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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 4) online

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motives and committed with an unlawful intent. '^ . . . ^^ The
President of the United States, therefore, has been, by a majority
of his constitutional triers, accused and found guilty of an im-
peachable offense.'^

Such are the deliberate views, entertained by the President,
of the implications, effects, and consequences of the resolution.
It is scarcely necessary to say that they are totally different from
any which were entertained by the Senate, or by the mover of
the resolution. The Senate carefully abstained from looking into
the quo animo, from all examination into the motives or intention
with which the violation of the Constitution and laws was made.
No one knows those motives and intentions better than the
President himself. If he chooses to supply the omission of the
resolution, if he thinks proper to pronounce his own self-
condemnation, his guilt does not flow from what the Senate has
done, but from his own avowal. Having cautiously avoided pass-
ing upon his guilt by prejudgment, so neither ought his ac-
quittal to be pronounced by anticipation.

But, I would ask, in what tone, temper, and spirit does the
President come to the Senate ? As a great State culprit who
has been arraigned at the bar of justice, or sentenced as guilty ?
Does he manifest any of those compunctious visitings of con-
science which a guilty violator of the constitution and laws of
the land ought to feel ? Does he address himself to a high court
with the respect, to say nothing of humility, which a person ac-
cused or convicted would naturally feel ? No, no. He comes
as if the Senate were guilty, as if he were in the judgment
seat, and the Senate stood accused before him. He arraigns the
Senate; puts it upon trial; condemns it; he comes as if he felt
himself elevated far above the Senate, and beyond all reach of
the law, surrounded by unapproachable impunity. He who pro-
fesses to be an innocent and injured man gravely accuses the
Senate, and modestly asks it to put upon its own record his sen-
tence of condemnation! When before did the arraigned or con-
victed party demand of the court which was to try, or had
condemned him, to enter upon their records a severe denunci-
ation of their own conduct? The President presents himself



HENRY CLAY



19



before the Senate, not in the garb of suffering innocence, but in
imperial and royal costume — as a dictator, to rebuke a refractory
Senate; to command it to record his solemn protest; to chastise
it for disobedience.

<<The hearts of princes kiss obedience,
So much they love it; but to stubborn spirits
They swell, and grow as terrible as storms.* ^

We shall better comprehend the nature of the request which
the President has made of the Senate, by referring to his own
opinions expressed in the protest. He says that the resolution
is a recorded sentence, "but without precedent, just cause, or
competent authority.* He "is perfectly convinced that the dis-
cussion and passage of the above-mentioned resolutions were not
only unauthorized by the Constitution, but in many respects re-
pugnant to its provisions, and subversive of the rights secured
by it to other co-ordinate departments." We had no right, it
seems, then, even to discuss, much less express any opinion, on
the President's proceedings encroaching upon our constitutional
powers. And what right had the President to look at all into
our discussions ? What becomes of the constitutional provision
which, speaking of Congress, declares, "for any speech or de-
bate in either house, they shall not be questioned in any other
place * ?

The President thinks "the resolution of the Senate is wholly
unauthorized by the Constitution, and in derogation of its entire
spirit.* He proclaims that the passage, recording, and promulga-
tion of the resolution affixes guilt and disgrace to the President,
" in a manner unauthorized by the Constitution. * But, says the
President, if the Senate had just caiise to entertain the belief
that the House of Representatives would not impeach him, that
cannot justify "the assumption by the Senate of powers not con-
ferred by the Constitution.* The protest continues: "It is only
necessary to look at the condition in which the Senate and the
President have been placed by this proceeding, to perceive its
utter incompatibility with the provisions and the spirit of the
Constitution, and with the plainest dictates of humanity and jus-
tice.* A majority of the Senate assume the function which be-
longs to the House of Representatives, and " convert themselves
into accusers, witnesses, counsel, and judges, and prejudge the
whole case.* F ihe House of Representatives shall consider



