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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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some resistance, might be anticipated from them; but you can
safely thunder it over the heads of these poor little South Ameri-
can States; you can make them tremble; you can settle the
accounts, and make them pay your own balances. Sir, what
sort of heroism is that for your country and my country, to
triumph over the small and the weak ? The bill on which I am
commenting does not suppose that war is to require formal de-
bate, but proposes, whenever it shall be made to appear to the
President that an American citizen, in any of these countries,
has been the subject of violence or depredation in his property,
to allow the President, at his ipse dixit, to make war. Unheard,
unquestioned, at once the will of a single man is to let loose the
dogs of war against these small, weak nations. It is a violation
of the spirit of the Constitution; and, besides, there is a pettiness
about it that does not belong to our country. Surely it was in
a thoughtless moment that the President intimated the necessity
of such a measure, or that it was introduced into the Senate.
There is nothing in it that can stand investigation. It is not
more uncongenial to the Constitution of the United States than
it is, I trust, to the magnanimous character of my countrymen,
that they should be willing to hunt out the little and the weak
and chastise them, and let the great go free, or leave them to
the ordinary solemn course of proceeding, by treaty or by con-
gressional legislation. No, sir; far better is the maxim of the
old Roman — debellare super bos^ to put down the proud.




DAVID CROCKETT

(1786-1836)

Educated and refined Americans of David Crockett's day re-
fused to take him seriously, and it was only by dying in
the angle of the Alamo, among the last of its defenders,
that he escaped being remembered, if remembered at all, merely as
a representative of the humor of the backwoods. He was a type of
an uncultured but strong and persistent Americanism, which has
done more, perhaps, than culture itself to give the country its possi-
bilities of greatness. He won prominence among the backwoodsmen
of what was then the West, by his fluency of speech and his humor.
Sent to Congress as a representative of the West Tennessee District,
he attracted immediate notice by his strong individuality and the
raciness of his stories, — many of them the kind Lincoln loved so
well. He was made much of in a semi-humorous way, until being
at bottom entirely serious, he declined to be taken as a joke. Insist-
ing on standing by his convictions, even against Andrew Jackson, he
won much reputation and popularity in New England, where Jackson
was then intensely unpopular. Unfortunately for his usefulness as a
Tennessee Congressman, the New England view did not prevail with
a majority of his constituents and he was retired from office. He
left Tennessee disheartened, determined to make himself a new
career in Texas. Finding the Alamo beleagured by an overwhelm-
ing force of Mexicans, he managed, nevertheless, to make his way
into the fort, where a few days later he was killed with the other
riflemen whose courage and extraordinary marksmanship made the
defense of the fort forever memorable. He was born at Limestone,
Tennessee, August 17th, 1786. He served in Congress from 1827
to 1831 and from 1833 to 1835. His autobiography published in 1834
seems likely to keep a permanent place in American literature. His
speech on the Buffalo and New Orleans Road Bill, reported by
Benton, is characteristic, and it may be accepted as a sufficient
illustration of his efforts at serious statesmanship.

Crockett approximates the perfect type of those pioneer stump-
speakers whose rude eloquence had so much to do with making
American history before the era of railroads and telegraphs; and
being thus tjrpical his place in the history of oratory is secure.

248



DAVID CROCKETT 249



A RACCOON IN A BAG

f Delivered in March 1830 Before a Committee of the House of Repre-
sentatives in Support of an Amendment to the Buflfalo and New Orleanss
Road Bill)

WHEN I consider the few opportunities which I have had to
obtain information on this important topic, I shrink at
the idea of addressing so intelligent a body as this upon
matters relating to it. My lips would be sealed in silence, were
I not fully convinced that there has been in some instances a
partial and improper legislation resorted to during the present
session, I was elected from the Western District of Tennessee
after declaring myself a friend to this measure; and I came here
quite hot for the road — yes, the fever was upon me; but I con-
fess I am getting quite cool on the subject of expending money
for the gratification of certain gentlemen who happen to have
different views from those I entertain. Let us inquire where
this money comes from. It will be found that even our poor
citizens have to contribute towards the supply. I have not for-
gotten how I first found my way to this House; I pledged my-
self to the good people who sent me here that I would oppose
certain tariff measures, and strive to remove the duties upon salt,
sugar, coffee, and other articles, which the poor as well as the
rich are from necessity compelled to consume. The duties on
these articles are felt to be oppressive by my fellow-citizens; and
as long as I can raise my voice I will oppose the odious system
which sanctions them.

