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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abuse, indeed. Governments may themselves become the worst
engines of oppression. For this purpose treaties are entered into,
and the law of nations acknowleged between foreign States.
Constitutions and municipal laws and compacts are ordained, or
enacted, or concluded, to secure the same great end. No men
understood this, the philosophy and aim of all just government,
better than the framers of our Federal Constitution. No men
tried more faithfully to secure the Government which they were
instituting, from this mischief; and had the country over which
it was established been circumscribed by nature to the limits
which it then had, their work would have, perhaps, been perfect,
enduring for ages. But the wisest among them did not foresee —
who, indeed, that was less than omniscient could have foreseen ?
— the amazing rapidity with which new settlements and new
States have sprung up, as if by enchantment, in the wilderness;
or that political necessity or lust for territorial aggrandizement
would in sixty years have given us new Territories and States
equal in extent to the entire area of the country for which they
were then framing a Government ? They were not priests or

Clement l. vallandigham


propnets to that God of manifest destiny whom we now worship,
and will continue to worship, whether united into one Confeder-
acy still, or divided into many. And yet it is this very acquisi-
tion of territory which has given strength, though not birth, to
that sectionalism which already has broken in pieces this, the
noblest Government ever devised by the wit of man. Not fore-
seeing the evil or the necessity, they did not guard against its
results. Believing that the great danger to the system which
they were about to inaugurate lay rather in the jealousy of the
State governments towards the power and authority delegated to
the Federal Government, they defended it diligently against that
danger. Apprehending that the larger States might aggress upon
the rights of the smaller States, they provided that no State
should, without its consent, be deprived of its equal suffrage in
the Senate. Lest the Legislative Department might encroach upon
the Executive, they gave to the President the self-protecting power
of a qualified veto, and in turn made the President impeachable
by the two houses of Congress. Satisfied that the several State
governments were strong enough to protect themselves from Fed-
eral aggressions, if, indeed, not too strong for the efficiency of
the General Government, they thus devised a system of internal
checks and balances looking chiefly to the security of the several
departments from aggression upon each other, and to prevent
the system from being used to the oppression of individuals. I
think, sir, that the debates in the Federal Convention and in the
conventions of the several States called to ratify the Constitution,
as well as the cotemporaneous letters and publications of the
time, will support me in the statement that the friends of the
Constitution wholly underestimated the power and influence of
the Government which they were establishing. Certainly, sir,
many of the ablest statesmen of that day earnestly desired a
stronger Government; and it was the policy of Mr. Hamilton,
and of the Federal party which he created, to strengthen the Gen-
eral Government; and hence the funding and protective systems
— the national bank, and other similar schemes of finance, along
with the "general-welfare doctrine,** and a liberal construction of
the Constitution.

Sir, the framers of the Constitution — and I speak it rever-
ently, but with the freedom of history — failed to foresee the
strength and centralizing tendencies of the Federal Government.
They mistook wholly the real danger to the system. They looked



for it in the aggressions of the large States upon the small
States without regard to geographical position, and accordingly
guarded jealously in this direction, giving for this purpose, as I
have said, the power of a self-protecting veto in the Senate to
the small States, by means of their equal suffrage in that Cham-
ber, and forbidding even amendment of the Constitution in this
particular, without the consent of every State. But they seem
wholly to have overlooked the danger of sectional combinations
as against other sections, and to the injury and oppression of
other sections, to secure possession of the several departments of
the Federal Government, and of the vast powers and influence
which belong to them. In like manner, too, they seem to have
utterly underestimated slavery as a disturbing element in the
system, possibly because it existed still in almost every State;
but chiefly because the growth and manufacture of cotton had
scarcely yet been commenced in the United States : because cotton
was not yet crowned king. The vast extent of the patronage of
the Executive, and the immense power and influence which it
exerts, seem also to have been altogether underestimated. And
independent of all these, or rather perhaps in connection with
them, there were inherent defects incident to the nature of all
Governments; some of them peculiar to our system, and to the
circumstances of the country, and the character of the people
over which it was instituted, which no human sagacity could
have foreseen, but which have led to evils, mischiefs, and abuses,
which time and experience alone have disclosed. The men who
made our Government were human; they were men, and they
made it for men of like passions and infirmities with themselves.

Such, sir, I repeat, then, is the central Government of the
United States, and such its great and tremendous powers and
honors and emoluments. With such powers, such honors, such
patronage, and such revenues, is it any wonder, I ask, that every-
thing, yes, even virtue, truth, justice, patriotism, and the Consti-
tution itself, should be sacrificed to obtain possession of it ?
There is no such glittering prize to be contended for every four
or two years, anywhere throughout the whole earth; and accord-
ingly, from the beginning, and every year more and more, it has
been the object of the highest and lowest, the purest and the
most corrupt ambition known among" men. Parties and combi-
nations have existed from the first, and have been changed and


reorganized and built up and cast down from the earliest period
of our history to this day, all for the purpose of controlling the
powers, and honors, and the moneys of the central Government.
For a good many years parties were organized upon questions of
finance or of political economy. Upon the subjects of a perma-
nent public debt, a national bank, the public deposits, a protective
tariff, internal improvements, the disposition of the public lands,
and other questions of a similar character, all of them looking to
the special interests of the moneyed classes, parties were for a
long while divided. The different kinds of capitalists sometimes
also disagreed among themselves — the manufacturers with the
commercial men of the country; and in this manner party issues
were occasionally made up. But the great dividing line at last
was always between capital and labor — between the few who
had money and who wanted to use the Government to increase
and ^' protect ^^ it, as the phrase goes, and the many who had lit-
tle but wanted to keep it, and who only asked Government to let
them alone.

Money, money, sir, was at the bottom of the political contests
of the times; and nothing so curiously demonstrates the immense
power of money as the fact that in a country where there is no
entailment of estates, no law of primogeniture, no means of keep-
ing up vast accumulations of wealth in particular families, no ex-
clusive privileges, and where universal suffrage prevails, these
contests should have continued, with various fortune, for full half
a century. But at the last the opponents of Democracy, known
at different periods of the struggle by many different names,
but around whom the moneyed interests always rallied, were over-
borne and utterly dispersed. The Whig party, their last refuge,
the last and ablest of the economic parties, died out; and the
politicians who were not of the Democratic party, with a good
many more, also, who had been of it, but who had deserted it, or
whom it had deserted, were obliged to resort to some other and
new element for an organization which might be made strong
enough to conquer and to destroy the Democracy, and thus ob-
tain control of the Federal Government. And most unfortunately
for the peace of the country, and for the perpetuity, I fear, of the
Union itself, they found the nucleus of s"ch an organization ready
formed to their hands — an organization, odious, indeed, in name,
but founded upon two of the most powerful passions of the
10 — 3


human heart: sectionalism, which is only a narrow and localized
patriotism, and antislavery, or love of freedom, which commonly is
powerful just in proportion as it is very near coming home to one's
own self, or very far off, so that either self-interest or the imagi-
nation can have full power to act. And here let me remark
that it had so happened that almost, if not quite, from the begin-
ning of the Government, the South, or slaveholding section of
the Union — partly because the people of the South are chiefly
an agricultural and producing, a noncommercial and nonmanu-
facturing people, and partly because there is no conflict, or little
conflict, among them between labor and capital, inasmuch as to a
considerable extent capital owns a large class of their laborers
not of the white race; and it may be also because, as Mr. Burke
said many years ago, the holders of slaves are ^'by far the most
proud and jealous of their freedom,*^ and because the aristocracy
of birth, and family, and of talent, is more highly esteemed among
them than the aristocracy of wealth — but no matter from what
cause, the fact was that the South for fifty years was nearly al-
ways on the side of the Democratic party. It was the natural
ally of the Democracy of the North, and especially of the West.
Geographical position and identity of interests bound us together;
and till this sectional question of slavery arose, the South and
the new States of the West were always together; and the latter,
in the beginning at least, always Democratic. Sir, there was not a
triumph of the Democratic party in half a century which was not
'won by the aid of the statesmen and the people of the South. I
would not be understood, however, as intimating that the South
was ever slow to appropriate her full share of the spoils — the opiina
spolia of victory; or especially that the politicians of that great
and noble old Commonwealth of Virginia — God bless her — were
ever remarkable for the grace of self-denial in this regard — not
at all. But it was natural, sir, that they who had been so many
times, and for so many years, baffled and defeated by the aid of
the South, should entertain no very kindly feelings towards her.
And here I must not omit to say that all this time there was
a powerful minority in the whole South, sometimes a majority
in the whole South, and always in some of the States of the
South, who belonged to the several parties which, at different
times, contended with the Democracy for the possession and con-
trol of the Federal Government. Parties in those days were not



sectional, but extended into every State and every part of the
Union. And, indeed, in the convention of 1787, the possibility, or
at least the probability, of sectional combinations seems, as I have
already said, to have been almost wholly overlooked. Washing-
ton, it is true, in his Farewell Address warned us against them,
but it was rather as a distant vision than as a near reality; and
a few years later, Mr. Jefferson speaks of a possibility of the peo-
ple of the Mississippi Valley seceding from the East; for even
then a division of the Union, North and South, or by slave lines,
in the Union or out of it, seems scarcely to have been contem-
plated. The letter of Mr. Jefferson upon this subject, dated in
1803, is a curious one; and I commend it to the attention of gen-
tlemen upon both sides of the House.

