The Democrat in its issue of Saturday defines its idea of what constitutes a traitor to our Government. It says, “No democrat is or could be a traitor – traitors can alone be found among those who believe in a higher national power than the constitution.” The above sentence is a little muddy. To begin with, this definition rules out all secessionists, as they have set themselves up against the Government and the Constitution. That would take off nearly all those in the Southern States who have formerly acted with the Democratic party. Next it rules out all who sympathize with the secessionists. This would make another inroad into their ranks at the North, and we are not so sure that our neighbor would be safe under his own definition. This would reduce their number to a select few. If we view the question in another phrase, and perhaps the one intended by our cotemporary, and ignore all divine agency in the government of nations, maintain that men owe allegiance to no power but that of an earthly character, even the select few would be reduced in number. Our neighbor has certainly chosen an unfortunate definition for the word traitor, if he intend[ed] to construct a party on so narrow basis.
Every American citizen is subject to the constitution. All the laws of the States and for the general government of the nation are framed strictly according to the letter of the constitution. – No man is placed in a position of trust under the Government until sworn to protect the constitution. It is the law of the land, governing all other laws in force under the Government, and the man who violates it subjects himself to heavy penalty. Yet it is not perfect. No sensible man pretends that it is. Its framers knew this when it was enacted, hence made provision for its alteration or amendment.
The idea of getting up a party based upon fealty to the constitution is simply absurd; more especially, emanating as such a measure does, from the very men who have sympathized with the rebels in arms against the Government. When a party, or any considerable portion of a party, ignore[s] the constitution, then will be time to move in its defence, but also long as the citadel is in safety, so long as no danger is menaced, such a move looks very much as though it were intended to conceal some sinister object. It is a species of political jugglery that at this juncture, coming from the source does, will not, or cannot find favor with the people.
– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Monday Morning, April 7, 1862, p. 2