« AnteriorContinuar »
why, then, I admit, sir, that I, for one, felt that disappointment deeply. It is the policy of the Administration, its' principles, and its measures, which I oppose. It is not persons, but things; not men, but measures. I do wish most fervently to put an end to this anti-commercial policy; and if the overthrow of the policy shall be followed by the political defeat of its authors, why, sir, it is a result which I shall endeavor to meet with equanimity.
Sir, as to the honorable member's rescuing the victory from us, or as to his ability to sustain the Administration in this policy, there may be a drachm of a scruple about that. I trust the citadel will yet be stormed, and carried, by the force of public opinion, and that no Hector will be able to defend its walls.
But now, sir, I must advert to a declaration of the honorable member, which, I confess, did surprise me. The honorable member says, that, personally, he and myself have been on friendly terms, but that we always differed on great constitutional questions ! Sir, this is astounding. And yet I was partly prepared for it; for I sat here the other day, and held my breath, while the honorable gentleman declared and repeated, that he always belonged to the State-rights party! And he means, by what he has declared today, that he has always given to the constitution a construction more limited, better guarded, less favorable to the extension of the powers of this Government, than that which I have given to it. He has always interpreted it according to the strict doctrine of the school of State rights! Sir, if the honorable member ever belonged, until very lately, to the State-rights party, the connection was very much like a secret marriage. And never was secret better kept. Not only were the espousals not acknowledged, but all suspicion was avoided. There was no known familiarity, or even kindness between them. On the contrary, they acted like parties who were not at all fond of each other's 'company."
Sir, is there a man, in my hearing, among all the gentlemen now surrounding us, many of whom, of both Houses, have been here many years, and know the gentleman and myself, perfectly ; is there one, who ever heard, supposed, or dreamed, that the honorable member belonged to the State-rights party before the year 1825 ? Can any such connection be proved upon him — can he prove it upon himself, before that time?
Sir, I will show you, before I resume my seat, that it was not until after the gentleman took his seat, in the chair which you now occupy, that any public manifestation, or intimation, was ever given by him, of his having embraced the peculiar doctrines of the Staterights party.
The truth is, sir, the honorable gentleman had acted a very important and useful part during the war. But the war terminated. Toward the close of the session of 1814-'15, we received the
news of peace. This closed the 13th Congress. In the fall of 1815, the 14th Congress assembled. It was full of ability, and the honorable gentleman stood high among its distinguished members. He remained in the House, sir, through the whole of that Congress; and now, sir, it is easy to be shown, that during those two years, the honorable gentleman took a decided lead, in all those great measures, which he has since so often denounced, as unconstitutional and oppressive — the bank, the tariff, and internal improvements. The war being terminated, the gentleman's mind turned itself toward internal administration and improvement. He surveyed the whole country, contemplated its resources, saw what it was capable of becoming, and held a political faith, not so narrow and contracted, as to restrain him from useful and efficient action. He was, therefore, at once, a full length abead of all others, in measures, which were national, and which required a broad and liberal construction of the constitution. This is historic truth. Of his agency in the bank, and other measures connected with the currency, I have already spoken, and I do not understand him to deny any thing I have said, in that particular. Indeed, I have said nothing capable of denial.
Now allow me a few words upon the tariff. The tariff of 1816 was distinctly a South Carolina measure. Look at the votes, and you will see it. It was a tariff, for the benefit of South Carolina interests, and carried through Congress by South Carolina votes, and South Carolina influence. Even the minimum, sir, the somuch-reproached, the abominable minimum, that subject of angry indignation and wrathful rhetoric, is of Southern origin, and has a South Carolina parentage.
Sir, the contest on that occasion was, chiefly, between the cottongrowers at home, and the importers of cotton fabrics from India. These India fabrics were made from the cotton of that country. The people of this country were using cotton fabrics, not made of American cotton, and, so far, they were diminishing the demand for such cotton. The importation of India cottons was then very large, and this bill was designed to put an end to it, and, with the help of the minimum, it did put an end to it. The cotton manufactures of the North were then in their infancy. They had some friends in Congress, but if I recollect, the majority of Massachusetts members, and of New England members, were against this cotton tariff of 1816. I remember well, that the main debate was, between the importers of India cottons, in the North, and the cottongrowers of the South. The gentleman cannot deny the truth of this or any part of it. Boston opposed this tariff, and Salem opposed it, warmly and vigorously. But the honorable member supported it, and the law passed. And now be it always remembered, sir, that that act passed on the professed ground of
protection ; that it had in it the minimum principle, and that the honorable member and other leading gentlemen from bis own State, supported it, voted for it, and carried it through Congress.
And now, sir, we come to the doctrine of internal improvement - that other usurpation, that other oppression, which has come so near to justifying violent abruption of the Government, and scattering the fragments of the Union to the four winds. Have the gentleman's State-rights opinions always kept him aloof from such unhallowed infringements of the constitution ? He says he always differed with me on constitutional questions. How was it in this, most important, particular? Has he here stood on the ramparts, brandishing his glittering sword against assailants, and holding out a banner of defiance? Sir — sir — sir — it is an indisputable truth, that he is himself the man - the ipse that first brought forward, in Congress, a scheme of general internal improvement, at the expense, and under the authority of this Government. He, sir, is the very man, the ipsissimus ipse, who, considerately, and on a settled system, began these unconstitutional measures, if they be unconstitutional. And now for the proof.
