« AnteriorContinuar »
us. The protecting system has already, in the minds of many, removed the odium which formerly rested on this practice. It was but the last year that a distinguished senator rose up in his place here and held this language: "Your tariff policy compels respectable men to violate your law; you force them to disre gard its injunctions, in order to elude its oppressions. It was his perfect conviction, that there was not a virtuous man throughout the union, who would now think it criminal to smuggle into the country every article consumed in it—and why? Because you
force them to it in self-defense.”—Sir, when these sentiments shall become prevalent, what think you will become of that system? How long will it last after the payment of duties shall come to be considered as a badge of servitude ?
OF GREAT ACTIONS DEPENDENT ON THEIR
Great actions and striking occurrences, having excited a temporary admiration, often pass away and are forgotten, because they leave no lasting results, affecting the prosperity of communities. Such is frequently the fortune of the most brilliant military achievements. Of the ten thousand battles which have been fought; of all the fields fertilized with carnage; of the banners which have been bathed in blood; of the warriors who have hoped that they had risen from the field of conquest to a glory as bright and as durable as the stars, how few that continue long to interest mankind! The victory of yesterday is reversed by the defeat of to-day; the star of military glory, rising like a meteor, like a meteor has fallen ; disgrace and disaster hang on the heels of conquest and renown; victor and vanquished presently pass away to oblivion, and the world holds on its course, with the loss, only, of so many lives, and so much treasure.
But if this is frequently, or generally, the fortune of military achievements, it is not always so. There are enterprises, military as well as civil, that sometimes check the current of events, give a new turn to human affairs, and transmit their consequences through ages. We see their importance in their results, and call them great, because great things follow. There have been battles which have fixed the fate of nations. These come down to us in history with a solid and permanent influence, not created by a display of glittering armor, the rush of adverse battalions, the sinking and rising of pennons, the flight, the pursuit, and the victory; but by their effect in advancing or retarding human knowledge, in overthrowing or establishing despotism, in extending or destroying human happiness. When the traveler pauses on the plains of Marathon, what are the emotions which strongly agitate his breast; what is that glorious recollection that thrills through his frame, and suffuses his eyes ? Not, I imagine, that Grecian skill and Grecian valor were here most signally displayed; but that Greece herself was saved. It is because to this spot, and to the event which has rendered it immortal, he refers all the succeeding glories of the republic. It is because, if that day had gone otherwise, Greece had perished. It is because he perceives that her philosophers and orators, her poets and painters, her sculptors and architects, her government and free institutions, point backward to Marathon, and that their future existence seems to have been suspended on the contingency, whether the Persian or Grecian banner should wave victorious in the beams of that day's setting sun. And as his imagination kindles at the retrospect, he is transported back to the interesting moment: he counts the fearful odds of the contending hosts; his interest for the result overwhelms him; he trembles as if it was still uncertain, and seems to doubt whether he may consider Socrates and Plato, Demosthenes, Sophocles, and Phidias, as secure, yet, to himself and to the world.
War is the law of violence. Peace the law of love. That law of violence prevailed without mitigation from the murder of Abel to the advent of the Prince of Peace.
We might have imagined, if history had not attested the reverse, that an experiment of four thousand years would have sufficed to prove, that the rational and valuable ends of society can never be attained, by constructing its institutions in conformity with the standard of war. But the sword and the torch had been eloquent in vain. A thousand battle-fields, white with the bones of brothers, were counted as idle advocates in the cause of justice and humanity. Ten thousand cities, abandoned to the cruelty and licentiousness of the soldiery: and burnt, or dismantled, or razed to the ground, pleaded in vain against the law of violence. The river, the lake, the sea, crimsoned with the blood of fellow-citizens, and neighbors, and strangers, had lifted up their voices in vain to denounce the folly and wickedness of war. The shrieks and agonies, the rage and hatred, the wounds and curses of the battle-field, and the storm and the sack, had scattered in vain their terrible warnings throughout all lands. In vain had the insolent - Lysander destroyed the walls and burnt the fleets of Athens, to the music of her own female flute-players. In vain had Scipio, amid the ruins of Carthage, in the spirit of a gloomy seer, applied to Rome herself the prophecy of Agamemnon,
“ The day shall come, the great avenging day,
In vain had Pyrrhus exclaimed, as for all the warrior gamblers of antiquity, “ One such victory more and I am undone.” In vain had the disgrace and the sufferings of Miltiades and Nicias, of Themistocles, Pausanias, and Alcibiades; of Marius and Sylla, of Hannibal, Pompey, and Cesar, filled the nations with pity and dismay. The lamentations of the widow and the tears of the orphan, the broken hearts of age and the blasted hopes of youth, and beauty, and love, had pleaded in vain against the law of violence. The earth had drunk in the life-blood of the slain, and hidden their mangled bodies in her bosom: and there the garden, the orchard, and the harvest, flourished once more beautiful in the tints of nature, and rich in the melody of fount, and leaf, and breeze. The waters have swallowed into their depths the dying and the dead, and the ruined fleets both of victor and vanquished; and again the waves danced in their sportiveness, or rushed in their fury, over the battle-plain of hostile navies. The innocence of childhood had forgotten the parent's violent death, the widow had recovered the lost smile of former years, the miserable old man had been gathered to his fathers, and affection had found new objects for its attachments.
