Violent speeches, denunciatory of people in any particular section of the Union, the arraignment of institutions which they inherited and intend to transmit, as leprous spots on the body-politic, are not the means by which fraternity is to be preserved, or this Union rendered perpetual. These were not the arguments which our fathers made when, through the struggles of the Revolutionary War, they laid the foundation of the Union. These are not the principles on which our Constitution, a bundle of compromises, was made. Then the navigating and the agricultural States did not war to see which could most injure the other; but each conceded something from that which it believed to be its own interest to promote the welfare of the other. Those debates, while they brought up all that straggle which belongs to opposite interests and opposite localities, show none of that bitterness which, so unfortunately, characterizes every debate in which this body is involved.
The meanest thing—I do not mean otherwise than the smallest thing—which can arise among us, incidentally, runs into this sectional agitation, as though it were an epidemic and gave its type to every disease. Not even could the committees of this body, when we first assembled, before any one had the excuse of excitement to plead, be organized without sectional agitation springing up. Forcibly, I suppose gravely and sincerely, it was contended here that a great wrong was done because New York, the great commercial State, and the emporium of commerce within her limits, was not represented upon the Committee of Commerce. This will go forth to remote corners, and descend, perhaps, to after-times, as an instance in which the Democratic party of the Senate behaved with unfairness toward its opponents; for with it will not descend the fact that the Democratic party only arranged for itself its own portion of the committees, taking the control of them, and left blanks on the committees to be filled by the Opposition; that the Opposition did fill the blanks; that the Opposition had both the Senators from New York, but did not choose to put either of them on that committee, though it afterward formed the basis and staple of their complaint.
Mr. President, I concur with my friend from Virginia [Mr. Hunter], and when I rose I did not intend to consume anything like so much time as I have occupied. I think there are points, which have been sprung upon the Senate to-day and heretofore, that require to be answered and to be met. Like my friend from Virginia, I shall feel that it devolves on me, as a representative in part of that constituency which is peculiarly assailed, on another occasion to meet, and, if I am able, to answer, the allegations and accusations which have been heaped, as well on the section in which I live as upon every man who has performed his duty by extending over them the protection for which our Constitution and Government were formed.
In the summer of 1858, Mr. Davis being in Portland, Maine, a vast concourse of its citizens assembled in front of his hotel to offer him a welcome to their city, whereupon he made to them an address, from which the following extracts are given:
Fellow-Citizens: Accept my sincere thanks for this manifestation of your kindness. Vanity does not lead me so far to misconceive your purpose as to appropriate the demonstration to myself; but it is not the less gratifying to me to be made the medium through which Maine tenders an expression of regard to her sister, Mississippi. It is, moreover, with feelings of profound gratification that I witness this indication of that national sentiment and fraternity which made us, and which alone can keep us, one people. At a period but as yesterday, when compared with the life of nations, these States were separate, and in some respects opposing colonies; their only relation to each other was that of a common allegiance to the Government of Great Britain. So separate, indeed almost hostile, was their attitude, that when General Stark, of Bennington memory, was captured by savages on the head-waters of the Kennebec, he was subsequently taken by them to Albany, where they went to sell furs, and again led away a captive, without interference on the part of the inhabitants of that neighboring colony to demand or obtain his release. United as we now are, were a citizen of the United States, as an act of hostility to our country, imprisoned or slain in any quarter of the world, whether on land or sea, the people of each and every State of the Union, with one heart and with one voice, would demand redress, and woe be to him against whom a brother's blood cried to as from the ground! Such is the fruit of the wisdom and the justice with which our fathers bound contending colonies into confederation, and blended different habits and rival interests into an harmonious whole, so that, shoulder to shoulder, they entered on the trial of the Revolution, and step with step trod its thorny paths until they reached the height of national independence, and founded the constitutional representative liberty which is our birthright....
By such men, thus trained and ennobled, our Constitution was framed. It stands a monument of principle, of forecast, and, above all, of that liberality which made each willing to sacrifice local interest, individual prejudice, or temporary good to the general welfare and the perpetuity of the republican institutions which they had passed through fire and blood to secure. The grants were as broad as were necessary for the functions of the general agent, and the mutual concessions were twice blessed, blessing him who gave and him who received. Whatever was necessary for domestic government—requisite in the social organization of each community—was retained by the States and the people thereof; and these it was made the duty of all to defend and maintain. Such, in very general terms, is the rich political legacy our fathers bequeathed to us. Shall we preserve and transmit it to posterity? Yes, yes, the heart responds; and the judgment answers, the task is easily performed. It but requires that each should attend to that which most concerns him, and on which alone he has rightful power to decide and to act; that each should adhere to the terms of a written compact, and that all should cooeperate for that which interest, duty, and honor demand.
For the general affairs of our country, both foreign and domestic, we have a national Executive and a national Legislature. Representatives and Senators are chosen by districts and by States, but their acts affect the whole country, and their obligations are to the whole people. He, who, holding either seat, would confine his investigations to the mere interests of his immediate constituents, would be derelict to his plain duty; and he who would legislate in hostility to any section would be morally unfit for the station, and surely an unsafe depositary, if not a treacherous guardian, of the inheritance with which we are blessed. No one more than myself recognizes the binding force of the allegiance which the citizen owes to the State of his citizenship, but, that State being a party to our compact, a member of the Union, fealty to the Federal Constitution is not in opposition to, but flows from the allegiance due to, one of the United States. Washington was not less a Virginian when he commanded at Boston, nor did Gates or Greene weaken the bonds which bound them to their several States by their campaigns in the South. In proportion as a citizen loves his own State will he strive to honor her by preserving her name and her fame, free from the tarnish of having failed to observe her obligations and to fulfill her duties to her sister States. Each page of our history is illustrated by the names and deeds of those who have well understood and discharged the obligation. Have we so degenerated that we can no longer emulate their virtues? Have the purposes for which our Union was formed lost their value? Has patriotism ceased to be a virtue, and is narrow sectionalism no longer to be counted a crime? Shall the North not rejoice that the progress of agriculture in the South has given to her great staple the controlling influence of the commerce of the world, and put manufacturing nations under bond to keep the peace with the United States?
Shall the South not exult in the fact that the industry and persevering intelligence of the North have placed her mechanical skill in the front ranks of the civilized world; that our mother-country, whose haughty minister, some eighty-odd years ago, declared that not a hobnail should be made in the colonies which are now the United States, was brought, some four years ago, to recognize our preeminence by sending a commission to examine our workshops and our machinery, to perfect their own manufacture of the arms requisite for their defense? Do not our whole people, interior and seaboard, North, South, East, and West, alike feel proud of the hardihood, the enterprise, the skill, and the courage of the Yankee sailor, who has borne our flag far as the ocean bears its foam, and caused the name and character of the United States to be known and respected wherever there is wealth enough to woo commerce, and intelligence to honor merit? So long as we preserve and appreciate the achievements of Jefferson and Adams, of Franklin and Madison, of Hamilton, of Hancock, and of Rutledge, men who labored for the whole country, and lived for mankind, we can not sink to the petty strife which would sap the foundations and destroy the political fabric our fathers erected and bequeathed as an inheritance to our posterity for ever.
Since the formation of the Constitution, a vast extension of territory and the varied relations arising therefrom have presented problems which could not have been foreseen. It is just cause for admiration, even wonder, that the provisions of the fundamental law should have been so fully adequate to all the wants of a government, new in its organization, and new in many of the principles on which it was founded. Whatever fears may have once existed as to the consequences of territorial expansion must give way before the evidence which the past affords. The General Government, strictly confined to its delegated functions, and the State left in the undisturbed exercise of all else, we have a theory and practice which fit our Government for immeasurable domain, and might, under a millennium of nations, embrace mankind.
From the slope of the Atlantic our population, with ceaseless tide, has poured into the wide and fertile valley of the Mississippi, with eddying whirl has passed to the coast of the Pacific; from the West and the East the tides are rushing toward each other, and the mind is carried to the day when all the cultivable land will be inhabited, and the American people will sigh for more wilderness to conquer. But there is here a physico-political problem presented for our solution. Were it purely physical, your past triumphs would leave but little doubt of your capacity to solve it. A community which, when less than twenty thousand, conceived the grand project of crossing the White Mountains, and unaided, save by the stimulus which jeers and prophecies of failure gave, successfully executed the herculean work, might well be impatient if it were suggested that a physical problem was before us too difficult for mastery. The history of man teaches that high mountains and wide deserts have resisted the permanent extension of empire, and have formed the immutable boundaries of states. From time to time, under some able leader, have the hordes of the upper plains of Asia swept over the adjacent country, and rolled their conquering columns over Southern Europe. Yet, after the lapse of a few generations, the physical law to which I have referred has asserted its supremacy, and the boundaries of those states differ little now from those which were obtained three thousand years ago.
