« AnteriorContinuar »
reélected with but a show of opposition. The eulogy upon Adams and Jefferson, of which we have already spoken, was delivered in the month of August of this year. In the month of June, 1827, Mr. Webster was elected to the Senate of the United States by a large majority of the votes of the two houses of the legislature of Massachusetts, the Hon. Mr. Mills of Northampton, who had filled that station with great ability, having declined being a candidate for reëlection in consequence of ill health. The principal measure which occupied the attention of the two houses during the first session of the Twentieth Congress was the revision of the tariff. This measure had its origin in the distressed condition of the woollen interest, which found itself deprived (partly by the effect of the repeal of the duty on wool imported into Great Britain) of that measure of protection which the tariff law of 1824 was designed to afford. An unsuccessful attempt had been made at the last session of Congress, to pass a law exclusively for the relief of the woollen manufacturers; but no law having in view the protection of any one great interest is likely to be enacted by Con gress, however called for by the particular circumstances of the case. At the present session an entire revision of the tariff was attempted. Political considerations unfortunately could not be excluded from the arrangements of the bill. A majority of the two houses was in favor of protection; but in a country so extensive as the United States, and embracing such a variety of interests, there were different views among the friends of the policy as to the articles to be protected and the amount of protection. This diversity of opinions and supposed diversity of interests enabled those wholly opposed to the principle and policy of protection, by uniting their votes on questions of detail with members who represented local interests, to render the bill objectionable in many parts to several of its friends, and to reduce them to the alternative of either voting against it, or tolerating more or less which they deemed inexpedient, and even highly injurious. Hence it received the name of the “Bill of Abominations.” The political motives alluded to caused the bill to be made as acceptable as possible to Pennsylvania and the other Middle States, and as unfavorable as possible to the leading interests of New England. The depression of the woollen manufactures had originally caused the revision of the tariff at this session. A heavy duty on the raw material was one of the features of the bill. But this was represented as due to the agricultural interest. The East, although it had now become eminently a manufacturing region, was still the seat of an active commerce, and largely concerned in the fisheries. The duty on molasses, a great article of consumption with the mariners and fishermen of the East, both in its natural form and that of cheap spirits, was doubled; but this, it was said, was required for the benefit of the grain-growers of the Middle States. Other provisions of this kind were introduced into the bill, in all cases with the assistance of the votes of its opponents, given in such a way as to render the bill as unpalatable as possible to the Northeastern manufacturers. Mr. Webster addressed the Senate, while the bill was before that body, exposing the objectionable features to which we have alluded. Believing, however, that the great article of woollens required the protection given it by the bill, and regarding the general system of protection as the established policy of the country and of the government, and feeling that the capital which had been invited into manufactures by former acts of legislation was now entitled to be sustained against the glut of foreign markets, fraudulent invoices, and the competition of foreign labor working at starvation wages, he gave his vote for the bill, and has ever since supported the policy of moderate protection. He has been accused of inconsistency in this respect; and by none more earnestly than by the friends of Mr. Calhoun, who was one of those influential statesmen of the South by whom, in the Fourteenth Congress, the foundation of a protective tariff was laid on the corner-stone of the square-yard duty on domestic cotton fabrics. But he has been sustained by the great majority of his constituents and of the people of the Northern, Middle, and Northwestern States; and should the prospects of success be fulfilled with which manufactures have been attempted at the South, there is little doubt that she will at length perceive that her own interest would be promoted by upholding the same policy. When the speech of Mr. Webster of 1824, in which he assigned his reasons for voting against the tariff law of that year, WOL. I. h
is carefully compared with his speech of 1828, just referred to, it will be found that there is no other diversity than that which was induced by the change in the state of the country itself in reference to its manufacturing interests, and by the course pursued in reference to the details of the bill by those opposed to protection in toto. It is the best proof of this, that, in the former edition of Mr. Webster's works, the two speeches were, for more easy comparison, placed side by side.
Election of General Jackson. — Debate on Foot's Resolution. — Subject of the Resolution, and Objects of its Mover. — Mr. Hayne's First Speech. — Mr. Webster's original Participation in the Debate unpremeditated.—His First Speech. — Reply of Mr. Hayne with increased Asperity.— Mr. Webster's Great Speech. — Its Threefold Object.—Description of the Manner of Mr. Webster in the Delivery of this Speech, from Mr. March’s “Reminiscences of Congress.”—Reception of his Speech throughout the Country. — The Dinner at New York. — Chancellor Kent's Remarks. – Final Disposal of Foot's Resolution.—Report of Mr. Webster's Speech. — Mr. Healey's Painting. *
IN the interval between the two sessions of the Twentieth Congress, the Presidential election was decided. Mr. Adams and General Jackson were the opposing candidates; and the latter was chosen by a large popular majority. This result was brought about by the active coöperation with General Jackson's original supporters of the friends of Mr. Calhoun, and many of the friends of the other candidates of 1824. This cooperation implied the combination of the most discordant materials, which did not, however, prevent its members during the canvass from heaping the bitterest reproaches upon Mr. Adams's administration for receiving the support of Mr. Clay. That there was no cordiality among the component elements of the party by which General Jackson was elevated to the chair was soon quite apparent. The first session of the Twenty-first Congress, that of 1829– 30, is rendered memorable in the history of Mr. Webster, as well as in the parliamentary history of the country, by what has been called the debate on Foot's resolution, in which Mr. Webster delivered the speech which is usually regarded as his ablest, and which may probably with truth be pronounced the most celebrated speech ever delivered in Congress. The great importance of this effort will no doubt be considered as a sufficient reason for relating somewhat in detail the circumstances under which it was made. The debate arose in the following manner. On the 29th of December, 1829, Mr. Foot, one of the Senators from Connecticut, moved the following resolution:
“Resolved, That the Committee on Public Lands be instructed to inquire and report the quantity of public lands remaining unsold within each State and Territory, and whether it be expedient to limit for a certain period the sales of the public lands to such lands only as have heretofore been offered for sale, and are now subject to entry at the minimum price. And, also, whether the office of Surveyor-General, and some of the land offices, may not be abolished without detriment to the public interest.”
There is no reason to believe that, in bringing forward this resolution, Mr. Foot acted in concert with any other member of the Senate. When it came up for consideration the next day, the mover stated that he had been induced to offer the resolution from having at the last session examined the report of the Commissioner of the Land Office, from which it appeared that the quantity of land remaining unsold at the minimum price of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre exceeded seventy-two millions of acres; while it appeared from the commissioner's report at this session, that the annual demand was not likely to exceed a million of acres at present, although of course it might be expected somewhat to increase with the growth of the population.
This resolution, though one of inquiry only, was resisted. It was represented by Mr. Benton of Missouri as a resolution to inquire into the expediency of committing a great injury upon the new States of the West. Mr. Holmes of Maine supported the resolution, as one of inquiry into an important subject. Mr. Foot disclaimed every purpose unfriendly to the West, and at the close of the conversation (in which Mr. Webster took no part), it was agreed that the consideration of the resolution should be postponed to the 11th of January, and made the special order of the day for that day. In this manner, it often happens that a resolution of inquiry on a business question of no urgent importance, intended to have no political bearing, and brought forward without concert with others by an individual, becomes by delay the theme of impassioned debates for weeks and months, to the serious obstruction of the real business of Congress. In the present case, it must be admitted that the loss of the public time thus occasioned was amply made up, by the importance of the speech which has given celebrity to the debate.
The consideration of Mr. Foot's resolution was not resumed till Wednesday, the 13th of January, when it was opposed by several Western gentlemen. It was next taken up on Monday,