« ForrigeFortsett »
XXVI. – THE AMERICANS NOT REBELLIOUS.
On the Address to the King, February 2, 1775. SIR, the noble lord has endeavored, by every light into which he can throw the question, to prove that the resistance of the , Americans, though it has gone no further than votes and resolutions, is actual and open rebellion. I think, sir, that there is no difficulty in proving the direct contrary position. Against what is it that the Americans rebel? Do they deny allegiance to his majesty? Are they in arms in opposing the king's troops ? By what explanation or by what misconception their conduct is now to be branded with so violent and so fatal an epithet, I can not apprehend.
You passed acts, at the last session, which overturned all legal semblance of a constitution in one of their provinces ; and you utterly ruined * the capital of the empire in that part of the world, by way of punishing the insolence of a mob. You executed those acts by force of arms. The people of the colonies, thinking themselves tyrannically used, convened a General Congress. The deputies met in that Congress, and came to resolutions full of duty and allegiance to the king, and respect towards Parliament.
And we, the Parliament of Great Britain, are now to overlook the conduct of the Congress, and search for proofs of rebellion among the American mobs and the colony newspapers! And these last have been actually laid before us as state papers! Yet, in the action of these mobs, and in the expressions of these newspapers, is not rebellion to be found. It must be by the most sophistical of all arguments that such a deduction is to be drawn. A people governed by a constitution subordinate to our own, professing loyalty and obedience to the king, and using no violence against his troops, nor being any where in arms, can not, but by the utmost perversion of sense and expression, be denominated rebels.
I insist that America is not in a state of rebellion. I insist that every appearance of riot, disorder, tumult, and sedition, which the noble lord has so faithfully recounted from newspapers, arises not from disobedience, treason, or rebellion, but is created by the conduct of those who would establish a despotism in the land; ay, sir, of those whose views are manifestly directed to the reduction of America to the most abject state of servility, as a prelude to the realizing the same atrocious system in the mother country.
* Parliament shut up the port of Boston, March, 1774.
PART SEVENTH. -— THE FLOOR OF CONGRESS. .
I. - ON THE BRITISH TREATY, 1796. 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.
This, sir, is a cause that would be dishonored and betrayed if I contented myself with appealing only to the understanding. That faculty is too cold, and its processes are too slow, for the occasion. I desire to thank God that, since he has given me an intellect so fallible, he has impressed upon me an instinct that is sure. On a question of shame and honor, reasoning is sometimes useless, and worse. I feel the decision in my pulse; if it throws no light upon the brain, it kindles a fire at the heart.
It is not easy to deny, it is impossible to doubt, that a treaty imposes an obligation on the American nation. It would be childish to consider the President and Senate obliged, and the nation and House free. What is the obligation ? Perfect or imperfect? If perfect, the debate is brought to a conclusion. If imperfect, how large a part of our faith is pawned? Is half our honor put at risk, and is that half too cheap to be redeemed ? How long has this hair-splitting subdivision of good faith been discovered, and why has it escaped the researches of the writers on the law of nations ? Shall we add a new chapter to that law, or insert this doctrine as a supplement to, or, more properly, a repeal of, the ten commandments ?
The consequences of refusing to make provision for the treaty are not all to be foreseen. By rejecting it, vast interests are committed to the sport of the winds; chance becomes the arbiter of events, and it is forbidden to human foresight to count their number, or measure their extent. Before we resolve to leap into this abyss, so dark and so profound, it becomes us to pause and reflect upon such of the dangers as are obvious and inevitable. If this assembly should be wrought into a temper to defy these
consequences, it is vain, it is deceptive, to pretend that we can escape them. It is worse than weakness to say that as to public faith our vote has already settled the question: another tribunal than our own is already erected. The public opinion, not merely of our own country, but of the enlightened world, will pronounce a judgment that we can not resist, that we dare not even affect to despise.
II. – WAR WITH GREAT BRITAIN, 1812. If we are not fully prepared for war, let the sublime fact be soon exhibited, that a free and valiant nation, with our numbers, and a just cause, is always a powerful nation — is always ready to defend its essential rights ! In the Congress of 1774, among other arguments used to prevent a war, and discourage separation from Great Britain, the danger of having our towns battered down and burnt was zealously urged. The venerable Christopher Gadsden, of South Carolina, rose and replied to it in these memorable words: “Our seaport towns, Mr. President, are composed of brick and wood. If they are destroyed, we have clay and timber enough in our country to rebuild them. But, if the liberties of our country are destroyed, where shall we find the materials to replace them ?”