20 HENRY CLAY

that there is no cause of impeachment, and prefer none, "then
will the violation of privilege as it respects that House, of justice
as it regards the President, and of the Constitution as it relates
to both, be more conspicuous and impressive.^* The Senate is
charged with the " unconstitutional power of arraigning and cen-
suring the official conduct of the Executive.'* The people, says
the protest, will be compelled to adopt the conclusion, ^* either
that the Chief Magistrate was unworthy of their respect, or that
the Senate was chargeable with calumny and injustice.** There
can be no doubt which branch of this alternative was intended
to be applied. The President throughout the protest labors to
prove himself worthy of all respect from the people. Finally,
the President says : " It is due to the high trust with which I
have been charged, to those who may be called to succeed me
in it, to the representatives of the people whose constitutional
prerogative has been unlawfully assumed, to the people and to
the States, and to the Constitution they have established, that I
should not permit its provisions to be broken down by such an
attack on the Executive department, without at least some effort
* to preserve, protect, and defend them. * **

These are the opinions which the President expresses in the
protest, of the conduct of the Senate. In every form, and every
variety of expression, he accuses it of violating the express lan-
guage and spirit of the Constitution; of encroaching not only on
his prerogatives, but those of the House of Representatives; of
forgetting the sacred character and impartiality which belong
to the highest court of justice in the Union; of injustice, of in-
humanity, and of calumny. And we are politely requested to
spread upon our own journal these opinions entertained of us
by the President, that they may be perpetually preserved and
handed down to posterity! The President respectfully requests
it! He might as well have come to us and respectfully requested
us to allow him to pull our noses, or kick us, or receive his
stripes upon our backs. The degradation would not have been
much more humiliating.

The President tells us, in the same protest, that any breach
or violation of the Constitution and laws draws after it, and neces-
sarily implies, volition and design, and that the legal conclusion
is that it was prompted by improper motives and committed
with an unlawful intent. He pronounces, therefore, that the
Senate, in the violations of the Constitution which he deliberately



HENRY CLAY 21

imputes to it, is guilty; that volition and design, on the part of
the Senate, are necessarily implied; and that the legal conclusion
is that the Senate was prompted by improper motives, and com-
mitted the violation with an unlawful intent. And he most
respectfully and kindly solicits the Senate to overleap the re-
straint of the Constitution, which limits its journal to the record
of its own proceedings, and place alongside of them his sentence
of condemnation of the Senate,

That the President did not intend to make the journal of the
Senate a medium of conveying his sentiments to the people is
manifest. He knows perfectly well how to address to them his
appeals. And the remarkable fact is established, by his private
secretary, that, simultaneously with the transmission to the Sen-
ate of his protest, a duplicate was transmitted to the Globe, his
official paper, for publication; and it was forthwith published ac-
cordingly. For what purpose, then, was it sent here ? It is pain-
ful to avow the belief, but one is compelled to think it was only
sent in a spirit of insult and defiance.

The President is not content with vindicating his own rights.
He steps forward to maintain the privileges of the House of
Representatives also. Why ? Was it to make the House his
ally, and to excite its indignation against the offending Senate ?
Is not the House perfectly competent to sustain its own privi-
leges against every assault ? I should like to see, sir, a resolu-
tion introduced into the House, alleging a breach of its privileges
by a resolution of the Senate, which was intended to maintain
unviolated the constitutional rights of both houses in regard to
the public purse, and to be present at its discussion.

The President exhibits great irritation and impatience at the
presumptuousness of a resolution, which, without the imputation
of any bad intention or design, ventures to allege that he has
violated the Constitution and Laws. His constitutional and offi-
cial infallibility must not be questioned. To controvert it is an
act of injustice, inhumanity, and calumny. He is treated as a
criminal, and, without summons, he is prejudged, condemned, and
sentenced. Is the President scrupulously careful of the memory
of the dead, or the feelings of the living, in respect to violations
of the Constitution ? If a violation by him implies criminal
guilt, a violation by them cannot be innocent and guiltless. And
how has the President treated the memory of the immortal
Father of his Country ? that great man, who, for purity of pur-



