The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

Part 16 out of 25

Gentlemen, the general question of revenue is very much connected with
this subject of the public lands, and I will therefore, in a very few
words, express my views on that point.

The revenue involves, not only the supply of the treasury with money,
but the question of protection to manufactures. On these connected
subjects, therefore, Gentlemen, as I have promised to keep nothing back,
I will state my opinions plainly, but very shortly.

I am in favor of such a revenue as shall be equal to all the just and
reasonable wants of the government; and I am decidedly opposed to all
collection or accumulation of revenue beyond this point. An extravagant
government expenditure, and unnecessary accumulation in the treasury,
are both, of all things, to be most studiously avoided.

I am in favor of protecting American industry and labor, not only as
employed in large manufactories, but also, and more especially, as
employed in the various mechanic arts, carried on by persons of small
capitals, and living by the earnings of their own personal industry.
Every city in the Union, and none more than this, would feel severely
the consequences of departing from the ancient and continued policy of
the government respecting this last branch of protection. If duties were
to be abolished on hats, boots, shoes, and other articles of leather,
and on the articles fabricated of brass, tin, and iron, and on
ready-made clothes, carriages, furniture, and many similar articles,
thousands of persons would be immediately thrown out of employment in
this city, and in other parts of the Union. Protection, in this respect,
of our own labor against the cheaper, ill-paid, half-fed, and pauper
labor of Europe, is, in my opinion, a duty which the country owes to its
own citizens. I am, therefore, decidedly for protecting our own industry
and our own labor.

In the next place, Gentlemen, I am of opinion, that, with no more than
usual skill in the application of the well-tried principles of
discriminating and specific duties, all the branches of national
industry may be protected, without imposing such duties on imports as
shall overcharge the treasury.

And as to the revenues arising from the sales of the public lands, I am
of opinion that they ought to be set apart for the use of the States.
The States need the money. The government of the United States does not
need it. Many of the States have contracted large debts for objects of
internal improvement, and others of them have important objects which
they would wish to accomplish. The lands were originally granted for the
use of the several States; and now that their proceeds are not necessary
for the purposes of the general government, I am of opinion that they
should go to the States, and to the people of the States, upon an equal
principle. Set apart, then, the proceeds of the public lands for the use
of the States; supply the treasury from duties on imports; apply to
these duties a just and careful discrimination, in favor of articles
produced at home by our own labor, and thus support, to a fair extent,
our own manufactures. These, Gentlemen, appear to me to be the general
outlines of that policy which the present condition of the country
requires us to adopt.

Gentlemen, proposing to express opinions on the principal subjects of
interest at the present moment, it is impossible to overlook the
delicate question which has arisen from events which have happened in
the late Mexican province of Texas. The independence of that province
has now been recognized by the government of the United States. Congress
gave the President the means, to be used when he saw fit, of opening a
diplomatic intercourse with its government, and the late President
immediately made use of those means.

I saw no objection, under the circumstances, to voting an appropriation
to be used when the President should think the proper time had come; and
he deemed, very promptly, it is true, that the time had already arrived.
Certainly, Gentlemen, the history of Texas is not a little wonderful. A
very few people, in a very short time, have established a government for
themselves, against the authority of the parent state; and this
government, it is generally supposed, there is little probability, at
the present moment, of the parent state being able to overturn.

This government is, in form, a copy of our own. It is an American
constitution, substantially after the great American model. We all,
therefore, must wish it success; and there is no one who will more
heartily rejoice than I shall, to see an independent community,
intelligent, industrious, and friendly towards us, springing up, and
rising into happiness, distinction, and power, upon our own principles
of liberty and government.

But it cannot be disguised, Gentlemen, that a desire, or an intention,
is already manifested to annex Texas to the United States. On a subject
of such mighty magnitude as this, and at a moment when the public
attention is drawn to it, I should feel myself wanting in candor, if I
did not express my opinion; since all must suppose that, on such a
question, it is impossible that I should be without some opinion.

