This passage is adapted from Daniel Webster's "The Seventh of March Speech," given on March 7, 1850.
Mr. President, I should much prefer to have heard from
every member on this floor declarations of opinion that this
Union could never be dissolved, than the declaration of opinion
by any body, that, in any case, under the pressure of any
(5) circumstances, such a dissolution was possible. I hear with
distress and anguish the word "secession," especially when
it falls from the lips of those who are patriotic, and known to the
country, and known all over the world, for their political services.
Secession! Peaceable secession! Sir, your eyes and mine are never
(10) destined to see that miracle. The dismemberment of this vast
country without convulsion! The breaking up of the fountains
of the great deep without ruffling the surface! Who is so foolish,
I beg everybody's pardon, as to expect to see any such thing? Sir,
he who sees these States, now revolving in harmony around a
(15) common centre, and expects to see them quit their places and fly
off without convulsion, may look the next hour to see heavenly
bodies rush from their spheres, and jostle against each other in the
realms of space, without causing the wreck of the universe.
There can be no such thing as peaceable secession. Peaceable
(20) secession is an utter impossibility. Is the great Constitution under
which we live, covering this whole country, is it to be thawed and
melted away by secession, as the snows on the mountain melt under
the influence of a vernal sun, disappear almost unobserved, and run
off? No, Sir! No, Sir! I will not state what might produce the disruption
(25) of the Union; but, Sir, I see as plainly as I see the sun in heaven what
that disruption itself must produce; I see that it must produce war, and
such a war as I will not describe, in its twofold character.
Peaceable secession! Peaceable secession! The concurrent
agreement of all the members of this great republic to separate!
(30) A voluntary separation, with alimony on one side and on the other.
Why, what would be the result? Where is the line to be drawn?
What States are to secede? What is to remain American? What
am I now? An American no longer? Am I to become a sectional man,
a local man, a separatist, with no country in common with the gentlemen
(35) who sit around me here, or who fill the other house of Congress?
Heaven forbid! Where is the flag of the republic to remain? Where is
the eagle still to tower? Or is he to cower, and shrink, and fall to the
ground? Why, Sir, our ancestors, our fathers and our grandfathers,
those of them that are yet living amongst us with prolonged lives,
(40) would rebuke and reproach us; and our children and our grandchildren
would cry out shame upon us, if we of this generation should dishonor
these ensigns of the power of the government and the harmony of that
Union which is every day felt among us with so much joy and gratitude...
I know, although the idea has not been stated distinctly, there is
(45) to be, or it is supposed possible that there will be, a Southern
Confederacy. I do not mean, when I allude to this statement, that any
one seriously contemplates such a state of things. I do not mean to say that
it is true, but I have heard it suggested elsewhere, that the idea has been
entertained, that, after the dissolution of this Union, a Southern
(50) Confederacy might be formed. I am sorry, Sir, that it has ever been
thought of, talked of, or dreamed of, in the wildest flights of human
imagination. But the idea, so far as it exists, must be of a separation,
assigning the slave States to one side and the free States to the other.
Sir, I may express myself too strongly, perhaps, but there are impossibilities
(55) in the natural as well as in the physical world, and I hold the idea of a
separation of these States, those that are free to form one government,
and those that are slave-holding to form another, as such an impossibility.
We could not separate the States by any such line, if we were to draw it.
We could not sit down here to-day and draw a line of separation that would
(60) satisfy any five men in the country. There are natural causes that would keep
and tie us together, and there are social and domestic relations which we
could not break if we would, and which we should not if we could...