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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fore. The Senator made the same remark in reference to the
treaty with Mexico, There is a clause in the treaty of Guada-
lupe Hidalgo to which the Senator made great objection at the
time of its ratification, in effect, that without the consent of the
governments of both countries, the line established by that treaty
as the boundary between them, should be the ultima thule — the
utmost limit of our territory. Yes, sir, we plighted our faith
and honor in that treaty, confirmed as it was by more than two-
thirds of the American Senate, that beyond that limit we would
never go. Yet the Senator from Illinois says that the day is
coming when we shall be compelled to violate the treaty — that
treaties cannot fetter our limbs or restrict our limits. Sir, I re-
gretted to hear it, because of the influence of that Senator in his
party, as one of their standing candidates for the presidency. I
should have regfretted to have heard it from any Senator. We
form the body that is to ratify all the treaties of the United
States. We are the constitutional advisers of the President. We
are a part of the treaty-making power.

Mr. Douglas — If it gives the Senator any regret that I stated
that, I will explain to him what I did state, and thereby, I im-
agine, relieve him from all his regret. What I said was, that
the steady, regular growth and expansion of this country would,
in all probability, go ahead in the future as it has done in the
past; that you might make as many treaties as you please, and


still they would not check our growth, and because they could
not, it was useless to make treaties which must, of necessity, be
violated; hence I argued against the making of treaties pledging
our faith not to do that which inevitably would be done in the
future. It was an argument in favor of the fidelity and observ-
ance of treaty stipulations, and that we should not, therefore, be
so profuse in our pledges in cases where we could not fulfill

Mr. Clayton — An argument in favor of fidelity and observance
of treaty stipulations, indeed! The idea is that we are incapable,
from the nature of our institutions or our character as a people,
of maintaining and observing treaties.

Mr. Douglas — No, sir.

Mr. Clayton (laughing) — We must grow, says the Senator.
Our "manifest destiny,** he means, is to extend our limits.

Mr. Douglas — The idea is, that some men are incapable of
comprehending the growth of this nation. A few years ago, it
was supposed that we could never extend beyond the Alleghan-
ies. There were those who thought that —

Mr, Clayton — I have heard all that a dozen times.

Mr. Douglas — Then the Mississippi, then the Pacific was the
boundary. I said that the same laws which have carried us for-
ward must inevitably carry us further in the process of time,
and that that growth will go on; and consequently it is unwise
to make a treaty stipulation pledging ourselves not to do that
which our interest may require us to do.

Mr. Clayton — I have given the Senator so many opportunities
for explaining himself to me, as he terms it, that now I must be
permitted to explain him to himself. . . . He insists upon it,
that by some irresistible influence we are driven on in our course
to such a degree of greatness that we shall be compelled to vio-
late the treaties which we may make with foreign nations in re-
gard to boundaries. We ought, he said, to nullify the treaty of
1850 at once. He now says that some men cannot comprehend
the growth of this giant Republic. I do not know that there is
any man of ordinary intelligence who does not comprehend it.
There is no difficulty in understanding it. We have g^rown to
such an extent already that we have a country greater than
Rome possessed in her palmiest days. We cover a contiguous
territory greater, perhaps, than ever was enjoyed by any civilized
nation on earth. And yet we are told that we are not capable


