David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) online

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be to consolidate. I give you a short, but substantive quotation
from these remarks. He is speaking of a pamphlet, then re-
cently published, entitled " Consolidation ** ; and having alluded to
the question of renewing the charter of the former Bank of the
United States, he says: —

« Moreover in the early history of parties, and when Mr. Crawford
advocated a renewal of the old charter, it was considered a Federal
measure; which internal improvements never was, as this author er-
roneously states. This latter measure originated in the administra-
tion of Mr. Jefferson, with the appropriation for the Cumberland road ;
and was first proposed, as a system, by Mr. Calhoun, and carried
through the House of Representatives by a large majority of the Re-
publicans, including almost every one of the leading men who carried
us through the late war.'^

So, then, internal improvement is not one of the Federal her-
esies. One paragraph more, sir: —

<<The author in question, not content with denouncing as Feder-
alists, General Jackson, Mr. Adams, Mr. Calhoun, and the majority of
the South Carolina delegation in Congress, modestly extends the de-
nunciation to Mr. Monroe and the whole Republican party. Here are
his words : < During the administration of Mr. Monroe much has
passed which the Republican party would be glad to approve if they
could. But the principal feature, and that which has chiefly elicited
these observations, is the renewal of the system of internal improve-
ments.^ Now this measure was adopted by a vote of one hundred
and fifteen to eighty-six, of a Republican Congress, and sanctioned by
a Republican President. Who, then, is this author — who assumes the
high prerogative of denouncing, in the name of the Republican party,
the Republican administration of the country ? A denunciation in-
cluding within its sweep, Calhoun, Lowndes, and Cheves, — men who
will be regarded as the brightest ornaments of South Carolina, and
the strongest pillars of the Republican party, as long as the late war
shall be remembered, and talents and patriotism shall be regarded as
the proper objects of the admiration and gratitude of a free people. *>

Such are the opinions, sir, which were maintained by South
Carolina gentlemen, in the House of Representatives, on the sub-
ject of internal improvements, when I took my seat there as a


Member from Massachusetts in 1S23. But this is not all. We
had a bill before us, and passed it in that house, entitled: ^* An
act to procure the necessary surveys, plans, and estimates upon
the subject of roads and canals." It- authorized the President to
cause surveys and estimates to be made of the routes of such
roads and canals as he might deem of national importance, in a
commercial or militar}^ point of view, or for the transportation of
the mail, and appropriated thirty thousand dollars out of the
Treasury to defray the expense. This act, though preliminary in
its nature, covered the whole ground. It took for granted the
complete power of internal improvement as far as any of its ad-
vocates had ever contended for it. Having passed the other
house, the bill came up to the Senate, and was here considered
and debated in April 1824. The honorable Member from South
Carolina was a member of the Senate at that time. While the
bill was under consideration here, a motion was made to add the
following proviso: —

'■'■Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to
affirm or admit a power in Congress, on their own authority, to make
roads or canals within any of the States of the Union. >^

The yeas and nays were taken on this proviso and the hon-
orable Member voted in the negative! The proviso failed.
A motion was then made to add this proviso, namely: —

"■Provided, That the faith of the United States is hereby pledged,
that no money shall ever be expended for roads or canals, except it
shall be among the several States and in the same proportion as di-
rect taxes are laid and assessed by the provisions of the Constitu-
tion. »

The honorable Member voted against this proviso, also, and it
failed. The bill was then put on its passage and the honorable
Member voted for it, and it passed and became a law.

Now, it strikes me, sir, that there is no maintaining these
votes, but upon the power of internal improvement, in its broad-
est sense. In truth, these bills for surveys and estimates have
always been considered as test questions — they show who is for
and who against internal improvement. This law itself went the
whole length and assumed the full and complete power. The
gentleman's votes sustained that power in every form in which
the various propositions to amend presented it. He went for the


entire and unrestrained authority without consulting the States,
and without agreeing to any proportionate distribution. And
now suffer me to remind you, Mr. President, that it is this very
same power thus sanctioned in every form by the gentleman's
own opinion that is so plain and manifest a usurpation that the
State of South Carolina is supposed to be justified in refusing
submission to any laws carrying the power into effect. Truly,
sir, is not this a little too hard ? May we not crave some mercy
under favor and protection of the gentleman's own authority ?
Admitting that a road, or a canal, must be written down fiat
usurpation as was ever committed, may we find no mitigation in
our respect for his place and his vote as one that knows the
law ?