Rome flew her conquering eagles over the then known world, and has now subsided into the little territory on which the great city was originally built. The Alps and the Pyrenees have been unable to restrain imperial France; but her expansion was a feverish action, her advance and her retreat were tracked with blood, and those mountain-ridges are the reestablished limits of her empire. Shall the Rocky Mountains prove a dividing barrier to us? Were ours a central, consolidated Government, instead of a Union of sovereign States, our fate might be learned from the history of other nations. Thanks to the wisdom and independent spirit of our forefathers, this is not the case. Each State having sole charge of its local interests and domestic affairs, the problem, which to others has been insoluble, to us is made easy. Rapid, safe, and easy communication between the Atlantic and the Pacific will give cointelligence, unity of interest, and cooeperation among all parts of our continent-wide republic. The network of railroads which bind the North and the South, the slope of the Atlantic and the valley of the Mississippi, together, testifies that our people have the power to perform, in that regard, whatever it is their will to achieve.
We require a railroad to the States of the Pacific for present uses; the time no doubt will come when we shall have need of two or three, it may be more. Because of the desert character of the interior country, the work will be difficult and expensive. It will require the efforts of a united people. The bickerings of little politicians, the jealousies of sections, must give way to dignity of purpose and zeal for the common good. If the object be obstructed by contention and division as to whether the route shall be Northern, Southern, or central, the handwriting is on the wall, and it requires little skill to see that failure is the interpretation of the inscription. You are practical people, and may ask, How is that contest to be avoided? By taking the question out of the hands of politicians altogether. Let the Government give such aid as it is proper for it to render to the company which shall propose the most feasible plan; then leave to capitalists, with judgments sharpened by interest, the selection of the route, and the difficulties will diminish, as did those which you overcame when you connected your harbor with the Canadian provinces.
It would be to trespass on your kindness, and to violate the proprieties of the occasion, were I to detain the vast concourse which stands before me, by entering on the discussion of controverted topics, or by further indulging in the expression of such reflections as circumstances suggest. I came to your city in quest of health and repose. From the moment I entered it you have showered upon me kindness and hospitality. Though my experience has taught me to anticipate good rather than evil from my fellow-man, it had not prepared me to expect such unremitting attentions as have here been bestowed. I have been jocularly asked in relation to my coming here, whether I had secured a guarantee for my safety, and lo! I have found it. I stand in the midst of thousands of my fellow-citizens. But, my friends, I came neither distrusting nor apprehensive....
In the autumn of 1858 Mr. Davis visited Boston, and was invited to address a public meeting at Faneuil Hall. He was introduced by the Hon. Caleb Cushing, with whom he had been four years associated in the Cabinet of President Pierce. Mr. Cushing's speech, on account of its great merit, is inserted here, except some complimentary portions of it.
Mr. President—Fellow Citizens: I present myself before you at the instance of your chairman, not so much in order to occupy your time with observations of my own, as to prepare you for that higher gratification which you are to receive from the remarks of the eminent man here present to address you in the course of the evening. I will briefly and only suggest to you such reflections as are appropriate to that duty.
We are assembled here, my friends, at the call of the Democratic ward and county committee of Suffolk, for the purpose of ratifying the nominations made at the late Democratic State Convention—the nomination of our distinguished and honored fellow-citizen [Hon. Erasmus D. Beach] who has already addressed to you the words of wisdom and of patriotism; as also the nomination of others of our fellow-citizens, whom—if we may—we ought, whom the welfare and the honor of our Commonwealth demand of us, to place in power in the stead of the existing authorities of the Commonwealth. I would to God it were in our power to say with confidence that shall be done! ["It can be done."] We do say that it shall not depend upon us that it shall not be done. We do say that in so far as depends upon us it shall be done; and whatsoever devoted love of our country and our Commonwealth; whatsoever of our noble and holy principles; whatsoever desire to vindicate our Commonwealth from the stain that has so long rested upon the name may prompt us to do, that we will do, leaving the result to the good providence of God.
I say we are invited here by the ward and county committee to ratify these nominations, and we do ratify them with our whole heart. And we pledge our most earnest efforts at the polls to give success to these nominations. That call is comprehensive; it is addressed not only to Democrats, but to all national men, and so it should be. We know full well that there are multitudes of men in this Commonwealth who oppose the Democratic party, but who are yet impelled toward us by sympathy for the principles we profess, and by the repulsion they have toward the opinions and purposes of the leaders of the Republican party. They sympathize with our principles, and we invite them to cooeperate with us in the maintenance of the principles of the Constitution and in the vindication of the Commonwealth—all national men, whatsoever may have been their past party affinities. But, while we do so, we declare that it is our belief that the Democratic party is now recognized as that only existing national party in the United States—the only constitutional party—the only party which by its present principles is competent to govern these United States, whose principles are based upon the Constitution—the only party with a platform coextensive with this great Union—this is the great Democratic party. I have heard again and again, remonstrances have been addressed to me more than once, because of the condemnation which Democratic speakers so continually utter about the unnationality as well as the unconstitutionality of the Republican party.
Let us reflect a moment; let us recall to mind that the honor of the existing organization of this Federal Administration was by the votes of the people of these United States sustained when James Buchanan was nominated for the Presidency, and that he is a worthy representative of the Democratic party. Let us reflect also that John C. Fremont was nominated as the candidate of the Republican party. I pray you, gentlemen, to reflect upon the different methods by which these nominations were presented to the people of the United States. On the one hand, there assembled at the Democratic Convention, at Cincinnati, the delegates of every one of the States in the Union. That Convention was national in its constitution, national in its character, national in its purpose, and cordially presented to the suffrages of the people of the United States a national candidate, a candidate of the whole United States; and that candidate was elected not by the votes of one section of the Union alone, or another section of the Union alone, but by the concurrent votes of the South and the North.
How was it on the other side? On the other side there assembled a convention which, by the very tenor of its call, was confined to sixteen of the thirty-one States of the Union, which, by the very tenor of its call, excluded from its councils fifteen of the thirty-one States of the Union, a convention in which appeared the representatives of only sixteen of the States of the Union—nay, I mistake—as to the remaining fifteen States of the Union, in their name, pretendedly in their name and their behalf, there appeared one man—one man only—and he a self-appointed delegate by pretension from the State of Maryland. That was the Convention which presented John C. Fremont to the people of the United States. I say that was a sectional Convention, a sectional nomination, a sectional party; and no reasoning, no remonstrances, no protestations, can discharge the Republican party from the ineffaceable stigma of that sectional Convention, that sectional nomination, and that sectional candidate for the suffrages of the United States. That party itself has placed upon its back that shirt of Nessus which clings to it and stings it to death. I repeat, then, and I say it in confidence and vindication, in so far as regards my own belief, I say it in all good spirit toward multitudes of men in this Commonwealth of the Whig and American parties in their heretofore organization; I say it to multitudes of men who have been betrayed by the passions of the hour into joining the sectional combinations of the Republican party; I say that in the Democratic party and in that alone is the tower of strength for the liberties, the position, and the honor of the United States. But why need I indulge in these reflections in proof of my proposition? Gentlemen, we have here this evening the living proof, the visible, tangible, audible, incontestable, immortal proof, that the position of the Democratic party, in the existing organization of parties, is the national, constitutional party of the United States. Gentlemen, I ask you to challenge your memories, and look upon the history of the past four years of the United States, and can you point me to a Republican assembly here, in the city of Boston, or anywhere else; can you point me in the last four years of our history to any occasion on which Faneuil Hall has been crowded to its utmost capability with a Republican assembly in which appeared any one of those preeminent statesmen of the Southern States to honor not merely their States, but these United States? When, sir, did that ever happen? When, sir, was that a possible fact, morally speaking, that any eminent Southern statesman appeared in a Republican assembly in any one of the States of this Union? There never was a Republican assembly—an assembly of the Republican party in fifteen of these States—and I again ask, when, in the remaining sixteen States, was there ever convened an assembly of the Republican party which, by reason of bigotry, proscriptive bigotry, of unnational hatred of the South, and of determined insult of all Southern statesmen, did not render it an impossible fact that any Southern statesman should thus make his appearance as a member in such Republican Convention? You know it is so, gentlemen; and yet, have we not a common country? Did those thirteen colonies which, commencing with that combat at Concord, and following it with that battle at Bunker's Hill, and pursuing it in every battlefield of this continent, did those thirteen colonies form one country or thirteen countries? Nay, did they form two countries, or one country? I would imagine when I listen to a Republican speech here in the State of Massachusetts, when I read a Republican address in Massachusetts, I would imagine fifteen States of this Union—our fellow-citizens or fellow-sufferers, our fellow-heroes of the Revolution—I would imagine not that they are our countrymen endeared to us by ties of consanguinity, but that they are from some foreign country, that they belong to some French or British or Mexican enemies. There never was a day in which the forces of war were marshaled against the most flagrant abuses toward these United States; there never was a war in which these United States have been engaged, never even in the death-struggle of the Revolution, never in our war for maritime independence, never in our war with France and Mexico, never was there a time when any party in these United States expressed, avowed, proclaimed, ostentatiously proclaimed more intense hostility to the British, French, Mexican enemy, than I have heard uttered or proclaimed concerning our fellow-citizens—brothers in the fifteen States of this Union. It is the glory of the Democratic party that we can assume the burden of our nationality for the Union; that we can make all due sacrifices in order to show our reprobation of sectionalism, that we of the North can sacrifice to the South, from dear attachment to our fellow-citizens of the South, and they in the South in like manner meet with us upon that ground, in order to show their love for the Federal Union, and at the risk of encountering local prejudices. In the Democratic party alone, as parties are now organized, is this catholic, generous, universal spirit to be found. I say, then, the Democratic party has such a character of constitutionality and of nationality.
