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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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equally inflamed exhibition as that with which the honorable
Member has edified us. For myself, sir, I shall not rake among
the rubbish of bygone times to see what I can find, or whether
I cannot find something by which I can fix a blot on the
escutcheon of any State, any party, or any part of the country.
General Washington's administration was steadily and zealously
maintained, as we all know, by New England. It was violently
opposed elsewhere. We know in what quarter he had the most
earnest, constant, and persevering support in all his great and



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leading measures. We know where his private and personal
characters were held in the highest degree of attachment and
veneration; and we know, too, where his measures were opposed,
his services slighted, and his character vilified. We know, or we
might know, if we turned to the journals, who expressed respect,
gratitude, and regret when he retired from the Chief Magistracy;
and who refused to express their respect, gratitude, or regret. I
shall not open those journals. Publications more abusive or scur-
rilous never saw the light than were sent forth against Washing-
ton and all his leading measures from presses south of New
England. But I shall not look them up. I employ no scaven-
gers; no one is in attendance on me, tendering such means of
retaliation; and, if there were, with an ass's load of them, with
a bulk as huge as that which the gentleman himself has pro-
duced, I would not touch one of them. I see enough of the vio-
lence of our own times to be in no way anxious to rescue from
forgetfulness the extravagances of times past. Besides, what is
all this to the present purpose ? It has nothing to do with the
public lands, in regard to which the attack was begun; and it
has nothing to do with those sentiments and opinions, which, I
have thought, tend to disunion, and all of which the honorable
Member seems to have adopted himself and undertaken to de-
fend. New England has, at times, so argues the gentleman, held
opinions as dangerous as those which he now holds. Suppose
this were so, why should he, therefore, abuse New England ? If
he finds himself countenanced by acts of hers, how is it that,
while he relies on these acts, he covers, or seeks to cover, their
authors with reproach ? But, sir, if, in the course of forty years,
there have been undue effervescences of party in New England,
has the same thing happened nowhere else ? Party animosity and
party outrage, not in New England, but elsewhere, denounced
President Washington, not only as a Federalist, but as a Tory, a
British agent, a man who, in his high office, sanctioned corrup-
tion. But does the honorable Member suppose that, if I had a
tender here who should put such an effusion of wickedness and
folly in my hand, that I would stand up and read it against the
South? Parties ran into great heats again in 1799 and 1800.
What was said, sir, or rather what was not said, in those years
against John Adams, one of the signers of the Declaration of
Independence, and its admitted ablest defender on the floor of
Congress ? If the gentleman wishes to increase his stores of party



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DANIEL WEBSTER



abuse and frothy violence; if he has a determined proclivity to
such pursuits, there are treasures of that sort south of the Po-
tomac, much to his taste, yet untouched, — I shall not touch
them.

The parties which divided the country at the commencement
of the late war were violent. But, then, there was violence on
both sides and violence in every State. Minorities and majori-
ties were equally violent. There was no more violence against
the war in New England than in other States; nor any more
appearance of violence, except that, owing to a dense population,
greater facility of assembling, and more presses, there may have
been more in quantity spoken and printed there than in some
other places. In the article of sermons, too, New England is
somewhat more abundant than South Carolina; and for that rea-
son the chance of finding here and there an exceptional one may
be greater. I hope, too, there are more good ones. Opposition
may have been more formidable in New England, as it embraced
a larger portion of the whole population; but it was no more un-
restrained in its principle, or violent in manner. The minorities
dealt quite as harshly with their own State governments as the
majorities dealt with the administration here. There were presses
on both sides, popular meetings on both sides, aye, and pulpits
on both sides, also. The gentleman's purveyors have only catered
for him among the productions of one side. I certainly shall
not supply the deficiency by furnishing samples of the other, I
leave to him and to them the whole concern.

