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In this way, then, it is proposed to keep back from indispensable works, or works declared by the administration to be indispensable, four and a half millions, which are, nevertheless, appropriated, and which, with five millions of Treasury notes already issued, will constitute a debt of from nine to ten millions.
So, then, when General Harrison shall succeed, in March next, to the Presidential chair, all that he will inherit from his predecessors — besides their brilliant example — will be these Treasury vaults and safes, without a dollar in them, and a debt of ten million* of dollar*.
The whole revenue policy of this administration has been founded in error. While the Treasury is becoming poorer and poorer, articles of luxury are admitted free of duty. Look at the Custom House returns—20,000,000 dollars worth of silks imported in one year, free of duty, and other articles of luxury in proportion, that should be made to contribute to the revenue.
We have, in my judgment, imported excestively; and yet the President urges it as an objection to works of public improvement, to railroads and canals, that they diminish our importations, and thereby interfere with the comforts of the people. His message says —
"Our people will not long be insensible to the extent of the burdens entailed upon them by the false system that has been operating on their sanguine, energetic, and industrious character; nor to the means necessary to extricate themselves from these embarrassments. The weight which presses upon a large portion of the people, and the States, is an enormous debt, foreign and domestic. The foreign debt of our States, corporations, and men of business, can scarcely be less than two hundred millions of dollars, requiring more than ten millions of dollars a year to pay the interest. This sum has to be paid out of the exports of the country, and must of necessity cut off imports to that extent, or plunge the country more deeply in debt from year to year. It is easy to see that the increase of this foreign debt must augment the annual demand on the exports to pay the interest, and to the same extent diminish the imports; and in proportion to the enlargement of the foreign debt, and the consequent increase of interest, must be the decrease of the import trade. In lieu of the comforts which it now brings us, we might have one gigantic banking institution, and splendid, but in many instances profitless, railroads and canals, absorbing, to a great extent, in interest upon the capital borrowed to construct them, the surplus fruits of national industry for years to come, and securing to posterity no adequate return for the comforts which the labors of their hands might otherwise have secured."
What are these comforts that we are to get so much more of, if we will only stop our railroads and canals? Foreign goods, loss of employment at home, European wages, and lastly, direct taxation.
One of the gentlemen of the South, of that nullifying State Rights party that has absorbed the administration, or been absorbed by it, comes boldly out with the declaration that the period i s arrived for a direct tax on land; and, holding up this idea, others have said, that it will bring the North to the grindstone. We shall see, before this contest is over, who will be the parties ground, and who the grinders. It is, however, but just to add that, thus far, this is only an expression of individual opinion, and I do not charge it to be otherwise.
I had proposed to say something of the militia bill; but it is already so late that I must forego this topic. [" No, no! Go on, go on !" — from the crowd.]
[Mr. Webster resumed, and briefly analyzed the bill. Owing, however, to the lateness of the hour, he did not go largely into the discussion. He did not, he said, mean to charge Mr. Van Buren with any purpose to play the part of a Cesar or a Cromwell; but he did say that, in his judgment, the plan, as recommended by the President in his message, and of which the annual report of the Secretary of War, accompanying the message, developed the leading features, would, if carried into operation, be expensive, burdensome, in derogation of the Constitution, and dangerous to our liberties. Mr. W. referred rapidly to the President's recent letter to some gentleman in Virginia, endeavoring to exculpate himself for the recommendation in the message, by endeavoring to show a difference between the plan then so strongly commended, and that submitted in detail, some months afterwards, by the Secretary of War, to Congress. Mr. W. pronounced this attempt wholly unsatisfactory. Mr. W. then went on to say —]
I have now frankly stated my opinions as to the nature of the present excitement, and have answered the question I propounded as to the causes of the revolution in public sentiment now in progress. Will this revolution succeed? Does it move the masses, or is it an ebullition merely on the surface? And who is it that opposes the change which seems to be going forward? [Here some one in the crowd cried out, " None, hardly, but the office-holders, oppose it." Mr. Webster continued — ] I hear one say that the office-holders oppose it; and that is true. If they were quiet, in my opinion, a change would take place almost by common consent. I have heard of an anecdote, perhaps hardly suited to the sobriety and dignity of this occasion, but which confirms the answer which my friend in the crowd has given to my question. It happened to a farmer's son, that his load of hay was blown over by a sudden gust, on an exposed plain. Those near him, seeing him manifest a degree of distress, which such an accident would not usually occasion, asked him the reason; he said he should not take on so much about it, only father was under the load. I think it very probable, gentlemen, that there are many now very active and zealous friends, who would not care much whether the wagon of the administration were blown over or not, if it were not for the fear that father, or son, or uncle, or brother, might be found under the load. Indeed, it is remarkable how frequently the fire of patriotism glows in the breasts of the holders of office. A thousand favored contractors shake with horrid fear, lest the proposed change should put the interests of the public in great danger. Ten thousand Post Offices, moved by the same apprehension, join in the cry of alarm, while a perfect earthquake of disinterested remonstrance proceeds from the Custom Houses. Patronage and favoritism tremble and quake, through every limb and every nerve, lest the people should be found in favor of a change, which might endanger the liberties of the country, or at least break down its present eminent and distinguished prosperity, by abandoning the measures, so wise, so beneficent, so successful, and so popular, which the present administration has pursued!
Fellow-citizens, we have all sober and important duties to perforin. I have not addressed you, to-day, for the purpose of joining in a premature note of triumph, or raising a shout for anticipated victories. We are in the controversy, not through it. It is our duty to spare no pains to circulate information, and to spread the truth far and wide. Let us persuade those who differ from us, if we can, to hear both sides. Let us remind them that we are all embarked together, with a common interest and a common fate. And let us, without rebuke or unkindness, beseech them to consider what the good of the whole requires, — what is best for them and for us. There are two causes which keep back thousands of honest men from joining those who wish for a change.
The first of these is the fear of reproach from former associates, and the pain which party denunciation is capable of inflicting. But, surely, the manliness of the American character is superior to this! Surely, no American citizen will feel himself chained to the wheels of any party, nor bound to follow it, against his conscience, and his sense of the interest of the country. Resolution and decision ought to dissipate such restraints, and to leave men free at once to act upon their own convictions. Unless this can be done, party has entailed upon us a miserable slavery, by compelling us to act against our consciences, on questions of the greatest importance.
The other cause is the constant cry that the party of the administration is the true democratic party, or the more popular party in the Government and in the country. The falsity of this claim has not been sufficiently exposed. It should have been met, and should be now met, not only by denial, but by proof. If they mean the new democracy — the cry against credit, against industry, against labor, against man's right to leave his own earnings to his own children — why« then, doubtless, they are right; all this sort of democracy is theirs. But if by democracy they mean a conscientious and stern adherence to the true popular principles of the Constitution and the Government, then I think they have very little claim to it. Is the augmentation of Executive power a democratic !>rinciple? Is the separation of the cgrrency of Government rom the currency of the people a democratic principle? Is the imbodying a large military force, in time of peace, a democratic principle?
Let us entreat honest men not to take names for things, nor pretences for proofs. If democracy, in any constitutional sense, belongs to our adversaries, let them show their title and produce their evidence. Let the question be examined; and let not intelligent and well-meaning citizens be kept to the support of measures which in their hearts and consciences they disapprove, because their authors put forth such loud claims to the sole possession of regard for the people.
Fellow-citizens of the County of Saratoga: In taking leave of you, I cannot but remind you how distinguished a place your county occupies in the history of the country. I cannot be ignorant, that in the midst of you are many, at this moment, who saw in this neighborhood the triumph of republican arms in the surrender of General Burgoyne. I cannot doubt that a fervent spirit of patriotism burns in their breasts, and in the breasts of their children. They helped to save their country amidst the storms of war; they will help to save it, I am fully persuaded, in the present severe civil crisis. Fellow-citizens, I verily believe it is true, that, of all that are left to us from the Revolution, nine tenths are with us, in the existing contest. If there be living a revolutionary officer, or soldier, who has joined in the attacks upon General Harrison's military character, I have not met with him. It is not, therefore, in the County of Saratoga, that a cause sustained by such means is likely to prevaih
Fellow-citizens, the great question is now before the country. If, with the experience of the past, the American people think proper to confirm power in the hands which now hold it, and thereby sanction the leading policy of the administration, it will be your duty and mine to bow, with submission, to the public will; but, for myself, I shall not believe it possible for me to be of service to the country, in any department of public life. I shall look on, with no less love of country than ever, but with fearful forebodings of what may be near at hand.
But, fellow-citizens, I do not at all expect that result. I fully believe the change is coming. If we all do our duty, we shall restore the Government to its former policy, and the country to its former prosperity. And let us here, to-day, fellow-citizens, with full resolution and patriotic purpose of heart, give and take pledges that, until this great controversy be ended, our time, our talents, our efforts, are all due, and shall all be faithfully given, to Our
Vol. in. 63 pp*
OF PRINCIPLES AND PURPOSES ADOPTED BV A GENERAL CONVENTION OF THE WHIGS OF NEW ENGLAND, AT BUNKER HILL, ON THE TENTH OF SEPTEMBER, 1840. PREPARED BY MR WEBSTER, AND SIGNED BY HIM AS PRESIDENT OF THE CONVENTION.
When men pause from their ordinary occupations, and assemble in great numbers, a proper respect for the judgment of the country, and of the age, requires that they should clearly set forth the grave causes which have brought them together, and the purposes which they seek to promote.
Feeling the force of this obligation, fifty thousand of the free electors of the New England States, honored also by the presence of like free electors from nearly every other State in the Union, having assembled on Bunker Hill, on this 10th day of September, 1840, proceed to set forth a Declaration of their principles, and of the occasion and objects of their meeting.
In the first place, we declare our unalterable attachment to that Public Liberty, the purchase of so much blood and treasure, in the acquisition of which the field whereon we stand obtained early and imperishable renown. Bunker Hill is not a spot on which we shall forget the principles of our Fathers, or suffer any thing to quench within our own bosoms the love of freedom which vie have inherited from them.
In the next place, we declare our warm and hearty devotion to the Constitution of the country, and to that Union of the States which it has so happily cemented, and so long and so prosperously preserved. We call ourselves by no local names, we recognize no geographical divisions, while we give utterance to our sentiments on high constitutional and political subjects. We are Americans, citizens of the United States, knowing no other country, and desiring to be distinguished by no other appellation. We believe the Constitution, while administered wisely and in its proper spirit, to be capable of protecting all parts of the country, securing all interests, and perpetuating a National Brotherhood among all the States. We believe that to foment local jealousies, to attempt to prove the existence of opposite interests between one part of the country and another, and thus to disseminate feelings of distrust and alienation, while it is in contemptuous disregard of the counsels of the great