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treaty." For many months he had been sinking under bodily infirmity; and though he had attended the long and interesting debate on a question involving the principles of the Constitution and the peace of the United States, it was feared he would be unable to speak. He himself had no design of speaking, feeling utterly unequal to the effort. But when the time came for taking a vote so big with consequences, his emotions would not suffer him to be silent; and, pale, weak, and emaciated as he was, he rose and delivered that speech, which, for chaste diction, argumentative reasoning, high-toned morality, and impassioned eloquence, has not its superior in our legislative history.2
At the close of the session, in the spring of 1796, Mr. Ames travelled for his health, which he regained so far as to enable him to attend the next session of Congress; after which he declined another election, and retired to his favorite residence, "to enjoy repose in the bosom of his family, and to unite, with his practice as a lawyer, those rural occupations in which he delighted." His interest in public affairs, however, did not cease; and his pen was almost constantly employed in writing political essays for the papers of the day, in defence and support of the principles of the Federal party, of which he was one of the most distinguished members; and when Washington, the illustrious head of that party, died, Mr. Ames pronounced his eulogy before the Legislature of Massachusetts.
In 1804, Mr. Ames was chosen President of Harvard College, but his feeble health would not allow him to accept the high honor. At length his disease began to make more rapid strides. With great calmness and Christian resignation he saw his end approaching. He was fully prepared to die, as he had lived the life of a Christian, and his faith grew stronger as his body grew weaker; and on the morning of the 4th of July, 1808, the birthday of the independence of that country
It was delivered April 28, 1796, in support of the following motion:"Resolved, That it is expedient to pass the laws necessary to carry into effect the treaty lately concluded between the United States and the King of Great Britain."
2 Dr. Charles Caldwell, in his autobiography, thus speaks of Ames's eloquence: -"He was decidedly one of the most splendid rhetoricians of the age. Two of his speeches, in a special manner,-that on Jay's treaty, and that usually called his 'tomahawk speech,' (because it included some resplendent passages on Indian massacres,)—were the most brilliant and fascinating specimens of eloquence I have ever heard; yet have I listened to some of the most celebrated speakers in the British Parliament; among others, to Wilberforce and Mackintosh, Plunket, Brougham, and Canning. Dr. Priestley, who was familiar with the oratory of Pitt the father and Pitt the son, and also with that of Burke and Fox, made to myself the acknowledgment that, to use his own words, the speech of Ames on the British treaty was the most bewitching piece of parliamentary oratory he had ever listened to.""
3 In a letter to Thomas Dwight, dated October 26, 1803, he thus writes:-" Our country is too big for union, too sordid for patriotism, too democratic for liberty. What is to become of it He who made it best knows. Its vice will govern practising upon its folly. This is ordained for democracies. The men who have the best principles, and those who act from the worst, will talk alike, except only that the latter will exceed the former in fervor. But the language of deceit, though stale and exposed to detection, will deceive as long as the multitude love flattery better than restraint."
His Essay on the Dangers of American Liberty is replete with sound political wisdom; and well would it be for our nation if it would heed its counsels and its warnings.
which he so ardently loved, and for whose best interests he had so faithfully labored, he resigned his spirit into the hands of Him who gave it.
Fisher Ames was a truly great man. None of our statesmen have united, to talents and attainments of so high an order, a private character of greater purity, or a deeper sense of moral and religious obligation. He was a close student of the Bible, an admirer of our translation for the purity of its English, and deeply lamented the growing disuse of it in our schools. He thought that children should be made acquainted with its important truths, and said, "I will hazard the assertion that no man ever did or ever will become truly eloquent without being a constant reader of the Bible, and an admirer of the beauty and sublimity of its language." "It is happy for mankind," says his biographer, "when those who engage admiration deserve esteem; for vice and folly derive a pernicious influence from an alliance with qualities that naturally command applause. In the character of Mr. Ames, the circle of the virtues seems to be complete, and each virtue in its proper place."
THE OBLIGATIONS OF NATIONAL FAITH.
Mr. Chairman :-The question before us seems at last to resolve itself to this: SHALL WE BREAK THE TREATY ?2 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 lay down two rules, which ought to guide us in this case.
Read the Life of Mr. Ames, prefixed to his works, by the Rev. Dr. Kirkland, President of Harvard University, one of the best-written pieces of biography in our language. Also, "Works of Fisher Ames, with a Selection from his Speeches and Correspondence; edited by his Son, Seth Ames;" a beautiful edition, published by Little, Brown & Co., Boston.
