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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follow that we should now be obliged to accept of a dangerous
one ? I ever lamented the feebleness of the Confederation, for
this reason, among others, that the experience of its weakness
would one day drive the people into an adoption of a constitu-
tion dangerous to our liberties. I know the people are too apt
to vibrate from one extreme to another. The effects of this dis-
position are what I wish to guard against. If the gentleman
can show me that the proposed Constitution is a safe one, I will
drop all opposition. The public resolves which have been read
to you are only expressive of the desire that once prevailed to
remove present difficulties. A general impost was intended, but
it was intended as a temporary measure. I appeal to every gen-
tleman present, if I have not been uniformly in favor of grant-
ing an impost to Congress. I confess that, seeing the manner in
which that body proposed to exercise the power, I could not
agree to it. I firmly believed, that, if it were granted in the form
recommended, it would prove unproductive, and would also lead
to the establishment of dangerous principles. I believed that


granting the revenue, without giving the power of collection, or
a control over our State officers, would be the most wise and
prudent measure. These are and ever have been my senti-


(From the Speech of February 23d, 1803, Protesting Against Forcing a War
with Spain. Delivered in the United State Senate)

I SHALL not attempt to occupy your attention by threadbare
declamation upon the evils of war, by painting the calamities
it inflicts upon the happiness of individuals and the pros-
perity of nations. This terrible scourge of mankind, worse than
famine or pestilence, ought not to be resorted to until every
reasonable expedient has been adopted to avert it. When aggres-
sions have been committed by the sovereign or representatives
of the will of the nation, negotiation ought, in all cases, to be
first tried, unless the rights of self-defense demand a contrary
course. This is the practice of nations, and is enjoined by the
unerring monitor which the God of nature has planted in every
human bosom. What right have the rulers of nations to un-
sheathe the sword of destruction, and to let loose the demon of
desolation upon mankind whenever caprice or pride, ambition or
avarice, shall prescribe ? And are there no fixed laws, founded
in the nature of things, which ordain bounds to the fell spirit of
revenge, the mad fury of domination, and the insatiable thirst of
cupidity ? Mankind have, not only in their individual charac-
ter, but in their collective capacity as nations, recognized and
avowed, in their opinions and actions, a system of laws calcu-
lated to produce the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
And it may be safely asserted that it is a fundamental article of
this code that a nation ought not to go to war until it is evident
that the injury committed is highly detrimental, and that it
emanated from the will of the nation, charged with the aggres-
sion, either by an express authorization in the first instance, or
by a recognition of it when called upon for redress, and a refusal
in both cases to give it. A demand of satisfaction ought to pre-
cede an appeal to arms, even when the injury is manifestly the
act of the sovereign; and when it is the act of a private indi-
vidual, it is not imputable to its nation until its government is
called upon to explain and redress, and refuses; because the


evils of war are too heavy and serious to be incurred without
the most urgent necessity; because remonstrance and negotiation
have often recalled an offending nation to a sense of justice and
a performance of right; because nations, like individuals, have
their paroxysms of passion, and when reflection and reason re-
sume their dominion, will extend that redress to the olive branch,
which their pride will not permit them to grant to the sword;
because a nation is a moral person, and as such is not charge-
able with an offense committed by others, or where its will has
not been consulted; the unauthorized conduct of individuals
being never considered a just ground of hostility, until their
sovereign refuses that. reparation for which his right of controll-
ing their actions and of punishing their misconduct necessarily
renders him responsible. These opinions are sanctioned by the
most approved elementary writers on the laws of nations. I
shall quote the sentiments of some of them.