Those who sustain the Government and furnish the means,
have, by the illiberality of their servants, been kept in ignorance
of the true cause of some of their sufferings. These servants,
after the people intrust them with their confidence, too often for-
get the interest of their employers and are led away by some
designing gentlemen, who, to gratify some wild notion, are almost
willing to enslave the poorer class at least. I am one of those
who are called self-taught m.en; by the kindness of my neighbors
and some exertion of my own, I have been raised from obscurity
without an education. I am therefore compelled to address the
committee in the language of a farmer, which I hope will be
understood. I do not mean to oppose internal improvements —
my votes on that subject will show that I am an internal im-



2 CO DAVID CROCKETT

provement man, though I cannot go, as the Kentuckian said, **the
whole hog." I will only go as far as the situation of the coun-
try will admit — so far as not to oppress. I will not say that I
will vote against the bill under all circumstances, yet at this mo-
ment I consider it a wild notion to carry the road to the extent
contemplated, from Buffalo to this city, and from this to New
Orleans. ... I am astonished that certain of our Eastern
friends have become so kind to us. They are quite willing to
aid in distributing a portion of the national funds among us of
the West. This was not so once. And if I am not deceived
their present kindness is merely a bait to cover the hook which
is intended to haul in the Western and Southern people; and
when we are hooked over the barb we will have to yield. Their
policy reminds me of a certain man in the State of Ohio, who,
having caught a raccoon, placed it in a bag, and as he was on
his way home he met a neighbor who was anxious to know what
he had in his bag. He was told to put his hand in and feel, and
in doing so he was bit through the fingers; he then asked what
it was and was told that it was "only a bite.'^ I fear that oui
good Eastern friends have a hook and a bite for us; and if we
are once fastened, it will close the concern. We may then de
spair of paying the national debt; we may bid farewell to all
other internal improvements; and, finally, we may bid farewell
to all hopes of ever reducing duties on anything. This is hon-
estly my opinion; and again I say I cannot consent to "go the
whole hog.* But I will go as far as Memphis. There let this
great road strike the Mississippi where the steamboats are pass-
ing every hour in the day and night; where you can board a
steamboat and in seven or eight days go to New Orleans and
back; where there is no obstruction at any time of the year. I
would thank any man to show this committee the use of a road
which will run parallel with the Mississippi for five or six hun-
dred miles. Will any man say that the road would be preferred
to the river either for transportation or traveling ? No, sir.
Then, is not your project useless, and will it not prove an im-
proper expenditure of the public funds to attempt to carry the
road beyond Memphis?



CROMWELL VISITING MILTON.
Photogravure after the Painting T>y Neal.




KWiD Neal, born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1837, did much of
his work in Europe, spending, many years perfecting himself in
the art which made his painting of Cromwell and Milton famous
He painted many other canvases of hardly less celebrity.




OLIVER CROMWELL

(1 599-1658)

jARLYLE says that Cromwell's speeches * excel human belief/-
in their unlikeness to all other speeches, in their utter dis-
regard of all standards of oratory and logical sequence of
thought. Some of them are certainly worthy to be called, as they
have been called, * agglomerations of opaque confusions; of darkness
on the back of darkness,** when they are judged by our standards;
but the time was when they had as much weight in England as the
most polished orations of Demosthenes had in Athens. Unlike any-
thing else in the history of oratory, they represent a time and mode
of thought unlike anything else in the history of the world. The
Cromwelian Puritan, Carlyle says, represents ^< a practical world based
on belief in God.** . . . « Our ancient Puritan reformers,** he writes,
*were, — as all reformers that will ever much benefit the earth are aL
ways, inspired by a heavenly purpose. To see God's own law, then,
universally acknowledged for complete as it stood in the Holy Writ^
ten Book, made good in this world ; to see this, or the true unwearied
aim and struggle towards this, was a thing worth living for and dy-
ing for. Eternal justice, that God's will be done on earth as it is in
heaven — corollaries enough will flow from that, if that there be; it
that be not there, no corollary good for much will flow. It was the
general spirit of England in the seventeenth century. In other some-
what sadly disfigured form, we have seen the same immortal hope
take practical form in the French Revolution and once more astonish
the world.**

