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´╗┐Title: American Eloquence, Volume 1 - Studies In American Political History (1896)
Author: Various
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "American Eloquence, Volume 1 - Studies In American Political History (1896)" ***



Edited with  Introduction by Alexander Johnston

Reedited by James Albert Woodburn

Volume I (of 4)



























ALEXANDER HAMILTON -- Frontispiece From a painting by COL. J. TRUMBULL.


SAMUEL ADAMS From a steel engraving.






In offering to the public a revised edition of Professor Johnston's
American Eloquence, a brief statement may be permitted of the changes
and additions involved in the revision. In consideration of the favor
with which the compilation of Professor Johnston had been received, and
of its value to all who are interested in the study of American history,
the present editor has deemed it wise to make as few omissions as
possible from the former volumes. The changes have been chiefly in the
way of additions. The omission, from the first volume, of Washington's
Inaugural and President Nott's oration on the death of Hamilton is the
result, not of a depreciation of the value of these, but of a desire to
utilize the space with selections and subjects which are deemed more
directly valuable as studies in American political history. Madison's
speech on the adoption of the Constitution, made before the Virginia
Convention, is substituted for one of Patrick Henry's on the same
occasion. Madison's is a much more valuable discussion of the issues and
principles involved, and, besides, the volume has the advantage of
Henry's eloquence when he was at his best, at the opening of the
American Revolution. In compensation for the omissions there are added
selections, one each from Otis, Samuel Adams, Gallatin, and Benton. The
completed first volume, therefore, offers to the student of American
political history chapters from the life and work of sixteen
representative orators and statesmen of America.

In addition to the changes made in the selections, the editor has added
brief biographical sketches, references, and textual and historical
notes which, it is hoped, will add to the educational value of the
volumes, as well as to the interest and intelligence with which the
casual reader may peruse the speeches.

As a teacher of American history, I have found no more luminous texts on
our political history than the speeches of the great men who have been
able, in their discussions of public questions, to place before us a
contemporary record of the history which they themselves were helping to
make. To the careful student the secondary authorities can never supply
the place of the great productions, the messages and speeches, which
historic occasions have called forth. The earnest historical reader will
approach these orations, not with the design of regarding then merely as
specimens of eloquence or as studies in language, but as indicating the
great subjects and occasions of our political history and the spirit and
motives of the great leaders of that history. The orations lead the
student to a review of the great struggles in which the authors were
engaged, and to new interest in the science of government from the
utterances and permanent productions of master participants in great
political controversies. Certainly, there is no text-book in political
science more valuable than the best productions of great statesmen, as
reflecting the ideas of those who have done most to make political

With these ideas in mind, the editor has added rather extensive
historical notes, with the purpose of suggesting the use of the speeches
as the basis of historical study, and of indicating other similar
sources for investigation. These notes, together with explanations of
any obscurities in the text, and other suggestions for study, will serve
to indicate the educational value of the volumes; and it is hoped that
they may lead many teachers and students to see in these orations a text
suitable as a guide to valuable studies in American political history.

The omissions of parts of the speeches, made necessary by the exigencies
of space, consist chiefly of those portions which were but of temporary
interest and importance, and which would not be found essential to an
understanding of the subject in hand. The omissions, however, have
always been indicated so as not to mislead the reader, and in most
instances the substance of the omissions has been indicated in the

The general division of the work has been retained: 1. Colonialism, to
1789. Constitutional Government, to 1801. 3. The Rise of Democracy, to
1815. 4. The Rise of Nationality, to 1840. 5. The Slavery Struggle, to
1860. 6. Secession and Civil War, to 1865. The extension of the studies
covering these periods, by the addition of much new material has made
necessary the addition of a fourth volume, which embraces the general
subjects, (1) Reconstruction; (2) Free Trade and Protection; (3)
Finance; (4) Civil-Service Reform. Professor Johnston's valuable
introductions to the several sections have been substantially retained.

By the revision, the volumes will be confined entirely to political
oratory. Literature and religion have, each in its place, called forth
worthy utterances in American oratory. These, certainly, have an
important place in the study of our national life. But it has been
deemed advisable to limit the scope of these volumes to that field of
history which Mr. Freeman has called "past politics,"--to the process by
which Americans, past and present, have built and conducted their state.
The study of the state, its rise, its organization, and its development,
is, after all, the richest field for the student and reader of history.
"History." says Professor Seeley, "may be defined as the biography of
states. To study history thus is to study politics at the same time. If
history is not merely eloquent writing, but a serious scientific
investigation, and if we are to consider that it is not mere
anthropology or sociology, but a science of states, then the study of
history is absolutely the study of politics." It is into this great
field of history that these volumes would direct the reader.

No American scholar had done more, before his untimely death, than the
original editor of these orations, to cultivate among Americans an
intelligent study of our politics and political history. These volumes,
which he designed, are a worthy memorial of his appreciation of the
value to American students of the best specimens of our political

J. A. W.


All authorities are agreed that the political history of the United
States, beyond much that is feeble or poor in quality, has given to the
English language very many of its most finished and most persuasive
specimens of oratory. It is natural that oratory should be a power in a
republic; but, in the American republic, the force of institutions has
been reinforced by that of a language which is peculiarly adapted to the
display of eloquence. Collections of American orations have been
numerous and useful, but the copiousness of the material has always
proved a source of embarrassment. Where the supply is so abundant, it is
exceedingly difficult to make selections on any exact system, and yet
impossible to include all that has a fair claim to the distinctive stamp
of oratory. The results have been that our collections of public
speeches have proved either unsatisfactory or unreasonably voluminous.

The design which has controlled the present collection has been to make
such selections from the great orations of American history as shall
show most clearly the spirit and motives which have actuated its
leaders, and to connect them by a thread of commentary which shall
convey the practical results of the conflicts of opinion revealed in the
selections. In the execution of such a work much must be allowed for
personal limitations; that which would seem representative to one would
not seem at all representative to others. It will not be difficult to
mark omissions, some of which may seem to mar the completeness of the
work very materially; the only claim advanced is that the work has been
done with a consistent desire to show the best side of all lines of
thought which have seriously modified the course of American history.
Some great names will be missed from the list of orators, and some great
addresses from the list of orations; the apology for their omission is
that they have not seemed to be so closely related to the current of
American history or so operative upon its course as to demand their
insertion. Any errors under this head have occurred in spite of careful
consideration and anxious desire to be scrupulously impartial.

Very many of the orations selected have been condensed by the omission
of portions which had no relevancy to the purpose in hand, or were of
only a temporary interest and importance. Such omissions have been
indicated, so that the reader need not be misled, while the effort has
been made to so manage the omissions as to maintain a complete logical
connection among the parts which have been put to use. A tempting method
of preserving such a connection is, of course, the insertion of words or
sentences which the speaker might have used, though he did not; but such
a method seemed too dangerous and possibly too misleading, and it has
been carefully avoided. None of the selections contain a word of foreign
matter, with the exception of one of Randolph's speeches and Mr.
Beecher's Liverpool speech, where the matter inserted has been taken
from the only available report, and is not likely to mislead the reader.
For very much the same reason, footnotes have been avoided, and the
speakers have been left to speak for themselves.

Such a process of omission will reveal to any one who undertakes it an
underlying characteristic of our later, as distinguished from our
earlier, oratory. The careful elaboration of the parts, the restraint of
each topic treated to its appropriate part, and the systematic
development of the parts into a symmetrical whole, are as markedly
present in the latter as they are absent in the former. The process of
selection has therefore been progressively more difficult as the
subject-matter has approached contemporary times. In our earlier
orations, the distinction and separate treatment of the parts is so
carefully observed that it has been comparatively an easy task to seize
and appropriate the parts especially desirable. In our later orations,
with some exceptions, there is an evidently decreasing attention to
system. The whole is often a collection of _disjecta membra_ of
arguments, so interdependent that omissions of any sort are exceedingly
dangerous to the meaning of the speaker. To do justice to his meaning,
and give the whole oration, would be an impossible strain on the space
available; to omit any portion is usually to lose one or more buttresses
of some essential feature in his argument. The distinction is submitted
without any desire to explain it on theory, but only as a suggestion of
a practical difficulty in a satisfactory execution of the work.

The general division of the work has been into (1) Colonialism, to 1789;
(2) Constitutional Government, to 1801; (5) the Rise of Democracy, to
1815; (4) the Rise of Nationality, to 1840; (5) the Slavery struggle, to
1860; (6) Secession and Reconstruction, to 1876; (7) Free Trade and
Protection. In such a division, it has been found necessary to include,
in a few cases, orations which have not been strictly within the time
limits of the topic, but have had a close logical connection with it. It
is hoped, however, that all such cases will show their own necessity too
clearly for any need of further ex-planation or excuse.




It has been said by an excellent authority that the Constitution was
"extorted from the grinding necessities of a reluctant people." The
truth of the statement is very quickly recognized by even the most
surface student of American politics. The struggle which began in 1774-5
was the direct outcome of the spirit of independence. Rather than submit
to a degrading government by the arbitrary will of a foreign Parliament,
the Massachusetts people chose to enter upon an almost unprecedented war
of a colony against the mother country. Rather than admit the precedent
of the oppression of a sister colony, the other colonies chose to
support Massachusetts in her resistance. Resistance to Parliament
involved resistance to the Crown, the only power which had hitherto
claimed the loyalty of the colonists; and one evil feature of the
Revolution was that the spirit of loyalty disappeared for a time from
American politics. There were, without doubt, many individual cases of
loyalty to "Continental interests"; but the mass of the people had
merely unlearned their loyalty to the Crown, and had learned no other
loyalty to take its place. Their nominal allegiance to the individual
colony was weakened by their underlying consciousness that they really
were a part of a greater nation; their national allegiance had never
been claimed by any power.

The weakness of the confederation was apparent even before its complete
ratification. The Articles of Confederation were proposed by the
Continental Congress, Nov. 15, 1777. They were ratified by eleven States
during the year 1778, and Delaware ratified in 1779. Maryland alone held
out and refused to ratify for two years longer. Her long refusal was due
to her demand for a national control of the Western territory, which
many of the States were trying to appropriate. It was not until there
was positive evidence that the Western territory was to be national
property that Maryland acceded to the articles, and they went into
operation. The interval had given time for study of them, and their
defects were so patent that there was no great expectation among
thinking men of any other result than that which followed. The national
power which the confederation sought to create was an entire nonentity.
There was no executive power, except committees of Congress, and these
had no powers to execute. Congress had practically only the power to
recommend to the States. It had no power to tax, to support armies or
navies, to provide for the interest or payment of the public debt, to
regulate commerce or internal affairs, or to perform any other function
of an efficient national government. It was merely a convenient
instrument of repudiation for the States; Congress was to borrow money
and incur debts, which the States could refuse or neglect to provide
for. Under this system affairs steadily drifted from bad to worse for
some six years after the formal ratification of the articles. There
seemed to be no remedy in the forms of law, for the articles expressly
provided that no alteration was to be made except by the assent of every
State. Congress proposed alterations, such as the temporary grant to
Congress of power to levy duties on imports; but these proposals were
always vetoed by one or more states.

In 1780, in a private letter, Hamilton had suggested a convention of the
States to revise the articles, and as affairs grew worse the proposition
was renewed by others. The first attempt to hold such a convention, on
the call of Virginia, was a failure; but five States sent delegates to
Annapolis, and these wisely contented themselves with recommending
another convention in the following year. Congress was persuaded to
endorse this summons; twelve of the States chose delegates, and the
convention met at Philadelphia, May, 14, 1787. A quorum was obtained,
May 25th, and the deliberations of the convention lasted until Sept.
28th, when the Constitution was reported to Congress.

The difficulties which met the convention were mainly the results of the
division of the States into large and small States. Massachusetts,
Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, the States which
claimed to extend to the Mississippi on the west and cherished
indefinite expectations of future growth, were the "large" States. They
desired to give as much power as possible to the new national
government, on condition that the government should be so framed that
they should have control of it. The remaining States were properly
"small" states, and desired to form a government which would leave as
much power as possible to the States. Circumstances worked strongly in
favor of a reasonable result. There never were more than eleven States
in the convention. Rhode Island, a small State, sent no delegates. The
New Hampshire delegates did not appear until the New York delegates
(except Hamilton) had lost patience and retired from the convention.
Pennsylvania was usually neutral. The convention was thus composed of
five large, five small, and one neutral State; and almost all its
decisions were the outcome of judicious compromise.

The large States at first proposed a Congress in both of whose Houses
the State representation should be proportional. They would thus have
had a clear majority in both Houses, and, as Congress was to elect the
President, and other officers, the government would thus have been a
large State government. When "the little States gained their point," by
forcing through the equal representation of the States in the Senate,
the unsubstantial nature of the "national" pretensions of the large
States at once became apparent. The opposition to the whole scheme
centred in the large States, with very considerable assistance from New
York, which was not satisfied with the concessions which the small
States had obtained in the convention. The difficulty of ratification
may be estimated from the final votes in the following State
conventions: Massachusetts, 187 to 163; New Hampshire, 57 to 46;
Virginia, 89 to 79, and New York, 30 to 27. It should also be noted that
the last two ratifications were only made after the ninth State (New
Hampshire) had ratified, and when it was certain that the Constitution
would go into effect with or with-out the ratification of Virginia or
New York. North Carolina did not ratify until 1789, and Rhode Island not
until 1790.

The division between North and South also appeared in the convention. In
order to carry over the Southern States to the support of the final
compromise, it was necessary to insert a guarantee of the slave trade
for twenty years, and a provision that three fifths of the slaves should
be counted in estimating the population for State representation in
Congress. But these provisions, so far as we can judge from the debates
of the time, had no influence against the ratification of the
Constitution; the struggle turned on the differences between the
national leaders, aided by the satisfied small States, on one side, and
the leaders of the State party, aided by the dissatisfied States, large
and small, on the other. The former, the Federalists, were successful,
though by very narrow majorities in several of the States. Washington
was unanimously elected the first President of the Republic; and the new
government was inaugurated at New York, March 4, 1789.

The speech of Henry in the Virginia House of Delegates has been chosen
as perhaps the best representative of the spirit which impelled and
guided the American Revolution. It is fortunate that the ablest of the
national leaders was placed in the very focus of opposition to the
Constitution, so that we may take Hamilton's argument in the New York
convention and Madison's in the Virginia convention, as the most
carefully stated conclusions of the master-minds of the National party.




MAY IT PLEASE YOUR HONORS: I was desired by one of the court to look
into the books, and consider the question now before them concerning
Writs of Assistance. I have accordingly considered it, and now appear
not only in obedience to your order, but likewise in behalf of the
inhabitants of this town, who have presented another petition, and out
of regard to the liberties of the subject. And I take this opportunity
to declare, that whether under a fee or not (for in such a cause as this
I despise a fee), I will to my dying day oppose with all the powers and
faculties God has given me, all such instruments of slavery on the one
hand, and villainy on the other, as this writ of assistance is.

It appears to me the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most
destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law,
that ever was found in an English law-book. I must therefore beg your
honors' patience and attention to the whole range of an argument, that
may perhaps appear uncommon in many things, as well as to points of
learning that are more remote and unusual: that the whole tendency of my
design may the more easily be perceived, the conclusions better descend,
and the force of them be better felt. I shall not think much of my pains
in this cause, as I engaged in it from principle. I was solicited to
argue this cause as Advocate-General; and because I would not, I have
been charged with desertion from my office. To this charge I can give a
very sufficient answer. I renounced that office, and I argue this cause
from the same principle; and I argue it with the greater pleasure, as it
is in favor of British liberty, at a time when we hear the greatest
monarch upon earth declaring from his throne that he glories in the name
of Briton, and that the privileges of his people are dearer to him than
the most valuable prerogatives of his crown; and as it is in opposition
to a kind of power, the exercise of which in former periods of history
cost one king of England his head, and another his throne. I have taken
more pains in this cause than I ever will take again, although my
engaging in this and another popular cause has raised much resentment.
But I think I can sincerely, declare, that I cheerfully submit myself to
every odious name for conscience' sake; and from my soul I despise all
those whose guilt, malice, or folly has made them my foes. Let the
consequences be what they will, I am determined to proceed. The only
principles of public conduct, that are worthy of a gentleman or a man,
are to sacrifice estate, ease, health, and applause, and even life, to
the sacred calls of his country.

These manly sentiments, in private life, make the good citizens; in
public life, the patriot and the hero. I do not say that, when brought
to the test, I shall be invincible. I pray God I may never be brought to
the melancholy trial, but if ever I should, it will be then known how
far I can reduce to practice principles which I know to be founded in
truth. In the meantime I will proceed to the subject of this writ.

Your honors will find in the old books concerning the office of a
justice of the peace, precedents of general warrants to search suspected
houses. But in more modern books, you will find only special warrants to
search such and such houses, specially named, in which the complainant
has before sworn that he suspects his goods are concealed; and will find
it adjudged, that special warrants only are legal. In the same manner I
rely on it, that the writ prayed for in this petition, being general, is
illegal. It is a power that places the liberty of every man in the hands
of every petty officer. I say I admit that special writs of assistance,
to search special places, may be granted to certain persons on oath; but
I deny that the writ now prayed for can be granted, for I beg leave to
make some observations on the writ itself, before I proceed to other
acts of Parliament. In the first place, the writ is universal, being
directed "to all and singular justices, sheriffs, constables, and all
other officers and subjects"; so that, in short, it is directed to every
subject in the king's dominions. Every one with this writ may be a
tyrant; if this commission be legal, a tyrant in a legal manner, also,
may control, imprison, or murder anyone within the realm. In the next
place, it is perpetual, there is no return. A man is accountable to no
person for his doings. Every man may reign secure in his petty tyranny,
and spread terror and desolation around him, until the trump of the
archangel shall excite different emotions in his soul. In the third
place, a person with this writ, in the daytime, may enter all houses,
shops, etc., at will, and command all to assist him. Fourthly, by this
writ, not only deputies, etc., but even their menial servants, are
allowed to lord it over us. What is this but to have the curse of Canaan
with a witness on us: to be the servant of servants, the most despicable
of God's creation? Now one of the most essential branches of English
liberty is the freedom of one's house. A man's house is his castle; and
whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle.
This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this
privilege. Custom-house officers may enter our houses when they please;
we are commanded to permit their entry. Their menial servants may enter,
may break locks, bars, and everything in their way; and whether they
break through malice or revenge, no man, no court can inquire. Bare
suspicion without oath is sufficient. This wanton exercise of this power
is not a chimerical suggestion of a heated brain. I will mention some
facts. Mr. Pew had one of these writs, and when Mr. Ware succeeded him,
he endorsed this writ over to Mr. Ware; so that these writs are
negotiable from one officer to another; and so your honors have no
opportunity of judging the persons to whom this vast power is delegated.
Another instance is this: Mr. Justice Walley had called this same Mr.
Ware before him, by a constable, to answer for a breach of the
Sabbath-day acts, or that of profane swearing. As soon as he had
finished, Mr. Ware asked him if he had done. He replied, "Yes." "Well
then," said Mr. Ware, "I will show you a little of my power. I command
you to permit me to search your house for uncustomed goods"; and went on
to search the house from the garret to the cellar; and then served the
constable in the same manner! But to show another absurdity in this
writ: if it should be established, I insist upon it every person, by the
14th Charles Second, has this power as well as the custom-house
officers. The words are: "it shall be lawful for any person or persons
authorized," etc. What a scene does this open! Every man prompted by
revenge, ill-humor, or wantonness to inspect the inside of his
neighbor's house, may get a writ of assistance. Others will ask it from
self-defence; one arbitrary exertion will provoke another, until society
be involved in tumult and in blood:





No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as
abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the
House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights;
and, therefore, I hope that it will not be thought disrespectful to
those gentlemen, if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very
opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without
reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is
one of awful moment to this country. For my own part I consider it as
nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to
the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It
is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the
great responsibility Which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep
back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I
should consider myself as guilty of treason toward my country, and of an
act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope.
We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the
song of that syren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part
of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we
disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and
having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal
salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am
willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and to provide for

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of
experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.
And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the
conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those
hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and
the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been
lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet.
Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how
this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like
preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and
armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown
ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to
win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the
implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings
resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array. If its
purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other
possible motives for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of
the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No,
sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no
other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which
the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to
oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for
the last ten years. Have we any thing new to offer on the subject?
Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is
capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and
humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been
already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves
longer. Sir, we have done every thing that could be done, to avert the
storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated;
we have supplicated: we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and
have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the
ministry and parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our
remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our
supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with
contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may
we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer
any room for hope. If we wish to be free--if we mean to preserve
inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long
contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which
we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never
to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained,
we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to
the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable
an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week,
or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a
British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather
strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of
effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the
delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and
foot? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means which
the God of nature bath placed in our power. Three millions of people,
armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which
we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against
us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just
God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up
friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the
strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides.
sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now
too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat, but in
submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be
heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I
repeat it, sir, let it come!

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry peace,
peace--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale
that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of
resounding arms. Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we
here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life
so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains
and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may
take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!




COUNTRYMEN AND BRETHREN: I would gladly have declined an honor, to which
I find myself unequal. I have not the calmness and impartiality which
the infinite importance of this occasion demands. I will not deny the
charge of my enemies, that resentment for the accumulated injuries of
our country, and an ardor for her glory, rising to enthusiasm, may
deprive me of that accuracy of judgment and expression which men of
cooler passions may possess. Let me beseech you then, to hear me with
caution, to examine without prejudice, and to correct the mistakes into
which I may be hurried by my zeal.

Truth loves an appeal to the common sense of mankind. Your unperverted
understandings can best determine on subjects of a practical nature. The
positions and plans which are said to be above the comprehension of the
multitude may be always suspected to be visionary and fruitless. He who
made all men hath made the truths necessary to human happiness obvious
to all.

Our forefathers threw off the yoke of Popery in religion; for you is
reserved the honor of levelling the Popery of politics. They opened the
Bible to all, and maintained the capacity of every man to judge for
himself in religion. Are we sufficient for the comprehension of the
sublimest spiritual truths, and unequal to material and temporal ones?
Heaven hath trusted us with the management of things for eternity, and
man denies us ability to judge of the present, or to know from our
feelings the experience that will make us happy. "You can discern," say
they, "objects distant and remote, but cannot perceive those within your
grasp. Let us have the distribution of present goods, and cut out and
manage as you please the interests of futurity." This day, I trust, the
reign of political protestantism will commence.

We have explored the temple of royalty, and found that the idol we have
bowed down to, has eyes which see not, ears that hear not our prayers,
and a heart like the nether millstone. We have this day restored the
Sovereign, to whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven,
and with a propitious eye beholds His subjects assuming that freedom of
thought and dignity of self-direction which He bestowed on them. From
the rising to the setting sun, may His kingdom come.

Men who content themselves with the semblance of truth, and a display of
words, talk much of our obligations to Great Britain for protection. Had
she a single eye to our advantage? A nation of shopkeepers are very
seldom so disinterested. Let us not be so amused with words; the
extension of her commerce was her object. When she defended our coasts,
she fought for her customers, and convoyed our ships loaded with wealth,
which we had acquired for her by our industry. She has treated us as
beasts of burthen, whom the lordly masters cherish that they may carry a
greater load. Let us inquire also against whom she has protected us?
Against her own enemies with whom we had no quarrel, or only on her
account, and against whom we always readily exerted our wealth and
strength when they were required. Were these colonies backward in giving
assistance to Great Britain, when they were called upon in 1739, to aid
the expedition against Carthagena? They at that time sent three thousand
men to join the British army, although the war commenced without their
consent. But the last war, 't is said, was purely American. This is a
vulgar error, which, like many others, has gained credit by being
confidently repeated. The dispute between the Courts of Great Britain
and France, related to the limits of Canada and Nova Scotia. The
controverted territory was not claimed by any in the colonies, but by
the Crown of Great Britain. It was therefore their own quarrel. The
infringement of a right which England had, by the treaty of Utrecht, of
trading in the Indian country of Ohio, was another cause of the war. The
French seized large quantities of British manufactures, and took
possession of a fort which a company of British merchants and factors
had erected for the security of their commerce. The war was therefore
waged in defence of lands claimed by the Crown, and for the protection
of British property. The French at that time had no quarrel with
America; and, as appears by letters sent from their commander-in-chief,
to some of the colonies, wished to remain in peace with us. The part
therefore which we then took, and the miseries to which we exposed
ourselves, ought to be charged to our affection for Britain. These
colonies granted more than their proportion to the support of the war.
They raised, clothed, and maintained nearly twenty-five thousand men,
and so sensible were the people of England of our great exertions, that
a message was annually sent to the House of Commons purporting: "That
his majesty, being highly satisfied of the zeal and vigor with which his
faithful subjects in North America had exerted themselves in defence of
his majesty's just rights and possessions, recommend it to the House, to
take the same into consideration, and enable him to give them a proper

But what purpose can arguments of this kind answer? Did the protection
we received annul our rights as men, and lay us under an obligation of
being miserable?

Who among you, my countrymen, that is a father, would claim authority to
make your child a slave because you had nourished him in his infancy?

'T is a strange species of generosity which requires a return infinitely
more valuable than anything it could have bestowed; that demands as a
reward for a defence of our property, a surrender of those inestimable
privileges, to the arbitrary will of vindictive tyrants, which alone
give value to that very property.

Courage, then, my countrymen! our contest is not only whether we
ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an
asylum on earth, for civil and religious liberty? Dismissing, therefore,
the justice of our cause as incontestable, the only question is, What is
best for us to pursue in our present circumstances?

The doctrine of dependence on Great Britain is, I believe, generally
exploded; but as I would attend to the honest weakness of the simplest
of men, you will pardon me if I offer a few words on that subject.

We are now on this continent, to the astonishment of the world, three
millions of souls united in one common cause. We have large armies, well
disciplined and appointed, with commanders inferior to none in military
skill, and superior in activity and zeal. We are furnished with arsenals
and stores beyond our most sanguine expectations, and foreign nations
are waiting to crown our success by their alliances. There are instances
of, I would say, an almost astonishing Providence in our favor; our
success has staggered our enemies, and almost given faith to infidels;
so that we may truly say it is not our own arm which has saved us.

The hand of Heaven appears to have led us on to be, perhaps, humble
instruments and means in the great Providential dispensation which is
completing. We have fled from the political Sodom; let us not look back,
lest we perish and become a monument of infamy and derision to the
world! For can we ever expect more unanimity and a better preparation
for defence; more infatuation of counsel among our enemies, and more
valor and zeal among ourselves? The same force and resistance which are
sufficient to procure us our liberties, will secure us a glorious
independence and support us in the dignity of free, imperial states. We
can not suppose that our opposition has made a corrupt and dissipated
nation more friendly to America, or created in them a greater respect
for the rights of mankind. We can therefore expect a restoration and
establishment of our privileges, and a compensation for the injuries we
have received from their want of power, from their fears, and not from
their virtues. The unanimity and valor, which will effect an honorable
peace, can render a future contest for our liberties unnecessary. He who
has strength to chain down the wolf, is a mad-man if he lets him loose
without drawing his teeth and paring his nails.

From the day on which an accommodation takes place between England and
America, on any other terms than as independent states, I shall date the
ruin of this country. A politic minister will study to lull us into
security, by granting us the full extent of our petitions. The warm
sunshine of influence would melt down the virtue, which the violence of
the storm rendered more firm and unyielding. In a state of tranquillity,
wealth, and luxury, our descendants would forget the arts of war, and
the noble activity and zeal which made their ancestors invincible. Every
art of corruption would be employed to loosen the bond of union which
renders our resistance formidable. When the spirit of liberty which now
animates our hearts and gives success to our arms is extinct, our
numbers will accelerate our ruin, and render us easier victims to
tyranny. Ye abandoned minions of an infatuated ministry, if peradventure
any should yet remain among us!--remember that a Warren and a Montgomery
are numbered among the dead. Contemplate the mangled bodies of your
countrymen, and then say, What should be the reward of such sacrifices?
Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship, and
plough, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let
loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood, and hunt us from the
face of the earth? If ye love wealth better than liberty, the
tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom--go from
us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the
hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may
posterity, forget that ye were our countrymen.

To unite the Supremacy of Great Britain and the Liberty of America, is
utterly impossible. So vast a continent and of such a distance from the
seat of empire, will every day grow more unmanageable. The motion of so
unwieldy a body cannot be directed with any dispatch and uniformity,
without committing to the Parliament of Great Britain, powers
inconsistent with our freedom. The authority and force which would be
absolutely necessary for the preservation of the peace and good order of
this continent, would put all our valuable rights within the reach of
that nation.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Some who would persuade us that they have tender feelings for future
generations, while they are insensible to the happiness of the present,
are perpetually foreboding a train of dissensions under our popular
system. Such men's reasoning amounts to this--give up all that is
valuable to Great Britain, and then you will have no inducements to
quarrel among yourselves; or suffer yourselves to be chained down by
your enemies, that you may not be able to fight with your friends.

This is an insult on your virtue as well as your common sense. Your
unanimity this day and through the course of the war is a decisive
refutation of such invidious predictions. Our enemies have already had
evidence that our present constitution contains in it the justice and
ardor of freedom, and the wisdom and vigor of the most absolute system.
When the law is the will of the people, it will be uniform and coherent;
but fluctuation, contradiction, and inconsistency of councils must be
expected under those governments where every revolution in the ministry
of a court produces one in the state. Such being the folly and pride of
all ministers, that they ever pursue measures directly opposite to those
of their predecessors.

We shall neither be exposed to the necessary convulsions of elective
Monarchies, nor to the want of wisdom, fortitude, and virtue, to which
hereditary succession is liable. In your hands it will be to perpetuate
a prudent, active, and just legislature, and which will never expire
until you yourselves lose the virtues which give it existence.

And, brethren and fellow-countrymen, if it was ever granted to mortals
to trace the designs of Providence, and interpret its manifestations in
favor of their cause, we may, with humility of soul, cry out, "Not unto
us, not unto us, but to thy Name be the praise." The confusion of the
devices among our enemies, and the rage of the elements against them,
have done almost as much towards our success as either our councils or
our arms.

The time at which this attempt on our liberties was made, when we were
ripened into maturity, had acquired a knowledge of war, and were free
from the incursions of enemies in this country, the gradual advances of
our oppressors enabling us to prepare for our defence, the unusual
fertility of our lands and clemency of the seasons, the success which at
first attended our feeble arms, producing unanimity among our friends
and reducing our internal foes to acquiescence,--these are all strong
and palpable marks and assurances, that Providence is yet gracious unto
Zion, that it will turn away the captivity of Jacob.

We have now no other alternative than independence, or the most
ignominious and galling servitude. The legions of our enemies thicken on
our plains; desolation and death mark their bloody career; whilst the
mangled corpses of our countrymen seem to cry out to us as a voice from
heaven: "Will you permit our posterity to groan under the galling chains
of our murderers? Has our blood been expended in vain? Is the only
reward which our constancy, till death, has obtained for our country,
that it should be sunk into a deeper and more ignominious vassalage?"
Recollect who are the men that demand your submission; to whose decrees
you are invited to pay obedience! Men who, unmindful of their relation
to you as brethren, of your long implicit submission to their laws; of
the sacrifice which you and your forefathers made of your natural
advantages for commerce to their avarice,--formed a deliberate plan to
wrest from you the small pittance of property which they had permitted
you to acquire. Remember that the men who wish to rule over you are they
who, in pursuit of this plan of despotism, annulled the sacred contracts
which had been made with your ancestors; conveyed into your cities a
mercenary soldiery to compel you to submission by insult and murder--who
called your patience, cowardice; your piety, hypocrisy.

Countrymen! the men who now invite you to surrender your rights into
their hands are the men who have let loose the merciless savages to riot
in the blood of their brethren--who have dared to establish popery
triumphant in our land--who have taught treachery to your slaves, and
courted them to assassinate your wives and children.

These are the men to whom we are exhorted to sacrifice the blessings
which Providence holds out to us--the happiness, the dignity of
uncontrolled freedom and independence.

Let not your generous indignation be directed against any among us who
may advise so absurd and madd'ning a measure. Their number is but few
and daily decreased; and the spirit which can render them patient of
slavery, will render them contemptible enemies.

Our Union is now complete; our Constitution composed, established, and
approved. You are now the guardians of your own liberties. We may justly
address you, as the _Decemviri_ did the Romans, and say: "Nothing that
we propose, can pass into a law without your consent. Be yourselves, O
Americans, the authors of those laws on which your happiness depends."

You have now, in the field, armies sufficient to repel the whole force
of your enemies, and their base and mercenary auxiliaries. The hearts of
your soldiers beat high with the spirit of freedom--they are animated
with the justice of their cause, and while they grasp their swords, can
look up to Heaven for assistance. Your adversaries are composed of
wretches who laugh at the rights of humanity, who turn religion into
derision, and would, for higher wages, direct their swords against their
leaders or their country. Go on, then, in your generous enterprise, with
gratitude to Heaven for past success, and confidence of it in the
future. For my own part, I ask no greater blessing than to share with
you the common danger and common glory. If I have a wish dearer to my
soul, than that my ashes may be mingled with those of a Warren and a
Montgomery, it is--that these American States may never cease to be free
and independent!


OF NEW YORK. (BORN 1757, DIED 1804.)



JUNE 24, 1788.

I am persuaded, Mr. Chairman, that I in my turn shall be indulged, in
addressing the committee. We all, in equal sincerity, profess to be
anxious for the establishment of a republican government, on a safe and
solid basis. It is the object of the wishes of every honest man in the
United States, and I presume that I shall not be disbelieved, when I
declare, that it is an object of all others, the nearest and most dear
to my own heart. The means of accomplishing this great purpose become
the most important study which can interest mankind. It is our duty to
examine all those means with peculiar attention, and to choose the best
and most effectual. It is our duty to draw from nature, from reason,
from examples, the best principles of policy, and to pursue and apply
them in the formation of our government. We should contemplate and
compare the systems, which, in this examination, come under our view;
distinguish, with a careful eye, the defects and excellencies of each,
and discarding the former, incorporate the latter, as far as
circumstances will admit, into our Constitution. If we pursue a
different course and neglect this duty, we shall probably disappoint the
expectations of our country and of the world.