The tariff, which South Carolina had an efficient hand in
establishing, in 1816, and this asserted power of internal improve-
ment, advanced by her in the same year, and, as we have seen,
approved and sanctioned by her representatives in 1824, these
two measures are the great grounds on which she is now thought
to be justified in breaking up the Union, if she sees fit to break
it up!

I may now safely say, I think, that we have had the authority
of leading and distinguished gentlemen from South Carolina, in
support of the doctrine of internal improvement. I repeat that,
up to 1824, I for one, followed South Carolina; but, when that
star, in its ascension, veered off, in an unexpected direction, I
relied on its light no longer.

[Here the Vice-President, Mr. Calhoun, said: «Does the chair understand
the gentleman from Massachusetts to say that the person now occupying the
chair of the Senate has changed his opinions on the subject of internal im-
provements ? )>]

From nothing ever said to me, sir, have I had reason to know
of any change in the opinions of the person filling the chair of
the Senate. If such change has taken place, I regret it. I speak
generally of the State of South Carolina. Individuals, we know
there are, who hold opinions favorable to the power. An appli-
cation for its exercise, in behalf of a public work in South Caro-
lina itself, is now pending, I believe, in the other house, presented
by Members from that State.

I have thus, sir, perhaps, not without some tediousness of
detail, shown that if I am in error, on the subject of internal



improvement, how, and in what company, I fell into that erroi.
If I am wrong, it is apparent who misled me.

I go to other remarks of the honorable Member; and I have
to complain of an entire misapprehension of what I said on the
subject of the national debt, though I can hardly perceive how
any one could misunderstand me. What I said was, not that I
wished to put off the payment of the debt, but, on the contrary,
that I had always voted for every measure for its reduction, as
uniformly as the gentleman himself. He seems to claim the ex-
clusive merit of a disposition to reduce the public charge. I do
not allow it to him. As a debt, I was, I am for paying it, be-
cause it is a charge on our finances and on the industry of the
country. But I observed that I thought I perceived a morbid
fervor on that subject — an excessive anxiety to pay off the debt,
not so much because it is a debt simply, as because, while it
lasts, it furnishes one objection to disunion. It is a tie of com-
mon interest, while it continues. I did not impute such motives
to the honorable Member himself; but that there is such a feel-
ing in existence, I have not a particle of doubt. The most I
said was that if one effect of the debt was to strengthen our
Union, that effect itself was not regretted by me, however much
others might regret it. The gentleman has not seen how to re-
ply to this otherwise than by supposing me to have advanced
the doctrine that a national debt is a national blessing. Others,
I must hope, will find much less difficulty in understanding me.
I distinctly and pointedly cautioned the honorable Member not to
understand me as expressing an opinion favorable to the continu-
ance of the debt. I repeated this caution, and repeated it more
than once; but it was thrown away.

On yet another point, I was still more unaccountably misun-
derstood. The gentleman had harangued against "consolidation.'^
I told him, in reply, that there was one kind of consolidation to
which I was attached, and that was the consolidation of our
Union; and that this was precisely that consolidation to which I
feared others were not attached. That such consolidation was
the very end of the Constitution — the leading object, as they had
informed us themselves, which its framers had kept in view. I
turned to their communication, and read their very words — "the
consolidation of the Union'' — and expressed my devotion to this
sort of consolidation. I said in terms, that I wished not, in the
slightest degree, to augment the powers of this Government; tha.;



my object was to preserve, not to enlarge; and that by consoli-
dating the Union, I understood no more than the strengthening
of the Union, and perpetuating it. Having been thus expHcit;
having thus read from the printed book the precise words which
I adopted, as expressing my own sentiments, it passes compre-
hension how any man could understand me as contending for an
extension of the powers of the Government, or for consolidation,
in that odious sense in which it means an accumulation, in the
Federal Government, of the powers properly belonging to the

