Wednesday, March 05, 2014

"The constitutional right of the people to bear arms for their own defense has not been, and will not be infringed...."

To the People of Indiana

   The Indiana State Sentinel of yesterday, contained. what purports to be an address of the Democratic State Central Committee to the people of Indiana, signed by J.J. Bingham, Chairman.

   As this document is of an extraordinary character, I deem it my duty to warn the people against the consequences which it seems intended to produce. To prevent any charge of misconstruction on my part, I here quote in the exact words as it appeared in the Sentinel:

   "At a meeting of the Democratic State Central Committee, held at Indianapolis on the 12th and 13th inst., at which were present the following members, to wit: S M. Barton, of the first Congressional district; Levi Sparks, of the second: Samuel H. Buskirk, of the third; James B. Foley, of the fourth; William Henderson, and Joesph J. Bingham, of the sixth, Erasmus M. Weaver, of the eighth; Phineas M. Kent, of the ninth; Thomas Tigar, of the tenth; and Augustus Weaver, of the eleventh, the following address to the people of Indiana, suggested by the peculiar exigencies of the times, was unanimously
agreed upon:

   In view of the excitement of the public mind, arising from the perilous condition of the country, and especially from the late call of the President for 500,000 men to be drafted on the 5th of September next, if not before voluntarily enlisted into the military service of the United States, the Democratic State Central Committee, expressing as they believe the opinions and purposes of the Democracy of the State, have deemed it proper publicly to declare--

   First--That while it is the well considered and inflexible purpose of the Democratic party of this State, acting in concert with all patriotic citizens who respect the purity of the ballot and desire the public good, to maintain by force, if need be and at all hazards, the right of the people to free and fair elections, we condemn any attempt at resistance of the laws before constitutional remedies are exhausted, and earnestly advise all men to abide patiently the action of the chosen representatives of the Democratic party at Chicago, on the 29th of August, looking forward to the coming election for a peaceful and constitutional redress of grievances more effectual than violence.

   Second In times of public peril like the present, and in view of what are believed to be well founded apprehensions of attempts on the part of those in authority to interfere by military power with the freedom of elections, patriotism and prudence alike demand that the constitutional right of the people to keep and bear arms as a necessary means of defense to a free State, should not be violated nor abandoned; and it is the right and duty of all good citizens to co-operate in open lawful organizations for the protection of the freedom of elections, and for the preservation of peace and constitutional order and the rights of the people within the State, as well as for its defense against invasion; as we especially recommend to the people in all our counties, townships and election precincts thorough organization for these ends.

   Third--As manifest inequalities exist in the assignment of quotas to the different states, under the late call for 500,000 men, which have created the belief that there has been an unfair discrimination in favor of certain Eastern States to the prejudice of Indiana and other States, this committee has assumed the duty of ascertaining by application to Governor Morton, Adjutant General Noble, Provost Marshal Baker or other proper authorities, the grounds of such inequalities, and whether or not they are in accordance with law and can be remedied.
   By order of the Committee.
                    J.J. Bingham, Chairman."

   The second clause declares that, in view of what are believed to be well founded apprehensions of attempts by those in authority to interfere with the freedom of elections, recommends a thorough military organization of the people in all the counties, towns, and election precincts, and advises all to exercise their constitutional right in keeping and bearing arms.

   The assumption that there is a well founded apprehension that those in authority in this State will interfere by military power with the freedom of elections is absolutely and wickedly false. There is not one fact upon which such an apprehension can be based; not a circumstance can be referred to in the political or military history of the State during the existence of this war justifying or suggesting the charge. It is true that this charge has been made before, but always without an element of truth, for the simple purpose of exciting and goading the people into illegal, disloyal and dangerous organizations and demonstrations against Federal and State authority.

   So far as my administration is concerned I can safely defy the authors of this document to point to a single act giving color to this wicked and infamous charge, or to show a single instance in which I have failed to exercise the executive power for the protection of persons and property, and social and civil rights, without regard to Parties or politics. While serving as the Governor of Indiana I have endeavored to act for the whole people and not for party, and shall so continue, regardless of all assaults or aspersions; at the same time I shall not hesitate to vindicate legitimate authority, no difference under what pretence or by what method it may be assailed. So far as the approaching elections are concerned, they shall, to the extent of the power vested in me, be open and free, and every legitimate voter be protected in the unrestricted and deliberate exercise of the elective franchise. This is my purpose, nor has there been any reason to doubt it; and I cannot, under the pretence that I am about to violate my duty, tolerate the formation of any dangerous or illegal military organizations,  the true purpose of which is to resist the State and Federal authority, overawe the people, control the elections, and thus accomplish the very thing against which it is hypocritically pretended they are to guard. It is true that phrases about "open lawful organizations," "defense against invasion," &c., are introduced in the second clause of the address, but they do not in the least disguise its effect and purpose. It assumes that those in authority are about to violate the law, and urges the formation of military organizations to prevent such violation, they being the judges of the existence, extent and remedy for such violations. Such has been the history of all revolutions and civil troubles. The people have been arrayed against the Government upon the real or assumed pretext that acts of tyranny had been, or are about to be perpetrated, justifying and demanding military resistance.

   Need I argue to an intelligent people that the state of things recommended by this document would inevitable lead to collisions and civil war, the end and consequences of which no man can predict. While it purports to be addressed to the people of the State generally, it is intended only for those who belong to the political organization which it authors assume to represent. Should its recommendations be followed, men belonging to other political organizations will feel their personal and political safety endangered, and would be driven for purposes of self defense to resort to similar means. Then we should have two or more political parties in the State, armed and organized into military bodies, and all hopes of preventing collisions and preserving peace and order would be lost. Military organizations must be under the supervision and control of the constituted authorities of the State; all other are illegal, an unauthorized and dangerous to the public peace. The constitutional right of the people to bear arms for their own defense has not been, and will not be infringed.

   But this does not cover the case or justify the formation of military organizations to hold the constituted authorities in check under the pretence that they are about to commit illegal or unconstitutional acts. When we consider that threats have already been made in various parts of the State, of resistance to the execution of Federal authority, and that the public mind is already in an excited and feverish condition, it may well be thought that these proposed military organizations are designed for that purpose, and will be used in that way; and this view is greatly strengthened by reference to the preamble of the address.

   I do, therefore, solemnly warn the people of the State against accepting the evil counsel they have received; to abstain from all military organizations looking, directly or indirectly, to resistance to Federal or State authority; to abstain from all schemes of resistance to the laws, and from all organizations or combinations, political or military, tending to compromise them in their allegiance and duty to the Government of the United States. The men who would inveigle them into such schemes or combinations are powerless to protect them against danger, and would undoubtedly be the first to desert them in a moment of peril.

   In reference to the concluding part of the address it need only be said that the execution of the conscription act. and the assignment of quotas of States, districts, counties, townships and cities, belong exclusively to Federal, and not to State authority; and that every exertion has been and will be by the State authorities to secure the correction of errors, and see that full justice is done to the State and every part thereof.

   Given at the Executive Department, this 16th day of August, A.D., 1864.

                                                                           O.P. Morton,
                                                                        Governor of Indiana.

[Daily State Sentinel, Indianapolis, Ind., Tuesday Morning, August 16, 1864. Volume XII. Number 4,315. Pg. 2]

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