In the commencement of a revolution, which received its birth from the
usurpations of tyranny, nothing was more natural, than that the public
mind should be influenced by an extreme spirit of jealousy. To resist
these encroachments, and to nourish this spirit, was the great object of
all our public and private institutions. The zeal for liberty became
predominant and excessive. In forming our confederation, this passion
alone seemed to actuate us, and we appear to have had no other view than
to secure ourselves from despotism. The object certainly was a valuable
one, and deserved our utmost attention. But, sir, there is another
object equally important, and which our enthusiasm rendered us little
capable of regarding: I mean a principle of strength and stability in
the organization of our government, and vigor in its operations. This
purpose can never be accomplished but by the establishment of some
select body, formed peculiarly upon this principle. There are few
positions more demonstrable than that there should be in every republic,
some permanent body to correct the prejudices, check the intemperate
passions, and regulate the fluctuations of a popular assembly. It is
evident, that a body instituted for these purposes, must be so formed as
to exclude as much as possible from its own character, those infirmities
and that mutability which it is designed to remedy. It is therefore
necessary that it should be small, that it should hold its authority
during a considerable period, and that it should have such an
independence in the exercise of its powers, as will divest it as much as
possible of local prejudices. It should be so formed as to be the centre
of political knowledge, to pursue always a steady line of conduct, and
to reduce every irregular propensity to system. Without this
establishment, we may make experiments without end, but shall never have
an efficient government.

It is an unquestionable truth, that the body of the people in every
country desire sincerely its prosperity; but it is equally
unquestionable, that they do not possess the discernment and stability
necessary for systematic government. To deny that they are frequently
led into the grossest errors by misinformation and passion, would be a
flattery which their own good sense must despise. That branch of
administration especially, which involves our political relations with
foreign states, a community will ever be incompetent to. These truths
are not often held up in public assemblies: but they cannot be unknown
to any who hear me. From these principles it follows, that there ought
to be two distinct bodies in our government: one, which shall be
immediately constituted by and peculiarly represent the people, and
possess all the popular features; another, formed upon the principle,
and for the purposes, before explained. Such considerations as these
induced the convention who formed your State constitution, to institute
a Senate upon the present plan. The history of ancient and modern
republics had taught them, that many of the evils which these republics
had suffered, arose from the want of a certain balance and mutual
control indispensable to a wise administration; they were convinced that
popular assemblies are frequently misguided by ignorance, by sudden
impulses, and the intrigues of ambitious men; and that some firm barrier
against these operations was necessary; they, therefore, instituted your
Senate, and the benefits we have experienced have fully justified their

Gentlemen, in their reasoning, have placed the interests of the several
States, and those of the United States in contrast; this is not a fair
view of the subject; they must necessarily be involved in each other.
What we apprehend is, that some sinister prejudice, or some prevailing
passion, may assume the form of a genuine interest. The influence of
these is as powerful as the most permanent conviction of the public
good; and against this influence we ought to provide. The local
interests of a State ought in every case to give way to the interests of
the Union; for when a sacrifice of one or the other is necessary, the
former becomes only an apparent, partial interest, and should yield, on
the principle that the small good ought never to oppose the great one.
When you assemble from your several counties in the Legislature, were
every member to be guided only by the apparent interests of his county,
government would be impracticable. There must be a perpetual
accommodation and sacrifice of local advantages to general expediency;
but the spirit of a mere popular assembly would rarely be actuated by
this important principle. It is therefore absolutely necessary that the
Senate should be so formed, as to be unbiased by false conceptions of
the real interests, or undue attachment to the apparent good of their
several States.

Gentlemen indulge too many unreasonable apprehensions of danger to the
State governments; they seem to suppose that the moment you put men into
a national council, they become corrupt and tyrannical, and lose all
their affection for their fellow-citizens. But can we imagine that the
Senators will ever be so insensible of their own advantage, as to
sacrifice the genuine interest of their constituents? The State
governments are essentially necessary to the form and spirit of the
general system. As long, therefore, as Congress has a full conviction of
this necessity, they must, even upon principles purely national, have as
firm an attachment to the one as to the other. This conviction can never
leave them, unless they become madmen. While the constitution continues
to be read, and its principle known, the States must, by every rational
man, be considered as essential, component parts of The Union; and
therefore the idea of sacrificing the former to the latter is wholly

The objectors do not advert to the natural strength and resources of
State governments, which will ever give them an important superiority
over the general government. If we compare the nature of their different
powers, or the means of popular influence which each possesses, we shall
find the advantage entirely on the side of the States. This
consideration, important as it is, seems to have been little attended
to. The aggregate number of representatives throughout the States may be
two thousand. Their personal influence will, therefore, be
proportionably more extensive than that of one or two hundred men in
Congress. The State establishments of civil and military officers of
every description, infinitely surpassing in number any possible
correspondent establishments in the general government, will create such
an extent and complication of attachments, as will ever secure the
predilection and support of the people. Whenever, therefore, Congress
shall meditate any infringement of the State constitutions, the great
body of the people will naturally take part with their domestic
representatives. Can the general government withstand such an united
opposition? Will the people suffer themselves to be stripped of their
privileges? Will they suffer their Legislatures to be reduced to a
shadow and a name? The idea is shocking to common-sense.

From the circumstances already explained, and many others which might be
mentioned, results a complicated, irresistible check, which must ever
support the existence and importance of the State governments. The
danger, if any exists, flows from an opposite source. The probable evil
is, that the general government will be too dependent on the State
Legislatures, too much governed by their prejudices, and too obsequious
to their humors; that the States, with every power in their hands, will
make encroachments on the national authority, till the Union is weakened
and dissolved.

Every member must have been struck with an observation of a gentleman
from Albany. Do what you will, says he, local prejudices and opinions
will go into the government.

What! shall we then form a constitution to cherish and strengthen these
prejudices? Shall we confirm the distemper, instead of remedying it. It
is undeniable that there must be a control somewhere. Either the general
interest is to control the particular interests, or the contrary. If the
former, then certainly the government ought to be so framed, as to
render the power of control efficient to all intents and purposes; if
the latter, a striking absurdity follows; the controlling powers must be
as numerous as the varying interests, and the operations of the
government must therefore cease; for the moment you accommodate these
different interests, which is the only way to set the government in
motion, you establish a controlling power. Thus, whatever constitutional
provisions are made to the contrary, every government will be at last
driven to the necessity of subjecting the partial to the universal
interest. The gentlemen ought always, in their reasoning, to distinguish
between the real, genuine good of a State, and the opinions and
prejudices which may prevail respecting it; the latter may be opposed to
the general good, and consequently ought to be sacrificed; the former is
so involved in it, that it never can be sacrificed.

There are certain social principles in human nature from which we may
draw the most solid conclusions with respect to the conduct of
individuals and of communities. We love our families more than our
neighbors; we love our neighbors more than our countrymen in general.
The human affections, like the solar heat, lose their intensity as they
depart from the centre, and become languid in proportion to the
expansion of the circle on which they act. On these principles, the
attachment of the individual will be first and forever secured by the
State governments; they will be a mutual protection and support. Another
source of influence, which has already been pointed out, is the various
official connections in the States. Gentlemen endeavor to evade the
force of this by saying that these offices will be insignificant. This
is by no means true. The State officers will ever be important, because
they are necessary and useful. Their powers are such as are extremely
interesting to the people; such as affect their property, their liberty,
and life. What is more important than the administration of justice and
the execution of the civil and criminal laws? Can the State governments
become insignificant while they have the power of raising money
independently and without control? If they are really useful; if they
are calculated to promote the essential interests of the people; they
must have their confidence and support. The States can never lose their
powers till the whole people of America are robbed of their liberties.
These must go together; they must support each other, or meet one common
fate. On the gentleman's principle, we may safely trust the State
governments, though we have no means of resisting them; but we cannot
confide in the national government, though we have an effectual
constitutional guard against every encroachment. This is the essence of
their argument, and it is false and fallacious beyond conception.

With regard to the jurisdiction of the two governments, I shall
certainly admit that the Constitution ought to be so formed as not to
prevent the States from providing for their own existence; and I
maintain that it is so formed; and that their power of providing for
themselves is sufficiently established. This is conceded by one
gentleman, and in the next breath the concession is retracted. He says
Congress has but one exclusive right in taxation--that of duties on
imports; certainly, then, their other powers are only concurrent. But to
take off the force of this obvious conclusion, he immediately says that
the laws of the United States are supreme; and that where there is one
supreme there cannot be a concurrent authority; and further, that where
the laws of the Union are supreme, those of the States must be
subordinate; because there cannot be two supremes. This is curious
sophistry. That two supreme powers cannot act together is false. They
are inconsistent only when they are aimed at each other or at one
indivisible object. The laws of the United States are supreme, as to all
their proper, constitutional objects; the laws of the States are supreme
in the same way. These supreme laws may act on different objects without
clashing; or they may operate on different parts of the same common
object with perfect harmony. Suppose both governments should lay a tax
of a penny on a certain article; has not each an independent and
uncontrollable power to collect its own tax? The meaning of the maxim,
there cannot be two supremes, is simply this--two powers cannot be
supreme over each other. This meaning is entirely perverted by the
gentlemen. But, it is said, disputes between collectors are to be
referred to the federal courts. This is again wandering in the field of
conjecture. But suppose the fact is certain; is it not to be presumed
that they will express the true meaning of the Constitution and the
laws? Will they not be bound to consider the concurrent jurisdiction; to
declare that both the taxes shall have equal operation; that both the
powers, in that respect, are sovereign and co-extensive? If they
transgress their duty, we are to hope that they will be punished. Sir,
we can reason from probabilities alone. When we leave common-sense, and
give ourselves up to conjecture, there can be no certainty, no security
in our reasonings.

I imagine I have stated to the committee abundant reasons to prove the
entire safety of the State governments and of the people. I would go
into a more minute consideration of the nature of the concurrent
jurisdiction, and the operation of the laws in relation to revenue; but
at present I feel too much indisposed to proceed. I shall, with leave of
the committee, improve another opportunity of expressing to them more
fully my ideas on this point. I wish the committee to remember that the
Constitution under examination is framed upon truly republican
principles; and that, as it is expressly designed to provide for the
common protection and the general welfare of the United States, it must
be utterly repugnant to this Constitution to subvert the State
governments or oppress the people.


OF VIRGINIA. (BORN 1751, DIED 1836.)


JUNE 6, 1788.


In what I am about to offer to this assembly, I shall not attempt to
make impressions by any ardent professions of zeal for the public
welfare. We know that the principles of every man will be, and ought to
be, judged not by his professions and declarations, but by his conduct.
By that criterion, I wish, in common with every other member, to be
judged; and even though it should prove unfavorable to my reputation,
yet it is a criterion from which I by no means would depart, nor could
if I would. Comparisons have been made between the friends of this
constitution and those who oppose it. Although I disapprove of such
comparisons, I trust that in everything that regards truth, honor,
candor, and rectitude of motives, the friends of this system, here and
in other States, are not inferior to its opponents. But professions of
attachment to the public good, and comparisons of parties, at all times
invidious, ought not to govern or influence us now. We ought, sir, to
examine the Constitution exclusively on its own merits. We ought to
inquire whether it will promote the public happiness; and its aptitude
to produce that desirable object ought to be the exclusive subject of
our researches. In this pursuit, we ought to address our arguments not
to the feelings and passions, but to those understandings and judgments
which have been selected, by the people of this country, to decide that
great question by a calm and rational investigation. I hope that
gentlemen, in displaying their abilities on this occasion, will, instead
of giving opinions and making assertions, condescend to prove and
demonstrate, by fair and regular discussion. It gives me pain to hear
gentlemen continually distorting the natural construction of language.
Assuredly, it is sufficient if any human production can stand a fair
discussion. Before I proceed to make some additions to the reasons which
have been adduced by my honorable friend over the way, I must take the
liberty to make some observations on what was said by another gentleman
(Mr. Henry). He told us that this constitution ought to be rejected,
because, in his opinion, it endangered the public liberty in many
instances. Give me leave to make one answer to that observation--let the
dangers with which this system is supposed to be replete, be clearly
pointed out. If any dangerous and unnecessary powers be given to the
general legislature, let them be plainly demonstrated, and let us not
rest satisfied with general assertions of dangers, without proof,
without examination. If powers be necessary, apparent danger is not a
sufficient reason against conceding them. He has suggested, that
licentiousness has seldom produced the loss of liberty; but that the
tyranny of rulers has almost always effected it. Since the general
civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the
abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent
encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations;
but on a candid examination of history, we shall find that turbulence,
violence, and abuse of power, by the majority trampling on the rights of
the minority, have produced factions and commotions which, in republics,
have, more frequently than any other cause, produced despotism. If we go
over the whole history of ancient and modern republics, we shall find
their destruction to have generally resulted from those causes. If we
consider the peculiar situation of the United States, and go to the
sources of that diversity of sentiment which pervades its inhabitants,
we shall find great danger to fear that the same causes may terminate
here in the same fatal effects which they produced in those republics.
This danger ought to be wisely guarded against. In the progress of this
discussion, it will perhaps appear, that the only possible remedy for
those evils, and the only certain means of preserving and protecting the
principles of republicanism, will be found in that very system which is
now exclaimed against as the parent of oppression. I must confess that I
have not been able to find his usual consistency in the gentleman's
arguments on this occasion. He informs us that the people of this
country are at perfect repose; that every man enjoys the fruits of his
labor peaceably and securely, and that everything is in perfect
tranquillity and safety. I wish sincerely, sir, this were true. But if
this be really their situation, why has every State acknowledged the
contrary? Why were deputies from all the States sent to the general
convention? Why have complaints of national and individual distresses
been echoed and re-echoed throughout the continent? Why has our general
government been so shamefully disgraced, and our Constitution violated?
Wherefore have laws been made to authorize a change, and wherefore are
we now assembled here? A federal government is formed for the protection
of its individual members. Ours was itself attacked with impunity. Its
authority has been boldly disobeyed and openly despised. I think I
perceive a glaring inconsistency in another of his arguments. He
complains of this Constitution, because it requires the consent of at
least three fourths of the States to introduce amendments which shall be
necessary for the happiness of the people. The assent of so many, he
considers as too great an obstacle to the admission of salutary
amendments, which he strongly insists ought to be at the will of a bare
majority, and we hear this argument at the very moment we are called
upon to assign reasons for proposing a Constitution which puts it in the
power of nine States to abolish the present inadequate, unsafe, and
pernicious confederation! In the first case, he asserts that a majority
ought to have the power of altering the government, when found to be
inadequate to the security of public happiness. In the last case, he
affirms that even three fourths of the community have not a right to
alter a government which experience has proved to be subversive of
national felicity; nay, that the most necessary and urgent alterations
cannot be made without the absolute unanimity of all the States. Does
not the thirteenth article of the confederation expressly require, that
no alteration shall be made without the unanimous consent of all the
States? Can any thing in theory be more perniciously improvident and
injudicious than this submission of the will of the majority to the most
trifling minority? Have not experience and practice actually manifested
this theoretical inconvenience to be extremely impolitic? Let me mention
one fact, which I conceive must carry conviction to the mind of any
one,--the smallest State in the Union has obstructed every attempt to
reform the government; that little member has repeatedly disobeyed and
counteracted the general authority; nay, has even supplied the enemies
of its country with provisions. Twelve States had agreed to certain
improvements which were proposed, being thought absolutely necessary to
preserve the existence of the general government; but as these
improvements, though really indispensable, could not, by the
confederation, be introduced into it without the consent of every State,
the refractory dissent of that little State prevented their adoption.
The inconveniences resulting from this requisition of unanimous
concurrence in alterations of the confederation, must be known to every
member in this convention; it is therefore needless to remind them of
them. Is it not self-evident, that a trifling minority ought not to bind
the majority? Would not foreign influence be exerted with facility over
a small minority? Would the honorable gentleman agree to continue the
most radical defects in the old system, because the petty State of Rhode
Island would not agree to remove them?

He next objects to the exclusive legislation over the district where the
seat of the government may be fixed. Would he submit that the
representatives of this State should carry on their deliberations under
the control of any one member of the Union? If any State had the power
of legislation over the place where Congress should fix the general
government, it would impair the dignity and hazard the safety of
Congress. If the safety of the Union were under the control of any
particular State, would not foreign corruption probably prevail in such
a State, to induce it to exert its controlling influence over the
members of the general government? Gentlemen cannot have forgotten the
disgraceful insult which Congress received some years ago. And, sir,
when we also reflect, that the previous cession of particular States is
necessary, before Congress can legislate exclusively anywhere, we must,
instead of being alarmed at this part, heartily approve of it.

But the honorable member sees great danger in the provision concerning
the militia. Now, sir, this I conceive to be an additional security to
our liberties, without diminishing the power of the States in any
considerable degree; it appears to me so highly expedient, that I should
imagine it would have found advocates even in the warmest friends of the
present system. The authority of training the militia and appointing the
officers is reserved to the States. But Congress ought to have the power
of establishing a uniform system of discipline throughout the States;
and to provide for the execution of the laws, suppress insurrections,
and repel invasions. These are the only cases wherein they can interfere
with the militia; and the obvious necessity of their having power over
them in these cases must flash conviction on any reflecting mind.
Without uniformity of discipline, military bodies would be incapable of
action; without a general controlling power to call forth the strength
of the Union, for the purpose of repelling invasions, the country might
be overrun and conquered by foreign enemies. Without such a power to
suppress insurrections, our liberties might be destroyed by intestine
faction, and domestic tyranny be established.

Give me leave to say something of the nature of the government, and to
show that it is perfectly safe and just to vest it with the power of
taxation. There are a number of opinions; but the principal question is,
whether it be a federal or a consolidated government. In order to judge
properly of the question before us, we must consider it minutely, in its
principal parts. I myself conceive that it is of a mixed nature; it is,
in a manner, unprecedented. We cannot find one express prototype in the
experience of the world: it stands by itself. In some respects, it is a
government of a federal nature; in others, it is of a consolidated
nature. Even if we attend to the manner in which the Constitution is
investigated, ratified, and made the act of the people of America, I can
say, notwithstanding what the honorable gentleman has alleged, that this
government is not completely consolidated; nor is it entirely federal.
Who are the parties to it? The people--not the people as composing one
great body, but the people as composing thirteen sovereignties. Were it,
as the gentleman asserts, a consolidated government, the assent of a
majority of the people would be sufficient for its establishment, and as
a majority have adopted it already, the remaining States would be bound
by the act of the majority, even if they unanimously reprobated it. Were
it such a government as is suggested, it would be now binding on the
people of this State, without having had the privilege of deliberating
upon it; but, sir, no State is bound by it, as it is, without its own
consent. Should all the States adopt it, it will be then a government
established by the thirteen States of America, not through the
intervention of the legislatures, but by the people at large. In this
particular respect, the distinction between the existing and proposed
governments is very material. The existing system has been derived from
the dependent, derivative authority of the legislatures of the States;
whereas this is derived from the superior power of the people. If we
look at the manner in which alterations are to be made in it, the same
idea is in some degree attended to. By the new system, a majority of the
States cannot introduce amendments; nor are all the States required for
that purpose; three fourths of them must concur in alterations; in this
there is a departure from the federal idea. The members to the national
House of Representatives are to be chosen by the people at large, in
proportion to the numbers in the respective districts. When we come to
the Senate, its members are elected by the States in their equal and
political capacity; but had the government been completely consolidated,
the Senate would have been chosen by the people, in their individual
capacity, in the same manner as the members of the other house. Thus it
is of complicated nature, and this complication, I trust, will be found
to exclude the evils of absolute consolidation, as well as of a mere
confederacy. If Virginia were separated from all the States, her power
and authority would extend to all cases; in like manner, were all powers
vested in the general government, it would be a consolidated government;
but the powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only
operate in certain cases: it has legislative powers on defined and
limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.

But the honorable member has satirized, with peculiar acrimony, the
powers given to the general government by this Constitution. I conceive
that the first question on this subject is, whether these powers be
necessary; if they be, we are reduced to the dilemma of either
submitting to the inconvenience, or losing the Union. Let us consider
the most important of these reprobated powers; that of direct taxation
is most generally objected to. With respect to the exigencies of
government, there is no question but the most easy mode of providing for
them will be adopted. When, therefore, direct taxes are not necessary,
they will not be recurred to. It can be of little advantage to those in
power, to raise money in a manner oppressive to the people. To consult
the conveniences of the people, will cost them nothing, and in many
respects will be advantageous to them. Direct taxes will only be
recurred to for great purposes. What has brought on other nations those
immense debts, under the pressure of which many of them labor? Not the
expenses of their governments, but war. If this country should be
engaged in war, (and I conceive we ought to provide for the possibility
of such a case,) how would it be carried on? By the usual means provided
from year to year? As our imports will be necessary for the expenses of
government, and other common exigencies, how are we to carry on the
means of defence? How is it possible a war could be supported without
money or credit? And would it be possible for government to have credit,
without having the power of raising money? No, it would be impossible
for any government, in such a case, to defend itself. Then, I say, sir,
that it is necessary to establish funds for extraordinary exigencies,
and give this power to the general government; for the utter inutility
of previous requisitions on the States is too well known. Would it be
possible for those countries, whose finances and revenues are carried to
the highest perfection, to carry on the operations of government on
great emergencies, such as the maintenance of a war, without an
uncontrolled power of raising money? Has it not been necessary for Great
Britain, notwithstanding the facility of the collection of her taxes, to
have recourse very often to this and other extraordinary methods of
procuring money? Would not her public credit have been ruined, if it was
known that her power to raise money was limited? Has not France been
obliged, on great occasions, to recur to unusual means, in order to
raise funds? It has been the case in many countries, and no government
can exist unless its powers extend to make provisions for every
contingency. If we were actually attacked by a powerful nation, and our
general government had not the power of raising money, but depended
solely on requisitions, our condition would be truly deplorable: if the
revenues of this commonwealth were to depend on twenty distinct
authorities, it would be impossible for it to carry on its operations.
This must be obvious to every member here: I think, therefore, that it
is necessary for the preservation of the Union, that this power should
be given to the general government.

But it is urged, that its consolidated nature, joined to the power of
direct taxation, will give it a tendency to destroy all subordinate
authority; that its increasing influence will speedily enable it to
absorb the State governments. I cannot bring myself to think that this
will be the case. If the general government were wholly independent of
the governments of the particular States, then indeed, usurpation might
be expected to the fullest extent: but, sir, on whom does this general
government depend? It derives its authority from these governments, and
from the same sources from which their authority is derived. The members
of the federal government are taken from the same men from whom those of
the State legislatures are taken. If we consider the mode in which the
federal representatives will be chosen, we shall be convinced, that the
general never will destroy the individual governments; and this
conviction must be strengthened by an attention to the construction of
the Senate. The representatives will be chosen, probably under the
influence of the State legislatures: but there is not the least
probability that the election of the latter will be influenced by the
former. One hundred and sixty members representing this commonwealth in
one branch of the legislature, are drawn from the people at large, and
must ever possess more influence than the few men who will be elected to
the general legislature. Those who wish to become federal
representatives, must depend on their credit with that class of men who
will be the most popular in their counties, who generally represent the
people in the State governments: they can, therefore, never succeed in
any measure contrary to the wishes of those on whom they depend. So
that, on the whole, it is almost certain that the deliberations of the
members of the federal House of Representatives will be directed to the
interests of the people of America. As to the other branch, the Senators
will be appointed by the legislatures, and, though elected for six
years, I do not conceive they will so soon forget the source whence they
derive their political existence. This election of one branch of the
federal, by the State legislatures, secures an absolute independence of
the former on the latter. The biennial exclusion of one third will
lessen the facility of a combination, and preclude all likelihood of
intrigues. I appeal to our past experience, whether they will attend to
the interests of their constituent States. Have not those gentlemen who
have been honored with seats in Congress often signalized themselves by
their attachment to their States? Sir, I pledge myself that this
government will answer the expectations of its friends, and foil the
apprehensions of its enemies. I am persuaded that the patriotism of the
people will continue, and be a sufficient guard to their liberties, and
that the tendency of the Constitution will be, that the State
governments will counteract the general interest, and ultimately
prevail. The number of the representatives is yet sufficient for our
safety, and will gradually increase; and if we consider their different
sources of information, the number will not appear too small.

Sir, that part of the proposed Constitution which gives the general
government the power of laying and collecting taxes, is indispensable
and essential to the existence of any efficient, or well organized
system of government: if we consult reason, and be ruled by its
dictates, we shall find its justification there: if we review the
experience we have had, or contemplate the history of nations, there too
we shall find ample reasons to prove its expediency. It would be
preposterous to depend for necessary supplies on a body which is fully
possessed of the power of withholding them. If a government depends on
other governments for its revenues; if it must depend on the voluntary
contributions of its members, its existence must be precarious. A
government that relies on thirteen independent sovereignties for the
means of its existence, is a solecism in theory, and a mere nullity in
practice. Is it consistent with reason, that such a government can
promote the happiness of any people? It is subversive of every principle
of sound policy, to trust the safety of a community with a government
totally destitute of the means of protecting itself or its members. Can
Congress, after the repeated unequivocal proofs it has experienced of
the utter inutility and inefficacy of requisitions, reasonably expect
that they would be hereafter effectual or productive?

Will not the same local interests, and other causes, militate against a
compliance? Whoever hopes the contrary must for ever be disappointed.
The effect, sir, cannot be changed without a removal of the cause. Let
each county in this commonwealth be supposed free and independent: let
your revenues depend on requisitions of proportionate quotas from them:
let application be made to them repeatedly, and then ask yourself, is it
to be presumed that they would comply, or that an adequate collection
could be made from partial compliances? It is now difficult to collect
the taxes from them: how much would that difficulty be enhanced, were
you to depend solely on their generosity? I appeal to the reason of
every gentleman here, and to his candor, to say whether he is not
persuaded that the present confederation is as feeble as the government
of Virginia would be in that case; to the same reason I appeal, whether
it be compatible with prudence to continue a government of such manifest
and palpable weakness and inefficiency.


Constitutional government in the United States began, in its national
phase, with the inauguration of Washington, but the experiment was for a
long time a doubtful one. Of the two parties, the federal and the
anti-federal parties, which had faced one another on the question of the
adoption of the Constitution, the latter had disappeared. Its
conspicuous failure to achieve the fundamental object of its existence,
and the evident hopelessnesss of reversing its failure in future,
blotted it out of existence. There was left but one party, the federal
party; and it, strong as it appeared, was really in almost as precarious
a position as its former opponent, because of the very completeness of
its success in achieving its fundamental object. Hamilton and Jefferson,
two of its representative members, were opposed in almost all the
political instincts of their natures; the former chose the restraints of
strong government as instinctively as the latter clung to individualism.
They had been accidentally united for the time in desiring the adoption
of the Constitution, though Hamilton considered it only a temporary
shift for something stronger, while Jefferson wished for a bill of
rights to weaken the force of some of its implications. Now that the
Constitution was ratified, what tie was there to hold these two to any
united action for the future? Nothing but a shadow--the name of a party
not yet two years old. As soon, therefore, as the federal party fairly
entered upon a secure tenure of power, the divergent instincts of the
two classes represented by Hamilton and Jefferson began to show
themselves more distinctly until there was no longer any pretence of
party unity, and the democratic (or republican) party assumed its place,
in 1792-3, as the recognized opponent of the party in power. It would be
beside the purpose to attempt to enumerate the points in which the
natural antagonism of the federalists and the republicans came to the
surface during the decade of contest which ended in the downfall of the
federal party in 1800-1. In all of them, in the struggles over the
establishment of the Bank of the United States and the assumption of the
State debts, in the respective sympathy for France and Great Britain, in
the strong federalist legislation forced through during the war feeling
against France in 1798, the controlling sympathy of the republicans for
individualism and of the federalists for a strong national government is
constantly visible, if looked for. The difficulty is that these
permanent features are often so obscured by the temporary media in which
they appear that the republicans are likely to be taken as a merely
State-rights party, and the federalists as a merely commercial party.

To adopt either of these notions would be to take a very erroneous idea
of American political history. The whole policy of the republicans was
to forward the freedom of the individual; their leader seems to have
made all other points subordinate to this. There is hardly any point in
which the action of the individual American has been freed from
governmental restraints, from ecclesiastical government, from sumptuary
laws, from restrictions on suffrage, from restrictions on commerce,
production, and exchange, for which he is not indebted in some measure
to the work and teaching of Jefferson between the years of 1790 and
1800. He and his party found the States in existence, understood well
that they were convenient shields for the individual against the
possible powers of the new federal government for evil, and made use of
them. The State sovereignty of Jefferson was the product of
individualism; that of Calhoun was the product of sectionalism.

On the other hand, if Jeffersonian democracy was the representative of
all the individualistic tendencies of the later science of political
economy, Hamiltonian federalism represented the necessary corrective
force of law. It was in many respects a strong survival of colonialism.
Together with some of the evil features of colonialism, its imperative
demands for submission to class government, its respect for the
interests and desires of the few, and its contempt for those of the
many, it had brought into American constitutional life a very high ratio
of that respect for law which alone can render the happiness and
usefulness of the individual a permanent and secure possession. It was
impossible for federalism to resist the individualistic tendency of the
country for any length of time; it is the monument of the party that it
secured, before it fell, abiding guaranties for the security of the
individual under freedom.

The genius of the federalists was largely practical. It was shown in
their masterly organization of the federal government when it was first
entrusted to their hands, an organization which has since been rather
developed than disturbed in any of its parts. But the details of the
work absorbed the attention of the leaders so completely that it would
be impossible to fix on any public address as entirely representative of
the party. Fisher Ames' speech on the Jay treaty, which was considered
by the federalists the most effective piece of oratory in their party
history, has been taken as a substitute. The question was to the
federalists partly of commercial and partly of national importance. John
Jay had secured the first commercial treaty with Great Britain in 1795.
It not only provided for the security of American commerce during the
European wars to which Great Britain was a party, and obtained the
surrender of the military posts in the present States of Ohio and
Michigan; it also gave the United States a standing in the family of
nations which it was difficult to claim elsewhere while Great Britain
continued to refuse to treat on terms of equality. The Senate therefore
ratified the treaty, and it was constitutionally complete. The
democratic majority in the House of Representatives, objecting to the
treaty as a surrender of previous engagements with France, and as a
failure to secure the rights of individuals against Great Britain,
particularly in the matter of impressment, raised the point that the
House was not bound to vote money for carrying into effect a treaty with
which it was seriously dissatisfied. The speech of Gallatin has been
selected to represent the republican view. It is a strong reflection of
the opposition to the Treaty. The reply of Ames is a forcible
presentation of both the national and the commercial aspects of his
party; it had a very great influence in securing, though by a very
narrow majority, the vote of the House in favor of the appropriation.

There is some difficulty in fixing on any completely representative
oration to represent the republican point of view covering this period.
Gallatin's speech on the Jay Treaty together with Nicholas' argument for
the repeal of the sedition law may serve this purpose. The speech of
Nicholas shows the instinctive sympathy of the party for the individual
rather than for the government. It shows the force with which this
sympathy drove the party into a strict construction of the Constitution.
It seems also to bear the strongest internal indications that it was
inspired, if not entirely written, by the great leader of the party,
Jefferson. The federalists had used the popular war feeling against
France in 1798, not only to press the formation of an army and a navy
and the abrogation of the old and trouble-some treaties with France, but
to pass the alien and sedition laws as well. The former empowered the
President to expel from the country or imprison any alien whom he should
consider dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States. The
latter forbade, under penalty of fine and imprisonment, the printing or
publishing of any "false, scandalous, or malicious writings" calculated
to bring the Government, Congress, or the President into disrepute, or
to excite against them the hatred of the good people of the United
States, or to stir up sedition. It was inevitable that the republicans
should oppose such laws, and that the people should support them in
their opposition. At the election of 1800, the federal party was
overthrown, and the lost ground was never regained. With Jefferson's
election to the presidency, began the democratic period of the United
States; but it has always been colored strongly and naturally by the
federal bias toward law and order.






I will not follow some of the gentlemen who have preceded me, by
dwelling upon the discretion of the legislature; a question which has
already been the subject of our deliberations, and been decided by a
solemn vote. Gentle-men who were in the minority on that question may
give any construction they please to the declaratory resolution of the
House; they may again repeat that to refuse to carry the treaty into
effect is a breach of the public faith which they conceive as being
pledged by the President and Senate. This has been the ground on which a
difference of opinion has existed since the beginning of the discussion.
It is because the House thinks that the faith of the nation cannot, on
those subjects submitted to the power of Congress, be pledged by any
constituted authority other than the legislature, that they resolved
that in all such cases it is their right and duty to consider the
expediency of carrying a treaty into effect. If the House think the
faith of the nation already pledged they can not claim any discretion;
there is no room left to deliberate upon the expediency of the thing.
The resolution now under consideration is merely "that it is expedient
to carry the British treaty into effect," and not whether we are bound
by national faith to do it. I will therefore consider the question of
expediency alone; and thinking as I do that the House has full
discretion on this subject, I conceive that there is as much
responsibility in deciding in the affirmative as in rejecting the
resolution, and that we shall be equally answerable for the consequences
that may follow from either.

It is true, however, that there was a great difference between the
situation of this country in the year 1794, when a negotiator was
appointed, and that in which we are at present; and that consequences
will follow the refusal to carry into effect the treaty in its present
stage, which would not have attended a refusal to negotiate and to enter
into such a treaty. The question of expediency, therefore, assumes
before us a different and more complex shape than when before the
negotiator, the Senate, or the President. The treaty, in itself and
abstractedly considered, may be injurious; it may be such an instrument
as in the opinion of the House ought not to have been adopted by the
Executive; and yet such as it is we may think it expedient under the
present circumstances to carry it into effect. I will therefore first
take a view of the provisions of the treaty itself, and in the next
place, supposing it is injurious, consider, in case it is not carried
into effect, what will be the natural consequences of such refusal.

The provisions of the treaty relate either to the adjustment of past
differences, or to the future intercourse of the two nations. The
differences now existing between Great Britain and this country arose
either from non-execution of some articles of the treaty of peace or
from the effects of the present European war. The complaints of Great
Britain in relation to the treaty of 1783 were confined to the legal
impediments thrown by the several States in the way of the recovery of
British debts. The late treaty provides adequate remedy on that subject;
the United States are bound to make full and complete compensation for
any losses arising from that source, and every ground of complaint on
the part of Great Britain is removed.

