Choice Specimens of American Literature, And Literary Reader - Being Selections from the Chief American Writers
by Benj. N. Martin
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

* * * * *

From the "Notes on Virginia."


From the thirtieth degree of south latitude to the thirtieth of north are nearly the limits which nature has fixed for the existence and multiplication of the elephant known to us. Proceeding thence northwardly to thirty-six and a half degrees, we enter those assigned to the mammoth. The farther we advance north, the more their vestiges multiply, as far as the earth has been explored in that direction; and it is as probable as otherwise, that this progression continues to the pole itself, if land extends so far. The centre of the frozen zone, then, may be the acme of their vigor, as that of the torrid is of the elephant. Thus nature seems to have drawn a belt of separation between these two tremendous animals, whose breadth indeed is not precisely known, though at present we may suppose it to be about six and a half degrees of latitude; to have assigned to the elephant the regions south of these confines, and those north to the mammoth, founding the constitution of the one in her extreme of heat, and that of the other in the extreme of cold. When the Creator has therefore separated their nature as far as the extent of the scale of animal life allowed to this planet would permit, it seems perverse to declare it the same, from a partial resemblance of their tusks and bones. But to whatever animal we ascribe these remains, it is certain such a one has existed in America, and that it has been the largest of all terrestrial beings.

* * * * *


These must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us.... With the morals of the people, their industry also is destroyed. For in a warm climate no man will labor for himself who can make another labor for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labor. And can the liberties, of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis—a conviction in the minds of the people that they are the gift of God? that they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever; that considering numbers, nature, and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by supernatural interference. The Almighty has no attribute which can take sides with us in such a contest. But it is impossible to be temperate, and to pursue this subject through the various considerations of policy, of morals, of history, natural and civil. We must be contented to hope they will force their way into every one's mind. I think a change already perceptible since the origin of the present revolution. The spirit of the master is abating, that of the slave is rising from the dust, his condition mollifying, the way I hope preparing, under the auspices of Heaven, for a total emancipation.

* * * * *

John Jay, 1745-1829. (Manual, pp. 484, 486.)

From the "Address from the Convention." December 23, 1776.


Rouse, brave citizens! Do your duty like men; and be persuaded that Divine Providence will not permit this western world to be involved in the horrors of slavery. Consider that, from the earliest ages of the world, religion, liberty, and reason have been bending their course towards the setting sun. The holy Gospels are yet to be preached to these western regions; and we have the highest reason to believe that the Almighty will not suffer slavery and the gospel to go hand in hand. It cannot, it will not be.

But if there be any among us dead to all sense of honor and love of their country; if deaf to all the calls of liberty, virtue, and religion; if forgetful of the magnanimity of their ancestors, and the happiness of their children; if neither the examples nor the success of other nations, the dictates of reason and of nature, or the great duties they owe to their God, themselves, and their posterity have any effect upon them; if neither the injuries they have received, the prize they are contending for, the future blessings or curses of their children, the applause or the reproach of all mankind, the approbation or displeasure of the great Judge, or the happiness or misery consequent upon their conduct, in this and a future state can move them,—then let them be assured that they deserve to be slaves, and are entitled to nothing but anguish and tribulation.... Let them forget every duty, human and divine, remember not that they have children, and beware how they call to mind the justice of the Supreme Being.

* * * * *

Alexander Hamilton, 1757-1804. (Manual, pp. 484, 486.)

From "Vindication of the Funding System."


A person who, unacquainted with the fact, should learn the history of our debt from the declamations with which certain newspapers are perpetually charged, would be led to suppose that it is the mere creature of the present government, for the purpose of burthening the people with taxes, and producing an artificial and corrupt influence over them; he would, at least, take it for granted that it had been contracted in the pursuit of some wanton or vain project of ambition or glory; he would scarcely be able to conceive that every part of it was the relict of a war which had given independence, and preserved liberty to the country; that the present government found it as it is, in point of magnitude (except as to the diminutions made by itself), and has done nothing more than to bring under a regular regimen and provision, what was before a scattered and heterogeneous mass.

And yet this is the simple and exact state of the business. The whole of the debt embraced by the provisions of the funding system, consisted of the unextinguished principal and arrears of interest, of the debt which had been contracted by the United States in the course of the late war with Great Britain, and which remained uncancelled, and the principal and arrears of interest of the separate debts of the respective States contracted during the same period, which remained, outstanding, and unsatisfied, relating to services and supplies for carrying on the war. Nothing more was done by that system, than to incorporate these two species of debt into the mass, and to make for the whole, one general, comprehensive provision. There is therefore, no arithmetic, no logic, by which it can be shown that the funding system has augmented the aggregate debt of the country. The sum total is manifestly the same; though the parts which were before divided are now united. There is, consequently, no color for an assertion, that the system in question either created any new debt, or made any addition to the old.

And it follows, that the collective burthen upon the people of the United States must have been as great without as with the union of the different portions and descriptions of the debt. The only difference can be, that without it that burthen would have been otherwise distributed, and would have fallen with unequal weight, instead of being equally borne as it now is.

These conclusions which have been drawn respecting the non-increase of the debt, proceed upon the presumption that every part of the public debt, as well that of the States individually, as that of the United States, was to have been honestly paid. If there is any fallacy in this supposition, the inferences may be erroneous; but the error would imply the disgrace of the United States, or parts of them,—a disgrace from which every man of true honor and genuine patriotism will be happy to see them rescued.

When we hear the epithets, "vile matter," "corrupt mass," bestowed upon the public debt, and the owners of it indiscriminately maligned as the harpies and vultures of the community, there is ground to suspect that those who hold the language, though they may not dare to avow it, contemplate a more summary process for getting rid of debts than that of paying them. Charity itself cannot avoid concluding from the language and conduct of some men, (and some of them of no inconsiderable importance,) that in their vocabularies creditor and enemy are synonymous terms, and that they have a laudable antipathy against every man to whom they owe money, either as individuals or as members of the society.

* * * * *

From a "Letter to Lafayette," October 6, 1789.


I have seen, with a mixture of pleasure and apprehension, the progress of events which have lately taken place in your country. As a friend to mankind and to liberty, I rejoice in the efforts which you are making to establish it, while I fear much for the final success of the attempts, for the fate of those I esteem who are engaged in them, and for the danger in case of success, of innovations greater than will consist with the real felicity of your nation. If your affairs still go well when this reaches you, you will ask why this foreboding of ill, when all the appearances have been so much in your favor. I will tell you: I dread disagreements among those who are now united (which will be likely to be improved by the adverse party) about the nature of your constitution; I dread the vehement character of your people, whom I fear you may find it more easy to bring on, than to keep within proper bounds after you have put them in motion. I dread the interested refractoriness of your nobles, who cannot all be gratified, and who may be unwilling to submit to the requisite sacrifices. And I dread the reveries of your philosophic politicians, who appear in the moment to have great influence, and who, being mere speculatists, may aim at more refinement than suits either with human nature, or the composition of your nation.

* * * * *

Fisher Ames, 1738-1808. (Manual, p. 487.)

From the "Speech on the British Treaty." April 15, 1795.


The consequences of refusing to make provision for the treaty are not all to be foreseen. By rejecting, vast interests are committed to the sport of the winds: chance becomes the arbiter of events, and it is forbidden to human foresight to count their number, or measure their extent. Before we resolve to leap into this abyss, so dark and so profound, it becomes us to pause, and reflect upon such of the dangers as are obvious and inevitable. If this assembly should be wrought into a temper to defy these consequences, it is vain, it is deceptive, to pretend that we can escape them. It is worse than weakness to say, that as to public faith, our vote has already settled the question. Another tribunal than our own is already erected; the public opinion, not merely of our own country, but of the enlightened world, will pronounce a judgment that we cannot resist, that we dare not even affect to despise.