I repeat, sir, that in adopting the sentiment of the framers of
the Constitution, I read their language audibly, and word for
word; and I pointed out the distinction just as fully as I have
now done, between the consolidation of the Union and that other
obnoxious consolidation which I disclaimed. And yet the honor-
able Member misunderstood me. The gentleman had said that
he wished for no fixed revenue — not a shilling. If, by a word,
he could convert the capitol into gold, he would not do it. Why
all this fear of revenue ? Why, sir, because, as the gentleman
told us, it tends to consolidation. Now, this can mean neither
more nor less than that a common revenue is a common interest,
and that all common interests tend to hold the union of the States
together. I confess I like that tendency; if the gentleman dis-
likes it, he is right in deprecating a shilling's fixed revenue. So
much, sir, for consolidation.

As well as I recollect the course of his remarks, the honorable
gentleman next recurred to the subject of the tariff. He did not
doubt the word must be of unpleasant sound to me, and pro-
ceeded with an effort, neither new, nor attended with new success,
to involve me and my votes in inconsistency and contradiction.
I am happy the honorable gentleman has furnished me an oppor-
tunity for a timely remark or two on that subject. I was glad he
approached it, for it is a question I enter upon without fear from
anybody. The strenuous toil of the gentleman has been to raise
an inconsistency between my dissent to the tariff in 1824 and
my vote in 1828. It is labor lost. He pays undeserved compli-
ment to my speech in 1824; but this is to raise me high, that
my fall, as he would have it, in 1828, may be more signal. Sir,
there was no fall at all. Between the ground I stood on in 1824,
and that I took in 1828, there was not only no precipice, but no
declivity. It was a change of position, to meet new circum-
] o — 10



Stances, but on the same level. A plain tale explains the whole
matter. In 1816, I had not acquiesced in the tariff, then sup-
ported by South Carolina. To some parts of it, especially, I felt
and expressed great repugnance. I held the same opinions in
1 82 1, at the meeting in Faneuil Hall, to which the gentleman
has alluded. I said then, and say now, that, as an original ques-
tion, the authority of Congress to exercise the revenue power,
with direct reference to the protection of manufactures, is a ques-
tionable authority, far more questionable, in my judgment, than
the power of internal improvements. I must confess, sir, that,
in one respect, some impression has been made on my opinions
lately. Mr. Madison's publication has put the power in a very
strong light. He has placed it, I must acknowledge, upon grounds
of construction and argument, which seem impregnable. But
even if the power were doubtful, on the face of the Constitution
itself, it had been assumed and asserted in the first revenue law
ever passed under that same Constitution; and, on this ground, as
a matter settled by cotemporaneous practice, I had refrained
from expressing the opinion that the tariff laws transcended con-
stitutional limits, as the gentleman supposes. What I did say at
Faneuil Hall, as far as I now remember, was that this was ori-
ginally matter of doubtful construction. The gentleman himself,
I suppose, thinks there is no doubt about it and that the laws
are plainly against the Constitution. Mr. Madison's letters, already
referred to, contain, in my judgment, by far the most able ex-
position extant of this part of the Constitution. He has satisfied
me, so far as the practice of the Government had left it an open

With a great majority of the Representatives of Massachusetts,
I voted against the tariff of 1824. My reasons were then given,
and I will not now repeat them. But, notwithstanding our dis-
sent, the great States of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Ken-
tucky, went for the bill, in almost unbroken column, and it passed.
Congress and the President sanctioned it, and it became the law
of the land. What, then, were we to do ? Our only option was,
either to fall in with this settled course of public policy, and
accommodate ourselves to it as well as we could, or to embrace
the South Carolina doctrine, and talk of nullifying the statute by
State interference.

