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The Works of

Henry Clay

Comprising His Life, Correspondence
and Speeches

Edited by

Calvin Colton, LL.D.

With an Introduction by
Thomas B. Reed

And a History of Tariff Legislation, 1 8 12-1896


William McKinley

Ten Volumes

G. P. Putnam's Sons

New York and London

Sbe ftnict^erbocftcr press


E53 7


The Works of Henry Clay

Volume Eight


Part Three


As originally printed, the Speeches were issued in two thick
volumes. In this edition the material has been divided into
four volumes. The paging is continuous through the first
and second, and through the third and fourth.


It will be seen that the great speech delivered by Mr. Clay,
February 5th and 6th, 1850, on his Resolutions of Compromise,
is given in the Appendix of the third volume of this work, en-
titled the Last Seven Years of Mr. Ola'ufs Life. There are also
some brief extracts, in the Appendix to that volume, of Mr.
Clay's speeches on the Compromises of 1850. But the last
part of this volume, beginning on page 391, contains all the
most important speeches of Mr. Clay in the Thirty-first Con-
gress, with the exception of that of the 5th and 6th of Feb-
ruary, 1850. As the editor found occasion to interweave
numerous notes between speeches and parts of speeches, de-
livered in the Thirty-first Congress, the introductions to these
speeches are more brief, their place being supplied by the

The editor has given, in his selections from the debates of
the Thirty-first Congress, many brief replies and rejoinders of
Mr. Clay, which are not properly speeches ; but nevertheless too
interesting to be omitted. Mr. Clay was often excited, in those
debates, to make replies and rejoinders of a very spicy charac-
ter, and some of them are extremely interesting and instructive.
Many of Mr. Clay's most brilliant displays of intellect and
power were occasioned by momentary excitement ; and he never,
in his long-protracted career of public life, shone brighter, and
never was more powerful in debate, than in the long contest of
1850. He was then an old man, and in feeble health ; but his
solicitude for the country, in that crisis of its afiairs, brought
out all the wealth of his experience, and roused all the fervor


of his patriotism. He earnestly hoped, and strenuously endeav-
ored, by his last great effort, to leave the country in peace on
the slavery question ; and he left the world, feeling that that
object had been accomplished. Happy for him that he died at
such a time.

New Tobb, January IB, 186T,



On the Cumberland Road Bill 7

On the Appointing and Removing Power 11

On the Public Lands 27

On Our Relations with France 34

On the Admission of Arkansas 36

On the Fortification Bill 38

On the Recognition of the Independence op Texas . . .41

On the Expunging Resolution 45

On the Sub-Treasury Bill 61

On the Pre-emption Bill 87

On the Plan of the Sub-Treasury 95

On the Doctrine op Instruction 134

On Abolition 139

A Speech at Buffalo 160

On Mr. Calhoun's Land Bill 165

On the Sub-Treasury Bill 169

At the Baltimore Convention of Young Men .... 193
On the State of the Country under Mr. Van Buren . . . 195

At the Nashville Convention 215

On the Repeal of the Sub-Treasury Law 220

On the Distribution of the Proceeds op the Public Lands . 225

Defense op Mr. Webster 271

On Mb. Tyler's Veto of the Bank Bill 274

Rejoinder to Mr. Rives's Defense of Mr. Tyler . . . .291
On a General Bankrupt Law 297






[The Cumberland Road was always a pet enterprise with Mr.
Clay. The first appropriation for this road was made in 1802,
under Mr. Jefferson's administration. Its eastern terminus was
Cumberland on the Potomac, from which it takes its name.
Thence it was projected to Wheehng on the Ohio, crossing the
Alleganies ; from Wheeling to Columbus, Ohio ; and thence
westward through Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, to Jefferson,
the capital of the latter State. It has never yet reached In-
diana, and probably never will, as a national work. It is now,
in a great measure, superseded by railroads. After Mr. Clay
went to Congress in 1806, and while he was there, this great
national work required and realized his constant attention and
zealous advocacy. It was owing to his exertions chiefly that it
ever reached Wheeling, and passed on so far into the State of
Ohio. The last appropriations made for this road were in 1834
and 1835, with a view of repairing it, and giving it over to the
States through which it passed, if they would accept it, and
keep it in repair. It was on a bill for the last appropriation of
three hundred and forty thousand dollars, that Mr. Clay made
the following speech.]

