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bitrary power, which disaffected the colonies. It was not the Tea Act, the Stamp Act, or the Boston Port Bill, that severed the empire of Britain. Oh, no!-It was owing to no fault of administration. It was the impertinent boldness of Chatham; the idle declamation of Fox; and the unseasonable sarcasm of Barre! These men, and men like them would not join the minister in his American war-they would not give the name and character of wisdom to that which they believed to be the extreme of folly. They would not pronounce those measures just and honourable, which their principles led them to detest. They declared the minister's war to be wanton. They foresaw its end, and pointed it out plainly both to the minister and to the country.-He pronounced the opposition to be selfish and factious-He persisted in his course, and the result is in history.
This example of ministerial justice seems to have become a model for these times and this country. With slight shades of difference, owing to different degrees of talent and ability, the imitation is sufficiently exact. It requires little imagination to fancy ones-self sometimes to be listening to a recitation of the captivating orations of the occupants of Lord North's Treasury Bench. We are told that our opposition has divided the government, and divided the country. Remember,sir, the state of the government and of the country, when the war was declared. Did not differences of opinion then exist?-Do we not know that this house was divided?-Do we not know that the other house was still more divided?-Does not every man, to whom the public documents are accessible, know, that in that other house, one single vote having been given otherwise than it was, would have rejected the act declaring war, and adopted a different course of measures ? A parental, guardian government would have regarded that state of things. It would have weighed such considerations-It would have inquired coolly and dispassionately into the state of public opinion, in the States of this confederacy-It would have looked especially to those states, most concerned in the professed objects of the war, and whose interests were to be most deeply af
fected by it. Such a government, knowing that its strength consisted in the union of opinion among the peo
ple, would have taken no step of such importance without that union; nor would it have mistaken mere party feeling for national sentiment.
That occasion, sir, called for a large liberal view of things. Not only the degree of union in the sentiments of the people; but the nature and structure of the government; the general habits and pursuits of the community; the probable consequences of the war immediate and remote on our civil institutions; the effect of a vast military patronage; the variety of important local interests and objects ;-these were considerations essentially belonging to the subject. It was not enough that government could make out its cause of war on the paper, and get the better of England in the argument. This was requisite ; but not all that was requisite. The question of War or Peace, in a country like this, is not to be compressed into the compass that would befit a small litigation. It is not to be made to turn upon a pin. Incapable in its nature of being decided upon by technical rules, it is unfit to be discussed in the manner which usually appertains to the forensic habit. It should be regarded as a great question, not only of right, but also of prudence and expediency. Reasons of a general nature; reasons of a moral nature; considerations which go back to the origin of our institutions, and other considerations which look forward to our hopeful progress in future times, all belong, in their just proportions and gradations, to a question, in the determination of which the happiness of the present and of future generations may be so much concerned.
I have heard no satisfactory vindication of the war on grounds like these. They appear not to have suited the temper of that time. Utterly astonished at the declaration of war, I have been surprised at nothing since. Unless all history deceived me, I saw how it would be prosecuted, when I saw how it was begun. There is in the nature of things an unchangeable relation between rash counsels and feeble execution.
Continuation of Mr. Webster's Speech, on the bill making further provision for filling the ranks of the regular army, &c.
IT was not, sir, the minority, that brought on the war. Look to your records, from the date of the Embargo, in 1807, to June 1812. Every thing that men could do, they did, to stay your course. When at last they could effect no more, they urged you to delay your measures. They entreated you to give yet a little time for deliberation, and to wait for favourable events. As if inspired for the purpose of arresting your progress, they laid before you the consequences of your measures just as we have seen them since take place. They predicted to you their effects on public opinion. They told you that instead of healing, they would inflame political dissentions. They pointed out to you also what would and what must happen on the frontier. That which since hath happened there is but their prediction, turned into history. Vain is the hope, then, of escaping just retribution, by imputing to the minority of the government or to the opposition among the people the disasters of these times. Vain is the attempt to impose thus on the common sense of mankind. The world has had too much experience of ministerial shifts and evasions. It has learned to judge men by their actions, and of measures by their consequences.