2^ HENRY CLAY

pose and character, wisdom and moderation, unsullied virtue and
unsurpassed patriotism, is without competition in past history or
among living men, and whose equal we scarcely dare hope will
ever be again presented as a blessing to mankind. How has he
been treated by the President ? Has he not again and again
pronounced that, by approving the bill chartering the first Bank
of the United States, Washington violated the Constitution of his
country ? That violation, according to the President, included
volition and design, was prompted by improper motives, and was
committed with an unlawful intent. It was the more inexcusable
in Washington, because he assisted and presided in the conven-
tion which formed the Constitution. If it be unjust to arraign,
try unheard, and condemn as guilty, a living man filling an ex-
alted office, with all the splendor, power, and influence which
that office possesses, how much more cruel is it to disturb the
sacred and venerated ashes of the illustrious dead, who can raise
no voice and make no protests against the imputation of high
crime !

What has been the treatment of the President towards that
other illustrious man, yet spared to us, but who is lingering upon
the very verge of eternity ? Has he abstained from charging the
Father of the Constitution with criminal intent in violating the
Constitution ? Mr. Madison, like Washington, assisted in the for-
mation of the Constitution; was one of its ablest expounders
and advocates; and was opposed, on constitutional ground, to the
first Bank of- the United States. But, yielding to the force of
circumstances, and especially to the great principle, that the
peace and stability of human society require that a controverted
question, which has been finally settled by all the departments
of Government by long acquiescence, and by the people them-
selves, should not be open to perpetual dispute and disturbance,
he approved the bill chartering the present Bank of the United
States. Even the name of James Madison, which is but an-
other for purity, patriotism, profound learning, and enlightened
experience, cannot escape the imputations of his present suc-
cessor.

And, lastly, how often has he charged Congress itself with
open violations of the Constitution ? Times almost without num-
ber. During the present session he has sent in a message, in
regard to the land bill, in which he has charged it with an un-
disguised violation. A violation so palpable, that it is not even



HENRY CLAY



23



disguised, and must, therefore, necessarily imply a criminal in-
tent. Sir, the advisers of the President, whoever they are, deceive
him and themselves. They have vainly supposed that, by an
appeal to the people, and an exhibition of the wounds of the
President, they could enlist the sympathies and the commisera-
tion of the people — that the name of Andrew Jackson would
bear down the Senate and all opposition. They have yet to
learn, what they will soon learn, that even a good and responsi-
ble name may be used so frequently, as an indorser, that its
credit and the public confidence in its solidity have been seri-
ously impaired. They mistake the intelligence of the people,
who are not prepared to see and sanction the President putting
forth indiscriminate charges of a violation of the Constitution
against whomsoever he pleases, and exhibiting unmeasured rage
and indignation, when his own infallibihty is dared to be ques-
tioned.



ON THE EXPUNGING RESOLUTIONS

(Peroration of the Speech of January i6th, 1837, Delivered in the United
States Senate Against Andrew Jackson)

Mr. President: —

WHAT patriotic purpose is to be accomplished by this Expung-
ing resolution ? What new honor or fresh laurels will it
win for our common country ? Is the power of the Sen-
ate so vast that it ought to be circumscribed, and that of the
President so restricted that it ought to be extended ? What power
has the Senate ? None, separately. It can only act jointly with
the other House, or jointly with the Executive. And although
the theory of the Constitution supposes, when consulted by him,
it may freely give an affirmative or negative response, according
to the practice, as it now exists, it has lost the faculty of pro-
nouncing the negative monosyllable. When the Senate expresses
its deliberate judgment, in the form of resolution, that resolution
has no compulsory force, but appeals only to the dispassionate
intelligence, the calm reason, and the sober judgment, of the
communit}^ The Senate has no army, no navy, no patronage,
no lucrative offices, no glittering honors, to bestow. Around us
there is no swarm of greedy expectants, rendering us homage,
anticipating our wishes, and ready to execute our commands.