So long, sir, as the South maintained its equality in the Sen-
ate, and something like equality in population, strength, and ma-
terial resources in the country, there was little to invite aggression,
while there were the means, also, to repel it. But, in the course
of time, the South lost its equality in the other wing of the
Capitol, and every year the disparity between the two sections
became greater and greater. Meantime, too, the antislavery sen-
timent, which had lain dormant at the North for many years
after the inauguration of the Federal Government, began, just
about the time of the emancipation in the British West Indies,
to develop itself in great strength, and with wonderful rapidity.
It had appeared, indeed, with much violence at the period of the
admission of Missouri, and even then shook the Union to its
foundation. And yet how little a sectional controversy, based
upon such a question, had been foreseen by the founders of the
Government may be learned from Mr. Jefferson's letter to Mr.
Holmes, in 1820, where he speaks of it falling upon his ear like
"a fire bell in the night.** Said he: —

«I considered it, at once, as the death knell of the Union. It is
hushed, indeed, for the moment; but this is a reprieve only, not a
final sentence. A geographical line, coinciding with a marked prin-
ciple, moral and political ** —

Sir, it is this very coincidence of geographical line with the
marked principle, moral and political, of slavery, which I propose
to reach and to obliterate in the only way possible; by running
other lines, coinciding with other and less dangerous principles.



none of them moral, and, above all, with other and conflicting
interests —

" A geographical line coinciding with a marked principle, moral
and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of
men, will never be obliterated, and every new irritation will mark it
deeper and deeper.* . . . *I regret that I am now to die in
the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves by the generation
of 1776, to acquire self-government and happiness to their country, is
to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their
sons; and that my only consolation is to be that I shall not live to
weep over it.**

Fortunate man ! He did not live to weep over it. To-day he
sleeps quietly beneath the soil of his own Monticello, unconscious
that the mighty fabric of Government which he helped to rear —
a Government whose foundations were laid by the hands of so
many patriots and sages, and cemented by the blood of so many
martyrs and heroes — hastens now, day by day, to its fall. What
recks he, or that other great man, his compeer, fortunate in life
and opportune alike in death, whose dust they keep at Quincy, of
those dreadful notes of preparation in every State for civil strife
and fraternal carnage; or of that martial array which already
has changed this once peaceful capital into a beleaguered city ?
Fortunate men! They died while the Constitution yet survived,
while the Union survived, while the spirit of fraternal affection
still lived, and the love of true American liberty lingered yet in
the hearts of their descendants.



|iR Henry Vane, in many ways the noblest product of English
Puritanism, was deeply influenced both by the Bible and
the Classical Renaissance. The revival of classical learning
among the English aristocracy had produced such many-sided char-
acters, as Sir Walter Raleigh, while the general circulation of the
Bible among the masses had resulted in the contemporaneous devel-
opment of a class of intellects as much in the lineal succession from
Jerusalem in the time of David as Raleigh's was from Rome in the
time of Augustus. Cromwell represented the Renaissance of the He-
braic intellect of the time of the Judges. Vane stood for Christianity
modified by the classical revival. He came as close to Paul at Athens
as Cromwell did to Joshua at Jericho. It was inevitable that such a
man should oppose Cromwell's military absolutism, and he did it as
resolutely as he had opposed the divine right of the Stuarts. He was
born in Kent in 161 2. His father, Sir Henry Vane, was comptroller of
the household of Charles I., and there was nothing in the antecedents
of his family to make any member of it an opponent of royal power.
In his early youth, however, the younger Vane adopted religious views
which controlled his life in spite of hereditary influences and social
connections. When he associated himself with Pym and the popular
party, his ability was so marked that strong efforts were made to win
him to the royal party. He had emigrated to Massachusetts, and, after
serving a term as Governor of the Province, had returned and taken
the leadership of the Independents in the Short Parliament. The
King knighted him, and made him Joint Treasurer of the Navy, but
throughout his life he remained faithful to the cause of popular gov-
ernment, not only against Charles but against Cromwell. After the
Protectorate had become a military dictatorship, Cromwell was obliged
to send Vane to prison. Elected to Parliament after Cromwell's death,
he attacked and was chiefly instrumental in overthrowing the protec-
torate of Richard Cromwell. After the Restoration, Charles II. wrote
Clarendon that Vane was <*too dangerous a man to let live if we can
honestly put him out of the way.'^ He was accordingly arrested on a
charge of high treason, and, after the formality of trial, was executed
on June 14th, 1662.