It is enough for me to say that if, in any part of this their
grateful occupation; if in all their researches they find anything
in the history of Massachusetts, or New England, or in the pro-
ceedings of any legislative or other public body disloyal to the
Union, speaking slightly of its value, proposing to break it up, or
recommending nonintercourse with neighboring States, on ac-
count of difference of political opinion, then, sir, I give them all
up to the honorable gentleman's unrestrained rebuke; expecting,
however, that he will extend his buffetings in like manner to all
similar proceedings, wherever else found.

The gentleman, sir, has spoken at large of former parties, now
no longer in being, by their received appellations, and has under-
taken to instruct us, not only in the knowledge of their principles,
but of their respective pedigrees also. He has ascended to the
origin and run out their genealogies. With most exemplary mod-



DANIEL WEBSTER



153



esty he speaks of the party to which he professes to have be-
longed himself, as the true pure, the only honest, patriotic party,
derived by regular descent from father to son from the time of
the virtuous Romans! Spreading before us the family tree of
political parties, he takes especial care to show himself snugly
perched on a popular bough! He is wakeful to the expediency
of adopting such rules of descent as shall bring him in, in exclu-
sion of others, as an heir to the inheritance of all public virtue
and all true political principle. His party and his opinions are
sure to be orthodox; heterodoxy is confined to his opponents. He
spoke, sir, of the Federalists, and I thought I saw some eyes begin
to open and stare a little when he ventured on that ground. I
expected he would draw his sketches rather lightly when he
looked on the circle around him, and especially if he should cast
his thoughts to the high places out of the Senate. Nevertheless,
he went back to Rome, ad annum urbe condita, and found the
fathers of the Federalists in the primeval aristocrats of that re-
nowned empire! He traced the flow of Federal blood down
through successive ages and centuries till he brought it into the
veins of the American Tories (of whom, by the way, there were
twenty in the Carolinas for one in Massachusetts). From the
Tories he followed it to the Federalists; and as the Federal
party was broken up, and there was no possibility of transmitting
it further on this side the Atlantic, he seems to have discovered
that it ha." gone off, collaterally, though against all the canons
of descent, into the Ultras of France, and finally become extin-
guished, like exploded gas, among the adherents of Don Miguel!
This, sir, is an abstract of the gentleman's history of Federalism.
I am not about to controvert it. It is not at present worth the
pains of refutation; because, sir, if at this day any one feels the
sin of Federalism lying heavily on his conscience, he can easily
procure remission. He may even obtain an indulgence, if he be
desirous of repeating the same transgression. It is an affair of
no difficulty to get into the same right line of patriotic descent.
A man nowadays is at liberty to choose his political parentage.
He may elect his own father. Federalist or not, he may, if he
choose, claim to belong to the favored stock, and his claim will
be allowed. He may carry back his pretensions just as far as
the honorable gentleman himself; nay, he may make himself out
the honorable gentleman's cousin, and prove satisfactorily that he
is descended from the same political great-grandfather. All this



7 54



DANIEL WEBSTER



is allowable. We all know a process, sir, by which the whole
Essex Junto could, in one hour, be all washed white from their
ancient Federalism, and come out, every one of them, an origi-
nal democrat, dyed in the wool! Some of them have actually
undergone the operation, and they say it is quite easy. The only
inconvenience it occasions, as they tell us, is a slight tendency of
the blood to the face, a soft suffusion, which, however, is very
transient, since nothing is said by those whom they join calcu-
lated to deepen the red on the cheek, but a prudent silence ob-
served in regard to all the past. Indeed, sir, some smiles of
approbation have been bestowed, and some crumbs of comfort
have fallen not a thousand miles from the door of the Hartford
Convention itself. And if the author of the Ordinance of 1787
possessed the other requisite qualifications, there is no knowing,
notwithstanding his Federalism, to what heights of favor he might
not yet attain.