... This, sir, is a cause that would be dishonored and betrayed if I contented myself with appealing only to the understanding. It is too cold, and its processes are too slow, for the occasion. I desire to thank God that since he has given me an intellect so fallible, he has impressed upon me an instinct that is sure. On a question of shame and honor, reasoning is sometimes useless, and worse. I feel the decision in my pulse; if it throws no light upon the brain, it kindles a fire at the heart.

What is patriotism? Is it a narrow affection for the spot where a man was born? Are the very clods where we tread entitled to this ardent preference, because they are greener? No, sir, this is not the character of the virtue, and it soars higher for its object. It is an extended self-love, mingling with all the enjoyments of life, and twisting itself with the minutest filaments of the heart. It is thus we obey the laws of society, because they are the laws of virtue. In their authority we see not the array of force and terror, but the venerable image of our country's honor. Every good citizen makes that honor his own, and cherishes it not only as precious, but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defence; and is conscious that he gains protection, while he gives it. For what rights of a citizen will be deemed inviolable, when a state renounces the principles that constitute their security? Or, if his life should not be invaded, what would its enjoyments be in a country odious in the eyes of strangers, and dishonored in his own? Could he look with affection and veneration to such a country as his parent? The sense of having one would die within him; he would blush for his patriotism, if he retained any, and justly. for it would be a vice; he would be a banished man in his native land.

I see no exception to the respect that is paid among nations to the law of good faith. If there are cases in this enlightened period when it is violated, then are none when it is decried. It is the philosophy of politics, the religion of governments. It is observed by barbarians; a whiff of tobacco smoke, or a string of beads, gives not merely binding force, but sanctity, to treaties. Even in Algiers, a truce may be bought for money; but when ratified, even Algiers is too wise or too just, to disown and annul its obligation. Thus we see, neither the ignorance of savages, nor the principles of an association for piracy and rapine, permit a nation to despise its engagements. If, sir, there could be a resurrection from the foot of the gallows, if the victims of justice could live again, collect together, and form a society, they would, however loath, soon find themselves obliged to make justice, that justice under which they fell, the fundamental law of their state. They would perceive it was their interest to make others respect, and they would, therefore, soon pay some respect themselves, to the obligations of good faith.

* * * * *

Gouverneur Morris, 1752-1816. (Manual, p. 484.)

From a "Report to Congress in 1780."


A minister of foreign affairs should have a genius quick, lively, penetrating; should write on all occasions with clearness and perspicuity; be capable of expressing his sentiments with dignity, and conveying strong sense and argument in easy and agreeable diction; his temper mild, cool, and placid; festive, insinuating, and pliant, yet obstinate; communicative, and yet reserved. He should know the human face and heart, and the connections between them; should be versed in the laws of nature and nations, and not ignorant of the civil and municipal law; should be acquainted with the history of Europe, and with the interests, views, commerce, and productions of the commercial and maritime powers; should know the interests and commerce of America, understand the French and Spanish languages, at least the former, and be skilled in the modes and forms of public business; a man educated more in the world than in the closet, that by use, as well as by nature, he may give proper attention to great objects, and have proper contempt for small ones. He should be attached to the independence of America, and the alliance with France, as the great pillars of our politics; and this attachment should not be slight and accidental, but regular, consistent, and founded in strong conviction. His manners, gentle and polite; above all things, honest, and least of all things, avaricious. His circumstances and connections should be such as to give solid pledges for his fidelity; and he should by no means be disagreeable to the prince with whom we are in alliance, his ministers, or subjects.

* * * * *

William Pinkney,[21] 1764-1820.

From "Speech in the Maryland Legislature." 1798.


For my own part, I would willingly draw the veil of oblivion over this disgusting scene of iniquity, but that the present abject state of those who are descended from these kidnapped sufferers, perpetually brings it forward to the memory.

But wherefore should we confine the edge of censure to our ancestors, or those from whom they purchased? Are not we equally guilty? They strewed around the seeds of slavery; we cherish and sustain the growth. They introduce the system; we enlarge, invigorate, and confirm it. Yes, let it be handed down to posterity, that the people of Maryland, who could fly to arms with the promptitude of Roman citizens, when the hand of oppression was lifted up against themselves; who could behold their country desolated and their citizens slaughtered; who could brave with unshaken firmness every calamity of war before they would submit to the smallest infringement of their rights—that this very people could yet see thousands of their fellow-creatures, within the limits of their territory, bending beneath an unnatural yoke, and, instead of being assiduous to destroy their shackles, be anxious to immortalize their duration, so that a nation of slaves might forever exist in a country whose freedom is its boast.

[Footnote 21: Highly distinguished as a lawyer, orator, and diplomatist; a native of Maryland.]

* * * * *

From "Speech in the Nereide Case."


I throw into the opposite scale the ponderous claim of War; a claim of high concernment, not to us only, but to the world; a claim connected with the maritime strength of this maritime state, with public honor and individual enterprise, with all those passions and motives which can be made subservient to national success and glory, in the hour of national trial and danger. I throw into the same scale the venerable code of universal law, before which it is the duty of this Court, high as it is in dignity, and great as are its titles to reverence, to bow down with submission, I throw into the same scale a solemn treaty, binding upon the claimant and upon you. In a word, I throw into that scale the rights of belligerent America, and, as embodied with them, the rights of these captors, by whose efforts and at whose cost the naval exertions of the government have been seconded, until our once despised and drooping flag has been made to wave in triumph, where neither France nor Spain could venture to show a prow. You may call these rights by what name you please. You may call them iron rights:—I care not. It is more than enough for me that they are RIGHTS. It is more than enough for me that they come before you encircled and adorned by the laurels which we have torn from the brow of the naval genius of England: that they come before you recommended, and endeared, and consecrated by a thousand recollections, which it would be baseness and folly not to cherish, and that they are mingled in fancy and in fact with all the elements of our future greatness....

We are now, thank God, once more at peace. Our belligerent rights may therefore sleep for a season. May their repose be long and profound! But the time must arrive when the interests and honor of this great nation will command them to awake; and when it does arrive, I feel undoubting confidence that they will rise from their slumber in the fullness of their strength and majesty, unenfeebled and unimpaired by the judgment of this high court.

The skill and valor of our infant navy, which has illuminated every sea, and dazzled the master states of Europe by the splendor of its triumphs, have given us a pledge which I trust will continue to be dear to every American heart, and to influence the future course of our policy, that the ocean is destined to acknowledge the youthful dominion of the West.

* * * * *

James Madison, 1751-1836. (Manual, p. 486.)

From his "Report of Debates in the Federal Convention."


The close of the war, however, brought no cure for the public embarrassments. The states relieved from the pressure of foreign danger, and flushed with the enjoyment of independent and sovereign power, instead of a diminished disposition to part with it, persevered in omissions, and in measures, incompatible with their relations to the federal government, and with those among themselves.

... It was known that there were individuals who had betrayed a bias towards monarchy, and there had always been some not unfavorable to a partition of the Union into several confederacies; either from a better chance of figuring on a sectional theatre, or that the sections would require stronger governments, or by their hostile conflicts lead to a monarchical consolidation. The idea of dismemberment had recently made its appearance in the newspapers.

Such were the defects, the deformities, the diseases, and the ominous prospects, for which the convention were to provide a remedy, and which ought never to be overlooked in expounding and appreciating the constitutional charter—the remedy that was provided.

The curiosity I had felt during my researches into the history of the most distinguished confederacies, particularly those of antiquity, and the deficiency I found in the means of satisfying it, more especially in what related to the process, the principles, the reasons, and the anticipations, which prevailed in the formation of them, determined me to preserve, as far as I could, an exact account of what might pass in the convention whilst executing its trust—with the magnitude of which I was fully impressed, as I was by the gratification promised to future curiosity by an authentic exhibition of the objects, the opinions, and the reasonings, from which the new system of government was to receive its peculiar structure and organization. Nor was I unaware of the value of such a contribution to the fund of materials for the history of a constitution, on which would be staked the happiness of a people great even in its infancy, and possibly the cause of liberty throughout the world.

