« ForrigeFortsett »
real nature of the union between the various States, and as to the limitations thereby imposed upon the powers of the separate States, as well as the limitations exercised by them upon the powers of the general government. One side held that the United States was one nation; that the general government was charged with the conduct of all matters which concern the nation as a whole; that laws made by the representatives of all in the general government are binding upon all alike; and that such laws may be peacefully set aside in one of two ways only, either by having them declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, or by having them repealed by the power which made them. The other side held the several States to be sovereign powers, very much as if they were separate nations, united, it is true, for certain common purposes, and delegating certain limited powers to a common organization; but reserving each to itself alone the decision as to whether measures enacted by the general government should be operative within its territory. This was the doctrine of StateRights; and its application in nullifying laws passed by Congress was at this time much talked about, and was soon to be tried by South Carolina with this very Robert Y. Hayne as Governor. These views were not confined to separate sections of country ; but the National idea found its strongest support in New England, while the State-Rights idea — with its corollary, nullification
was warmly espoused in the South.
At the end of December, 1829, Mr. Foote of Connecticut introduced into the Senate the innocent resolution, printed on page 185 of this volume, calling for an inquiry into the sales and surveys of the public lands. Nothing special was elicited by the fitful discussion which ensued until, on January 19, Mr. Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina made a speech, “ accusing the New England States of a selfish design to retard the growth of the Western States a design originating the tariff ;” and appealing to a natural sympathy, which, as he affirmed, existed between the Western and the Southern States, and which should unite them against the policy and the assumption of New England. Engaged as Mr. Webster was at this time in the Supreme Court, he had not followed the discussion, and had no thought of taking part
in it at all until by chance he heard this speech of Mr. Hayne. Its tone and spirit were so unusual that he felt it must be answered. He rose to speak as soon as Mr. Hayne sat down, but an adjournment of the Senate postponed his reply. Next day he delivered his first speech in this debate, defending New England against the charges brought against her, and upholding the doctrine of a national union and a national policy, as opposed to the divisive tendencies and sectional jealousies to which appeal had been made. The discussion took on at once a range and an importance far transcending the scope of the simple resolution which started it. The champions of State-Rights and Nullification, together with those who insisted that slavery should be provided for in the settlement of new territories, rallied to the charge. “ There seemed to be,” said an observer, “a preconcerted action on the part of Southern members to break down the Northern men, and to destroy their influence by a premeditated assault.” John C. Calhoun, the foremost of them all, was presiding officer of the Senate, and could take no part in the debate; but his place in the lists was made good by Thomas H. Benton and Robert Y. Hayne. The speech of the latter, in particular, by its eloquence and acuteness, as well as by the relentlessness of its personal attack, produced a profound impression. By many persons it was felt to be unanswerable. At its close the Senate adjourned.
This second speech of Mr. Hayne was the one to which Mr. Webster was next morning to reply. The previous strokes in this battle-royal had roused public interest to the highest pitch. For two or three days strangers had been pouring into Washington to witness the outcome. When the Senate met, all the usual restrictions had proved of no avail against the mighty throng that gathered there. " Its chamber galleries, floor, and even lobbies
was filled to its utmost capacity. The very stairways were dark with men who clung to one another like bees in a swarm.” The ordinary ceremonial of opening the session of the Senate was impatiently set aside. In the presence of this vast and anxious audience, without the least sign of tremor or perturbation, Mr. Webster rose and began his second speech upon the resolution of Mr. Foote.
PAGE 186, 15. elsewhere - in the Supreme Court, where Mr. Webster had a very important suit pending.
PAGE 188, 9. The friend was the famous Thomas H. Benton, who had twice taken an important part in the debate. His first speech - referred to in the next paragraph – Mr. Webster did not hear.
19 ff. The notes used by Mr. Webster on these two occasions have been preserved. They are of the briefest possible nature, covering in the one case only three, and in the other case only five loosely written letter-sheets. But the great questions involved had been thought out by him many months before, as he himself has told us.
Page 192, 8. the Missouri question, referring to the bitter strife which arose over the admission of Missouri as a slave-state. Cf. any good History of the United States s.v. The Missouri Compromise. The same question in its later aspects is discussed by Mr. Calhoun in his speech printed in this volume.