Vattel says : ^* Two things, therefore, are necessary to render
it [an offensive war] just. First, a right to be asserted, — that is,
that a demand made on another nation be important and well
grounded; second, that this reasonable demand cannot be ob-
tained otherwise than by force of arms. Necessity alone war-
rants the use of force. It is a dangerous and terrible resource.
Nature, the common parent of mankind, allows of it only in ex-
tremity, and when all others fail. It is doing wrong to a na-
tion to make use of violence against it, before we know whether
it be disposed to do us justice, or to refuse it. Those, who,
without trying pacific measures, on the least motive run to arms,
sufficiently show that justificative reasons, in their mouths, are
only pretenses; they eagerly seize the opportunity of indulging
their passions and of gratifying their ambition under some color
of right.** It is subsequently stated by this admired writer, that
^*it is demonstrated in the foregoing chapter, that, to take arms
lawfully, first, we have a just cause of complaint; second, that
a reasonable satisfaction has been denied us, etc.**

Burlamaqui says : " However just reason we may have to make
war, yet as it inevitably brings along with it an incredible num-
ber of calamities, and often injustices, it is certain that we ought
not to proceed too easily to a dangerous extremity, which may,
perhaps, prove fatal to the conqueror himself. The following are
the measures v/hich prudence directs sovereigns to observe in
these circumstances: First, supposing the reason of the war is just


in itself, yet the dispute ought to be about something of great
consequence to us, since it is better even to relinquish part of
our right, when the thing is not considerable, than to have re-
course to arms to defend it. Second, we ought to have at least
some probable appearance of success; for it would be a criminal
temerity, and a real folly, wantonly to expose ourselves to certain
destruction, and to run into a greater, in order to avoid a lesser
evil. Lastly, there should be a real necessity for taking up
arms ; that is, we ought not to have recourse to force, but wh en
we can employ no milder method of recovering our rights, or of
defending ourselves from the evils with which we are menaced.
These measures are agreeable not only to the principles of pru-
dence, but also to the fundamental maxims of sociability, and the
love of peace; maxims of no less force, with respect to nations,
than individuals. By these a sovereign must, therefore, be nec-
essarily directed; even the justice of the government obliges him
to it, in consequence of the very nature and end of authority.
For as he ought always to take particular care of the State, and
of his subjects, consequently he should not expose them to all
the evils with which war is attended, except in the last extrem-
ity, and when there is no other expedient left but that of arms.'*
In addition to these great authorities, permit me to refer sever-
ally to the opinions of two more modem writers, Martens and
Paley. The former says that all amicable means for redress
must be tried in vain, before an appeal to arms, unless it is evi-
dent that it would be useless to try such means; and the latter
is of opinion, that the only justifying causes of war are deliber-
ate invasions of right, and maintaining the balance of power.
It is not necessary to decide upon the justice of the last observa-
tion, because it does not apply to the case before us. But can
any man lay his hand upon his heart, and declare that he be-
lieves the present case a deliberate invasion of right by the
Spanish government ? Can any man say that it would be fruit-
less to attempt amicable means of redress, and that the sword
alone can restore us to our rights?

The opinions of these celebrated writers are corroborated by
the general usage of nations. A demand of redress, before the
application of force, has been almost uniformly practiced by the
most barbarous, as well as the most civilized nations. Instances
may, indeed, be found to the contrary, but they are to be consid-
ered as departures from established usage. The ancient Romans,


who were a military nation, and who marched to empire through
an ocean of blood, always demanded satisfaction from the offend-
ing nation before they proceeded to war, and fixed upon a cer-
tain time in which the demand was to be complied with; at the
expiration of which, if redress was still withheld, they then en-
deavored to obtain it by force. It has been the general practice
of the civilized nations of Europe to promulgate manifestoes
justificatory of their conduct, in resorting to arms. These mani-
festoes contain a full statement of their wrongs, and almost
always declare that they had previously endeavored by negotia-
tion to obtain a friendly adjustment of their complaints. What
is this but a declaration that the law and the sense of nations
demand this course ? What is it but an appeal to the intuitive
sense of right and wrong, which exists in every human bosom ?