Having thus done full justice to the other nation, America has a right
to expect that equal attention shall be paid to her claims arising from
infractions of the treaty of peace, viz., compensation for the negroes
carried away by the British; restoration of the western posts, and
indemnification for their detention.

On the subject of the first claim, which has been objected to as
groundless, I will observe that I am not satisfied that the construction
given by the British government to that article of the treaty is
justified even by the letter of the article. That construction rests on
the supposition that slaves come under the general denomination of
booty, and are alienated the moment they fall into possession of an
enemy, so that all those who were in the hands of the British when the
treaty of peace was signed, must be considered as British and not as
American property, and are not included in the article. It will,
however, appear by recurring to Vattel when speaking of the right of
"Postliminium," that slaves cannot be considered as a part of the booty
which is alienated by the act of capture, and that they are to be ranked
rather with real property, to the profits of which only the captors are
entitled. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that the construction
given by America is that which was understood by the parties at the time
of making the treaty. The journals of Mr. Adams, quoted by a gentleman
from Connecticut, Mr. Coit, prove this fully; for when he says that the
insertion of this article was alone worth the journey of Mr. Laurens
from London, can it be supposed that he would have laid so much stress
on a clause, which, according to the new construction now attempted to
be given, means only that the British would commit no new act of
hostility--would not carry away slaves at that time in possession of
Americans? Congress recognized that construction by adopting the
resolution which has been already quoted, and which was introduced upon
the motion of Mr. Alexander Hamilton; and it has not been denied that
the British ministry during Mr. Adams' embassy also agreed to it.

But when our negotiator had, for the sake of peace, waived that claim;
when he had also abandoned the right which America had to demand an
indemnification for the detention of the posts, although he had conceded
the right of a similar nature, which Great Britain had for the detention
of debts; when he had thus given up everything which might be supposed
to be of a doubtful nature, it might have been hoped that our last
claim--a claim on which there was not and there never had been any
dispute--the western posts should have been restored according to the
terms of the treaty of peace. Upon what ground the British insisted, and
our negotiator conceded, that this late restitution should be saddled
with new conditions, which made no part of the original contract, I am
at a loss to know. British traders are allowed by the new treaty to
remain within the posts without becoming citizens of the United States;
and to carry on trade and commerce with the Indians living within our
boundaries without being subject to any control from our government. In
vain is it said that if that clause had not been inserted we would have
found it to our interest to effect it by our own laws. Of this we are
alone competent judges; if that condition is harmless at present it is
not possible to foresee whether, under future circumstances, it will not
prove highly injurious; and whether harmless or not, it is not less a
permanent and new condition imposed upon us. But the fact is, that by
the introduction of that clause, by obliging us to keep within our
jurisdiction, as British subjects, the very men who have been the
instruments used by Great Britain to promote Indian wars on our
frontiers; by obliging us to suffer those men to continue their commerce
with the Indians living in our territory, uncontrolled by those
regulations which we have thought necessary in order to restrain our own
citizens in their intercourse with these tribes, Great Britain has
preserved her full influence with the Indian nations. By a restoration
of the posts under that condition we have lost the greatest advantage
that was expected from their possession, viz.: future security against
the Indians. In the same manner have the British preserved the
commercial advantages which result from the occupancy of those posts, by
stipulating as a permanent condition, a free passage for their goods
across our portages without paying any duty.

Another article of the new treaty which is connected with the provisions
of the treaty of 1783 deserves consideration; I mean what relates to the
Mississippi. At the time when the navigation of that river to its mouth
was by the treaty of peace declared to be common to both nations, Great
Britain communicated to America a right which she held by virtue of the
treaty of 1763, and as owner of the Floridas; but since that cession to
the United States, England has ceded to Spain her claim on the Floridas,
and does not own at the present time an inch of ground, either on the
mouth or on any part of that river. Spain now stands in the place of
Great Britain, and by virtue of the treaty of 1783 it is to Spain and
America, and not to England and America, that the navigation of the
Mississippi is at present to be common. Yet, notwithstanding this change
of circumstances, we have repeated that article of the former treaty in
the late one, and have granted to Great Britain the additional privilege
of using our ports on the eastern side of the river, without which, as
they own no land thereon, they could not have navigated it. Nor is this
all. Upon a supposition that the Mississippi does not extend so far
northward as to be intersected by a line drawn due west from the Lake of
the Woods, or, in other words, upon a supposition that Great Britain has
not a claim even to touch the Mississippi, we have agreed, not upon what
will be the boundary line, but that we will hereafter negotiate to
settle that line. Thus leaving to future negotiation what should have
been finally settled by the treaty itself, in the same manner as all
other differences were, is calculated for the sole purpose, either of
laying the foundation of future disputes, or of recognizing a claim in
Great Britain on the waters of the Mississippi, even if their boundary
line leaves to the southward the sources of that river. Had not that
been the intention of Great Britain the line would have been settled at
once by the treaty, according to either of the two only rational ways of
doing it in conformity to the treaty of 1783, that is to say, by
agreeing that the line should run from the northernmost sources of the
Mississippi, either directly to the western extremity of the Lake of the
Woods, or northwardly till it intersected the line to be drawn due west
from that lake. But by repeating the article of the treaty of 1783; by
conceding the free use of our ports on the river, and by the insertion
of the fourth article, we have admitted that Great Britain, in all
possible events, has still a right to navigate that river from its
source to its mouth. What may be the future effects of these provisions,
especially as they regard our intercourse with Spain, it is impossible
at present to say; but although they can bring us no advantage, they may
embroil us with that nation: and we have already felt the effect of it
in our late treaty with Spain, since we were obliged, on account of that
clause of the British treaty, to accept as a gift and a favor the
navigation of that river which we had till then claimed as a right.

But if, leaving commercial regulations, we shall seek in the treaty for
some provisions securing to us the free navigation of the ocean against
any future aggressions on our trade, where are they to be found? I can
add nothing to what has been said on the subject of contraband articles:
it is, indeed, self-evident, that, connecting our treaty with England on
that subject with those we have made with other nations, it amounts to a
positive compact to supply that nation exclusively with naval stores
whenever they may be at war. Had the list of contraband articles been
reduced--had naval stores and provisions, our two great staple
commodities, been declared not to be contra-band, security would have
been given to the free exportation of our produce; but instead of any
provision being made on that head, an article of a most doubtful nature,
and on which I will remark hereafter, has been introduced. But I mean,
for the present, to confine my observations to the important question of
free bottoms making free goods. It was with the utmost astonishment that
I heard the doctrine advanced on this floor, that such a provision, if
admitted, would prove injurious to America, inasmuch as in case of war
between this country and any other nation, the goods of that nation
might be protected by the English flag. It is not to a state of war that
the benefits of this provision would extend; but it is the only security
which neutral nations can have against the legal plundering on the high
seas, so often committed by belligerent powers. It is not for the sake
of protecting an enemy's property; it is not for the sake of securing an
advantageous carrying trade; but it is in order effectually to secure
ourselves against sea aggressions, that this provision is necessary.
Spoliations may arise from unjust orders, given by the government of a
belligerent nation to their officers and cruisers, and these may be
redressed by application to and negotiation with that order. But no
complaints, no negotiations, no orders of government itself, can give
redress when those spoliations are grounded on a supposition, that the
vessels of the neutral nation have an enemy's property on board, as long
as such property is not protected by the flag of the neutral nation; as
long as it is liable to be captured, it is not sufficient, in order to
avoid detention and capture, to have no such property on board. Every
privateer, under pretence that he suspects an enemy's goods to be part
of a cargo, may search, vex, and capture a vessel; and if in any corner
of the dominions of the belligerent power, a single judge can be found
inclined, if not determined, to condemn, at all events, before his
tribunal, all vessels so captured will be brought there, and the same
pretence which caused the capture will justify a condemnation. The only
nation who persists in the support of this doctrine, as making part of
the law of nations, is the first maritime power of Europe, whom their
interest, as they are the strongest, and as there is hardly a maritime
war in which they are not involved, leads to wish for a continuation of
a custom which gives additional strength to their overbearing dominion
over the seas. All the other nations have different sentiments and a
different interest. During the American war, in the year 1780, so fully
convinced were the neutral nations of the necessity of introducing that
doctrine of free bottoms making free goods, that all of them, excepting
Portugal, who was in a state of vassalage to, and a mere appendage of,
Great Britain, united in order to establish the principle, and formed
for that purpose the alliance known by the name of the armed neutrality.
All the belligerent powers, except England, recognized and agreed to the
doctrine. England itself was obliged, in some measure, to give, for a
while, a tacit acquiescence. America, at the time, fully admitted the
principle, although then at war.

Since the year 1780, every nation, so far as my knowledge goes, has
refused to enter into a treaty of commerce with England, unless that
provision was inserted. Russia, for that reason, would not renew their
treaty, which had expired in 1786; although I believe that, during the
present war, and in order to answer the ends of the war, they formed a
temporary convention, which I have not seen, but which, perhaps, does
not include that provision. England consented to it in her treaty with
France, in 1788, and we are the first neutral nation who has abandoned
the common cause, given up the claim, and by a positive declaration
inserted in our treaty, recognized the contrary doctrine. It has been
said that, under the present circumstances, it could not be expected
that Great Britain would give up the point; perhaps so; but the
objection is not, that our negotiator has not been able to obtain that
principle, but that he has consented to enter into a treaty of commerce
which we do not want, and which has no connection with an adjustment of
our differences with Great Britain, without the principle contended for
making part of that treaty. Unless we can obtain security for our
navigation, we want no treaty; and the only provision which can give us
that security, should have been the _sine qua non_ of a treaty. On the
contrary, we have disgusted all the other neutral nations of Europe,
without whose concert and assistance there is but little hope that we
shall ever obtain that point; and we have taught Great Britain that we
are disposed to form the most intimate connections with her, even at the
expense of recognizing a principle the most fatal to the liberty of
commerce and to the security of our navigation.

But, if we could not obtain anything which might secure us against
future aggressions, should we have parted, without receiving any
equivalent, with those weapons of self-defence, which, although they
could not repel, might, in some degree, prevent any gross attacks upon
our trade--any gross violation of our rights as a neutral nation? We
have no fleet to oppose or to punish the insults of Great Britain; but,
from our commercial relative situation, we have it in our power to
restrain her aggressions, by restrictions on her trade, by a total
prohibition of her manufactures, or by a sequestration of the debts due
to her. By the treaty, not satisfied with receiving nothing, not
satisfied with obtaining no security for the future, we have, of our own
accord, surrendered those defensive arms, for fear they might be abused
by ourselves. We have given up the two first, for the whole time during
which we might want them most, the period of the present war; and the
last, the power of sequestration, we have abandoned for ever: every
other article of the treaty of commerce is temporary; this perpetual.

I shall not enter into a discussion of the immorality of sequestering
private property. What can be more immoral than war; or plundering on
the high seas, legalized under the name of privateering? Yet
self-defence justifies the first, and the necessity of the case may, at
least in some instances, and where it is the only practicable mode of
warfare left to a nation, apologize even for the last. In the same
manner, the power of sequestration may be resorted to, as the last
weapon of self-defence, rather than to seek redress by an appeal to
arms. It is the last peace measure that can be taken by a nation; but
the treaty, by declaring, that in case of national differences it shall
not be resorted to, has deprived us of the power of judging of its
propriety, has rendered it an act of hostility, and has effectually
taken off that restraint, which a fear of its exercise laid upon Great

Thus it appears that by the treaty we have promised full compensation to
England for every possible claim they may have against us, that we have
abandoned every claim of a doubtful nature, and that we have consented
to receive the posts, our claim to which was not disputed, under new
conditions and restrictions never before contemplated; that after having
obtained by those concessions an adjustment of past differences, we have
entered into a new agreement, unconnected with those objects, which have
heretofore been subjects of discussion between the two nations; and that
by this treaty of commerce and navigation, we have obtained no
commercial advantage which we did not enjoy before, we have obtained no
security against future aggressions, no security in favor of the freedom
of our navigation, and we have parted with every pledge we had in our
hands, with every power of restriction, with every weapon of
self-defence which is calculated to give us any security.

From the review I have taken of the treaty, and the opinions I have
expressed, it is hardly necessary for me to add, that I look upon the
instrument as highly injurious to the interests of the United States,
and that I earnestly wish it never had been made; but whether in its
present stage the House ought to refuse to carry it into effect, and
what will be the probable consequences of a refusal, is a question which
requires the most serious attention, and which I will now attempt to

Should the treaty be finally defeated, either new negotiations will be
more successful or Great Britain will refuse to make a new arrangement,
and leave things in the situation in which they now are, or war will be
the consequence. I will, in the course of my observations, make some
remarks on the last supposition. I do not think that the first will be
very probable at present, and I am of opinion that, under the present
circumstances, and until some change takes place in our own or in the
relative political situation of the European nations, it is to be
apprehended that, in such a case, new negotiations will either be
rejected or prove unsuccessful. Such an event might have perhaps
followed a rejection of the treaty even by the Senate or by the
President. After the negotiator employed by the United States had once
affixed his signature it must have become very problematical, unless he
had exceeded his powers, whether a refusal to sanction the contract he
had made would not eventually defeat, at least for a time, the prospect
of a new treaty. I conceive that the hopes of obtaining better
conditions by a new negotiation are much less in the present stage of
the business than they were when the treaty was in its inchoate form
before the Executive; and in order to form a just idea of the
consequences of a rejection at present, I will contemplate them upon
this supposition, which appears to me most probable, to wit, that no new
treaty will take place for a certain period of time.

In mentioning my objections to the treaty itself, I have already stated
the advantages which in my opinion would result to the United States
from the non-existence of that instrument; I will not repeat, but
proceed at once to examine what losses may accrue that can be set off
against those advantages.

The further detention of the posts, the national stain that will result
from receiving no reparation for the spoliations on our trade, and the
uncertainty of a final adjustment of our differences with Great Britain,
are the three evils which strike me as resulting from a rejection of the
treaty; and when to those considerations I add that of the present
situation of this country, of the agitation of the public mind, and of
the advantages that will arise from union of sentiments, however
injurious and unequal I conceive the treaty to be, however repugnant it
may be to my feelings, and perhaps to my prejudices, I feel induced to
vote for it, and will not give my assent to any proposition which will
imply its rejection. But the conduct of Great Britain since the treaty
was signed, the impressment of our seamen, and their uninterrupted
spoliations on our trade, especially by seizing our vessels laden with
provisions, a proceeding which they may perhaps justify by one of the
articles of the treaty, are such circumstances as may induce us to pause
awhile, in order to examine whether it is proper, immediately and
without having obtained any explanation thereon, to adopt the resolution
on the table, and to pass, at present, all the laws necessary to carry
the treaty into effect.

Whatever evils may follow a rejection of the treaty, they will not
attend a postponement. To suspend our proceedings will not throw us into
a situation which will require new negotiations, new arrangements on the
points already settled and well understood by both parties. It will be
merely a delay, until an explanation of the late conduct of the British
towards us may be obtained, or until that conduct may be altered. If, on
the contrary, we consent to carry the treaty into effect, under the
present circumstances, what will be our situation in future? It is by
committing the most wanton and the most unprovoked aggressions on our
trade; it is by seizing a large amount of our property as a pledge for
our good behavior, that Great Britain has forced the nation into the
present treaty. If by threatening new hostilities, or rather by
continuing her aggressions, even after the treaty is made, she can force
us also to carry it into effect, our acquiescence will be tantamount to
a declaration that we mean to submit in proportion to the insults that
are offered to us; and this disposition being once known, what security
have we against new insults, new aggressions, new spoliations, which
probably will lay the foundation of some additional sacrifices on ours?
It has been said, and said with truth, that to put up with the
indignities we have received without obtaining any reparation, which
will probably be the effect of defeating the treaty, is highly
dishonorable to the nation.

In my opinion it is still more so not only tamely to submit to a
continuation of these national insults, but while they thus continue
uninterrupted, to carry into effect the instrument we have consented to
accept as a reparation for former ones. When the general conduct of
Great Britain towards us from the beginning of the present war is
considered; when the means by which she has produced the treaty are
reflected on, a final compliance on our part while she still persists in
that conduct, whilst the chastening rod of that nation is still held
over us, is in my opinion a dereliction of national interest, of
national honor, of national independence.

But it is said, that war must be the consequence of our delaying to
carry the treaty into effect. Do the gentlemen mean, that if we reject
the treaty, if we do not accept the reparation there given to us, in
order to obtain redress, we have no alternative left but war? If we must
go to war in order to obtain reparation for insults and spoliations on
our trade, we must do it, even if we carry the present treaty into
effect; for this treaty gives us no reparation for the aggressions
committed since it was ratified, has not produced a discontinuance of
those acts of hostility, and gives us no security that they shall be
discontinued. But the arguments of those gentlemen, who suppose that
America must go to war, apply to a final rejection of the treaty, and
not to a delay. I do not propose to refuse the reparation offered by the
treaty, and to put up with the aggressions committed; I have agreed that
that reparation, such as it is, is a valuable article of the treaty; I
have agreed, that under the present circumstances, a greater evil will
follow a total rejection of, than an acquiescence in, the treaty. The
only measure which has been mentioned, in preference to the one now
under discussion, is a suspension, a postponement, whilst the present
spoliations continue, in hopes to obtain for them a similar reparation,
and assurances that they shall cease.

But is it meant to insinuate that it is the final intention of those who
pretend to wish only for a postponement, to involve this country in a
war? There has been no period during the present European war, at which
it would not have been equally weak and wicked to adopt such measures as
must involve America in the contest, unless forced into it for the sake
of self-defence; but, at this time, to think of it would fall but little
short of madness. The whole American nation would rise in opposition to
the idea; and it might at least have been recollected, that war can not
be declared, except by Congress, and that two of the branches of
government are sufficient to check the other in any supposed attempt of
this kind.

If there is no necessity imposed upon America to go to war, if there is
no apprehension she will, by her own conduct, involve herself in one,
the danger must arise from Great Britain, and the threat is, that she
will make war against us if we do not comply. Gentlemen first tell us
that we have made the best possible bargain with that nation; that she
has conceded everything, without receiving a single iota in return, and
yet they would persuade us, that she will make war against us in order
to force us to accept that contract so advantageous to us, and so
injurious to herself. It will not be contended that a delay, until an
amicable explanation is obtained, could afford even a pretence to Great
Britain for going to war; and we all know that her own interest would
prevent her. If another campaign takes place, it is acknowledged, that
all her efforts are to be exerted against the West Indies. She has
proclaimed her own scarcity of provisions at home, and she must depend
on our supplies to support her armament. It depends upon us to defeat
her whole scheme, and this is a sufficient pledge against open
hostility, if the European war continues. If peace takes place, there
will not be even the appearance of danger; the moment when a nation is
happy enough to emerge from one of the most expensive, bloody, and
dangerous wars in which she ever has been involved, will be the last she
would choose to plunge afresh into a similar calamity.

But to the cry of war, the alarmists do not fail to add that of
confusion; and they have declared, even on this floor, that if the
resolution is not adopted government will be dissolved. Government
dissolved in case a postponement takes place! The idea is too absurd to
deserve a direct answer. But I will ask those gentlemen, by whom is
government to be dissolved? Certainly not by those who may vote against
the resolution; for although they are not perhaps fortunate enough to
have obtained the confidence of the gentlemen who voted against them,
still it must be agreed, that those who succeed in their wishes, who
defeat a measure they dislike, will not wish to destroy that government,
which they hold so far in their hands as to be able to carry their own
measures. For them to dissolve government, would be to dissolve their
own power. By whom, then, I again ask, is the government to be
dissolved? The gentlemen must answer--by themselves--or they must
declare that they mean nothing but to alarm. Is it really the language
of those men, who profess to be, who distinguish themselves by the
self-assumed appellation of friends to order, that if they do not
succeed in all their measures they will overset government--and have all
their professions been only a veil to hide their love of power, a
pretence to cover their ambition? Do they mean, that the first event
which shall put an end to their own authority shall be the last act of
government? As to myself, I do not believe that they have such
intentions; I have too good an opinion of their patriotism to allow
myself to admit such an idea a single moment; but I think myself
justifiable in entertaining a belief, that some amongst them, in order
to carry a favorite, and what they think to be an advantageous measure,
mean to spread an alarm which they do not feel; and I have no doubt,
that many have contracted such a habit of carrying every measure of
government as they please, that they really think that every thing must
be thrown into confusion the moment they are thwarted in a matter of
importance. I hope that experience will in future cure their fears. But,
at all events, be the wishes and intentions of the members of this House
what they may, it is not in their power to dissolve the government. The
people of the United States, from one end of the continent to the other,
are strongly attached to their Constitution; they would restrain and
punish the excesses of any party, of any set of men in government, who
would be guilty of the attempt; and on them I will rest as a full
security against every endeavor to destroy our Union, our Constitution,
or our government.

If the people of the United States wish this House to carry the treaty
into effect immediately, and notwithstanding the continued aggressions
of the British, if their will was fairly and fully expressed, I would
immediately acquiesce; but since an appeal has been made to them, it is
reasonable to suspend a decision until their sentiments are known. Till
then I must follow my own judgment; and as I cannot see that any
possible evils will follow a delay, I shall vote against the resolution
before the committee, in order to make room, either for that proposed by
my colleague, Mr. Maclay, or for any other, expressed in any manner
whatever, provided it embraces the object I have in view, to wit, the
suspension of the final vote--a postponement of the laws necessary to
carry the treaty into effect, until satisfactory assurances are obtained
that Great Britain means, in future, to show us that friendly
disposition which it is my earnest wish may at all times be cultivated
by America towards all other nations.




It would be strange, that a subject, which has aroused in turn all the
passions of the country, should be discussed without the interference of
any of our own. We are men, and therefore not exempt from those
passions; as citizens and representatives, we feel the interests that
must excite them. The hazard of great interests cannot fail to agitate
strong passions. We are not disinterested; it is impossible we should be
dispassionate. The warmth of such feelings may becloud the judgment,
and, for a time, pervert the understanding. But the public sensibility,
and our own, has sharpened the spirit of inquiry, and given an animation
to the debate. The public attention has been quickened to mark the
progress of the discussion, and its judgment, often hasty and erroneous
on first impressions, has become solid and enlightened at last. Our
result will, I hope, on that account, be safer and more mature, as well
as more accordant with that of the nation. The only constant agents in
political affairs are the passions of men. Shall we complain of our
nature--shall we say that man ought to have been made otherwise? It is
right already, because He, from whom we derive our nature, ordained it
so; and because thus made and thus acting, the cause of truth and the
public good is more surely promoted.

The treaty is bad, fatally bad, is the cry. It sacrifices the interest,
the honor, the independence of the United States, and the faith of our
engagements to France. If we listen to the clamor of party intemperance,
the evils are of a number not to be counted, and of a nature not to be
borne, even in idea. The language of passion and exaggeration may
silence that of sober reason in other places, it has not done it here.
The question here is, whether the treaty be really so very fatal as to
oblige the nation to break its faith. I admit that such a treaty ought
not to be executed. I admit that self-preservation is the first law of
society, as well as of individuals. It would, perhaps, be deemed an
abuse of terms to call that a treaty, which violates such a principle. I
waive also, for the present, any inquiry, what departments shall
represent the nation, and annul the stipulations of a treaty. I content
myself with pursuing the inquiry, whether the nature of this compact be
such as to justify our refusal to carry it into effect. A treaty is the
promise of a nation. Now, promises do not always bind him that makes
them. But I lay down two rules, which ought to guide us in this case.
The treaty must appear to be bad, not merely in the petty details, but
in its character, principle, and mass. And in the next place, this ought
to be ascertained by the decided and general concurrence of the
enlightened public.

I confess there seems to be something very like ridicule thrown over the
debate by the discussion of the articles in detail. The undecided point
is, shall we break our faith? And while our country and enlightened
Europe, await the issue with more than curiosity, we are employed to
gather piecemeal, and article by article, from the instrument, a
justification for the deed by trivial calculations of commercial profit
and loss. This is little worthy of the subject, of this body, or of the
nation. If the treaty is bad, it will appear to be so in its mass. Evil
to a fatal extreme, if that be its tendency, requires no proof; it
brings it. Extremes speak for themselves and make their own law. What if
the direct voyage of American ships to Jamaica with horses or lumber,
might net one or two per centum more than the present trade to Surinam;
would the proof of the fact avail any thing in so grave a question as
the violation of the public engagements?

Why do they complain, that the West Indies are not laid open? Why do
they lament, that any restriction is stipulated on the commerce of the
East Indies? Why do they pretend, that if they reject this, and insist
upon more, more will be accomplished? Let us be explicit--more would not
satisfy. If all was granted, would not a treaty of amity with Great
Britain still be obnoxious? Have we not this instant heard it urged
against our envoy, that he was not ardent enough in his hatred of Great
Britain? A treaty of amity is condemned because it was not made by a
foe, and in the spirit of one. The same gentleman, at the same instant,
repeats a very prevailing objection, that no treaty should be made with
the enemy of France. No treaty, exclaim others, should be made with a
monarch or a despot; there will be no naval security while those
sea-robbers domineer on the ocean; their den must be destroyed; that
nation must be extirpated.

I like this, sir, because it is sincerity. With feelings such as these,
we do not pant for treaties. Such passions seek nothing, and will be
content with nothing, but the destruction of their object. If a treaty
left King George his island, it would not answer; not if he stipulated
to pay rent for it. It has been said, the world ought to rejoice if
Britain was sunk in the sea; if where there are now men and wealth and
laws and liberty, there was no more than a sand bank for sea monsters to
fatten on; a space for the storms of the ocean to mingle in conflict.

What is patriotism? Is it a narrow affection for the spot where a man
was born? Are the very clods where we tread entitled to this ardent
preference because they are greener? No, sir, this is not the character
of the virtue, and it soars higher for its object. It is an extended
self-love, mingling with all the enjoyments of life, and twisting itself
with the minutest filaments of the heart. It is thus we obey the laws of
society, because they are the laws of virtue. In their authority we see,
not the array of force and terror, but the venerable image of our
country's honor. Every good citizen makes that honor his own, and
cherishes it not only as precious, but as sacred. He is willing to risk
his life in its defence, and is conscious that he gains protection while
he gives it. For, what rights of a citizen will be deemed inviolable
when a state renounces the principles that constitute their security? Or
if his life should not be invaded, what would its enjoyments be in a
country odious in the eyes of strangers and dishonored in his own? Could
he look with affection and veneration to such a country as his parent?
The sense of having one would die within him; he would blush for his
patriotism, if he retained any, and justly, for it would be a vice. He
would be a banished man in his native land. I see no exception to the
respect that is paid among nations to the law of good faith. If there
are cases in this enlightened period when it is violated, there are none
when it is decried. It is the philosophy of politics, the religion of
governments. It is observed by barbarians--a whiff of tobacco smoke, or
a string of beads, gives not merely binding force but sanctity to
treaties. Even in Algiers, a truce may be bought for money, but when
ratified, even Algiers is too wise, or too just, to disown and annul its
obligation. Thus we see, neither the ignorance of savages, nor the
principles of an association for piracy and rapine, permit a nation to
despise its engagements. If, sir, there could be a resurrection from the
foot of the gallows, if the victims of justice could live again, collect
together and form a society, they would, however loath, soon find
themselves obliged to make justice, that justice under which they fell,
the fundamental law of their state. They would perceive, it was their
interest to make others respect, and they would therefore soon pay some
respect themselves, to the obligations of good faith.

It is painful, I hope it is superfluous, to make even the supposition,
that America should furnish the occasion of this opprobrium. No, let me
not even imagine, that a republican government, sprung, as our own is,
from a people enlightened and uncorrupted, a government whose origin is
right, and whose daily discipline is duty, can, upon solemn debate, make
its option to be faithless--can dare to act what despots dare not avow,
what our own example evinces, the states of Barbary are unsuspected of.
No, let me rather make the supposition, that Great Britain refuses to
execute the treaty, after we have done every thing to carry it into
effect. Is there any language of reproach pungent enough to express your
commentary on the fact? What would you say, or rather what would you not
say? Would you not tell them, wherever an Englishman might travel, shame
would stick to him--he would disown his country. You would exclaim,
England, proud of your wealth, and arrogant in the possession of
power--blush for these distinctions, which become the vehicles of your
dishonor. Such a nation might truly say to corruption, thou art my
father, and to the worm, thou art my mother and my sister. We should say
of such a race of men, their name is a heavier burden than their debt.

The refusal of the posts (inevitable if we reject the treaty) is a
measure too decisive in its nature to be neutral in its consequences.
From great causes we are to look for great effects. A plain and obvious
one will be, the price of the Western lands will fall. Settlers will not
choose to fix their habitation on a field of battle. Those who talk so
much of the interest of the United States, should calculate how deeply
it will be affected by rejecting the treaty; how vast a tract of wild
land will almost cease to be property. This loss, let it be observed,
will fall upon a fund expressly devoted to sink the national debt. What
then are we called upon to do? However the form of the vote and the
protestations of many may disguise the proceeding, our resolution is in
substance, and it deserves to wear the title of a resolution to prevent
the sale of the Western lands and the discharge of the public debt.

Will the tendency to Indian hostilities be contested by any one?
Experience gives the answer. The frontiers were scourged with war till
the negotiation with Great Britain was far advanced, and then the state
of hostility ceased. Perhaps the public agents of both nations are
innocent of fomenting the Indian war, and perhaps they are not. We ought
not, however, to expect that neighboring nations, highly irritated
against each other, will neglect the friendship of the savages; the
traders will gain an influence and will abuse it; and who is ignorant
that their passions are easily raised, and hardly restrained from
violence? Their situation will oblige them to choose between this
country and Great Britain, in case the treaty should be rejected. They
will not be our friends, and at the same time the friends of our

But am I reduced to the necesity of proving this point? Certainly the
very men who charged the Indian war on the detention of the posts, will
call for no other proof than the recital of their own speeches. It is
remembered with what emphasis, with what acrimony, they expatiated on
the burden of taxes, and the drain of blood and treasure into the
Western country, in consequence of Britain's holding the posts. Until
the posts are restored, they exclaimed, the treasury and the frontiers
must bleed.

If any, against all these proofs, should maintain that the peace with
the Indians will be stable without the posts, to them I urge another
reply. From arguments calculated to produce conviction, I will appeal
directly to the hearts of those who hear me, and ask, whether it is not
already planted there? I resort especially to the convictions of the
Western gentlemen, whether supposing no posts and no treaty, the
settlers will remain in security? Can they take it upon them to say,
that an Indian peace, under these circumstances, will prove firm? No,
sir, it will not be peace, but a sword; it will be no better than a lure
to draw victims within the reach of the tomahawk.

On this theme my emotions are unutterable. If I could find words for
them, if my powers bore any proportion to my zeal, I would swell my
voice to such a note of remonstrance, it should reach every log-house
beyond the mountains. I would say to the inhabitants, wake from your
false security; your cruel dangers, your more cruel apprehensions are
soon to be renewed; the wounds, yet unhealed, are to be torn open again;
in the daytime, your path through the woods will be ambushed; the
darkness of midnight will glitter with the blaze of your dwellings. You
are a father--the blood of your sons shall fatten your cornfield; you
are a mother--the war-whoop shall wake the sleep of the cradle.

On this subject you need not suspect any deception on your feelings. It
is a spectacle of horror, which cannot be overdrawn. If you have nature
in your hearts, it will speak a language, compared with which all I have
said or can say will be poor and frigid.

Will it be whispered that the treaty has made me a new champion for the
protection of the frontiers? It is known that my voice as well as vote
have been uniformly given in conformity with the ideas I have expressed.
Protection is the right of the frontiers; it is our duty to give it.

Who will accuse me of wandering out of the subject? Who will say that I
exaggerate the tendencies of our measures? Will any one answer by a
sneer, that all this is idle preaching? Will any one deny, that we are
bound, and I would hope to good purpose, by the most solemn sanctions of
duty for the vote we give? Are despots alone to be reproached for
unfeeling indifference to the tears and blood of their subjects? Have
the principles on which you ground the reproach upon cabinets and kings
no practical influence, no binding force? Are they merely themes of idle
declamation introduced to decorate the morality of a newspaper essay, or
to furnish petty topics of harangue from the windows of that
state-house? I trust it is neither too presumptuous nor too late to ask.
Can you put the dearest interest of society at risk without guilt and
without remorse.

It is vain to offer as an excuse, that public men are not to be
reproached for the evils that may happen to ensue from their measures.
This is very true where they are unforeseen or inevitable. Those I have
depicted are not unforeseen; they are so far from inevitable, we are
going to bring them into being by our vote. We choose the consequences,
and become as justly answerable for them as for the measures that we
know will produce them.

By rejecting the posts we light the savage fires--we bind the victims.
This day we undertake to render account to the widows and orphans whom
our decision will make, to the wretches that will be roasted at the
stake, to our country, and I do not deem it too serious to say, to
conscience and to God. We are answerable, and if duty be any thing more
than a word of imposture, if conscience be not a bug-bear, we are
preparing to make ourselves as wretched as our country.

There is no mistake in this case--there can be none. Experience has
already been the prophet of events, and the cries of future victims have
already reached us. The Western inhabitants are not a silent and
uncomplaining sacrifice. The voice of humanity issues from the shade of
their wilderness. It exclaims that, while one hand is held up to reject
this treaty, the other grasps a tomahawk. It summons our imagination to
the scenes that will open. It is no great effort of the imagination to
conceive that events so near are already begun. I can fancy that I
listen to the yells of savage vengeance, and the shrieks of torture.
Already they seem to sigh in the west wind-already they mingle with
every echo from the mountains.

It is not the part of prudence to be inattentive to the tendencies of
measures. Where there is any ground to fear that these will prove
pernicious, wisdom and duty forbid that we should underrate them. If we
reject the treaty, will our peace be as safe as if we executed it with
good faith? I do honor to the intrepid spirits of those who say it will.
It was formerly understood to constitute the excellence of a man's faith
to believe without evidence and against it.

But, as opinions on this article are changed, and we are called to act
for our country, it becomes us to explore the dangers that will attend
its peace, and to avoid them if we can.