Of the ability and intelligence of those who composed the Convention the debates and proceedings may be a test, as the character of the work which was the offspring of their deliberations must be tested by the experience of the future added to that of nearly half a century that has passed.

But whatever may be the judgment pronounced on the competency of the architects of the Constitution, or whatever may be the destiny of the edifice prepared by them, I feel it a duty to express my profound and solemn conviction, derived from my intimate opportunity of observing and appreciating the views of the Convention, collectively and individually, that there never was an assembly of men, charged with a great, and arduous trust, who were more pure in their motives, or more exclusively or anxiously devoted to the object committed to them, than were the members of the Federal Convention of 1787, to the object of devising and proposing a constitutional system which should best supply the defects of that which it was to replace, and best secure the permanent liberty and happiness of their country.

* * * * *


The General Assembly of Virginia have caused this statue to be erected as a monument of affection and gratitude to George Washington, who, uniting to the endowments of the hero the virtues of the patriot, and exerting both in establishing the liberties of his country, has rendered his name dear to his fellow-citizens, and given to the world an immortal example of true glory.

* * * * *

John Randolph, 1773-1832. (Manual, p. 487.)

From a Speech in the Virginia Convention.


Sir, I see no wisdom in making this provision for future changes. You must give Governments time to operate on the People, and give the People time to become gradually assimilated to their institutions. Almost any thing is better than this state of perpetual uncertainty. A People may have the best form of Government that the wit of man ever devised, and yet, from its uncertainty alone, may, in effect, live under the worst Government in the world. Sir, how often must I repeat, that change is not reform? I am willing that this new Constitution shall stand as long as it is possible for it to stand; and that, believe me, is a very short time. Sir, it is vain to deny it. They may say what they please about the old Constitution,—the defect is not there. It is not in the form of the old edifice,—neither in the design nor in the elevation; it is in the material, it is in the People of Virginia. To my knowledge that People are changed from what they have been. The four hundred men who went out with David were in debt. The fellow-laborers of Catiline were in debt. The partizans of Caesar were in debt. And I defy you to show me a desperately indebted People, anywhere, who can bear a regular, sober Government. I throw the challenge to all who hear me. I say that the character of the good old Virginia planter,—the man who owned from five to twenty slaves, or less, who, lived by hard work, and who paid his debts,—is passed away. A new order of things is come. The period has arrived of living by one's wits; of living by contracting debts that one cannot pay; and above all, of living by office-hunting.

Sir, what do we see? Bankrupts,—branded bankrupts,—giving great dinners, sending their children to the most expensive schools, giving grand parties, and just as well received as anybody in society! I say that, in such a state of things, the old Constitution was too good for them,—they could not bear it. No, Sir; they could not bear a freehold suffrage, and a property representation. I have always endeavored to do the People justice; but I will not flatter them,—I will not pander to their appetite for change. I will do nothing to provide for change. I will not agree to any rule of future apportionment, or to any provision for future changes, called amendments to the Constitution. Those who love change,—who delight in public confusion, who wish to feed the cauldron, and make it bubble,—may vote if they please for future changes. But by what spell, by what formula, are you going to bind the People to all future time? The days of Lycurgus are gone by, when we could swear the People not to alter the Constitution until he should return. You may make what entries on parchment you please; give me a Constitution that will last for half a century; that is all I wish for. No Constitution that you can make will last the one-half of half a century. Sir, I will stake anything, short of my salvation, that those who are malcontent now, will be more malcontent, three years hence, than they are at this day. I have no favor for this Constitution. I shall vote against its adoption, and I shall advise all the people of my district to set their faces, aye, and their shoulders, too, against it.

* * * * *

From "Letters to a young Relative."


One of the best and wisest men I ever knew has often said to me that a decayed family could never recover its loss of rank in the world, until the members of it left off talking and dwelling upon its former opulence. This remark, founded in a long and clear observation of mankind, I have seen verified in numerous instances in my own connections, who, to use the words of my oracle, will never thrive until they can become poor folks. He added, they may make some struggles, and with apparent success, to recover lost ground; they may, and sometimes do, get half way up again; but they are sure to fall back, unless, reconciling themselves to circumstances, they become in form, as well as in fact, poor folks.

* * * * *

James Kent, 1763-1847. (Manual, pp. 488, 504.)

From "Commentaries on American Law."


The judicial power of the United States is necessarily limited to national objects. The vast field of the law of property, the very extensive head of equity jurisdiction, and the principal rights and duties which flow from our civil and domestic relations, fall within the control, and we might almost say the exclusive cognizance, of the state governments. We look essentially to the state courts for protection to all these momentous interests. They touch, in their operation, every chord of human sympathy, and control our best destinies. It is their province to reward and to punish. Their blessings and their terrors will accompany us to the fireside, and "be in constant activity before the public eye." The elementary principles of the common law are the same in every state, and equally enlighten and invigorate every part of our country. Our municipal codes can be made to advance with equal steps with that of the nation, in discipline, in wisdom, and in lustre, if the state governments (as they ought in all honest policy) will only render equal patronage and security to the administration of justice. The true interests and the permanent freedom of this country require that the jurisprudence of the individual states should be cultivated, cherished, and exalted, and the dignity and reputation of the state authorities sustained, with becoming pride. In their subordinate relation to the United States, they should endeavor to discharge the duty which they owe to the latter, without forgetting the respect which they owe to themselves. In the appropriate language of Sir William Blackstone, and which he applies to the people of his own country, they should be "loyal, yet free; obedient, yet independent."

* * * * *

Edward Livingston,[22] 1764-1836.

From the "Report on the Penal Code for Louisiana."


Judges are generally men who have grown old in the practice at the bar. With the knowledge which this experience gives, they acquire a habit, very difficult to be shaken off, of taking a side in every question that they hear debated, and when the mind is once enlisted, their passions, prejudices, and professional ingenuity are always arrayed on the same side, and furnish arms for the contest. Neutrality cannot, under these circumstances, be expected; but the law should limit as much as possible, the evil that this almost inevitable state of things must produce. In the theory of our law, judges are the counsel for the accused, in practice they are, with a few honorable exceptions, his most virulent prosecutors. The true principles of criminal jurisprudence require that they should be neither. Perfect impartiality is incompatible with these duties. A good judge should have no wish that the guilty should escape, or that the innocent should suffer; no false pity, no undue severity, should bias the unshaken rectitude of his judgment; calm in deliberation, firm in resolve, patient in investigating the truth, tenacious of it when discovered, he should join urbanity of manners, to dignity of demeanor, and an integrity above suspicion, to learning and talent; such a judge is what, according to the true structure of our courts, he ought to be,—the protector, not the advocate of the accused; his judge, not his accuser; and while executing these functions, he is the organ by which the sacred will of the law is pronounced. Uttered by such a voice, it will be heard, respected, felt, obeyed; but impose on him the task of argument, of debate; degrade him from the bench to the bar; suffer him to overpower the accused with his influence, or to enter the lists with his advocate, to carry on the contest of sophisms, of angry arguments, of tart replies, and all the wordy war of forensic debate; suffer him to do this, and his dignity is lost; his decrees are no longer considered as the oracles of the law; they are submitted to, but not respected; and even the triumph of his eloquence or ingenuity, in the conviction of the accused, must be lessened by the suspicion that it has owed its success to official influence, and the privilege of arguing without reply. For these reasons, the judge is forbidden to express any opinion on the facts which are alleged in evidence, much less to address any argument to the jury; but his functions are confined to expounding the law, and stating the points of evidence on which the recollection of the jury may differ.

[Footnote 22: Was born in New York; eminent as a statesman, and as the author of a code of laws for Louisiana, his adopted state.]