2 The debate in the House of Representatives upon Jay's celebrated treaty is perhaps the most memorable that ever occurred in that body, and, we may add, one of the most important; for the great question was then discussed whether a treaty would be valid without the approbation of the House. Those who were in the affirmative of this question argued, from the Constitution, that the treaty was already made, and could not be broken without breaking the faith of the nation; for the Constitution vests the power of making treaties in the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Those in the negative argued that, if the President and Senate could make treaties without the assistance of the House, they might absorb all legislative power. The treaty itself, too, was made a subject of bitter animadversion by one party. For a comprehensive account of the whole debate, see "Pitkin's Political and Civil History of the United States," vol. ii. page 442. It is now seen that the treaty obtained as much for us as, from all circumstances, we could have looked for, while it has proved, in its application, eminently beneficial to us.
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 me 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 piece-meal, 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. Few men of any reputation for sense, among those who say the treaty is bad, will put that reputation so much at hazard as to pretend that it is so extremely bad as to warrant and require a violation of the public faith.
In the next place, will the state of public opinion justify the deed? No government, not even a despotism, will break its faith without some pretext; and it must be plausible,—it must be such as will carry the public opinion along with it. Reasons of policy, if not of morality, dissuade even Turkey and Algiers from breaches of treaty in mere wantonness of perfidy, in open contempt of the reproaches of their subjects. Surely a popular government will not proceed more arbitrarily, as it is more free; nor with less shame or scruple in proportion as it has better morals. It will not proceed against the faith of treaties at all, unless the strong and decided sense of the nation shall pronounce, not simply that the treaty is not advantageous, but that it ought to be broken and annulled.
Why, Mr. Chairman, do the opposers of this treaty 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 de stroyed; 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, no, not if he stipulated to pay rent for it. It has even 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 sandbank for the 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.
WASHINGTON AS A CIVILIAN.
However his military fame may excite the wonder of mankind, it is chiefly by his civil magistracy that Washington's example will instruct them. Great generals have arisen in all ages of the world, and perhaps most in those of despotism and darkness. In times of violence and convulsion, they rise, by the force of the whirlwind, high enough to ride in it and direct the storm. Like meteors, they glare on the black clouds with a splendor that, while it dazzles and terrifies, makes nothing visible but the darkness.
The fame of heroes is indeed growing vulgar: they multiply in every long war; they stand in history, and thicken in their ranks almost as undistinguished as their own soldiers.
But such a chief magistrate as Washington appears like the pole-star in a clear sky, to direct the skilful statesman. His presidency will form an epoch, and be distinguished as the age of Washington. Already it assumes its high place in the political region. Like the milky way, it whitens along its allotted portion of the hemisphere. The latest generations of men will survey, through the telescope of history, the space where so many virtues blend their rays, and delight to separate them into groups and distinct virtues. As the best illustration of them, the living monument to which the first of patriots would have chosen to consign his fame, it is my earnest prayer to heaven that our country may subsist, even to that late day, in the plenitude of its liberty and happiness, and mingle its mild glory with Washington's.
CHARACTER OF THE NEWSPAPER PRESS.
It seems as if newspaper wares were made to suit a market as much as any other. The starers, and wonderers, and gapers engross a very large share of the attention of all the sons of the type. Extraordinary events multiply upon us surprisingly. Gazettes, it is seriously to be feared, will not long allow room to any thing that is not loathsome or shocking. A newspaper is pronounced to be very lean and destitute of matter if it contains no account of murders, suicides, prodigies, or monstrous births.
Some of these tales excite horror, and others disgust; yet the fashion reigns, like a tyrant, to relish wonders, and almost to relish nothing else. Is this a reasonable taste? or is it monstrous and worthy of ridicule? Is the history of Newgate the only one worth reading? Are oddities only to be hunted? Pray, tell us, men of ink, if our free presses are to diffuse information, and we, the poor, ignorant people, can get it no other way than by newspapers, what knowledge we are to glean from the blundering lies, or the tiresome truths about thunder-storms, that, strange to tell kill oxen or burn barns.
Surely extraordinary events have not the best title to our studious attention. To study nature or man, we ought to know things that are in the ordinary course, not the unaccountable things that happen out of it. ***
Some of the shocking articles in the papers raise simple, and very simple, wonder; some, terror; and some, horror and disgust. Now, what instruction is there in these endless wonders? Who is the wiser or happier for reading the accounts of them? On the contrary, do they not shock tender minds and addle shallow