Mr. Clay remarked, that he would not have said a word then, but for
the introduction in this discussion of collateral matters, not immediately
connected with it. He meant to vote for the appropriation contained in
the bill, and he should do so with pleasure, because, under all the circum-
stances of the case, he felt himself called upon by a sense of imperative
necessity to yield his assent to the appropriation. The road would be


abandoned, and all the expenditures which had heretofore been made upon
it would have been entirely thrown away, unless they now succeeded in
obtaining an appropriation to put the road in a state of repair. Now, he
did not concur with the gentleman (Mr. Ewing), that Ohio could, as a
matter of strict right, demand of the government to keep this road in re-
pair. And why so ? Because, by the terms of the compact, under the
operation of which the road was made, there was a restricted and defined
fund, set apart in order to accomplish that object And that fund measured
the obligation of the government It had been, however, long since ex-
hausted. There was no obhgation, then, on the part of the government,
to keep the road in repair. But he was free to admit, that considerations
of policy would prompt it to adopt that course, in order that an opportu-
nity should be presented to the States to take it into their own hands.

The honorable senator from Pennsylvania felicitated himself on having,
at a very early epoch, discovered the unconstitutionality of the general gov-
ernment's erecting toll-gates upon this road, and he voted against the first
measure to carry that object into execution. He (Mr. Clay) must say, that
for himself he thought the general government had a right to adopt that
course which it deemed necessary for the preservation of a road which was
made \mder its own authority. And as a legitimate consequence from the
power of making a road, was derived the power of making an improvement
on it. That was established ; and, on that point he was sure the honor-
able gentleman did not differ from those who were in favor of estabUshing
toll-gates at the period to which he had alluded. He would repeat, that,
if the power to make a road were conceded, it followed, as a legitimate
consequence from that power, that the general government had a right to
preserve it. And, if the right to do so, there was no mode of preservation
more fitting and suitable, than that which resulted from a moderate toll for
keeping up the road, and tfeus continuing it for all time to come.

The opinion held by the honorable senator, at the period to which he
had adverted, was not the general opinion. He would well remember that
the power which he (Mr. Clay) contended, did exist, was sustained in the
other branch of the Legislature by large majorities. And in that Senate, if
he was not mistaken, there were but nine dissentients from the existence of
it. If his recollection deceived him not, he had the pleasure of concurring
with the distinguished individual who now presided over the deliberations
of that body. He thought that he (the vice-president) in common with
the majority of the Senate and House of Representatives, coincided in the
belief, that a road, constructed under the orders of the general government,
ought to be preserved by the authority which brought it into being. Now,
that was his, (Mr. Clay's) opinion still. He was not one of those who, on
this or any other great national subject, had changed his opinion in conse-
quence of being wrought upon by various conflicting circumstances.

With regard to the general power of making internal improvements, as
fiu- as it existed in the opinions he had frequentiy expressed in both Houses,


his opinion was unaltered. But with respect to the expediency of exer-
cising that power, at any period, it must depend upon the circumstances
of the times. And, in his opinion, the power was to be found in the Con-
stitution. This belief he had always entertained, and it remained unshaken.
He could not coincide in the opinion expressed by the honorable senator
from Pennsylvania and the honorable senator from Massachusetts, in regard
to the disposition that was to be made of this road.

What, he would ask, had been stated on all hands ? That the Cumber-
land road was a great national object in which all the people of the United
States were interested and concerned ; that we are interested in our cor-
porate capacity, on account of the stake we possessed in the public do-
main, and that we were consequently benefited by that road ; that the
people of the West were interested in it ; as a common thoroughfare to
all places from one side of the country to the other. Now, what was the
principle of the arrangement that had been entered into ? It was this com-
mon object, this national object, this object in which the people of this
country were interested ; its care, its preservation, was to be confided to
diflerent States, having no special motive or interest in its preservation ;
and, therefore, not responsible for the consequences that might result The
people of Kentucky and Indiana, and of the States west of those States, as
well as the people living on the eastern side of the moimtains, were all in-
terested in the use and occupation of this road, which, instead of being
retained and kept under the control of that common government in which
all had a share, their interest in it was to be confided to the local jurisdic-
tions through which the road passed ; and thus the States, generally, were
to depend upon the manner in which they should perform their duties ;
upon those having no sympathy with them, having no regard for their
interest, but left to do as they chose in regard to the preservation of this

He would say that the principle was fundamentally wrong. He pro-
tested against it ; had done so from the first, and did so again now. It was
a great national object, and they might as well give the care of the mint
to Pennsylvania, the protection of the breakwater, or of the public vessels
in New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, to the respective Legislatures
of the States in which that property was situated, as give the care of a
great national road, in which the whole people of the United States were
concerned, to the care of a few States which were acknowledged to have
no particular interest in it — States having so httle interest in that great work,
that they would not repair it when ofiered to their hands.

But he said, he would vote for this appropriation ; he was compelled to
vote for it by the force of circumstances over which he had no control.
He had seen, in reference to internal improvements, and other measures of
a national character, not individuals, merely, but whole masses, entire com-
munities, prostrating their own settled opinions, to which they had con-
formed for a half a century, wheel to the right or the left, march this way


or that, according as they saw high authority for it. And he saw that
there was no way of preserving this great object, which aflForded such vast
facihties to the western States, no other mode of preserving it, but by a
reluctant acquiescence in a course of policy, which all, at least, had not con-
tributed to produce, but which was formed to operate on the country, and
from which there lay no appeal.

Mr. Clay, in conclusion, again reiterated that he should vote for the ap-
propriation in this bill, although very reluctantly, and with the protest,
that the road in question, being the common property of the whole nation,
and under the guardianship of the general government, ought not to b«
treacherously parted from by it, and put into the hands of the local govera*
ments, who felt no interest in the matter.



[General Jackson inaugurated the system of removing from
and appointing to office, iu reward of those whom the incumbent
of the presidential chair supposed had most contributed to his
election, and to punish office-holders who had not been his zeal-
ous partisans. A bird's-eye survey will demonstrate the per-
nicious influence of the application of this principle, on the
whole executive government of the country. It is not he who
has best served his country, or who is best qualified to serve it,
but he who has best served, and who promises best to serve, the
incumbent of the presidential chair, that is entitled to office
under that incumbent. Such had not been the rule previous to
General Jackson's administration, but it was he who was best
qualified. This was a revolution in the government, and one of
the worst kind of revolutions, inciting men to the service of a
candidate with that expectation, and constraining them to the
same personal service of the successful candidate, for whatever
object, after he is elected. In this way, a president of energetic
character might destroy the liberties of the country by an army
of a hundred thousand office-holders, who must do his will, or
lose their places. It can not but be seen, that the introduction
of this principle of government has been one of the greatest
misfortunes, and that it is likely to be one of the greatest perils
of the country.

Shocked and alarmed at this state of things, the Senate of
the Twenty-fourth Congress had brought in a bill requiring the
president, in cases of dismission from office, to communicate to
the Senate the reasons ; to which Mr. Clay proposed an amend-
ment, " that, in all instances of appointment to office by the
president, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, the
power of removal shall be exercised only in concurrence with the
Senate," etc. The biU and the amendment covered the whole
ground, and if it had passed into law, it would have restored the


government to its former condition, snch as it had been from the
days of Washington. But, unfortunately, the virtue of Con-
gress, already impaired by the influence of the new practice,
was unequal to the occasion ; and from that day to this (1856)
the country has been governed in this way.

In this speech, Mr. Clay has proved what the practice of the
government had been, in this particular, and given the most
solemn advice as to the consequences of the change introduced
by General Jackson. It is the principle of the one-man power,
and only requires a favorable exigency for the consummation of
its aims. It was held in check at this time by such efforts as
those of Mr. Clay ; but it only awaits the man and the circum-
stance to break out with irresistible power. The right of re-
moval without the advice of the Senate, is the pivot of all
power, and the president has only to apply the lever of appoint-
ments, as practiced, to accomplish his ends, whatever they may
be ; for the non-concurrence of the Senate is no bar to his will,
so long as he can reappoint the rejected nominee the next day,
or find a substitute, and set him to work, or send him on his
mission, in defiance of the Senate ; and in the recesses of the
Senate, what could he not do?]

Mb. Clay thought it exti'emely fortunate that this subject of executive
patronage came up, at the session, unincumbered by any collateral ques-
tion. At the last session we had the removal of the deposits, the treasury
report sustaining it, and the protest of the president against the resolution
of the Senate. The bank mingled itself in all our discussions, and the
partisans of executive power availed themselves of the prejudices which
had been artfully excited against that institution, to deceive and blind the
people as to the enormity of executive pretensions. The bank has been
doomed to destruction, and no one now thinks the re-charter of it is prac-
ticable, or ought to be attempted. I fear, said Mr. Clay, that the people
will have just and severe cause to regret its destruction. The adminis-
tration of it was uncommonly able ; and one is at a loss which most to
admire, the imperturbable temper or the wisdom of its enlightened presi-
dent. No country can possibly possess a better general currency than
it supplied. The injurious consequences of the sacrifice of this valuable
institution will soon be felt. There being no longer any sentinel at the
head of our banking establishments to warn them, by its information and
operations, of approaching danger, the local institutions, already multiplied
to an alarming extent, and almost daily multiplying, in seasons of prosper-
ity, will make free and unrestrained emissions. All the channels of circu-
lation will become gorged. Property will rise extravagantly high, and,
oonstantly looking up, the temptation to purchase will be irresistible. In-


ordinate speculation will ensue, debts will be freely contracted ; and, when
the season of adversity comes, as come it must, the banks, acting without
concert and without guide, obeying the law of self-preservation, will all at
the same time call in their issues ; the vast niunber will aggravate the
alarm, and general distress, wide-spread ruin, and an explosion of the whole
banking system, or the establishment of a new bank of the United States,
will be the ultimate effects.

We can now deliberately contemplate the vast expansion of executive
power, under the present administration, free from embarrassment. And
is there any real lover of civil liberty, who can behold it without great and
just alarm ? Take the doctrines of the protest, and the secretary's report
together, and, instead of having a balanced government with three co-
ordinate departments, we have but one power in the State. According to
those papers, all the oflBcers concerned in the administration of the laws
are bound to obey the president. His will controls every branch of the
administration. No matter that the law may have assigned to other oflScers
of the government specifically-defined duties ; no matter that the theory
of the Constitution and the law supposes them bound to the discharge of
those duties according to their own judgment, and under their own respon-
sibility, and liable to impeachment for malfeasance ; the will of the presi-
dent, even in opposition to their own deliberate sense of their obligations, is
to prevail, and expulsion from oflBce is the penalty of disobedience ! It has,
not, indeed, in terms, been claimed, but it is a legitimate consequence from
the doctrines asserted, that all decisions of the judicial tribunals, not con-
formable with the president's opinion, must be inoperative, since the oflBcers
charged with their execution are no more exempt from the pretended obli-
gation to obey his orders than any other oflScers of the administration.

The basis of this overshadowing superstructure of executive power is,
the power of dismission, which it is one of the objects of the bill under
consideration somewhat to regulate, but which it is contended by the sup-
porters of executive authority is uncontrollable. The practical exercise of
this power, during this administration, has reduced the salutary co-opera-
tion of the Senate, as approved by the Constitution, in all appoinments, to
an idle form. Of what avail is it, that the Senate shall have passed upon
a nomination, if the president, at any time thereafter, even the next day,
whether the Senate be in session or in vacation, without any known cause,
may dismiss the incumbent ? Let us examine the nature of this power. It
is exercised in the recesses of the executive mansion, perhaps upon secret
information. The accused oflBcer is not present nor heard, nor confronted
with the witnesses against him, and the president is judge, juror, and exe-
cutioner. No reasons are assigned for the dismission, and the public is
left to conjecture the cause. Is not a power so exercised essentially a des-
potic power ? It is adverse to the genius of all free governments, the
foundation of which is responsibility. Responsibility is the vital principle
of civil liberty, as irresponsibility is the vital principle of despotism. Free


gfovemment can no more exist without this principle than animai life can be
sustained without the presence of the atmosphere. But is not the president
absolutely irresponsible in the exercise of this power ? How can he be
reached ? By impeachment ? It is a mockery.

It has been truly said, that the office was not made for the incumbent.
Nor was it created for the incumbent of another office. In both, and ir
all cases, public officers are created for the public ; and the people have a
right to know why and wherefore one of their servants dismisses another.
The abuses which have flowed, and are likely to flow from this power, if
unchecked, are indescribable. How often have all of us witnessed the
expulsion of the most faithful officers, of the highest character, and of the
most undoubted probity, for no other imaginable reason, than diflerence in
political sentiments ? It begins in politics, and may end in religion. If a
president should be inclined to fanaticism, and the power should not be
regulated, what is to prevent the dismission of every officer who does not
belong to his sect, or persuasion ? He may, perhaps truly, say, if he does
not dismiss him, that he has not his confidence. It was the cant language
of Cromwell and his associates, when obnoxious individuals were in or pro-
posed for office, that they could not confide in them. The tendency of
this power is to revive the dark ages of feudalism, and to render every offi-
cer a feudatory. The bravest man in office, whose employment and bread
depend upon the will of the president, will quail under the influence of the
power of dismission. If opposed in sentiments to the administration, he
will begin by silence, and finally will be goaded into partisanship.

The senator from New York (Mr. Wright) in analyzing the list of one
hundred thousand, who are reported by the committee of patronage to
draw money from the public treasury, contends that a large portion of them
consists of the army, the navy, and revolutionary pensioners ; and, paying
a just compliment to their gallantry and patriotism, asks, if they will allow
themselves to be instrumental in the destruction of the liberties of their
country ? It is very remarkable, that hitherto the power of dismission has
not been applied to the army and navy, to which, from the nature of the
service, it would seem to be more necessary than to those in civil places.
But accumulation and concentration are the nature of all power, and
especially of executive power. And it can not be doubted, that, if the
power of dismission, as now exercised, in regard to civil officers, is sanc-
tioned and sustained by the people, it will, in the end, be extended to the
army and navy. When so extended, it will produce its usual eflect of sub-
serviency, or if the present army and navy should be too stern and upright
to be molded according to the pleasure of the executive, we are to recol-
lect, that the individuals who compose them are not to live always, and
may be succeeded by those who will be more pliant and yielding. But I

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