I say then, Gentlemen, in all frankness, that I see objections, I think
insurmountable objections, to the annexation of Texas to the United
States. When the Constitution was formed, it is not probable that either
its framers or the people ever looked to the admission of any States
into the Union, except such as then already existed, and such as should
be formed out of territories then already belonging to the United
States. Fifteen years after the adoption of the Constitution, however,
the case of Louisiana arose. Louisiana was obtained by treaty with
France, who had recently obtained it from Spain; but the object of this
acquisition, certainly, was not mere extension of territory. Other great
political interests were connected with it. Spain, while she possessed
Louisiana, had held the mouths of the great rivers which rise in the
Western States, and flow into the Gulf of Mexico. She had disputed our
use of these rivers already, and with a powerful nation in possession of
these outlets to the sea, it is obvious that the commerce of all the
West was in danger of perpetual vexation. The command of these rivers to
the sea was, therefore, the great object aimed at in the acquisition of
Louisiana. But that acquisition necessarily brought territory along with
it, and three States now exist, formed out of that ancient province.

A similar policy, and a similar necessity, though perhaps not entirely
so urgent, led to the acquisition of Florida.

Now, no such necessity, no such policy, requires the annexation of
Texas. The accession of Texas to our territory is not necessary to the
full and complete enjoyment of all which we already possess. Her case,
therefore, stands upon a footing entirely different from that of
Louisiana and Florida. There being no necessity for extending the limits
of the Union in that direction, we ought, I think, for numerous and
powerful reasons, to be content with our present boundaries.

Gentlemen, we all see that, by whomsoever possessed, Texas is likely to
be a slave-holding country; and I frankly avow my entire unwillingness
to do anything that shall extend the slavery of the African race on this
continent, or add other slave-holding States to the Union. When I say
that I regard slavery in itself as a great moral, social, and political
evil, I only use language which has been adopted by distinguished men,
themselves citizens of slave-holding States. I shall do nothing,
therefore, to favor or encourage its further extension. We have slavery
already amongst us. The Constitution found it in the Union; it
recognized it, and gave it solemn guaranties. To the full extent of
these guaranties we are all bound, in honor, in justice, and by the
Constitution. All the stipulations contained in the Constitution in
favor of the slave-holding States which are already in the Union ought
to be fulfilled, and, so far as depends on me, shall be fulfilled, in
the fulness of their spirit and to the exactness of their letter.
Slavery, as it exists in the States, is beyond the reach of Congress. It
is a concern of the States themselves; they have never submitted it to
Congress, and Congress has no rightful power over it. I shall concur,
therefore, in no act, no measure, no menace, no indication of purpose,
which shall interfere or threaten to interfere with the exclusive
authority of the several States over the subject of slavery as it exists
within their respective limits. All this appears to me to be matter of
plain and imperative duty.

But when we come to speak of admitting new States, the subject assumes
an entirely different aspect. Our rights and our duties are then both

The free States, and all the States, are then at liberty to accept or to
reject. When it is proposed to bring new members into this political
partnership, the old members have a right to say on what terms such new
partners are to come in, and what they are to bring along with them. In
my opinion, the people of the United States will not consent to bring
into the Union a new, vastly extensive, and slave-holding country, large
enough for half a dozen or a dozen States. In my opinion, they ought not
to consent to it. Indeed, I am altogether at a loss to conceive what
possible benefit any part of this country can expect to derive from such
annexation. Any benefit to any part is at least doubtful and uncertain;
the objections are obvious, plain, and strong. On the general question
of slavery, a great portion of the community is already strongly
excited. The subject has not only attracted attention as a question of
politics, but it has struck a far deeper-toned chord. It has arrested
the religious feeling of the country; it has taken strong hold on the
consciences of men. He is a rash man indeed, and little conversant with
human nature, and especially has he a very erroneous estimate of the
character of the people of this country, who supposes that a feeling of
this kind is to be trifled with or despised. It will assuredly cause
itself to be respected. It may be reasoned with, it may be made willing,
I believe it is entirely willing, to fulfil all existing engagements and
all existing duties, to uphold and defend the Constitution as it is
established, with whatever regrets about some provisions which it does
actually contain. But to coerce it into silence, to endeavor to restrain
its free expression, to seek to compress and confine it, warm as it is,
and more heated as such endeavors would inevitably render it,--should
this be attempted, I know nothing, even in the Constitution or in the
Union itself, which would not be endangered by the explosion which might

I see, therefore, no political necessity for the annexation of Texas to
the Union; no advantages to be derived from it; and objections to it of
a strong, and, in my judgment, decisive character.