This may be accepted as a correct characterization of Puritan elo-
quence in general, but those who read Cromwell's speech in reply to
Whitlocke and the Committee of '99, when they offered him the
crown, will readily understand that heroes are not always heroic.
As a matter of fact, this speech, while it is one of the most charac-
teristic Cromwell ever delivered, carefully refrains from announcing
a definite conclusion, and is characteristic of Cromwell's great strength
of intellect only in the skill with which he refrains from committing
himself to any obligation which would have limited the absolute
power he then exercised as Lord-Protector. Preferring the substance
of power to its dignity, and remembering that he was in power him-.
self but as a representative of the popular protest against royal

251



_^- OLIVER CROMWELL

prerogatives, he finally refused the crown and kept his historical
consistency. As a speaker he is marvelous in his incomprehensibility.
It is impossible to believe the assertions made by his enemies, that
his speeches are the mere outpourings of an intellect in many respects
radically disordered, but it does appear that he speaks extempora-
neously with the utmost fluency without any idea of consistency of
statement, or of the cohesiveness of thought which should have ex-
isted between the different parts of his speeches. His sentences are
apt to grow interminable and he frequently despairs of completing
them and wisely abandons them without even waiting to come to a
semicolon. It has been pointed out that among modern speakers
Bismarck shows the same mental bent towards involved utterances,
but never fails to extricate himself, even where escape from the in-
volutions of his extemporaneous style has grown seemingly impossi-
ble. Cromwell, trained as a soldier to force his way by main strength,
ceases to rely on mere skill when it does not serve his purpose.
When a sentence does not suit him, instead of attempting to mend
ft, he abandons it and begins afresh, appearing to speak simply from
the suggestion of unco-ordinated ideas as they come into his mind,
without making any great effort to control them. How such a style
was possible for a great soldier who could marshal men as Cromwell
did, it is not easy to imagine, but it is certain enough that only a
Cromwell could afford to venture on it in any deliberative body of
English-speaking people.



DEBATING WHETHER OR NOT TO BECOME KING OF

ENGLAND

(From the Speech Delivered Monday, April 13th, 1657, ^t Whitehall, Before
the Committee of Ninety-Nine, Addressing Whitlocke as Reporter of
the Committee)

My Lord: —

I THINK I have a very hard task on my hand. Though it be
but to give an account of myself, yet I see I am beset on all

hands here. I say, but to give an account of myself: yet
that is a business very comprehensive of others; — comprehend-
ing us all in some sense, and, as the Parliament have been
pleased to shape it, comprehending all the interests of these
three nations!

I confess I have two things in view. The first is, to return
some answer to what was so well and ably said the other day on
behalf of the Parliament's putting that title in the instrument



OLIVER CROMWELL 2K-Z

of settlement, I hope it will not be expected I should answer
everything that was then said, because I suppose the main
things that were spoken were argument-s from ancient constitu-
tions and settlements by the laws, in which I am sure I could
never be well skilled, — and therefore must the more ask pardon
for what I have already transgressed in speaking of such mat-
ters, or shall now transgress, through my ignorance of them, in
my present answer to you.

