« ZurückWeiter »
consideration and our action; let us raise our conceptions to the magnitude and the importance of the duties that devolve upon us; let our comprehension be as broad as the country for which we act, our aspirations as high as its certain destiny; let us not be pigmies in a case that calls for men. Never did there devolve on any generation of men higher trusts than now devolve upon us, for the preservation of this Constitution, and the harmony and peace of all who are destined to live under it. Let us make our generation one of the strongest and brightest links in that golden chain, which is destined, I fondly believe, to grapple the People of all the States to this Constitution for ages to Colne. We have a great, popular, constitutional Government, guarded by law and by judicature, and defended by the whole affections of the People. No monarchical throne presses these States together; no iron chain of military power encircles them; they live and stand upon a Government popular in its form, representative in its character, founded upon principles of equality, and so constructed, we hope, as to last forever. In all its history it has been beneficent; it has trodden down no man's liberty, - it has crushed no State. Its daily respiration is liberty and patriotism; its yet youthful veins are full of enterprise, courage, and honorable love of glory and renown. Large before, the country has now, by recent events, become vastly larger. This Republic now extends, with a vast breadth, across the whole Continent. The two great seas of the world wash the one and the other shore. We realize, on a mighty scale, the beautiful description of the ornamental edging of the buckler of Achilles, –
“Now the broad shield complete, the artist crowned
185. JUSTICE TO THE WHOLE COUNTRY, July 17, 1850. – Webster.
I THINK, Sir, the country calls upon us loudly and imperatively to settle this question. I think that the whole world is looking to see whether this great popular Government can get through such a crisis. We are the observed of all observers. It is not to be disputed or doubted, that the eyes of all Christendom are upon us. We have stood through many trials. Can we stand through this, which takes so much the character of a sectional controversy 2 Can we stand that? There is no inquiring man in all Europe who does not ask himself that question every day, when he reads the intelligence of the morning. Can this country, with one set of interests at the South, and another set of interests at the North, these interests supposed, but falsely supposed, to be at variance,—can this People see, what is so evident to the whole world beside, that this Union is their main hope and greatest benefit, and that their interests are entirely compatible 2 Can they see, and will they feel, that their prosperity, their respectability among
the Nations of the earth, and their happiness at home, depend upon the maintenance of their Union and their Constitution ? That is the question. I agree that local divisions are apt to overturn the understandings of men, and to excite a belligerent feeling between section and section. It is natural, in times of irritation, for one part of the country to say, if you do that I will do this, and so get up a feeling of hostility and defiance. Then comes belligerent legislation, and then an appeal to arms. The question is, whether we have the true patriotism, the Americanism, necessary to carry us through such a trial. The whole world is looking towards us, with extreme anxiety.
For myself, I propose, Sir, to abide by the .principles and the purposes which I have avowed. I shall stand by the Union, and by all who stand by it. I shall do justice to the whole country, according to the best of my ability, in all I say, - and act for the good of the whole country in all I do. I mean to stand upon the Constitution. I need no other platform. I shall know but one country. The ends I aim at shall be my country's, my God's, and Truth's. I was born an American ; I live an American ; I shall die an American ; and I intend to perform the duties incumbent upon me in that character to the end of my career. I mean to do this, with absolute disregard of personal consequences. What are personal consequences ! What is the individual man, with all the good or evil that may betide him, in comparison with the good or evil which may befall a great country in a crisis like this, and in the midst of great transactions which concern that country's fate 2 Let the consequences be what they will, I am careless. No man can suffer too much, and no man can fall too soon, if he suffer, or if he fall, in defence of the liberties and Constitution of his country!
186. MATCHES AND OVER-MATCHES, 1830. – Webster.
The following passage, and others by Mr. Webster which succeed it in this Department, are from his speeches in reply to Mr. Hayne, of South Carolina, in the Senate of the United States, January, 1830. This celebrated intellectual combat, between these distinguished men, grew out of a Resolution offered by Mr. Foote, directing the committee on Public Lands to inquire into the quantity of the public lands remaining unsold, and other matters connected there with. This resolution afforded a text for a very irrelevant debate. Of the irrelevancy of Mr. Hayne's remarks, Mr. Webster said: “He has spoken of everything but the public lands. They have escaped his notice. To that subject, in all his excursions, he has not even paid the cold respect of a passing glance.” I AM not one of those, Sir, who esteem any tribute of regard, whether light and occasional, or more serious and deliberate, which may be bestowed on others, as so much unjustly withholden from themselves. But the tone and manner of the gentleman's question forbid me thus to interpret it. I am not at liberty to consider it as nothing more than a civility to his friend. It had an air of taunt and disparagement, a little of the loftiness of asserted superiority, which does not allow me to pass it over without notice. It was put as a question for me to answer, and so put as if it were difficult for me to answer, whether I deemed the member from Missouri an over-match for myself in debate here. It seems to me, Sir, that this is extraordinary lan
guage, and an extraordinary tone, for the discussions of this body.
Matches and over-matches' Those terms are more applicable elsewhere than here, and fitter for other assemblies than this. Sir, the gentleman seems to forget where and what we are. This is a Senate; a Senate of equals; of men of individual honor and personal character, and of absolute independence. We know no masters; we acknowledge no dictators. This is a Hall for mutual consultation and discussion; not an arena for the exhibition of champions. I offer myself, Sir, as a match for no man; I throw the challenge of debate at no man's feet. But, then, Sir, since the honorable member has put the question, in a manner that calls for an answer, I will give him an answer; and I tell him, that, holding myself to be the humblest of the members here, I yet know nothing in the arm of his friend from Missouri, either alone, or when aided by the arm of his friend from South Carolina, that need deter even me from espousing whatever opinions I may choose to espouse, from debating whenever I may choose to debate, or from speaking whatever I may see fit to say, on the floor of the Senate.
Sir, when uttered as matter of commendation or compliment, I should dissent from nothing which the honorable member might say of his friend. Still less do I put forth any pretensions of my own. But, when put to me as matter of taunt, I throw it back, and say to the gentleman that he could possibly say nothing less likely than such a comparison to wound my pride of personal character. The anger of its tone rescued the remark from intentional irony, which, otherwise, probably, would have been its general acceptation. But, Sir, if it be imagined that, by this mutual quotation and commendation; if it be supposed that, by casting the characters of the drama, assigning to each his part, — to one, the attack; to another, the cry of onset; — or, if it be thought that, by a loud and empty vaunt of anticipated victory, any laurels are to be won here; if it be imagined, especially, that any or all these things shall shake any purpose of mine,— I can tell the honorable member, once for all, that he is greatly mistaken, and that he is dealing with one of whose temper and character he has yet much to learn. Sir, I shall not allow myself, on this occasion, —I hope on no occasion,--to be betrayed into any loss of temper; but if provoked, as I trust I never shall allow myself to be, into crimination and recrimination, the honorable member may, perhaps, find that in that contest there will be blows to take, as well as blows to give; that others can state comparisons as significant, at least, as his own; and that his impunity may, perhaps, demand of him whatever powers of taunt and sarcasm he may possess. I commend him to a prudent husbandry of his resources.