This last alternative did not suit our principles, and, of course,
we adopted the former. In 1827 the subject came again before


Congress, on a proposition favorable to wool and woolens. We
looked upon the system of protection as being fixed and settled.
The law of 1824 remained. It had gone into full operation, and
in regard to some objects intended by it, perhaps most of them,
had produced all its expected effects. No man proposed to repeal
it; no man attempted to renew the general contest on its princi-
ple. But, owing to subsequent and unforeseen occurrences, the
benefit intended by it to wool and woolen fabrics had not been
realized. Events, not known here when the law passed, had
taken place, which defeated its object in that particular respect.
A measure was accordingly brought forward to meet this precise
deficiency; to remedy this particular defect. It was limited to
wool and woolens. Was ever anything more reasonable ? If the
policy of the tariff laws had become established in principle, as
the permanent policy of the Government, should they not be re-
vised and amended, and made equal, like other laws, as exigencies
should arise, or justice require ? Because we had doubted about
adopting the system, were we to refuse to cure its manifest de-
fects, after it became adopted, and when no one attempted its
repeal ? And this, sir, is the inconsistency so much bruited. I
had voted against the tariff of 1824 — but it passed; and in 1827
and 1828 I voted to amend it, in a point essential to the interest
of my constituents. Where is the inconsistency ? Could I do
otherwise ? Sir, does political consistency consist in always giving
negative votes ? Does it require of a public man to refuse to
concur in amending laws, because they passed against his con-
sent ? Having voted against the tariff originally, does consistency
demand that I should do all in my power to maintain an unequal
tariff, burdensome to my own constituents, and in many respects,
favorable to none ? To consistency of that sort I lay no claim.
And there is another sort to which I lay as little — and that is
a kind of consistency by which persons feel themselves as much
bound to oppose a proposition, after it has become a law of the
land, as before.

The bill of 1827, limited, as I have said, to the single object in
which the tariff of 1824 had manifestly failed in its effect, passed
the House of Representatives, but was lost here. We had then
the Act of 1828. I need not recur to the history of a measure
so recent. Its enemies spiced it with whatsoever they thought
would render it distasteful; its friends took it, drugged as it was.
Vast amounts of property, many milHons, had been invested in



manufactures, under the inducements of the Act of 1824. Events
called loudly, as I thought, for further regulation to secure the
degree of protection intended by that act. I was disposed to
vote for such regulation, and desired nothing more; but certainly
was not to be bantered out of my purpose by a threatened aug-
mentation of duty on molasses, put into the bill for the avowed
purpose of making it obnoxious. The vote may have been right
or wrong, wise or unwise; but it is little less than absurd to
allege against it an inconsistency with opposition to the former

Sir, as to the general subject of the tariff, I have little now to
say. Another opportunity may be presented. I remarked the
other day that this policy did not begin with us in New Eng-
, land ; and yet, sir, New England is charged with vehemence as
being favorable, or charged with equal vehemence as being un-
favorable to the tariff policy, just as best suits the time, place,
and occasion for making some charge against her. The credulity
of the public has been put to its extreme capacity of false im-
pression, relative to her conduct, in this particular. Through all
the South, during the late contest, it was New England policy
and a New England administration that was afflicting the coun-
try with a tariff beyond all endurance; while on the other side
of the Alleghany, even the Act of 1828 itself, the very sublimated
essence of oppression, according to Southern opinions, was pro-
nounced to be one of those blessings for which the West was in-
debted to the ^^ generous South. ^^

With large investments in manufacturing establishments, and
many and various interests connected with and dependent upon
them, it is not expected that New England, any more than other
portions of the country, will now consent to any measure, de-
structive or highly dangerous. The duty of the Government, at
the present moment, would seem to be to preserve, not to de-
stroy; to maintain the position which it has assumed; and, for
one, I shall feel it an indispensable obligation to hold it steady,
as far as in my power, to that degree of protection which it has
undertaken to bestow. No more of the tariff.