PAGE 194, 9. In determining the number of Representatives in Congress to which any State was entitled, the number of free persons in it was increased by three-fifths of the whole number of slaves it contained. Thus, in proportion to the number of voters, the slave-states had a much larger representation than the freestates. Cf. the Constitution, Article I., section 2.
PAGE 202, 15, 16. Because the terms 6 neutral ” and “belligerent” are applicable only to a state of war, and lose all their significance in peace.
PAGE 204, 12. Teucro duce “ with Teucer as my leader” from a famous line in Horace. The “ Teucer” thus referred to was none other than Calhoun himself, the “ Mr. President” whom he here addresses, now the leader of the extreme Southern wing, presumably even in its opposition to the national policy of internal improvements which Mr. Webster learned from him in 1816. Few things in the speech are more adroit than the manner in which Mr. Webster here parries and returns with a home-thrust the double charge of personal inconsistency and of sectional greed
and selfishness. By the pleasantry of this sally upon Mr. Calhoun he withdraws the attention of the audience from his immediate antagonist, and fixes it upon the real leader and champion of these extreme views. With unfailing good humor he piles up opinions and votes of " leading and distinguished gentlemen from South Carolina” in maintenance of the very policy his opponent has condemned. He recalls how gladly he followed the star of South Carolina — until it changed its position. The Vice-President at last winces. He interrupts the speech with a question (p. 209) which may be taken either as an indignant denial of any change in his views, or as a “ bluff.” Nothing could have better served Mr. Webster's purpose. Having “ drawn” Mr. Calhoun, he graciously accepts his remark in the former sense, and then recalls that there are other gentlemen, too, from South Carolina who are not implacably opposed to internal improvements at the general cost — if only they are to be carried out in South Carolina. PAGE 205, 21.
the causing cause,
the schoolmen's phrase to distinguish the essential or efficient cause from various co-operating or conditioning causes.
PAGE 207, 4. et noscitur a sociis — “ and he is (was] recognized by his companions.” But Mr. Webster seems to give it a punning turn not borne out by the Latin - * and he was known by the company he kept.”
PAGE 207, 13. For the party designations of those days, see note to page 298.
PAGE 212, 21. had proved a legal settlement in South Carolina was found to be regularly domiciled there.
PAGE 218, 11. The Hartford Convention of 1814, a convention of New England delegates opposed to the policy of the government, and especially to the war with England. It sat with closed doors, and was at the time strongly suspected of treasonable designs. No proof, however, of this charge has ever been produced, and it is now generally discredited. Cf. U. S. History
Page 220, 12–15. The peculiar turn of expression here is a reminiscence of the closing lines of Dryden's Alexander's Feasta
The student who has his English classics in inind cannot fail to notice the frequent occurrence of such echoes in this speech, and the striking originality of their application.
Page 221, 29. With this eloquent passage Mr. Webster leaves the personal and sectional matters that had been forced upon him, for what was much more congenial to his nature the discussion of principles. All through this defence, in fact, has been apparent his strong feeling that personalities have no claim whatever upon public attention, save as they stand for ideas and principles. Mr. Webster's manly dignity and his unruffled temper in repelling a caustic attack have made this section a classic of its kind. It may be profitably compared with Burke's defence of himself in his Speech at Bristol.
Page 223, 29. The citation is from the famous resolutions of the Virginia Legislature, passed December, 1798, to express its opposition to the Alien and Sedition Laws recently enacted by Congress. The language was understood to be Mr. Madison's.
PAGE 227, 5, 6. One finds here, and farther on (p. 239), the first drafts of Lincoln's immortal phrase “ government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” See p. 312.
PAGE 234, 21. The not does not appear in any edition consulted, but seems imperatively demanded by the sense. Its omission was doubtless due to a slip of the printer and the proofreader.
PAGE 246, 7. John Fries was a turbulent fellow who, in 1799. headed some Pennsylvanians in riotous resistance to the laws of the United States and in the rescue of prisoners. He was twice tried for treason, twice convicted and sentenced to be hanged, but was finally pardoned by the President.
“ At the conclusion of Mr. Webster's argument, General Hayne rose to reply. Although one of his friends proposed an adjournment, he declined to avail himself of it, and addressed the Senate for a short time on the constitutional question. Mr. Webster then rose again, restated both sides of the controversy with great force, giving General Hayne the benefit of that clear setting forth