And now, gentlemen, I have allowed myself unthinkingly to be carried beyond my original purpose. I return to it to remind you that here among us is a citizen of one of the Southern States, eloquent among the most eloquent in debate, wise among the wisest in council, and brave among the bravest in the battle-field. A citizen of a Southern State who knows that he can associate with you, the representatives of the Democracy and the nationality of Massachusetts, that he can associate with you on equal footing with the fellow-citizens and common members of these United States.
My friends, there are those here present, and in fact there is no one here present of whom it can not be said that, in memory and admiration at least, and if not in the actual fact, yet in proud and bounding memory, they have been able to tread the glorious tracks of the victorious achievements of Jefferson Davis on the fields of Monterey and Buena Vista, and all have heard or have read the accents of eloquence addressed by him to the Senate of the United States; and there is one at least who, from his own personal observation, can bear witness to the fact of the surpassing wisdom of Jefferson Davis in the administration of the Government of the United States. Such a man, fellow-citizens, you are this evening to hear, and to hear as a beautiful illustration of the working of our republican institutions of these United States; of the republican institutions which in our own country, our own republic, as in the old republics of Athens and of Rome, exhibit the same combinations of the highest military and civic qualities in the same person. It must naturally be so, for in a republic every citizen is a soldier, and every soldier a citizen. Not in these United States on the occurrence of foreign war is that spectacle exhibited which we have so recently seen in our mother-country, of the administration of the country going abroad begging and stealing soldiers throughout Europe and America. No! And while I ask you, my friends, to ponder this fact in relation to that disastrous struggle of giants which so recently occurred in our day—the Crimean War—I ask you whether any English gentleman, any member of the British House of Commons, any member of the British House of Peers, abandoned the ease of home, abandoned his easy hours at home, and went into the country among his friends, tenants, and fellow-countrymen, volunteering there to raise troops for the service of England in that hour of her peril; did any such fact occur? No! But here in these United States we had examples, and illustrious ones, of the fact that men, eminent in their place in Congress, abandoned their stations and their honors to go among fellow-citizens of their own States, and there raise troops with which to vindicate the honor and the flag of their country. Of such men was Jefferson Davis.
There is now living one military man of prominent distinction in the public eye of England and the United States—I mean Sir Colin Campbell, now Lord Clyde of Clydesdale. He deserves the distinction he enjoys, for he has redeemed the British flag on the ensanguined, burning plains of India. He has restored the glory of the British name in Asia. I honor him. Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland are open, for their counties, as well as their countries, and their poets, orators, and statesmen, and their generals, belong to our history as well as theirs. I will never disavow Henry V on the plains of Agincourt; never Oliver Cromwell on the fields of Marston Moor and Naseby; never Sarsfield on the banks of the Boyne. The glories and honors of Sir Colin Campbell are the glories of the British race, and the races of Great Britain and Ireland, from whom we are descended.
But what gained Sir Colin Campbell the opportunity to achieve those glorious results in India? Remember that, and let us see what it was. On one of those bloody battles fought by the British before the fortress of Sebastopol, in the midst of the perils, the most perilous of all the battle-fields England ever encountered in Europe, in one of the bloody charges of the Russian cavalry, there was an officer—a man who felt and who possessed sufficient confidence in the troops he commanded, and in the authority of his own voice and example—received that charge not in the ordinary, commonplace, and accustomed manner, by forming his troops into a hollow square, and thus arresting the charge, but by forming into two diverging lines, and thus receiving upon the rifles of his Highlandmen the charge of the Russian cavalry and repelling it. How all England rang with the glory of that achievement! How the general voice of England placed upon the brows of Sir Colin Campbell the laurels of the future mastership of victory for the arms of England! And well they might do so. But who originated that movement; who set the example of that gallant operation—who but Colonel Jefferson Davis, of the First Mississippi Regiment, on the field of Buena Vista? He was justly entitled to the applause of the restorer of victory to the arms of the Union. Gentlemen, in our country, in this day, such a man, such a master of the art of war, so daring in the field, such a man may not only aspire to the highest places in the executive government of the Union, but such a man may acquire what nowhere else, since the days of Cimon and Miltiades, of the Cincinnati and the Cornelii of Athens and of Rome, has been done by the human race, the combination of eminent powers, of intellectual cultivation, and of eloquence with the practical, qualities of a statesman and general.
But, gentlemen, I am again betrayed beyond my purpose. Sir [addressing General Davis], we welcome you to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You may not find here the ardent skies of your own sunny South, but you will find as ardent hearts, as warm and generous hands to welcome you to our Commonwealth. We welcome you to the city of Boston, and you have already experienced how open-hearted, how generous, how free from all possible taint of sectional thought are the hospitality and cordiality of the city of Boston. We welcome you to Faneuil Hall. Many an eloquent voice has in all times resounded from the walls of Faneuil Hall. It is said that no voice is uttered by man in this air we breathe but enters into that air. It continues there immortal as the portion of the universe into which it has passed. If it be so, how instinct is Faneuil Hall with the voice of the great, good, and glorious of past generations, and of our own, whose voices have echoed through its walls, whose eloquent words have thrilled the hearts of hearers, as if a pointed sword were passing them through and through. Here Adams aroused his countrymen in the War of Independence, and Webster invoked them almost with the dying breath of his body—invoked with that voice of majesty and power which he alone possessed—invoked them to a union between the North and South. Ay, sir, and who, if he were here present, who from those blest abodes on high from which he looks down upon us would congratulate us for this scene. First, and above all, because his large heart would have appreciated the spectacle of a statesman eminent among the most eminent of the Southern States here addressing an assembly of the people in the city of Boston. Because, in the second place, he would have remembered that, though divided from you by party relations, in one of the critical hours of his fame and his honor, your voice was not wanting for his vindication in the Congress of the United States. Sir, again, I say we welcome you to Faneuil Hall.
And now, my fellow-citizens, I will withdraw myself and present to you the Hon. Jefferson Davis.
Address of Jefferson Davis, at Faneuil Hall, Boston, October 12, 1858.
Countrymen, Brethren, Democrats: Most happy am I to meet you, and to have received here renewed assurance—of that which I have so long believed—that the pulsation of the Democratic heart is the same in every parallel of latitude, on every meridian of longitude, throughout the United States. It required not this to confirm me in a belief I have so long and so happily enjoyed. Your own great statesman [the Hon. Caleb Cushing], who has introduced me to this assembly, has been too long associated with me, too nearly connected, we have labored too many hours, until one day ran into another, in the cause of our country, for me to fail to understand that a Massachusetts Democrat has a heart as wide as the Union, and that its pulsations always beat for the liberty and happiness of his country. Neither could I be unaware that such was the sentiment of the Democracy of New England. For it was my fortune lately to serve under a President drawn from the neighboring State of New Hampshire, and I know that he spoke the language of his heart, for I learned it in four years of intimate relations with him, when he said he knew "no North, no South, no East, no West, but sacred maintenance of the common bond and true devotion to the common brotherhood." Never, sir, in the past history of our country, never, I add, in its future destiny, however bright it may be, did or will a man of higher and purer patriotism, a man more devoted to the common weal of his country, hold the helm of our great ship of state, than Franklin Pierce.
I have heard the resolutions read and approved by this meeting; I have heard the address of your candidate for Governor; and these, added to the address of my old and intimate friend, General Cushing, bear to me fresh testimony, which I shall be happy to carry away with me, that the Democracy, in the language of your own glorious Webster, "still lives"; lives, not as his great spirit did, when it hung 'twixt life and death, like a star upon the horizon's verge, but lives like the germ that is shooting upward; like the sapling that is growing to a mighty tree, and I trust it may redeem Massachusetts to her glorious place in the Union, when she led the van of the defenders of State rights.
When I see Faneuil Hall thus thronged it reminds me of another meeting, when it was found too small to contain the assembly that met here, on the call of the people, to know what should be done in relation to the tea-tax, and when, Faneuil Hall being too small, they went to the old South Church, which still stands a monument of your early day. I hope the time will soon come when many Democratic meetings in Boston will be too large for Faneuil Hall. I am welcomed to this hall, so venerable for all the associations of our early history; to this hall of which you are so justly proud, and the memories of which are part of the inheritance of every American citizen; and I felt, as I looked upon it, and remembered how many voices of patriotic fervor have filled it—how here the first movement originated from which the Revolution sprang; how here began the system of town meetings and free discussion—that, though my theme was more humble than theirs, as befitted my humbler powers, I had enough to warn me that I was assuming much to speak in this sacred chamber. But, when I heard your distinguished orator say that words uttered here could never die, that they lived and became a part of the circumambient air, I feel a hesitation which increases upon me with the remembrance of his expressions. But, if those voices which breathed the first impulse into the colonies—now the United States—to proclaim independence, and to unite for resistance against the power of the mother-country—if those voices live here still, how must they fare who come here to preach treason to the Constitution and to assail the union of these States? It would seem that their criminal hearts would fear that those voices, so long slumbering, would break silence, that those forms which hang upon these walls behind me might come forth, and that the sabers so long sheathed would leap from their scabbards to drive from this sacred temple those who desecrate it as did the money-changers who sold doves in the temple of the living God.
Here you have, to remind you, and to remind all who enter this hall, the portraits of those men who are dear to every lover of liberty, and part and parcel of the memory of every American citizen; and highest among them all I see you have placed Samuel Adams and John Hancock. You have placed them the highest, and properly; for they were two, the only two, excepted from the proclamation of mercy, when Governor Gage issued his anathema against them and against their fellow-patriots. These men, thus excepted from the saving grace of the crown, now occupy the highest places in Faneuil Hall, and thus seem to be the highest in the reverence of the people of Boston. This is one of the instances in which we find tradition so much more reliable than history; for tradition has borne the name of Samuel Adams to the remotest of the colonies, and the new States formed out of what was territory of the old colonies; and there it is a name as sacred among us as it is among you.
We all remember how early he saw the necessity of community independence. How, through the dim mists of the future, and in advance of his day, he looked forward to the proclamation of the independence of Massachusetts; how he steadily strove, through good report and evil report, with a great, unwavering heart, whether in the midst of his fellow-citizens, cheered by their voices, or communing with his own heart, when driven from his home, his eyes were still fixed upon his first, last hope, the community independence of Massachusetts! Always a commanding figure, we see him, at a later period, the leader in the correspondence which waked the feelings of the other colonies to united fraternal association—the people of Massachusetts with the people of the other colonies—there we see his letters acknowledging the receipt of rice of South Carolina, and the money of New York and Pennsylvania—all these poured in to relieve Boston of the sufferings inflicted upon her when the port was closed by the despotism of the British crown—we see the beginning of that which insured the cooeperation of the colonies throughout the desperate struggle of the Revolution. And we there see that which, if the present generation be true to the memory of their sires, to the memory of the noble men from whom they descended, will perpetuate for them that spirit of fraternity in which the Union began. But it is not here alone, nor in reminiscences connected with the objects which present themselves within this hall, that the people of Boston have much to excite their patriotism and carry them back to the great principles of the Revolutionary struggle. Where will you go and not meet some monument to inspire such sentiments? Go to Lexington and Concord, where sixty brave countrymen came with their fowling-pieces to oppose six hundred veterans—where they forced those veterans back, pursuing them on the road, fighting from every barn, and bush, and stock, and stone, till they drove them, retreating, to the ships from which they went forth! And there stand those monuments of your early patriotism, Breed's and Bunker's Hills, whose soil drank the martyr-blood of men who lived for their country and died for mankind! Can it be that any of you should tread that soil and forget the great purposes for which those men died? While, on the other side, rise the heights of Dorchester, where once stood the encampment of the Virginian, the man who came here, and did not ask, Is this a town of Virginia? but, Is this a town of my brethren? The steady courage and cautious wisdom of Washington availed to drive the British troops out from the city which they had so confidently held. Here, too, you find where once the old Liberty Tree, connected with so many of your memories, grew. You ask your legend, and learn that it was cut down for firewood by British soldiers, as some of your meeting-houses were destroyed; they burned the old tree, and it warmed the soldiers long enough to leave town, and, had they burned it a little longer, its light would have shown Washington and his followers where their enemies were.
But they are gone, and never again shall a hostile foot set its imprint upon your soil. Your harbor is being fortified, to prevent an unexpected attack on your city by a hostile fleet. But woe to the enemy whose fleet shall bear him to your shores to set his footprint upon your soil; he goes to a prison or to a grave! American fortifications are not built from any fear of invasion, they are intended to guard points where marine attacks can be made; and, for the rest, the hearts of Americans are our ramparts.
But, my friends, it is not merely in these associations, so connected with the honorable pride of Massachusetts, that one who visits Boston finds much for gratification, hope, and instruction. If I were selecting a place where the advocate of strict construction, the extreme expounder of democratic State-rights doctrine should go for his texts, I would send him into the collections of your historical associations. Instead of going to Boston as a place where only consolidation would be found, he would find written, in letters of living light, that sacred creed of State rights which has been miscalled the ultra opinions of the South; he could find among your early records that this Faneuil Hall, the property of the town at the time when Massachusetts was under a colonial government, administered by a man appointed by the British crown, guarded by British soldiers, was refused to a British Governor in which to hold a British festival, because he was going to bring with him the agents for collecting, and naval officers sent here to enforce, an oppressive tax upon your Commonwealth. Such was the proud spirit of independence manifested even in your colonial history. Such is the great foundation-stone on which may be erected an eternal monument of State rights. And so, in an early period of our country, you find Massachusetts leading the movements, prominent of all the States, in the assertion of that doctrine which has been recently so much belied. Having achieved your independence, having passed through the Confederation, you assented to the formation of our present constitutional Union. You did not surrender your sovereignty. Your fathers had sacrificed too much to claim, as a reward of their toil, merely that they should have a change of masters; and a change of masters it would have been had Massachusetts surrendered her State sovereignty to the central Government, and consented that that central Government should have the power to coerce a State. But, if this power does not exist, if this sovereignty has not been surrendered, then, who can deny the words of soberness and truth spoken by your candidate this evening, when he has pleaded to you the cause of State independence, and the right of every community to be judge of its own domestic affairs? This is all we have ever asked—we of the South, I mean—for I stand before you as one of those who have always been called the ultra men of the South, and I speak, therefore, for that class; and I tell you that your candidate for Governor has uttered to-night everything which we have claimed as a principle for our protection. And I have found the same condition of things in the neighboring State of Maine. I have found that the Democrats there asserted the same broad constitutional principle for which we have been contending, by which we are willing to live, for which we are willing to die!
In this state of the case, my friends, why is the country agitated? The old controversies have passed away, or they have subsided, and have been covered up by one dark pall of somber hue, which increases with every passing year. Why is it, then, I say, that you are thus agitated in relation to the domestic affairs of other communities? Why is it that the peace of the country is disturbed in order that one people may judge of what another people may do? Is there any political power to authorize such interference? If so, where is it? You did not surrender your sovereignty. You gave to the Federal Government certain functions. It was your agent, created for specified purposes. It can do nothing save that which you have given it power to perform. Where is the grant? Has it a right to determine what shall be property? Surely not; that belongs to every community to decide for itself; you judge in your case—every other State must judge in its case. The Federal Government has no power to destroy property. Do you pay taxes, then, to an agent, that he may destroy your property? Do you support him for that purpose? It is an absurdity on the face of it. To ask the question is to answer it. The Government is instituted to protect, not to destroy, property. And, in abundance of caution, your fathers provided that the Federal Government should not take private property for its own use unless by making due compensation therefor. It is prohibited from attempting to destroy property. One of its great purposes was protection to the States. Whenever that power is made a source of danger, we destroy the purpose for which the Government was formed.
Why, then, have you agitators? With Pharisaical pretension it is sometimes said it is a moral obligation to agitate, and I suppose they are going through a sort of vicarious repentance for other men's sins. With all due allowance for their zeal, we ask, how do they decide that it is a sin? By what standard do they measure it? Not the Constitution; the Constitution recognizes the property in slaves in many forms, and imposes obligations in connection with that recognition. Not the Bible; that justifies it. Not the good of society; for, if they go where it exists, they find that society recognizes it as good. What, then, is their standard? The good of mankind? Is that seen in the diminished resources of the country? Is that seen in the diminished comfort of the world? Or is not the reverse exhibited? Is there, in the cause of Christianity, a motive for the prohibition of the system which is the only agency through which Christianity has reached that inferior race, the only means by which they have been civilized and elevated? Or is their piety manifested in denunciation of their brethren, who are deterred from answering their denunciation only by the contempt which they feel for a mere brawler, who intends to end his brawling only in empty words?
What, my friends, must be the consequences? Good or evil? They have been evil, and evil they must be only to the end. Not one particle of good has been done to any man, of any color, by this agitation. It has been insidiously working the purpose of sedition, for the destruction of that Union on which our hopes of future greatness depend.
On the one side, then, you see agitation tending slowly and steadily to that separation of States, which, if you have any hope connected with the liberty of mankind; if you have any national pride connected with making your country the greatest on the face of the earth; if you have any sacred regard for the obligations which the deeds and the blood of your fathers entailed upon you, that hope should prompt you to reject anything that would tend to destroy the result of that experiment which they left it to you to conclude and perpetuate. On the other hand, if each community, in accordance with the principles of our Government, should regard its domestic interests as a part of the common whole, and struggle for the benefit of all, this would steadily lead us to fraternity, to unity, to cooeperation, to the increase of our happiness and the extension of the benefits of our useful example over mankind. The flag of the Union, whose stars have already more than doubled their original number, with its ample folds may wave, the recognized flag of every State or the recognized protector of every State upon the Continent of America.
In connection with the view which I have presented of the early idea of community independence, I will add the very striking fact that one of the colonies, about the time they had resolved to unite for the purpose of achieving their independence, addressed the Colonial Congress to know in what condition it would be in the interval between its separation from the Government of Great Britain and the establishment of a government on this continent. The answer of the Colonial Congress was exactly what might have been expected—exactly what State-rights Democracy would answer to-day to such an inquiry—that they "had nothing to do with it." If such sentiment had continued, if it had governed in every State, if representatives had been chosen upon it, then your halls of Federal legislation would not have been disturbed about the question of the domestic institutions of the different States. The peace of the country would not be hazarded by the arraignment of the family relations of people over whom the Government has no control. If in harmony working together, with co-intelligence for the conservation of the interests of the country—if protection to the States and the other great ends for which the Government was established, had been the aim and united effort of all—what effects would not have been produced? As our Government increases in expansion it would increase in its beneficent effect upon the people; we should, as we grow in power and prosperity, also grow in fraternity, and it would be no longer a wonder to see a man coming from a Southern State to address a Democratic audience in Boston.
But I have referred to the fact that Massachusetts stood preeminently forward among those who asserted community independence: and this reminds me of another incident. President Washington visited Boston when John Hancock was Governor, and Hancock refused to call upon the President, because he contended that any man who came within the limits of Massachusetts must yield rank and precedence to the Governor of the State. He eventually only surrendered the point on account of his personal regard and respect for the character of George Washington. I honor him for this, and value it as one of the early testimonies in favor of State rights. I wish all our Governors had the same regard for the dignity of the State as had the great and glorious John Hancock.
In the beginning the founders of this Government were true democratic State-rights men. Democracy was State rights, and State rights was democracy, and it is so to-day. Your resolutions breathe it. The Declaration of Independence embodied the sentiments which had lived in the hearts of the country for many years before its formal assertion. Our fathers asserted the great principle—the right of the people to choose their own government—and that government rested upon the consent of the governed. In every form of expression it uttered the same idea, community independence and the dependence of the Union upon the communities of which it consisted. It was an American declaration of the unalienable right of man; it was a general truth, and I wish it were accepted by all men. But I have said that this State sovereignty—this community independence—has never been surrendered, and that there is no power in the Federal Government to coerce a State. Will any one ask me, then, how a State is to be held to the fulfillment of its obligations? My answer is, by its honor. The obligation is the more sacred to observe every feature of the compact, because there is no power to enforce it. The great error of the Confederation was, that it attempted to act upon the States. It was found impracticable, and our present form of government was adopted, which acts upon individuals, and is not designed to act upon States. The question of State coercion was raised in the Convention which framed the Constitution, and, after discussion, the proposition to give power to the General Government to enforce against any State obedience to the laws was rejected. It is upon the ground that a State can not be coerced that observance of the compact is a sacred obligation. It was upon this principle that our fathers depended for the perpetuity of a fraternal Union, and for the security of the rights that the Constitution was designed to preserve. The fugitive slave compact in the Constitution of the United States implied that the States should fulfill it voluntarily. They expected the States to legislate so as to secure the rendition of fugitives; and in 1778 it was a matter of complaint that the Spanish colony of Florida did not restore fugitive negroes from the United States who escaped into that colony, and a committee, composed of Hamilton, of New York, Sedgwick, of Massachusetts, and Mason, of Virginia, reported resolutions in the Congress, instructing the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to address the charge d'affaires at Madrid to apply to his Majesty of Spain to issue orders to his governor to compel them to secure the rendition of fugitive negroes. This was the sentiment of the committee, and they added, also, that the States would return any slaves from Florida who might escape into their limits.
When the constitutional obligation was imposed, who could have doubted that every State, faithful to its obligations, would comply with the requirements of the Constitution, and waive all questions as to whether the institution should or should not exist in another community over which they had no control? Congress was at last forced to legislate on the subject, and they have continued, up to a recent period, to legislate, and this has been one of the causes by which you have been disturbed. You have been called upon to make war against a law which need never to have been enacted, if each State had done the duty which she was called upon by the Constitution to perform.
Gentlemen, this presents one phase of agitation—negro agitation: there is another and graver question, it is in relation to the prohibition by Congress of the introduction of slave property into the Territories. What power does Congress possess in this connection? Has it the right to say what shall be property anywhere? If it has, from what clause of the Constitution does it derive that power? Have other States the power to prescribe the condition upon which a citizen of another State shall enter upon and enjoy territory—common property of all? Clearly not. Shall the inhabitants who first go into the Territory deprive any citizen of the United States of those rights which belong to him as an equal owner of the soil? Certainly not. Sovereign jurisdiction can only pass to these inhabitants when the States, the owners of that Territory shall recognize their right to become an equal member of the Union. Until then, the Constitution and the laws of the Union must be the rule governing within the limits of a Territory.
The Constitution recognizes all property, and gives equal privileges to every citizen of the States; and it would be a violation of its fundamental principles to attempt any discrimination.
There is nothing of truth or justice with which to sustain this agitation, or ground for it, unless it be that it is a very good bridge over which to pass into office; a little stock of trade in politics built up to aid men who are missionaries staying at home; reformers of things which they do not go to learn; preachers without a congregation; overseers without laborers and without wages; war-horses who snuff the battle afar off and cry: "Aha! aha! I am afar off."
Thus it is that the peace of the Union is disturbed; thus it is that brother is arrayed against brother; thus it is that the people come to consider not how they can promote each other's interests, but how they may successfully war upon them. And among the things most odious to my mind is to find a man who enters upon a public office, under the sanction of the Constitution, and taking an oath to support the Constitution—the compact between the States binding each for the common defense and general welfare of the other—and retaining to himself a mental reservation that he will war upon the institutions and the property of any of the States of the Union. It is a crime too low to characterize as it deserves before this assembly. It is one which would disgrace a gentleman—one which a man with self-respect would never commit. To swear that he will support the Constitution, to take an office which belongs in many of its relations to all the States, and to use it as a means of injuring a portion of the States of whom he is thus an agent, is treason to everything that is honorable in man. It is the base and cowardly attack of him who gains the confidence of another in order that he may wound him. But I have often heard it argued, and I have seen it published: I have seen a petition that was circulated for signers, announcing that there was an incompatibility between the different sections of the Union; that it had been tried long enough, and that they must get rid of those sections in which the curse of slavery existed. Ah! those sages, so much wiser than our fathers, have found out that there is incompatibility in that which existed when the Union was formed. They have found an incompatibility inconsistent with union, in that which existed when South Carolina sent her rice to Boston, and Maryland and Pennsylvania and New York brought in their funds for her relief. The fact is that, from that day to this, the difference between the people of the colonies has been steadily diminishing, and the possible advantages of union in no small degree augmented. The variety of product of soil and of climate has been multiplied, both by the expansion of our country and by the introduction of new tropical products not cultivated at that time; so that every motive to union which your fathers had, in a diversity which should give prosperity to the country, exists in a higher degree to-day than when this Union was formed, and this diversity is fundamental to the prosperity of the people of the several sections of the country.
It is, however, to-day, in sentiment and interest, less than on the day when the Declaration of Independence was made. Diversity there is—diversity of character—but it is not of that extreme kind which proves incompatibility; for your Massachusetts man, when he comes into Mississippi, adopts our opinions and our institutions, and frequently becomes the most extreme man among us. As our country has extended, as new products have been introduced into it, this Union and the free trade that belongs to it have been of increasing value. And I say, moreover, that it is not an unfortunate circumstance that this diversity of pursuit and character still remains. Originally it sprang in no small degree from natural causes. Massachusetts became a manufacturing and commercial State because of her fine harbors—because of her water-power, making its last leap into the sea, so that the ship of commerce brought the staple to the manufacturing power. This made you a commercial and a manufacturing people. In the Southern States great plains interpose between the last leaps of the streams and the sea. Those plains were cultivated in staple crops, and the sea brought their products to your streams to be manufactured. This was the first beginning of the differences.
Then your longer and more severe winters, your soil not so favorable for agriculture, in a degree kept you a manufacturing and a commercial people. Even after the cause had passed away—after railroads had been built—after the steam-engine had become a motive power for a large part of manufacturing machinery, the natural causes from which your people obtained a manufacturing ascendancy and ours became chiefly agriculturists continued to act in a considerable measure to preserve that relation. Your interest is to remain a manufacturing, and ours to remain an agricultural people. Your prosperity, then, is to receive our staple and to manufacture it, and ours to sell it to you and buy the manufactured goods. This is an interweaving of interests which makes us all the richer and happier.
But this accursed agitation, this intermeddling with the affairs of other people, is that alone which will promote a desire in the mind of any one to separate these great and glorious States. The seeds of dissension may be sown by invidious reflections. Men may be goaded by the constant attempts to infringe upon rights and to disturb tranquillity, and in the resentment which follows it is not possible to tell how far the wave may rush. I therefore plead to you now to arrest a fanaticism which has been evil in the beginning and must be evil in the end. You may not have the numerical power requisite; and those at a distance may not understand how many of you there are desirous to put a stop to the course of this agitation. For me, I have learned since I have been in New England the vast mass of true State-rights Democrats to be found within its limits—though not represented in the halls of Congress. And if it comes to the worst—if, availing themselves of a majority in the two Houses of Congress, they should attempt to trample upon the Constitution; if they should attempt to violate the rights of the States; if they should attempt to infringe upon our equality in the Union—I believe that even in Massachusetts, though it has not had a representative in Congress for many a day, the State-rights Democracy, in whose breasts beats the spirit of the Revolution, can and will whip the black Republicans. I trust we shall never be thus purified, as it were, by fire; but that the peaceful, progressive revolution of the ballot-box will answer all the glorious purposes of the Constitution and the Union. And I marked that the distinguished orator and statesman who preceded me, in addressing you, used the words "national" and "constitutional" in such relation to each other as to show that in his mind the one was a synonym of the other. I say so: we became national by the Constitution, the bond for uniting the States, and national and constitutional are convertible terms.
Your candidate for the high office of Governor—whom I have been once or twice on the point of calling Governor, and whom I hope I may be able soon to call so—in his remarks to you has presented the same idea in another form. And well may Massachusetts orators, without even perceiving what they are saying, utter sentiments which lie at the foundation of your colonial as well as your subsequent political history, which existed in Massachusetts before the Revolution, and have existed ever since, whenever the true spirit which comes down from the Revolutionary sires has swelled and found utterance within her limits.
It has been not only, my friends, in this increasing and mutual dependence of interest that we have found new ties to you. Those bonds are both material and mental. Every improvement or invention, every construction of a railroad, has formed a new reason for our being one. Every new achievement, whether it has been in arts or science, in war or in manufactures, has constituted for us a new bond and a new sentiment holding us together.
Why, then, I would ask, do we see these lengthened shadows which follow in the course of our political history? Is it because our sun is declining to the horizon? Are they the shadows of evening, or are they, as I hopefully believe, but the mists which are exhaled by the sun as it rises, but which are to be dispersed by its meridian glory? Are they but the little evanishing clouds that flit between the people and the great objects for which the Constitution was established? I hopefully look toward the reaction which will establish the fact that our sun is still in the ascendant—that that cloud which has so long covered our political horizon is to be dispersed—that we are not again to be divided on parallels of latitude and about the domestic institutions of States—a sectional attack on the prosperity and tranquillity of a nation—but only by differences in opinion upon measures of expediency, upon questions of relative interest, by discussions as to the powers of the States and the rights of the States, and the powers of the Federal Government—such discussion as is commemorated in this picture of your own great and glorious Webster, when he specially addressed our best, most tried, and greatest man, the pure and incorruptible Calhoun, represented as intently listening to catch the accents of eloquence that fell from his lips. Those giants strove each for his conviction, not against a section—not against each other; they stood to each other in the relation of personal affection and esteem, and never did I see Mr. Webster so agitated, never did I hear his voice falter, as when he delivered the eulogy on John C. Calhoun.
But allusion was made to my own connection with your great and favorite departed statesman. Of that I will only say, on this occasion, that very early in my Congressional life Mr. Webster was arraigned for an offense which affected him most deeply. He was no accountant, and all knew that. He was arraigned on a pecuniary charge—the misapplication of what is known as the secret-service fund—and I was one of the committee that had to investigate the charge. I endeavored to do justice. I endeavored to examine the evidence with a view to ascertain the truth. It is true I remembered that he was an eminent American statesman. It is true that as an American I hoped he would come out without a stain upon his garments. But I entered upon the investigation to find the truth and to do justice. The result was, he was acquitted of every charge that was made against him, and it was equally my pride and my pleasure to vindicate him in every form which lay within my power. No one that knew Daniel Webster could have believed that he would ever ask whether a charge was made against a Massachusetts man or a Mississippian. No! It belonged to a lower, to a later, and I trust a shorter-lived race of statesmen, who measure all facts by considerations of latitude and longitude.
I honor that sentiment which makes us oftentimes too confident, and to despise too much the danger of that agitation which disturbs the peace of the country. I respect that feeling which regards the Union as too strong to be broken. But, at the same time, in sober judgment, it will not do to treat too lightly the danger which has existed and still exists. I have heard our Constitution and Union compared to the granite shores which face the sea, and, dashing back the foam of the waves, stand unmoved by their fury. Now I accept the simile: and I have stood upon the shore, and I have seen the waves of the sea dash upon the granite of your own shores which frowns over the ocean, have seen the spray thrown back from the cliffs. But, when the tide had ebbed, I saw that the rock was seamed and worn; and, when the tide was low, the pieces that had been riven from the granite rock were lying at its base.
And thus the waves of sectional agitation are dashing themselves against the granite patriotism of the land. But even that must show the seams and scars of the conflict. Sectional hostility will follow. The danger lies at your door, and it is time to arrest it. Too long have we allowed this influence to progress. It is time that men should go back to the first foundation of our institutions. They should drink the waters of the fountain at the source of our colonial and early history.
You, men of Boston, go to the street where the massacre occurred in 1770. There you should learn how your fathers strove for community rights. And near the same spot you should learn how proudly the delegation of democracy came to demand the removal of the troops from Boston, and how the venerable Samuel Adams stood asserting the rights of democracy, dauntless as Hampden, clear and eloquent as Sidney; and how they drove out the myrmidons who had trampled on the rights of the people.
All over our country, these monuments, instructive to the present generation, of what our fathers did, are to be found. In the library of your association for the collection of your early history, I found a letter descriptive of the reading of the church service to his army by General Washington, during one of those winters when the army was ill-clad and without shoes, when he built a little log-cabin for a meeting-house, and there, reading the service to them his sight failed him, he put on his glasses and, with emotion which manifested the reality of his feelings, said, "I have grown gray in serving my country, and now I am growing blind."
By the aid of your records you may call before you the day when the delegation of the army of the democracy of Boston demanded compliance with its requirements for the removal of the troops. A painfully thrilling case will be found in the heroic conduct of your fathers' friends, the patriots in Charleston, South Carolina. The prisoners were put upon the hulks, where the small-pox existed, and where they were brought on shore to stay the progress of the infection, and were offered, if they would enlist in his Majesty's service, release from all their sufferings, present and prospective; while, if they would not, the rations would be taken from their families, and they would be sent back to the hulks and again exposed to the infection. Emaciated as they were, with the prospect of being returned to confinement, and their families turned out into the streets, the spirit of independence, the devotion to liberty, was so supreme in their breasts, that they gave one loud huzza for General Washington, and went to meet death in their loathsome prison. From these glorious recollections, from the emotions which they create, when the sacrifices of those who gave you the heritage of liberty are read in your early history, the eye is directed to our present condition. Mark the prosperity, the growth, the honorable career of your country under the voluntary union of independent States. I do not envy the heart of that American whose pulse does not beat quicker, and who does not feel within him a high exultation and pride, in the past glory and future prospects of his country. With these prospects are associated—if we are only wise, true, and faithful, if we shun sectional dissension—all that man can conceive of the progression of the American people. And the only danger which threatens those high prospects is that miserable spirit which, disregarding the obligations of honor, makes war upon the Constitution; which induces men to assume powers they do not possess, trampling as well upon the great principles which lie at the foundation of the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the Union, as upon the honorable obligations which were fixed upon them by their fathers. They with internecine strife would sacrifice themselves and their brethren to a spirit which is a disgrace to our common country. With these views, it will not be surprising, to those who most differ from me, that I feel an ardent desire for the success of this State-rights Democracy; that, convinced as I am of the ill consequences of the described heresies unless they be corrected; of the evils upon which they would precipitate the country unless they are restrained—I say, none need be surprised if, prompted by such aspirations, and impressed by such forebodings as now open themselves before me, I have spoken freely, yielding to motives I would suppress and can not avoid. I have often, elsewhere than in the State of which I am a citizen, spoken in favor of that party which alone is national, in which alone lies the hope of preserving the Constitution and the perpetuation of the Government and of the blessings which it was ordained and established to secure.