The practice of our government has been uniformly conform-
able to the principles I have endeavored to establish, and I
trust I shall be excused for bestowing particular consideration on
this subject. We have heard much of the policy of Washington;
it has been sounded in our ears from all quarters, and an honor-
able gentleman from Delaware [Mr. White] has triumphantly con-
trasted it with that adopted by the present administration. I am
not disposed to censure it in this case; on the contrary, I think
it a high and respectable authority; but let it be properly under-
stood, in order to be rightly appreciated, and it will be found
that the United States, under his administration, and that of his
successor, have received injuries more deleterious, insults more
atrocious, and indignities more pointed than the present, and that
the pacific measure of negotiation was preferred. If our national
honor has survived the severe wounds it then received, it may
surely outlive the comparatively slight attack now made upon it;
but if its ghost only now remains to haunt the consciences of
the honorable gentlemen, who were then in power, and who
polluted their hands with the foul murder, let them not attempt
to transfer the odium and the crime to those who had no hand
in the guilty deed They then stood high in the councils of
their country; the reins of government were in their hands; and
if the course they at that time pursued was diametrically oppo-
site to that they now urge for our adoption, what shall we say
of their consistency ? What will they say of it themselves ? What
will their country say of it ?



|ROM December 4th, 1843, to March 3d, 185 1, Howell Cobb was
one of the most prominent of the Southern leaders in the
Congress of the United States. He was Speaker of the
Thirty-first Congress, and Governor of Georgia from 185 1 to 1853.
He was again a member of Congress from December 3d, 1855, to
March 3d, 1857, when he became Air. Buchanan's Secretary of the
Treasury — an office in which he continued until his resignation, De-
cember loth, i860. He was President of the Montgomery convention
which created the Confederate States Government. He was commis-
sioned a Brigadier-General in the Confederate army in February, 1862,
and promoted to Major-General in September, 1863. At the close of
the war he surrendered at Macon, Georgia. He was born at Cherry
Hill, Georgia, September 7th, 181 5, and died in New York city, Octo-
ber 9th, 1868. His speech on the Oregon boundary question illustrates
an issue which threatened war with England and caused great excite-
ment in the United States.


(From an Address of January 8th, 1846, before a Committee of the House

of Representatives Having Under Consideration the

Oregon Boundary Question)

WHKN will this Government be prepared to maintain our just
rights in the Oregon Territory? Will gentlemen who
follow me in this debate be so good as to inform the
country to what period of time they look forw^ard when the
United States will be in a proper condition to defend her na-
tional rights in Oregon? Where is the difficulty? Why are you
not prepared to defend Oregon and your rights in the territory?
Is it owing to the condition of your army or of your navy? So
far as your army is concerned, it is a settled principle in the
Government, if I understand and appreciate our people aright,
that the Government shall never be dependent on a standing
army for the protection of the rights of the people. You can



never induce, and I trust you will never desire to induce, this
Government to create a large standing army in time of peace as
preparatory to some future emergency which may require it.
The bulwark of the defense of our country lies in the hearts and
the spirit of the American people. It is to the citizen-soldier,
and not the mercenary hireling, that the American people look
for the defense of their rights in an emergency of this kind. Is
your navy not prepared ? Mr. Chairman, I am not prepared, nor
should I detain you if I were prepared to go into a discussion of
the condition and character of our navy. But tell me when we
will be better prepared than we are now ? Will it be at some
future period ? Are you prepared at once to make a heavy ap-
propriation for the increase of your navy ? Will this Government
ever be prepared, in a time of peace, to pursue a policy of this
kind ? If so, it will difEer widely from the history of the past or
of congresses preceding. And those who are most anxious now
for the settlement of the Oregon question, and those who are in
favor of postponing it to a future period, many of them will be
found on common ground in warfare upon our little navy — that
gallant navy which needs no praise from me since its praise is
written in the history of the country.