Is there any thing in the prospect of the interior state of the country
to encourage us to aggravate the dangers of a war? Would not the shock
of that evil produce another, and shake down the feeble and then
unbraced structure of our government? Is this a chimera? Is it going off
the ground of matter of fact to say, the rejection of the appropriation
proceeds upon the doctrine of a civil war of the departments? Two
branches have ratified a treaty, and we are going to set it aside. How
is this disorder in the machine to be rectified? While it exists its
movements must stop, and when we talk of a remedy, is that any other
than the formidable one of a revolutionary one of the people? And is
this, in the judgment even of my opposers, to execute, to preserve the
constitution and the public order? Is this the state of hazard, if not
of convulsion, which they can have the courage to contemplate and to
brave, or beyond which their penetration can reach and see the issue?
They seem to believe, and they act as if they believed, that our union,
our peace, our liberty, are invulnerable and immortal--as if our happy
state was not to be disturbed by our dissentions, and that we are not
capable of falling from it by our unworthiness. Some of them have, no
doubt, better nerves and better discernment than mine. They can see the
bright aspects and the happy consequences of all this array of horrors.
They can see intestine discords, our government disorganized, our wrongs
aggravated, multiplied, and unredressed, peace with dishonor, or war
without justice, union, or resources, in "the calm lights of mild

But whatever they may anticipate as the next measure of prudence and
safety, they have explained nothing to the house. After rejecting the
treaty, what is to be the next step? They must have foreseen what ought
to be done; they have doubtless resolved what to propose. Why then are
they silent? Dare they not avow their plan of conduct, or do they wait
till our progress toward confusion shall guide them in forming it?

Let me cheer the mind, weary, no doubt, and ready to despond on this
prospect, by presenting another, which it is yet in our power to
realize. Is it possible for a real American to look at the prosperity of
this country without some desire for its continuance--without some
respect for the measures which, many will say, produced, and all will
confess, have preserved, it? Will he not feel some dread that a change
of system will reverse the scene? The well-grounded fears of our
citizens in 1794 were removed by the treaty, but are not forgotten. Then
they deemed war nearly inevitable, and would not this adjustment have
been considered, at that day, as a happy escape from the calamity? The
great interest and the general desire of our people, was to enjoy the
advantages of neutrality. This instrument, however misrepresented,
affords America that inestimable security. The causes of our disputes
are either cut up by the roots, or referred to a new negotiation after
the end of the European war. This was gaining everything, because it
confirmed our neutrality, by which our citizens are gaining everything.
This alone would justify the engagements of the government. For, when
the fiery vapors of the war lowered in the skirts of our horizon, all
our wishes were concentred in this one, that we might escape the
desolation of the storm. This treaty, like a rainbow on the edge of the
cloud, marked to our eyes the space where it was raging, and afforded,
at the same time, the sure prognostic of fair weather. If we reject it,
the vivid colors will grow pale,--it will be a baleful meteor portending
tempest and war.

Let us not hesitate, then, to agree to the appropriation to carry it
into faithful execution.

Thus we shall save the faith of our nation, secure its peace, and
diffuse the spirit of confidence and enterprise that will augment its
prosperity. The progress of wealth and improvement is wonderful, and,
some will think, too rapid. The field for exertion is fruitful and vast,
and if peace and good government should be preserved, the acquisitions
of our citizens are not so pleasing as the proofs of their industry--as
the instruments of their future success. The rewards of exertion go to
augment its power. Profit is every hour becoming capital. The vast crop
of our neutrality is all seed-wheat, and is sown again to swell, almost
beyond calculation, the future harvest of prosperity. And in this
progress, what seems to be fiction is found to fall short of experience.

I rose to speak under impressions that I would have resisted if I could.
Those who see me will believe that the reduced state of my health has
unfitted me, almost equally for much exertion of body or mind.
Unprepared for debate, by careful reflection in my retirement, or by
long attention here, I thought the resolution I had taken to sit silent,
was imposed by necesity, and would cost me no effort to maintain. With a
mind thus vacant of ideas, and sinking, as I really am, under a sense of
weakness, I imagined the very desire of speaking was extinguished by the
persuasion that I had nothing to say. Yet, when I come to the moment of
deciding the vote, I start back with dread from the edge of the pit into
which we are plunging. In my view, even the minutes I have spent in
expostulation have their value, because they protract the crisis, and
the short period in which alone we may resolve to escape it.

I have thus been led, by my feelings, to speak more at length than I
intended. Yet I have, perhaps, as little personal interest in the event
as any one here. There is, I believe, no member who will not think his
chance to be a witness of the consequences greater than mine. If,
however, the vote shall pass to reject, and a spirit should rise, as it
will, with the public disorders, to make confusion worse confounded,
even I, slender and almost broken as my hold upon life is, may outlive
the government and constitution of my country.





The Select Committee had very truly stated that only the second and
third sections of the act are complained of; that the part of the law
which punishes seditious acts is acquiesced in, and that the part which
goes to restrain what are called seditious writings is alone the object
of the petitions. This part of the law is complained of as being
unwarranted by the Constitution, and destructive of the first principles
of republican government. It is always justifiable, in examining the
principle of a law, to inquire what other laws can be passed with equal
reason, and to impute to it all the mischiefs for which it may be used
as a precedent.

In this case, little inquiry is left for us to make, the arguments in
favor of the law carrying us immediately and by inevitable consequence
to absolute power over the press.

It is not pretended that the Constitution has given any express
authority, which they claim, for passing this law, and it is claimed
only as implied in that clause of the Constitution which says: "Congress
shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper
for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers
vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or
in any department or officer thereof." It is clear that this clause was
intended to be merely an auxiliary to the powers specially enumerated in
the Constitution; and it must, therefore, be so construed as to aid
them, and at the same time to leave the boundaries between the General
Government and the State governments untouched. The argument by which
the Select Committee have endeavored to establish the authority of
Congress over the press is the following: "Congress has power to punish
seditious combinations to resist the laws, and therefore Congress must
have the power to punish false, scandalous, and malicious writings;
because such writings render the Administration odious and contemptible
among the people, and by doing so have a tendency to produce opposition
to the laws." To make it support the construction of the committee, it
should say that "Congress shall have power over all acts which are
likely to produce acts which hinder the execution of," etc. Our
construction confines the power of Congress to such acts as immediately
interfere with the execution of the enumerated powers of Congress,
because the power can only be necessary as well as proper when the acts
would really hinder the execution. The construction of the committee
extends the power of Congress to all acts which have a relation, ever so
many degrees removed, to the enumerated powers, or rather to the acts
which would hinder their execution. By our construction, the
Constitution remains defined and limited, according to the plain intent
and meaning of its framers; by the construction of the committee, all
limitation is lost, and it may be extended over the different actions of
life as speculative politicians may think fit. What has a greater
tendency to fit men for insurrection and resistance to government than
dissolute, immoral habits, at once destroying love of order, and
dissipating the fortune which gives an interest in society? The doctrine
that Congress can punish any act which has a tendency to hinder the
execution of the laws, as well as acts which do hinder it, will,
therefore, clearly entitle them to assume a general guardianship over
the morals of the people of the United States. Again, nothing can have a
greater tendency to ensure obedience to law, and nothing can be more
likely to check every propensity to resistance to government, than
virtuous and wise education; therefore Congress must have power to
subject all the youth of the United States to a certain system of
education. It would be very easy to connect every sort of authority used
by any government with the well-being of the General Government, and
with as much reason as the committee had for their opinion, to assign
the power to Congress, although the consequence must be the prostration
of the State governments.

But enough has been said to show the necessity of adhering to the common
meaning of the word "necessary" in the clause under consideration, which
is, that the power to be assumed must be one without which some one of
the enumerated powers cannot exist or be maintained. It cannot escape
notice, however, that the doctrine contended for, that the
Administration must be protected against writings which are likely to
bring it into contempt, as tending to opposition, will apply with more
force to truth than falsehood. It cannot be denied that the discovery of
maladministration will bring more lasting discredit on the government of
a country than the same charges would if untrue. This is not an alarm
founded merely on construction, for the governments which have exercised
control over the press have carried it the whole length. This is
notoriously the law of England, whence this system has been drawn; for
there truth and falsehood are alike subject to punishment, if the
publication brings contempt on the officers of government.

The law has been current by the fair pretence of punishing nothing but
falsehood, and by holding out to the accused the liberty of proving the
truth of the writing; but it was from the first apprehended, and it
seems now to be adjudged (the doctrine has certainly been asserted on
this floor), that matters of opinion, arising on notorious facts, come
under the law. If this is the case, where is the advantage of the law
requiring that the writing should be false before a man shall be liable
to punishment, or of his having the liberty of proving the truth of his
writing? Of the truth of facts there is an almost certain test; the
belief of honest men is certain enough to entitle it to great
confidence; but their opinions have no certainty at all. The trial of
the truth of opinions, in the best state of society, would be altogether
precarious; and perhaps a jury of twelve men could never be found to
agree in any one opinion. At the present moment, when, unfortunately,
opinion is almost entirely governed by prejudice and passion, it may be
more decided, but nobody will say it is more respectable. Chance must
determine whether political opinions are true or false, and it will not
unfrequently happen that a man will be punished for publishing opinions
which are sincerely his, and which are of a nature to be extremely
interesting to the public, merely because accident or design has
collected a jury of different sentiments.

Is the power claimed proper for Congress to possess? It is believed not,
and this will readily be admitted if it can be proved, as I think it
can, that the persons who administer the government have an interest in
the power to be confided opposed to that of the community. It must be
agreed that the nature of our government makes a diffusion of knowledge
of public affairs necessary and proper, and that the people have no mode
of obtaining it but through the press. The necessity for their having
this information results from its being their duty to elect all the
parts of the Government, and, in this way, to sit in judgment over the
conduct of those who have been heretofore employed. The most important
and necessary information for the people to receive is that of the
misconduct of the Government, because their good deeds, although they
will produce affection and gratitude to public officers, will only
confirm the existing confidence, and will, therefore, make no change in
the conduct of the people. The question, then, whether the Government
ought to have control over the persons who alone can give information
throughout a country is nothing more than this, whether men, interested
in suppressing information necessary for the people to have, ought to be
entrusted with the power, or whether they ought to have a power which
their personal interest leads to the abuse of. I am sure no candid man
will hesitate about the answer; and it may also safely be left with
ingenuous men to say whether the misconduct which we sometimes see in
the press had not better be borne with, than to run the risk of
confiding the power of correction to men who will be constantly urged by
their own feelings to destroy its usefulness. How long can it be
desirable to have periodical elections for the purpose of judging of the
conduct of our rulers, when the channels of information may be choked at
their will?

But, sir, I have ever believed this question as settled by an amendment
to the Constitution, proposed with others for declaring and restricting
its powers, as the preamble declares, at the request of several of the
States, made at the adoption of the Constitution, in order to prevent
their misconstruction and abuse. This amendment is in the following
words: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the
freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably
to assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
There can be no doubt about the effect of this amendment, unless the
"freedom of the press" means something very different from what it
seems; or unless there was some actual restraint upon it, under the
Constitution of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this
amendment, commensurate with that imposed by this law. Both are
asserted, viz., that the "freedom of the press" has a defined, limited
meaning, and that the restraints of the common law were in force under
the United States, and are greater than those of the act of Congress,
and that, therefore, either way the "freedom of the press" is not

It is asserted by the select committee, and by everybody who has gone
before them in this discussion, that the "freedom of the press,"
according to the universally received acceptation of the expression,
means only an exemption from all previous restraints on publication, but
not an exemption from any punishment Government pleases to inflict for
what is published. This definition does not at all distinguish between
publications of different sorts, but leaves all to the regulation of the
law, only forbidding Government to interfere until the publication is
really made. The definition, if true, so reduces the effect of the
amendment that the power of Congress is left unlimited over the
productions of the press, and they are merely deprived of one mode of

The amendment was certainly intended to produce some limitation to
legislative discretion, and it must be construed so as to produce such
an effect, if it is possible. To give it such a construction as will
bring it to a mere nullity would violate the strongest injunctions of
common-sense and decorum, and yet that appears to me to be the effect of
the construction adopted by the committee. The effect of the amendment,
say the committee, is to prevent Government taking the press from its
owner; but how is their power lessened by this, when they may take the
printer from his press and imprison him for any length of time, for
publishing what they choose to prohibit, although it maybe ever so
proper for public information? The result is that Government may forbid
any species of writing, true as well as false, to be published; may
inflict the heaviest punishments they can devise for disobedience, and
yet we are very gravely assured that this is the "freedom of the press."

A distinction is very frequently relied on between the freedom and the
licentiousness of the press, which it is proper to examine. This seems
to me to refute every other argument which is used on this subject; it
amounts to an admission that there are some acts of the press which
Congress ought not to have power to restrain, and that by the amendment
they are prohibited to restrain these acts. Nov, to justify any act of
Congress, they ought to show the boundary between what is prohibited and
what is permitted, and that the act is not within the prohibited class.
The Constitution has fixed no such boundary, therefore they can pretend
to no power over the press, without claiming the right of defining what
is freedom and what is licentiousness, and that would be to claim a
right which would defeat the Constitution; for every Congress would have
the same right, and the freedom of the press would fluctuate according
to the will of the legislature. This is, therefore, only a new mode of
claiming absolute power over the press.

It is said there is a common law which makes part of the law of the
United States, which restrained the press more than the act of Congress
has done, and that therefore there is no abridgment of its freedom. What
this common law is I cannot conceive, nor have I seen anybody who could
explain himself when he was talking of it. It certainly is not a common
law of the United States, acquired, as that of England was, by
immemorial usage. The standing of the Government makes this impossible.
It cannot be a code of laws adopted because they were universally in use
in the States, for the States had no uniform code; and, if they had, it
could hardly become, by implication, part of the code of a Government of
limited powers, from which every thing is expressly retained which is
not given. Is it the law of England, at any particular period, which is
adopted? But the nature of the law of England makes it impossible that
it should have been adopted in the lump into such a Government as this
is, because it was a complete system for the management of all the
affairs of a country. It regulated estates, punished all crimes, and, in
short, went to all things for which laws were necessary. But how was
this law adopted? Was it by the Constitution? If so, it is immutable and
incapable of amendment. In what part of the Constitution is it declared
to be adopted? Was it adopted by the courts? From whom do they derive
their authority? The Constitution, in the clause first cited, relies on
Congress to pass all laws necessary to enable the courts to carry their
powers into execution; it cannot, therefore, have been intended to give
them a power not necessary to their declared powers. There does not seem
to me the smallest pretext for so monstrous an assumption; on the
contrary, while the Constitution is silent about it, every fair
inference is against it.

Upon the whole, therefore, I am fully satisfied that no power is given
by the Constitution to control the press, and that such laws are
expressly prohibited by the amendment. I think it inconsistent with the
nature of our Government that its administration should have power to
restrain animadversions on public measures, and for protection from
private injury from defamation the States are fully competent. It is to
them that our officers must look for protection of persons, estates, and
every other personal right; and, therefore, I see no reason why it is
not proper to rely upon it for defence against private libels.


The inaugural address of President Jefferson has been given the first
place under this period, notwithstanding the fact that it was not at all
an oration. The inaugural addresses of presidents Washington and Adams
were really orations, although written, depending for much of their
effect on the personal presence of him who delivered the address; that
of Jefferson was altogether a business document, sent to be read by the
two houses of Congress for their information, and without any of the
adjuncts of the orator.

It is impossible, nevertheless, to spare the inaugural address of the
first Democratic President, for it is pervaded by a personality which,
if quieter in its operation, was more potent in results than the most
burning eloquence could have been. The spirit of modern democracy, which
has become, for good or evil, the common characteristic of all American
parties and leaders, was here first put into living words. Triumphant in
national politics, this spirit now had but one field of struggle, the
politics of the States, and here its efforts were for years bent to the
abolition of every remnant of limitation on individual liberty. Outside
of New England, the change was accomplished as rapidly as the forms of
law could be put into the necessary direction; remnants of
ecclesiastical government, ecclesiastical taxes of even the mildest
description, restrictions on manhood suffrage, State electoral systems,
were the immediate victims of the new spirit, and the first term of Mr.
Jefferson saw most of the States under democratic governments. Inside of
New England, the change was stubbornly resisted, and, for a time, with
success. For about twenty years, the general rule was that New England
and Delaware were federalist, and the rest of the country was
democratic. But even in New England, a strong democratic minority was
growing up, and about 1820 the last barriers of federalism gave way;
Connecticut, the federalist "land of steady habits," accepted a new and
democratic constitution; Massachusetts modified hers; and the new and
reliably democratic State of Maine was brought into existence. The "era
of good feeling" signalized the extinction of the federal party and the
universal reign of democracy. The length of this period of contest is
the strongest testimony to the stubbornness of the New England fibre.
Estimated by States, the success of democracy was about as complete in
1803 as in 1817; but it required fifteen years of persistent struggle to
convince the smallest section of the Union that it was hopelessly

The whole period was a succession of great events. The acquisition of
Louisiana, stretching from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains, laid,
in 1803, the foundations of that imperial domain which the steamboat and
railroad were to convert to use in after-years. The continental empire
of Napoleon and the island empire of Great Britain drifted into a
struggle for life or death which hardly knew a breathing space until the
last charge at Waterloo, and from the beginning it was conducted by both
combatants with a reckless disregard of international public opinion and
neutral rights which is hardly credible but for the official records.
Every injury inflicted on neutral commerce by one belligerent was
promptly imitated or exceeded by the other, and the two were perfectly
in accord in insisting on the convenient doctrine of international law,
that, unless neutral rights were enforced by the neutral against one
belligerent, the injury became open to the imitation of the other. In
the process of imitation, each belligerent took care to pass at least a
little beyond the precedent; and thus, beginning with a paper blockade
of the northern coast of the continent by the British Government, the
process advanced, by alternate "retaliations," to a British proclamation
specifying the ports of the world to which American vessels were to be
allowed to trade, stopping in England or its dependencies to pay taxes
en route. These two almost contemporary events, the acquisition of
Louisiana and the insolent pretensions of the European belligerents,
were the central points of two distinct influences which bore strongly
on the development of the United States.

The dominant party, the republicans, had a horror of a national debt
which almost amounted to a mania. The associations of the term, derived
from their reading of English history, all pointed to a condition of
affairs in which the rise of a strong aristocracy was inevitable; and,
to avoid the latter, they were determined to pay off the former. The
payment for Louisiana precluded, in their opinion, the support of a
respectable navy; and the remnants of colonialism in their party
predisposed them to adopt an ostrich policy instead. The Embargo act was
passed in 1807, forbidding all foreign commerce. The evident failure of
this act to influence the belligerents brought about its repeal in 1809,
and the substitution of the Non-intercourse act. This prohibited
commercial intercourse with England and France until either should
revoke its injurious edicts. Napoleon, by an empty and spurious
revocation in 1810, induced Congress to withdraw the act in respect to
France, keeping it alive in respect to England. England refused to admit
the sincerity of the French revocation, to withdraw her Orders in
Council, or to cease impressing American seamen. The choice left to the
United States was between war and submission.

The federalist leaders saw that, while their party strength was confined
to a continually decreasing territory, the opposing democracy not only
had gained the mass of the original United States, but was swarming
toward and beyond the Mississippi. They dropped to the level of a mere
party of opposition; they went further until the only article of their
political creed was State sovereignty; some of them went one step
further, and dabbled in hopeless projects for secession and the formation
of a New England republic of five States. It is difficult to perceive
any advantage to public affairs in the closing years of the federal
party, except that, by impelling the democratic leaders to really
national acts and sympathies, it unwittingly aided in the development of
nationality from democracy.

If the essential characteristic of colonialism is the sense of
dependence and the desire to imitate, democracy, at least in its earlier
phases, begets the opposite qualities. The Congressional elections of
1810-11 showed that the people had gone further in democracy than their
leaders. "Submission men" were generally defeated in the election; new
leaders, like Clay, Calhoun, and Crawford, made the dominant party a war
party, and forced the President into their policy; and the war of 1812
was begun. Its early defeats on land, its startling successes at sea,
its financial straits, the desperation of the contest after the fall of
Napoleon, and the brilliant victory which crowned its close, all
combined to raise the national feeling to the highest pitch; and the
federalists, whose stock object of denunciation was "Mr. Madison's war,"
though Mr. Madison was about the most unwilling participant in it, came
out of it under the ban of every national sympathy.

The speech of Mr. Quincy, in many points one of the most eloquent of our
political history, will show the brightest phase of federalism at its
lowest ebb. One can hardly compare it with that of Mr. Clay, which
follows it, without noticing the national character of the latter, as
contrasted with the lack of nationality of the former. It seems, also,
that Mr. Clay's speech carries, in its internal characteristics,
sufficient evidence of the natural forces which tended to make democracy
a national power, and not a mere adjunct of State sovereignty, wherever
the oblique influence of slavery was absent. For this reason, it has
been taken as a convenient introduction to the topic which follows, the
Rise of Nationality.


OF VIRGINIA, (BORN 1743, DIED 1826.)


MARCH 4, 1801


Called upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our
country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my
fellow-citizens which is here assembled, to express my grateful thanks
for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me, to
declare a sincere consciousness, that the task is above my talents, and
that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments, which the
greatness of the charge, and the weakness of my powers, so justly
inspire. A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land,
traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry,
engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right,
advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye; when I
contemplate these transcendent objects, and see the honor, the
happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue
and the auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation, and
humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking. Utterly, indeed,
should I despair, did not the presence of many, whom I see here, remind
me, that, in the other high authorities provided by our Constitution, I
shall find resources of wisdom, of virtue, and of zeal, on which to rely
under all difficulties. To you, then, gentlemen, who are charged with
the sovereign functions of legislation, and to those associated with
you, I look with encouragement for that guidance and support which may
enable us to steer with safety the vessel in which we are all embarked,
amidst the conflicting elements of a troubled world.

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the
animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect
which might impose on strangers unused to think freely, and to speak and
to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the
nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will
of course arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in
common efforts for the common good. All too will bear in mind this
sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases
to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the
minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and
to violate which would be oppression. Let us then, fellow-citizens,
unite with one heart and one mind, let us restore to social intercourse
that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself
are but dreary things. And let us reflect, that having banished from our
land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and
suffered, we have yet gained little, if we countenance a political
intolerance, as despotic, as wicked, and as capable of as bitter and
bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient
world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through
blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the
agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful
shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some, and less by
others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety; but every
difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called
by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all
Republicans; we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who wish
to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand
undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may
be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed,
that some honest men fear that a republican government cannot be strong;
that this government is not strong enough. But would the honest patriot,
in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which
has so far kept us free and firm, on the theoretic and visionary fear,
that this government, the world's best hope, may, by possibility, want
energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary,
the strongest government on earth. I believe it the only one where every
man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and
would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern.
Sometimes it is said, that man cannot be trusted with the government of
himself. Can he then be trusted with the government of others? Or, have
we found angels in the form of kings, to govern him? Let history answer
this question.

Let us then, with courage and confidence, pursue our own federal and
republican principles; our attachment to union and representative
government. Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the
exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded to
endure the degradation of the others, possessing a chosen country, with
room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth
generation, entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of
our own faculties, to the acquisition of our own industry, to honor and
confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from
our actions and their sense of them, enlightened by a benign religion,
professed indeed and practised in various forms, yet all of them
inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man,
acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which, by all its
dispensations, proves that it delights in the happiness of man here, and
his greater happiness hereafter; with all these blessings, what more is
necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing
more, fellow-citizens, a wise and frugal government, which shall
restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free
to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall
not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the
sum of good government; and this is necessary to close the circle of our

About to enter, fellow-citizens, upon the exercise of duties which
comprehend every thing dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should
understand what I deem the essential principles of our government, and
consequently, those which ought to shape its administration. I will
compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the
general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice
to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political;
peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling
alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their
rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns,
and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies; the
preservation of the general government in its whole constitutional
vigor, as the sheet-anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a
jealous care of the right of election by the people, a mild and safe
corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where
peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the
decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which
there is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate
parent of despotism; a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in
peace, and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them;
the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the
public expense, that labor may be lightly burdened; the honest payment
of our debts, and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement
of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of
information, and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public
reason; freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of
person, under the protection of the _habeas corpus_, and trial by juries
impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation,
which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of
revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages, and blood of our
heroes, have been devoted to their attainment; they should be the creed
of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by
which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from
them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our
steps, and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and

I repair, then, fellow-citizens, to the post you have assigned me. With
experience enough in subordinate offices to have seen the difficulties
of this, the greatest of all, I have learned to expect that it will
rarely fall to the lot of imperfect man, to retire from this station
with the reputation and the favor which bring him into it. Without
pretensions to that high confidence you reposed in our first and
greatest revolutionary character, whose pre-eminent services had
entitled him to the first place in his country's love, and destined for
him the fairest page in the volume of faithful history, I ask so much
confidence only as may give firmness and effect to the legal
administration of your affairs. I shall often go wrong through defect of
judgment. When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose
positions will not command a view of the whole ground. I ask your
indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional; and your
support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would
not, if seen in all its parts. The approbation implied by your suffrage,
is a great consolation to me for the past; and my future solicitude will
be, to retain the good opinion of those who have bestowed it in advance,
to conciliate that of others, by doing them all the good in my power,
and to be instrumental to the happiness and freedom of all.

Relying then on the patronage of your good-will, I advance with
obedience to the work, ready to retire from it whenever you become
sensible how much better choices it is in your power to make. And may
that infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe, lead our
councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace
and prosperity.


--OF VIRGINIA' (BORN 1773, DIED 1833.)



This is a question, as it has been presented to this House, of peace or
war. In that light it has been argued; in no other light can I consider
it, after the declarations made by members of the Committee of Foreign

The Committee of Foreign Relations have, indeed, decided that the
subject of arming the militia (which has been pressed upon them as
indispensable to the public security) does not come within the scope of
their authority. On what ground, I have been, and still am, unable to
see, they have felt themselves authorized to recommend the raising of
standing armies, with a view (as has been declared) of immediate war--a
war not of defence, but of conquest, of aggrandizement, of ambition--a
war foreign to the interests of this country; to the interests of
humanity itself. * * *

I cannot refrain from smiling at the liberality of the gentleman in
giving Canada to New York in order to strengthen the northern balance of
power; while, at the same time, he forewarns her that the western scale
must preponderate. I can almost fancy that I see the Capitol in motion
toward the falls of Ohio; after a short sojourn, taking its flight to
the Mississippi, and finally alighting at Darien; which, when the
gentleman's dreams are realized, will be a most eligible seat of
government for the new republic (or empire) of the two Americas! But it
seems that in 1808 we talked and acted foolishly, and to give some color
of consistency to that folly we must now commit a greater.

I hope we shall act a wise part; take warning by our follies since we
have become sensible of them, and resolve to talk and act foolishly no
more. It is, indeed, high time to give over such preposterous language
and proceedings. This war of conquest, a war for the acquisition of
territory and subjects, is to be a new commentary on the doctrine that
republicans are destitute of ambition; that they are addicted to peace,
wedded to the happiness and safety of the great body of their people.
But it seems this is to be a holiday campaign; there is to be no expense
of blood, or of treasure on our part; Canada is to conquer herself; she
is to be subdued by the principles of fraternity! The people of that
country are first to be seduced from their allegiance and converted into
traitors, as preparatory to making them good citizens! Although I must
acknowledge that some of our flaming patriots were thus manufactured, I
do not think the process would hold good with a whole community. It is a
dangerous experiment. We are to succeed in the French mode, by the
system of fraternization--all is French. But how dreadfully it might be
retorted on the southern and western slave-holding States. I detest this
subornation of treason. No; if we must have them, let them fall by the
valor of our arms; by fair, legitimate conquest; not become the victims
of treacherous seduction.

I am not surprised at the war spirit which is manifesting itself in
gentlemen from the South. In the year 1805-6, in a struggle for the
carrying trade of belligerent colonial produce, this country was most
unwisely brought into collision with the great powers of Europe. By a
series of most impolitic and ruinous measures, utterly incomprehensible
to every rational, sober-minded man, the Southern planters, by their own
votes, have succeeded in knocking down the price of cotton to seven
cents, and of tobacco (a few choice crops excepted) to nothing; and in
raising the price of blankets (of which a few would not be amiss in a
Canadian campaign), coarse woollens, and every article of first
necessity, three or four hundred per centum. And now, that by our own
acts, we have brought ourselves into this unprecedented condition, we
must get out of it in any way, but by an acknowledgment of our own want
of wisdom and forecast. But is war the true remedy? Who will profit by
it? Speculators; a few lucky merchants, who draw prizes in the lottery;
commissaries and contractors. Who must suffer by it? The people. It is
their blood, their taxes that must flow to support it.

I am gratified to find gentlemen acknowledging the demoralizing and
destructive consequences of the non-importation law; confessing the
truth of all that its opponents foretold, when it was enacted. And will
you plunge yourselves in war, because you have passed a foolish and
ruinous law, and are ashamed to repeal it? But our good friend, the
French emperor, stands in the way of its repeal, and we cannot go too
far in making sacrifices to him, who has given such demonstration of his
love for the Americans; we must, in point of fact, become parties to his
war. Who can be so cruel as to refuse him that favor? My imagination
shrinks from the miseries of such a connection. I call upon the House to
reflect, whether they are not about to abandon all reclamation for the
unparalleled outrages, "insults, and injuries" of the French government;
to give up our claim for plundered millions; and I ask what reparation
or atonement they can expect to obtain in hours of future dalliance,
after they shall have made a tender of their person to this great
deflowerer of the virginity of republics. We have, by our own wise (I
will not say wiseacre) measures, so increased the trade and wealth of
Montreal and Quebec, that at last we begin to cast a wistful eye at
Canada. Having done so much toward its improvement, by the exercise of
"our restrictive energies," we begin to think the laborer worthy of his
hire, and to put in a claim for our portion. Suppose it ours, are we any
nearer to our point? As his minister said to the king of Epirus, "May we
not as well take our bottle of wine before as after this exploit?" Go
march to Canada! leave the broad bosom of the Chesapeake and her hundred
tributary rivers; the whole line of sea-coast from Machias to St.
Mary's, unprotected! You have taken Quebec--have you conquered England?
Will you seek for the deep foundations of her power in the frozen
deserts of Labrador?

"Her march is on the mountain wave, Her home is on the deep!"