* * * * *

John Quincy Adams, 1767-1848. (Manual, pp. 487, 504.)

From the "Speech on the Right of Petition."


Sir, it is well known, that, from the time I entered this House, down to the present day, I have felt it a sacred duty to present any petition, couched in respectful language, from any citizen of the United States, be its object what it may; be the prayer of it that in which I could concur, or that to which I was utterly opposed. It is for the sacred right of petition that I have adopted this course.... Where is your law which says that the mean, and the low, and the degraded, shall be deprived of the right of petition, if their moral character is not good? Where, in the land of freemen, was the right of petition ever placed on the exclusive basis of morality and virtue? Petition is supplication—it is entreaty—it is prayer! And where is the degree of vice or immorality which shall deprive the citizen of the right to supplicate for a boon, or to pray for mercy! Where is such a law to be found?... And what does your law say? Does it say that, before presenting a petition, you shall look into it, and see whether it comes from the virtuous, and the great, and the mighty. No, sir; it says no such thing. The right of petition belongs to all. And so far from refusing to present a petition because it might come from those low in the estimation of the world, it, would be an additional incentive, if such incentive were wanting.

* * * * *

From a "Discourse on the Jubilee of the Constitution."


When Solon, by the appointment of the people of Athens, had formed, and prevailed upon them to adopt a code of fundamental laws, the best that they would bear, he went into voluntary banishment for ten years, to save his system from the batteries of rival statesmen working upon popular passions and prejudices excited against his person. In eight years of a turbulent and tempestuous administration, Washington had settled upon firm foundations the practical execution of the Constitution of the United States. In the midst of the most appalling obstacles, through the bitterest internal dissensions, and the most formidable combinations of foreign antipathies and cavils, he had subdued all opposition to the Constitution itself; had averted all dangers of European war; had redeemed the captive children of his country from Algiers; had reduced by chastisement, and conciliated by kindness, the most hostile of the Indian tribes; had restored the credit of the nation, and redeemed their reputation of fidelity to the performance of their obligations; had provided for the total extinguishment of the public debt; had settled the union upon the immovable foundation of principle; and had drawn around his head, for the admiration and emulation of after times, a brighter blaze of glory than had ever encircled the brows of hero or statesman, patriot or sage.

The administration of Washington fixed the character of the Constitution of the United States, as a practical system of government, which it retains to this day. Upon his retirement, its great antagonist, Mr. Jefferson, came into the government again, as Vice-President of the United States, and four years after succeeded to the Presidency itself. But the funding system and the bank were established. The peace with both the great belligerent powers of Europe was secured. The disuniting doctrines of unlimited separate State sovereignty were laid aside. Louisiana, by a stretch of power in Congress, far beyond the highest tone of Hamilton, was annexed to the Union—and although dry-docks, and gun-boats, and embargoes, and commercial restrictions, still refused the protection of the national arm to commerce, and although an overweening love of peace, and a reliance upon reason as a weapon of defence against foreign aggression, eventuated in a disastrous though glorious war with the gigantic power of Britain,—the Constitution as construed by Washington, still proved an effective government for the country.

* * * * *

Henry Clay, 1777-1832. (Manual, p. 486.)

From a "Speech in the United States Senate," March 24, 1818.


Our Revolution was mainly directed against the mere theory of tyranny. We had suffered comparatively but little; we had, in some respects, been kindly treated; but our intrepid and intelligent forefathers saw, in the usurpation of the power to levy an inconsiderable tax, the long train of oppressive acts that were to follow. They rose; they breasted the storm; they achieved our freedom, Spanish America for centuries has been doomed to the practical effects of an odious tyranny. If we were justified, she is more than justified.

I am no propagandist. I would not seek to force upon other nations our principles and our liberty if they did not want them. I would not disturb the repose even of a detestable despotism. But if an abused and oppressed people will their freedom; if they seek to establish it; if, in truth, they have established it,—we have a right, as a sovereign power, to notice the fact, and to act as circumstances and our interest require. I will say, in the language of the venerated father of my country, "born in a land of liberty, my anxious recollections, my sympathetic feelings, and my best wishes, are irresistibly excited, whensoever, in any country, I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom."

* * * * *

From the "Speech in the Senate on the Compromise Bill."


South Carolina must perceive the embarrassments of her situation. She must be desirous,—it is unnatural to suppose that she is not,—to remain in the Union. What! a State whose heroes in its gallant ancestry fought so many glorious battles along with the other States of this Union,—a State with which this confederacy is linked by bonds of such a powerful character! I have sometimes fancied what would be her condition if she goes out of this Union; if her five hundred thousand people should at once be thrown upon their own resources. She is out of the Union. What is the consequence? She is an independent power. What then does she do? She must have armies and fleets, and an expensive government; have foreign missions; she must raise taxes; enact this very tariff, which has driven her out of the Union, in order to enable her to raise money, and to sustain the attitude of an independent power. If she should have no force, no navy to protect her, she would be exposed to piratical incursions. Their neighbor, St. Domingo, might pour down a horde of pirates on her borders, and desolate her plantations. She must have her embassies; therefore she must have a revenue. And, let me tell you, there is another consequence, an inevitable one. She has a certain description of persons recognized as property South of the Potomac, and West of the Mississippi, which would be no longer recognized as such, except within their own limits. This species of property would sink to one half of its present value, for it is Louisiana and the southwestern States which are her great market.

* * * * *

If there be any who want civil war, who want to see the blood of any portion of our countrymen spilt, I am not one of them. I wish to see war of no kind; but, above all, I do not desire to see a civil war. When war begins, whether civil or foreign, no human sight is competent to foresee when, or how, or where it is to terminate. But when a civil war shall be lighted up in the bosom of our own happy land, and armies are marching, and commanders are winning their victories, and fleets are in motion on our coast, tell me if you can tell me, if any human being can tell its duration? God alone knows where such a war would end. In what a state will our institutions be left? In what state our liberties? I want no war; above all, no war at home.

* * * * *

John C. Calhoun, 1782-1850. (Manual, p. 486.)

From his "Speech on the Bill to regulate the Power of Removal."


Let us not be deceived by names. The power in question is too great for the chief magistrate of a free state. It is in its nature an imperial power; and if he be permitted to exercise it, his authority must become as absolute as that of the autocrat of all the Russias. To give him the power to dismiss at his will and pleasure, without limitation or control, is to give him an absolute and unlimited control over the subsistence of almost all who hold office under government. Let him have the power, and the sixty thousand who now hold employments under government would become dependent upon him for the means of existence.... I know that there are many virtuous and high-minded citizens who hold public office; but it is not, therefore, the less true that the tendency of the power of dismissal is such as I have attributed to it; and that, if the power be left unqualified, and the practice be continued as it has of late, the result must be the complete corruption and debasement of those in public employment....

I have seen the spirit of independent men, holding public office, sink under the dread of this fearful power, too honest and too firm to become the instruments of the flatterers of power, yet too prudent, with all the consequences before them, to whisper disapprobation of what, in their hearts, they condemned. Let the present state of things continue, let it be understood that none are to acquire the public honors or to retain them, but by flattery and base compliance, and in a few generations the American character will become utterly corrupt and debased.

* * * * *

From the "Address on the relation of the States to the General Government."


Happily for us, we have no artificial and separate classes of society. We have wisely exploded all such distinctions; but we are not, on that account, exempt from all contrariety of interests, as the present distracted and dangerous condition of our country, unfortunately, but too clearly proves. With us they are almost exclusively geographical, resulting mainly from difference of climate, soil, situation, industry, and production; but are not, therefore, less necessary to be protected by an adequate constitutional provision, than where the distinct interests exist in separate classes. The necessity is, in truth, greater, as such separate and dissimilar geographical interests are more liable to come into conflict, and more dangerous, when in that state, than those of any other description: so much so, that ours is the first instance on record where they have not formed, in an extensive territory, separate and independent communities, or subjected the whole to despotic sway. That such may not be our unhappy fate also, must be the sincere prayer of every lover of his country.