My friends, my brethren, my countrymen, I thank you for the patient attention you have given me. It is the first time it has ever befallen me to address an audience here. It will probably be the last. Residing in a remote section of the country, with private as well as public duties to occupy the whole of my time, it would only be for a very hurried visit, or under some such necessity for a restoration to health as brought me here this season, that I could ever expect to remain long among you, or in any other portion of the Union than the State of which I am a citizen.
I have staid long enough to feel that generous hospitality which evinces itself to-night, which has evinced itself in Boston since I have been here, and showed itself in every town and village of New England where I have gone. I have staid here, too, long enough to learn that, though not represented in Congress, there is a large mass of as true Democrats as are to be found in any portion of the Union within the limits of New England. Their purposes, their construction of the Constitution, their hopes for the future, their respect for the past, is the same as that which exists among my beloved brethren in Mississippi....
In the hour of apprehension I shall turn back to my observations here, in this consecrated hall, where men so early devoted themselves to liberty and community independence; and I shall endeavor to impress upon others, who know you only as you are represented in the two Houses of Congress, how true and how many are the hearts that beat for constitutional liberty, and faithfully respect every clause and guarantee which the Constitution contains for any and every portion of the Union.
Speech of Mr. Davis, of Mississippi, in the Senate of the United States, on the resolutions offered by him relative to the relations of the States, the Federal Government, and the Territories, May 7, 1860.
Mr. President: Among the many blessings for which we are indebted to our ancestry is that of transmitting to us a written Constitution; a fixed standard to which, in the progress of events, every case may be referred, and by which it may be measured. But for this, the wise men who formed our Government dared not have hoped for its perpetuity; for they saw, floating down the tide of time, wreck after wreck, marking the short life of every republic which had preceded them. With this, however, to check, to restrain, and to direct their posterity, they might reasonably hope the Government they founded should last for ever; that it should secure the great purposes for which it was ordained and established; that it would be the shield of their posterity equally in every part of the country, and equally in all time to come. It was this which mainly distinguished the formation of our Government from those confederacies or republics which had preceded it; and this is the best foundation for our hope to-day. The resolutions which have been read, and which I had the honor to present to the Senate, are little more than the announcement of what I hold to be the clearly-expressed declarations of the Constitution itself. To that fixed standard it is sought, at this time, when we are drifting far from the initial point, and when clouds and darkness hover over us, to bring back the Government, and to test our condition to-day by the rules which our fathers laid down for us in the beginning.
The differences which exist between different portions of the country, the rivalries and the jealousies of to-day, though differing in degree, are exactly of the nature of those which preceded the formation of the Constitution. Our fathers were aware of the different interests of the navigating and planting States, as they were then regarded. They sought to compose those difficulties, and, by compensating advantages given by one to the other, to form a Government equal and just in its operation, and which, like the gentle showers of heaven, should fall twice blessed, blessing him that gives and him that receives. This beneficial action and reaction between the different interests of the country constituted the bond of union and the motive of its formation. They constitute it to-day, if we are sufficiently wise to appreciate our interests, and sufficiently faithful to observe our trust. Indeed, with the extension of territory, with the multiplication of interests, with the varieties, increasing from time to time, of the products of this great country, the bonds which bind the Union together should have increased. Rationally considered, they have increased, because the free trade which was established in the beginning has now become more valuable to the people of the United States than their trade with all the rest of the world.
I do not propose to argue questions of natural rights and inherent powers. I plant my reliance upon the Constitution; that Constitution which you have all sworn to support; that Constitution which you have solemnly pledged yourself to maintain while you hold the seat you now occupy in the Senate; to which you are bound in its spirit and in its letter, not grudgingly, but willingly, to render your obedience and support as long as you hold office under the Federal Government.
When the tempter entered the garden of Eden and induced our common mother to offend against the law which God had given to her through Adam, he was the first teacher of that "higher law" which sets the will of the individual above the solemn rule which he is bound, as a part of every community, to observe. From the effect of the introduction of that higher law in the garden of Eden, and the fall consequent upon it, came sin into the world; and from sin came death and banishment and subjugation, as the punishment of sin; the loss of life, unfettered liberty, and perfect happiness followed from that first great law which was given by God to fallen man.
Why, then, shall we talk about natural rights? Who is to define them? Where is the judge who is to sit over the court to try natural rights? What is the era at which you will fix the date by which you will determine the breadth, the length, and the depth of those called the rights of nature? Shall it be after the fall, when the earth was covered with thorns, and man had to earn his bread in the sweat of his brow? Or shall it be when there was equality between the sexes, when he lived in the garden, when all his wants were supplied, and when thorns and thistles were unknown on the face of the earth? Shall it be then? Shall it be after the flood, when, for the first sin committed after the waters retired from the face of the earth, the doom of slavery was fixed upon the mongrel descendants of Ham? If after the flood, and after that decree, how idle is all this prating about natural rights as standing above the obligations of civil government! The Constitution is the law supreme to every American. It is the plighted faith of our fathers; it is the hope of our posterity. I say, then, I come not to argue questions outside of or above the Constitution, but to plead the cause of right, of law and order, under the Constitution and to plead it to those who have sworn to abide by that obligation.
One of the fruitful sources, as I hold it, of the errors which prevail in our country, is the theory that this is a Government of one people; that the Government of the United States was formed by a mass. The Government of the United States is a compact between the sovereign members who formed it; and, if there be one feature common to all the colonies planted upon the shores of America, it is desire for community independence. It was for this the Puritan, the Huguenot, the Catholic, the Quaker, the Protestant, left the land of their nativity, and, guided by the shadows thrown by the fires of European persecution, they sought and found the American refuge of civil and religious freedom. While they existed as separate and distinct colonies they were not forbearing toward each other. They oppressed opposite religions. They did not come here with the enlarged idea of no established religion. The Puritans drove out the Quakers; the Church-of-England men drove out the Catholics. Persecution reigned through the colonies, except, perhaps, that of the Catholic colony of Maryland; but the rule was—persecution. Therefore, I say the common idea, and the only common idea, was community independence—the right of each independent people to do as they pleased in their domestic affairs.
The Declaration of Independence was made by the colonies, each for itself. The recognition of their independence was not for the colonies united, but for each of the colonies which had maintained its independence; and so, when the Constitution was formed, the delegates were not elected by the people en masse, but they came from each one of the States; and when the Constitution was formed it was referred, not to the people en masse, but to the States severally, and severally by them ratified and approved. But, if there be anything which enforces this idea more than another, it is the unequal dates at which it received this approval. From first to last, nearly two years and a half elapsed; and the Government went into operation something like a year—I believe more than a year—before the last ratification was made. Is it then contended that, by this ratification and adoption of the Constitution, the States surrendered that sovereignty which they had previously gained? Can it be that men who braved the perils of the ocean, the privations of the wilderness, who fought the war of the Revolution, in the hour of their success, when all was sunshine and peace around them, came voluntarily forward to lay down that community independence for which they had suffered so much and so long? Reason forbids it; but, if reason did not furnish a sufficient answer, the action of the States themselves forbids it. The great State of New York—great, relatively, then, as she is now—manifested her wisdom in not receiving merely that implication which belongs to the occasion, which was accepted by the other States, but she required the positive assertion of that retention of her sovereignty and power over all her affairs as the condition on which she ratified the Constitution itself. I read from Elliott's "Debates" (page 327). Among her resolutions of ratification is the following:
"That the powers of government may be reassumed by the people whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness; that every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the Government thereof, remain to the people of the several States, or to their respective State governments to which they may have granted the same."
North Carolina, with the Scotch caution which subsequent events have so well justified, in 1788 passed this resolution:
"Resolved, That a declaration of rights, asserting and securing from encroachments the great principles of civil and religious liberty, and the unalienable rights of the people, together with amendments to the most ambiguous and exceptionable parts of the said Constitution of Government, ought to be laid before Congress and the convention of the States that shall or may be called for the purpose of amending the said Constitution, for their consideration, previous to the ratification of the Constitution aforesaid, on the part of the State of North Carolina."
And in keeping with this North Carolina withheld her ratification; she allowed the Government to be formed with the number of States which was required to put it in operation, and still she remained out of the Union, asserting and recognized in the independence which she had maintained against Great Britain, and which she had no idea of surrendering to any other power; and the last State which ratified the Constitution long after it had in fact gone into effect, Rhode Island, in the third of her resolutions, says:
"III. That the powers of government may be reassumed by the people whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness. That the rights of the States respectively to nominate and appoint all State officers, and every other power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of Government thereof, remain to the people of the several States, or their respective State governments to whom they may have granted the same."
Here the use of the phrase "State governments" shows how utterly unwarrantable the construction has been, to say that the reference here was to the whole people of the States—to the people of all the States—and not to the people of each of the States severally.
I spoke, however, Mr. President, but a moment ago, of the difference of politics, products, population, constituting the great motive for the Union. It was, indeed, its necessity. Had all the people been alike—had their institutions all been the same—there would have been no interest to bring them together; there would have been no cause or necessity for any restraint being imposed upon them. It was the fact that they differed which rendered it necessary to have some law governing their intercourse. It was the fact that their products were opposite—that their pursuits were various—that rendered it the great interest of the people that they should have free trade existing among each other; that free trade which Franklin characterized as being between the States such as existed between the counties of England.