of binding ourselves even by treaty stipulations to observe our
plighted faith, and fulfill our solemn engagement of honor. I
remonstrate against the declaration of such a principle, or rather
of such a want of all principle. It is nothing more nor less
than this, — let there be as many explanations on the part of the
Senator from Illinois as he may choose to make, — that we are
incapable of controlling our impulses and passions when our in-
terests may lead us to violate our engagements. "Treaties can-
not fetter us,'* says he. Sir, the plighted faith of every man of
honor binds him at all times, no matter what his interest may
be, and the plighted faith of nations equally binds them; and
the last place from which a contrary principle should be promul-
gated is the Senate of the United States. Here, I repeat, we sit
as the constitutional advisers of the President of the United
States; and if foreign nations come to understand that the posi-
tion is taken by members holding a prominent party position
here, that treaties cannot be any restraint upon us, what foreign
nation will ever make another treaty with us? If there be a
country on earth that owes more than any other to treaties, it is
ours. We owe our national existence to the old French treaties
of 1778, Sir, within the limits of that great State which you in
part represent on this floor [Mr. Cooper in the chair], Washing-
ton, in the darkest period of the Revolution, at Valley Forge,
wintered with his suffering soldiers, when the intelligence reached
them that France had entered into an alliance with us, and had
guaranteed our independence. The glorious news ran through all
the ranks of the American army, and the great " Father of his
Country** stood up and waved his hat, and shouted for joy, in
concert with his troops! Our destiny from that moment became
fixed. Every American saw that we were free, whatever doubt
he might have entertained about it before. We owe, I repeat, our
national independence to treaties. And now, when we are becom-
ing strong, shall we forget it? Shall not an American statesman
adhere to treaties with as much fidelity as an Englishman, or a
Frenchman, or one of any other nation ? Shall he not rejoice
that his country does stand by her honor ? I trust that no idea
of our growing importance, or of the necessity of our enlarge-
ment, will ever sink into the heart of any other American Sena-
tor, to induce him to abandon that principle without which our
country would become a byword and a hissing among the na-


rf we must gain more territory, let us gain it honorably. The
Senator from Illinois boasts that he opposed the treaty with
Mexico. I recollect it very well, and I recollect the reason he
gave for voting against it. It was the very reason which he as-
signed in the debate here for desiring to annul the treaty of
1850. He opposed that clause in the Mexican treaty which fixed
the limits beyond which we could not go, and he cannot explain
away his position, or shift it any longer. He then said the time
would come when Mexico would become indispensable to our
progress and our happiness. I would recall to the recollection
of gentlemen who were present on the ninth day of February,
1847, the speech made by Mr. Calhoun, of South Carolina, on
this very subject. In thrilling tones he gave utterance to views
which seemed to carry conviction to the hearts of nine-tenths of
those who heard him, and told us that Mexico was to us forbid-
den fruit. Whenever the day shall come that, in defiance of
treaty limits or otherwise, we set about the business of annexing
nine or ten millions of Mexicans to the United States, the days
of our Republic will be numbered. The Mexican people are
educated in the belief that no greater curse can befall a nation
than that of slavery, and are said to be bound by treaty to abol-
ish it. Could we permit them to take a part in the election of
our Representatives and Senators in Congress ? Could we admit
them to assist in governing us? Sir, without any reference to
that dangerous question to which I have barely alluded, there
are many other questions on which they would have a powerful
influence and an interest in deciding against us. I am utterly
opposed to annexing them, and I do not hesitate to express that
opposition now and at all times. The true policy of this Govern-
ment is to build up Mexico as a republic, to sustain and cheer
her by kind offices, and to teach her, by our example, the science
of self-government. If we could annex other countries as Eng-
land does, or as Rome did when she was triumphing over the
world, the whole subject might receive another consideration.
Whenever we annex, we make citizens of the people whom we
unite to us. We do not enslave them. Other countries may
make slaves of those whom, they subdue, and never permit them
to take any part in the government of their conquerors. If we
annex Mexico, we are compelled, in obedience to the principles
of our own Declaration of Independence, to receive her people as
citizens. Yes! Aztecs, Creoles, Half-Breeds, Quadroons, Samboes,


and I know not what else, — << ring-streaked and speckled,* — all
will come in, and, instead of our governing them, they, by their
votes, will govern us. Why do we want them or their territory ?
Are we cramped ? Are we crowded ? Have we more population
than is necessary to fill the land which we already own ? There
is not a more sparsely populated country on earth which is in-
habited by civilized men. We have hundreds of millions of acres
of land upon which the foot of a white man never trod. When,
in the lapse of time, all this shall be covered, then if we find
men of our own race and class capable of sustaining our insti-
tutions and of self-government, in any contiguous territory which
can be acquired without the violation of any principle of justice
or humanity, I am not one that would stay the honorable prog-
ress of my country.

The day, however, will never come when an American Sena-
tor will be justified in the declaration that we intend to disobey
treaties. No, sir; we have been, and mean to remain, faithful
to treaties. We have often been accused of having violated
them; but the honor of our country is yet dear to us, and it is
worth more to the true American than all the land that Mexico
and Central America contain.

The Senator objects to the treaty of 1850, because, under its
provisions, we cannot annex the Central American States. Were
there no such treaty, he could not annex them till he had first
overrun Mexico, and broken the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Nay, he must first annex the West India Islands, and British
Honduras, too. After "swallowing Mexico,'* he must take in all
the other intermediate countries; and as Great Britain owns
many of the islands and dependencies to be devoured, he must
include the British Lion — a matter not quite so easy of digestion.
What an intimation is it for us to make to the world, that we
may some day annex these weak little sister Republics, thou-
sands of miles aw^ay from us, with a population so different from
ours, especially in laws, institutions, and usages! I would much
rather other nations should know the fact that San Salvador,
one of these very Central American States, once applied for ad-
mission into our Union, and that our Government not only de-
clined to receive them, but treated the application as one not
worthy of a moment's serious regard.

I heard with pleasure and admiration that passage in the in-
augural address of the President which declared that his admin-


istration should leave no blot upon his country's record, and that
no act within his constitutional control would be tolerated which
could not challenge a ready justification before the tribunal of
the civilized world. How great the difference between that and
the sentiments of the Senator from Illinois! Let the President
adhere to these principles, and he will thereby disarm opposition;
he will make of those who have heretofore been strong political
opponents some of the warmest friends he has in the world. I
put this declaration in contrast with all these gigantic ideas
[laughter] of breaking treaties, and going beyond the limits of
the country in defiance of them. But if the President should, in
opposition to all our hopes and belief, be induced to disregard
the faith of treaties, he will hardly progress through half the pe-
riod of his constitutional term before he will find the great heart
of the American people, which is honest to the core, opposed to
him, and the most sincere of his present friends will vindicate
the justice of the sentence against him, while they sorrow for
his fall.


(From a Speech on the Mexican War. United States Senate, January

nth and 12th, 1848)

I NEVER have been, and I am not now, willing to acquire one
acre of ground from Mexico, or any other nation under
heaven, by conquest or robbery. I hold that, in all our
transactions with the other nations of the world, the great prin-
ciple ought to be maintained by us that ^^ Honesty is the best
policy,'^ and that an honorable reputation is of more value to a
country than land or money. I hold that any attempt on our
part, merely because we happen to possess superior strength, to
compel a weaker nation to cede to us all that we choose to de-
mand as indemnity, while we at the same time admit that we
ask for more than she owes us, is nothing else but robbery. If
a man owe me a sum of money, and I meet him on the high-
way, and insist, with a pistol pointed at his breast, that he shall
deliver to me a deed of his farm, at the estimate which I choose
to put upon it, I think there could not be much difference of
opinion as to the nature of that transaction. I should like to
know how my friend from Maryland, who is an able lawyer,



would defend the man guilty of such conduct. Would it be any
palliation, or excuse, or justification of the conduct of an offender
in such a case, that some money was justly due him ? Could
there be found in Christendom a court and jury that would hesi-
tate as to the verdict in such a case ? And what, let me ask, —
as a friend near me [Mr. Webster] suggests, — what would be the
value of the deed obtained under such circumstances? If the
possessor of it should even go ^'unwhipt of justice,*^ would he
not be the object to which the scornful finger of every honest
man would be pointed, so long as he lived upon earth? I hold —
and, however old-fashioned the notion may be, I shall maintain
it so long as I have a seat here-— that character is as valuable
to a nation as it is to an individual; and inasmuch as I would
scorn as a private citizen to despoil my neighbor of his property
in these circumstances and with these avowals, so, as a public
man, I never can sanction, in the slightest degree, such a course
of conduct on the part of the government of the country.

