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David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

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the exception of here and there a particular department in the
manufacturing business of the country, all is prosperous and
happy — both the rich and poor. Our nation has grown to a
magnitude in power and in greatness to command the respect,
if it does not call for the apprehensions, of all the powers of the
earth with which we can come in contact. Sir, do I depict with
colors too lively the prosperity which has resulted to us from
the operation of the Constitution under which we live ? Have I
exaggerated in any degree ?



i^g HENRY CLAY

Now, let me go a little into detail as to the sway in the
councils of the nation, whether of the North or of the South,
during the sixty years of unparalleled prosperity that we enjoy.
During the first twelve years of the administration of the gov-
ernment Northern councils rather prevailed, and out of them
sprung the Bank of the United States; the assumption of the State
debts; bounties to the fisheries; protection to the domestic manu-
factures — I allude to the Act of 1789; neutrality in the wars
with Europe; Jay's Treaty; Alien and Sedition Laws; and a quasi
war with France. I do not say, sir, that those leading and promi-
nent measures which were adopted during the administration of
"Washington and the elder Adams were carried exclusively by
Northern councils. They could not have been, but were carried
mainly by the sway which Northern councils had obtained in the
affairs of the country.

So, also, with the latter party for the last fifty years. I do
not mean to say that Southern counsels alone have carried the
measures which I am about to enumerate. I know they could
not exclusively have carried them; but I say they have been
carried by their preponderating influence, with co-operation, it is
true, and large co-operation, in some instances, from the North-
em section of the Union.

And what are those measures during the fifty years that
Southern counsels have preponderated ? The Embargo and other
commercial restrictions of nonintercourse and nonimportation;
war with Great Britain; the Bank of the United States over-
thrown; protection to domestic manufactures enlarged and ex-
tended (I allude to the passage of the Act of 181 5 or 18 16); the
Bank of the United States re-established; the same bank put
down; re-established by Southern counsels and put down by
Southern counsels; Louisiana acquired; Florida bought; Texas
annexed; war with Mexico; CaHfornia and other Territories ac-
quired from Mexico by conquest and purchase; protection super-
seded and free trade established; Indians removed west of the
Missouri; fifteen new States admitted into the Union. I may very
possibly have omitted some of the important measures which
have been adopted during the latter period or time to which
I have referred — the last fifty years; but these, I beheve, are
the most prominent.

I do not deduce from the enumeration of the acts of the one
side or the other any just cause of reproach to the one side or



HENRY CLAY 59

the other, although one side or the other has predominated in
the two periods to which I have referred. It has been at
least the work of both, and neither need justly reproach the
other; but I must say in all candor and sincerity that least of
all ought the South to reproach the North, when we look at the
long list of measures we have had under our sway in the coun-
cils of the nation, and which have been adopted as the policy of
the Government, when we reflect that even opposite doctrines
have been prominently advanced by the South and carried at
different times. A Bank of the United States was established
under the administration of Mr. Madison, with the co-operation
of the South. I do not, when I speak of the South or North,
speak of the entire South or North — I speak of the prominent
and larger proportions of the South or North. It was during
Mr. Madison's administration that the Bank of the United States
was established. The friend [Mr. Calhoun] whose sickness I
again deplore, as it prevents us from having his attendance here
upon this occasion, was the chairman of the committee of the
House of Representatives, and carried the measure through Con-
gress. I voted for it with all my heart, although I had been in-
strumental in putting down the old Bank of the United States.
I had changed my mind; and I co-operated in the establishment
of the bank of 1816. The same bank was again put down by
Southern counsels, with General Jackson at their head, at a later
period. Then, with respect to the policy of protection, the South,
in 1 81 5 — I mean the prominent and leading men of the South,
Lowndes, Calhoun, and others — united in extending a certain
measure of protection to the domestic manufacturers of the
South, as well as of the North. You find, a few years afterwards,
that the South opposes the most serious objection to this policy,
at least one member of the Union staking upon that objection
the dissolution of the Union.

