Imágenes de páginas

feelings next day were as new and delightful as those of any bride the day after her nuptials, and the impression (on memory at least) as strong.”

He was present (as most lovers of the turf were) at the celebrated race between Eclipse and Henry, on the Long Island Course, in the month of May. He stood in a very conspicuous place on the stand during the race, surrounded by gentlemen of the North and the South; and he evidently was very confident of the success of Henry. But after the result, to him so unexpected, and while the thousands of spectators were vociferously applauding the successful rider (Purdy), Mr. Randolph gave vent to his great disappointment by exclaiming to those around him in his most satirical tone:

"Well, gentlemen, it is a lucky thing for the country that the President of the United States is not elected by acclamation, else Mr. Purdy would be our next President, beyond a doubt."

He then left the ground, and spent the evening with Mr. Rufus King, at Jamaica. Next day he said to a friend, with a sigh :

Ah, sir ! only for that unfortunate vote on the Missouri question, he would be our man for the presidency. He is, sir, a genuine English gentleman of the old school; just the right man for these degenerate times. But, alas ! it cannot be !"

Mr. Randolph, soon after this event, retired into his usual summer solitude, at Roanoke. Thence, on the 25th of July, he asks Dr. Brockenbrough, “ You and Mr. Wickham are wise men, but a bystander, you know, sees the blots of better players than himself. Are you both resolved to die in harness? You may put the question to me, but I tell you NO. March 3, 1825, is the utmost limit of my servitude. But what's the use of talking ?— a man will do what he will do ;' a saying, which, like some others, I once took to be rather silly, but which, I have since found out, contains much sense.

“ You wouldn't infer it from the tone of this epistle, but I too am sick-seriously sick, as well as home-sick, i. e. as Sir John Brute was wife-sick. My oaks send love and duty to you and the silent Madame, and hope you'll never be as tired of them as their master is. I would go among the Selvidges, beyond the mountings, but I dare not encounter Pharaoh's plagues. I'd rather be swallowed up in the Red Sea at once.

“P. S. In sheer distress what to do with myself, I yesterday read Don Juan—the third, fourth and fifth cantos for the first time—fact, I assure you. It is diabolically good. The ablest, I am inclined to think, of all his performances. I now fully comprehend the cause of the odium plusquam theologicum of the lake school, toward this wayward genius. I am not sorry that I had not read the whole when I was in Southey's company. I could not have conversed so unreservedly as I did on the subject of Byron's writings."

In October, he says: “The life I lead here is enough to destroy the intellectual and moral faculty of any human being. It resembles, in many points, solitary confinement. It is the daily recurrence of the same dreary scene; and when evening sets in, so that I cannot read or ride, nothing can be imagined more forlorn. But I struggle through it, as the will of Providence.

" I've received from London some publications on the subject of slavery, that have awakened me more than ever to that momentous question. They are from Wilberforce, T. Clarkson, Adam Hodgson, and a larger pamphlet, entitled · Negro Slavery as it exists in the U. S. and the West Indies, especially in Jamaica '—that being held up as the negro paradise, by the W. I. body in England."

[ocr errors]



In 1822, a leading federalist, one who was conspicuous in the attempt to elect Burr over Jefferson, and was opposed to every measure of the Jefferson and of the Madison administrations, in 1822, made use of these words: “The federalists almost unanimously declared their approbation of the leading measures of the Government, and gave it their cordial support. The National Government, indeed, destroyed the federal party, in the only way it could be destroyed, by adopting substantially its principles." This was true in that "era of goodfeeling," when we were “all federalists and all republicans." The



6 You are



seeds of consolidation were sowed broad-cast. But at no period were more rapid strides made toward a prostration of all the barriers of the Constitution, than at the first session of the eighteenth Congress. A general distress pervaded all departments of business. The people were taught to look to Government for relief, and were ready to acquiesce in any measure that gave hopes of present alleviation, without regard to the consequences; and, besides this, there seemed to be a universal madness-a national and individual ambition that o'erleaped all bounds, and embraced the whole world in its aspiring grasp. The body politic seemed to be radically diseased. right,” said Randolph, to a friend who was deploring the state of things, “consolidation is the order of the day. The epidemic shows itself in a thousand Protean forms: so was despotism epidemic from the foundations of the world. In that state of the body politic the predisposition turns every pimple to cancer." With this belief, and in this spirit, he met and manfully, though often unsuccessfully, fought each Protean shape, as it successively arose to distil its leprous poison into the Constitution, or to develope the seeds of some gangrenous ulcer, deep festering in the body politic.