We are one of the strongest nations of the earth. We have
been amongst the weakest. In times gone by, we have suffered
from the cruelty, the tyranny, and injustice of other nations, and
have uttered loud complaints. We have now waxed strong and
can put our foot upon the neck of a sister republic, and compel
her to yield to the terms we ourselves dictate. The question
now comes up, and it addresses itself to every genuine lover of
his country, whether the acquisition of all this territory, under
these circumstances, would compensate us for the loss of the
reputation — that high national character which we have hitherto
sustained ?



iHfiN the issues of sectional supremacy in the United States were
so joined between the North and South as to make civil war
or further concessions on both sides inevitable, it was believed
by some that all inconvenient issues at home could be indefinitely post-
poned by forcing foreign war. In that connection, the annexation of
Cuba, Porto Rico, the Central American States, Mexico, and Canada,
was discussed as a part of what was called "the manifest destiny" of
the Anglo-Saxon race in America. It was charged that this policy
"originated with the Southern slave-owners," but one of the most ef-
fective protests ever made against it was the speech delivered in the
United States Senate, February 7th, 1853, by Jeremiah Clemens, of
Alabama, Mr. Clemens has not generally been classed among the great-
est statesmen of his time, but no one will read a dozen of his sentences
without seeing that he has the oratorical faculty highly developed. He
was born in Huntsville, Alabama, December 28th, 1814. Educated at
LaGrange College and the University of Alabama, he studied law at the
University of Transylvania, in Kentucky. Entering public life in 1838
as United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, he
served afterwards in the State Legislature, and in the Mexican War
as a Lieutenant-Colonel. Returning in 1843, ^e was re-elected to the
Legislature. From 1849 ""^il 1853 he represented Alabama in the
United States Senate. He died May 21st, 1865.

(From a Speech in the United States Senate, February 7th, 1853)

DANGER does not threaten us from abroad. In that quarter
the skies are clear and bright. It is at home that the
symptoms of an approaching hurricane are manifest.
These symptoms are everywhere about us and around us. They
may be found in the restless and disturbed state of the public
mind; in the speeches of dinner orators, dignifying war with the
name of "progress," and clothing wholesale robbery with the
mantle of patriotism. They might have been seen in the fren-
zied enthusiasm which followed the footsteps of that sturdy



beggar, Louis Kossuth and in the wild and reckless attempts of
American citizens to take possession of the island of Cuba. Sir,
I deplore their fate as much as any man can, and condemn as
strongly the cruel and barbarous conduct of the Spanish gover-
nor. I but refer to them as evidence of a state of things to
which all eyes ought to be directed. And last, sir, though not
least, the signs of this danger may be found in the ill-regulated,
but fierce and strenuous, efforts of "Young America* to bring
about a war with anybody or upon any pretext.

All these things indicate that a spirit of change is abroad in
the land. I may be told that word is written on every earthly
thing. Perhaps it may be so; but justice, honor, mercy, are the
children of God, and know no change. In the sublime morality
of the Christian's creed we may find a guide for our footsteps
which cannot lead to error : " Do unto others as ye would they
should do unto you.* It is not in the Book of Revelations that
we are taught to covet the goods of our neighbors. It is not
there we are encou«raged to indulge a lawless spirit of war and
conquest. We do not learn from thence the duty of progressing
backward from a peaceful age to a period of barbarism, when
the strong hand was the only law, and the steel blade the only
arbiter of disputed questions.

Sir, I have heard much of this thing called progress. In the
eyes of some gentlemen it covers all defects and makes atone-
ment for every error. I am not its enemy, but I wish to know
exactly what it means, and in what direction I am to progress.
If it means that glorious spirit which sweeps abroad upon the
wings of peace, shedding life and light and happiness on the
land and on the sea; which sends the missionary among the hea-
then, and gathers the infidel and the unbeliever beneath the Gos-
pel's ample shield; which doubles the productions of earth, and
lays bare the treasures of ocean; which plants the church of God
in the wilderness of the West, and substitutes the Sabbath bell
for the howl of the panther; which carries literature and science
to the log cabin of the pioneer, and connects every part of this
wide Republic by links so strong, so close, that the traveler
feels every spot he treads is home, and every hand he grasps a
brother's hand, — if this be the progress which is meant, most
gladly do I enlist under its banner.