187. SOUTH CAROLINA AND MASSACHUSETTS, 1830. – Webster.
The eulogium pronounced on the character of the State of South Carolina, by the honorable gentleman, for her Revolutionary and other merits, meets my hearty concurrence. I shall not acknowledge that the honorable member goes before me in regard for whatever of distinguished talent or distinguished character South Carolina has produced. I claim part of the honor, I partake in the pride of her great names. I claim them for countrymen, one and all. The Laurenses, the Rutledges, the Pinckneys, the Sumpters, the Marions, –Americans, all, whose fame is no more to be hemmed in by State lines, than their talents and patriotism were capable of being circumscribed within the same narrow limits. In their day and generation, they served and honored the country, and the whole country; and their renown is of the treasures of the whole country. Him whose honored name the gentleman himself bears, – does he suppose me less capable of gratitude for his patriotism, or sympathy for his sufferings, than if his eyes had first opened upon the light in Massachusetts, instead of South Carolina 2 Sir, does he suppose it is in his power to exhibit a Carolina name so bright as to produce envy in my bosom ? No, Sir; increased gratification and delight, rather. Sir, I thank God, that, if I am gifted with little of the spirit which is said to be able to raise mortals to the skies, I have yet none, as I trust, of that other spirit, which would drag angels down. When I shall be found, Sir, in my place here, in the Senate, or elsewhere, to sneer at public merit, because it happened to spring up beyond the little limits of my own State or neighborhood; when I refuse, for any such cause, or for any cause, the homage due to American talent, to elevated patriotism, to sincere devotion to liberty and the country; or, if I see an uncommon endowment of Heaven, – if I see extraordinary capacity and virtue in any son of the South, – and if, moved by local prejudice, or gangrened by State jealousy, I get up here to abate the tithe of a hair from his just character and just fame, may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth ! Sir, let me recur to pleasing recollections; let me indulge in refreshing remembrance of the past; let me remind you that, in early times, no States cherished greater harmony, both of principle and feeling, than Massachusetts and South Carolina. Would to God that harmony might again return Shoulder to shoulder they went through the Revolution; hand in hand they stood round the administration of Washington, and felt his own great arm lean on them for support. Unkind feeling, if it exist, — alienation and distrust, — are the growth, unnatural to such soils, of false principles since sown. They are weeds, the seeds of which that same great arm never scattered. Mr. President, I shall enter on no encomium upon Massachusetts; — she needs none. There she is, – behold her, and judge for yourselves. There is her history, — the world knows it by heart. The past, at least, is secure. There is Boston, and Concord, and Lexington, and Bunker Hill, - and there they will remain forever. The bones of her sons, fallen in the great struggle for Independence, now lie mingled with the soil of every State from New England to Georgia, – and there they will lie forever. And, Sir, where American liberty raised its first voice, and where its youth was nurtured and sustained, there it still lives, in the strength of its manhood, and full of its original spirit. If discord and disunion shall wound it, —if party strife and blind ambition shall hawk at and tear it, — if folly and madness, if uneasiness under salutary and necessary restraints, shall succeed to separate it from that Union by which alone its existence is made sure, — it will stand, in the end, by the side of that cradle in which its infancy was rocked; it will stretch forth its arm, with whatever vigor it may still retain, over the friends who gather round it; and it will fall at last, if fall it must, amidst the proudest monuments of its own glory, and on the very spot of its origin
188. LIBERTY AND UNION, 1830. – Webster.
I PROFEss, Sir, in my career hitherto, to have kept steadily in view the prosperity and honor of the whole country, and the preservation of our Federal Union. It is to that Union we owe our safety at home, and our consideration and dignity abroad. It is to that Union we are chiefly indebted for whatever makes us most proud of our country. That Union we reached only by the discipline of our virtues, in the severe school of adversity. It had its origin in the necessities of disordered finance, prostrate commerce, and ruined credit. Under its benign influences, these great interests immediately awoke, as from the dead, and sprang forth with newness of life. -Every year of its duration has teemed with fresh proofs of its utility and its blessings; and although our territory has stretched out wider and wider, and our population spread further and further, they have not outran its protection, or its benefits. It has been to us all a copious fountain of national, social, personal happiness. I have not allowed myself, Sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty, when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could } regard him as a safe counsellor in the affairs of this Government whose thoughts should be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union should be best preserved, but how tolerable might be the condition of the People when it shall be broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that, in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise! God grant that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind ' When my eyes shall be turned to behold, for the last time, the Sun in Heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States severed, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and