Mr. Chairman, -I trust that I shall be indulged with some few reflections upon the danger of permitting the conduct on which it has been my painful duty to animadvert, to pass without a solemn expression of the disapprobation of this house. Recall to your recollection, sir, the free nations which have gone before us. Where are they now?'
«Gone glimmering through the dream of things that were,
A schoolboy's tale, the wonder of an hour."
And how have they lost their liberties? If we could transport ourselves back, sir, to the ages when Greece and Rome flourished in their greatest prosperity, and, mingling in the throng, should ask a Grecian if he did not fear that some daring military chieftain, covered with glory, some Philip, or Alexander, would one day overthrow the liberties of his country,—the confident and indignant Grecian would exclaim, No! no! we have nothing to fear from our heroes; our liberties will be eternal. If a Roman citizen had been asked, if he did not fear that the conqueror of Gaul might establish a throne upon the ruins of publie liberty, he would have instantly repelled the unjust insinuation. Yet Greece has fallen; Cesar has passed the rubicon ; and the patriotic arm even of Brutus could not preserve the liberties of his devoted country.
Sir, we are fighting a great moral battle for the benefit, not only of our country, but of all mankind. The eyes of the whole world are in fixed attention upon us. One, and the largest portion of it, is gazing with jealousy and with envy; the other portion with hope, with confidence, and with affection. Every where the black cloud of legitimacy is suspended over the world, save only one bright spot, which breaks out from the political hemisphere of the west, to enlighten, and animate, and gladden the human heart. Obscure that, by the downfall of liberty here, and all mankind are enshrouded in a pall of universal darkness. Beware, then, sir, how you give a fatal sanction, in this infant period of our republic, to military insubordination. Remember that Greece had her Alexander, Rome her Cesar, England her Cromwell, France her Bonaparte, and, that if we would escape the rock on which they split, we must avoid their errors.
I hope, sir, that gentlemen will deliberately survey the awful isthmus on which we stand. They may bear down all opposition. They may even vote the general* the public thanks, They may carry him triumphantly through this house. But if they do, sir, in my humble judgment, it will be a triumph of the principie of insubordination—a triumph of the military over the civil authority—a triumph over the powers of this house-2 triumph over the constitution of the land—and I pray, sir, most devoutly, that it may not prove, in its ultimate effects and consequences, a triumph over the liberties of the people.
* General Jackson.
EVILS OF DISMEMBERMENT.-Webster.
Gentlemen, the political prosperity which this country has "attained, and which it now enjoys, it has acquired mainly through the instrumentality of the present government. While this agent continues, the capacity of attaining to still higher degrees of prosperity exists also. We have, while this lasts, a political life, capable of beneficial exertion, with power to resist or overcome misfortunes, to sustain us against the ordinary accidents of human affairs, and to promote, by active efforts, every public interest. But dismemberment strikes at the very being which preserves these faculties. It would lay its rude and ruthless hand on this great agent itself. It would sweep away, not only what we possess, but all power of regaining lost, or acquiring new, possessions. It would leave the country, not only bereft of its prosperity and happiness, but without limbs, or organs, or faculties, by which to exert itself, hereafter, in the pursuit of that prosperity and happiness.
Other misfortunes may be borne, or their effects overcome If disastrous war should sweep our commerce from the ocean, another generation may renew it; if it exhaust our treasury, future industry may replenish it; if it desolate and lay waste our fields, still, under a new cultivation, they will grow green again, and ripen to future harvests. It were but a trifle, even if the walls of yonder capitol were to crumble, if its lofty pillars should fall, and its gorgeous decorations be all covered by the dust of the valley. All these might be rebuilt. But who shall re-construct the fabric of demolished government? Who shall rear again the well-proportioned columns of constitutional lib
Who shall frame together the skilful architecture which unites national sovereignty with state-rights, individual security, and public prosperity? No, gentlemen, if these columns fall, they will be raised not again. Like the Coliseum and the Parthenon, they will be destined to a mournful, a melancholy immortality. Bitterer tears, however, will flow over them, than were ever shed over the monuments of Roman or Grecian art; for they will be the remnants of more glorious edifice than Greece or Rome ever saw—the edifice of constitutional American liberty
But, gentlemen, let us hope for better things. Let us trust in that gracious Being who has hitherto held our country as in the hollow of his hand. Let us trust to the virtue and the intelligence of the people, and to the efficacy of religious obligation. Let us trust to the influence of Washington's example