Your arguments, which I say were chiefly upon the law, seem
to carry with them a great deal of necessary conclusiveness to
enforce that one thing of kingship. And if your arguments come
upon me to enforce upon me the ground of necessity, — why,
then, I have no room to answer, for what must be must be!
And therefore I did reckon it much of my business to consider
whether there were such a necessity, or would arise such a ne-
cessity, from those arguments. It was said : ^* Kingship is not a
title, but an office, so interwoven with the fundamental laws of
this nation that they cannot, or cannot well, be executed and
exercised without it, — partly, if I may say so, upon a sup-
posed ignorance which the law hath of any other title. It knows
no other; neither doth any know another. And, by reciproca-
tion, — this said title, or name, or office, you were further pleased
to say, is understood; in the dimensions of it, in the power and
prerogatives of it, which are by the law made certain, and the
law can tell when it keeps within compass and when it exceeds
its limits. And the law knowing this, the people can know it
also. And the people do love what they know. And it will
neither be J^ro sahite populi, nor for our safety, to obtrude upon
the people what they do not nor cannot understand.

It was said also ^^that the people have always, by their rep-
resentatives in Parliament, been unwilling to vary names,- — see-
ing they love settlement and known names, as was said before.*^
And there were two good instances given of that: the one, in
King James's time, about his desire to alter somewhat of the
title; and the other in the Long Parliament, where they being
otherwise, rationally moved to adopt the word * Representative **
instead of * Parliament, " refused it for the same reason. It was
said, also, that ^*the holding to this word doth strengthen the
new settlement; and hereby there is not anything de novo
done, but merely things are revolved into their old current.* It
was said that ** it is the security of the Chief Magistrate, and



OLIVER CROMWELL
■^54

that it secures all who act under him.*' Truly these are the
principal of those grounds that were offered the other day, so far
as I do recollect.

I cannot take upon me to repel those grounds; they are so
strong and rational. But if I am to be able to make any answer
to them, I must not grant that they are necessarily conclusive; I
must take them only as arguments which perhaps have in them
much convemency, much probability towards conclusiveness. For
if a remedy or expedient may be found, they are not of neces-
sity, they are not inevitable grounds: and if not necessary or
concluding grounds, why, then, they will hang upon the reason
of expediency or conveniency. And if so, I shall have a little
liberty to speak; otherwise, I am concluded before I speak.
Therefore, it will behoove me to say what I can, why these are
not necessary reasons; why they are not — why it is not (I should
say) so interwoven in the laws but that the laws may still be
executed as justly, and as much to the satisfaction of the people,
and answering all objections equally well, without such a title as
with it. And then, when I have done that, I shall only take the
liberty to say a word or two for my own grounds. And when I
have said what I can say as to that latter point, I hope you
will think a great deal more than I say.

Truly though Kingship be not a mere title, but the name
of an office which runs through the whole of the law, yet it
is not so ratione nomi?iis, by reason of the name, but by reason
of what the name signifies. It is a name of office plainly imply-
ing a supreme authority; is it more; or can it be stretched to
more ? I say, it is a name of office plainly implying the supreme
authority; and if so, why, then, I should suppose, — I am not
peremptory in anything that is matter of deduction or inference
of my own, — but I should suppose that whatsoever name hath
been or shall be the name under which the supreme authority
acts,— why, I say, if it had been those four or five letters, or
whatever else it had been, that signification goes to the thing,
certainly it does; and not to the name. Why, then, there
can no more be said but this: As such a title hath been fixed,
so it may be unfixed. And certainly in the right of the author^
ity, I mean the legislative power, — in the right of the legislative
power, I think the authority that could christen it with such a
name could have called it by another name. Therefore the name
is only derived from that authority. And certainly they, the
primary legislative authority, had the disposal of it, and might



OLIVER CROMWELL 2i;i;

have detracted from it, changed it: — and I hope it will be
no offense to say to you, as the case now stands, So may you.
And if it be so that you may, why, then, I say, there is nothing
of necessity in your argument; and all turns on consideration of
the expedience of it.