So numerous and diversified are the interests of our country, that they could not be fairly represented in a single government, organized so as to give to each great and leading interest a separate and distinct voice, as in governments to which I have referred. A plan was adopted better suited to our situation, but perfectly novel in its character. The powers of government were divided, not, as heretofore, in reference to classes, but geographically. One General Government was formed for the whole, to which were delegated all the powers supposed to be necessary to regulate the interests common to all the States, leaving others subject to the separate control of the States, being, from their local and peculiar character, such that they could not be subject to the will of a majority of the whole Union, without the certain hazard of injustice and oppression. It was thus that the interests of the whole were subjected, as they ought to be, to the will of the whole, while the peculiar and local interests were left under the control of the States separately, to whose custody only they could be safely confided. This distribution of power, settled solemnly by a constitutional compact, to which all the States are parties, constitutes the peculiar character and excellence of our political system. It is truly and emphatically American, without example or parallel.

To realize its perfection, we must view the General Government and those of the States as a whole, each in its proper sphere independent; each perfectly adapted to its respective objects; the States acting separately, representing and protecting the local and peculiar interests: and acting jointly through one General Government, with the weight respectively assigned to each by the Constitution, representing and protecting the interest of the whole, and thus perfecting, by an admirable but simple arrangement, the great principle of representation and responsibility, without which no government can be free or just. To preserve this sacred distribution as originally settled, by coercing each to move in its prescribed orbit, is the great and difficult problem, on the solution of which the duration of our Constitution, of our union, and, in all probability, our liberty depends. How is this to be effected?

* * * * *

From his "Works."


It has been already shown, that the same constitution of man which leads those who govern to oppress the governed,—if not prevented,—will, with equal force and certainty, lead the latter to resist oppression, when possessed of the means of doing so peaceably and successfully. But absolute governments, of all forms, exclude all other means of resistance to their authority, than that of force; and, of course, leave no other alternative to the governed, but to acquiesce in oppression, however great it may be, or to resort to force to put down the government. But the dread of such a resort must necessarily lead the government to prepare to meet force in order to protect itself; and hence, of necessity, force becomes the conservative principle of all such governments.

On the contrary, the government of the concurrent majority, where the organism is perfect, excludes the possibility of oppression, by giving to each interest, or portion, or order,—where there are established classes,—the means of protecting itself, by its negative, against all measures calculated to advance the peculiar interests of others at its expense. Its effect, then, is to cause the different interests, portions, or orders,—as the case may be, to desist from attempting to adopt any measure calculated to promote the prosperity of one, or more, by sacrificing that of others; and thus to force them to unite in such measures only as would promote the prosperity of all, as the only means to prevent the suspension of the action of the government;—and, thereby, to avoid anarchy, the greatest of all evils. It is by means of such authorized and effectual resistance, that oppression is prevented, and the necessity of resorting to force superseded, in governments of the concurrent majority;—and, hence, compromise, instead of force, becomes their conservative principle.

It would, perhaps, be more strictly correct to trace the conservative principle of constitutional governments to the necessity which compels the different interests, or portions, or orders, to compromise,—as the only way to promote their respective prosperity, and to avoid anarchy,—rather than to the compromise itself. No necessity can be more urgent and imperious, than that of avoiding anarchy. It is the same as that which makes government indispensable to preserve society; and is not less imperative than that which compels obedience to superior force. Traced to this source, the voice of a people,—uttered under the necessity of avoiding the greatest of calamities, through the organs of a government so constructed as to suppress the expression of all partial and selfish interests, and to give a full and faithful utterance to the sense of the whole community, in reference to its common welfare,—may without impiety, be called the voice of God. To call any other so, would be impious.

* * * * *

Daniel Webster, 1782-1852. (Manual, pp. 478, 486.)

From the "Reply to Hayne, in the United States Senate."


I cannot, even now, persuade myself to relinquish it, without expressing once more my deep conviction, that, since it respects nothing less than the union of the states, it is of most vital and essential importance to the public happiness. I profess, sir, in my career hitherto, to have kept steadily in view the prosperity and honor of the whole country, and the preservation of our Federal Union. It is to that Union we owe our safety at home, and our consideration and dignity abroad. It is to that Union we are chiefly indebted for whatever makes us most proud of our country. That Union we reached only by the discipline of our virtues in the severe school of adversity. It had its origin in the necessities of disordered finance, prostrate commerce, and ruined credit. Under its benign influences, these great interests immediately awoke, as from the dead, and sprang forth with newness of life. Every year of its duration has teemed with fresh proofs of its utility and its blessings; and although our territory has stretched out wider and wider, and our population spread farther and farther, they have not outrun its protection or its benefits. It has been to us all a copious fountain of national, social, personal happiness. I have not allowed myself, sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty, when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder, I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counsellor in the affairs of this government, whose thoughts should be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union should be best preserved, but how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it shall be broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our children. Beyond that I do not seek to penetrate the veil. God grant that, in my day at least, that curtain may not rise. God grant that, on my vision never may be opened what lies behind. When my eyes shall be turned to behold, for the last time, the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on states dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a stripe erased or polluted, nor a single star obscured,—bearing for its motto no such miserable interrogatory as, What is all this worth? nor those other words of delusion and folly, Liberty first, and Union afterwards; but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every American heart—Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!

* * * * *

From the "Speech at the Laying of the Corner Stone of the Bunker Hill Monument."


Let it not be supposed that our object is to perpetuate national hostility, or even to cherish a mere military spirit. It is higher, purer, nobler. We consecrate our work to the spirit of national independence, and we wish that the light of peace may rest upon it forever. We rear a memorial of our conviction of that unmeasured benefit which has been conferred on our own land, and of the happy influences which have been produced, by the same events, on the general interests of mankind. We come, as Americans, to mark a spot which must forever be dear to us and our posterity. We wish that whoever, in all coming time, shall turn his eye hither, may behold that the place is not undistinguished where the first great battle of the Revolution was fought. We wish that this structure may proclaim the magnitude and importance of that event to every class and every age. We wish that infancy may learn the purpose of its erection, from maternal lips, and that weary and withered age may behold it, and be solaced by the recollections which it suggests. We wish that labor may look up here, and be proud in the midst of its toil. We wish that in those days of disaster, which, as they come upon all nations, must be expected to come upon us also, desponding patriotism may turn its eyes hitherward, and be assured that the foundations of our national power are still strong. We wish that this column, rising towards heaven among the pointed spires of so many temples dedicated to God, may contribute also to produce, in all minds, a pious feeling of dependence and gratitude. We wish, finally, that the last object to the sight of him who leaves his native shore, and the first to gladden his who revisits it, may be something which shall remind him of the liberty and the glory of his country. Let it rise! let it rise, till it meet the sun in his coming; let the earliest light of the morning gild it, and parting day linger and play on its summit.

* * * * *

From his "Works."


Its benefits are not exclusive. What has it left undone, which any government could do for the whole country? In what condition has it placed us? Where do we now stand? Are we elevated, or degraded, by its operation? What is our condition, under its influence, at the very moment when some talk of arresting its power and breaking its unity? Do we not feel ourselves on an eminence? Do we not challenge the respect of the whole world? What has placed us thus high? What has given us this just pride? What else is it, but the unrestrained and free operation of that same Federal Constitution, which it has been proposed now to hamper, and manacle, and nullify? Who is there among us, that, should he find himself on any spot of the earth where human beings exist, and where the existence of other nations is known, would not be proud to say, I am an American? I am a countryman of Washington? I am a citizen of that Republic, which although it has suddenly sprung up, yet there are none on the globe who have ears to hear, and have not heard of it,—who have eyes to see and have not read of it,—who know any thing,—and yet do not know of its existence and its glory? And, gentlemen, let me now reverse the picture. Let me ask, who is there among us, if he were to be found to-morrow in one of the civilized countries of Europe, and were there to learn that this goodly form of Government had been overthrown—that the United States were no longer united—that a death-blow had been struck upon their bond of Union—that they themselves had destroyed their chief good and their chief honor,—who is there, whose heart would not sink within him? Who is there, who would not cover his face for very shame?