2A HENRY CLAY

How is it with the President ? Is he powerless ? He is felt
from one extremity to the other of this vast republic. By means
of principles which he has introduced, and innovations which he
has made in our institutions, alas! but too much countenanced
by Congress and a confiding people, he exercises, uncontrolled,
the power of the State. In one hand he holds the purse, and in
the other brandishes the sword of the country. Myriads of de-
pendants and partisans, scattered over the land, are ever ready
to sing hosannas to him, and to laud to the skies whatever he
does. He has swept over the Government, during the last eight
years, like a tropical tornado. Every department exhibits traces
of the ravages of the storm. Take as one example the Bank of
the United States. No institution could have been more popular
with the people, with Congress, and with State Legislatures.
None ever better fulfilled the great purposes of its establish-
ment. But it unfortunately incurred the displeasure of the Presi'
dent; he spoke, and the bank lies prostrate. And those who
were loudest in its praise are now loudest in its condemnation.
"What object of his ambition is unsatisfied ? When disabled from
age any longer to hold the sceptre of power, he designates his
successor, and transmits it to his favorite! What more does he
want ? Must we blot, deface, and mutilate the records of the
country, to punish the presumptuousness of expressing an opin-
ion contrary to his own ?

What patriotic purpose is to be accomplished by this Expung-
ing resolution ? Can you make that not to be which has been ?
Can you eradicate from memory and from history the fact that
in March 1834 a majority of the Senate of the United States
passed the resolution which excites your enmity ? Is it your vain
and wicked object to arrogate to yourselves that power of an-
nihilating the past which has been denied to Omnipotence itself ?
Do you intend to thrust your hands into our hearts, and to
pluck out the deeply rooted convictions which are there? Or is
it your design merely to stigmatize us? You cannot stigma-
tize us.

« Ne'er yet did base dishonor blur our name.**

Standing securely upon our conscious rectitude, and bearing
aloft the shield of the Constitution of our country, your puny
efforts are impotent; and we defy all your power. Put the ma-
jority of 1834 in one scale, and that by which this Expunging



HENRY CLAY 25

resolution is to be carried in the other, and let truth and justice,
in heaven above and on earth below, and liberty and patriotism,
decide the preponderance.

What patriotic purpose is to be accomplished by this Expung-
ing resolution ? Is it to appease the wrath and to heal the
wounded pride of the Chief Magistrate ? If he be really the hero
that his friends represent him, he must despise all mean con-
descension, all groveling sycophancy, all self -degradation and
self-abasement. He would reject, with scorn and contempt, as
unworthy of his fame, your black scratches and your baby lines
in the fair records of his country. Black lines! Black lines!
Sir, I hope the Secretary of the Senate will preserve the pen
with which he may inscribe them, and present it to that Senator
of the majority whom he may select, as a proud trophy, to be
transmitted to his descendants. And hereafter, when we shall
lose the forms of our free institutions, all that now remain to us,
some future American monarch, in gratitude to those by whose
means he has been enabled, upon the ruins of civil liberty, to
erect a throne, and to commemorate especially this Expunging
resolution, may institute a new order of knighthood, and confer
on it the appropriate name of ^* the Knights of the Black Lines, '^

But why should I detain the Senate, or needlessly waste my
breath in fruitless exertions? The decree has gone forth. It is
one of urgency, too. The deed is to be done — that foul deed
which, like the blood, staining the hands of the guilty Macbeth, all
ocean's waters will never wash out. Proceed, then, to the noble
work which lies before you, and, like other skillful executioners,
do it quickly. And when you have perpetrated it, go home to
the people, and tell them what glorious honors you have achieved
for our common country. Tell them that you have extinguished
one of the brightest and purest lights that ever burned at the
altar of civil liberty. Tell them that you have silenced one of
the noblest batteries that ever thundered in defense of the Con-
stitution, and bravely spiked the cannon. Tell them that, hence-
forward, no matter what daring or outrageous act any President
may perform, you have forever hermetically sealed the mouth of
the Senate. Tell them that he may fearlessly assume what
powers he pleases, snatch from its lawful custody the public
purse, command a military detachment to enter the halls of the
Capitol, overawe Congress, trample down the Constitution, and
raze every bulwark of freedom; but that the Senate must stand



26



HENRY CLAY



mute, in silent submission, and not dare to raise its opposing
voice. Tell them that it must wait until a House of Representa-
tives, humbled and subdued like itself, and a majority of it com-
posed of the partisans of the President, shall prefer articles of
impeachment. Tell them, finally, that you have restored the
g-lorious doctrine of passive obedience and nonresistance. And,
if the people do not pour out their indignation and imprecations,
I have yet to learn the character of American freemen.