Truly I had rather, if I were to choose, if it were the original
question, — which I hope is altogether out of the question, — I had
rather have any name from this Parliament than any other name
without it: so much do I value the authority of the Parliament.
And I believe all men are of my mind in that; I believe the
Nation is very much of my mind, — though it be an uncertain
way of arguing, what mind they are of. I think we may say it
without offense; for I would give none! Though the Parliament
be the truest way to know what the mind of the Nation is, yet
if the Parliament will be pleased to give me a liberty to reason
for myself, and if that be one of your arguments, I hope I may
urge against it that the reason of my own mind is not quite to
that effect. But I do say undoubtingly, what the Parliament set-
tles is what will run, and have currency, through the law; and
will lead the thread of government through this land equally well
as what hath been. For I consider that what hath been was
upon the same account, by the same authority. Save that
there hath been some long continuance of the thing, it is but
upon the same account! It had its original somewhere! And it
was with consent of the whole, — there is the original of it. And
consent of the whole will still, I say, be the needle that will
lead the thread through all; and I think no man will pretend
right against it, or wrong!

And if so, then, under favor to me, I think these arguments
from the law are all not as of necessity, but are to be under-
stood as of conveniency. It is in your power to dispose and set-
tle; and beforehand we can have confidence that what you do
settle will be as authentic as the things that were of old, — espc'
cially as this individual thing, the name or title, — according to
the Parliament's appointment. Is not this so? It is question
not of necessity; we have power to settle it as conveniency di-
rects. Why, then, there will (with leave) be way made for me
to offer a reason or two to the other considerations you adduced;
otherwise, I say my mouth is stopped!

There are very many enforcements to carry on this thing.
But I suppose it will have to stand on its expediency. Truly
I should have urged one consideration more which I forgot, —



-g OLIVER CROMWELL

namely, the argument not of reason only, but of experience. It
is a short one, but it is a true one, and is known to you all in
the fact of it. That the supreme authority going by another
name and under another title than that of King hath been, why,
it hath been already twice complied with! Twice: under the
Custodes Libertaiis Ar.glia, and also since I exercised the place
it hath been complied with. And truly I may say that almost
universal obedience hath been given by all ranks and sorts of
men to both. Now this, on the part of both these authorities,
was a beginning with the highest degree of magistracy at the
first alteration; and at a time when that Kingship u^s the
name established; and the new name, though it was the name
of an invisible thing, the very name I say was obeyed, did pass
current, was received and did carry on the justice of the nation.
I remember very well my lords the judges were somewhat
startled; yet upon consideration, — if I mistake not, — I believe
so, — they, there being among them as able and as learned as
have sat there, — though they did, I confess, at first demur a
little,— they did receive satisfaction, and did act, as I said before.
And as for my own part, I profess I think I may say since the
beginning of that change, — though I should be loath to speak
anything vainly, — but since the beginning of that change to this
day, I do not think there hath been a freer procedure of the laws,
not even in those years called, and not unworthily, the ^* Halcyon
Days of Peace, '^ from the Twentieth of Elizabeth to King James's
and King Charles's time. I do not think but the laws have pro-
ceeded with as much freedom and justice, and with less of private
solicitation, since I came to the Government as they did in those
years so named "Halcyon." I do not think, under favor, that
the laws had a freer exercise, more uninterrupted by any hand
of power, in those years than now; or that the judge has been
less solicited by letters or private interpositions either of my
own or other men's, in double so many years in all those times
named " of peace ! * And if more of 'my lords the judges
were here than now are, they could tell us perhaps somewhat
further. And, therefore, I say under favor: These two expe-
riences do manifestly show that it is not a title, though never so
interwoven with our laws, that makes the law to have its free
passage and to do its office without interruption (as we venture
to think it is now doing) ; and if a Parliament shall determine
that another name run through the laws, I believe it will run



OLIVER CROMWELL



^57



with as free a passage as this of King ever did. Which is all I
have to say upon that head. . . .

I will now say something for myself. As for my own mind,
I do profess it, I am not a man scrupulous about words, or
names, or such things. I have not hitherto clear direction, but
as I have the word of God, and I hope shall ever have, for the
rule of my conscience, for my information and direction, so
truly, if men have been led into dark paths through the provi-
dence and dispensations of God — why surely it is not to be ob-
jected to a man. For who can love to walk in the dark ? But



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 24 of 39)