At this very moment, gentlemen, our country is a general refuge for the distressed and the persecuted of other nations. Whoever is in affliction from political occurrences in his own country, looks here for shelter. Whether he be republican, flying from the oppression of thrones—or whether he be monarch or monarchist, flying from thrones that crumble and fall under or around him,—he feels equal assurance, that if he get foothold on our soil, his person is safe, and his rights will be respected.

And who will venture to say, that in any government now existing in the world, there is greater security for persons or property than in that of the United States? We have tried these popular institutions in times of great excitement and commotion; and they have stood substantially firm and steady, while the fountains of the great deep have been elsewhere broken up; while thrones, resting on ages of prescription, have tottered and fallen; and while in other countries, the earthquake of unrestrained popular commotion has swallowed up all law, and all liberty, and all right, together. Our Government has been tried in peace, and it has been tried in war; and has proved itself fit for both. It has been assailed from without, and it has successfully resisted the shock; it has been disturbed within, and it has effectually quieted the disturbance. It can stand trial—it can stand, assault—it, can stand adversity.—it can stand every thing, but the marring of its own beauty, and the weakening of its own strength. It can stand every thing, but the effects of our own rashness, and our own folly. It can stand everything, but disorganization, disunion, and nullification.

* * * * *

From his Correspondence with Lord Ashburton.


England acknowledges herself overburdened with population of the poorer classes. Every instance of the emigration of persons of those classes is regarded by her as a benefit. England, therefore, encourages emigration; means are notoriously supplied to emigrants, to assist their conveyance, from public funds; and the New World, and most especially these United States, receive the many thousands of her subjects thus ejected from the bosom of their native land by the necessities of their condition. They come away from poverty and distress in over-crowded cities, to seek employment, comfort, and new homes, in a country of free institutions, possessed by a kindred race, speaking their own language, and having laws and usages in many respects like those to which they have been accustomed; and a country which, upon the whole, is found to possess more attractions for persons of their character and condition, than any other on the face of the globe. It is stated that, in the quarter of the year ending with June last, more than twenty-six thousand emigrants left the single port of Liverpool for the United States, being four or five times as many as left the same port within the same period, for the British Colonies and all other parts of the world. Of these crowds of emigrants, many arrive in our cities in circumstances of great destitution, and the charities of the country, both public and private, are severely taxed to relieve their immediate wants. In time they mingle with the new community in which they find themselves, and seek means of living. Some find employment in the cities, others go to the frontiers, to cultivate lands reclaimed from the forest; and a greater or less number of the residue, becoming in time naturalized citizens, enter into the merchant service under the flag of their adopted country.

Now, my Lord, if war should break out between England and a European power, can any thing be more unjust, any thing more irreconcilable to the general sentiments of mankind, than that England should seek out these persons, thus encouraged by her, and compelled by their own condition, to leave their native homes, tear them away from their new employments, their new political relations, and their domestic connections, and force them to undergo the dangers and hardships of military service for a country which, has thus ceased to be their own country? Certainly, certainly, my Lord, there can be but one answer to this question. Is it not far more reasonable that England should either prevent such emigration of her subjects, or that, if she encourage and promote it, she should leave them, not to the embroilment of a double and contradictory allegiance, but to their own voluntary choice, to form such relations, political or social, as they see fit, in the country where they are to find their bread, and to the laws and institutions of which they are to look for defence and protection.

* * * * *

Joseph Story, 1779-1845. (Manual, pp. 487, 531.)

From his "Miscellaneous Writings."


When can we expect to be permitted to behold again so much moderation united with so much firmness, so much sagacity with so much modesty, so much learning with so much experience, so much solid wisdom with so much purity, so much of every thing to love and admire, with nothing—absolutely nothing, to regret? What, indeed, strikes us as the most remarkable in his whole character, even more than his splendid talents, is the entire consistency of his public life and principles. There is nothing in either which calls for apology or concealment. Ambition has never seduced him from his principles, nor popular clamor deterred him from the strict performance of duty. Amid the extravagances of party spirit he has stood with a calm, and steady inflexibility, neither bending to the pressure of adversity, nor bounding with the elasticity of success. He has lived as such a man should live, (and yet, how few deserve the commendation!) by and with, his principles. Whatever changes of opinion have occurred in the course of his long life, have been gradual and slow; the results of genius acting upon larger materials, and of judgment matured by the lessons of experience.

If we were tempted to say, in one word, what it was in which he chiefly excelled other men, we should say, in wisdom—in the union of that virtue, which has ripened under the hardy discipline of principles, with that knowledge which has constantly sifted and refined its old treasures, and as constantly gathered new. The constitution, since its adoption, owes more to him than to any other single mind, for its true interpretation and vindication. Whether it lives or perishes, his exposition of its principles will be an enduring monument to his fame, as long as solid reasoning, profound analysis, and sober views of government, shall invite the leisure, or command the attention, of statesmen and jurists.... Yet it may be affirmed by those who have had the privilege of intimacy with Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, that he rises, rather than falls, with the nearest survey; and that in the domestic circle he is exactly what a wife, a child, a brother, and a friend would most desire. In that magical circle, admiration of his talents is forgotten in the indulgence of those affections and sensibilities which are awakened only to be gratified.

* * * * *

From his "Miscellanies."


The most delicate, and at the same time the proudest attribute of American jurisprudence, is the right of its judicial tribunals to decide questions of constitutional law. In other governments these questions cannot be entertained or decided by courts of justice; and, therefore, whatever may be the theory of the constitution, the legislative authority is practically omnipotent, and there is no means of contesting the legality or justice of a law, but by an appeal to arms. This can be done only when oppression weighs heavily and grievously on the whole people, and is then resisted by all because it is felt by all. But the oppression that strikes at a humble individual, though it robs him of character, or fortune, or life, is remediless; and, if it becomes the subject of judicial enquiry, judges may lament, but cannot resist, the mandates of the legislature. Far different is the case in our country; and the privilege of bringing every law to the test of the constitution belongs to the humblest citizen, who owes no obedience to any legislative act which transcends the constitutional limits.

The discussion of constitutional questions throws a lustre round the bar, and gives a dignity to its functions, which can rarely belong to the profession in any other country. Lawyers are here emphatically placed as sentinels upon the outposts of the constitution, and no nobler end can be proposed for their ambition or patriotism than to stand as faithful guardians of the constitution, ready to defend its legitimate powers, and to stay the arm of legislative, executive, or popular oppression. If their eloquence can charm, when it vindicates the innocent, and the suffering under private wrongs; if their learning and genius can, with almost superhuman witchery, unfold the mazes and intricacies by which the minute links of title are chained to the adamantine pillars of the law;—how much more glory belongs to them when this eloquence, this learning, and this genius, are employed in defence of their country; when they breathe forth the purest spirit of morality and virtue in support of the rights of mankind; when they expound the lofty doctrines which sustain and connect, and guide the destinies of nations; when they combat popular delusions at the expense of fame, and friendship, and political honors; when they triumph by arresting the progress of error and the march of power, and drive back the torrent that threatens destruction equally to public liberty and to private property, to all that delights us in private life, and all that gives grace and authority in public office.

* * * * *

Lewis Cass,[23] 1782-1866.

From his "Report of the Secretary of War." December 1831.


The associations which bind the Indians to the land of their forefathers are strong and enduring; and these must be broken by their emigration. But they are also broken by our citizens, who every day encounter all the difficulties of similar changes in pursuit of the means of support. And the experiments that have been made satisfactorily show that, by proper precautions and liberal appropriations, the removal and establishment of the Indians can be effected with little comparative trouble to them, or us.... If they remain, they must decline, and eventually disappear. Such is the result of all experience. If they remove, they may be comfortably established, and their moral and physical condition ameliorated....