Will you call upon her to leave your ports and harbors untouched only
just till you can return from Canada, to defend them? The coast is to be
left defenceless, while men of the interior are revelling in conquest
and spoil. * * *

No sooner was the report laid on the table, than the vultures were
flocking around their prey--the carcass of a great military
establishment. Men of tainted reputation, of broken fortune (if they
ever had any), and of battered constitutions, "choice spirits tired of
the dull pursuits of civil life," were seeking after agencies and
commissions, willing to doze in gross stupidity over the public fire; to
light the public candle at both ends. Honorable men undoubtedly there
are ready to serve their country; but what man of spirit, or of
self-respect, will accept a commission in the present army? The
gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Grundy) addressed himself yesterday
exclusively to the "Republicans of the House." I know not whether I may
consider myself as entitled to any part of the benefit of the honorable
gentleman's discourse. It belongs not, however, to that gentleman to
decide. If we must have an exposition of the doctrines of republicanism,
I shall receive it from the fathers of the church, and not from the
junior apprentices of the law. I shall appeal to my worthy friends from
Carolina (Messrs. Macon and Stanford), "men with whom I have measured my
strength," by whose side I have fought during the reign of terror; for
it was indeed an hour of corruption, of oppression, of pollution. It was
not at all to my taste--that sort of republicanism which was supported,
on this side of the Atlantic, by the father of the sedition law, John
Adams, and by Peter Porcupine on the other. Republicanism! of John Adams
and William Cobbett! * * *

Gallant crusaders in the holy cause of republicanism. Such republicanism
does, indeed, mean any thing or nothing. Our people will not submit to
be taxed for this war of conquest and dominion. The government of the
United States was not calculated to wage offensive foreign war; it was
instituted for the common defence and the general welfare; and whosoever
should embark it in a war of offence, would put it to a test which it is
by no means calculated to endure. Make it out that Great Britain has
instigated the Indians on a late occasion, and I am ready for battle,
but not for dominion. I am unwilling, however, under present
circumstances, to take Canada, at the risk of the Constitution, to
embark in a common cause with France, and be dragged at the wheels of
the car of some Burr or Bonaparte. For a gentleman from Tennessee, or
Genesee, or Lake Champlain, there may be some prospect of advantage.
Their hemp would bear a great price by the exclusion of foreign supply.
In that, too, the great importers are deeply interested. The upper
country of the Hudson and the lakes would be enriched by the supplies
for the troops, which they alone could furnish. They would have the
exclusive market; to say nothing of the increased preponderance from the
acquisition of Canada and that section of the Union, which the Southern
and Western States have already felt so severely in the Apportionment
bill. * * *

Permit me now, sir, to call your attention to the subject of our black
population. I will touch this subject as tenderly as possible. It is
with reluctance that I touch it at all; but in cases of great emergency,
the State physician must not be deterred by a sickly, hysterical
humanity, from probing the wound of his patient; he must not be withheld
by a fastidious and mistaken delicacy from representing his true
situation to his friends, or even to the sick man himself, when the
occasion calls for it. What is the situation of the slave-holding
States? During the war of the Revolution, so fixed were their habits of
subordination, that while the whole country was overrun by the enemy,
who invited them to desert, no fear was ever entertained of an
insurrection of the slaves. During a war of seven years, with our
country in possession of the enemy, no such danger was ever apprehended.
But should we, therefore, be unobservant spectators of the progress of
society within the last twenty years; of the silent but powerful change
wrought, by time and chance, upon its composition and temper? When the
fountains of the great deep of abomination were broken up, even the poor
slaves did not escape the general deluge. The French Revolution has
polluted even them. * * *

Men, dead to the operation of moral causes, have taken away from the
poor slave his habit of loyalty and obedience to his master, which
lightened his servitude by a double operation; beguiling his own cares
and disarming his master's suspicions and severity; and now, like true
empirics in politics, you are called upon to trust to the mere physical
strength of the fetter which holds him in bondage. You have deprived him
of all moral restraint; you have tempted him to eat of the fruit of the
tree of knowledge, just enough to perfect him in wickedness; you have
opened his eyes to his nakedness; you have armed his nature against the
hand that has fed, that has clothed him, that has cherished him in
sickness; that hand which before he became a pupil of your school, he
had been accustomed to press with respectful affection. You have done
all this--and then show him the gibbet and the wheel, as incentives to a
sullen, repugnant obedience. God forbid, sir, that the Southern States
should ever see an enemy on their shores, with these infernal principles
of French fraternity in the van. While talking of taking Canada, some of
us are shuddering for our own safety at home. I speak from facts, when I
say, that the night-bell never tolls for fire in Richmond, that the
mother does not hug her infant more closely to her bosom. I have been a
witness of some of the alarms in the capital of Virginia. * * *

Against whom are these charges brought? Against men, who in the war of
the Revolution were in the councils of the nation, or fighting the
battles of your country. And by whom are they made? By runaways chiefly
from the British dominions, since the breaking out of the French
troubles. It is insufferable. It cannot be borne. It must and ought,
with severity, to be put down in this House; and out of it to meet the
lie direct. We have no fellow-feeling for the suffering and oppressed
Spaniards! Yet even them we do not reprobate. Strange! that we should
have no objection to any other people or government, civilized or
savage, in the whole world! The great autocrat of all the Russias
receives the homage of our high consideration. The Dey of Algiers and
his divan of pirates are very civil, good sort of people, with whom we
find no difficulty in maintaining the relations of peace and amity.
"Turks, Jews, and infidels"; Melimelli or the Little Turtle; barbarians
and savages of every clime and color, are welcome to our arms. With
chiefs of banditti, negro or mulatto, we can treat and trade. Name,
however, but England, and all our antipathies are up in arms against
her. Against whom? Against those whose blood runs in our veins; in
common with whom, we claim Shakespeare, and Newton, and Chatham, for our
countrymen; whose form of government is the freest on earth, our own
only excepted; from whom every valuable principle of our own
institutions has been borrowed: representation, jury trial, voting the
supplies, writ of habeas corpus, our whole civil and criminal
jurisprudence; against our fellow Protestants, identified in blood, in
language, in religion, with ourselves. In what school did the worthies
of our land, the Washingtons, Henrys, Hancocks, Franklins, Rutledges of
America, learn those principles of civil liberty which were so nobly
asserted by their wisdom and valor? American resistance to British
usurpation has not been more warmly cherished by these great men and
their compatriots; not more by Washington, Hancock, and Henry, than by
Chatham and his illustrious associates in the British Parliament. It
ought to be remembered, too, that the heart of the English people was
with us. It was a selfish and corrupt ministry, and their servile tools,
to whom we were not more opposed than they were. I trust that none such
may ever exist among us; for tools will never be wanting to subserve the
purposes, however ruinous or wicked, of kings and ministers of state. I
acknowledge the influence of a Shakespeare and a Milton upon my
imagination, of a Locke upon my understanding, of a Sidney upon my
political principles, of a Chatham upon qualities which, would to God I
possessed in common with that illustrious man! of a Tillotson, a
Sherlock, and a Porteus upon my religion. This is a British influence
which I can never shake off. I allow much to the just and honest
prejudices growing out of the Revolution. But by whom have they been
suppressed, when they ran counter to the interests of my country? By
Washington. By whom, would you listen to them, are they most keenly
felt? By felons escaped from the jails of Paris, Newgate, and
Kilmainham, since the breaking out of the French Revolution; who, in
this abused and insulted country, have set up for political teachers,
and whose disciples give no other proof of their progress in
republicanism, except a blind devotion to the most ruthless military
despotism that the world ever saw. These are the patriots, who scruple
not to brand with the epithet of Tory, the men (looking toward the seat
of Col. Stewart) by whose blood your liberties have been cemented. These
are they, who hold in such keen remembrance the outrages of the British
armies, from which many of them are deserters. Ask these self-styled
patriots where they were during the American war (for they are, for the
most part, old enough to have borne arms), and you strike them dumb;
their lips are closed in eternal silence. If it were allowable to
entertain partialities, every consideration of blood, language,
religion, and interest, would incline us toward England: and yet, shall
they alone be extended to France and her ruler, whom we are bound to
believe a chastening God suffers as the scourge of a guilty world! On
all other nations he tramples; he holds them in contempt; England alone
he hates; he would, but he cannot, despise her; fear cannot despise; and
shall we disparage our ancestors?

But the outrages and injuries of England--bred up in the principles of
the Revolution--I can never palliate, much less defend them. I well
remember flying, with my mother and her new-born child, from Arnold and
Philips; and we were driven by Tarleton and other British Pandours from
pillar to post, while her husband was fighting the battles of his
country. The impression is indelible on my memory; and yet (like my
worthy old neighbor, who added seven buckshot to every cartridge at the
battle of Guilford, and drew fine sight at his man) I must be content to
be called a Tory by a patriot of the last importation. Let us not get
rid of one evil (supposing it possible) at the expense of a greater;
_mutatis mutandis_, suppose France in possession of the British naval
power--and to her the trident must pass should England be unable to
wield it--what would be your condition? What would be the situation of
your seaports, and their seafaring inhabitants? Ask Hamburg, Lubec! Ask
Savannah! * * *

Shall republicans become the instruments of him who has effaced the
title of Attila to the "scourge of God!" Yet, even Attila, in the
falling fortunes of civilization, had, no doubt, his advocates, his
tools, his minions, his parasites, in the very countries that he
overran; sons of that soil whereon his horse had trod; where grass could
never after grow. If perfectly fresh, instead of being as I am, my
memory clouded, my intellect stupefied, my strength and spirits
exhausted, I could not give utterance to that strong detestation which I
feel toward (above all other works of the creation) such characters as
Gengis, Tamerlane, Kouli-Khan, or Bonaparte. My instincts involuntarily
revolt at their bare idea. Malefactors of the human race, who have
ground down man to a mere machine of their impious and bloody ambition!
Yet under all the accumulated wrongs, and insults, and robberies of the
last of these chieftains, are we not, in point of fact, about to become
a party to his views, a partner in his wars? * * *

I call upon those professing to be republicans to make good the
promises, held out by their republican predecessors, when they came into
power; promises which, for years afterward, they honestly, faithfully
fulfilled. We have vaunted of paying off the national debt, of
retrenching useless establishments; and yet have now become as
infatuated with standing armies, loans, taxes, navies, and war as ever
were the Essex Junto!






I address you, sir, with anxiety and distress of mind, with me, wholly
unprecedented. The friends of this bill seem to consider it as the
exercise of a common power; as an ordinary affair; a mere municipal
regulation, which they expect to see pass without other questions than
those concerning details. But, sir, the principle of this bill
materially affects the liberties and rights of the whole people of the
United States. To me it appears that it would justify a revolution in
this country; and that, in no great length of time it may produce it.
When I see the zeal and perseverance with which this bill has been urged
along its parliamentary path, when I know the local interests and
associated projects which combine to promote its success, all opposition
to it seems manifestly unavailing. I am almost tempted to leave, without
a struggle, my country to its fate. But, sir, while there is life, there
is hope. So long as the fatal shaft has not yet sped, if Heaven so will,
the bow may be broken and the vigor of the mischief-meditating arm
withered. If there be a man in this House or nation, who cherishes the
Constitution, under which we are assembled, as the chief stay of his
hope, as the light which is destined to gladden his own day, and to
soften even the gloom of the grave, by the prospects it sheds over his
children, I fall not behind him in such sentiments. I will yield to no
man in attachment to this Constitution, in veneration for the sages who
laid its foundations, in devotion to those principles which form its
cement and constitute its proportions. What then must be my feelings;
what ought to be the feelings of a man, cherishing such sentiments, when
he sees an act contemplated which lays ruin at the foot of all these
hopes? When he sees a principle of action about to be usurped, before
the operation of which the bands of this Constitution are no more than
flax before the fire, or stubble before the whirlwind? When this bill
passes, such an act is done; and such a principle is usurped.

Mr. Speaker, there is a great rule of human conduct, which he who
honestly observes, cannot err widely from the path of his sought duty.
It is, to be very scrupulous concerning the principles you select as the
test of your rights and obligations; to be very faithful in noticing the
result of their application; and to be very fearless in tracing and
exposing their immediate effects and distant consequences. Under the
sanction of this rule of conduct, I am compelled to declare it as my
deliberate opinion, that, if this bill passes, the bonds of this union
are, virtually, dissolved; that the States which compose it are free
from their moral obligations, and that as it will be the right of all,
so it will be the duty of some, to prepare, definitely, for a
separation: amicably, if they can; _violently, if they must_.

(Mr. Quincy was here called to order by Mr. Poindexter, delegate from
the Mississippi territory, for the words in italics. After it was
decided, upon an appeal to the House, that Mr. Quincy was in order, he

I rejoice, Mr. Speaker, at the result of this appeal. Not from any
personal consideration, but from the respect paid to the essential
rights of the people, in one of their representatives. When I spoke of
the separation of the States, as resulting from the violation of the
Constitution contemplated in this bill, I spoke of it as a necessity,
deeply to be deprecated; but as resulting from causes so certain and
obvious as to be absolutely inevitable, when the effect of the principle
is practically experienced. It is to preserve, to guard the Constitution
of my country, that I denounce this attempt. I would rouse the attention
of gentlemen from the apathy with which they seem beset. These
observations are not made in a corner; there is no low intrigue; no
secret machination. I am on the people's own ground; to them I appeal
concerning their own rights, their own liberties, their own intent, in
adopting this Constitution. The voice I have uttered, at which gentlemen
startle with such agitation, is no unfriendly voice. I intended it as a
voice of warning. By this people, and by the event, if this bill passes,
I am willing to be judged, whether it be not a voice of wisdom.

The bill which is now proposed to be passed has this assumed principle
for its basis; that the three branches of this national government,
without recurrence to conventions of the people in the States, or to the
Legislatures of the States, are authorized to admit new partners to a
share of the political power, in countries out of the original limits of
the United States. Now, this assumed principle, I maintain to be
altogether without any sanction in the Constitution. I declare it to be
a manifest and atrocious usurpation of power; of a nature, dissolving,
according to undeniable principles of moral law, the obligations of our
national compact; and leading to all the awful con-sequences which flow
from such a state of things. Concerning this assumed principle, which is
the basis of this bill, this is the general position, on which I rest my
argument; that if the authority, now proposed to be exercised, be
delegated to the three branches of the government by virtue of the
Constitution, it results either from its general nature, or from its
particular provisions. I shall consider distinctly both these sources,
in relation to this pretended power.

Touching the general nature of the instrument called the Constitution of
the United States there is no obscurity; it has no fabled descent, like
the palladium of ancient Troy, from the heavens. Its origin is not
confused by the mists of time, or hidden by the darkness of passed,
unexplored ages; it is the fabric of our day. Some now living, had a
share in its construction; all of us stood by, and saw the rising of the
edifice. There can be no doubt about its nature. It is a political
compact. By whom? And about what? The preamble to the instrument will
answer these questions.

"We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect
union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the
common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of
liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this
Constitution, for the United States of America."

It is, we the people of the United States, for ourselves and our
posterity; not for the people of Louisiana; nor for the people of New
Orleans or of Canada. None of these enter into the scope of the
instrument; it embraces only "the United States of America." Who these
are, it may seem strange in this place to inquire. But truly, sir, our
imaginations have, of late, been so accustomed to wander after new
settlements to the very ends of the earth, that it will not be time ill
spent to inquire what this phrase means, and what it includes. These are
not terms adopted at hazard; they have reference to a state of things
existing anterior to the Constitution. When the people of the present
United States began to contemplate a severance from their parent State,
it was a long time before they fixed definitely the name by which they
would be designated. In 1774, they called themselves "the Colonies and
Provinces of North America." In 1775, "the Representatives of the United
Colonies of North America." In the Declaration of Independence, "the
Representatives of the United States of America." And finally, in the
articles of confederation, the style of the confederacy is declared to
be "the United States of America." It was with reference to the old
articles of confederation, and to preserve the identity and established
individuality of their character, that the preamble to this
Constitution, not content, simply, with declaring that it is "we the
people of the United States," who enter into this compact, adds that it
is for "the United States of America." Concerning the territory
contemplated by the people of the United States, in these general terms,
there can be no dispute; it is settled by the treaty of peace, and
included within the Atlantic Ocean, the St. Croix, the lakes, and more
precisely, so far as relates to the frontier, having relation to the
present argument, within "a line to be drawn through the middle of the
river Mississippi, until it intersect the northernmost part of the
thirty-first degree of north latitude, thence within a line drawn due
east on this degree of latitude to the river Apalachicola, thence along
the middle of this river to its junction with the Flint River, thence
straight to the head of the St. Mary's River, and thence down the St.
Mary's to the Atlantic Ocean."

I have been thus particular to draw the minds of gentlemen, distinctly,
to the meaning of the terms used in the preamble; to the extent which
"the United States" then included; and to the fact, that neither New
Orleans, nor Louisiana, was within the comprehension of the terms of
this instrument. It is sufficient for the present branch of my argument
to say, that there is nothing, in the general nature of this compact,
from which the power, contemplated to be exercised in this bill,
results. On the contrary, as the introduction of a new associate in
political power implies, necessarily, a new division of power, and
consequent diminution of the relative proportion of the former
proprietors of it, there can, certainly, be nothing more obvious, than
that from the general nature of the instrument no power can result to
diminish and give away, to strangers, any proportion of the rights of
the original partners. If such a power exist, it must be found, then, in
the particular provisions in the Constitution. The question now arising
is, in which of these provisions is given the power to admit new States,
to be created in territories beyond the limits of the old United States.
If it exist anywhere, it is either in the third section of the fourth
article of the Constitution, or in the treaty-making power. If it result
from neither of these, it is not pretended to be found anywhere else.

That part of the third section of the fourth article, on which the
advocates of this bill rely, is the following: "New States may be
admitted by the Congress, into this Union; but no new State shall be
formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State, nor any
State be formed by the junction of two or more States, or parts of
States, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned,
as well as of the Congress."

I know, Mr. Speaker, that the first clause of this paragraph has been
read, with all the superciliousness of a grammarian's triumph--"New
States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union,"--accompanied
with this most consequential inquiry: "Is not this a new State to be
admitted? And is there not here an express authority?" I have no doubt
this is a full and satisfactory argument to every one who is content
with the mere colors and superficies of things. And if we were now at
the bar of some stall-fed justice, the inquiry would insure the victory
to the maker of it, to the manifest delight of the constables and
suitors of his court. But, sir, we are now before the tribunal of the
whole American people; reasoning concerning their liberties, their
rights, their Constitution. These are not to be made the victims of the
inevitable obscurity of general terms; nor the sport of verbal
criticism. The question is concerning the intent of the American people,
the proprietors of the old United States, when they agreed to this
article. Dictionaries and spelling-books are here of no authority.
Neither Johnson, nor Walker, nor Webster, nor Dilworth, has any voice in
this matter. Sir, the question concerns the proportion of power
reserved, by this Constitution, to every State in this Union. Have the
three branches of this government a right, at will, to weaken and
out-weigh the influence, respectively secured to each State in this
compact, by introducing, at pleasure, new partners, situate beyond the
old limits of the United States? The question has not relation merely to
New Orleans. The great objection is to the principle of the bill. If
this principle be admitted, the whole space of Louisiana, greater, it is
said, than the entire extent of the old United States, will be a mighty
theatre, in which this government assumes the right of exercising this
unparalleled power. And it will be; there is no concealment, it is
intended to be exercised. Nor will it stop until the very name and
nature of the old partners be overwhelmed by new-corners into the
confederacy. Sir, the question goes to the very root of the power and
influence of the present members of this Union. The real intent of this
article, is, therefore, an injury of most serious import; and is to be
settled only by a recurrence to the known history and known relations of
this people and their Constitution. These, I maintain, support this
position, that the terms "new States," in this article, do not intend
new political sovereignties, with territorial annexations, to be created
without the original limits of the United States. * * *

But there is an argument stronger even than all those which have been
produced, to be drawn from the nature of the power here proposed to be
exercised. Is it possible that such a power, if it had been intended to
be given by the people, should be left dependent upon the effect of
general expressions, and such, too, as were obviously applicable to
another subject, to a particular exigency contemplated at that time?
Sir, what is this power we propose now to usurp? Nothing less than a
power changing all the proportions of the weight and influence possessed
by the potent sovereignties composing this Union. A stranger is to be
introduced to an equal share without their consent. Upon a principle
pretended to be deduced from the Constitution, this government, after
this bill passes, may and will multiply foreign partners in power at its
own mere motion; at its irresponsible pleasure; in other words, as local
interests, party passions, or ambitious views may suggest. It is a power
that from its nature never could be delegated; never was delegated; and
as it breaks down all the proportions of power guaranteed by the
Constitution to the States, upon which their essential security depends,
utterly annihilates the moral force of this political conduct. Would
this people, so wisely vigilant concerning their rights, have
transferred to Congress a power to balance, at its will, the political
weight of any one State, much more of all the States, by authorizing it
to create new States, at its pleasure, in foreign countries, not
pretended to be within the scope of the Constitution, or the conception
of the people at the time of passing it? This is not so much a question
concerning the exercise of sovereignty, as it is who shall be
sovereign--whether the proprietors of the good old United States shall
manage their own affairs in their own way; or whether they, and their
Constitution, and their political rights, shall be trampled under foot
by foreigners, introduced through a breach of the Constitution. The
proportion of the political weight of each sovereign State constituting
this Union depends upon the number of the States which have voice under
the compact. This number the Constitution permits us to multiply at
pleasure within the limits of the original United States, observing only
the expressed limitations in the Constitution. But when, in order to
increase your power of augmenting this number, you pass the old limits,
you are guilty of a violation of the Constitution in a fundamental
point; and in one, also, which is totally inconsistent with the intent
of the contract and the safety of the States which established the
association. What is the practical difference to the old partners
whether they hold their liberties at the will of a master, or whether by
admitting exterior States on an equal footing with the original States,
arbiters are constituted, who, by availing themselves of the contrariety
of interests and views, which in such a confederacy necessarily will
arise, hold the balance among the parties which exist and govern us by
throwing themselves into the scale most comformable to their purpose? In
both cases there is an effective despotism. But the last is the more
galling, as we carry the chain in the name and gait of freemen.

I have thus shown, and whether fairly, I am willing to be judged by the
sound discretion of the American people, that the power proposed to be
usurped in this bill, results neither from the general nature nor the
particular provisions of the Federal Constitution; and that it is a
palpable violation of it in a fundamental point; whence flow all the
consequences I have indicated.

"But," says the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Rhea), "these people have
been seven years citizens of the United States." I deny it, sir. As
citizens of New Orleans, or of Louisiana, they never have been, and by
the mode proposed they never will be, citizens of the United States.
They may girt upon us for a moment, but no real cement can grow from
such an association. What the real situation of the inhabitants of those
foreign countries is, I shall have occasion to show presently. "But,"
says the same gentleman: "if I have a farm, have not I a right to
purchase another farm, in my neighborhood, and settle my sons upon it,
and in time admit them to a share in the management of my household?"
Doubtless, sir. But are these cases parallel? Are the three branches of
this government owners of this farm, called the United States? I desire
to thank heaven they are not. I hold my life, liberty, and property, and
the people of the State from which I have the honor to be a
representative hold theirs, by a better tenure than any this National
Government can give. Sir, I know your virtue. And I thank the Great
Giver of every good gift, that neither the gentleman from Tennessee, nor
his comrades, nor any, nor all the members of this House, nor of the
other branch of the Legislature, nor the good gentleman who lives in the
palace yonder, nor all combined, can touch these my essential rights,
and those of my friends and constituents, except in a limited and
prescribed form. No, sir. We hold these by the laws, customs, and
principles of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. Behind her ample
shield, we find refuge, and feel safety. I beg gentlemen not to act upon
the principle, that the commonwealth of Massachusetts is their farm.

"But," the gentleman adds, "what shall we do, if we do not admit the
people of Louisiana into our Union? Our children are settling that
country." Sir, it is no concern of mine what he does. Because his
children have run wild and uncovered into the woods, is that a reason
for him to break into my house, or the houses of my friends, to filch
our children's clothes, in order to cover his children's nakedness. This
Constitution never was, and never can be, strained to lap over all the
wilderness of the West, without essentially affecting both the rights
and convenience of its real proprietors. It was never constructed to
form a covering for the inhabitants of the Missouri and Red River
country. And whenever it is attempted to be stretched over them, it will
rend asunder. I have done with this part of my argument. It rests upon
this fundamental principle, that the proportion of political power,
subject only to internal modifications, permitted by the Constitution,
is an unalienable, essential, intangible right. When it is touched, the
fabric is annihilated; for, on the preservation of these proportions,
depend our rights and liberties.

If we recur to the known relations existing among the States at the time
of the adoption of this Constitution, the same conclusions will result.
The various interests, habits, manners, prejudices, education,
situation, and views, which excited jealousies and anxieties in the
breasts of some of our most distinguished citizens, touching the result
of the proposed Constitution, were potent obstacles to its adoption. The
immortal leader of our Revolution, in his letter to the President of the
old Congress, written as president of the convention which formed this
compact, thus speaks on this subject: "It is at all times difficult to
draw, with precision, the line between those rights which must be
surrendered, and those which may be reserved; and on the present
occasion this difficulty was increased by a difference among the several
States, as to their situation, extent, habits, and particular

The debates of that period will show that the effect of the slave votes
upon the political influence of this part of the country, and the
anticipated variation of the weight of power to the West, were subjects
of great and just jealousy to some of the best patriots in the Northern
and Eastern States. Suppose, then, that it had been distinctly foreseen
that, in addition to the effect of this weight, the whole population of
a world beyond the Mississippi was to be brought into this and the other
branch of the Legislature, to form our laws, control our rights, and
decide our destiny. Sir, can it be pretended that the patriots of that
day would for one moment have listened to it? They were not madmen. They
had not taken degrees at the hospital of idiocy. They knew the nature of
man, and the effect of his combinations in political societies. They
knew that when the weight of particular sections of a confederacy was
greatly unequal, the resulting power would be abused; that it was not in
the nature of man to exercise it with moderation. The very extravagance
of the intended use is a conclusive evidence against the possibility of
the grant of such a power as is here proposed. Why, sir, I have already
heard of six States, and some say there will be, at no great distance of
time, more. I have also heard that the mouth of the Ohio will be far to
the east of the centre of the contemplated empire. If the bill is
passed, the principle is recognized. All the rest are mere questions of
expediency. It is impossible such a power could be granted. It was not
for these men that our fathers fought. It was not for them this
Constitution was adopted. You have no authority to throw the rights and
liberties and property of this people into "hotch-pot" with the wild men
on the Missouri, nor with the mixed, though more respectable, race of
Anglo-Hispano-Gallo-Americans, who bask on the sands in the mouth of the
Mississippi. I make no objection to these from their want of moral
qualities or political light. The inhabitants of New Orleans are, I
suppose, like those of all other countries, some good, some bad, some
indifferent.* * *

I will add only a few words, in relation to the moral and political
consequences of usurping this power. I have said that it would be a
virtual dissolution of the Union; and gentlemen express great
sensibility at the expression. But the true source of terror is not the
declaration I have made, but the deed you propose. Is there a moral
principle of public law better settled, or more conformable to the
plainest suggestions of reason, than that the violation of a contract by
one of the parties may be considered as exempting the other from its
obligations? Suppose, in private life, thirteen form a partnership, and
ten of them undertake to admit a new partner without the concurrence of
the other three, would it not be at their option to abandon the
partnership, after so palpable an infringement of their rights? How much
more, in the political partnership, where the admission of new
associates, without previous authority, is so pregnant with obvious
dangers and evils! Again, it is settled as a principle of morality,
among writers on public law, that no person can be obliged, beyond his
intent at the time of contract. Now who believes, who dare assert, that
it was the intention of the people, when they adopted this Constitution,
to assign, eventually, to New Orleans and Louisiana, a portion of their
political power; and to invest all the people those extensive regions
might hereafter contain, with an authority over themselves and their
descendants? When you throw the weight of Louisiana into the scale, you
destroy the political equipoise contemplated at the time of forming the
contract. Can any man venture to affirm that the people did intend such
a comprehension as you now, by construction, give it? Or can it be
concealed that, beyond its fair and acknowledged intent, such a compact
has no moral force? If gentlemen are so alarmed at the bare mention of
the consequences, let them abandon a measure which, sooner or later,
will produce them. How long before the seeds of discontent will ripen,
no man can foretell. But it is the part of wisdom not to multiply or
scatter them. Do you suppose the people of the Northern and Atlantic
States will, or ought to, look on with patience and see Representatives
and Senators, from the Red River and Missouri, pouring themselves upon
this and the other floor, managing the concerns of a sea-board fifteen
hundred miles, at least, from their residence; and having a
preponderancy in councils, into which, constitutionally, they could
never have been admitted? I have no hesitation upon this point. They
neither will see it, nor ought to see it, with content. It is the part
of a wise man to foresee danger and to hide himself. This great
usurpation, which creeps into this House, under the plausible appearance
of giving content to that important point, New Orleans, starts up a
gigantic power to control the nation. Upon the actual condition of
things, there is, there can be, no need of concealment. It is apparent
to the blindest vision. By the course of nature, and conformable to the
acknowledged principles of the Constitution, the sceptre of power, in
this country, is passing toward the Northwest. Sir, there is to this no
objection. The right belongs to that quarter of the country. Enjoy it;
it is yours. Use the powers granted as you please. But take care, in
your haste after effectual dominion, not to overload the scale by
heaping it with these new acquisitions. Grasp not too eagerly at your
purpose. In your speed after uncontrolled sway, trample not down this
Constitution. * * *

New States are intended to be formed beyond the Mississippi. There is no
limit to men's imaginations, on this subject, short of California and
Columbia River. When I said that the bill would justify a revolution and
would produce it, I spoke of its principle and its practical
consequences. To this principle and those consequences I would call the
attention of this House and nation. If it be about to introduce a
condition of things absolutely insupportable, it becomes wise and honest
men to anticipate the evil, and to warn and prepare the people against
the event. I have no hesitation on the subject. The extension of this
principle to the States contemplated beyond the Mississippi, cannot,
will not, and ought not to be borne. And the sooner the people
contemplate the unavoidable result the better; the more hope that the
evils may be palliated or removed.

Mr. Speaker, what is this liberty of which so much is said? Is it to
walk about this earth, to breathe this air, to partake the common
blessings of God's providence? The beasts of the field and the birds of
the air unite with us in such privileges as these. But man boasts a
purer and more ethereal temperature. His mind grasps in its view the
past and future, as well as the present. We live not for ourselves
alone. That which we call liberty is that principle on which the
essential security of our political condition depends. It results from
the limitations of our political system, prescribed in the Constitution.
These limitations, so long as they are faithfully observed, maintain
order, peace, and safety. When they are violated, in essential
particulars, all the concurrent spheres of authority rush against each
other; and disorder, derangement, and convulsion are, sooner or later,
the necessary consequences.

With respect to this love of our Union, concerning which so much
sensibility is expressed, I have no fears about analyzing its nature.
There is in it nothing of mystery. It depends upon the qualities of that
Union, and it results from its effects upon our and our country's
happiness. It is valued for "that sober certainty of waking bliss" which
it enables us to realize. It grows out of the affections, and has not,
and cannot be made to have, any thing universal in its nature. Sir, I
confess it: the first public love of my heart is the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts. There is my fireside; there are the tombs of my ancestors.

  "Low lies that land, yet blest with fruitful stores,
   Strong are her sons, though rocky are her shores;
   And none, ah! none, so lovely to my sight,
   Of all the lands which heaven o'erspreads with light."

The love of this Union grows out of this attachment to my native soil,
and is rooted in it. I cherish it, because it affords the best external
hope of her peace, her prosperity, her independence. I oppose this bill
from no animosity to the people of New Orleans; but from the deep
conviction that it contains a principle incompatible with the liberties
and safety of my country. I have no concealment of my opinion. The bill,
if it passes, is a death-blow to the Constitution. It may, afterward,
linger; but, lingering, its fate will, at no very distant period, be


--OF KENTUCKY. (BORN 1777, DIED 1852.)


SIR, gentlemen appear to me to forget that they stand on American soil;
that they are not in the British House of Commons, but in the chamber of
the House of Representatives of the United States; that we have nothing
to do with the affairs of Europe, the partition of territory and
sovereignty there, except so far as these things affect the interests of
our own country. Gentlemen transform themselves into the Burkes,
Chathams, and Pitts of another country, and, forgetting, from honest
zeal, the interests of America, engage with European sensibility in the
discussion of European interests. If gentlemen ask me whether I do not
view with regret and horror the concentration of such vast power in the
hands of Bonaparte, I reply that I do. I regret to see the Emperor of
China holding such immense sway over the fortunes of millions of our
species. I regret to see Great Britain possessing so uncontrolled a
command over all the waters of the globe. If I had the ability to
distribute among the nations of Europe their several portions of power
and of sovereignty, I would say that Holland should be resuscitated and
given the weight she enjoyed in the days of her De Witts. I would
confine France within her natural boundaries, the Alps, Pyrenees, and
the Rhine, and make her a secondary naval power only. I would abridge
the British maritime power, raise Prussia and Austria to their original
condition, and preserve the integrity of the Empire of Russia. But these
are speculations. I look at the political transactions of Europe, with
the single exception of their possible bearing upon us, as I do at the
history of other countries and other times. I do not survey them with
half the interest that I do the movements in South America. Our
political relation with them is much less important than it is supposed
to be. I have no fears of French or English subjugation. If we are
united we are too powerful for the mightiest nation in Europe or all
Europe combined. If we are separated and torn asunder, we shall become
an easy prey to the weakest of them. In the latter dreadful contingency
our country will not be worth preserving.

Next to the notice which the opposition has found itself called upon to
bestow upon the French Emperor, a distinguished citizen of Virginia,
formerly President of the United States, has never for a moment failed
to receive their kindest and most respectful attention. An honorable
gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Quincy), of whom I am sorry to say it
becomes necessary for me, in the course of my remarks, to take some
notice, has alluded to him in a remarkable manner. Neither his
retirement from public office, his eminent services, nor his advanced
age, can exempt this patriot from the coarse assaults of party
malevolence. No, sir. In 1801 he snatched from the rude hand of
usurpation the violated Constitution of his country, and that is his
crime. He preserved that instrument, in form, and substance, and spirit,
a precious inheritance for generations to come, and for this he can
never be forgiven. How vain and impotent is party rage, directed against
such a man. He is not more elevated by his lofty residence, upon the
summit of his own favorite mountain, than he is lifted, by the serenity
of his mind, and the consciousness of a well-spent life, above the
malignant passions and bitter feelings of the day. No! his own beloved
Monticello is not less moved by the storms that beat against its sides
than is this illustrious man by the howlings of the whole British pack,
set loose from the Essex kennel. When the gentleman to whom I have been
compelled to allude shall have mingled his dust with that of his abused
ancestors, when he shall have been consigned to oblivion, or, if he
lives at all, shall live only in the treasonable annals of a certain
junto, the name of Jefferson will be hailed with gratitude, his memory
honored and cherished as the second founder of the liberties of the
people, and the period of his administration will be looked back to as
one of the happiest and brightest epochs of American history; an oasis
in the midst of a sandy desert. But I beg the gentleman's pardon; he has
already secured to himself a more imperishable fame than I had supposed;
I think it was about four years that he submitted to the House of
Representatives an initiative proposition for the impeachment of Mr.
Jefferson. The house condescended to consider it. The gentleman debated
it with his usual temper, moderation, and urbanity. The house decided
upon it in the most solemn manner, and, although the gentleman had
somehow obtained a second, the final vote stood one for, and one hundred
and seventeen against, the proposition. * * *

But sir, I must speak of another subject, which I never think of but
with feelings of the deepest awe. The gentleman from Massachusetts, in
imitation of some of his predecessors of 1799, has entertained us with a
picture of cabinet plots, presidential plots, and all sorts of plots,
which have been engendered by the diseased state of the gentleman's
imagination. I wish, sir, that another plot, of a much more serious and
alarming character--a plot that aims at the dismemberment of our
Union--had only the same imaginary existence. But no man, who has paid
any attention to the tone of certain prints and to transactions in a
particular quarter of the Union, for several years past, can doubt the
existence of such a plot. It was far, very far from my intention to
charge the opposition with such a design. No, I believe them generally
incapable of it. But I cannot say as much for some who have been
unworthily associated with them in the quarter of the Union to which I
have referred. The gentleman cannot have forgotten his own sentiment,
uttered even on the floor of this house, "peaceably if we can, forcibly
if we must," nearly at the very time Henry's mission was undertaken. The
flagitiousness of that embassy had been attempted to be concealed by
directing the public attention to the price which, the gentleman says,
was given for the disclosure. As if any price could change the
atrociousness of the attempt on the part of Great Britain, or could
extenuate, in the slightest degree, the offence of those citizens, who
entertained and deliberated on a proposition so infamous and unnatural *
* * But, sir, I will quit this unpleasant subject. * * *

The war was declared because Great Britain arrogated to herself the
pretension of regulating our foreign trade, under the delusive name of
retaliatory orders in council--a pretension by which she undertook to
proclaim to American enterprise, "thus far shalt thou go, and no
further"--orders which she refused to revoke after the alleged cause of
their enactment had ceased; because she persisted in the practice of
impressing American seamen; because she had instigated the Indians to
commit hostilities against us; and because she refused indemnity for her
past injuries upon our commerce. I throw out of the question other
wrongs. So undeniable were the causes of the war, so powerfully did they
address themselves to the feelings of the whole American people, that
when the bill was pending before this House, gentlemen in the
opposition, although provoked to debate, would not, or could not, utter
one syllable against it. It is true, they wrapped themselves up in
sullen silence, pretending they did not choose to debate such a question
in secret session. While speaking of the proceedings on that occasion I
beg to be permitted to advert to another fact which transpired--an
important fact, material for the nation to know, and which I have often
regretted had not been spread upon our journals. My honorable colleague
(Mr. McKee) moved, in committee of the whole, to comprehend France in
the war; and when the question was taken upon the proposition, there
appeared but ten votes in support of it, of whom seven belonged to this
side of the house, and three only to the other. * * *

It is not to the British principle (of allegiance), objectionable as it
is, that we are alone to look; it is to her practice, no matter what
guise she puts on. It is in vain to assert the inviolability of the
obligation of allegiance. It is in vain to set up the plea of necessity,
and to allege that she cannot exist without the impressment of HER
seamen. The naked truth is, she comes, by her press-gangs, on board of
our vessels, seizes OUR native as well as naturalized seamen, and drags
them into her service. It is the case, then, of the assertion of an
erroneous principle, and of a practice not conformable to the asserted
principle--a principle which, if it were theoretically right, must be
forever practically wrong--a practice which can obtain countenance from
no principle whatever, and to submit to which, on our part, would betray
the most abject degradation. We are told, by gentlemen in the
opposition, that government has not done all that was incumbent on it to
do, to avoid just cause of complaint on the part of Great Britain; that
in particular the certificates of protection, authorized by the act of
1796, are fraudulently used. Sir, government has done too much in
granting those paper protections. I can never think of them without
being shocked. They resemble the passes which the master grants to his
negro slave: "Let the bearer, Mungo, pass and repass without
molestation." What do they imply? That Great Britain has a right to
seize all who are not provided with them. From their very nature, they
must be liable to abuse on both sides. If Great Britain desires a mark,
by which she can know her own subjects, let her give them an ear-mark.
The colors that float from the mast-head should be the credentials of
our seamen. There is no safety to us, and the gentlemen have shown it,
but in the rule that all who sail under the flag (not being enemies),
are protected by the flag. It is impossible that this country should
ever abandon the gallant tars who have won for us such splendid
trophies. Let me suppose that the genius of Columbia should visit one of
them in his oppressor's prison, and attempt to reconcile him to his
forlorn and wretched condition. She would say to him, in the language of
gentlemen on the other side: "Great Britain intends you no harm; she did
not mean to impress you, but one of her own subjects; having taken you
by mistake, I will remonstrate, and try to prevail upon her, by
peaceable means, to release you; but I cannot, my son, fight for you."
If he did not consider this mere mockery, the poor tar would address her
judgment and say: "You owe me, my country, protection; I owe you, in
return, obedience. I am no British subject; I am a native of old
Massachusetts, where lived my aged father, my wife, my children. I have
faithfully discharged my duty. Will you refuse to do yours?" Appealing
to her passions, he would continue: "I lost this eye in fighting under
Truxton, with the Insurgence; I got this scar before Tripoli; I broke
this leg on board the Constitution, when the Guerriere struck." * * * I
will not imagine the dreadful catastrophe to which he would be driven by
an abandonment of him to his oppressor. It will not be, it cannot be,
that his country will refuse him protection. * * *

An honorable peace is attainable only by an efficient war. My plan would
be to call out the ample resources of the country, give them a judicious
direction, prosecute the war with the utmost vigor, strike wherever we
can reach the enemy, at sea or on land, and negotiate the terms of a
peace at Quebec or at Halifax. We are told that England is a proud and
lofty nation, which, disdaining to wait for danger, meets it half way.
Haughty as she is we triumphed over her once, and, if we do not listen
to the counsels of timidity and despair, we shall again prevail. In such
a cause, with the aid of Providence, we must come out crowned with
success; but, if we fail, let us fail like men, lash ourselves to our
gallant tars, and expire together in one common struggle, fighting for


In spite of execrable financial management, of the criminal blunders of
political army officers, and of consequent defeats on land, and quite
apart from brilliant sea-fights and the New Orleans victory, the war of
1812 was of incalculable benefit to the United States. It marks more
particularly the point at which the already established democracy began
to shade off into a real nationality.

