 1776.
No man can for a moment believe that our ancestors intended to establish over their posterity exactly the same sort of Government thay had overthrown. The great object of the Constitution of the United States, in its internal operation, was, doubtless, to secure the great end of the revolution - a limited free Gorvernment - a Government limited to those matters only which were general and common to all portions of the United States. All sectional or local interests were to be left to the States. By no other arrangement would they obtain free government by a Constitution common to so vast a Confederacy. Yet, by gradual and steady encroachments on the part of the North, and submission on the part of the South, the limitations in the Constitution have been swept away, and the Government of the United States has become consolidated, with a claim of limitless powers in its operations.
It is not in the power of human language to exclude false inferences, constructions, and perversions, in any constitution; and when vast sectional interests are to be subserved involving the appropriation of countless millions of money, it has not been the usual experience of mankind that words on parchment can arrest power. The Constitution of the United States, irrespective of the interposition of the States, rested on the assumption that power would yield to faith - that integrity would be stronger than interest, and that thus the limitations of the Constitution would be observed. The experiment has been fairly made. The Southern States, from the commencement of the Government, have striven to keep it within the orbit prescribed by the Constitution. The experiment has failed. The whole Constitution, by the constructions of the Northern people, has been swallowed up by a few words in its preamble.
Not only their fanatacism, but their erroneous views of the principles of free governments, render it doubtful whether, separated from the South, they can maintain a free Government among themselves. Brute numbers with them is the great element of free Government. A majority is infallible and omnipotent. "The right divine to rule in kings" is only transferred to their majority. The very object of all constitutions, in free, popoular Governments, is to restrain the majority.
South Carolina acting in her sovereign capacity, now thinks proper to secede from the Union. She did not part with her sovereignty in adopting the Constitution. The last thing a State can be presumed to have surrendered is her sovereignty. Her sovereignty is her life. Nothing but a clear, express grant, can alienate it. Inference should be dumb. Yet is is not at all surprising that those who have construed away all the limitations of the Constitution, should also by construction claim the annihilation of the sovereignty of the States. ... They desire to establish a despotism, not only omnipotent in Congress, but omnipotent over the States; and as if to manifest the imperious necessity of our secession, they threaten us with the sword, to coerce submission to their rule.
The Address of the people of South Carolina, assembled in Convention, to the people of the Slaveholding States of the United States by Robert Barnwell Rhett
The Political History of the United States of America During The Great Rebellion
by Edward McPherson, Clerk of the House of Representatives, pages 13,14,15
Philip & Solomons, New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1864