The great moral debt we owe to this unhappy race is universally felt and acknowledged. Diversities of opinion exist respecting the proper mode of discharging this obligation, but its validity is not denied.

Indolent in his habits, the Indian is opposed to labor; improvident in his mode of life, he has little foresight in providing, or care in preserving. Taught from infancy to reverence his own traditions and institutions, he is satisfied of their value, and dreads the anger of the Great Spirit, if he should depart from the customs of his fathers. Devoted to the use of ardent spirits, he abandons himself to its indulgence without restraint. War and hunting are his only occupations.... Shall they be advised to remain, or remove? If the former, their fate is written in the annals of their race; if the latter, we may yet hope to see them renovated in character and condition, by our example and instruction, and their exertions.

[Footnote 23: A native of New Hampshire, but for many years a citizen of Michigan: conspicuous in public life, and a writer of high authority on Indian and military affairs, and the settlement of the north-west.]

* * * * *

Rufus Choate, 1799-1859. (Manual, p. 487.)

From his "Lectures and Addresses."


Is it not so that in its nature, in its functions, in the intellectual and practical habits which it forms, in the opinions to which it conducts, in all its tendencies and influences of speculation and action, it is, and ought to be, professionally and peculiarly such an element and such an agent, that it contributes, or ought to be held to contribute, more than all things else, or as much as anything else, to preserve our organic forms, our civil and social order, our public and private justice, our constitutions of government, even the Union itself? In these crises through which our liberty is to pass, may not, must not, this function of conservatism become more and more developed, and more and more operative? May it not one day be written, for the praise of the American Bar, that it helped to keep the true idea of the state alive and germinant in the American mind; that it helped to keep alive the sacred sentiments of obedience, and reverence, and justice, of the supremacy of the calm and grand reason of the law over the fitful will of the individual and the crowd; that it helped to withstand the pernicious sophism that the successive generations, as they come to life, are but as so many successive flights of summer flies, without relations to the past or duties to the future, and taught instead that all—all the dead, the living, the unborn—were one moral person-one for action, one for suffering, one for responsibility; that the engagements of one age may bind the conscience of another; the glory or the shame of a day may brighten or stain the current of a thousand years of continuous national being?

* * * * *

From the "Address before the New England Society of New York."


I have said that I deemed it a great thing for a nation, in all the periods of its fortunes, to be able to look back to a race of founders, and a principle of institution, in which, it might seem to see the realized idea of true heroism. That felicity, that pride, that help, is ours. Our past—both its great eras, that of settlement, and that of independence—should announce, should compel, should spontaneously evolve as from a germ, a wise, moral, and glorious future. These heroic men and women should not look down on a dwindled posterity. It should seem to be almost of course, too easy to be glorious, that they who keep the graves, bear the name, and boast the blood, of men in whom the loftiest sense of duty blended itself with the fiercest spirit of liberty, should add to their freedom, justice: justice to all men, to all nations; justice, that venerable virtue, without which freedom, valor, and power, are but vulgar things.

And yet is the past nothing, even our past, but as you, quickened by its examples, instructed by its experiences, warned by its voices, assisted by its accumulated instrumentality, shall reproduce it in the life of to-day. Its once busy existence, various sensations, fiery trials, dear-bought triumphs; its dynasty of heroes, all its pulses of joy and anguish, and hope and fear, and love and praise, are with the years beyond the flood. "The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures." Yet, gazing on these, long and intently, and often, we may pass into the likeness of the departed,—may emulate their labors, and partake of their immortality.

* * * * *

William H. Seward,[24] 1801-1872.

"Oration on Lafayette," July 16th, 1834.


There were indeed other and heroic volunteers from European countries, but they were either exiles who had no homes, or they were soldiers by profession, who followed the sword wherever a harvest was to be reaped with it.... Lafayette's first act in America gave new evidence of disinterestedness and magnanimity. He found the small patriot army rent asunder by jealous feuds growing out of ambition for preferment. What revolution, however holy, has not suffered by such evils! How many a revolution has been lost by them! Schuyler, the brave, the high-spirited, and wise, now the victim of an intrigue, was hesitating whether to submit to a privation of rank justly due him, or to resign. Putnam's recent promotion produced bitter complaints; and Gates was laboring night and day, aided by a powerful faction, to displace Washington from the chief command. The correspondence of the Father of his country, now first published, reveals the fact that the compensation attached to military rank was by no means an unimportant object of the universal rage for preferment, which then threatened to break up the army. Lafayette set a noble example to the republican chiefs. He declined the tender of a commission as major-general, with the emoluments, and stipulated, on the contrary, for leave to serve without reward, and even without a command, until he should have made a title to it by actual achievements. He won his commission by the blood he gave to his adopted country in the battle of Brandywine, by rallying the troops in the retreat at Chester Bridge, and by his brave resistance and capture, with the aid of militia-men, of a superior force of British and Hessian regulars; and thus, without exciting murmurs among his compatriots, and with the thanks of Congress, he rose to the command of a division in the army of the United States. Lavish of gold, as he had already shown that he was lavish of blood, he clothed and equipped these troops, numbering two thousand, at his own expense; and they soon became, under his exact but affectionate discipline, the favorite corps of the whole army.

Lafayette stood second to Washington in the affections of the American people, and in the applauses of the friends of liberty throughout the world. Certainly whatever honors that people could have conferred upon any one would have been sure to wait on him. Let those who think that preferment, power, and applause are always the chief objects of human ambition, look now at this illustrious and yet youthful personage, cheerfully resigning his command, and without one murmur of regret for the honors laid down, or one glance towards the honors gathering before him, taking affectionate leave of his companions in arms, and their great chief, and returning to his native land, to resume there the duties he owed as a subject and member of the State, in France.

[Footnote 24: A prominent statesman, formerly Governor of New York, of which state he is a native. He is known in literature by many addresses, speeches, and diplomatic papers, often of high merit.]

* * * * *

Abraham Lincoln,[25] 1809-1865.

"Speech at the Dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg," November 19, 1883.


Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here, have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that governments of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

[Footnote 25: Born in Kentucky; a prominent lawyer and statesman of Illinois; was elected President of the United States in 1860; was eminent for his profound appreciation of 'the subsequent struggle, and for his patriotic appeals in behalf of the nation. Assassinated April 13, 1865.]

* * * * *

Charles Sumner, 1811-1874. (Manual, p. 487.)

From the "Speech in the Senate on the Nebraska and Kansas Bill," May 25, 1854.


Sir, the bill which you are now about to pass is at once the worst and the best bill on which Congress ever acted. Yes, sir, worst and best at the same time.

It is the worst bill, inasmuch as it is a present victory of slavery. In a Christian land, and in an age of civilization, a time-honored statute of freedom is struck down, opening the way to all the countless woes and wrongs of human bondage. Among the crimes of history, another is about to be recorded, which no tears can blot out, and which, in better days, will be read with universal shame.

But there is another side, to which I gladly turn. Sir, it is the best bill on which Congress ever acted; for it annuls all past compromises with slavery, and makes all future compromises impossible. Thus it puts freedom and slavery face to face, and bids them grapple. Who can doubt the result? It opens wide the door of the future, when, at last, there will really be a North, and the slave power will be broken; when this wretched despotism will cease to dominate over our government, no longer impressing itself upon everything at home and abroad; when the national government shall be divorced in every way from slavery, and according to the true intention of our fathers, freedom shall be established by Congress everywhere, at least beyond the local limits of the states.