Mr. President, in carrying his warfare, such as it was, into
New England, the honorable gentleman all along professes to be
acting on the defensive. He elects to consider me as having as-
sailed South Carolina, and insists that he comes forth only as her
champion and in her defense. Sir, I do not admit that I made
any attack whatever on South Carolina. Nothing like it. The
honorable Member in his first speech expressed opinions in regard
to revenue, and some other topics, which I heard both with pain
and with surprise. I told the gentleman I was aware that such
sentiments were entertained out of the Government, but had not
expected to find them advanced in it; that I knew there were
persons in the South who speak of our Union with indifference
or doubt, taking pains to magnify its evils and to say nothing of
its benefits; that the honorable Member himself I was sure could
never be one of these, and I regretted the expression of such
opinions as he had avowed because I thought their obvious tend-
ency was to encourage feelings of disrespect to the Union, and
to weaken its connection. This, sir, is the sum and substance of
all I said on the subject. And this constitutes the attack which
called on the chivalry of the gentleman, in his own opinion, to
harry us with such a foray among the party pamphlets and party
proceedings of Massachusetts! If he means that I spoke with
dissatisfaction or disrespect of the ebullitions of individuals in
South Carolinia, it is true. But if he means that I had assailed
the character of the State, her honor or patriotism ; that I had



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155



reflected on her history or her conduct, he had not the slightest
ground for any such assumption. I did not even refer, I think,
in my observations, to any collection of individuals. I said noth-
ing of the recent conventions. I spoke in the most guarded and
careful manner, and only expressed my regret for the publication
of opinions which I presumed the honorable Member disapproved
as much as myself. In this, it seems, I was mistaken. I do not
remember that the gentleman has disclaimed any sentiment or
any opinion of a supposed anti-Union tendency, which on all or
any of the recent occasions has been expressed. The whole drift
of his speech has been rather to prove that in divers times and
manners sentiments equally liable to my objection have been
promulgated in New England. And one would suppose that his
object in this reference to Massachusetts was to find a precedent
to justify proceedings in the South were it not for the reproach
and contumely with which he labors all along to load these, his
own chosen precedents. By way of defending South Carolina
from what he chooses to think an attack on her, he first quotes
the example of Massachusetts, and then denounces that example
in good set terms. This twofold purpose, not very consistent
with itself, one would think was exhibited more than once in the
course of his speech. He referred, for instance, to the Hartford
Convention. Did he do this for authority or for a topic of re-
proach ? Apparently for both ; for he told us that he should find
no fault with the mere fact of holding such a convention and
considering and discussing such questions as he supposes were
then and there discussed; but what rendered it obnoxious was
the time it was holden and the circumstances of the country then
existing. We were in a war, he said, and the country needed all
our aid — the hand of Government required to be strengthened,
not weakened — and patriotism should have postponed such pro-
ceedings to another day. The thing itself, then, is a precedent,
the time and manner of it only a subject of censure. Now, sir,
I go much further on this point than the honorable Member.
Supposing, as the gentleman seems to, that the Hartford Con-
vention assembled for any such purpose as breaking up the Union
because they thought unconstitutional laws had been passed, or to
consult on that subject, or to calculate the value of the Union, —
supposing this to be their purpose or any part of it, then, I say,
the meeting itself was disloyal, and was obnoxious to censure,
whether held in time of peace or time of war, or under whatever



156 DANIEL WEBSTER

circumstances. The material question is the object. Is dissolu-
tion the object ? If it be, external circumstances may make it a
more or less aggravated case, but cannot affect the principle. I
do not hold, therefore, sir, that the Hartford Convention was
pardonable, even to the extent of the gentleman's admission, if
its objects were really such as have been imputed to it. Sir, there
never was a time under any degree of excitement in which the
Hartford Convention, or any other convention, could maintain
itself one moment in New England if assembled for any such
purpose as the gentleman says would have been an allowable
purpose. To hold conventions to decide constitutional law! — to
try the binding validity of statutes by votes in a convention ! Sir,
the Hartford Convention, I presume, would not desire that the
honorable gentleman should be their defender or advocate if he
puts their case upon such untenable and extravagant grounds.