The Democratic party began its career as a States-rights party.
Possession of national power had so far modified the practical operation
of its tenets that it had not hesitated to carry out a national policy,
and even wage a desperate war, in flat opposition to the will of one
section of the Union, comprising five of its most influential States;
and, when the Hartford Convention was suspected of a design to put the
New England opposition to the war into a forcible veto, there were many
indications that the dominant party was fully prepared to answer by a
forcible materialization of the national will. In the North and West, at
least, the old States-rights formulas never carried a real vitality
beyond the war of 1812. Men still spoke of "sovereign States," and
prided themselves on the difference between the "voluntary union of
States" and the effete despotisms of Europe; but the ghost of the
Hartford Convention had laid very many more dangerous ghosts in the
section in which it had appeared.

The theatre of the war, now filled with comfortable farms and populous
cities, was then less known than any of our Territories in 1896. There
were no roads, and the transportation of provisions for the troops, of
guns, ammunition, and stores for the lake navies, was one of the most
difficult of the problems which the National Government was called upon
to solve. It cannot be said that the solution was successfully reached,
for the blunders in transportation were among the most costly,
exasperating, and dangerous of the war. But the efforts to reach it
provided the impulse which soon after resulted in the settlement of
Western New York, the appearance of the germs of such flourishing cities
as Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, the opening up of the Southwest
Territory, between Tennessee and New Orleans, and the rapid admission of
the new States of Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi, and Missouri. But the
impulse did not stop here. The inconveniences and dangers arising from
the possession of a vast territory with utterly inadequate means of
communication had been brought so plainly to public view by the war that
the question of communication influenced politics in every direction. In
New York it took shape in the construction of the Erie Canal (finished
in 1825). In States farther west and south, the loaning of the public
credit to enterprises of the nature of the Erie Canal increased until
the panic of 1837 introduced "repudiation" into American politics. In
national politics, the necessity of a general system of canals and
roads, as a means of military defence, was at first admitted by all,
even by Calhoun, was gradually rejected by the stricter constructionists
of the Constitution, and finally became a tenet of the National
Republican party, headed by John Quincy Adams and Clay (1825-29), and of
its greater successor the Whig party, headed by Clay. This idea of
Internal Improvements at national expense, though suggested by Gallatin
and Clay in 1806-08, only became a political question when the war had
forced it upon public attention; and it has not yet entirely

The maintenance of such a system required money, and a high tariff of
duties on imports was a necessary concomitant to Internal Improvements.
The germ of this system was also a product of the war of 1812. Hamilton
had proposed it twenty years before; and the first American tariff act
had declared that its object was the encouragement of American
manufactures. But the system had never been effectively introduced until
the war and the blockade had forced American manufactures into
existence. Peace brought competition with British manufacturers, and the
American manufacturers began to call for protection. The tariff of 1816
contained the principle of Protection, but only carried it into practice
far enough to induce the manufacturers to rely on the dominant party for
more of it. This expectation, rather than the Federalist opposition to
the war, is the explanation of the immediate and rapid decline of the
Federal party in New England. Continued effort brought about the tariff
of 1824, which was more protective; the tariff of 1828, which was still
more protective; and the tariff of 1830, which reduced the protective
element to a system.

The two sections, North and South, had been very much alike until the
war called the principle of growth into activity. The slave system of
labor, which had fallen in the North and had survived and been made
still more profitable in the South by Whitney's invention of the cotton
gin in 1793, shut the South off from almost all share in the new life.
That section had a monopoly of the cotton culture, and the present
profit of slave labor blinded it to the ultimate consequences of it. The
slave was fit for rude agriculture alone; he could not be employed in
manufactures, or in any labor which required intelligence; and the
slave-owner, while he desired manufactures, did not dare to cultivate
the necessary intelligence in his own slaves. The South could therefore
find no profit in protection, and yet it could not with dignity admit
that its slave system precluded it from the advantages of protection, or
base its opposition to protection wholly on economic grounds. Its only
recourse was the constitutional ground of the lack of power of Congress
to pass a protective tariff, and this brought up again the question
which had evolved the Kentucky resolutions of 1798-9. Calhoun, with
pitiless logic, developed them into a scheme of constitutional
Nullification. Under his lead,

South Carolina, in 1832, declared through her State Convention that the
protective tariff acts were no law, nor binding on the State, its
officers or citizens. President Jackson, while he was ready and willing
to suppress any such rebellion by force, was not sorry to see his
adherents in Congress make use of it to overthrow protection; and a
"compromise tariff," to which the protectionists agreed, was passed in
1833. It reduced the duties by an annual percentage for ten years. The
nullifiers claimed this as a triumph, and formally repealed the
ordinance of nullification, as if it had accomplished its object. But,
in its real intent, it had failed wretchedly. It had asserted State
sovereignty through the State's proper voice of a convention. When the
time fixed for the execution of the ordinance arrived, Jackson's
intention of taking the State's sovereignty by the throat had become so
evident that an unofficial meeting of nullifiers suspended the ordinance
until the passage of the compromise tariff had made it unnecessary. For
the first time, the force of a State and the national force had
approached threateningly near collision, and no State ever tried it
again. When the tariff of 1842 reintroduced the principle of protection,
no one thought of taking the broken weapon of nullification from its
resting-place; and secession was finally attempted only as a sectional
movement, not as the expression of the will of a State, but as a
concerted revolution by a number of States. It seems certain that
nationality had attained force enough, even in 1833, to have put State
sovereignty forever under its feet; and that but for the cohesive
sectional force of slavery and its interests, the development of
nationality would have been undisputed for the future.

New conditions were increasing the growth of the North and West, and
their separation from the South in national life, even when
nullification was in its death struggle. The acquisition of Louisiana in
1803 had been followed in 1807 by Fulton's invention of the steamboat,
the most important factor in carrying immigration into the new
territories and opening them up to settlement. But the steamboat could
not quite bridge over the gap between the Alleghanies and the
Mississippi. Internal improvements, canals, and improved roads were not
quite the instrument that was needed. It was found at last in the
introduction of the railway into the United States in 1830-32. This
proved to be an agent which could solve every difficulty except its own.
It could bridge over every gap; it could make profit of its own, and
make profitable that which had before been unprofitable. It placed
immigrants where the steamboat, canal, and road could at last be of the
highest utility to them; it developed the great West with startling
rapidity; it increased the sale of government lands so rapidly that in a
few years the debt of the United States was paid off, and the surplus
became, for the first time, a source of political embarrassment. In a
few years further, aided by revolutionary troubles in Europe,
immigration became a great stream, which poured into and altered the
conditions of every part of the North and West. The stream was
altogether nationalizing in its nature. The immigrant came to the United
States, not to a particular State. To him, the country was greater than
any State; even that of his adoption. Labor conditions excluded the
South from this element of progress also. Not only were the railroads of
the South hampered in every point by the old difficulty of slave labor;
immigration and free labor shunned slave soil as if the plague were
there prevalent. Year after year the North and West became more national
in their prejudices and modes of thought and action; while the South
remained little changed, except by a natural reactionary drift toward a
more extreme colonialism. The natural result, in the next period was the
development of a quasi nationality in the South itself.

The introduction of the railway had brought its own difficulties, though
these were not felt severely until after years. In the continent of
Europe, the governments carefully retained their powers of eminent
domain when the new system was introduced. The necessary land was loaned
to the railways for a term of years, at the expiration of which the
railway was to revert to the State; and railway troubles were
non-existent, or comparatively tractable. In the United States, as in
Great Britain, free right of incorporation was supplemented by what was
really a gift of the power of eminent domain. The necessary land became
the property of the corporations in fee, and it has been found almost
equally difficult to revoke the gift or to introduce a railway control.

Democracy took a new and extreme line of development under its alliance
with nationality. As the dominant party, about 1827-8, became divided
into two parties, the new parties felt the democratic influence as
neither of their predecessors had felt it. Nominations, which had been
made by cliques of legislators or Congressmen, began to be made by
popular delegate conventions about 1825. Before 1835, national, State,
and local conventions had been united into parties of the modern type.
With them came the pseudo-democratic idea of "rotation in office,"
introduced into national politics by President Jackson, in 1829, and
adopted by succeeding administrations. There were also some attempts to
do away with the electoral system, and to make the federal judiciary
elective, or to impose on it some other term of office than good
behavior; but these had neither success nor encouragement.

The financial errors of the war of 1812 had fairly compelled the
re-establishment of the Bank of the United States in 1816, with a
charter for twenty years, and the control of the deposits of national
revenue. Soon after Jackson's inauguration, the managers of the new
democratic party came into collision with the bank on the appointment of
a subordinate agent. It very soon became evident that the bank could not
exist in the new political atmosphere. It was driven into politics;
a new charter was vetoed in 1832; and after one of the bitterest
struggles of our history, the bank ceased to exist as a government
institution in 1836. The reason for its fall, however disguised by
attendant circumstances, was really its lack of harmony with the
national-democratic environment which had overtaken it. Benton's
speech presents a review of this bank struggle and of accompanying
political controversies.

The anti-slavery agitation, which began in 1830, was as evidently a
product of the new phase of democracy, but will fall more naturally
under the next period.

Webster's reply to Hayne has been taken as the best illustration of that
thoroughly national feeling which was impossible before the war of 1812,
and increasingly more common after it. It has been necessary to preface
it with Hayne's speech, in order to have a clear understanding of parts
of Webster's; but it has not been possible to omit Calhoun's speech, as
a defence of his scheme of nullification, and as an exemplification of
the reaction toward colonialism with which the South met the national
development. It has not seemed necessary to include other examples of
the orations called forth by the temporary political issues of the time.





Mr. Hayne said, when he took occasion, two days ago, to throw out some
ideas with respect to the policy of the government in relation to the
public lands, nothing certainly could have been further from his
thoughts than that he should have been compelled again to throw himself
upon the indulgence of the Senate. Little did I expect, said Mr. H., to
be called upon to meet such an argument as was yesterday urged by the
gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Webster). Sir, I question no man's
opinions; I impeach no man's motives; I charged no party, or State, or
section of country with hostility to any other, but ventured, as I
thought, in a becoming spirit, to put forth my own sentiments in
relation to a great national question of public policy. Such was my
course. The gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Benton), it is true, had
charged upon the Eastern States an early and continued hostility toward
the West, and referred to a number of historical facts and documents in
support of that charge. Now, sir, how have these different arguments
been met? The honorable gentleman from Massachusetts, after deliberating
a whole night upon his course, comes into this chamber to vindicate New
England; and instead of making up his issue with the gentleman from
Missouri, on the charges which he had preferred, chooses to consider me
as the author of those charges, and losing sight entirely of that
gentleman, selects me as his adversary, and pours out all the vials of
his mighty wrath upon my devoted head. Nor is he willing to stop there.
He goes on to assail the institutions and policy of the South, and calls
in question the principles and conduct of the State which I have the
honor to represent. When I find a gentleman of mature age and
experience, of acknowledged talents and profound sagacity, pursuing a
course like this, declining the contest offered from the West, and
making war upon the unoffending South, I must believe, I am bound to
believe, he has some object in view which he has not ventured to
disclose. Mr. President, why is this? Has the gentleman discovered in
former controversies with the gentleman from Missouri, that he is
overmatched by that senator? And does he hope for an easy victory over a
more feeble adversary? Has the gentleman's distempered fancy been
disturbed by gloomy forebodings of "new alliances to be formed," at
which he hinted? Has the ghost of the murdered coalition come back, like
the ghost of Banquo, to "sear the eyeballs" of the gentleman, and will
not down at his bidding? Are dark visions of broken hopes, and honors
lost forever, still floating before his heated imagination? Sir, if it
be his object to thrust me between the gentleman from Missouri and
himself, in order to rescue the East from the contest it has provoked
with the West, he shall not be gratified. Sir, I will not be dragged
into the defence of my friend from Missouri. The South shall not be
forced into a conflict not its own. The gentleman from Missouri is able
to fight his own battles. The gallant West needs no aid from the South
to repel any attack which may be made upon them from any quarter. Let
the gentleman from Massachusetts controvert the facts and arguments of
the gentleman from Missouri, if he can--and if he win the victory, let
him wear the honors; I shall not deprive him of his laurels. * * *

Sir, any one acquainted with the history of parties in this country will
recognize in the points now in dispute between the Senator from
Massachusetts and myself the very grounds which have, from the
beginning, divided the two great parties in this country, and which
(call these parties by what names you will, and amalgamate them as you
may) will divide them forever. The true distinction between those
parties is laid down in a celebrated manifesto issued by the convention
of the Federalists of Massachusetts, assembled in Boston, in February,
1824, on the occasion of organizing a party opposition to the reelection
of Governor Eustis. The gentleman will recognize this as "the canonical
book of political scripture"; and it instructs us that, when the
American colonies redeemed themselves from British bondage, and became
so many independent nations, they proposed to form a NATIONAL UNION (not
a Federal Union, sir, but a NATIONAL UNION).

Those who were in favor of a union of the States in this form became
known by the name of Federalists; those who wanted no union of the
States, or disliked the proposed form of union, became known by the name
of Anti-Federalists. By means which need not be enumerated, the
Anti-Federalists became (after the expiration of twelve years) our
national rulers, and for a period of sixteen years, until the close of
Mr. Madison's administration in 1817, continued to exercise the
exclusive direction of our public affairs. Here, sir, is the true
history of the origin, rise, and progress of the party of National
Republicans, who date back to the very origin of the Government, and who
then, as now, chose to consider the Constitution as having created not a
Federal, but a National, Union; who regarded "consolidation" as no evil,
and who doubtless consider it "a consummation to be wished" to build up
a great "central government," "one and indivisible." Sir, there have
existed, in every age and every country, two distinct orders of men--the
lovers of freedom and the devoted advocates of power.

The same great leading principles, modified only by the peculiarities of
manners, habits, and institutions, divided parties in the ancient
republics, animated the Whigs and Tories of Great Britain, distinguished
in our own times the Liberals and Ultras of France, and may be traced
even in the bloody struggles of unhappy Spain. Sir, when the gallant
Riego, who devoted himself and all that he possessed to the liberties of
his country, was dragged to the scaffold, followed by the tears and
lamentations of every lover of freedom throughout the world, he perished
amid the deafening cries of "Long live the absolute king!" The people
whom I represent, Mr. President, are the descendants of those who
brought with them to this country, as the most precious of their
possessions, "an ardent love of liberty"; and while that shall be
preserved, they will always be found manfully struggling against the
consolidation of the Government AS THE WORST OF EVILS. * * *

Who, then, Mr. President, are the true friends of the Union? Those who
would confine the Federal Government strictly within the limits
prescribed by the Constitution; who would preserve to the States and the
people all powers not expressly delegated; who would make this a Federal
and not a National Union, and who, administering the Government in a
spirit of equal justice, would make it a blessing, and not a curse. And
who are its enemies? Those who are in favor of consolidation; who are
constantly stealing power from the States, and adding strength to the
Federal Government; who, assuming an unwarrantable jurisdiction over the
States and the people, undertake to regulate the whole industry and
capital of the country. But, sir, of all descriptions of men, I consider
those as the worst enemies of the Union, who sacrifice the equal rights
which belong to every member of the confederacy to combinations of
interested majorities for personal or political objects. But the
gentleman apprehends no evil from the dependence of the States on the
Federal Government; he can see no danger of corruption from the
influence of money or patronage. Sir, I know that it is supposed to be a
wise saying that "patronage is a source of weakness"; and in support of
that maxim it has been said that "every ten appointments make a hundred
enemies." But I am rather inclined to think, with the eloquent and
sagacious orator now reposing on his laurels on the banks of the
Roanoke, that "the power of conferring favors creates a crowd of
dependents"; he gave a forcible illustration of the truth of the remark,
when he told us of the effect of holding up the savory morsel to the
eager eyes of the hungry hounds gathered around his door. It mattered
not whether the gift was bestowed on "Towzer" or "Sweetlips," "Tray,"
"Blanche," or "Sweetheart"; while held in suspense, they were all
governed by a nod, and when the morsel was bestowed, the expectation of
the favors of to-morrow kept up the subjection of to-day.

The Senator from Massachusetts, in denouncing what he is pleased to call
the Carolina doctrine, has attempted to throw ridicule upon the idea
that a State has any constitutional remedy by the exercise of its
sovereign authority, against "a gross, palpable, and deliberate
violation of the Constitution." He calls it "an idle" or "a ridiculous
notion," or something to that effect, and added, that it would make the
Union a "mere rope of sand." Now, sir, as the gentleman has not
condescended to enter into any examination of the question, and has been
satisfied with throwing the weight of his authority into the scale, I do
not deem it necessary to do more than to throw into the opposite scale
the authority on which South Carolina relies; and there, for the
present, I am perfectly willing to leave the controversy. The South
Carolina doctrine, that is to say, the doctrine contained in an
exposition reported by a committee of the Legislature in December, 1828,
and published by their authority, is the good old Republican doctrine of
'98--the doctrine of the celebrated "Virginia Resolutions" of that year,
and of "Madison's Report" of '99. It will be recollected that the
Legislature of Virginia, in December, '98, took into consideration the
alien and sedition laws, then considered by all Republicans as a gross
violation of the Constitution of the United States, and on that day
passed, among others, the following resolution:

"The General Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it
views the powers of the Federal Government, as resulting from the
compact to which the States are parties, as limited by the plain sense
and intention of the instrument constituting that compact, as no further
valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact;
and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of
other powers not granted by the said compact, the States who are the
parties there-to have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for
arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their
respective limits the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to

In addition to the above resolution, the General Assembly of Virginia
"appealed to the other States, in the confidence that they would concur
with that commonwealth, that the acts aforesaid (the alien and sedition
laws) are unconstitutional, and that the necessary and proper measures
would be taken by each for cooperating with Virginia in maintaining
unimpaired the authorities, rights, and liberties reserved to the States
respectively, or to the people." * * *

But, sir, our authorities do not stop here. The State of Kentucky
responded to Virginia, and on the 10th of November, 1798, adopted those
celebrated resolutions, well known to have been penned by the author of
the Declaration of American Independence. In those resolutions, the
Legislature of Kentucky declare, "that the government created by this
compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the
power delegated to itself, since that would have made its discretion,
and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all
other cases of compact among parties having no common judge, each party
has an equal right to judge for itself as well of infractions as of the
mode and measure of redress." * * *

Sir, at that day the whole country was divided on this very question. It
formed the line of demarcation between the federal and republican
parties; and the great political revolution which then took place turned
upon the very questions involved in these resolutions. That question was
decided by the people, and by that decision the Constitution was, in the
emphatic language of Mr. Jefferson, "saved at its last gasp." I should
suppose, sir, it would require more self-respect than any gentleman here
would be willing to assume, to treat lightly doctrines derived from such
high sources. Resting on authority like this, I will ask, gentlemen,
whether South Carolina has not manifested a high regard for the Union,
when, under a tyranny ten times more grievous than the alien and
sedition laws, she has hitherto gone no further than to petition,
remonstrate, and to solemnly protest against a series of measures which
she believes to be wholly unconstitutional and utterly destructive of
her interests. Sir, South Carolina has not gone one step further than
Mr. Jefferson himself was disposed to go, in relation to the present
subject of our present complaints--not a step further than the statesmen
from New England were disposed to go under similar circumstances; no
further than the Senator from Massachusetts himself once considered as
within "the limits of a constitutional opposition." The doctrine that it
is the right of a State to judge of the violations of the Constitution
on the part of the Federal Government, and to protect her citizens from
the operations of unconstitutional laws, was held by the enlightened
citizens of Boston, who assembled in Faneuil Hall, on the 25th of
January, 1809. They state, in that celebrated memorial, that "they
looked only to the State Legislature, which was competent to devise
relief against the unconstitutional acts of the General Government. That
your power (say they) is adequate to that object, is evident from the
organization of the confederacy." * * *

Thus it will be seen, Mr. President, that the South Carolina doctrine is
the Republican doctrine of '98,--that it was promulgated by the fathers
of the faith,--that it was maintained by Virginia and Kentucky in the
worst of times,--that it constituted the very pivot on which the
political revolution of that day turned,--that it embraces the very
principles, the triumph of which, at that time, saved the Constitution
at its last gasp, and which New England statesmen were not unwilling to
adopt when they believed themselves to be the victims of
unconstitutional legislation. Sir, as to the doctrine that the Federal
Government is the exclusive judge of the extent as well as the
limitations of its power, it seems to me to be utterly subversive of the
sovereignty and independence of the States. It makes but little
difference, in my estimation, whether Congress or the Supreme Court are
invested with this power. If the Federal Government, in all, or any, of
its departments, is to prescribe the limits of its own authority, and
the States are bound to submit to the decision, and are not to be
allowed to examine and decide for themselves when the barriers of the
Constitution shall be overleaped, this is practically "a government
without limitation of powers." The States are at once reduced to mere
petty corporations, and the people are entirely at your mercy. I have
but one word more to add. In all the efforts that have been made by
South Carolina to resist the unconstitutional laws which Congress has
extended over them, she has kept steadily in view the preservation of
the Union, by the only means by which she believes it can be long
preserved--a firm, manly, and steady resistance against usurpation. The
measures of the Federal Government have, it is true, prostrated her
interests, and will soon involve the whole South in irretrievable ruin.
But even this evil, great as it is, is not the chief ground of our
complaints. It is the principle involved in the contest--a principle
which, substituting the discretion of Congress for the limitations of
the Constitution, brings the States and the people to the feet of the
Federal Government, and leaves them nothing they can call their own.
Sir, if the measures of the Federal Government were less oppressive, we
should still strive against this usurpation. The South is acting on a
principle she has always held sacred--resistance to unauthorized
taxation. These, sir, are the principles which induced the immortal
Hampden to resist the payment of a tax of twenty shillings. Would twenty
shillings have ruined his fortune? No! but the payment of half of twenty
shillings, on the principle on which it was demanded, would have made
him a slave. Sir, if acting on these high motives--if animated by that
ardent love of liberty which has always been the most prominent trait in
the Southern character, we would be hurried beyond the bounds of a cold
and calculating prudence; who is there, with one noble and generous
sentiment in his bosom, who would not be disposed, in the language of
Burke, to exclaim, "You must pardon something to the spirit of liberty?"





When the mariner has been tossed for many days in thick weather, and on
an unknown sea, he naturally avails himself of the first pause in the
storm, the earliest glance of the sun, to take his latitude, and
ascertain how far the elements have driven him from his true course. Let
us imitate this prudence, and before we float further on the waves of
this debate, refer to the point from which we departed, that we may at
least be able to conjecture where we now are. I ask for the reading of
the resolution before the Senate.

(The Secretary read the resolution, as follows:)

"Resolved, That the Committee on Public Lands be instructed to inquire
and report the quantity of public land remaining unsold within each
State and Territory, and whether it be expedient to limit for a certain
period the sales of the public lands to such lands only as have
heretofore been offered for sale, and are now subject to entry at the
minimum price. And, also, whether the office of Surveyor-General, and
some of the land offices, may not be abolished without detriment to the
public interest; or whether it be expedient to adopt measures to hasten
the sales and extend more rapidly the surveys of the public lands."

We have thus heard, sir, what the resolution is which is actually before
us for consideration; and it will readily occur to everyone, that it is
almost the only subject about which something has not been said in the
speech, running through two days, by which the Senate has been
entertained by the gentleman from South Carolina. Every topic in the
wide range of our public affairs, whether past or present--every thing,
general or local, whether belonging to national politics or party
politics--seems to have attracted more or less of the honorable member's
attention, save only the resolution before the Senate. He has spoken of
every thing but the public lands; they have escaped his notice. To that
subject, in all his excursions, he has not paid even the cold respect of
a passing glance.

When this debate, sir, was to be resumed, on Thursday morning, it so
happened that it would have been convenient for me to be elsewhere. The
honorable member, however, did not incline to put off the discussion to
another day. He had a shot, he said, to return, and he wished to
discharge it. That shot, sir, which he thus kindly informed us was
coming, that we might stand out of the way, or prepare ourselves to fall
by it and die with decency, has now been received. Under all advantages,
and with expectation awakened by the tone which preceded it, it has been
discharged, and has spent its force. It may become me to say no more of
its effect, than that, if nobody is found, after all, either killed or
wounded, it is not the first time in the history of human affairs, that
the vigor and success of the war have not quite come up to the lofty and
sounding phrase of the manifesto.

The gentleman, sir, in declining to postpone the debate, told the
Senate, with the emphasis of his hand upon his heart, that there was
something rankling here, which he wished to relieve. (Mr. Hayne rose,
and disclaimed having used the word rankling.) It would not, Mr.
President, be safe for the honorable member to appeal to those around
him, upon the question whether he did in fact make use of that word. But
he may have been unconscious of it. At any rate, it is enough that he
disclaims it. But still, with or without the use of that particular
word, he had yet something here, he said, of which he wished to rid
himself by an immediate reply. In this respect, sir, I have a great
advantage over the honorable gentleman. There is nothing here, sir,
which gives me the slightest uneasiness; neither fear, nor anger, nor
that which is sometimes more troublesome than either, the consciousness
of having been in the wrong. There is nothing, either originating here,
or now received here by the gentleman's shot. Nothing originating here,
for I had not the slightest feeling of unkindness toward the honorable
member. Some passages, it is true, had occurred since our acquaintance
in this body, which I could have wished might have been otherwise; but I
had used philosophy and forgotten them. I paid the honorable member the
attention of listening with respect to his first speech; and when he sat
down, though surprised, and I must even say astonished, at some of his
opinions, nothing was farther from my intention than to commence any
personal warfare. Through the whole of the few remarks I made in answer,
I avoided, studiously and carefully, every thing which I thought
possible to be construed into disrespect. And, Sir, while there is thus
nothing originating here which I have wished at any time, or now wish,
to discharge, I must repeat, also, that nothing has been received here
which rankles, or in any way gives me annoyance. I will not accuse the
honorable member of violating the rules of civilized war; I will not say
that he poisoned his arrows. But whether his shafts were, or were not,
dipped in that which would have caused rankling if they had reached
their destination, there was not, as it happened, quite strength enough
in the bow to bring them to their mark. If he wishes now to gather up
those shafts, he must look for them elsewhere; they will not be found
fixed and quivering in the object at which they were aimed.

The honorable member complained that I slept on his speech. I must have
slept on it, or not slept at all. The moment the honorable member sat
down, his friend from Missouri rose, and, with much honeyed commendation
of the speech, suggested that the impressions which it had produced were
too charming and delightful to be disturbed by other sentiments or other
sounds, and proposed that the Senate should adjourn. Would it have been
quite amiable in me, Sir, to interrupt this excellent good feeling? Must
I not have been absolutely malicious, if I could have thrust myself
forward, to destroy sensations thus pleasing? Was it not much better and
kinder, both to sleep upon them myself, and to allow others also the
pleasure of sleeping upon them? But if it be meant, by sleeping upon his
speech, that I took time to prepare a reply to it, it is quite a
mistake. Owing to other engagements, I could not employ even the
interval between the adjournment of the Senate and its meeting the next
morning, in attention to the subject of this debate. Nevertheless, Sir,
the mere matter of fact is undoubtedly true. I did sleep on the
gentleman's speech, and slept soundly. And I slept equally well on his
speech of yesterday, to which I am now replying. It is quite possible
that in this respect, also, I possess some advantage over the honorable
member, attributable, doubtless, to a cooler temperament on my part;
for, in truth, I slept upon his speeches remarkably well.

But the gentleman inquires why HE was made the object of such a reply.
Why was he singled out? If an attack has been made on the East, he, he
assures us, did not begin it; it was made by the gentleman from
Missouri. Sir, I answered the gentleman's speech because I happened to
hear it; and because, also, I choose to give an answer to that speech,
which, if unanswered, I thought most likely to produce injurious
impressions. I did not stop to inquire who was the original drawer of
the bill. I found a responsible indorser before me, and it was my
purpose to hold him liable, and to bring him to his just responsibility
without delay. But, sir, this interrogatory of the honorable member was
only introductory to another. He proceeded to ask me whether I had
turned upon him in this debate, from the consciousness that I should
find an overmatch, if I ventured on a contest with his friend from
Missouri. If, sir, the honorable member, _modestiae gratia_, had chosen
thus to defer to his friend, and to pay him compliments, without
intentional disparagement to others, it would have been quite according
to the friendly courtesies of debate, and not at all ungrateful to my
own feelings. I am not one of those, sir, who esteem any tribute of
regard, whether light and occasional, or more serious and deliberate,
which may be bestowed on others, as so much unjustly withholden from
themselves. But the tone and the manner of the gentleman's question
forbid me thus to interpret it. I am not at liberty to consider it as
nothing more than a civility to his friend. It had an air of taunt and
disparagement, something of the loftiness of asserted superiority, which
does not allow me to pass it over without notice. It was put as a
question for me to answer, and so put as if it were difficult for me to
answer whether I deemed the member from Missouri an overmatch for myself
in debate here. It seems to me, sir, that this is extraordinary
language, and an extraordinary tone, for the discussions of this body.

Matches and overmatches! Those terms are more applicable elsewhere than
here, and fitter for other assemblies than this. Sir, the gentleman
seems to forget where and what we are. This is a Senate, a Senate of
equals, of men of individual honor and personal character, and of
absolute independence. We know no masters, we acknowledge no dictators.
This is a hall for mutual consultation and discussion; not an arena for
the exhibition of champions. I offer myself, sir, as a match for no man;
I throw the challenge of debate at no man's feet. But then, sir, since
the honorable member has put the question in a manner that calls for an
answer, I will give him an answer; and I tell him, that, holding myself
to be the humblest of the members here, I yet know nothing in the arm of
his friend from Missouri, either alone or when aided by the arm of his
friend from South Carolina, that need deter even me from espousing
whatever opinions I may choose to espouse, from debating whenever I may
choose to debate, or from speaking whatever I may see fit to say, on the
floor of the Senate. Sir, when uttered as matter of commendation or
compliment, I should dissent from nothing which the honorable member
might say of his friend. Still less do I put forth any pretensions of my
own. But when put to me as a matter of taunt, I throw it back, and say
to the gentleman, that he could possibly say nothing less likely than
such a comparison to wound my pride of personal character. The anger of
its tone rescued the remark from intentional irony, which otherwise,
probably, would have been its general acceptation. But, sir, if it be
imagined by this mutual quotation and commendation; if it be supposed
that, by casting the characters of the drama, assigning to each his
part, to one the attack, to another the cry of onset; or if it be
thought that, by a loud and empty vaunt of anticipated victory, any
laurels are to be won here; if it be imagined, especially, that any, or
all of these things will shake any purpose of mine, I can tell the
honorable member, once for all, that he is greatly mistaken, and that he
is dealing with one of whose temper and character he has yet much to
learn. Sir, I shall not allow myself, on this occasion, I hope on no
occasion, to be betrayed into any loss of temper; but if provoked, as I
trust I never shall be, into crimination and recrimination, the
honorable member may, perhaps, find that in that contest, there will be
blows to take as well as blows to give; that others can state
comparisons as significant, at least, as his own, and that his impunity
may possibly demand of him whatever powers of taunt and sarcasm he may
possess. I commend him to a prudent husbandry of his resources.