Thus, sir, now standing at the very grave of freedom in Kansas and Nebraska, I lift myself to the vision of that happy resurrection, by which freedom will be secured, not only in these territories, but everywhere under the national government. More clearly than ever before, I now penetrate that "All-Hail-Hereafter" when slavery must disappear. Proudly I discern the flag of my country, as it ripples in every breeze, at last become in reality, as in name, the Flag of Freedom, undoubted, pure, and irresistible. Am I not right, then, in calling this bill the best on which Congress ever acted?

Sorrowfully I bend before the wrong you are about to commit. Joyfully I welcome all the promises of the future.

* * * * *

From the "Speech for Union against the Slave Power," June 8, 1848.


There are occasions of political difference, I admit, when it may become expedient to vote for a person who does not completely represent our sentiments. There are some matters that come legitimately within the range of expediency and compromise. The Tariff and the Currency are unquestionably of this character. If a candidate differs from me, more or less, on these, I may yet be disposed to vote for him. But the question now before the country is of another character. This will not admit of compromise. It is not within the domain of expediency. To be wrong on this is to be wholly wrong. It is not merely expedient for us to defend Freedom, when assailed, but our duty so to do, unreservedly, and careless of consequences. Who is there in this assembly that would help to fasten a fetter upon Oregon or Mexico? Who is there that would not oppose every effort for this purpose? Nobody. Who is there, then, that can vote for Taylor or Cass?

But it is said that we shall throw away our votes, and that our opposition will fail. Sir! no honest, earnest effort in a good cause ever fails. It may not be crowned with the applause of men; it may not seem to touch the goal of immediate worldly success, which is the end and aim of so much of life. But still it is not lost. It helps to strengthen the weak with new virtue; to arm the irresolute with proper energy; to animate all with devotion to duty, which in the end conquers all. Fail! Did the martyrs fail, when with their precious blood they sowed the seed of the Church? Did the discomfited champions of Freedom fail, who have left those names in history which can never die? Did the three hundred Spartans fail, when, in the narrow pass, they did not fear to brave the innumerable Persian hosts, whose very arrows darkened the sun? No! Overborne by numbers, crushed to earth, they have left an example which is greater far than any victory. And this is the least we can do. Our example shall be the source of triumph hereafter. It will not be the first time in history that the hosts of Slavery have outnumbered the champions of Freedom. But where is it written that Slavery finally prevailed.

* * * * *

Returning to our forefathers for our principles, let us borrow, also, something of their courage and union. Let us summon to our sides the majestic forms of those civil heroes, whose firmness in council was equalled only by the firmness of Washington in war. Let us listen again to the eloquence of the elder Adams, animating his associates in Congress to independence: let us hang anew upon the sententious wisdom of Franklin; let us be enkindled, as were the men of other days, by the fervid devotion to Freedom, which flamed from the heart of Jefferson. Deriving instruction from our enemies, let us also be taught by the Slave Power. The two hundred thousand slaveholders are always united in purpose. Hence their strength. Like arrows in a quiver, they cannot be broken. The friends of Freedom have thus far been divided. Union, then, must be our watchword,—union, among men of all parties. By such a union we shall consolidate an opposition which must prevail.

* * * * *

From a Speech, September 16, 1863.


It only remains that the Republic should lift itself to the height of its great duties. War is hard to bear,—with its waste, its pains, its wounds, its funerals. But in this war we have not been choosers. We have been challenged to the defence of our country, and in this sacred cause, to crush Slavery. There is no alternative. Slavery began the combat, staking its life, and determined to rule or die. That we may continue freemen there must be no slaves; so that our own security is linked with the redemption of a race. Blessed lot, amidst the harshness of war, to wield the arms and deal the blows under which the monster will surely fall!

But while thus steady in our purpose at home, we must not neglect that proper moderation abroad, which becomes the consciousness of our strength and the nobleness of our cause. The mistaken sympathy which foreign powers now bestow upon slavery,—or it may be the mistaken insensibility,—under the plausible name of "neutrality," which they profess,—will be worse for them than for us. For them it will be a record of shame which their children would gladly wash out with tears. For us it will be only another obstacle vanquished in the battle for civilization, where unhappily false friends are mingled with open enemies. Even if the cause shall seem for a while imperilled from foreign powers, yet our duties are none the less urgent. If the pressure be great, the resistance must be greater; nor can there be any retreat. Come weal or woe this is the place for us to stand.

I know not if a republic like ours can count even now upon the certain friendship of any European power, unless it be the republic of William Tell. The very name is unwelcome to the full-blown representatives of monarchical Europe, who forget how proudly, even in modern history, Venice bore the title of Serenissima Respublica. It will be for us to change all this, and we shall do it. Our successful example will be enough. Thus far we have been known chiefly through that vital force which slavery could only degrade, but not subdue. Now at last, by the death of slavery, will the republic begin to live. For what is life without liberty? Stretching from ocean to ocean,—teeming with population, bountiful in resources of all kinds, and thrice-happy in universal enfranchisement, it will be more than conqueror. Nothing too vast for its power; nothing too minute for its care. Triumphant over the foulest wrong ever inflicted, after the bloodiest war ever waged, it will know the majesty of right and the beauty of peace, prepared always to uphold the one, and to cultivate the other. Strong in its own mighty stature, filled with all the fulness of a new life, and covered with a panoply of renown, it will confess that no dominion is of value which does not contribute to human happiness. Born in this latter day, and the child of its own struggles, without ancestral claims, but heir of all the ages,—it will stand forth to assert the dignity of man, and wherever any member of the human family is to be succored, there its voice will reach,—as the voice of Cromwell reached across France even to the persecuted mountaineers of the Alps. Such will be this republic;—upstart among the nations. Aye! as the steam-engine, the telegraph, and chloroform are upstart. Comforter and helper like these, it can know no bounds to its empire over a willing world. But the first stage is the death of slavery.

* * * * *

From "Prophetic Voices about America."


Such are some of the prophetic voices about America, differing in character and importance, but all having one augury, and opening one vista, illimitable in extent and vastness. Farewell to the idea of Montesquieu, that a republic can exist only in a small territory....

Such grandeur may justly excite anxiety rather than pride, for duties are in corresponding proportion. There is occasion for humility also, as the individual considers his own insignificance in the transcendent mass. The tiny polyp, in its unconscious life, builds the everlasting coral; each citizen is little more than the industrious insect. The result is accomplished by continuous and combined exertion. Millions of citizens, working in obedience to nature, can accomplish anything. Of course, war is an instrumentality which a true civilization disowns. Here some of our prophets have erred. Sir Thomas Browne was so much overshadowed by his own age, that his vision was darkened by "great armies," and even "hostile and piratical attacks" on Europe. It was natural that D'Aranda, schooled in worldly affairs, should imagine the new-born power ready to seize the Spanish possessions. Among our own countrymen, Jefferson looked to war for the extension of dominion. The Floridas he says on one occasion, "are ours on the first moment of war, and until a war they are of no particular necessity to us." Happily they were acquired in another way. Then again, while declaring that no constitution was ever before so calculated as ours for extensive empire and self-government, and insisting upon Canada as a component part, he calmly says that "this would be, of course, in the first war." Afterwards, while confessing a longing for Cuba, "as the most interesting addition that could ever be made to our system of States," he says that "he is sensible that this can never be obtained, even with her own consent, without war." Thus at each stage is the baptism of blood. In much better mood the good Bishop recognized empire as moving gently in the pathway of light. All this is much clearer now than when he prophesied. It is easy to see that empire obtained by force is unrepublican and offensive to that first principle of our Union according to which all just government stands only on the consent of the governed. Our country needs no such ally as war. Its destiny is mightier than war. Through peace it will have every thing. This is our talisman. Give us peace, and population will increase beyond all experience; resources of all kinds will multiply infinitely; arts will embellish the land with immortal beauty, the name of Republic will be exalted, until every neighbor, yielding to irresistible attraction, will seek a new life in becoming a part of the great whole; and the national example will be more puissant than army or navy for the conquest of the world.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse