Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

all necessary in the just defence of the country against foreign aggression, naturally gave place, in a change of circumstances, to the attitude, the objects, and the pursuits of peace. Our true interest, as I thought, was to explore our own resources, to call forth and encourage labor and enterprise upon internal objects, to multiply the sources of employment and comfort at home, and to unite the country by ties of intercourse, commerce, benefits, and prosperity, in all parts, as well as by the ties of political association. And it appeared to me that Government itself clearly possessed the power, and was as clearly charged with the duty of helping on, in various ways, this great business of Internal Improvement. I have, therefore, steadily supported all measures, directed to that end, which appeared to me to be within the just power of the Government, and to be practicable within the limits of reasonable expenditure. And if any one would judge how far the fostering of this spirit has been beneficial to the country, let him compare its state at this moment, with its condition at the commencement of the late war; and let him then say how much of all that has been added to national wealth, and national strength, and to individual prosperity and happiness, has been the fair result of Internal Improvement.

Gentlemen, it has been your pleasure to give utterance to sentiments, expressing approbation of my humble efforts, on several occasions, in defence and maintenance of the Constitution of the country. I have nothing to say of those efforts, except that they have been honestly intended. The country sees no reason, I trust, to suppose that on those occasions I have taken counsel of any thing but a deep sense of duty. I have, on some occasions, felt myself called on to maintain my opinions, in opposition to power, to place, to official influence, and to overwhelming personal popularity. I have thought it my imperative duty to put forth my most earnest efforts to maintain what I considered to be the just powers of' the Government, when it appeared to me that those to whom its administration was intrusted were countenancing opinions inevitably tending to its destruction. And I have, with far more pleasure, on other occasions, supported the constituted authorities, when I have deemed their measures to be called for, by a regard to its preservation.

The Constitution of the United States, Gentlemen, has appeared to me to have been formed and adopted for two grand objects. The first is the union of the States. It is the bond of that union, and it states and defines its terms. Who can speak, in terms warm enough and high enough, of its importance in this respect, or the admirable wisdom with which it is formed? Or who, when he shall have stated its past benefits and blessings to those States, most strongly, will venture to say, that he has yet done it justice? For one, I am not sanguine enough to believe, that if this bond of Union were dissolved, any other tie, uniting all the States, would take its place for generations to come. It requires no common skill, it is no piece of ordinary political journey-work, to form a system, which shall hold together four-and-twenty separate State sovereignties, the line of whose united territories runs down all the parallels of latitude from New Brunswick to the Gulf of Mexico, and whose connected breadth stretches from the sea far beyond the Mississippi. Nor are all times, or all occasions, suited to such great operations. It is only under the most favorable circumstances, and only when great men are called on to meet great exigencies, only once in. centuries, that such fortunate political results are attained. Whoever, therefore, undervalues this National Union, whoever depreciates it, whoever accustoms himself to consider how the people might get on without it, appears to me to encourage sentiments subversive of the foundations of our prosperity.

It is true that those twenty-four States are, more or less, different in climate, productions, and local pursuits. There are planting States, grain-growing States, manufacturing States, and commercial States. But those several interests, if not identical, are not, therefore, inconsistent and hostile. Far from it. They unite, on the contrary, to promote an aggregate result of unrivalled national happiness. It is not precisely a case in which

"All nature's difference keepi all nature'i peace ;"

but it is, precisely, a case in which variety of climate and condition, and diversities of pursuits and productions, all unite to exhibit one harmonious, grand, and magnificent whole, to which the world may be proudly challenged to show an equal. In my opinion, no man, in any comer of any one of those States, can stand up and declare, that he is less prosperous, or less happy, than if the General Government had never existed. And entertaining these sentiments, and feeling their force most deeply, I feel it the bounden duty of every good citizen, in public and in private life, to follow the admonition of Washington, and to cherish that Union which makes us one people. I most earnestly deprecate, therefore, whatever occurs, in the Government or out of it, calculated to endanger the Union, or disturb the basis on which it rests.

Another object of the Constitution I take to be such as is common to all written Constitutions of Free Governments; that is, to fix limits to delegated authority, or, in other words, to impose constitutional restraints on political power. Some, who esteem themselves Republicans, seem to think no other security for public liberty necessary, than a provision for a popular choice of rulers. If political power be delegated power, they entertain little fear of its being abused. The people's servants and favorites, they think, may be safely trusted. Our fathers, certainly, were not of this school. They sought to make assurance doubly sure, by providing, in the first place, for the election of political agents by the people themselves, at short intervals, and, in the next place, by prescribing constitutional restraints on all branches of this delegated authority. It is not among the circumstances of the times, most ominous for good, that a diminished estimate appears to be placed on those constitutional securities. A disposition is but too prevalent to substitute personal confidence for legal restraint; to put trust in men rather than in principles; and this disposition being strongest, as it most obviously is, whenever party spirit prevails to the greatest excess, it is not without reason that fears are entertained of the existence of a spirit tending strongly to an unlimited, if it be but an elective, Government.