Let us take another view; and of these several views no one
is brought forward in any spirit of reproach, but in a spirit
of conciliation — not to provoke or exasperate, but to quiet and
produce harmony and repose, if possible. What have been the
territorial acquisitions made by this country, and to what in-
terests have they conduced ? Florida, where slavery exists, has
been introduced. All the most valuable parts of Louisiana have
also added to the extent and consideration of the slaveholding
portion of the Union; for although there is a large extent of



5o HENRY CLAY

that territory north of 36° 30', yet, in point of intrinsic value and
importance, I would not give the single State of Louisiana
for the whole of it. All Louisiana, with the exception of what
lies north of 36° 30', including Oregon, to which we have ob-
tained title mainly upon the ground of its being a part of the
acquisition of Louisiana — all Texas, all the territories which
have been acquired by the Government of the United States
during the past sixty years of the operation of that Government,
have been slave territories — theatres of slavery — with the excep-
tion I have mentioned lying north of the line of 36° 30', But
how was it in the case of a war made essentially by the South,
growing out of the annexation of Texas, which was a measure
pressed by the South upon the councils of the country, and which
led to the war with Mexico ? I do not say of the whole South ;
but a major portion of the South pressed the annexation of
Texas upon the country, and that led to a war with Mexico,
and to the ultimate acquisition of these territories which now
constitute the bone of contention between the members of the
confederacy. And now, when, for the first time, any free terri-
tory, — after these great acquisitions in Florida, Louisiana, and
Texas had been made and redounded to the benefit of the South,
— now, when, for the first time, free territories are attempted to
be introduced, — territories without the institution of slavery, — I
put it to the hearts of rhy countrymen of the South, if it is right
to press matters to the disastrous consequences that have been
intimated no longer ago than this very morning, upon the pre-
sentation of the resolutions from North Carolina.

[A Senator here offered to move an adjournment.]

Mr. President, I hope the Senate will only have the goodness,
if I don't tire out their patience, to permit me to go on. I
would prefer concluding to-day. I begin to see land. I shall
pretty soon arrive at the end. I had much rather occupy half an
hour now than leave what I have to say for to-morrow — to tres-
pass upon the patience of the Senate another day.

Such is the Union, and such are its glorious fruits. We are
told now, and it is rung throughout this entire country, that the
Union is threatened with subversion and destruction. Well, the
first question which naturally arises is, supposing the Union
to be dissolved, — having all the causes of grievance which are
complained of, — How far will a dissolution furnish a remedy



HENRY CLAY 6l

for those grievances ? If the Union is to be dissolved for any
existing causes, it will be dissolved because slavery is interdicted
or not allowed to be introduced into the ceded territories; be-
cause slavery is threatened to be abolished in the District of
Columbia, and because fugitive slaves are not returned, as in my
opinion they ought to be, and restored to their masters. These,
I believe, will be the causes, if there be any causes, which can
lead to the direful event to which I have referred.

Well, now, let us suppose that the Union has been dissolved.
What remedy does it furnish for the grievances complained of in
its united condition ? Will you be able to push slavery into the
ceded Territories? How are you to do it, supposing the North —
all the States north of the Potomac, and which are opposed to
it — in possession of the navy and army of the United States ?
Can you expect, if there is a dissolution of the Union, that you
can carry slavery into California and New Mexico ? You cannot
dream of such a purpose. If it were abolished in the District of
Columbia, and the Union were dissolved, would the dissolution of
the Union restore slavery in the District of Columbia? Are you
safer in the recovery of your fugitive slaves, in a state of disso-
lution or of severance of the Union, than you are in the Union
itself ? Why, what is the state of the fact in the Union ? You
lose some slaves. You recover some others. Let me advert to
a fact which I ought to have introduced before, because it is
highly creditable to the courts and juries of the free States. In
every case, so far as my information extends, where an appeal
has been made to the courts of justice for the recovery of fugi-
tives, or for the recovery of penalties inflicted upon persons who
have assisted in decoying slaves from their masters and aiding
them in escaping from their masters — as far as I am informed,
the courts have asserted the rights of the owner, and the juries
have promptly returned adequate verdicts in favor of the owner.
Well, this is some remedy. What would you have if the Union
were dissevered ? Why, sir, then the severed parts would be
independent of each other — foreign countries ! Slaves taken
from the one into the other would be then like slaves now escap-
ing from the United States into Canada. There would be no
right of extradition; no right to demand your slaves; no right
to appeal to the courts of justice to demand your slaves which
escape, or the penalties for decoying them. Where one slave
escapes now, by running away from his owner, hundreds and



52 HENRY CLAY

thousands would escape if the Union were severed in parts — I
care not where nor how you run the line, if independent sover-
eignties were established.

Well, finally, will you, in a state of dissolution of the Union,
be safer with your slaves within the bosom of the States than
you are now ? Mr. President, that they will escape much more
frequently from the border States, no one will doubt.

But, I must take the occasion to say that, in my opinion,
there is no right on the part of one or more of the States to
secede from the Union. War and the dissolution of the Union
are identical and inseparable. There can be no dissolution of
the Union, except by consent or by war. No one can expect.
In the existing state of things, that that consent would be given,
and war is the only alternative by which a dissolution could be
accomplished. And, Mr. President, if consent were given — if
possibly we were to separate by mutual agreement and by a
given line, in less than sixty days after such an agreement had
been executed, war would break out between the free and slave-
holding portions of this Union — between the two independent
portions into which it would be erected in virtue of the act of
separation. Yes, sir, sixty days — in less than sixty days, I be-
lieve, our slaves from Kentucky would be fleeing over in num-
bers to the other side of the river, would be pursued by their
owners, and the excitable and ardent spirits who would engage
in the pursuit would be restrained by no sense of the rights
which appertain to the independence of the other side of the
river, supposing it, then, to be the line of separation. They
would pursue their slaves; they would be repelled, and war would
break out. In less than sixty days war would be blazing forth in
every part of this now happy and peaceable land.

But how are you going to separate them ? In my humble
opinion, Mr. President, we should begin at least with three con-
federacies — the Confederacy of the North, the Confederacy of
the Atlantic Southern States (the slaveholding States), and the
Confederacy of the Valley of the Mississippi. My Hfe upon it,
sir, that vast population that has already concentrated, and will
concentrate, upon the headwaters and tributaries of the Missis-
sippi, will never consent that the mouth of that river shall be
held subject to the power of any foreign State whatever. Such,
I believe, would be the consequences of a dissolution of the
Union. But other confederacies would spring up, from time to



Menry clav 03

time, as dissatisfaction and discontent were disseminated over
the country. There would be the Confederacy of the Lakes —
perhaps the Confederacy of New England and of the Middle
States.

But, sir, the veil which covers these sad and disastrous events
that lie beyond a possible rupture of this Union is too thick to
be penetrated or lifted by any mortal eye or hand.

Mr. President, I am directly opposed to any purpose of seces-
sion, of separation. I am for staying within the Union, and de-
fying any portion of this Union to expel or drive me out of the
Union, I am for staying within the Union, and fighting for my
rights — if necessary, with the sword — within the bounds and
under the safeguard of the Union. I am for vindicating these
rights; but not by being driven out of the Union rashly and un-
ceremoniously by any portion of this confederacy. Here I am
within it, and here I mean to stand and die; as far as my indi-
vidual purposes or wishes can go — within it to protect myself,
and to defy all power upon earth to expel me or drive me from
the situation in which I am placed. Will there not be more
safety in fighting within the Union than without it ?

Suppose your rights to be violated; suppose wrongs to be
done you, aggressions to be perpetrated upon you; cannot you
better fight and vindicate them, if you have occasion to resort to
that last necessity of the sword, within the Union, and with the
sympathies of a large portion of the population of the Union of
these States differently constituted from you, than you can fight
and vindicate your rights, expelled from the Union, and driven
from it without ceremony and without authority ?

I said that I thought that there was no right on the part of
one or more of the States to secede from this Union. I think
that the Constitution of the thirteen States was made, not merely
for the generation which then existed, but for posterity, undefined,
unlimited, permanent, and perpetual — for their posterity, and for
every subsequent State which might come into the Union, binding
themselves by that indissoluble bond. It is to remain for that
posterity now and forever. Like another of the great relations
of private life, it was a marriage that no human authority can
dissolve or divorce the parties from; and, if I may be allowed
to refer to this same example in private life, let us say what
man and wife say to each other: ^^ We have mutual faults; noth-
ing in the form of human beinjs can be perfect. Let us then be



^4 HENRY Ci^Ai

kind to each other, forbearing, conceding; let us live in happiness
and peace. '^

Mr. President, I have said what I solemnly believe — that the
dissolution of the Union and war are identical and inseparable;
that they are convertible terms.

Such a war, too, as that would be, following the dissolution of
the Union! Sir, we may search the pages of history, and none so
furious, so bloody, so implacable, so exterminating, from the wars
of Greece down, including those of the Commonwealth of Eng-
land, and the Revolution of France — none, none of them raged
with such violence, or was ever conducted with such bloodshed
and enormities, as will that war which shall follow that disastrous
event — if that event ever happens — of dissolution.

And what would be its termination ? Standing armies and
navies, to an extent draining the revenues of each portion of the
dissevered empire, would be created; exterminating wars would
follow — not a war of two nor three years, but of interminable
duration — an exterminating war would follow, until some Philip
or Alexander, some Caesar or Napoleon, would rise to cut the
Gordian knot, and solve the problem of the capacity of man for
self-government, and crush the liberties of both the dissevered
portions of this Union. Can you doubt it ? Look at history —
consult the pages of all history, ancient or modern; look at
human nature — look at the character of the contest in which
you would be engaged in the supposition of a war following the
dissolution of the Union, such as I have suggested — and I ask
you if it is possible for you to doubt that the final but perhaps
distant termination of the whole will be some despot treading
down the liberties of the people ? — that the final result will be
the extinction of this last and glorious light, which is leading
all mankind, who are gazing upon it, to cherish hope and anx-
ious expectation that the liberty which prevails here will sooner
or later be advanced throughout the civilized world ? Can you,
Mr. President, lightly contemplate the consequences ? Can you
yield yourself to a torrent of passion, amidst dangers which I
have depicted in colors far short of what would be the reality, if
the event should ever happen ? I conjure gentlemen — whether
from the South or the North, by all they hold dear in this world
— by all their love of liberty — by all their veneration for their
ancestors — by all their regard for posterity — by all their grati-
tude to him who has bestowed upon them such unnumbered



HENRY CLAY ^5

blessings — by all the duties which they owe to mankind, and all
the duties they owe to themselves — by all these considerations I
implore them to pause — solemnly to pause — at the edge of the
precipice before the fearful and disastrous leap is taken in the
yawning abyss below, which will inevitably lead to certain and
irretrievable destruction.

And, finally, Mr. President, I implore, as the best blessing
which heaven can bestow upon me on earth, that if the dire-
ful and sad event of the dissolution of the Union shall happen,
I may not survive to behold the sad and heart-rending spectacle.



4-5




JOHN M. CLAYTON

(1796-1856)

foHN MiDDLETON Clayton, remembered chiefly because of his
connection with the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, was a jurist and
statesman whose leadership among the American Whigs of
his time was a concession to his talents rather than to the political im-
portance of his State. Born in Sussex County, Delaware, July 24th,
1796, he was elected a United States Senator from Delaware as early as
1829 and remained in the Senate until he resigned in 1837 to serve as
Chief- Justice of his State, After serving again in the Senate (1845-49)
he became Secretary of State in President Taylor's cabinet in 1849. He
held that office till he had concluded the negotiation of the Clayton-
Bulwer treaty, and was then returned to the Senate (1851), where he
zealously defended the treaty and continued to be prominent in the de-
bates until his death at Dover, Delaware, November 9th, 1856.