Professing to be provoked, by what he chose to consider a
charge made by me against South Carolina, the honorable Mem-.,
ber, Mr. President, has taken up a new crusade against New
England. Leaving altogether the subject of the public lands, in
which his success, perhaps, had been neither distinguished or


satisfactory, and letting go, also, of the topic of the tariff, he
sallied forth in a general assault on the opinions, politics, and
parties of New England, as they have been exhibited in the last
thirty years. This is natural. The "narrow policy^* of the pub-
lic lands had proved a legal settlement in South Carolina, and
was not to be removed. The " accursed policy '* of the tariff,
also, had established the fact of its birth and parentage in the
same State. No wonder, therefore, the gentleman wished to carry
the war, as he expressed it, into the enemy's country. Prudently
willing to quit these subjects, he was doubtless desirous of fas-
tening on others that which could not be transferred south of
Mason and Dixon's Line. The politics of New England became
his theme; and it was in this part of his speech, I think, that he
menaced me with such sore discomfiture. Discomfiture ! Why,
sir, when he attacks anything which I maintain, and overthrows
it; when he turns the right or left of any position which I take
up; when he drives me from any ground I choose to occupy;
he may then talk of discomfiture, but not till that distant day.
What has he done ? Has he maintained his own charges ? Has
he proved what he alleged ? Has he sustained himself in his
attack on the Government, and on the history of the North, in
the matter of the public lands ? Has he disproved a fact, refuted
a proposition, weakened an argument maintained by me ? Has
he come within beat of drum of any position of mine? Oh, no;
but he has << carried the war into the enemy's country.'^ Carried
the war into the enemy's country! Yes, sir, and what sort of a
war has he made of it? Why, sir, he has stretched a dragnet
over the whole surface of perished pamphlets, indiscreet sermons,
frothy paragraphs, and fuming popular addresses, over whatever
the pulpit, in its moments of alarm, the press in its heats, and
parties in their extravagance have severally thrown off in times
of general excitement and violence. He has thus swept together
a mass of such things as, but that they are now old and cold,
the public health would have required him rather to leave in
their state of dispersion. For a good long hour or two we had
the unbroken pleasure of listening to the honorable Member
while he recited, with his usual grace and spirit, and with evi-
dent high gusto, speeches, pamphlets, addresses, and all the ei
ceteras of the political press, such as warm heads produce in
warm times ; and such as it would be " discomfiture " indeed, for
any one whose taste did not delight in that sort of reading to


be obliged to peruse. This is his war. This is to carry the war
into the enemy's country. It is in an invasion of this sort that
he flatters himself with the expectation of gaining laurels fit to
adorn a Senator's brow!

Mr. President, I shall not, — it will, I trust, not be expected
that I should, — either now, or at any time, separate this farrago
into parts, and answer and examine its components. I shall hardly
bestow upon it all a general remark or two. In the run of forty
years, sir, under this Constitution, we have experienced sundry
successive violent party contests. Party arose, indeed, with the
Constitution itself, and, in some form or other, has attended it
through the greater part of its history. Whether any other Con-
stitution than the old Articles of Confederation was desirable, was
itself a question on which parties formed; if a new Constitution
were framed, what powers should be given it, was another ques-
tion; and when it had been formed what was, in fact, the just
extent of the powers actually conferred, was a third. Parties,
as we know, existed under the first administration, as distinctly
marked as those which have manifested themselves at any subse-
quent period. The contest immediately preceding the political
change in 1801, and that, again, which existed at the commence-
ment of the late war, are other instances of party excitement of
something more than usual strength and intensity. In all these
conflicts there was, no doubt, much of violence on both and all
sides. It would be impossible, if one had a fancy for such em-
ployment, to adjust the relative quantum of violence between
these contending parties. There was enough in each, as must
always be expected in popular governments. With a great deal
of proper and decorous discussion there was mingled a great deal
also, of declamation, virulence, qrimination, and abuse. In re-
gard to any party, probably, at one of the leading epochs in the
history of parties, enough may be found to make out another

Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) → online text (page 14 of 56)