Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention.
The State of Georgia specially deputed me to announce to your honorable body that she has in the exercise of her sovereignty formally and solemnly abrogated and annulled the ordinance by which she became a member of the Federal Union. In making this announcement I deem it unnecessary to enter into a detailed exposition of the causes which have impelled her to this course of conduct. I shall therefore content myself with briefly adverting to the fact that her Northern confederates have for many years pretermitted no opportunity of annoying her upon the subject of negro slavery until, emboldened by her last forbearance, they have publicly proclaimed their determination of waging an unceasing warfare against its further extension and longer toleration. The explicit avowal of this determination by a party, whose increased strength and recent elevation to power have placed in their hands the means of carrying this threat into execution, presented to Georgia the alternative of either assuming a position which would have placed her beyond the control of those who had unjustly refused to recognize her equality in the common territory and the right of property in slaves, or of tamely submitting to the inauguration of a policy studiously designed to overthrow an institution inseparably interwoven with her social organization, and indispensably necessary to the advancement of her material interest and prosperity. Never but once since her colonization has she been called upon to decide a question so momentous and vast in its consequences, and, now as in the days of ministerial oppression, she has not hesitated to pronounce for freedom and independence. For the purpose of surely and effectually accomplishing this object, she has unconditionally revoked the powers which she had delegated to others in trust for specific ends, and resumed the unrestrained exercise of her sovereignty. I rejoice to know that Georgia stands not solitary and alone in the performance of this heroic act. Others of her sister States have for like cause acted in like manner. Some have preceded and others have followed her action, and I trust one and yet another will continue to follow until all are embraced in the same family group and placed under the protecting aegis of that constitution which we all have loved so well and still love, but which alas! we have in vain tried to save from the sacrilegious hands of the ruthless despoiler. It is, however, not my purpose to recall the past, or to recite the wrongs which you have suffered, or to suggest their fitting remedy. These have, in an especial manner, been the subject matter of your deliberations, and you have maturely considered them and decided them as became wise an patriotic men. I congratulate you, Gentlemen, upon this auspicious result of your labors. You have been pleased to refer your decision to the judgement of your people. When it shall have received their sanction, as doubtless it will, a great question arises in regard to your future position. Accustomed as have been the people of the Southern States to live in undisturbed amity with each other, they still ardently desire to be associated together under the same general government. Their interests, their pursuits, their laws, their institutions, their customs are the same and the same destiny awaits each and all. The hearts of Southern fathers and Southern mothers, of Southern brothers sisters, relatives, and friends have followed you to this distant land, and though saddened by the wide interval between you and them, they become less sad as hope and faith bid them look forward to the time when all will again live under this same form of government, and be protected by its strong arm.
Not only all the higher and better feelings of our nature, but considerations arising from the difficulties and dangers which surround us, indicate the wisdom and urge the necessity of our adopting the measure. Deeply and solemnly impressed as I am with the very great importance of a re-union of the Southern States, I cannot but indulge the hope that no unhallowed ambition or selfish purpose will array itself in opposition to a policy so indispensably necessary to the prosperity, happiness and safety of all. United among ourselves, a world in arms cannot conquer or subjugate us. A beneficent Providence has in unlimited profusion placed in our midst all the means necessary to national power and national greatness, all the elements of more speedy advancement and higher civilization than was ever enjoyed by the human race. If, therefore, these blessings have not been unworthily bestowed upon us, we shall, at no distant day, exhibit the spectacle of a people more prosperous in their pursuits, wiser in their laws, and happier in the form and administration of their government than any nation that the sun in his long journey of ages has ever shone upon.
February 4th, 1861
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention.