« AnteriorContinuar »
AT FANEUIL HALL, JULY 24, 1838.
On the return of Mr. Webster from the session in which he had signalized himself by the delivery of the two masterly speeches next preceding this, a large number of his fellow-citizens of Boston could not be restrained from manifesting their sense of his extraordinary efforts, in exhibiting the true character of the odious sub-Treasury project, and in procuring its ultimate rejection by Congress. A public dinner was accordingly offered him, and was accepted. More than fifteen hundred persons attended it, every ticket having been eagerly taken as soon as issued. Faneuil Hall could hold no more. Governor Everett presided at the tables, and the spirit of the occasion cannot be better conveyed than by inserting the brilliant and beautiful remarks with which he introduced Mr. WebSter to the assembly : —
"And now, fellow-citizens," said he, "I rise to discharge the most pleasing part of my duty, which I fear you will think I have too long postponed; the duty which devolves on me, as the organ of your feelings toward our distinguished guest, the senior Senator of the Commonwealth. And yet, fellow-citizens, 1 appeal to you, that I have approached this duty, through the succession of ideas which most naturally conducts our minds and hearts to the grateful topic. I have proposed to you, our Country and its Prosperity. Who among the great men, his contemporaries, has more widely surveyed and comprehended the various interests of all its parts? I have proposed, the Union of the States. What public man is there living, whose political course has been more steadily consecrated to its perpetuity? I have proposed to you, the Constitution. And who of our statesmen, from the time of the framers, has more profoundly investigated, more clearly expounded, more powerfully vindicated and sustained it? But these topics I may pass over. They are matters which have been long familiar to you; they need not any comment from me.
"The events of the last year, and of the last session of Congress, and the present state of the country, invite our attention more particularly to the recent efforts of our distinguished guest on the subject of The Currekcy. I know not but some persons may think that undue importance has been attached to the questions which have divided parties on this subject; that these questions are not so vital to liberty as they have been represented. But such an opinion would be erroneous. Undoubtedly there are countries — not free ones — in which money questions, as connected with the government, are of minor consequence. In China, in Turkey, in Persia, I presume they are very little discussed. In these countries, the great question is, whether a man's head, at night, will be found in the same pleasing and convenient proximity to his shoulders, that it was in the morning; and this is ■ kind of previous question, which, if decided against him, cuts off all others. Under those arbitrary governments of Europe where the prince takes what he pleases, and when he pleases, it is of very little moment where he deposits it, on its way from the pockets of the people to his own. But it was remarked by Edmund Burke, more than seventy years ago, that in England, (and a fortiori in the United States, that is, under constitutional governments,) the great struggles for liberty had been almost always money questions, and on this ground he excused the Americans for the stand they took in opposition to a paltry tax. But, most certainly, the money question, as it has been agitated among us, is vastly more important, more intimately connected with constitutional liberty, than that which brought on the revolution. The question with our fathers was one of a small tax, ours of the entire currency. Theirs concerned three pence per pound on tea, illegally levied; ours, the entire currency illegally disposed of—the entire medium of circulation deranged, and for a period annihilated — the whole business of the country, in all its great branches, brought under the control of the Treasury. The noblo stand, therefore, taken by our distinguished Senator in this controversy, has been upon points which concern the dearest interests of the people, and the elemental principles of the government
"In fact, I know not that a policy can be imagined more at war with the true character of the Government, than that which he has been called to combat The past and present Administrations, relying too confidently on the popular delusions which brought them into office, nave systematically defeated one of the great original objects for which the Union was framed — that of a uniform medium of Commerce. Nor has the manner of their policy been less objectionable than its design. They have crowded experiment upon experiment, with the fatal recklessness of the rash engineer who urges the fires in his furnaces till some noble steamer bursts in an awful explosion. Our Senators and Representatives, and their associates, could they have forgotten that a revered Constitution and a beloved Country were the chief victims, might well have folded their arms, and left the authors of the calamity to extricate themselves, as best they might, from the ruin. But not thus have they understood their duty; and we have seen them with admiration, in the last days of the session, gallantly putting out in the life-boat of the Constitution, with an eye of fire at the top, and an arm of iron at the helm, to cruise about on the boiling waters, and pick up all that is left undestroyed. When I have seen the adherents of the Administration rejecting, so far aa they ventured, the salutary measures proposed or supported by our distinguished guest and his associates, for the restoration of the currency and the rceitablishmcnt of the public credit, and clinging to all that events have spared of their discredited measures, they have seemed to me to resrmble the sun-stricken victims of a moody madness, who, instead of thankfully embracing the proffered relief, would prefer to float about on the weltering waters, clinging to the broken planks, the shivered splinters, of their exploded policy — sure as they are, at the very best, if they reach solid ground, to do so beneath the overwhelming surge of popular indignation.
"I should take up a great deal more time than belongs to me, did I attempt even to sketch the distinguished services of our friend and guest, in this constitutional warfare. They are impressed on your memories, on your hearts. In the thickest of the conflict, his plume, like that of Henry the Fourth of France, discerned from afar, has pointed out the spot where, to use his own language, "the blows fall thickest and hardest;" and there he has been found, with the banner of the Union above his head, and the flaming cimetcr of the Constitution in his hand. If the pnblic mind has been thoroughly awakened to the inconsistency of the government policy with the genius of our institutions, if to the experience we have all had of the pernicious operation of this policy, there has been added a clear understanding of the false principles, as well of constitutional law as of political economy on which it rests, how much of this is not fairly to be ascribed to the efforts of our distinguished guest — efforts never stinted in or out of Congress — repeated in every form which can persuade the judgment or influence the conduct of men — never less than cogent, eloquent, irrefutable; but in the last session of Congress, perhaps more than ever before, grand, masterly, and overwhelming. It has indeed been a rare, I had almost said a sublime spectacle, to see him, unsupported by a majority in either House — opposed by the entire influence of the government — denounced, by the Administration press, from one end of the Union to the other, yet carrying resolution after resolution against the administration—carrying them alike against the old guard and the new recruits, and in spite of their abrupt and ill-compacted alliance — compelling them, in epite of themselves, to afford some relief to the country.
"These are the services, fellow-citizens, for which you this day tender your thanks to your distinguished guest These are the services for which, sir, on behalf of my fellow-citizens, I thank you; for which they thank you themselves. Behold, sir, how they rise to pay you a manly homage. The armies of Napoleon could not coerce it, the wealth of the Indies could not buy it; but it is freely, joyously paid, by fifteen hundred freemen, to the man of their affections. They thank you for having stood by them in these dark times — at all times. They thank you, because they think they are beginning to feel the fruit-of your exertions, in the daily round of their pursuits. They ascribe it in no small degree to you, that the iron grasp of the government policy has been relaxed; that its bolts and chains, relics of a barbarous age, have been shivered as soon as forged, and before they were riveted on the necks of the people. They thank you for having stood by the Constitution, in which their all of human hope for themselves and their children is enshrined. They thank you as one of themselves; and because they know that your affections are with the people from which you sprung. They thank you because you have at all times shown, that, as the Whig blood of the revolution circles in your veins, the Whig principles of the revolution are imprinted on your heart. They thank you for the entire manliness of your course; that you have never joined the treacherous cry of "the hatred of the poor against the rich" — a cry raised by artful men, who think to flatter the people, while in reality they are waging war against the people's business, the people's prosperity, and the people's Constitution. They are willing that this day's offering should be remembered, when all this mighty multitude shall have passed from the stage. When that day shall have arrived, History will have written your name on one of her brightest pages; Fame will have encircled your bust with her greenest laurels; but neither History nor Fame will have paid you a truer, heartier tribute, than that which now, beneath the arches of this venerable hall, in the approving presence of these images of our canonized fathers, is now tendered you by this great company of your fellow-citizens.
"I give you, gentlemen,
"Daniel Webster—The Statesman and the Man; whose name is engraven alike on the pillars of the Conatitution and the hearts of his fellow-citizens. He is worthy of that place in the Councils of the Nation, which he fills in the affections ot the People."
Mr. Webster then rose, amid repeated cheerings, and addressed the meeting nearly as follows : —
Gentlemen: I shall be happy indeed if the state of my health and the condition of my voice shall enable me to express, in a few words, my deep and heartfelt gratitude for this expression of your approbation. If public life has its cares and its trials, it has occasionally its consolations also. Among these, one of the
VOL. III. 46 E E
greatest, and the chief, is the approbation of those whom we hare honestly endeavored to serve. This cup of consolation you have now administered — full — crowned — abundantly overflowing.
It is my chief desire at this time, in a few spontaneous and affectionate words, to render you the thanks of a grateful heart. When I lately received your invitation in New York, nothing was farther from my thoughts or expectations, than that I should meet such an assembly as I now behold in Boston.
But I was willing to believe that it was not meant merely as a compliment, which it was expected would be declined, bat that it was in truth your wish, at the close of the labors of a long session of Congress, that I should meet you in this place, that we might mingle our mutual congratulations, and that we might enjoy together one happy, social hour.
The President of this assembly has spoken of the late session as having been not only long, but arduous; and, in some respects, it does deserve to be so regarded. I may indeed say that, in an experience of twenty years of public life, I have never yet encountered labors or anxieties such as this session brought with it.
With a short intermission in the autumn, — so short as not to allow the more distant members to visit their homes, we have been in continual session from the early part of September to the ninth of July — a period of ten months. And on our part, during this whole time, we have been contending in minorities against majorities; majorities, indeed, not to be relied on, for all measures, as the event has proved; but still acknowledged and avowed majorities, professing general attachment and support to the measures, and to the men, of the Administration. My own object, and that of those with whom I have had the honor to act, has been steady and uniform. That object was, to resist new theories, new schemes, new and dangerous projects, until time could be gained for their consideration by the people. This was our great purpose, and its accomplishment required no slight effort. It was the commencement of a new Congress. The organization of the two Houses showed clear and decisive Administration majorities. The Administration itself was new, and had come into its fresh power, with something of the popularity of that which preceded it. It was no child's play, therefore, to resist, successfully, its leading measures, for so long a period as should allow time for an effectual appeal to the people, pressed, as those measures were, with the utmost zeal and assiduity.
The President of the day has alluded, in a very flattering manner, to my own exertions and efforts, made at different times, in connection with the leading topics. But I claim no particular merits for myself. In what I have done, I have only acted with others. I have acted, especially, with my most estimable, able, and excellent colleague, and with the experienced and distinguished men io form the Delegation of Massachusetts in the House of Repie jntatives — a Delegation of which any State might be justly proud. Ve have acted together, as men holding, in almost all cases, common opinions, and laboring for a common end. It gives me great •leasure to have the honor of seeing so many of the Representaves of the State in Congress here to-day; but I must not be presented, even by their presence, from bearing my humble but hearty .alimony to the fidelity and ability with which they have, in this arduous struggle, performed their public duties. The crisis has, inJeed, demanded the efforts of all; and we of Massachusetts, while hope we have done our duty, have done it only in concurrence with other Whigs, whose zeal, ability, and exertions, can never be too much commended.
This is not an occasion in which it is fit or practicable to discuss, very minutely, and at length, the questions which have been chiefly agitated during this long and laborious session of Congress. Yet, so important is the great and general question, which, for the last twelve or fifteen months, has been presented to the consideration of the Legislature, that I deem it proper, on this, and on all occasions, to state, at the risk of some repetition, perhaps, what is the nature of that important question, and briefly to advert to some of the circumstances in which it had its origin.
Whatever subordinate questions may have been raised touching a sub-Treasury, or a Constitutional Treasury, or a Treasury in one, or in another, or in yet a third form, I take the question, the plain, the paramount, the practical question, to be this, viz.: whether it be among the powers and the duties of Congress to take any further care of the national currency than to regulate the coinage of gold and silver.
That question lies at the foundation of all. Other questions, however multiplied or varied, have but grown out of that.
If Government is bound to take care that there is a good currency, for all the Country, then, of course, it will have a good currency for itself, and need take no especial pains to provide for itself any thing peculiar. But if, on the other hand, Government is at liberty to abandon the general currency to its fate, without concern, and without remorse, then, from necessity, it must take care of itself; amidst the general wreck of currency and credit, it must have alaces of resort and a system of shelter; it must have a currency of its own, and modes of payment and disbursement peculiar to itself. It must burrow and hide itself in sub-Treasury vaults: scorning '.redit, and having trust in nobody, it must grasp metallic money, and act as if nothing represented, or could represent, property, jvhich could not be counted, paid piece by piece, or weighed in the jales, and made to ring upon the table; or it must resort to Speal Deposits in Banks, even in those Banks whose conduct has