In December 1860, Senator James S. Green of Missouri proposed that the Committee of the Judiciary be instructed to inquire into the propriety of a law to establish an armed police force between North and South, in order to maintain peace between those sections. Below is Senator Jefferson Davis’ reply.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Davis on Government Border Police
“Do we wish to erect a central Colossus, wielding at discretion the military arm, and exercising military force over the people and the States? This is not the Union to which we were invited; and so carefully was this guarded, when our fathers provided for using force to put down insurrection, they required that the fact of the insurrection should be communicated by the authorities of the State before the President could interpose.
When it was proposed to give Congress power to execute the laws against a delinquent State, it was refused on the ground that that would be making war on the States; and, though I know the good purpose of my honorable friend from Missouri is only to give protection to constitutional rights, I fear his proposition is to rear a monster, which will break the feeble chain provided, and destroy rights it was intended to guard.
That military Government which he is about to institute, by passing into hostile hands, becomes a weapon for his destruction, not for his protection. All dangers which may be called upon to confront as independent communities are light, in my estimation, compared with that which would hang over us if this Federal Government had such physical force; if its character was changed from a representative agent of States to a central Government, with a military used at discretion against the States.
To-day it may be the idea that it will be used against some State which nullifies the Constitution and the laws; some State which passes laws to obstruct or repeal the laws of the United States . . . But how long might it be before that same military force would be turned against the minority section which had sought its protection; and that minority thus become mere subjugated provinces under the great military government that it had thus contributed to establish?
The minority, incapable of aggression, is, of necessity, always on the defensive, and often the victim of the desertion of its followers and the faithlessness of its allies. It therefore must maintain, not destroy, barriers.
[To confer on this Federal Government a power to coerce a State, a power it does not possess], . . . then, in the language of Mr. Madison, he is providing, not for a union of States, but for the destruction of States; he is providing, under the name of the union, to carry on a war against States; and I care not whether it be against Massachusetts or Missouri, it is equally objectionable to me; and I will resist it alike in the one case and in the other, as subversive of the great principle on which our Government rests; as a heresy to be confronted at its first presentation, and put down there, lest it grow into proportions which will render us powerless before it.
The theory of our Constitution, Mr. President, is one of peace, of equality of sovereign States. It was made by States and made for States; and for greater assurance they passed an amendment, doing that which was necessarily implied by the nature of the instrument, as it was a mere instrument of grants. But, in the abundance of caution, they declared that everything which had not been delegated was reserved to the States, or to the people – that is, to the State governments as instituted by the people of each State, or to the people in their sovereign capacity.
Upon you of the majority section it depends to restore peace and perpetuate the Union of equal States; upon us of the minority section rests the duty to maintain our equality and community rights; and the means in one case or the other must be such as each can control.”
(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume I, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton and Company, 1881, pp. 66-67)