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than thirty years' standing! A solemn covenant overturned by an inference - superseded by what is called a principle -- emanating, let me rather say extorted, from the settlement of a wholly different and independent issue! Who ever heard of such a proceeding, or of such a proposition as this?
Fellow-citizens, the great statesman of Kentucky, now in his grave, and whom I can never think of without fresh admiration for many of the noble qualities both of his head and his heart, — that great statesman had a wonderful bump of constructiveness. He built up that Omnibus with a masterly hand. He made a most capacious vehicle. But he never dreamed that he had provided a seat- either an inside or an outside seat
for such a passenger as this. And had such an intruder made its appearance at the time, depend upon it he would himself have ejected it with a strong hand. Had he not done so, the coach would have been hopelessly overturned, and even he himself would have been crushed beneath its fragments.
Why, Mr. President, this is a question for testimony,— for contemporaneous testimony, - and not for ex post facto construction. And where are the witnesses ? Who rises in his place, or out of his place, to state, upon his own knowledge and responsibility, that the authors or the finishers of the adjustment of 1850 had any such measure as the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in contemplation ? A contract, we know, is to be construed according to the understanding and expectation of the parties at the time. What said the parties then ? What say the survivors of them now ?
There is at least one among the living, sir, whom I should like to hear upon this point. I mean our respected friend, the late President Fillmore. He was in the executive chair at the time, with those about him who knew most, and who did most, to carry through that adjustment. I should like to hear from him, as the highest authority in existence, whether in the inmost recesses of those Cabinet councils one word was ever breathed which any ingenuity could have tortured into this constructive repeal of the Missouri Compromise. I do not believe there was ever a word.
One of the later members of that Cabinet, indeed, has already spoken substantially to this point. I mean our own distin
guished Senator, Mr. Everett, who has borne the most satisfactory testimony in behalf of the dead, as well as of the living. And a most welcome rumor is at this moment coursing along the telegraphic wires, that another member of that Cabinet, the late accomplished Attorney-General, Mr. Crittenden, is about to testify to the same effect.
I know nothing of the source of this report, but I earnestly hope and trust that it may be verified. If that gallant and veteran statesman, the worthy compeer of Henry Clay, shall now throw himself boldly into the breach and plant himself upon the plighted faith of the nation, he will add fresh laurels to a brow already richly wreathed, and will reflect a new lustre upon the chivalry of old Kentucky.
But, fellow-citizens, whatever others may do or say, our course is plain ; and I rejoice that there is neither halting nor hesitation in pursuing it. I rejoice to perceive, from all the circumstances of this and of other occasions, that, whatever may have been our differences heretofore upon other topics, a firm, earnest, and united remonstrance against a measure so full at once of evil omen and of real wrong as this, is about to go up to the Capitol of the Nation from this time-honored Temple of Freedom.
THE DEATH OF JOHN DAVIS.
REMARKS MADE AT THE SEMI-ANNUAL MEETING OF THE AMERICAN ANTIQUARIAN
SOCIETY, BOSTON, APRIL 26, 1854.
I PRAY leave, Mr. Vice-President, to present to the Society a resolution or two, for the purpose of placing formally upon the records of this meeting the views which have been already expressed on all sides of the hall. They relate, I need not say, to our lamented President, whose death has been so fitly and feelingly announced to us in the Report of the Council.
It has been my good fortune to know Governor Davis long and well. It is twenty years this very month, since I entered his military family (as it is sometimes called) as his senior aide-decamp, upon his first election to the office of Governor of Massachusetts. From that time to this, hardly a year has elapsed in which I have not been associated with him in some sphere or other of the public service. I have known him, for years together, in the intimacies of a congressional mess, where all that is peculiar in private character is sure to make itself known. And it has been my privilege, too, to serve at his side in the Senate Chamber of the United States, during a brief, but crowded and momentous, period in the history of our national legislation. I desire, under these circumstances, sir, to bear my humble testimony to the many excellent and noble qualities, both of head and of heart, which distinguished him everywhere alike. No better or worthier Senator, in my humble judgment, was ever sent to the Capitol from Massachusetts, or from any other State, than John Davis; none more intelligent, more industrious, more faithful, more useful, more pure, disinterested, and patriotic.
His physical health and vigor were, it is true, not always equal to the demands which were made upon him. He had, too, a natural repugnance to every thing in the nature of ostentation or personal display. But he had a word ably and fitly and eloquently spoken for every occasion where it was called for; and he had, what is better than a whole volume of words, a quick eye, a listening ear, an attentive and thoroughly informed mind, and a punctual personal presence, for the daily and practical proceedings of Congress. No man took a more active interest, and no man exerted a more valuable influence, in regard to the real business of the country. Though born and bred in the interior of the State, and educated to the profession of the Bar, his mind seemed to have a natural facility for grappling with the difficult questions of trade and currency and tariffs, which belong more peculiarly to those who have their homes upon the seaboard, and who are personally engaged in commercial affairs. Upon questions of this sort, his opinion was often appealed to, almost as law. More than one occasion might be cited where that opinion was deferred to implicitly, as an all-sufficient authority to govern the action of the Senate, even by those least inclined and least accustomed to waive any views of their own. The labor of the country, and the commerce and navigation of the country, owe him a debt which could not easily have been paid, had he lived ; and which now, alas! can only be the subject of empty and formal recognition.
Above all, sir, he was a just and virtuous man, whose daily life was without spot or blemish, and whose example may be commended, without qualification, to the imitation of both young and old. As such, his name belongs to the treasures of our State and nation, and his memory can never fail to be cherished by all who appreciate the value of virtuous and Christian statesmen.
I ought to apologize, Mr. Vice-President, for having added a syllable to the able and admirable tributes to which we have just listened, in the reports of my friend Judge Kinnicutt, and of our devoted Librarian; and I will only trespass further upon your time by submitting the following resolutions :
Resolved, That we have learned with unfeigned sensibility and sorrow the sudden death of our distinguished and excellent President, and that this Society will ever cherish his memory with the warmest regard and respect.
Resolved, That the President's chair, in the Society's hall at Worcester, be shrouded with black until the next annual meeting; and that the Council be requested to take measures for adding a portrait of Governor Davis to the Society's gallery.
Resolved, That the thanks of the Society be presented to the Council for the admirable memoir of our lamented President which they have presented in their Report, and that they be instructed to prepare it for the press in a form in which it may have general circulation.
Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be communicated to the widow and family of Governor Davis, with an assurance of the sincere sympathy of the Society in their afflicting bereavement.