I believe it to be for the interest and happiness of the whole Union to
remain as it is, without diminution and without addition.

Gentlemen, I pass to other subjects. The rapid advancement of the
executive authority is a topic which has already been alluded to.

I believe there is serious cause of alarm from this source. I believe
the power of the executive has increased, is increasing, and ought now
to be brought back within its ancient constitutional limits. I have
nothing to do with the motives which have led to those acts, which I
believe to have transcended the boundaries of the Constitution. Good
motives may always be assumed, as bad motives may always be imputed.
Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of power;
but they cannot justify it, even if we were sure that they existed. It
is hardly too strong to say, that the Constitution was made to guard the
people against the dangers of good intention, real or pretended. When
bad intentions are boldly avowed, the people will promptly take care of
themselves. On the other hand, they will always be asked why they should
resist or question that exercise of power which is so fair in its
object, so plausible and patriotic in appearance, and which has the
public good alone confessedly in view? Human beings, we may be assured,
will generally exercise power when they can get it; and they will
exercise it most undoubtedly, in popular governments, under pretences of
public safety or high public interest. It may be very possible that good
intentions do really sometimes exist when constitutional restraints are
disregarded. There are men, in all ages, who mean to exercise power
usefully; but who mean to exercise it. They mean to govern well; but
they mean to govern. They promise to be kind masters; but they mean to
be masters. They think there need be but little restraint upon
themselves. Their notion of the public interest is apt to be quite
closely connected with their own exercise of authority. They may not,
indeed, always understand their own motives. The love of power may sink
too deep in their own hearts even for their own scrutiny, and may pass
with themselves for mere patriotism and benevolence.

A character has been drawn of a very eminent citizen of Massachusetts,
of the last age, which, though I think it does not entirely belong to
him, yet very well describes a certain class of public men. It was said
of this distinguished son of Massachusetts, that in matters of politics
and government he cherished the most kind and benevolent feelings
towards the whole earth. He earnestly desired to see all nations well
governed; and to bring about this happy result, he wished that the
United States might govern the rest of the world; that Massachusetts
might govern the United States; that Boston might govern Massachusetts;
and as for himself, his own humble ambition would be satisfied by
governing the little town of Boston.

I do not intend, Gentlemen, to commit so unreasonable a trespass on your
patience as to discuss all those cases in which I think executive power
has been unreasonably extended. I shall only allude to some of them,
and, as being earliest in the order of time, and hardly second to any
other in importance, I mention the practice of removal from all offices,
high and low, for opinion's sake, and on the avowed ground of giving
patronage to the President; that is to say, of giving him the power of
influencing men's political opinions and political conduct, by hopes and
by fears addressed directly to their pecuniary interests. The great
battle on this point was fought, and was lost, in the Senate of the
United States, in the last session of Congress under Mr. Adams's
administration. After General Jackson was known to be elected, and
before his term of office began, many important offices became vacant by
the usual causes of death and resignation. Mr. Adams, of course,
nominated persons to fill these vacant offices. But a majority of the
Senate was composed of the friends of General Jackson; and, instead of
acting on these nominations, and filling the vacant offices with
ordinary promptitude, the nominations were postponed to a day beyond the
4th of March, for the purpose, openly avowed, of giving the patronage of
the appointments to the President who was then coming into office. When
the new President entered on his office, he withdrew these nominations,
and sent in nominations of his own friends in their places. I was of
opinion then, and am of opinion now, that that decision of the Senate
went far to unfix the proper balance of the government. It conferred on
the President the power of rewards for party purposes, or personal
purposes, without limit or control. It sanctioned, manifestly and
plainly, that exercise of power which Mr. Madison had said would deserve
impeachment; and it completely defeated one great object, which we are
told the framers of the Constitution contemplated, in the manner of
forming the Senate; that is, that the Senate might be a body not
changing with the election of a President, and therefore likely to be
able to hold over him some check or restraint in regard to bringing his
own friends and partisans into power with him, and thus rewarding their
services to him at the public expense.

The debates in the Senate, on these questions, were long continued and
earnest. They were of course in secret session, but the opinions of
those members who opposed this course have all been proved true by the
result. The contest was severe and ardent, as much so as any that I have
ever partaken in; and I have seen some service in that sort of warfare.