But, sir, I am not permitted so to understand it. I under-
stand progress, as interpreted by modem politicians, to be quite


a different thing. The first lesson they inculcate is a sort of
general defiance to all mankind; an imitation of the worst prac-
tice of olden chivalry — the practice of hanging a glove in some
public place as a challenge to every passer-by to engage in mor-
tal combat — a practice, in no degree based upon wrongs to be
redressed, or injuries to be avenged, but upon a pure, unmiti-
gated love of blood and strife. They have borrowed also from
the crusaders another vicious and indefensible habit — that of im-
poverishing themselves at home to raise the means of transpor-
tation to other lands to erect altars and inculcate principles by
the edge of the sword. They propose to grasp the territory of
an old and faithful ally, not only without the shadow of a claim,
but without even the robber's plea of necessity; to hush the
busy hum of commerce; to withdraw the artisan from his work-
shop, the laborer from his field, the man of science and the man
of letters from their high pursuits; to convert the whole land
into one vast camp, and impress upon the people the wild and
fierce character of the followers of King Clovis.

Sir, I wish to indulge in no exaggerated statements, but let
us, in the cant phraseology of the day, * establish a foreign
policy." Let us set about convincing the world that we are in-
deed **a power upon earth. '^ Let us rob Spain of Cuba, Eng-
land of Canada, and Mexico of her remaining possessions, and
this continent will be too small a theatre upon which to enact
the bloody drama of American progress! Like the Prophet of
the East, who carried the sword in one hand and the Koran
in the other, American armies will be sent forth to proclaim
freedom to the serf; but if he happen to love the land in which
he was born, and exhibit some manly attachment to the institu-
tions with which he is familiar, his own lifeblood will saturate
the soil, and his wife and children be driven forth as houseless
wanderers, in proof of our tender consideration for the rights of
humanity. Sir, this is a species of progress with which Satan
himself might fall in love.

Mr. President, there are in this connection still other lights
in which the question before us may be presented. Look at
America as she now is, prosperous in all things, splendid, mag-
nificent, rich in her agriculture, rich in her commerce, rich in
arts and sciences, rich in learning, rich in individual freedom,
richer still in the proud prerogative of bending the knee to none
but the God who made us, and of worshiping even in his tem-


pies according to the forms which conscience, not the law, has
prescribed. Gaze upon that picture until your soul has drunk in
all its beauty, all its glory, and then let me paint for you that
which is offered as a substitute. Look upon a land where war
has become a passion, and blood a welcome visitant; where
every avenue to genius is closed save that which leads through
a field of strife; where the widow and the orphan mingle un-
availing tears for the husband and the father; where literature
has become a mockery and religion a reproach; upon a people,
strong indeed, but terrible in their strength, with the tiger's out-
ward beauty and the tiger's inward fierceness; upon a people
correctly described by the poet when he said: —

, <* Religion, blushing, veils her sacred fires,
And unawares morality expires;
Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shine,
Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine.
Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos, is restored,
Light dies before thy uncreating word;
Thy hand, great Anarch, lets the curtain fall.
And universal darkness buries all.^^

Let no one tell me that these are imaginary dangers. At
the commencement of the French Revolution, if any one pre-
dicted the excesses to which it gave birth, he would have been
regarded as a madman. What security have we against the
occurrence of similar scenes ? We are human, as they were.
Our law of being is the same; and if we once depart from the
plain path of prudence and of rectitude, no human wisdom can
foresee the result.


(?)-422 B. C.

fLEON has been called « the scorn and terror of all good men
at Athens. ^^ Cicero characterizes him as turbulent, but elo-

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 7 of 39)