Under existing circumstances no law could be made to regulate plantin which would be uniform in its operation, just to the constitution rights of citizens, or beneficial to the Confederate Government. Hence, if the legislation proposed were constitutional, I have deemed it wisest and best to rely upon the intelligence and patriotism the exigencies of the war demand rather then legislation.
But candor requires me to say that I am not convinced that in a government like ours the legislative power rightly exists to prescribe what shall or shall not be planted. It if does exist its should be most discreetly exercised. If the General Assembly of a State has the power to enact a law prohibiting or restricting the planting of cotton in order to support the Army, &c., by raising cereals, why may not the same General Assembly enact a law to prohibit the plowing of horses because useful for cavalry, or mules because necessary for transportation, or oxen because necessary for beef? In a word, why may not they confiscate all rights of property in individuals for the benefit of the Confederate Government? I am opposed to all legislation on the part either the Confederate [or] State government which is not clearly constitutional. Infractions of the Constitution during the war more dangerous than in peace. In war or peace the Constitution should be considered the anchor of our hopes for freedom and manly independence. Statesmen should studiously guard against the insidious influences of the occasional panics which excite the public mind and engender what it termed public sentiment. The vicissitudes of the war in which we are engaged, in view of int important and world-wide results, incline the best-informed and most patriotic men to lend a favorable ear to any pretense, however specious, to sustain the noble cause in which we are engaged, and there fore it the imperative duty of statesmen-especially those who occupy high official position-not to permit their zeal to exceed their wisdom; not to yield even to public sentiment unless it should be compatible with constitutional liberty as secured by a fundamental law. The avidity with which patriots embark in any enterprise to law. The avidity which patriots embark in any enterprise to promote the public welfare during the afflictions of wafer afford to speculators, traitors, and demagogues excellent opportunities to create panics for their individual benefit or aggrandizement; hence what is termed "the outside pressure" upon legislative bodies.
While it is contended that foreign nations cannot exist without the cotton produced by slave labor in the Southern States, I would most respectfully present to your serious consideration whether or not, if the legislative power of these State shall prohibit the cultivation of cotton by slave labor (which foreign nations will be informed), their antipathies to slavery and their necessities for cotton may not be successfully appealed to by the United States Government for co-operation to abolish slavery and to raise cotton without slave labor.
The effort is now being made to form aid and emigration societies in Europe, as well as in the United States, to colonize Florida and thus abolish slavery in the State. If successful, what will be the condition of the other cotton States? More then a year ago I expressed the opinion that as soon as it had been clearly ascertained that foreign governments recognized the blockade of Southern ports, knowing its inefficiency, wisdom required of our Government to make the blockade complete. I know of no reason why, if England and France were wiling to engage in war with China to secure commerce in opium with the Chinese people against their will and the decrees of their Government, England and France and to their nations would not raise a blockade for commerce in cotton, tobacco, &c., with the Southern