Gentlemen, when I look back to that eventful moment, when I remember who
those were who upheld this claim for executive power, with so much zeal
and devotion, as well as with such great and splendid abilities, and
when I look round now, and inquire what has become of these gentlemen,
where they have found themselves at last, under the power which they
thus helped to establish, what has become now of all their respect,
trust, confidence, and attachment,--how many of them, indeed, have not
escaped from being broken and crushed under the weight of the wheels of
that engine which they themselves set in motion,--I feel that an
edifying lesson may be read by those who, in the freshness and fulness
of party zeal, are ready to confer the most dangerous power, in the hope
that they and their friends may bask in its sunshine, while enemies only
shall be withered by its frown.

I will not go into the mention of names. I will give no enumeration of
persons; but I ask you to turn your minds back, and recollect who the
distinguished men were who supported, in the Senate, General Jackson's
administration for the first two years; and I will ask you what you
suppose they think now of that power and that discretion which they so
freely confided to executive hands. What do they think of the whole
career of that administration, the commencement of which, and indeed the
existence of which, owed so much to their own great exertions?

In addition to the establishment of this power of unlimited and
causeless removal, another doctrine has been put forth, more vague, it
is true, but altogether unconstitutional, and tending to like dangerous
results. In some loose, indefinite, and unknown sense, the President has
been called the _representative of the whole American people_. He has
called himself so repeatedly, and been so denominated by his friends a
thousand times. Acts, for which no specific authority has been found
either in the Constitution or the laws, have been justified on the
ground that the President is the representative of the whole American
people. Certainly, this is not constitutional language. Certainly, the
Constitution nowhere calls the President the universal representative of
the people. The constitutional representatives of the people are in the
House of Representatives, exercising powers of legislation. The
President is an executive officer, appointed in a particular manner, and
clothed with prescribed and limited powers. It may be thought to be of
no great consequence, that the President should call himself, or that
others should call him, the sole representative of all the people,
although he has no such appellation or character in the Constitution.
But, in these matters, words are things. If he is the people's
representative, and as such may exercise power, without any other grant,
what is the limit to that power? And what may not an unlimited
representative of the people do? When the Constitution expressly creates
representatives, as members of Congress, it regulates, defines, and
limits their authority. But if the executive chief magistrate, merely
because he is the executive chief magistrate, may assume to himself
another character, and call himself the representative of the whole
people, what is to limit or restrain this representative power in his

I fear, Gentlemen, that if these pretensions should be continued and
justified, we might have many instances of summary political logic, such
as I once heard in the House of Representatives. A gentleman, not now
living, wished very much to vote for the establishment of a Bank of the
United States, but he had always stoutly denied the constitutional power
of Congress to create such a bank. The country, however, was in a state
of great financial distress, from which such an institution, it was
hoped, might help to extricate it; and this consideration led the worthy
member to review his opinions with care and deliberation. Happily, on
such careful and deliberate review, he altered his former judgment. He
came, satisfactorily, to the conclusion that Congress might incorporate
a bank. The argument which brought his mind to this result was short,
and so plain and obvious, that he wondered how he should so long have
overlooked it. The power, he said, to create a bank, was either given to
Congress, or it was not given. Very well. If it was given, Congress of
course could exercise it; if it was not given, the people still retained
it, and in that case, Congress, as the representatives of the people,
might, upon an emergency, make free to use it.

Arguments and conclusions in substance like these, Gentlemen, will not
be wanting, if men of great popularity, commanding characters, sustained
by powerful parties, _and full of good intentions towards the public_,
may be permitted to call themselves the universal representatives of the

But, Gentlemen, it is the _currency_, the currency of the country,--it
is this great subject, so interesting, so vital, to all classes of the
community, which has been destined to feel the most violent assaults of
executive power. The consequences are around us and upon us. Not
unforeseen, not unforetold, here they come, bringing distress for the
present, and fear and alarm for the future. If it be denied that the
present condition of things has arisen from the President's interference
with the revenue, the first answer is, that, when he did interfere, just
such consequences were predicted. It was then said, and repeated, and
pressed upon the public attention, that that interference must
necessarily produce derangement, embarrassment, loss of confidence, and
commercial distress. I pray you, Gentlemen, to recur to the debates of
1832, 1833, and 1834, and then to decide whose opinions have proved to
be correct. When the treasury experiment was first announced, who
supported, and who opposed it? Who warned the country against it? Who
were they who endeavored to stay the violence of party, to arrest the
hand of executive authority, and to convince the people that this
experiment was delusive; that its object was merely to increase
executive power, and that its effect, sooner or later, must be injurious
and ruinous? Gentlemen, it is fair to bring the opinions of political
men to the test of experience. It is just to judge of them by their
measures, and their opposition to measures; and for myself, and those
political friends with whom I have acted, on this subject of the
currency, I am ready to abide the test.

But before the subject of the currency, and its present most
embarrassing state, is discussed, I invite your attention, Gentlemen, to
the history of executive proceedings connected with it. I propose to
state to you a series of facts; not to argue upon them, not to _mystify_
them, nor to draw any unjust inference from them; but merely to state
the case, in the plainest manner, as I understand it. And I wish,
Gentlemen, that, in order to be able to do this in the best and most
convincing manner, I had the ability of my learned friend, (Mr. Ogden,)
whom you have all so often heard, and who usually states his case in
such a manner that, when stated, it is already very well argued.

Let us see, Gentlemen, what the train of occurrences has been in regard
to our revenue and finances; and when these occurrences are stated, I
leave to every man the right to decide for himself whether our present
difficulties have or have not arisen from attempts to extend the
executive authority. In giving this detail, I shall be compelled to
speak of the late Bank of the United States; but I shall speak of it
historically only. My opinion of its utility, and of the extraordinary
ability and success with which its affairs were conducted for many years
before the termination of its charter, is well known. I have often
expressed it, and I have not altered it. But at present I speak of the
bank only as it makes a necessary part in the history of events which I
wish now to recapitulate.

Mr. Adams commenced his administration in March, 1825. He had been
elected by the House of Representatives, and began his career as
President under a powerful opposition. From the very first day, he was
warmly, even violently, opposed in all his measures; and this
opposition, as we all know, continued without abatement, either in force
or asperity, through his whole term of four years. Gentlemen, I am not
about to say whether this opposition was well or ill founded, just or
unjust. I only state the fact as connected with other facts. The Bank of
the United States, during these four years of Mr. Adams's
administration, was in full operation. It was performing the fiscal
duties enjoined on it by its charter; it had established numerous
offices, was maintaining a large circulation, and transacting a vast
business in exchange. Its character, conduct, and manner of
administration were all well known to the whole country.

Now there are two or three things worthy of especial notice. One is,
that during the whole of this heated political controversy, from 1825 to
1829, the party which was endeavoring to produce a change of
administration in the general government brought no charge of political
interference against the Bank of the United States. If any thing, it was
rather a favorite with that party generally. Certainly, the party, as a
party, did not ascribe to it undue attachment to other parties, or to
the then existing administration. Another important fact is, that,
during the whole of the same period, those who had espoused the cause of
General Jackson, and who sought to bring about a revolution under his
name, did not propose the destruction of the bank, or its
discontinuance, as one of the objects which were to be accomplished by
the intended revolution. They did not tell the country that the bank was
unconstitutional; they did not declare it unnecessary; they did not
propose to get along without it, when they should come into power
themselves. If individuals entertained any such purposes, they kept them
much to themselves. The party, as a party, avowed none such. A third
fact, worthy of all notice, is, that during this period there was no
complaint about the state of the currency, either by the country
generally or by the party then in opposition.

In March, 1829, General Jackson was inaugurated as President. He came
into power on professions of reform. He announced reform of all abuses
to be the great and leading object of his future administration; and in
his inaugural address he pointed out the main subjects of this reform.
But the bank was not one of them. It was not said by him that the bank
was unconstitutional. It was not said that it was unnecessary or
useless. It was not said that it had failed to do all that had been
hoped or expected from it in regard to the currency.

In March, 1829, then, the bank stood well, very well, with the new
administration. It was regarded, so far as appears, as entirely
constitutional, free from political or party taint, and highly useful.
It had as yet found no place in the catalogue of abuses to be reformed.