Mr. Chairman, I have exhausted more time upon the discus-
sion of these one or two points than I had intended, and I
fear I must pass by some others to which I had intended to re-
fer. There was, however, one prominently brought forward in
this discussion upon which I must bestow at least a passing
thought. It is said by those who advocate it, that this is a peace
measure, and by those who oppose it a war measure. Mr.
Chairman, I am not prepared to go to the full extent with
some who declare that the inevitable result of the passage of
this notice will be to involve this country in a bloody and de-
structive war. Nor am I prepared, on the other hand, to go
with those who fearlessly assert that there is no danger to result
from our action in reference to Oregon. I plant myself on this
ground, that the course which I propose to pursue is the one
called for by the national faith and honor of my country; and I
am in the prosecution of what I conceive to be the just rights
of my Government, and am endeavoring to carry out the policy
best calculated to secure this end. If peace be the result, I shall
gladly welcome it. If war be the consequence, we must meet it.
It is a crisis not to be avoided, not to be evaded, but to be met


with boldness, firmness, and decision. When we have discharged
our duties, then, sir, it will be for another department of our
Government, and for the Government with whom we are in colli-
sion upon this subject, to do what they may conceive to be their
duty. If, Mr, Chairman, the result shall be inauspicious, — if it
shall involve us in war, — I will have the consoling reflection left
that I have pursued a course of policy dictated by the best inter-
ests of my country, as far as I have been enabled to appreciate
those interests. That we should suffer from a war, I do not
pretend to deny; that we shall lose the Oregon Territory by re-
sorting to war is an idea I utterly repudiate. Whenever this
Government shall be engaged in a conflict of this kind with the
British Government, or with any other government on earth,
peace will never be declared upon terms leaving one foot of ter-
ritory which has ever been consecrated to American freedom
and American principles, afterwards to be profaned by monarch-
ical or despotic principles. No; Canada may be acquired. I do
not dispute that position of gentlemen who have argued this
proposition before the House; but that Oregon will ever be
abandoned peacefully, or in the struggle of war, my mind has
never been brought to conclude, nor will it be. Sir, upon this
day, this memorable, glorious eighth of January, let it not be
said by American statesmen, in an American Congress, that
this Government can be injured, can be deprived, can be weak-
ened in her just and unquestionable rights by a conflict with
Great Britain, or with any other government. If war come, I
venture the prediction that when it terminates we will have the
consolation of knowing that not a British flag floats on an Amer-
ican breeze; that not a British subject treads on American soil.
There is where war ought to terminate, if come it must; there
^s where I believe and trust in heaven it will terminate.



1 11,1.1AM CoBBETT reveled in the turmoil of controversy, and ap-
parently was never happier than when undergoing prosecu-
tion for libelous or seditious utterances. Indeed, much of his
work as editor and author was done in prison. His disposition to row
against the current and to take the part of the "under dog" was con-
spicuous in his life in America as well as in England, A British soldier
discharged in Canada, he began the publication of his Peter Porcupine
Papers and his Porcupine Gazette in Wilmington, and in 1796 set up as
a bookseller and publisher of his own writings in Philadelphia. There
he was as much against the government as he ever was against that of
England after his return from America. His praises of Great Britain,
his scorn of American institutions and attacks on American statesmen
involved him in prosecutions for libel which in 1800 drove him back to
England where he was at first regarded as a loyal refugee, the cham-
pion of monarchy and order. He dined with Windham, was introduced
to Pitt, and was offered a share in the True Briton. But he refused the
gift, opened a bookshop in Pall Mall, and revived his Porcupine Gazette,
which was followed in 1802 by the Weekly Political Register. Ere long
his windows were broken by an angry mob, and he again incurred heavy
fines. In 1809 his comments on the flogging of several militiamen ex-
posed him to a fine of £1,000 and two years imprisonment. From his
prison he continued the publication of the Political Register. By 18 17
his debts and other difficulties compelled him to take refuge for a time
in the United States, and it was while in America that he wrote his
English grammar, of which ten thousand copies were sold in a month.
He was a self-educated man, a vigorous if not a polished speaker and
writer. His speeches and lectures in the principal cities of England and
Scotland drew large audiences. He was born March 9th, 1762, in
Surrey. In 1832 he was elected to the House of Commons, not long
after the disagreement of a jury had delivered him from a prosecution
for inciting rebellion. In 1834 he was re-elected, but his health failed,
and he died June i6th. 1835. A long list of his printed books can be
found in the catalogue of any public library.