The act incorporating the Bank of the United States was passed in April, 1816. For the privileges of the charter, the proprietors of the bank were to pay to Government a bonus, as it was called, of one million five hundred thousand dollars, in certain instalments. Government also took seven millions in the stock of the bank. Early in the next session of Congress -- that is, in December, 1816 - the honorable member moved, in the House of Representatives, that a committee be appointed to consider the propriety of setting apart this bonus, and also the dividends on the stock belonging to the United States, as a permanent fund for internal improvement.
The committee was appointed, and the honorable member was made its chairman. He thus originated the plan, and took the lead in its execution. Shortly afterwards, he reported a bill carrying out the objects for which the committee had been appointed. This bill provided that the dividends on the seven millions of bank stock belonging to Government, and also the whole of the bonus, should be permanently pledged, as a fund for constructing roads and canals; and that this fund should be subject to such specific appropriations as Congress might thereafter make.
This was the bill; and this was the first project ever brought forward, in Congress, for a system of internal improvements. The bill goes the whole doctrine, at a single jump. The Cumberland road, it is true, was already in progress; and for that the gentleman had also voted. But there were, and are now, peculiarities about that particular expenditure, which sometimes satisfy scrupulous consciences; but this bill of the gentleman's, without equivocation or saving clause - without if, or and, or but — occupied the whole ground at once, and announced internal improvement as one of the objects of this Government, on a grand and systematic plan. The bill, sir, seemed, indeed, too strong. It was thought, by persons not esteemed extremely jealous of State rights, to evince, nevertheless, too little regard to the will of the States. Several gentlemen opposed the measure, in that shape, on that account; and among them Colonel Pickering, then one of the representatives from Massachusetts. Even Timothy Pickering could not quite sanction, nor concur in, the honorable gentleman's doctrines, to their full extent, although he favored the measure in its general character. He, therefore, prepared an amendment, as a substitute; and his substitute provided for two very important things not embraced in the original bill:
First, that the proportion of the fund to be expended in each State, respectively, should be in proportion to the number of its inhabitants.
Second, that the money should be applied in constructing such roads, canals, &c., in the several States, as Congress might direct, with the assent of the State.
This, sir, was Timothy Pickering's amendment of the honorable gentleman's bill. And now, sir, how did the honorable gentleman, who has always belonged to the State-rights party, how did he treat this amendment, or this substitute? Which way, do you think, his State-rights doctrine led bim? Why, sir, I will tell you. He immediately rose, and moved to strike out the words “with the assent of the State !” Here is the journal under my hand, sir ; and here is the gentleman's motion. And certainly, sir, it will be admitted, that this motion was not of a nature to intimate that he had become wedded to State rights. But the words were not stricken out. The motion did not prevail. Mr. Pickering's substitute was adopted, and the bill passed the House in that form.
In Committee of the Whole on this bill, sir, the honorable member made a very able speech, both on the policy of internal improvements, and the power of Congress over the subject. These points were fully argued by him. He spoke of the importance of the system ; the vast good it would produce, and its favorable effect on the union of the States. “Let us, then," said be, “bind the republic together, with a perfect system of roads and canals. Let us conquer space. It is thus the most distant parts of the republic will be brought within a few days' travel of the centre; it is thus that a citizen of the West will read the news of Boston still moist from the press.”
But on the power of Congress to make internal improvements; ay, sir, on the power of Congress, bear him! What were then his rules of construction and interpretation? How did he at that time read and understand the constitution? Why, sir, he said that “he
was no advocate for refined arguments on the constitution. The instrument was not intended as a thesis for the logician to exercise his ingenuity on. It ought to be construed with plain good sense." This is all very just, I think, sir; and he said much more. He quoted many instances of laws, passed, as he contended, on similar principles, and then added, that“ be introduced these instances to prove the uniform sense of Congress, and of the country, (for they had not been objected to,) as to our powers; and surely,” said be, “they furnish better evidence of the true interpretation of the constitution, than the most refined and subtile arguments.”
Here you see, Mr. President, how little original I am. You have heard me, again and again, contending in my place here for the stability of that which has been long settled ; you have heard me, till I dare say you have been tired, insisting that the sense of Congress, so often expressed, and the sense of the country, so fully known, and so firmly established, ought to be regarded as having decided, finally, certain constitutional questions. You see now, sir, what authority I have for this mode of argument. But while the scholar is learning, the teacher renounces. Will he apply his old doctrine, now — I sincerely wish he would — to the question of the bank, to the question of the receiving of bank notes by Government, to the power of Congress over the paper currency? Will he, sir, will he admit that these ought to be regarded as decided, by the settled sense of Congress and of the country ? Oh! no. Far otherwise. From these rules of judgment, and from the influence of all considerations of this practical nature, the honorable member now takes these questions with him into the upper heights of metaphysics, into the regions of those refinements, and subtile arguments, which he rejected, with so much decision, in 1817, as appears by this speech. He quits his old ground of common sense, experience, and the general understanding of the country, for a flight among theories and ethereal abstractions.
And now, sir, let me ask, when did the honorable member relinquish these early opinions and principles of his ? When did he make known bis adhesion to the doctrines of the State-rights party? We have been speaking of transactions in 1816 and 1817. What the gentleman's opinions then were, we have seen. But when did he announce himself a State-rights man? I have already said, sir, that nobody knew of his claiming that character until after the commencement of 1825; and I have said so, because I have before me an address of his to his neighbors at Abbeville, in May of that year, in which he recounts, very properly, the principal incidents in his career, as a member of Congress, and as head of a Department; and in which he says that, as a member of Congress, he had given his zealous efforts in favor of a restoration of specie currency; of a due protection of those manufactures which had taken root during VOL. III. 45