The first subject Mr. Randolph met and successfully opposed, was the measure proposed by Congress to be adopted on the Greek question. It will be recollected that the Spanish provinces, Mexico, Peru, New Granada, and others, had been struggling for a long time for their independence. They had been recognized by the United States as independent Republics, and ministers had been sent to reside near their respective governments. But Spain still persisted in her efforts to reconquer her revolted provinces; and it was rumored that aid would be granted her for this purpose, by the allied powers of Europe. In the mean time, the Greeks, also, had revolted from the odious yoke of Turkish despotism, and were fighting with a valor and a success worthy of the better days of Thermopylæ and of Marathon.

In this state of things, the President in his annual message to Congress expressed the opinion that there was reason to hope that the Greeks would be successful in the present struggle with their oppressors, and that the power that has so long crushed them had lost its dominion over them for ever. The same communication contained other matters of great importance, in relation to the rumored combination of foreign sovereigns to interfere in the affairs of South America. Under these circumstances, Mr. Webster thought it was proper and becoming that the communication of the President should receive some response from the House of Representatives. Accordingly, on Monday, December the 8th, 1823, he submitted for consideration a resolution : “ That provision ought to be made, by law, for defraying the expense incident to the appointment of an agent, or commissioner, to Greece, whenever the President shall deem it expedient to make such appointment."

On the 19th of January the resolution was called up, and Mr. Webster delivered his sentiments on the subject embraced in it, in a speech of great power, eloquence, and feeling. When he sat down, Mr. Clay introduced a resolution : “ That the people of these States would not see, without serious inquietude, any forcible interposition by the allied powers of Europe, in behalf of Spain, to reduce to their former subjection those parts of the continent of America which have proclaimed and established for themselves, respectively, independent governments, and which have been solemnly recognized by the United States." Thus the whole field of foreign politics was brought within the scope of the debate.

Next day Mr. Poinsett delivered his sentiments at length on the subject, and concluded by moving a modification of Mr. Webster's resolution, so as merely to express the sympathy of the nation for the suffering Greeks, and the interest felt by the Government in their wel. fare and success. Mr. Clay then followed and expressed himself with great force. It was, indeed, a glorious theme! wide as the sufferings of humanity; deep as the love of liberty in the breast of man. was a subject that took hold on the hearts of the people; predisposed to sympathize with nations struggling against despotism every where, how could they resist the appeals of the glorious descendants of Leonidas, and of Epaminondas, and Philopæmen; aided, too, by the condensed logic of Webster, the varied learning of Poinsett, and the fervid eloquence of Henry Clay? A harvest of golden opinions was to be the destined reward of this day's exhibition. Webster was to be translated into Greek, to be read with rapture through the Peloponnesus, and to be pronounced side by side with Demosthenes from the heights of the Acropolis ; while Clay was to receive the thanks and the gratitude of the South American Republics through the person of the great Liberator, the modern Washington.

Under such circumstances, it took a man of no ordinary strength of character to resist these seductive measures, and expose their true nature and tendency. John Randolph was the man for the times ; he was then, as he had been for years past, “ the solitary warder on the wall;" all others were asleep, or caught away by the enthusiasm ; he saw the danger, and gave the alarm.

“ This," said he, “ is perhaps one of the finest and prettiest themes for declamation ever presented to a deliberative assembly. But it appears to me in a light very different from any that has as yet been thrown upon it.

" I look at the measure as one fraught with deep and deadly danger to the best interests and to the liberties of the American people ; so satisfied, sir, am I of this, that I have been constrained by the conviction to overcome the almost insuperable repugnance I feel to throwing myself upon the notice of the House ; but I feel it to be my duty to raise my voice against both these propositions.

My intention in rising at present, sir, is merely to move, that the eommittee rise, and that both of the resolutions may be printed. I wish to have some time to think of this business, to deliberate, before we take this leap in the dark into the Archipelago, or the Black Sea, or into the wide-mouthed La Plata. I know, sir, that the post of honor is on the other side of the House, the post of toil and of difficulty on this side, if, indeed, any body shall be with me on this side. It is a difficult and an invidious task to stem the torrent of public sentiment, when all the generous feelings of the human heart are appealed to But I was delegated, sir, to this House, to guard the interests of the people of the United States, not to guard the rights of other people; and, if it was doubted, even in the case of England, a land fertile above all other lands (not excepting Greece herself ) in great and glorious men—if it was doubted whether her interference in the politics of the continent, though separated from it only by a narrow strait, not so wide as the Chesapeake, as our Mediterranean Sea, had redounded either to her bonor or advantage; if the effect of that interference has been a monumental debt that paralyzes the arm that might now strike for Greece, that certainly would have struck for Spain, can it be for us to seek, in the very bottom of the Mediterranean, for a quarrel with the Ottoman Porte? And this, while we have an ocean rolling between ? While we are in that sea without a single port to refit a gun-boat; and while the powers of Barbary lie in succession in our path, shall we open this Pandora's box of political evils ? Are we prepared for a war with these pirates ? (not that

« AnteriorContinuar »