THE CLAYTON-BULWER TREATY AND "EXPANSION"
(From a Speech in the United States Senate, March i8th, 1853)

Ahh the objections of the Senator [Douglas] dwindle down at
last, as I have said, to a single point — that the treaty
ought to have been a treaty for the exclusive right of way
across the isthmus, that the error of the treaty of 1850 is, that
while it obtains protection from all nations, it makes a navigable
highway for all nations on the same terms; and we see that if
he had negotiated the treaty, he would have obtained an exclu-
sive right; and he stood up here in defense of the treaty of Mr.
Hise, which would have secured to this Government (if it had
been ratified by Nicaragua and the United States) an exclusive
right. What sort of an exclusive right is it that he demands?
He thinks that the Government of the United States should have
obtained the grant — the right to make a canal, and an exclusive
right to navigate it; that forts should be built at both ends to
protect it; and of course that we should protect it by every other
means necessary. When the Government shall have made it,

66



JOHN M. CLAYTON 6,y

and when the Government shall have established the forts, the
canal, he says, will be open to everybody on the same terms;
and thus he seeks the exclusive grant of a right of way! What
does he want with it ? Why does he prefer it to the plan
adopted, of opening the canal to all nations on the same terms ?
The Senator says he would hold it as a rod — yes, a rod, to com-
pel other nations to keep the peace! He would have no more
settling of islands on the coast of Central America! If any gov-
ernment attempted it, he would shut his canal to them! He
would also compel all foreign nations to treat us with all respect
and regard, by means of the tremendous rod which he would
hold in his hands! Let us look a little into the justice of this
thing, as regards our own country.

It has been supposed that the construction of this great work
will cost fifty or a hundred millions of dollars. I suppose we
could not build a proper fortification at each end under less than
a million of dollars for each fort. We would be compelled to
maintain a garrison there; and, in the event of a war, to maintain
a large navy, such a one as could resist the naval powers of the
earth. If we were to go to war with France, or England, or any
other great naval power, that, of course, would be one of the first
points of attack. How convenient would it be for us to defend
it at a distance of two thousand miles, and send troops to the
different forts, and ships to protect our vessels that pass through
the canal! We build it, and everybody is to have the benefit of
the canal on the same terms, in time of peace! In war we alone
are to defend it! The interest on a hundred millions would be
six millions a year. The expenses of protecting and taking care
of the canal and keeping it in good order would probably, when
added to the interest, make an annual outlay from the Treasury
of the United States, in that distant country, of not less than
ten millions of dollars. Now, why should we make such an ex-
penditure ? Because we want a rod — a rod ! Sir, I think it
would prove to be a rod to inflict injuries upon ourselves. We
want nothing but the right of way there. We proposed that no
nation should go through that canal, unless she agreed to protect
it. In case they agreed to protect it, we should want no forts,
no garrisons, arid no naval force to guard what none could at-
tack. But, on the other hand, if we were to adopt the plan of
the Senator, we should have to keep a standing army in that
country to protect it, in the event of a war between us and for-



gg JOHN M. CLAYTON

eign nations. What would be thought of a man who should
purchase a farm, and then, after he had gone to the expense of
putting it in order, invite everybody to come and till it, but
should direct them to take care that they should pay no part of
the expense of keeping up the repairs, nor any part of the taxes
upon the land ? I do not know that this or any other illustra-
tion can make his proposition seem more preposterous than it
does on its own mere statement. . . .

The Senator from Illinois said " that treaties could not fetter
or confine the limbs of this giant Republic* I do not know pre-
cisely the extent to which he meant to be understood; but the
language and the manner in which the Senator applied it seemed
to me to go to this extent: that we had a country exempt from
the obligations of treaties, and that our limbs cannot be circum-
scribed by treaties. We were to disregard obligations of that
description, being, like a * young giant, * rising in power beyond
anything that had been known in the history of the world be-



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 6 of 39)