Since that era, however, a fiber then unknown in the United States, and the production of which is dependent upon the domestic institution of African slavery, has come to be cultivated in such amounts, to enter so into the wearing apparel of the world, so greatly to add to the comfort of the poor, that it may be said to-day that that little fiber, cotton, wraps the commercial world and binds it to the United States in bonds to keep the peace with us which no Government dare break. It has built up the Northern States. It is their great manufacturing interest to-day. It supports their shipping abroad. It enables them to purchase in the markets of China, when the high premium to be paid on the milled dollar would otherwise exclude them from that market. These are a part of the blessings resulting from that increase and variety of product which could not have existed if we had all been alike; which would have been lost to-day unless free trade between the United States was still preserved.
And here it strikes me as somewhat strange that a book recently issued has received the commendation of a large number of the representatives of the manufacturing and commercial States, though, apart from its falsification of statistics and low abuse of Southern States, institutions, and interests, the great feature which stands prominently out from it is the arraignment of the South for using their surplus money in buying the manufactures of the North. How a manufacturing and commercial people can be truly represented by those who would inculcate such doctrines as these, is to me passing strange. Is it vain boasting which renders you anxious to proclaim to the world that we buy our buckets, our rakes, and our shovels from you? No, there is too much good sense in the people for that; and, therefore, I am left at a loss to understand the motive, unless it be that deep-rooted hate which makes you blind to your own interest when that interest is weighed in the balance with the denunciation and detraction of your brethren of the South.
The great principle which lay at the foundation of this fixed standard, the Constitution of the United States, was the equality of rights between the States. This was essential; it was necessary; it was a step which had to be taken first, before any progress could be made. It was the essential requisite of the very idea of sovereignty in the State; of a compact voluntarily entered into between sovereigns; and it is that equality of right under the Constitution on which we now insist. But more: when the States united they transferred their forts, their armament, their ships, and their right to maintain armies and navies, to the Federal Government. It was the disarmament of the States, under the operation of a league which made the warlike operations, the powers of defense, common to them all. Then, with this equality of the States, with this disarmament of the States, if there had been nothing in the Constitution to express it, I say the protection of every constitutional right would follow as a necessary incident, and could not be denied by any one who could understand and would admit the true theory of such a Government.
We claim protection, first, because it is our right; secondly, because it is the duty of the General Government; and, thirdly, because we have entered into a compact together, which deprives each State of the power of using all the means which it might employ for its own defense. This is the general theory of the right of protection. What is the exception to it? Is there an exception? If so, who made it? Does the Constitution discriminate between different kinds of property? Did the Constitution attempt to assimilate the institutions of the different States confederated together? Was there a single State in this Union that would have been so unfaithful to the principles which had prompted them in their colonial position, and which had prompted them, at a still earlier period, to seek and try the temptations of the wilderness; is there one which would have consented to allow the Federal Government to control or to discriminate between her institutions and those of her confederate States?
But, if it be contended that this is argument, and that you need authority, I will draw it from the fountain; from the spring before it had been polluted; from the debates in the formation of the Constitution; from the views of those who at least it will be admitted understood what they were doing.
Mr. Randolph, it will be recollected, introduced a projet for a Government, consisting of a series of resolutions. Among them was one which proposed to give Congress the power "to call forth the force of the Union against any member of the Union failing to fulfill its duty under the articles thereof." That was, to give Congress the power to coerce the States; to bring the States into subjection to the Federal Government. Now, sir, let us see how that was treated; and first I will refer to one whose wisdom, as we take a retrospective view, seems to me marvelous. Not conspicuous in debate, at least not among the names which first occur when we think of that bright galaxy of patriots and statesmen, he was the man who, above all others, it seems to me, laid his finger upon every danger, and indicated the course which that danger was to take. I refer to Mr. Mason.
"Mr. Mason observed, not only that the present Confederation was deficient in not providing for coercion and punishment against delinquent States, but argued very cogently that punishment could not, in the nature of things, be executed on the States collectively; and, therefore, that such a Government was necessary as could directly operate on individuals, and would punish those only whose guilt required it."
Mr. Madison, who has been called sometimes the father of the Constitution, upon the same question, said:
"A union of the States containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a State would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment, and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound."
Mr. Hamilton, who, if I were to express a judgment by way of comparison, I would say was the master intellect of the age in which he lived, whose mind seemed to penetrate profoundly every question with which he grappled, and who seldom failed to exhaust the subject which he treated—Mr. Hamilton, in speaking of the various powers necessary to maintain a Government, came to clause four:
"4. Force, by which may be understood a coercion of laws, or coercion of arms. Congress have not the former, except in few cases. In particular States, this coercion is nearly sufficient; though he held it, in most cases, not entirely so. A certain portion of military force is absolutely necessary in large communities. Massachusetts is now feeling this necessity, and making provision for it. But how can this force be exerted on the States collectively? It is impossible. It amounts to a war between the parties. Foreign powers, also, will not be idle spectators. They will interpose; the confusion will increase; and a dissolution of the Union will ensue."
The consequence was, the proposition was lost. In support of this same idea of community independence, which I have suggested, the argument upon the proposition least likely to have exhibited it, that to give power to restrain the slave-trade, shows the Northern and Southern men all arguing and presenting different views, yet concurred in this, that there could be no power to restrain a State from importing what she pleased. As the Senator from Vermont [Mr. Collamer] looks somewhat surprised at my statement, I will refer to the authority. Mr. Rutledge said:
"Religion and humanity had nothing to do with this question. Interest alone is the governing principle with nations. The true question at present is, whether the Southern States shall or shall not be parties to the Union. If the Northern States consult their interest, they will not oppose the increase of slaves, which will increase the commodities of which they will become the carriers."
Mr. Pinckney: "South Carolina can never receive the plan if it prohibits the slave-trade. In every proposed extension of the powers of Congress, that State has expressly and watchfully excepted that of meddling with the importation of negroes. If the States be all left at liberty on this subject, South Carolina may, perhaps, by degrees, do of herself what is wished, as Virginia and Maryland already have done."
"Mr. Sherman was for leaving the clause as it stands. He disapproved of the slave-trade; yet, as the States were now possessed of the right to import slaves, as the public good did not require it to be taken from them, and as it was expedient to have as few objections as possible to the proposed scheme of government, he thought it best to leave the matter as we find it."
"Mr. Baldwin had conceived national objects alone to be before the Convention: not such as, like the present, were of a local nature. Georgia was decided on this point. That State has always hitherto supposed a General Government to be the pursuit of the central States, who wished to have a vortex for everything; that her distance would preclude her from equal advantage; and that she could not prudently purchase it by yielding national powers. From this, it might be understood in what light she would view an attempt to abridge one of her favorite prerogatives.
"If left to herself, she may probably put a stop to the evil. As one ground for this conjecture, he took notice of the sect of ——, which, he said was a respectable class of people who carried their ethics beyond the mere equality of men, extending their humanity to the claims of the whole animal creation."
"Mr. Gerry thought we had nothing to do with the conduct of the States as to slaves, but ought to be careful not to give any sanction to it."
"Mr. King thought the subject should be considered in a political light only. If two States will not agree to the Constitution, as stated on one side, he could affirm with equal belief, on the other, that great and equal opposition would be experienced from the other States. He remarked on the exemption of slaves from duty, while every other import was subjected to it, as an inequality that could not fail to strike the commercial sagacity of the Northern and Middle States."
Here, as will be observed, everywhere was recognized and admitted the doctrine of community independence and State equality—no interference with the institutions of a State—no interference even prospectively save and except with their consent; and thus it followed that at one time it was proposed to except, from the power to prohibit the further introduction of Africans, those States which insisted upon retaining the power; and finally it was agreed that a date should be fixed beyond which, probably, none of them desired to retain it. These were States acting in their sovereign capacity; they possessed power to do as they pleased; and that was the view which they took of it. I ask, then, how are we, their descendants, those holding under their authority, to assume a power which they refused to admit, upon principles eternal and lying at the foundation of the Constitution itself?
If, then, there be no such distinction or discrimination; if protection be the duty (and who will deny it?) with which this Government is charged, and for which the States pay taxes, because of which they surrendered their armies and their navies; if general protection be the general duty, I ask, in the name of reason and constitutional right—I ask you to point me to authority by which a discrimination is made between slave-property and any other. Yet this is the question now fraught with evil to our country. It is this which has raised the hurricane threatening to sweep our political institutions before it. This is the dark spot which some already begin to fear may blot out the constellation of the Union from the political firmament of mankind. Does it not become us, then, calmly to consider it, justly to weigh it; to hold it in balances from which the dust has been blown, in order that we may see where truth, right, and the obligations of the Constitution require us to go?