(Delivered in Parliament in 1659 — The Text Complete as Given in the

< Biographia Britannica ^)

Mr. Speaker: —

AMONG all the people of the universe, I know none who have
shown so much zeal for the liberty of their country as the
English at this time have done ; — they have, by the help
of Divine Providence, overcome all obstacles, and have made
themselves free. We have driven away the hereditary tyranny
of the house of Stuart, at the expense of much blood and treas-
ure, in hopes of enjoying hereditary liberty, after having shaken
o£E the yoke of kingship; and there is not a man among us who
could have imagined that any person would be so bold as to
dare to attempt the ravishing from us that freedom which cost
us so much blood and so much labor. But so it happens, I
know not by what misfortune, we are fallen into the error of
those who poisoned the Emperor Titus to make room for Domi-
tian; who made away Augustus that they might have Tiberius;
and changed Claudius for Nero. I am sensible these examples
are foreign from my subject, since the Romans in those days
were buried in lewdness and luxury, whereas the people of Eng-
land are now renowned all over the world for their great virtue
and discipline; and yet, — suffer an idiot, without courage, without
sense, — nay, without ambition, — to have dominion in a country
of liberty! One could bear a little with Oliver Cromwell, though,
contrary to his oath of fidelity to the Parliament, contrary to his
duty to the public, contrary to the respect he owed that venera-
ble body from whom he received his authority, he usurped the
Government. His merit was so extraordinary, that our judg-
ments, our passions, might be blinded by it. He made his way
to empire by the most illiistrious actions; he had under his com-
mand an army that had made him a conqueror, and a people
that had made him their general. But, as for Richard Cromwell,
his son, who is he ? what are his titles ? We have seen that he
had a sword by his side ; but did he ever draw it ? And what
is of more importance in this case, is he fit to get obedience
from a mighty Nation, who could never make a footman obey
him ? Yet, we must recognize this man as our King, under the


style of Protector! — a man without birth, without courage, with-
out conduct! For my part, I declare, sir, it shall never be said
that I made such a man my master!


(From His Address to the Court, Asking an Arrest of Judgment at His Trial

for High Treason, 1662)

THE duty which we owe to God, the universal king, nature and
Christianity do so clearly teach and assert, that it needs no
more than to be named. For this subjection and allegiance
to God and his laws, by a right so indisputable, all are account-
able before the judgment seat of Christ.

It is true, indeed, men may de facto become open rebels to
God and to his laws, and prove such as forfeit his protection,
and engage him to proceed against them as his professed enemies.
But, with your lordship's favor, give me leave to say that that
which you have made a rule for your proceedings in my case
will indeed hold, and that very strongly, in this; that is to say,
in the sense wherein Christ the Son of God is king de jure^ not
only in general, over the whole world, but in particular, in rela-
tion to these three kingdoms. He ought not to be kept out of
his throne, nor his visible government, that consists in the au-
thority of his word and laws, suppressed and trampled under
foot, under any pretense whatsoever.

And in asserting and adhering unto the right of this highest
sovereign as stated in the covenant before mentioned, the lords
and commons jointly, before the year 1648, and the commons
alone afterwards, to the very times charged in the indictment,
did manage the war and late differences within these kingdoms.
And whatever defections did happen by apostates, hypocrites, and
time-serving worldlings, there was a party amongst them that
did continue firm, sincere, and chaste unto the last, and loved it
better than their very lives; of which number I am not ashamed
to profess myself to be: not so much admiring the form and
words of the covenant, as the righteous and holy ends therein
expressed, and the true sense and meaning thereof, which I have
reason to know.

Nor will I deny, but that, as to the manner of the prosecu-
tion of the covenant to other ends than itself warrants, and with



a rig-id oppressive spirit, to bring all dissenting minds and ten-
der consciences under one uniformity of church discipline and
government, it was utterly against my judgment. For I always
esteemed it more agreeable to the word of God, that the ends
and work declared in the covenant should be promoted in a spirit
of love and forbearance to differing judgments and consciences,
that thereby we might be approving ourselves, *Mn doing that to
others which we desire they would to us '^ ; and so, though upon
different principles, be found joint and faithful advancers of the
reformation contained in the covenant, both public and personal.

This happy union and conjunction of all interests in the re-
spective duties of all relations, agreed and consented to by the
coiumon suffrage of the three nations, as well in their public par-
liamentary capacity, as private stations, appeared to me a rule
and measure approved of, and commanded by Parliament, for my
action and deportment, though it met with great opposition, in a
tedious, sad, and long war; and this under the name and pretext
of royal authority. Yet, as this case appeared to me in my con-
science, under all its circumstances of times, of persons, and of
revolutions inevitably happening by the hand of God and the
course of his wise providences, I held it safest and best to keep
my station in Parliament to the last, under the guidance and pro-
tection of their authority, and in pursuance of the ends before
declared in my just defense.

This general and public case of the kingdoms is so well
known by the declarations and actions that have passed on both
sides, that I need but name it; since this matter was not done in
a corner, but frequently contended for in the high places of the
field, and written even with characters of blood. And out of the
bowels of these public differences and disputes doth my particu-
lar case arise, for which I am called into question. But admit-
ting it come to my lot to stand single, in the witness I am to
give to this glorious cause, and to be left alone (as in a sort I

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 3 of 56)