Address to the Legislature of Indiana
"...Solomon says there is "a time to keep silence," and when men wrangle by the mouth with no certainty that they mean the same thing, while using the same word, it perhaps were as well if they would keep silence.
The words "coercion"and "invasion" are much used in these days; and often with some temper and hot blood. Let us make sure, if we can, that we do not misunderstand the meaning of those who use them. Let us get exact definitions of these words, not from dictionaries, but from the men themselves, who certainly depreciate the things they would represent by the use of words. What, then, is "Coercion?" What is "Invasion?" Would the marching of an army into South Carolina, without the consent of her people, and with hostile intent towards them, be "invasion?" I certainly think it would; and it would be "coercion" also, if the South Carolinians were forced to submit. But if the United States should merely hold and retake its own forts and other property, and collect the duties on foreign importations, or even withhold the mails from places where they were habitually violated, would any or all these things be "invasion"' or "coercion?" Do our professed lovers of the Union, but who spitefully resolve that they will resist coercion and invasion, understand that such things as "these on the part of the United States, would be coercion or invasion of a State? If so, their idea of means to preserve the object of their affection would seem exceedingly thin and airy. If sick, the little pills of the homoepathists would be much too large for it to swallow. In their view, the Union, as a family relation, would seem to be no regular marriage, but a sort of "free love" arrangement, to be maintained only on "passional attraction."
By the way, in what consists the special sacredness of a State? I speak not of the position assigned to a State in the Union, by the Constitution; for that, by the bond, we all recognize. That position, however, a State cannot carry out of the Union with it. I speak of that assumed primary right of a State to rule all which is less than itself and ruin all that is larger than itself. If a State and a County in a given case, should be equal in extent of territory, and equal in number of inhabitants, in what, as a matter of principle, is the State better than the County? Would an exchange of names be an exchange of rights upon principle? On what rightful principle may a State, being not more than one-fiftieth part of the nation, in goil and population, break up the nation and then coerce a proportionably larger sub-division of itself, in the most arbitrary way? What mysterious right to play tyrant is conferred on a district of country, with its people, by merely calling it a State?
Fellow citizens, I am not asserting anything; I am merely asking questions for you to consider. And now allow me to bid you farewell. "