Then, sir, the gentleman has no fault to find with these re-
cently promulgated South Carolina opinions. And, certainly, he
need have none; for his own sentiments as now advanced, and
advanced on reflection as far as I have been able to comprehend
them, go the full length of all these opinions. I propose, sir, to
say something on these, and to consider how far they are just
and constitutional. Before doing that, however, let me observe
that the eulogium pronounced on the character of the State of
South Carolina by the honorable gentleman for her revolutionary
and other merits meets my hearty concurrence. I shall not ac-
knowledge that the honorable Member goes before me in regard
for whatever of distinguished talent or distinguished character
South Carolina has produced. I claim part of the honor, — I par-
take in the pride of her great names. I claim them for country-
men, one and all. The Laurenses, the Rutledges, the Pinckneys,
the Sumters, the Marions — Americans all — whose fame is no
more to be hemmed in by State lines than their talents and pa-
triotism were capable of being circumscribed within the same nar-
row limits. In their day and generation they served and honored
the country and the whole country; and their renown is of the
treasures of the whole country. Him whose honored name the
gentleman himself bears — does he esteem me less capable of grati-
tude for his patriotism or sympathy for his sufferings than if his
eyes had first opened upon the light of Massachusetts instead of
South Carolina ? Sir, does he suppose it in his power to exhibit a
Carolina name so bright as to produce envy in my bosom ? No,



DANIEL WEBSTER



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sir, increased gratification and delight, rather. I thank God that if
I am gifted with little of the spirit which is able to raise mortals
to the skies, I have yet none, as I trust, of that other spirit which
would drag angels down. When I shall be found, sir, in my
place here in the Senate, or elsewhere, to sneer at public merit
because it happens to spring up beyond the little limits of my
own State or neighborhood; when I refuse for any such cause, or
for any cause, the homage due to American talent, to elevated
patriotism, to sincere devotion to liberty and the country; or, if I
see an uncommon endowment of heaven — if I see extraordinary
capacity and virtue in any son of the South — and if, moved by
local prejudice, or gangrened by State jealousy, I get up here to
abate the tithe of a hair from his just character and just fame,
may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!

Sir, let me recur to pleasing recollections — let me indulge in
refreshing remembrances of the past — let me remind you that in
early times no States cherished greater harmony, both of princi-
ple and feeling, than Massachusetts and South Carolina. Would
to God that harmony might again return! Shoulder to shoulder
they went through the Revolution — hand in hand they stood
round the administration of Washington and felt his own great
arm lean on them for support. Unkind feeling, if it exist, aliena-
tion and distrust, are the growth, unnatural to such soils, of false
principles since sown. They are weeds, the seeds of which that
same great arm never scattered.

Mr. President, I shall enter on no encomium upon Massachu-
setts — she needs none. There she is — behold her, and judge for
yourselves. There is her history; the world knows it by heart.
The past, at least, is secure. There is Boston, and Concord, and
Lexington, and Bunker Hill — and there they will remain for-
ever. The bones of her sons, falling in the great struggle for
independence, now lie mingled with the soil of every State, from
New England to Georgia; and there they will lie forever. And,
sir, where American liberty raised its first voice; and where its
youth was nurtured and sustained, there it still lives, in the
strength of its manhood and full of its original spirit. If discord
and disunion shall wound it — if party strife and blind ambition
shall hawk at and tear it — if folly and madness — if uneasiness,
under salutary and necessary restraint shall succeed to separate
it from that union, by which alone its existence is made sure, it
will stand, in the end, by the side of that cradle in which its



158 DANIEL WEBSTER

infancy was rocked; it will stretch forth its arm with whatever of
vigor it may still retain, over the friends who gather round it;
and it will fall at last, if fall it must, amidst the proudest monu-
ments of its own glory, and on the very spot of its origin.

There yet remains to be performed, Mr. President, by far the
most grave and important duty, which I feel to be devolved on
me by this occasion. It is to state and to defend what I con-
ceive to be the true principles of the Constitution under which
we are here assembled. I might well have desired that so
weighty a task should have fallen into other and abler hands. I
could have wished that it should have been executed by those
whose character and experience give weight and influence to
their opinions, such as cannot possibly belong to mine. But, sir,
I have met the occasion, not sought it; and I shall proceed to
state my own sentiments, without challenging for them any par-
ticular regard, with studied plainness and as much precision as
possible.