On yet another point, I was still more unaccountably misunderstood. The
gentlemen had harangued against "consolidation." I told him, in reply,
that there was one kind of consolidation to which I was attached, and
that was the consolidation of our Union; that this was precisely that
consolidation to which I feared others were not attached, and that such
consolidation was the very end of the Constitution, the leading object,
as they had informed us themselves, which its framers had kept in view.
I turned to their communication, and read their very words, "the
consolidation of the Union," and expressed my devotion to this sort of
consolidation. I said, in terms, that I wished not in the slightest
degree to augment the powers of this government; that my object was to
preserve, not to enlarge; and that by consolidating the Union I
understood no more than the strengthening of the Union, and perpetuating
it. Having been thus explicit, having thus read from the printed book
the precise words which I adopted, as expressing my own sentiments, it
passes comprehension how any man could understand me as contending for
an extension of the powers of the government, or for consolidation in
that odious sense in which it means an accumulation, in the Federal
Government, of the powers properly belonging to the States.

I repeat, sir, that, in adopting the sentiments of the framers of the
Constitution, I read their language audibly, and word for word; and I
pointed out the distinction, just as fully as I have now done, between
the consolidation of the Union and that other obnoxious consolidation
which I disclaim. And yet the honorable member misunderstood me. The
gentleman had said that he wished for no fixed revenue,--not a shilling.
If by a word he could convert the Capitol into gold, he would not do it.
Why all this fear of revenue? Why, sir, because, as the gentleman told
us, it tends to consolidation. Now this can mean neither more nor less
than that a common revenue is a common interest, and that all common
interests tend to preserve the union of the States. I confess I like
that tendency; if the gentleman dislikes it, he is right in deprecating
a shilling of fixed revenue. So much, sir, for consolidation. * * *

Professing to be provoked by what he chose to consider a charge made by
me against South Carolina, the honorable member, Mr. President, has
taken up a crusade against New England. Leaving altogether the subject
of the public lands, in which his success, perhaps, had been neither
distinguished nor satisfactory, and letting go, also, of the topic of
the tariff, he sallied forth in a general assault on the opinions,
politics, and parties of New England, as they have been exhibited in the
last thirty years.

New England has, at times, so argues the gentleman, held opinions as
dangerous as those which he now holds. Suppose this were so; how should
he therefore abuse New England? If he find himself countenanced by acts
of hers, how is it that, while he relies on these acts, he covers, or
seeks to cover, their authors with reproach? But, sir, if in the course
of forty years, there have been undue effervescences of party in New
England, has the same thing happened nowhere else? Party animosity and
party outrage, not in New England, but elsewhere, denounced President
Washington, not only as a Federalist, but as a Tory, a British agent, a
man who in his high office sanctioned corruption. But does the honorable
member suppose, if I had a tender here who should put such an effusion
of wickedness and folly into my hand, that I would stand up and read it
against the South? Parties ran into great heats again in 1799 and 1800.
What was said, sir, or rather what was not said, in those years, against
John Adams, one of the committee that drafted the Declaration of
Independence, and its admitted ablest defender on the floor of Congress?
If the gentleman wishes to increase his stores of party abuse and frothy
violence, if he has a determined proclivity to such pursuits, there are
treasures of that sort south of the Potomac, much to his taste, yet
untouched. I shall not touch them. * * * The gentleman's purveyors have
only catered for him among the productions of one side. I certainly
shall not supply the deficiency by furnishing him samples of the other.
I leave to him, and to them, the whole concern. It is enough for me to
say, that if, in any part of their grateful occupation, if, in all their
researches, they find any thing in the history of Massachusetts, or of
New England, or in the proceedings of any legislative or other public
body, disloyal to the Union, speaking slightingly of its value,
proposing to break it up, or recommending non-intercourse with
neighboring States, on account of difference in political opinion, then,
sir, I give them all up to the honorable gentleman's unrestrained
rebuke; expecting, however, that he will extend his buffetings in like
manner, to all similar proceedings, wherever else found. * * *

Mr. President, in carrying his warfare, such as it is, into New England,
the honorable gentleman all along professes to be acting on the
defensive. He chooses to consider me as having assailed South Carolina,
and insists that he comes forth only as her champion, and in her
defence. Sir, I do not admit that I made any attack whatever on South
Carolina. Nothing like it. The honorable member, in his first speech,
expressed opinions, in regard to revenue and some other topics, which I
heard with both pain and surprise. I told the gentleman I was aware that
such sentiments were entertained out of the Government, but had not
expected to find them advanced in it; that I knew there were persons in
the South who speak of our Union with indifference or doubt, taking
pains to magnify its evils, and to say nothing of its benefits; that the
honorable member himself, I was sure, could never be one of these; and I
regretted the expression of such opinions as he had avowed, because I
thought their obvious tendency was to encourage feelings of disrespect
to the Union, and to impair its strength. This, sir, is the sum and
substance of all I said on the abject. And this constitutes the attack
which called on the chivalry of the gentleman, in his own opinion, to
harry us with such a foray among the party pamphlets and party
proceedings in Massachusetts! If he means that I spoke with
dissatisfaction or disrespect of the ebullitions of individuals in South
Carolina, it is true. But if he means that I assailed the character of
the State, her honor, or patriotism, that I reflected on her history or
her conduct, he has not the slightest grounds for any such assumption. *
* * I shall not acknowledge that the honorable member goes before me in
regard for whatever of distinguished talent or distinguished character
South Carolina has produced. I claim part of the honor, I partake in the
pride of her great names. I claim them for my countrymen, one and all,
the Laurenses, the Rutledges, the Pinckneys, the Sumpters, the
Marions,--Americans all, whose fame is no more to be hemmed in by State
lines than their talents and patriotism were capable of being
circumscribed within the same narrow limits. In their day and generation
they served and honored the country, and the whole country; and their
renown is of the treasures of the whole country. Him whose honored name
the gentleman himself bears--does he esteem me less capable of gratitude
for his patriotism, or sympathy for his sufferings, than if his eyes had
first opened upon the light of Massachusetts, instead of South Carolina?
Sir, does he suppose it in his power to exhibit a Carolina name so
bright as to produce envy in my bosom? No, sir; increased gratification
and delight, rather. I thank God that, if I am gifted with little of the
spirit which is able to raise mortals to the skies, I have yet none, as
I trust, of that other spirit which would drag angels down. When I shall
be found, sir, in my place here in the Senate, or elsewhere, to sneer at
public merit, because it happens to spring up beyond the little limits
of my own State or neighborhood; when I refuse, for any such cause, or
for any cause, the homage due to American talent, to elevated
patriotism, to sincere devotion to liberty and the country; or, if I see
an uncommon endowment of Heaven, if I see extraordinary capacity and
virtue, in any son of the South; and if, moved by local prejudices or
gangrened by State jealousy, I get up here to abate the tithe of a hair
from his just character and just fame, may my tongue cleave to the roof
of my mouth!

Sir, let me recur to pleasing recollections; let me indulge in
refreshing remembrances of the past; let me remind you that, in early
times, no States cherished greater harmony, both of principle and
feeling, than Massachusetts and South Carolina. Would to God that
harmony might again return! Shoulder to shoulder they went through the
Revolution, hand in hand they stood round the administration of
Washington, and felt his own great arm lean on them for support. Unkind
feeling, if it exist, alienation, and distrust, are the growth,
unnatural to such soils, of false principles since sown. They are weeds,
the seeds of which that same great arm never scattered.

Mr. President, I shall enter upon no encomium of Massachusetts; she
needs none. There she is. Behold her, and judge for yourselves. There is
her history; the world knows it by heart. The past, at least, is secure.
There is Boston, and Concord, and Lexington, and Bunker Hill; and there
they will remain for ever. The bones of her sons, falling in the great
struggle for Independence, now lie mingled with the soil of every State
from New England to Georgia, and there they will lie forever. And, sir,
where American Liberty raised its first voice, and where its youth was
nurtured and sustained, there it still lives, in the strength of its
manhood, and full of its original spirit. If discord and disunion shall
wound it, if party strife and blind ambition shall hawk and tear it, if
folly and madness, if uneasiness under salutary and necessary restraint
shall succeed in separating it from that Union, by which alone its
existence is made sure, it will stand, in the end, by the side of that
cradle in which its infancy was rocked; it will stretch forth its arm
with whatever of vigor it may still retain, over the friends who gather
round it; and it will fall at last, if fall it must, amidst the
profoundest monuments of its own glory, and on the very spot of its

There yet remains to be performed, Mr. President, by far the most grave
and important duty which I feel to be devolved upon me by this occasion.
It is to state, and to defend, what I conceive to be the true principles
of the Constitution under which we are here assembled. I might well have
desired that so weighty a task should have fallen into other and abler
hands. I could have wished that it should have been executed by those
whose character and experience give weight and influence to their
opinions, such as cannot possibly belong to mine. But, sir, I have met
the occasion, not sought it; and I shall proceed to state my own
sentiments, without challenging for them any particular regard, with
studied plainness, and as much precision as possible.

I understand the honorable gentleman from South Carolina to maintain
that it is a right of the State Legislatures to interfere whenever, in
their judgment, this government transcends its constitutional limits,
and to arrest the operation of its laws.

I understand him to maintain this right, as a right existing under the
Constitution, not as a right to overthrow it on the ground of extreme
necessity, such as would justify violent revolution.

I understand him to maintain an authority on the part of the States,
thus to interfere, for the purpose of correcting the exercise of power
by the General Government, of checking it and of compelling it to
conform to their opinion of the extent of its powers.

I understand him to maintain, that the ultimate power of judging of the
constitutional extent of its own authority is not lodged exclusively in
the General Government, or any branch of it; but that, on the contrary,
the States may lawfully decide for themselves, and each State for
itself, whether, in a given case, the act of the General Government
transcends its power.

I understand him to insist, that, if the exigencies of the case, in the
opinion of any State government, require it, such State government may,
by its own sovereign authority, annul an act of the General Government
which it deems plainly and palpably unconstitutional.

This is the sum of what I understand from him to be the South Carolina
doctrine, and the doctrine which he maintains. I propose to consider it,
and compare it with the Constitution. Allow me to say, as a preliminary
remark, that I call this the South Carolina doctrine only because the
gentleman himself has so denominated it. I do not feel at liberty to say
that South Carolina, as a State, has ever advanced these sentiments. I
hope she has not, and never may. That a great majority of her people are
opposed to the tariff laws, is doubtless true. That a majority, somewhat
less than that just mentioned, conscientiously believe these laws
unconstitutional, may probably also be true. But that any majority holds
to the right of direct State interference at State discretion, the right
of nullifying acts of Congress by acts of State legislation, is more
than I know, and what I shall be slow to believe.

That there are individuals besides the honorable gentleman who do
maintain these opinions, is quite certain. I recollect the recent
expression of a sentiment, which circumstances attending its utterance
and publication justify us in supposing was not unpremeditated. "The
sovereignty of the State,--never to be controlled, construed, or decided
on, but by her own feelings of honorable justice."

[Mr. HAYNE here rose and said, that, for the purpose of being clearly
understood, he would state that his proposition was in the words of the
Virginia resolution as follows:

"That this assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it
views the powers of the Federal Government, as resulting from the
compact to which the States are parties, as limited by the plain sense
and intention of the instrument constituting that compact, as no farther
valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact;
and that, in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of
other powers not granted by the said compact. The States that are
parties thereto have the right, and are in duty bound to interpose for
arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their
respective limits the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to

Mr. WEBSTER resumed:]

I am quite aware, Mr. President, of the existence of the resolution
which the gentleman read, and has now repeated, and that he relies on it
as his authority. I know the source, too, from which it is understood to
have proceeded. I need not say that I have much respect for the
constitutional opinions of Mr. Madison; they would weigh greatly with me
always. But before the authority of his opinion be vouched for the
gentleman's proposition, it will be proper to consider what is the fair
interpretation of that resolution, to which Mr. Madison is understood to
have given his sanction. As the gentleman construes it, it is an
authority for him. Possibly, he may not have adopted the right
construction. That resolution declares, that, in the case of the
dangerous exercise of powers not granted by the General Government, the
States may interpose to arrest the progress of the evil. But how
interpose, and what does this declaration purport? Does it mean no more
than that there may be extreme cases, in which the people, in any mode
of assembling, may resist usurpation, and relieve themselves from a
tyrannical government? No one will deny this. Such resistance is not
only acknowledged to be just in America, but in England also. Blackstone
admits as much, in the theory, and practice, too, of the English
Constitution. We, sir, who oppose the Carolina doctrine, do not deny
that the people may, if they choose, throw off any government when it
becomes oppressive and intolerable, and erect a better in its stead. We
all know that civil institutions are established for the public benefit,
and that when they cease to answer the ends of their existence they may
be changed. But I do not understand the doctrine now contended for to be
that, which, for the sake of distinction, we may call the right of
revolution. I understand the gentleman to maintain, that, without
revolution, without civil commotion, without rebellion, a remedy for
supposed abuse and transgression of the powers of the General Government
lies in a direct appeal to the interference of the State governments.

[Mr. HAYNE here arose and said: He did not contend for the mere right of
revolution, but for the right of constitutional resistance. What he
maintained was, that in a case of plain, palpable violation of the
Constitution by the General Government, a State may interpose; and that
this interposition is constitutional.

Mr. WEBSTER resumed:]

So, sir, I understood the gentleman, and am happy to find that I did not
misunderstand him. What he contends for is, that it is constitutional to
interrupt the administration of the Constitution itself, in the hands of
those who are chosen and sworn to administer it, by the direct
interference, in form of law, of the States, in virtue of their
sovereign capacity. The inherent right in the people to reform their
government I do not deny; and they have another right, and that is, to
resist unconstitutional laws, without overturning the government. It is
no doctrine of mine that unconstitutional laws bind the people. The
great question is, Whose prerogative is it to decide on the
constitutionality or unconstitutionality of the laws? On that, the main
debate hinges. The proposition, that, in case of a supposed violation of
the Constitution by Congress, the States have a constitutional right to
interfere and annul the law of Congress is the proposition of the
gentleman. I do not admit it. If the gentleman had intended no more than
to assert the right of revolution for justifiable cause, he would have
said only what all agree to. But I cannot conceive that there can be a
middle course, between submission to the laws, when regularly pronounced
constitutional, on the one hand, and open resistance, which is
revolution or rebellion, on the other. I say, the right of a State to
annul a law of Congress cannot be maintained, but on the ground of the
inalienable right of man to resist oppression; that is to say, upon the
ground of revolution. I admit that there is an ultimate violent remedy,
above the Constitution and in defiance of the Constitution, which may be
resorted to when a revolution is to be justified. But I do not admit,
that, under the Constitution and in conformity with it, there is any
mode in which a State government, as a member of the Union, can
interfere and stop the progress of the General Government, by force of
her own laws, under any circumstances whatever.

This leads us to inquire into the origin of this government and the
source of its power. Whose agent is it? Is it the creature of the State
Legislatures, or the creature of the people? If the Government of the
United States be the agent of the State governments, then they may
control it, provided they can agree in the manner of controlling it; if
it be the agent of the people, then the people alone can control it,
restrain it, modify, or reform it. It is observable enough, that the
doctrine for which the honorable gentleman contends leads him to the
necessity of maintaining, not only that this General Government is the
creature of the States, but that it is the creature of each of the
States, severally, so that each may assert the power for itself of
determining whether it acts within the limits of its authority. It is
the servant of four-and-twenty masters, of different wills and different
purposes, and yet bound to obey all. This absurdity (for it seems no
less) arises from a misconception as to the origin of this government
and its true character. It is, sir, the people's Constitution, the
people's government, made for the people, made by the people, and
answerable to the people. The people of the United States have declared
that this Constitution shall be supreme law. We must either admit the
proposition, or deny their authority. The States are, unquestionably,
sovereign, so far as their sovereignty is not affected by this supreme
law. But the State Legislatures, as political bodies, however sovereign,
are yet not sovereign over the people. So far as the people have given
power to the General Government, so far the grant is unquestionably
good, and the Government holds of the people, and not of the State
governments. We are all agents of the same supreme power, the people.
The General Government and the State governments derive their authority
from the same source. Neither can, in relation to the other, be called
primary, though one is definite and restricted, and the other general
and residuary. The National Government possesses those powers which it
can be shown the people have conferred on it, and no more. All the rest
belongs to the State governments, or to the people themselves. So far as
the people have restrained State sovereignty by the expression of their
will, in the Constitution of the United States, so far, it must be
admitted, State sovereignty is effectually controlled. I do not contend
that it is, or ought to be, controlled farther. The sentiment to which I
have referred propounds that State sovereignty is only to be controlled
by its own "feeling of justice"--that is to say, it is not to be
controlled at all, for one who is to follow his own feelings is under no
legal control. Now, however men may think this ought to be, the fact is
that the people of the United States have chosen to impose control on
State sovereignties. There are those, doubtless, who wish they had been
left without restraint; but the Constitution has ordered the matter
differently. To make war, for instance, is an exercise of sovereignty;
but the Constitution declares that no State shall make war. To coin
money is another exercise of sovereign power; but no State is at liberty
to coin money. Again, the Constitution says that no sovereign State
shall be so sovereign as to make a treaty. These prohibitions, it must
be confessed, are a control on the State sovereignty of South Carolina,
as well as of the other States, which does not arise "from her own
feelings of honorable justice." The opinion referred to, therefore, is
in defiance of the plainest provisions of the Constitution.

There are other proceedings of public bodies which have already been
alluded to, and to which I refer again, for the purpose of ascertaining
more fully what is the length and breadth of that doctrine denominated
the Carolina doctrine, which the honorable member has now stood up on
this floor to maintain. In one of them I find it resolved, that "the
tariff of 1828, and every other tariff designed to promote one branch of
industry at the expense of others, is contrary to the meaning and
intention of the federal compact, and such a dangerous, palpable, and
deliberate usurpation of power, by a determined majority, wielding the
General Government beyond the limits of its delegated powers, as calls
upon the States which compose the suffering minority, in their sovereign
capacity, to exercise the powers which, as sovereigns, necessarily
devolve upon them when their contract is violated."

Observe, sir, that this resolution holds the tariff of 1828, and every
other tariff designed to promote one branch of industry at the expense
of another, to be such a dangerous, palpable, and deliberate usurpation
of power, as calls upon the States, in their sovereign capacity, to
interfere by their own authority. This denunciation, Mr. President, you
will please to observe, includes our old tariff of 1816, as well as all
others; because that was established to promote the interest of the
manufacturers of cotton, to the manifest and admitted injury of the
Calcutta cotton trade. Observe, again, that all the qualifications are
here rehearsed and charged upon the tariff, which are necessary to bring
the case within the gentleman's proposition. The tariff is a usurpation;
it is a dangerous usurpation; it is a palpable usurpation; it is a
deliberate usurpation. It is such a usurpation, therefore, as calls upon
the States to exercise their right of interference. Here is a case,
then, within the gentleman's principles, and all his qualifications of
his principles. It is a case for action. The Constitution is plainly,
dangerously, palpably, and deliberately violated; and the States must
interpose their own authority to arrest the law. Let us suppose the
State of South Carolina to express the same opinion, by the voice of her
Legislature. That would be very imposing; but what then? It so happens
that, at the very moment, when South Carolina resolves that the tariff
laws are unconstitutional, Pennsylvania and Kentucky resolve exactly the
reverse. They hold those laws to be both highly proper and strictly
constitutional. And now, sir, how does the honorable member propose to
deal with this case? How does he relieve us from this difficulty upon
any principle of his? His construction gets us into it; how does he
propose to get us out?

In Carolina the tariff is a palpable, deliberate usurpation; Carolina,
therefore, may nullify it, and refuse to pay the duties. In Pennsylvania
it is both clearly constitutional and highly expedient; and there the
duties are to be paid. And yet we live under a government of uniform
laws, and under a constitution, too, which contains an express
provision, as it happens, that all duties shall be equal in all States.
Does not this approach absurdity?

If there be no power to settle such questions, independent of either of
the States, is not the whole Union a rope of sand? Are we not thrown
back again precisely upon the old Confederation?

It is too plain to be argued. Four-and-twenty interpreters of
constitutional law, each with a power to decide for itself, and none
with authority to bind any body else, and this constitutional law the
only bond of their union! What is such a state of things but a mere
connection during pleasure, or to use the phraseology of the times,
during feeling? And that feeling, too, not the feeling of the people,
who established the Constitution, but the feeling of the State

In another of the South Carolina addresses, having premised that the
crisis requires "all the concentrated energy of passion," an attitude of
open resistance to the laws of the Union is advised. Open resistance to
the laws, then, is the constitutional remedy, the conservative power of
the State, which the South Carolina doctrines teach for the redress of
political evils, real or imaginary. And its authors further say, that,
appealing with confidence to the Constitution itself, to justify their
opinions, they cannot consent to try their accuracy by the courts of
justice. In one sense, indeed, sir, this is assuming an attitude of open
resistance in favor of liberty. But what sort of liberty? The liberty of
establishing their own opinions, in defiance of the opinions of all
others; the liberty of judging and deciding exclusively themselves, in a
matter in which others have as much right to judge and decide as they;
the liberty of placing their own opinion above the judgment of all
others, above the laws, and above the Constitution. This is their
liberty, and this is the fair result of the proposition contended for by
the honorable gentleman. Or, it may be more properly said, it is
identical with it, rather than a result from it. * * *

Sir, the human mind is so constituted, that the merits of both sides of
a controversy appear very clear, and very palpable, to those who
respectively espouse them; and both sides usually grow clearer as the
controversy advances. South Carolina sees unconstitutionality in the
tariff; she sees oppression there also, and she sees danger.
Pennsylvania, with a vision not less sharp, looks at the same tariff,
and sees no such thing in it; she sees it all constitutional, all
useful, all safe. The faith of South Carolina is strengthened by
opposition, and she now not only sees, but resolves, that the tariff is
palpably unconstitutional, oppressive, and dangerous; but Pennsylvania,
not to be behind her neighbors, and equally willing to strengthen her
own faith by a confident asseveration resolves, also, and gives to every
warm affirmative of South Carolina, a plain, downright, Pennsylvania
negative. South Carolina, to show the strength and unity of her opinion,
brings her assembly to a unanimity, within seven voices; Pennsylvania,
not to be outdone in this respect any more than in others, reduces her
dissentient fraction to a single vote. Now, sir, again, I ask the
gentleman, What is to be done? Are these States both right? Is he bound
to consider them both right? If not, which is in the wrong? or, rather,
which has the best right to decide? And if he, and if I, are not to know
what the Constitution means, and what it is, till those two State
legislatures, and the twenty-two others, shall agree in its
construction, what have we sworn to, when we have sworn to maintain it?
I was forcibly struck, sir, with one reflection, as the gentleman went
on in his speech. He quoted Mr. Madison's resolutions, to prove that a
State may interfere, in a case of deliberate, palpable, and dangerous
exercise of a power not granted. The honorable member supposes the
tariff law to be such an exercise of power; and that consequently a case
has arisen in which the State may, if it see fit, interfere by its own
law. Now it so happens, nevertheless, that Mr. Madison deems this same
tariff law quite constitutional. Instead of a clear and palpable
violation, it is, in his judgment, no violation at all. So that, while
they use his authority in a hypothetical case, they reject it in the
very case before them. All this, sir, shows the inherent futility, I had
almost used a stronger word, of conceding this power of interference to
the State, and then attempting to secure it from abuse by imposing
qualifications of which the States themselves are to judge. One of two
things is true; either the laws of the Union are beyond the discretion
and beyond the control of the States; or else we have no constitution of
general government, and are thrust back again to the days of the
Confederation. * * *

I must now beg to ask, sir, whence is this supposed right of the States
derived? Where do they find the power to interfere with the laws of the
Union? Sir, the opinion which the honorable gentleman maintains, is a
notion founded in a total misapprehension, in my judgment, of the origin
of this government, and of the foundation on which it stands. I hold it
to be a popular government, erected by the people; those who administer
it, responsible to the people; and itself capable of being amended and
modified, just as the people may choose it should be. It is as popular,
just as truly emanating from the people, as the State governments. It is
created for one purpose; the State governments for another. It has its
own powers; they have theirs. There is no more authority with them to
arrest the operation of a law of Congress, than with Congress to arrest
the operation of their laws. We are here to administer a constitution
emanating immediately from the people, and trusted by them to our
administration. It is not the creature of the State governments.

This government, sir, is the independent off-spring of the popular will.
It is not the creature of State legislatures; nay, more, if the whole
truth must be told, the people brought it into existence, established
it, and have hitherto supported it, for the very purpose amongst others,
of imposing certain salutary restraints on State sovereignties. The
States cannot now make war; they cannot contract alliances; they cannot
make, each for itself, separate regulations of commerce; they cannot lay
imposts; they cannot coin money. If this Constitution, sir, be the
creature of State legislatures, it must be admitted that it has obtained
a strange control over the volitions of its creators.

The people, then, sir, erected this government. They gave it a
constitution, and in that constitution they have enumerated the powers
which they bestow on it. They have made it a limited government. They
have defined its authority. They have restrained it to the exercise of
such powers as are granted; and all others, they declare, are reserved
to the States, or the people. But, sir, they have not stopped here. If
they had, they would have accomplished but half their work. No
definition can be so clear as to avoid the possibility of doubt; no
limitation so precise, as to exclude all uncertainty. Who, then, shall
construe this grant of the people? Who shall interpret their will, where
it may be supposed they have left it doubtful? With whom do they repose
this ultimate right of deciding on the powers of the government? Sir,
they have settled all this in the fullest manner. They have left it with
the government itself, in its appropriate branches. Sir, the very chief
end, the main design, for which the whole Constitution was framed and
adopted, was to establish a government that should not be obliged to act
through State agency, or depend on State opinion or State discretion.
The people had had quite enough of that kind of government under the
Confederation. Under that system, the legal action, the application of
law to individuals, belonged exclusively to the States. Congress could
only recommend; their acts were not of binding force, till the States
had adopted and sanctioned them. Are we in that condition still? Are we
yet at the mercy of State discretion and State construction? Sir, if we
are, then vain will be our attempt to maintain the Constitution under
which we sit.

But, sir, the people have wisely provided, in the Constitution itself, a
proper, suitable mode and tribunal for settling questions of
constitutional law. There are in the Constitution grants of powers to
Congress, and restrictions on these powers. There are also prohibitions
on the States. Some authority must, therefore, necessarily exist, having
the ultimate jurisdiction to fix and ascertain the interpretation of
these grants, restrictions, and prohibitions. The Constitution has
itself pointed out, ordained, and established that authority. How has it
accomplished this great and essential end? By declaring, sir, that "the
Constitution and the laws of the United States made in pursuance
thereof, shall be the supreme law of the land, any thing in the
Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."

This, sir, was the first great step. By this the supremacy of the
Constitution and the laws of the United States is declared. The people
so will it. No State law is to be valid which comes in conflict with the
Constitution, or any law of the United States passed in pursuance of it.
But who shall decide this question of interference? To whom lies the
last appeal? This, sir, the Constitution itself decides also, by
declaring, "that the judicial power shall extend to all cases arising
under the Constitution and laws of the United States." These two
provisions cover the whole ground. They are, in truth, the keystone of
the arch! With these it is a government, without them a confederation.
In pursuance of these clear and express provisions, Congress
established, at its very first session, in the judicial act, a mode for
carrying them into full effect, and for bringing all questions of
constitutional power to the final decision of the Supreme Court. It
then, sir, became a government. It then had the means of
self-protection; and but for this, it would, in all probability, have
been now among things which are past. Having constituted the Government,
and declared its powers, the people have further said, that, since
somebody must decide on the extent of these powers, the Government shall
itself decide; subject, always, like other popular governments, to its
responsibility to the people. And now, sir, I repeat, how is it that a
State legislature acquires any power to interfere? Who, or what gives
them the right to say to the people: "We, who are your agents and
servants for one purpose, will undertake to decide, that your other
agents and servants, appointed by you for another purpose, have
transcended the authority you gave them!" The reply would be, I think,
not impertinent: "Who made you a judge over another's servants? To their
own masters they stand or fall."

Sir, I deny this power of State legislatures altogether. It cannot stand
the test of examination. Gentlemen may say, that, in an extreme case, a
State government may protect the people from intolerable oppression.
Sir, in such a case the people might protect themselves without the aid
of the State governments. Such a case warrants revolution. It must make,
when it comes, a law for itself. A nullifying act of a State legislature
cannot alter the case, nor make resistance any more lawful. In
maintaining these sentiments, sir, I am but asserting the rights of the
people. I state what they have declared, and insist on their right to
declare it.

They have chosen to repose this power in the General Government, and I
think it my duty to support it like other constitutional powers.

For myself, sir, I do not admit the competency of South Carolina or any
other State to prescribe my constitutional duty; or to settle, between
me and the people the validity of laws of Congress for which I have
voted. I decline her umpirage. I have not sworn to support the
Constitution according to her construction of the clauses. I have not
stipulated by my oath of office or otherwise, to come under any
responsibility, except to the people, and those whom they have appointed
to pass upon the question, whether laws, supported by my votes, conform
to the Constitution of the country. And, sir, if we look to the general
nature of the case, could any thing have been more preposterous than to
make a government for the whole Union, and yet leave its powers subject,
not to one interpretation, but to thirteen or twenty-four
interpretations? Instead of one tribunal, established by all,
responsible to all, with power to decide for all, shall constitutional
questions be left to four-and-twenty popular bodies, each at liberty to
decide for itself, and none bound to respect the decisions of others;
and each at liberty, too, to give a new constitution on every new
election of its own members? Would any thing, with such a principle in
it, or rather with such a destitution of all principle be fit to be
called a government? No, sir. It should not be denominated a
constitution. It should be called, rather, a collection of topics for
everlasting controversy; heads of debate for a disputatious people. It
would not be a government. It would not be adequate to any practical
good, or fit for any country to live under.

To avoid all possibility of being misunderstood, allow me to repeat
again in the fullest manner, that I claim no powers for the government
by forced or unfair construction. I admit that it is a government of
strictly limited powers; of enumerated, specified, and particularized
powers; and that whatsoever is not granted is withheld. But
notwithstanding all this, and however the grant of powers may be
expressed, its limit and extent may yet, in some cases, admit of doubt;
and the General Government would be good for nothing, it would be
incapable of long existing, if some mode had not been provided in which
those doubts as they should arise, might be peaceably but
authoritatively solved.

And now, Mr. President, let me run the honorable gentleman's doctrine a
little into its practical application. Let us look at his probable
_modus operandi_. If a thing can be done, an ingenious man can tell how
it is to be done, and I wish to be informed how this State interference
is to be put in practice, without violence, bloodshed, and rebellion. We
will take the existing case of the tariff law. South Carolina is said to
have made up her opinion upon it. If we do not repeal it (as we probably
shall not), she will then apply to the case the remedy of her doctrine.
She will, we must suppose, pass a law of her legislature, declaring the
several acts of Congress, usually called the tariff laws, null and void,
so far as they respect South Carolina, or the citizens thereof. So far,
all is a paper transaction, and easy enough. But the collector at
Charleston is collecting the duties imposed by these tariff laws. He,
therefore, must be stopped. The collector will seize the goods if the
tariff duties are not paid. The State authorities will undertake their
rescue, the marshal, with his posse, will come to the collector's aid,
and here the contest begins. The militia of the State will be called out
to sustain the nullifying act. They will march, sir, under a very
gallant leader; for I believe the honorable member himself commands the
militia of that part of the State. He will raise the NULLIFYING ACT on
his standard, and spread it out as his banner! It will have a preamble,
setting forth, that the tariff laws are palpable, deliberate, and
dangerous violations of the Constitution! He will proceed, with this
banner flying, to the custom-house in Charleston,

         "All the while,
   Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds."

Arrived at the custom-house, he will tell the collector that he must
collect no more duties under any of the tariff laws. This he will be
somewhat puzzled to say, by the way, with a grave countenance,
considering what hand South Carolina herself had in that of 1816. But,
sir, the collector would not, probably, desist at his bidding. He would
show him the law of Congress, the treasury instruction, and his own oath
of office. He would say, he should perform his duty, come what come

Here would ensue a pause; for they say that a certain stillness precedes
the tempest. The trumpeter would hold his breath awhile, and before all
this military array should fall on the custom-house, collector, clerks,
and all, it is very probable some of those composing it would request of
their gallant commander-in-chief to be informed upon a little point of
law; for they have doubtless, a just respect for his opinions as a
lawyer, as well as for his bravery as a soldier. They know he has read
Blackstone and the Constitution, as well as Turenne and Vauban. They
would ask him, therefore, somewhat concerning their rights in this
matter. They would inquire whether it was not somewhat dangerous to
resist a law of the United States. What would be the nature of their
offence, they would wish to learn, if they, by military force and array,
resisted the execution in Carolina of a law of the United States, and it
should turn out, after all, that the law was constitutional? He would
answer, of course, treason. No lawyer could give any other answer. John
Fries, he would tell them, had learned that some years ago. "How, then,"
they would ask, "do you propose to defend us? We are not afraid of
bullets, but treason has a way of taking people off that we do not much
relish. How do you propose to defend us?" "Look at my floating banner,"
he would reply; "see there the nullifying law!"

"Is it your opinion, gallant commander," they would then say, "that, if
we should be indicted for treason, that same floating banner of yours
would make a good plea in bar?" "South Carolina is a sovereign State,"
he would reply. "That is true; but would the judge admit our plea?"
"These tariff laws," he would repeat, "are unconstitutional, palpably,
deliberately, dangerously." "That may all be so; but if the tribunal
should not happen to be of that opinion, shall we swing for it? We are
ready to die for our country, but it is rather an awkward business, this
dying without touching the ground! After all, that is a sort of hemp tax
worse than any part of the tariff."