If the purpose be, by casting these imputations upon those who are opposed to the policy of the government, to check their freedom of inquiry, discussion and debate, such purpose is also incapable of being executed. That opposition is constitutional and legal. It is also conscientious. It rests in settled and sober conviction, that such policy is destructive to the interests of the people, and dangerous to the being of the government. The experience of every day confirms these sentiments. Men who act from such motives are not to be discouraged by trifling obstacles, nor awed by any dangers. They know the limit of constitutional opposition-up to that limit, at rheir own discretion, they will walk, and walk fearlessly. If they should find, in the history of their country, a
precedent for going over, I trust they will not follow it. They are not of a school, in which insurrection is taught as a virtue. They will not seek promotion through the paths of sedition, nor qualify themselves to serve their country in any of the high departments, of its government, by making rebellion the first element in their politicial science.*
Important as I deem it to discuss, on all proper occasions, the policy of the measures at present pursued, it is still more important to maintain the right of such discussion, in its full and just extent. Sentiments lately sprung up, and now growing fashionable, make it necessary to be explicit on this point. The more I perceive a disposition to check the freedom of inquiry by extravagant and unconstitutional pretences, the firmer shall be the tone, in which I shall assert, and the freer the manner in which I shall exercise it. It is the ancient and undoubted prerogative of this people to canvass public measures and the merits of public men. It is a "homebred right," a fire-side privilege. It hath ever been enjoyed in every house, cottage and cabin in the nation. It is not to be drawn into controversy. It is as undoubted as the right of breathing the air, or walking on the earth. Belonging to private life as a right, it belongs to public life as a duty; and it is the last duty, which those whose representative I am, shall find me to abandon. Aiming at all times to be courteous and temperate in its use, except when the right itself shall be questioned, I shall then carry it to itsextent. I shall then place myself on the extreme boundary of my right, and bid defiance to any arm, that would move me from my ground. This high constitutional privilege, I shall defend and exercise within this house, and without this house, and in all places; in time of war, in time of peace, and at all times. Living I shall assert, dying I shall assert it, and should I leave no other inheritance to my children, by the blessing of God I will still leave them the inheritance of free principles, and the example of a manly, independent and constitutional defence of them.
Alluding to Mons. Gallatin's being appointed Secretary of the Treasury for joining the Pennsylvania insurrection against General Washington.
Whoever, sir, would discover the causes, which have produced the present state of things, must look for them, not in the efforts of opposition, but in the nature of the war, in which we are engaged, and in the manner in which its professed objects have been attempted to be obtained. Quite too small a portion of public opinion was in favour of the war, to justify it, originally. A much smaller portion is in favour of the mode in which it has been conducted. This is the radical infirmity. Public opinion, strong and united, is not with you, in your Canada project. Whether it ought to be, or ought not to be, the fact that it is not, should by this time, be evident to all; and it is the business of practical statesmen, to act upon the state of things as it is, and not to be always attempting to prove what it ought to be. The acquisition of that country is not an object, generally desired by the people. Some gentlemen, indeed, say it is not their ultimate object; and that they wish it only as the means of effecting other purposes. But, sir, a large portion of the people believe that a desire for the conquest and final retention of Canada is the main-spring of public measures. Nor is the opinion without ground. It has been distinctly avowed, by public men, in a public manner. And if this be not the object, it is not easy to see the connexion between your means and ends. At least, that portion of the people, that is not in the habit of refining far, cannot see it. You are, you say, at war for maritime rights, and free trade. But they see you lock up your commerce and abandon the ocean. They see you invade an interior province of the enemy. They see you involve yourselves in a bloody war with the native savages: and they ask you, if you have, in truth, a maritime controversy with the western Indians, and are really contending for Sailors' rights with the tribes of the Prophet? In my judg ment, the popular sentiment, in this case, corresponds with the soundest political discretion. In my humble opinion, you are not only not able to travel in the road you have taken, but if you were, it would not conduct you to your object.