4-7 97

William cobbett


(Peroration of His Speech Before the Court of King's Bench, Defending Him-
self Against a Charge of Libel, in July 1831)

THE fact is, that I am the watchman, the man on the tower,
who can be neither coaxed, nor wheedled, nor bullied; and
I have expressed my determination never to quit my post
until I obtain a cheap government for the country, and, by doing
away with places and pensions, prevent the people's pockets from
being picked. These men know that if I were to get into the
House of Commons under a reformed Parliament, I should speed-
ily effect that object, and therefore they are resolved to get rid
of me by some means or other; but, thank God, gentlemen, you
will not let them effect it on the present occasion.

I have little else to add, except to state what evidence I
shall lay before you. The first witness I shall call will be the
Lord Chancellor, and I will put in the letter to the Luddites,
which by delivery to Lord Brougham for publication, I, in point
of law, republished at the very time when I was said to be en-
deavoring to stir up the laborers to sedition and outrage. I will
then call his lordship to prove the fact respecting the application
for it, and he will tell you that I stipulated no terms, but that
the whole of the letter should be published. I shall then call
the Earl of Radnor, who knows me and all my sentiments well,
and he will tell you whether I am a likely man to design and
endeavor to do that which this false and malicious Whig indict-
ment charges me with wishing to do. I shall also call several
persons of the highest respectability from Kent, Sussex, and
other parts of the country, to prove that I have not done any-
thing to stir up disturbance, but that I have done a great deal
to prevent it and to restore quiet. I shall then call Lord Mel-
bourne to prove that the sentence on Goodman was not executed,
but that he was sent out of the country, whereas Cook was put
to death. When the jury shall have heard all this, and shall
have read over the various publications, I have not the slightest
doubt but that they will dismiss with scorn and contempt this
groundless charge of the Whig Attorney-General. This is the
second time in my life that I have been prosecuted by an
Attorney-General, and brought before this court. I have been
writing for thirty years, and only twice out of that long period


have I been brought before this court. The first time was by
an apostate Whig. What, indeed, of evil have the Whigs not
done ? Since then, although there have been six Attorneys-
General, all Tories, and although, were I a Crown lawyer, I might
pick out plenty of libels from my writings, if this be a libel, yet
I have never for twenty-one years been prosecuted until this
Whig government came in. But the Whigs were always a most
tyrannical faction; they always tried to make tyranny double
tyranny; they were always the most severe, the most grasping,
the most greedy, the most tyrannical faction whose proceedings
are recorded in history. It was they who seized what remained
of the Crown lands; it was they who took to themselves the last
portion of Church property; it was they who passed the mon-
strous Riot Act; it was they also who passed the Septennial
Bill. The Government are now acquiring great credit for doing
away with the rotten boroughs; but if they deserve credit for
doing them away, let it be borne in mind that the Whigs created
them. They established an interest in the regulation, and gave
consistency and value to corruption., Then came the excise laws,
which were brought in by the Whigs; and from, them, too,
emanated that offensive statute by which Irish men and Irish
women may be transported without judge or jury. There is, in-
deed, no faction so severe and cruel; they do everything by
force and violence. The Whigs are the Rehoboam of England;
the Tories ruled us with rods, but the Whigs scourge us with

The last time I was brought before this court, I was sent
out of it to two years' imprisonment among felons, and was con-
demned to pay, at the expiration of the two years, a fine of one
thousand pounds sterling to the King, which the King took and
kept. But this was not all; I was bound, too, in a penalty of
five thousand pounds myself, and obliged to procure two sureties
in two thousand five hundred pounds each to keep the peace
for seven years. ... I was carried seventy miles from my
family and shut up in a jail, doubtless with the hope that I

Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) → online text (page 9 of 39)