Mr. President, the honorable gentleman would be in a dilemma, like that
of another great general. He would have a knot before him which he could
not untie. He must cut it with his sword. He must say to his followers,
"Defend yourselves with your bayonets"; and this is war--civil war.

Direct collision, therefore, between force and force, is the unavoidable
result of that remedy for the revision of unconstitutional laws which
the gentleman contends for. It must happen in the very first case to
which it is applied. Is not this the plain result? To resist by force
the execution of a law, generally, is treason. Can the courts of the
United States take notice of the indulgence of a State to commit
treason? The common saying, that a State cannot commit treason herself,
is nothing to the purpose. Can she authorize others to do it? If John
Fries had produced an act of Pennsylvania, annulling the law of
Congress, would it have helped his case? Talk about it as we will, these
doctrines go the length of revolution. They are incompatible with any
peaceable administration of the government. They lead directly to
disunion and civil commotion; and therefore it is, that at their
commencement, when they are first found to be maintained by respectable
men, and in a tangible form, I enter my public protest against them all.

The honorable gentleman argues that, if this Government be the sole
judge of the extent of its own powers, whether that right of judging be
in Congress or the Supreme Court, it equally subverts State sovereignty.
This the gentleman sees, or thinks he sees, although he cannot perceive
how the right of judging, in this matter, if left to the exercise of
State legislatures, has any tendency to subvert the government of the
Union. The gentleman's opinion may be, that the right ought not to have
been lodged with the General Government; he may like better such a
Constitution as we should have had under the right of State
interference; but I ask him to meet me on the plain matter of fact. I
ask him to meet me on the Constitution itself. I ask him if the power is
not found there, clearly and visibly found there?

But, sir, what is this danger, and what are the grounds of it? Let it be
remembered that the Constitution of the United States is not
unalterable. It is to continue in its present form no longer than the
people who established it shall choose to continue it. If they shall
become convinced that they have made an injudicious or inexpedient
partition and distribution of power between the State governments and
the General Government, they can alter that distribution at will.

If any thing be found in the national Constitution, either by original
provision or subsequent interpretation, which ought not to be in it, the
people know how to get rid of it. If any construction, unacceptable to
them, be established so as to become practically a part of the
Constitution, they will amend it, at their own sovereign pleasure. But
while the people choose to maintain it as it is, while they are
satisfied with it, and refuse to change it, who has given, or who can
give, to the legislatures a right to alter it, either by interference,
construction, or otherwise? Gentlemen do not seem to recollect that the
people have any power to do any thing for themselves. They imagine there
is no safety for them, any longer than they are under the close
guardianship of the State legislatures. Sir, the people have not trusted
their safety, in regard to the General Constitution, to these hands.
They have required other security, and taken other bonds. They have
chosen to trust themselves, first, to the plain words of the instrument,
and to such construction as the Government themselves, in doubtful
cases, should put on their powers, under their oaths of office, and
subject to their responsibility to them, just as the people of a State
trust to their own governments with a similar power. Secondly, they have
reposed their trust in the efficacy of frequent elections, and in their
own power to remove their own servants and agents whenever they see

Thirdly, they have reposed trust in the judicial power, which, in order
that it might be trustworthy, they have made as respectable, as
disinterested, and as independent as was practicable. Fourthly, they
have seen fit to rely, in case of necessity, or high expediency, on
their known and admitted power to alter or amend the Constitution,
peaceably and quietly, whenever experience shall point out defects or
imperfections. And, finally, the people of the United States have at no
time, in no way, directly or indirectly, authorized any State
legislature to construe or interpret their high instrument of
government; much less to interfere, by their own power, to arrest its
course and operation.

If, sir, the people in these respects had done otherwise than they have
done, their Constitution could neither have been preserved, nor would it
have been worth preserving. And if its plain provisions shall now be
disregarded, and these new doctrines interpolated in it, it will become
as feeble and helpless a being as its enemies, whether early or more
recent, could possibly desire. It will exist in every State but as a
poor dependent on State permission. It must borrow leave to be; and will
be, no longer than State pleasure, or State discretion, sees fit to
grant the indulgence, and to prolong its poor existence.

But, sir, although there are fears, there are hopes also. The people
have preserved this, their own chosen Constitution, for forty years, and
have seen their happiness, prosperity, and renown grow with its growth,
and strengthen with its strength. They are now, generally, strongly
attached to it. Overthrown by direct assault, it cannot be; evaded,
undermined, NULLIFIED, it will not be, if we, and those who shall
succeed us here, as agents and representatives of the people, shall
conscientiously and vigilantly discharge the two great branches of our
public trust, faithfully to preserve and wisely to administer it.

Mr. President, I have thus stated the reasons of my dissent to the
doctrines which have been advanced and maintained. I am conscious of
having detained you and the Senate much too long. I was drawn into the
debate with no previous deliberation, such as is suited to the
discussion of so grave and important a subject. But it is a subject of
which my heart is full, and I have not been willing to suppress the
utterance of its spontaneous sentiments. I cannot, even now, persuade
myself to relinquish it, without expressing, once more my deep
conviction, that, since it respects nothing less than the union of the
States, it is of most vital and essential importance to the public
happiness. I profess, sir, in my career hitherto, to have kept steadily
in view the prosperity and honor of the whole country, and the
preservation of our Federal Union. It is to that Union we owe our safety
at home, and our consideration and dignity abroad. It is to that Union
that we are chiefly indebted for whatever makes us most proud of our
country. That Union we reached only by the discipline of our virtues in
the severe school of adversity. It had its origin in the necessities of
disordered finance, prostrate commerce, and ruined credit. Under its
benign influences, these great interests immediately awoke, as from the
dead, and sprang forth with newness of life. Every year of its duration
has teemed with fresh proofs of its utility and its blessings; and
although our territory has stretched out wider and wider, and our
population spread farther and farther, they have not outrun its
protection or its benefits. It has been to us all a copious fountain of
national, social, and personal happiness.

I have not allowed myself, sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what
might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly weighed
the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite us together
shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the
precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom
the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe
counsellor in the affairs of this Government, whose thoughts should be
mainly bent on considering, not how the Union may be best preserved, but
how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it should be
broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts we have high, exciting,
gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our children.
Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that in my day
at least that curtain may not rise! God grant that on my vision never
may be opened what lies behind! When my eyes shall be turned to behold
for the last time the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the
broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union, on States
dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or
drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and
lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the Republic, now
known and honored through-out the earth, still full high advanced, its
arms and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a stripe
erased or polluted, not a single star obscured, bearing for its motto,
no such miserable interrogotary as "What is all this worth?" nor those
other words of delusion and folly, "Liberty first and Union afterward";
but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing
on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land,
and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to
every true American heart,--Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and






At the last session of Congress, it was avowed on all sides that the
public debt, as to all practical purposes, was in fact paid, the small
surplus remaining being nearly covered by the money in the Treasury and
the bonds for duties which had already accrued; but with the arrival of
this event our last hope was doomed to be disappointed. After a long
session of many months, and the most earnest effort on the part of South
Carolina and the other Southern States to obtain relief, all that could
be effected was a small reduction in the amount of the duties, but a
reduction of such a character that, while it diminished the amount of
burden, it distributed that burden more unequally than even the
obnoxious act of 1828; reversing the principle adopted by the bill of
1816, of laying higher duties on the unprotected than the protected
articles, by repealing almost entirely the duties laid upon the former,
and imposing the burden almost entirely on the latter. It was thus that,
instead of relief--instead of an equal distribution of burdens and
benefits of the government, on the payment of the debt, as had been
fondly anticipated,--the duties were so arranged as to be, in fact,
bounties on one side and taxation on the other; thus placing the two
great sections of the country in direct conflict in reference to its
fiscal action, and thereby letting in that flood of political corruption
which threatens to sweep away our Constitution and our liberty.

This unequal and unjust arrangement was pronounced, both by the
administration, through its proper organ, the Secretary of the Treasury,
and by the opposition, to be a permanent adjustment; and it was thus
that all hope of relief through the action of the General Government
terminated; and the crisis so long apprehended at length arrived, at
which the State was compelled to choose between absolute acquiescence in
a ruinous system of oppression, or a resort to her reserved
powers--powers of which she alone was the rightful judge, and which
only, in this momentous juncture, could save her. She determined on the

The consent of two thirds of her Legislature was necessary for the call
of a convention, which was considered the only legitimate organ through
which the people, in their sovereignty, could speak. After an arduous
struggle the States-right party succeeded; more than two thirds of both
branches of the Legislature favorable to a convention were elected; a
convention was called--the ordinance adopted. The convention was
succeeded by a meeting of the Legislature, when the laws to carry the
ordinance into execution were enacted--all of which have been
communicated by the President, have been referred to the Committee on
the Judiciary, and this bill is the result of their labor.

Having now corrected some of the prominent misrepresentations as to the
nature of this controversy, and given a rapid sketch of the movement of
the State in reference to it, I will next proceed to notice some
objections connected with the ordinance and the proceedings under it.

The first and most prominent of these is directed against what is called
the test oath, which an effort has been made to render odious. So far
from deserving the denunciation that has been levelled against it, I
view this provision of the ordinance as but the natural result of the
doctrines entertained by the State, and the position which she occupies.
The people of Carolina believe that the Union is a union of States, and
not of individuals; that it was formed by the States, and that the
citizens of the several States were bound to it through the acts of
their several States; that each State ratified the Constitution for
itself, and that it was only by such ratification of a State that any
obligation was imposed upon its citizens. Thus believing, it is the
opinion of the people of Carolina that it belongs to the State which has
imposed the obligation to declare, in the last resort, the extent of
this obligation, as far as her citizens are concerned; and this upon the
plain principles which exist in all analogous cases of compact between
sovereign bodies. On this principle the people of the State, acting in
their sovereign capacity in convention, precisely as they did in the
adoption of their own and the Federal Constitution, have declared, by
the ordinance, that the acts of Congress which imposed duties under the
authority to lay imposts, were acts not for revenue, as intended by the
Constitution, but for protection, and therefore null and void. The
ordinance thus enacted by the people of the State themselves, acting as
a sovereign community, is as obligatory on the citizens of the State as
any portion of the Constitution. In prescribing, then, the oath to obey
the ordinance, no more was done than to prescribe an oath to obey the
Constitution. It is, in fact, but a particular oath of allegiance, and
in every respect similar to that which is prescribed, under the
Constitution of the United States, to be administered to all the
officers of the State and Federal Governments; and is no more deserving
the harsh and bitter epithets which have been heaped upon it than that
or any similar oath. It ought to be borne in mind that, according to the
opinion which prevails in Carolina, the right of resistance to the
unconstitutional acts of Congress belongs to the State, and not to her
individual citizens; and that, though the latter may, in a mere question
of _meum_ and _tuum_, resist through the courts an unconstitutional
encroachment upon their rights, yet the final stand against usurpation
rests not with them, but with the State of which they are members; and
such act of resistance by a State binds the conscience and allegiance of
the citizen. But there appears to be a general misapprehension as to the
extent to which the State has acted under this part of the ordinance.
Instead of sweeping every officer by a general proscription of the
minority, as has been represented in debate, as far as my knowledge
extends, not a single individual has been removed. The State has, in
fact, acted with the greatest tenderness, all circumstances considered,
toward citizens who differed from the majority; and, in that spirit, has
directed the oath to be administered only in the case of some official
act directed to be performed in which obedience to the ordinance is
involved. * * *'

It is next objected that the enforcing acts, have legislated the United
States out of South Carolina. I have already replied to this objection
on another occasion, and will now but repeat what I then said: that they
have been legislated out only to the extent that they had no right to
enter. The Constitution has admitted the jurisdiction of the United
States within the limits of the several States only so far as the
delegated powers authorize; beyond that they are intruders, and may
rightfully be expelled; and that they have been efficiently expelled by
the legislation of the State through her civil process, as has been
acknowledged on all sides in the debate, is only a confirmation of the
truth of the doctrine for which the majority in Carolina have contended.

The very point at issue between the two parties there is, whether
nullification is a peaceful and an efficient remedy against an
unconstitutional act of the General Government, and may be asserted, as
such, through the State tribunals. Both parties agree that the acts
against which it is directed are unconstitutional and oppressive. The
controversy is only as to the means by which our citizens may be
protected against the acknowledged encroachments on their rights. This
being the point at issue between the parties, and the very object of the
majority being an efficient protection of the citizens through the State
tribunals, the measures adopted to enforce the ordinance, of course
received the most decisive character. We were not children, to act by
halves. Yet for acting thus efficiently the State is denounced, and this
bill reported, to overrule, by military force, the civil tribunal and
civil process of the State! Sir, I consider this bill, and the arguments
which have been urged on this floor in its support, as the most
triumphant acknowledgment that nullification is peaceful and efficient,
and so deeply intrenched in the principles of our system, that it cannot
be assailed but by prostrating the Constitution, and substituting the
supremacy of military force in lieu of the supremacy of the laws. In
fact, the advocates of this bill refute their own argument. They tell us
that the ordinance is unconstitutional; that it infracts the
constitution of South Carolina, although, to me, the objection appears
absurd, as it was adopted by the very authority which adopted the
constitution itself. They also tell us that the Supreme Court is the
appointed arbiter of all controversies between a State and the General
Government. Why, then, do they not leave this controversy to that
tribunal? Why do they not confide to them the abrogation of the
ordinance, and the laws made in pursuance of it, and the assertion of
that supremacy which they claim for the laws of Congress? The State
stands pledged to resist no process of the court. Why, then, confer on
the President the extensive and unlimited powers provided in this bill?
Why authorize him to use military force to arrest the civil process of
the State? But one answer can be given: That, in a contest between the
State and the General Government, if the resistance be limited on both
sides to the civil process, the State, by its inherent sovereignty,
standing upon its reserved powers, will prove too powerful in such a
controversy, and must triumph over the Federal Government, sustained by
its delegated and limited authority; and in this answer we have an
acknowledgment of the truth of those great principles for which the
State has so firmly and nobly contended. * * *

Notwithstanding all that has been said, I may say that neither the
Senator from Delaware (Mr. Clayton), nor any other who has spoken on the
same side, has directly and fairly met the great question at issue: Is
this a Federal Union? a union of States, as distinct from that of
individuals? Is the sovereignty in the several States, or in the
American people in the aggregate? The very language which we are
compelled to use when speaking of our political institutions, affords
proof conclusive as to its real character. The terms union, federal,
united, all imply a combination of sovereignties, a confederation of
States. They never apply to an association of individuals. Who ever
heard of the United State of New York, of Massachusetts, or of Virginia?
Who ever heard the term federal or union applied to the aggregation of
individuals into one community? Nor is the other point less clear--that
the sovereignty is in the several States, and that our system is a union
of twenty-four sovereign powers, under a constitutional compact, and not
of a divided sovereignty between the States severally and the United
States? In spite of all that has been said, I maintain that sovereignty
is in its nature indivisible. It is the supreme power in a State, and we
might just as well speak of half a square, or half of a triangle, as of
half a sovereignty. It is a gross error to confound the exercise of
sovereign powers with sovereignty itself, or the delegation of such
powers with the surrender of them. A sovereign may delegate his powers
to be exercised by as many agents as he may think proper, under such
conditions and with such limitations as he may impose; but to surrender
any portion of his sovereignty to another is to annihilate the whole.
The Senator from Delaware (Mr. Clayton) calls this metaphysical
reasoning, which he says he cannot comprehend. If by metaphysics he
means that scholastic refinement which makes distinctions without
difference, no one can hold it in more utter contempt than I do; but if,
on the contrary, he means the power of analysis and combination--that
power which reduces the most complex idea into its elements, which
traces causes to their first principle, and, by the power of
generalization and combination, unites the whole in one harmonious
system--then, so far from deserving contempt, it is the highest
attribute of the human mind. It is the power which raises man above the
brute--which distinguishes his faculties from mere sagacity, which he
holds in common with inferior animals. It is this power which has raised
the astronomer from being a mere gazer at the stars to the high
intellectual eminence of a Newton or a Laplace, and astronomy itself
from a mere observation of insulated facts into that noble science which
displays to our admiration the system of the universe. And shall this
high power of the mind, which has effected such wonders when directed to
the laws which control the material world, be forever prohibited, under
a senseless cry of metaphysics, from being applied to the high purposes
of political science and legislation? I hold them to be subject to laws
as fixed as matter itself, and to be as fit a subject for the
application of the highest intellectual power. Denunciation may, indeed
fall upon the philosophical inquirer into these first principles, as it
did upon Galileo and Bacon, when they first unfolded the great
discoveries which have immortalized their names; but the time will come
when truth will prevail in spite of prejudice and denunciation, and when
politics and legislation will be considered as much a science as
astronomy and chemistry.

In connection with this part of the subject, I understood the Senator
from Virginia (Mr. Rives) to say that sovereignty was divided, and that
a portion remained with the States severally, and that the residue was
vested in the Union. By Union, I suppose the Senator meant the United
States. If such be his meaning--if he intended to affirm that the
sovereignty was in the twenty-four States, in whatever light he may view
them, our opinions will not disagree; but according to my conception,
the whole sovereignty is in the several States, while the exercise of
sovereign power is divided--a part being exercised under compact,
through this General Government, and the residue through the separate
State Governments. But if the Senator from Virginia (Mr. Rives) means to
assert that the twenty-four States form but one community, with a single
sovereign power as to the objects of the Union, it will be but the
revival of the old question, of whether the Union is a union between
States, as distinct communities, or a mere aggregate of the American
people, as a mass of individuals; and in this light his opinions would
lead directly to consolidation. * * *

Disguise it as you may, the controversy is one between power and
liberty; and I tell the gentlemen who are opposed to me, that, as strong
as may be the love of power on their side, the love of liberty is still
stronger on ours. History furnishes many instances of similar struggles,
where the love of liberty has prevailed against power under every
disadvantage, and among them few more striking than that of our own
Revolution; where, as strong as was the parent country, and feeble as
were the colonies, yet, under the impulse of liberty, and the blessing
of God, they gloriously triumphed in the contest. There are, indeed,
many striking analogies between that and the present controversy. They
both originated substantially in the same cause--with this
difference--in the present case, the power of taxation is converted into
that of regulating industry; in the other, the power of regulating
industry, by the regulation of commerce, was attempted to be converted
into the power of taxation. Were I to trace the analogy further, we
should find that the perversion of the taxing power, in the one case,
has given precisely the same control to the Northern section over the
industry of the Southern section of the Union, which the power to
regulate commerce gave to Great Britain over the industry of the
colonies in the other; and that the very articles in which the colonies
were permitted to have a free trade, and those in which the
mother-country had a monopoly, are almost identically the same as those
in which the Southern States are permitted to have a free trade by the
act of 1832, and in which the Northern States have, by the same act,
secured a monopoly. The only difference is in the means. In the former,
the colonies were permitted to have a free trade with all countries
south of Cape Finisterre, a cape in the northern part of Spain; while
north of that, the trade of the colonies was prohibited, except through
the mother-country, by means of her commercial regulations. If we
compare the products of the country north and south of Cape Finisterre,
we shall find them almost identical with the list of the protected and
unprotected articles contained in the list of last year. Nor does the
analogy terminate here. The very arguments resorted to at the
commencement of the American Revolution, and the measures adopted, and
the motives assigned to bring on that contest (to enforce the law), are
almost identically the same.

But to return from this digression to the consideration of the bill.
Whatever difference of opinion may exist upon other points, there is one
on which I should suppose there can be none; that this bill rests upon
principles which, if carried out, will ride over State sovereignties,
and that it will be idle for any advocates hereafter to talk of State
rights. The Senator from Virginia (Mr. Rives) says that he is the
advocate of State rights; but he must permit me to tell him that,
although he may differ in premises from the other gentlemen with whom he
acts on this occasion, yet, in supporting this bill, he obliterates
every vestige of distinction between him and them, saving only that,
professing the principles of '98, his example will be more pernicious
than that of the most open and bitter opponent of the rights of the
States. I will also add, what I am compelled to say, that I must
consider him (Mr. Rives) as less consistent than our old opponents,
whose conclusions were fairly drawn from their premises, while his
premises ought to have led him to opposite conclusions. The gentleman
has told us that the new-fangled doctrines, as he chooses to call them,
have brought State rights into disrepute. I must tell him, in reply,
that what he calls new-fangled are but the doctrines of '98; and that it
is he (Mr. Rives), and others with him, who, professing these doctrines,
have degraded them by explaining away their meaning and efficacy. He
(Mr. R.) has disclaimed, in behalf of Virginia, the authorship of
nullification. I will not dispute that point. If Virginia chooses to
throw away one of her brightest ornaments, she must not hereafter
complain that it has become the property of another. But while I have,
as a representative of Carolina, no right to complain of the disavowal
of the Senator from Virginia, I must believe that he (Mr. R.) has done
his native State great injustice by declaring on this floor, that when
she gravely resolved, in '98, that "in cases of deliberate and dangerous
infractions of the Constitution, the States, as parties to the compact,
have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose to arrest the
progress of the evil, and to maintain within their respective limits the
authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them," she meant no
more than to proclaim the right to protest and to remonstrate. To
suppose that, in putting forth so solemn a declaration, which she
afterward sustained by so able and elaborate an argument, she meant no
more than to assert what no one had ever denied, would be to suppose
that the State had been guilty of the most egregious trifling that ever
was exhibited on so solemn an occasion.





It is now near three years since the resolve was adopted by the Senate,
which it is my present motion to expunge from the journal. At the moment
that this resolve was adopted, I gave notice of my intention to move to
expunge it; and then expressed my confident belief that the motion would
eventually prevail. That expression of confidence was not an ebullition
of vanity, or a presumptuous calculation, intended to accelerate the
event it affected to foretell. It was not a vain boast, or an idle
assumption, but was the result of a deep conviction of the injustice
done President Jackson, and a thorough reliance upon the justice of the
American people. I felt that the President had been wronged; and my
heart told me that this wrong would be redressed! The event proves that
I was not mistaken. The question of expunging this resolution has been
carried to the people, and their decision has been had upon it. They
decide in favor of the expurgation; and their decision has been both
made and manifested, and communicated to us in a great variety of ways.
A great number of States have expressly instructed their senators to
vote for this expurgation. A very great majority of the States have
elected senators and representatives to Congress, upon the express
ground of favoring this expurgation. The Bank of the United States,
which took the initiative in the accusation against the President, and
furnished the material, and worked the machinery which was used against
him, and which was then so powerful on this floor, has become more and
more odious to the public mind, and musters now but a slender phalanx of
friends in the two Houses of Congress. The late Presidential election
furnishes additional evidence of public sentiment. The candidate who was
the friend of President Jackson, the supporter of his administration,
and the avowed advocate for the expurgation, has received a large
majority of the suffrages of the whole Union, and that after an express
declaration of his sentiments on this precise point. The evidence of the
public will, exhibited in all these forms, is too manifest to be
mistaken, too explicit to require illustration, and too imperative to be
disregarded. Omitting details and specific enumeration of proofs, I
refer to our own files for the instructions to expunge,--to the
complexion of the two Houses for the temper of the people,--to the
denationalized condition of the Bank of the United States for the fate
of the imperious accuser,--and to the issue of the Presidential election
for the answer of the Union.

All these are pregnant proofs of the public will, and the last
preeminently so: because, both the question of the expurgation, and the
form of the process, were directly put in issue upon it. * * *

Assuming, then, that we have ascertained the will of the people on this
great question, the inquiry presents itself, how far the expression of
that will ought to be conclusive of our action here. I hold that it
ought to be binding and obligatory upon us; and that, not only upon the
principles of representative government, which requires obedience to the
known will of the people, but also in conformity to the principles upon
which the proceeding against President Jackson was conducted when the
sentence against him was adopted. Then everything was done with especial
reference to the will of the people. Their impulsion was assumed to be
the sole motive to action; and to them the ultimate verdict was
expressly referred. The whole machinery of alarm and pressure--every
engine of political and moneyed power--was put in motion, and worked for
many months, to excite the people against the President; and to stir up
meetings, memorials, petitions, travelling committees, and distress
deputations against him; and each symptom of popular discontent was
hailed as an evidence of public will, and quoted here as proof that the
people demanded the condemnation of the President. Not only legislative
assemblies, and memorials from large assemblies, were then produced here
as evidence of public opinion, but the petitions of boys under age, the
remonstrances of a few signers, and the results of the most
inconsiderable elections were ostentatiously paraded and magnified, as
the evidence of the sovereign will of our constituents. Thus, sir, the
public voice was everything, while that voice, partially obtained
through political and pecuniary machinations, was adverse to the
President. Then the popular will was the shrine at which all worshipped.
Now, when that will is regularly, soberly, repeatedly, and almost
universally expressed through the ballot-boxes, at the various
elections, and turns out to be in favor of the President, certainly no
one can disregard it, nor otherwise look at it than as the solemn
verdict of the competent and ultimate tribunal upon an issue fairly made
up, fully argued, and duly submitted for decision. As such verdict, I
receive it. As the deliberate verdict of the sovereign people, I bow to
it. I am content. I do not mean to reopen the case nor to re-commence
the argument. I leave that work to others, if any others choose to
perform it. For myself, I am content; and, dispensing with further
argument, I shall call for judgment, and ask to have execution done,
upon that unhappy journal, which the verdict of millions of freemen
finds guilty of bearing on its face an untrue, illegal, and
unconstitutional sentence of condemnation against the approved President
of the Republic.

But, while declining to reopen the argument of this question, and
refusing to tread over again the ground already traversed, there is
another and a different task to perform; one which the approaching
termination of President Jackson's administration makes peculiarly
proper at this time, and which it is my privilege, and perhaps my duty,
to execute, as being the suitable conclusion to the arduous contest in
which we have been so long engaged. I allude to the general tenor of his
administration, and to its effect, for good or for evil, upon the
condition of his country. This is the proper time for such a view to be
taken. The political existence of this great man now draws to a close.
In little more than forty days he ceases to be an object of political
hope to any, and should cease to be an object of political hate, or
envy, to all. Whatever of motive the servile and time-serving might have
found in his exalted station for raising the altar of adulation, and
burning the incense of praise before him, that motive can no longer
exist. The dispenser of the patronage of an empire, the chief of this
great confederacy of States, is soon to be a private individual,
stripped of all power to reward, or to punish. His own thoughts, as he
has shown us in the concluding paragraph of that message which is to be
the last of its kind that we shall ever receive from him, are directed
to that beloved retirement from which he was drawn by the voice of
millions of freemen, and to which he now looks for that interval of
repose which age and infirmities require. Under these circumstances, he
ceases to be a subject for the ebullition of the passions, and passes
into a character for the contemplation of history. Historically, then,
shall I view him; and limiting this view to his civil administration, I
demand, where is there a chief magistrate of whom so much evil has been
predicted, and from whom so much good has come? Never has any man
entered upon the chief magistracy of a country under such appalling
predictions of ruin and woe! never has any one been so pursued with
direful prognostications! never has any one been so beset and impeded by
a powerful combination of political and moneyed confederates! never has
any one in any country where the administration of justice has risen
above the knife or the bowstring, been so lawlessly and shamelessly
tried and condemned by rivals and enemies, without hearing, without
defence, without the forms of law and justice! History has been
ransacked to find examples of tyrants sufficiently odious to illustrate
him by comparison. Language has been tortured to find epithets
sufficiently strong to paint him in description. Imagination has been
exhausted in her efforts to deck him with revolting and inhuman
attributes. Tyrant, despot, usurper; destroyer of the liberties of his
country; rash, ignorant, imbecile; endangering the public peace with all
foreign nations; destroying domestic prosperity at home; ruining all
industry, all commerce, all manufactures; annihilating confidence
between man and man; delivering up the streets of populous cities to
grass and weeds, and the wharves of commercial towns to the encumbrance
of decaying vessels; depriving labor of all reward; depriving industry
of all employment; destroying the currency; plunging an innocent and
happy people from the summit of felicity to the depths of misery, want,
and despair. Such is the faint outline, followed up by actual
condemnation, of the appalling denunciations daily uttered against this
one MAN, from the moment he became an object of political competition,
down to the concluding moment of his political existence.

The sacred voice of inspiration has told us that there is a time for all
things. There certainly has been a time for every evil that human nature
admits of to be vaticinated of President Jackson's administration;
equally certain the time has now come for all rational and well-disposed
people to compare the predictions with the facts, and to ask themselves
if these calamitous prognostications have been verified by events? Have
we peace, or war, with foreign nations? Certainly, we have peace with
all the world! peace with all its benign, and felicitous, and
beneficent influences! Are we respected, or despised abroad? Certainly
the American name never was more honored throughout the four quarters of
the globe than in this very moment. Do we hear of indignity or outrage
in any quarter? of merchants robbed in foreign ports? of vessels
searched on the high seas? of American citizens impressed into foreign
service? of the national flag insulted anywhere? On the contrary, we see
former wrongs repaired; no new ones inflicted. France pays twenty-five
millions of francs for spoliations committed thirty years ago; Naples
pays two millions one hundred thousand ducats for wrongs of the same
date; Denmark pays six hundred and fifty thousand rix-dollars for wrongs
done a quarter of a century ago; Spain engages to pay twelve millions of
reals vellon for injuries of fifteen years' date; and Portugal, the last
in the list of former aggressors, admits her liability and only waits
the adjustment of details to close her account by adequate indemnity. So
far from war, insult, contempt, and spoliation from abroad, this
denounced administration has been the season of peace and good will and
the auspicious era of universal reparation. So far from suffering injury
at the hands of foreign powers, our merchants have received indemnities
for all former injuries. It has been the day of accounting, of
settlement, and of retribution. The total list of arrearages, extending
through four successive previous administrations, has been closed and
settled up. The wrongs done to commerce for thirty years back, and under
so many different Presidents, and indemnities withheld from all, have
been repaired and paid over under the beneficent and glorious
administration of President Jackson. But one single instance of outrage
has occurred, and that at the extremities of the world, and by a
piratical horde, amenable to no law but the law of force. The Malays of
Sumatra committed a robbery and massacre upon an American vessel.
Wretches! they did not then know that JACKSON was President of the
United States! and that no distance, no time, no idle ceremonial of
treating with robbers and assassins, was to hold back the arm of
justice. Commodore Downes went out. His cannon and his bayonets struck
the outlaws in their den. They paid in terror and in blood for the
outrage which was committed; and the great lesson was taught to these
distant pirates--to our antipodes themselves,--that not even the entire
diameter of this globe could protect them, and that the name of American
citizen, like that of Roman citizen in the great days of the Republic
and of the empire, was to be the inviolable passport of all that wore it
throughout the whole extent of the habitable world. * * *

From President Jackson, the country has first learned the true theory
and practical intent of the Constitution, in giving to the Executive a
qualified negative on the legislative power of Congress. Far from being
an odious, dangerous, or kingly prerogative, this power, as vested in
the President, is nothing but a qualified copy of the famous veto power
vested in the tribunes of the people among the Romans, and intended to
suspend the passage of a law until the people themselves should have
time to consider it? The qualified veto of the President destroys
nothing; it only delays the passage of a law, and refers it to the
people for their consideration and decision. It is the reference of a
law, not to a committee of the House, or of the whole House, but to the
committee of the whole Union. It is a recommitment of the bill to the
people, for them to examine and consider; and if, upon this examination,
they are content to pass it, it will pass at the next session. The delay
of a few months is the only effect of a veto, in a case where the people
shall ultimately approve a law; where they do not approve it, the
interposition of the veto is the barrier which saves them the adoption
of a law, the repeal of which might afterwards be almost impossible. The
qualified negative is, therefore, a beneficent power, intended as
General Hamilton expressly declares in the Federalist, to protect,
first, the executive department from the encroachments of the
legislative department; and, secondly, to preserve the people from
hasty, dangerous, or criminal legislation on the part of their
representatives. This is the design and intention of the veto power; and
the fear expressed by General Hamilton was, that Presidents, so far from
exercising it too often, would not exercise it as often as the safety of
the people required; that they might lack the moral courage to stake
themselves in opposition to a favorite measure of the majority of the
two Houses of Congress; and thus deprive the people, in many instances,
of their right to pass upon a bill before it becomes a final law. The
cases in which President Jackson has exercised the veto power have shown
the soundness of these observations. No ordinary President would have
staked himself against the Bank of the United States and the two Houses
of Congress in 1832. It required President Jackson to confront that
power--to stem that torrent--to stay the progress of that charter, and
to refer it to the people for their decision. His moral courage was
equal to the crisis. He arrested the charter until it could be got to
the people, and they have arrested it forever. Had he not done so, the
charter would have become law, and its repeal almost impossible. The
people of the whole Union would now have been in the condition of the
people of Pennsylvania, bestrode by the monster, in daily conflict with
him, and maintaining a doubtful contest for supremacy between the
government of a State and the directory of a moneyed corporation.

Sir, I think it right, in approaching the termination of this great
question, to present this faint and rapid sketch of the brilliant,
beneficent, and glorious administration of President Jackson. It is not
for me to attempt to do it justice; it is not for ordinary men to
attempt its history. His military life, resplendent with dazzling
events, will demand the pen of a nervous writer; his civil
administration, replete with scenes which have called into action so
many and such various passions of the human heart, and which has given
to native sagacity so many victories over practised politicians, will
require the profound, luminous, and philosophical conceptions of a Livy,
a Plutarch, or a Sallust. This history is not to be written in our day.
The contemporaries of such events are not the hands to describe them.
Time must first do its office--must silence the passions, remove the
actors, develop consequences, and canonize all that is sacred to honor,
patriotism, and glory. In after ages the historic genius of our America
shall produce the writers which the subject demands--men far removed
from the contests of this day, who will know how to estimate this great
epoch, and how to acquire an immortality for their own names by
painting, with a master's hand, the immortal events of the patriot
President's life.

And now, sir, I finish the task which, three years ago, I imposed on
myself. Solitary and alone, and amidst the jeers and taunts of my
opponents, I put this ball in motion. The people have taken it up, and
rolled it forward, and I am no longer anything but a unit in the vast
mass which now propels it. In the name of that mass I speak. I demand
the execution of the edict of the people; I demand the expurgation of
that sentence which the voice of a few senators, and the power of their
confederate, the Bank of the United States, has caused to be placed on
the journal of the Senate; and which the voice of millions of freemen
has ordered to be expunged from it.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "American Eloquence, Volume 1 - Studies In American Political History (1896)" ***

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