__^I understand the honorable gentleman from South Carolina to
maintain that it is a right of the State legislatures to interfere,
whenever, in their judgment, this Government transcends its con-
stitutional limits, and to arrest the operation of its laws.

I understand him to maintain this right; as a right existing
imder the Constitution, not as a right to overthrow it on the
ground of extreme necessity, such as would justify violent revo-
lution.

I understand him to maintain an authority, on the part of the
States, thus to interfere, for the purpose of correcting the exer-
cise of power by the General Government, of checking it and of
compelling it to conform to their opinion of the extent of its
powers.

I understand him to maintain that the ultimate power of judg-
ing of the constitutional extent of its own authority is not lodged
exclusively in the General Government or any branch of it; but"
that, on the contrary, the States may lawfully decide for thenT*
selves, and each State for itself, whether in a given case the act
of the General Government transcends its power.

I understand him to insist that if the exigency of the case, in
the opinion of any State government, require it, such State gov-
ernment may, by its own sovereign authority, annul an act of
the General Government which it deems plainly and palpably un-
constitutional.



DANIEL WEBSTER



159



This is the sum of what I understand from him to be the
South Carolina doctrine, and the doctrine which he maintains. I
propose to consider it and compare it with the Constitution. Al-
low me to say as a preliminary remark that I call this the South
Carolina doctrine only because the gentleman himself has so de-
nominated it. I do not feel at liberty to say that South Caro-
lina, as a State, has ever advanced these sentiments. I hope she
has not and never may. That a great majority of her people
are opposed to the tariff laws is doubtless true. That a majority
somewhat less than that just mentioned conscientiously believe
these laws unconstitutional may probably also be true. But that
any majority holds to the right of direct State interference, at
State discretion, the right of nullifying acts of Congress, by acts
of State legislation, is more than I know and what I shall be slow
to believe.

That there are individuals besides the honorable gentleman
who do maintain these opinions is quite certain. I recollect the
recent expression of a sentiment, which circumstances attending
its utterance and publication justify us in supposing was not un-
premeditated. ^^ The sovereignty of the State — never to be con-
trolled, construed, or decided on, but by her own feelings of
honorable justice.'^

[Mr. Hayne here rose and said that for the purpose of being clearly
understood, he would state that his proposition was in the words of
the Virginia Resolution as follows: —

"That this assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare that it views
the powers of the Federal Government as resulting from the compact to which
the States are parties, as limited by the plain sense and intention of the in-
strument constituting that compact, as no further valid than they are au-
thorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that, in case of a
deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by
the said compact, the States who are parties thereto have the right and are
in duty bound to interpose, for arresting the progress of the evil and for main-
taining within their respective limits the authorities, rights, and liberties ap-
pertaining to them.»]

I am quite aware, Mr. President, of the existence of the resolu-
tion which the gentleman read and has now repeated, and that
he relies on it as his authority. I know the source, too, from
which it is understood to have proceeded. I need not say that
I have much respect for the constitutional opinions of Mr. Madi-
son; they would weigh greatly with me always. But, before the



l6o DANIEL WEBSTER

authority of his opinion be vouched for the gentleman's proposi-
tion, it will be proper to consider what is the fair interpretation
of that resolution to which Mr. Madison is understood to have
given his sanction. As the gentleman construes it, it is an au-
thority for him. Possibly he may not have adopted the right
construction. That resolution declares that in the case of the
dangerous exercise of powers not granted by the General Gov-
ernment, the States may interpose to arrest the progress of the
evil. But how interpose, and what does this declaration purport ?
Does it mean no more than that there may be extreme cases in
which the people in any mode of assembling may resist usurp-
ation and relieve themselves from a tyrannical government ? No



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 15 of 56)