Surely, Gentlemen, surely this Government can go through no such change. Long before that change could take place, the Constitution would be shattered to pieces, and the Union of the States become matter of past history. To the Union, therefore, as well as to civil liberty, to every interest which we enjoy and value, to all that makes us proud of our country, or our country lovely in our own eyes, or dear to our own hearts, nothing can be more repugnant, nothing more hostile, nothing more directly destructive than excessive, unlimited, unconstitutional confidence in men; nothing worse than the doctrine that official agents may interpret the public will in their own way, in defiance of the Constitution and the laws; or that they may set up any thing for the declaration of that will except the Constitution and the laws themselves; or that any public officer, high or low, should undertake to constitute himself, or to call himself the Representative of the people, except so far as the Constitution and the laws create and denominate him such representative. There is no usurpation so dangerous as that which comes in the borrowed name of the people. If, from some other authority, or other source, prerogatives be attempted to be enforced upon the people, they naturally oppose and resist it. It is an open enemy, and they can easily subdue it. But that .which professes to act, in their own name, and by their own authority, that which calls itself their servant, although it exercises their power without legal right or constitutional sanction, requires something more of vigilance to detect, and something more of stern patriotism to repress; and if it be not, seasonably, both detected and repressed, then the Republic is already in the downward path of those which have gone before it.

I hold, therefore, Gentlemen, that a strict submission, by every branch of the Government, to the limitations and restraints of the Constitution, is of the very essence of all security for the preservation of liberty; and that no one can be a true and intelligent friend of that liberty, who will consent that any man in public station, whatever he may think of the honesty of his motives, shall exercise or enact an authority above the Constitution and the laws. Whatever Government is not a Government of Laws, is a despotism, let it be called what it may.

Gentlemen, in the circumstances which surround lis, I ought not to detain you longer. Let us hope for the best, in behalf of this great and happy country, and of our glorious Constitution. Indeed, Gentlemen, we may well congratulate ourselves that the country is so young, so fresh, so strong and vigorous, that it can bear a great deal of bad government. It can take an enormous load of official mismanagement on its shoulders, and yet go ahead. Like the vessel impelled by steam, it can move forward, not only without other than the ordinary means, but even when those means oppose it, it can make its way in defiance of the elements, and —

[ocr errors]

There arc some things, however, which the country cannot stand. It cannot stand any shock of civil liberty, or any disruption of the Union. Should either of these happen, the vessel of the State will have no longer either steerage or motion. She will lie on the billows helpless and hopeless; the scorn and contempt of all the enemies of free institutions, and an object of indescribable grief to all their friends.

Gentlemen, I offer as a sentiment for the occasion — Civil Liberty: Its only security is in Constitutional restraint on political power.

SPEECH

ON RECEIVING A VASE TROM CITIZENS OF BOSTON,
OCTOBER 12, 1835.

A Large number of the Citizens of Boston being desirous to offer Mr. Webster some enduring testimony of their gratitude for his services in Congress, and more especially for his defence of the Constitution during the crisis of Nullification, a Committee was raised, in the spring of 1835, to procure a piece of plate which should be worthy of such an object. By their direction, and more particularly under the superintendence of one of their number — the late George W. Brimmer, to whose taste and skill the Committee were deeply indebted for the selection of the model and the arrangement of the devices — the beautiful Vase, now well known throughout the country as the Webster, Vase was prepared at the manufactory of Messrs. Jones, Lows, & Ball, in Boston. After it was finished, the Committee found it impossible to withstand the wish both of the numerous subscribers, and of the public generally, to witness the ceremonies and hear the remarks by which its presentation might be accompanied. It was accordingly presented to Mr. Webster in the presence of three or four thousand spectators assembled at the Odeon on the evening of the 12th of October. The Vase was placed on a pedestal covered with an American Flag, and contained on its front the following inscription : —

PRESENTED TO

DANIEL WEBSTER,
THE DEFENDER OF THE CONSTITUTION,

BY THE CITIZENS OF BOSTON,

Oct. 12, 1835.

Mr. Zachariah Jellison, the Chairman of the Committee, opened the Meeting with the following remarks: —

Fellow Citizens: The friends of the Hon. Daniel Webster in this city, conceiving the propriety of giving that gentleman an expression of the high estimation in which they hold his public services, and wishing also to tender him a testimonial of their regard for his moral worth and social virtues, called a meeting of consultation on the subject, some months since, at which a committee was appointed, with instructions to procure a suitable piece of plate, to be presented to him in their behalf, before his official duty should again require his departure hence for the seat of government. In obedience to their instructions, that committee have procured, from the hands of the

S3

« AnteriorContinuar »