During the siege of Boston, General Washington consulted Congress upon the propriety of bombarding the town. Mr. Hancock was then President of Congress. After General Washington's letter was read, a solemn silence ensued. This was broken by a member making a motion that the house should resolve itself into a committee of the whole, in order that Mr. Hancock might give his opinion upon the important subject, as he was so deeply interested from having all his estate in Boston. After he left the chair, he addressed the chairman of the committee of the whole in the following words : “ It is true, sir, nearly all the property I have in the world is in houses and other real estate in the town of Boston; but, if the expulsion of the British army from it, and the liberties of our country, require their being burnt to ashes, issue the order for that purpose immediately."
What inspiring lessons of duty do examples like these incul. cate! War, fellow-citizens, is not the greatest of evils. Submission to injustice is worse. Loss of honor is worse. A peace purchased by mean and inglorious sacrifices is worse. I am no apologist of war. It should be the last resort of nations. It brings tremendous evils in its train. It foments some of the worst passions of our nature, even as it sometimes develops the
THE LABORING CLASSES.
most heroic virtues. But an ignoble peace is more demoralizing than a sanguinary war. It is an incubus on a nation's character, in the oppression of which every true patriot must share ; till he could almost exclaim, with disgraced Cassio, "O! I have lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bèstial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!”
III. — NATIONAL OBLIGATIONS. I DIFFER, Mr. Chairman, from the honorable gentleman from Massachusetts, who denies that sympathy ought to be felt for the children of deceased officers, who may be in want. Those children have not served us, it is true; but their fathers who did are beyond the reach of our gratitude, and the transfer of the feeling is natural and just. Public benefits bestowed on the children of the deceased father encourages him who is alive in the discharge of his duty, by the purest of all motives — paternal affection; and that legislation must be unwise, indeed, that fails to enlist, in support of the State, all the best impulses of humanity.
Let that republic get on as it can, where the veteran, blind, maimed, and poor, like Belisarius, is forced to apply to public charity for support! Let that republic get on as it can, where contracts are broken, and public beneficence refused; where nothing is given but what is in the bond — and that is frequently refused! Let that republic get on as it can! It will never produce any thing great; its career will be short and inglorious; its fall certain and unpitied ; its history remembered as a warning, not as an example; and the names of its legislators and statesmen buried in the oblivion to which their false economy tends to consign the memory of those who have established its freedom, or defended it from aggression. May our republic show, by its decision on this bill, that it has a higher destiny, and that it is guarded as well by liberality and honor, as by justice!
EDWARD LIVINGSTON (Jan. 15, 1827).
IV. - THE LABORING CLASSES. Sır, it is an insult to our laboring classes to compare them with the debased poor of Europe. Why, sir, we of this country do not know what poverty is. We have no poor in this country, in the sense in which that word is used abroad. Every laborer, even the most humble, in the United States, soon becomes a capi. alist, and even, if he choose, a proprietor of land; for the West, with all its boundless fertility, is open to him.
How can any one dare to compare the mechanics of this land (whose inferiority, in any substantial particular, in intelligence, in virtue, in wealth, to the other classes of our society, I have yet to learn) with that race of outcasts, of which so terrific a picture is presented by recent writers -- the poor of Europe ?—a race among no inconsiderable portion of whom famine and pestilence may be said to dwell continually; many of whom are without morals, without education, without a country, without a God! and may be said to know society only by the terrors of its penal code, and to live in perpetual war with it. Poor bondmen! mocked with the name of liberty, that they may be sometimes tempted to break their chains, in order that, after a few days of starvation in idleness and dissipation, they may be driven back to their prison-house to take their shackles up again, heavier and more galling than before; severed, as it has been touchingly expressed, from nature, from the common air, and the light of the sun; knowing only by hearsay that the fields are green, that the birds sing, and that there is a per'fume in flowers !
And is it with a race whom the perverse institutions of Europe have thus degraded beneath the condition of humanity that the advocates, the patrons, the protectors, of our working-men, presume to compare them ? Sir, it is to treat them with a scorn at which their spirit should revolt, and does revolt.
HUGI S. LEGARÉ.
V. - ON THE EMBARGO. The gentleman from North Carolina exclaimed, the other day, in a strain of pātriotic ardor, " What! shall not our laws be executed ? Shall their authority be defied ? I am for enforcing them, at every hazard.” I honor that gentleman's zeal, and I mean no deviation from that true respect I entertain for him, when I tell him that in this instance “bis zeal is not according to knowledge."
I ask this house, is there no control to its authority, is there no limit to the power of this national legislature? I hope I shall offend no man, when I intimate that two limits exist nature and the constitution. Should this house undertake to declare that this atmosphere should no longer surround us, that water should cease to flow, that gravity should not hereafter operate, that the needle should not vibrate to the pole, — sir, I hope I shall not offend — I think I may venture to affirm that,