ON THE SEMINOLE WAR
(From the Speech of January 19th, 1819, in the House of Representatives)

IF MY recollection does not deceive me, Bonaparte had passed
the Rhine and the Alps, had conquered Italy, the Nether-
lands, Holland, Hanover, Lubec, and Hamburg, and extended
his empire as far as Altona, on the side of Denmark. A few
days' march would have carried him through Holstein, over the
two Belts, through Funen, and into the island of Zealand. What,
then, was the conduct of England ? It was my lot to fall into
conversation with an intelligent Englishman on this subject.
"We knew [said he] that we were fighting for our existence. It
was absolutely necessary that we should preserve the command
of the seas. If the fleet of Denmark fell into the enemy's hands,
combined with his other fleets, that command might be rendered
doubtful. Denmark had only a nominal independence. She
was, in truth, subject to his sway. We said to her. Give us
your fleet; it will otherwise be taken possession of by your
secret and our open enemy. We will preserve it and restore it
to you whenever the danger shall be over. Denmark refused,
Copenhagen was bombarded, and gallantly defended, but the fleet
was seized.'* Everywhere the conduct of England was censured;
and the name even of the negotiator who was employed by her,
who was subsequently the minister near this Government, was
scarcely ever pronounced here without coupling with it an epithet
indicating his participation in the disgraceful transaction. And
yet we are going to sanction acts of violence, committed by our-
selves, which but too much resemble it! What an important
difference, too, between the relative condition of England and of
this country! She, perhaps, was struggling for her existence.
She was combating, single-handed, the most enormous military



HENRY CLAY



27



power that the world has ever known. With whom were we
contending ? With a few half-starved, half -clothed, wretched In-
dians and fugitive slaves. And while carrying on this inglorious
war, inglorious as it regards the laurels or renown won in it,
we violate neutral rights, which the government had solemnly
pledged itself to respect, upon the principle of convenience, or
upon the light presumption that, by possibility, a post might
be taken by this miserable combination of Indians and slaves.
. . • • •• • • •

I will not trespass much longer upon the time of the com-
mittee; but I trust I shall be indulged with some few reflections
upon the danger of permitting the conduct on which it has been
my painful duty to animadvert, to pass without the solemn ex-
pression of the disapprobation of this House. Recall to your
recollection the free nations which have gone before us. Where
are they now ?

«Gone glimmering through the dream of things that were,
A schoolboy's tale, the wonder of an hour.^*

And how have they lost their liberties? If we could trans-
port ourselves back to the ages when Greece and Rome flourished
in their greatest prosperity, and, mingling in the throng, should
ask a Grecian if he did not fear that some daring military chief-
tain, covered with glory, some Philip or Alexander, would one day
overthrow the liberties of his country, the confident and indig-
nant Grecian would exclaim. No! no! we have nothing to fear
from our heroes; our liberties will be eternal. If a Roman citi-
zen had been asked if he did not fear that the conqueror of Gaul
might establish a throne upon the ruins of public liberty, he
would have instantly repelled the unjust insinuation. Yet Greece
fell; Caesar passed the Rubicon, and the patriotic arm even of
Brutus could not preserve the liberties of his devoted country!
The celebrated Madame de Stael, in her last and perhaps her
best work, has said, that in the very year, almost the very month,
when the president of the Directory declared that monarchy would
never more show its frightful head in France, Bonaparte, with
his grenadiers, entered the palace of St. Cloud, and dispersing
with the bayonet the deputies of the people deliberating on the
affairs of the State, laid the foundation of that vast fabric of des-
potism which overshadowed all Europe. I hope not to be misun-
derstood; I am far from intimating that General Jackson cherishes



28.



HENRY CLAY



any designs inimical to the liberties of the country. I believe
his intentions to be pure and patriotic. I thank God that he
would not, but I thank him still more that he could not if he
would, overturn the liberties of the Republic. But precedents,



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 4) → online text (page 2 of 39)