But, Gentlemen, nine months wrought a wonderful change. New lights broke
forth before these months had rolled away; and the President, in his
message to Congress in December, 1829, held a very unaccustomed language
and manifested very unexpected purposes.

Although the bank had then five or six years of its charter unexpired,
he yet called the attention of Congress very pointedly to the subject,
and declared,--

1. That the constitutionality of the bank was well doubted by many;

2. That its utility or expediency was also well doubted;

3. That all must admit that it had failed to establish or maintain a
sound and uniform currency; and

4. That the true bank for the use of the government of the United States
would be a bank which should be founded on the revenues and credit of
the government itself.

These propositions appeared to me, at the time, as very extraordinary,
and the last one as very startling. A bank founded on the revenue and
credit of the government, and managed and administered by the executive,
was a conception which I had supposed no man holding the chief executive
power in his own hands would venture to put forth.

But the question now is, what had wrought this great change of feeling
and of purpose in regard to the bank. What events had occurred between
March and December that should have caused the bank, so constitutional,
so useful, so peaceful, and so safe an institution, in the first of
these months, to start up into the character of a monster, and become so
horrid and dangerous, in the last?

Gentlemen, let us see what the events were which had intervened. General
Jackson was elected in December, 1828. His term was to begin in March,
1829. A session of Congress took place, therefore, between his election
and the commencement of his administration.

Now, Gentlemen, the truth is, that during this session, and a little
before the commencement of the new administration, a disposition was
manifested by political men to interfere with the management of the
bank. Members of Congress undertook to nominate or recommend individuals
as directors in the branches or offices of the bank. They were kind
enough, sometimes, to make out whole lists, or tickets, and to send them
to Philadelphia, containing the names of those whose appointments would
be satisfactory to General Jackson's friends. Portions of the
correspondence on these subjects have been published in some of the
voluminous reports and other documents connected with the bank, but
perhaps have not been generally heeded or noticed. At first, the bank
merely declined, as gently as possible, complying with these and similar
requests. But like applications began to show themselves from many
quarters, and a very marked case arose as early as June, 1829. Certain
members of the Legislature of New Hampshire applied for a change in the
presidency of the branch which was established in that State. A member
of the Senate of the United States wrote both to the president of the
bank and to the Secretary of the Treasury, strongly recommending a
change, and in his letter to the Secretary hinting very distinctly at
political considerations as the ground of the movement. Other officers
in the service of the government took an interest in the matter, and
urged a change; and the Secretary himself wrote to the bank, suggesting
and recommending it. The time had come, then, for the bank to take its
position. It did take it; and, in my judgment, if it had not acted as it
did act, not only would those who had the care of it have been most
highly censurable, but a claim would have been yielded to, entirely
inconsistent with a government of laws, and subversive of the very
foundations of republicanism.

A long correspondence between the Secretary of the Treasury and the
president of the bank ensued. The directors determined that they would
not surrender either their rights or their duties to the control or
supervision of the executive government. They said they had never
appointed directors of their branches on political grounds, and they
would not remove them on such grounds. They had avoided politics. They
had sought for men of business, capacity, fidelity, and experience in
the management of pecuniary concerns. They owed duties, they said, to
the government, which they meant to perform, faithfully and impartially,
under all administrations; and they owed duties to the stockholders of
the bank, which required them to disregard political considerations in
their appointments. This correspondence ran along into the fall of the
year, and finally terminated in a stern and unanimous declaration, made
by the directors, and transmitted to the Secretary of the Treasury, that
the bank would continue to be independently administered, and that the
directors once for all refused to submit to the supervision of the
executive authority, in any of its branches, in the appointment of local
directors and agents. This resolution decided the character of the
future. Hostility towards the bank, thenceforward, became the settled
policy of the government; and the message of December, 1829, was the
clear announcement of that policy. If the bank had appointed those
directors, thus recommended by members of Congress; if it had submitted
all its appointments to the supervision of the treasury; if it had
removed the president of the New Hampshire branch; if it had, in all
things, showed itself a complying, political, party machine, instead of
an independent institution;--if it had done this, I leave all men to
judge whether such an entire change of opinion, as to its
constitutionality, its utility, and its good effects on the currency,
would have happened between March and December.

From the moment in which the bank asserted its independence of treasury
control, and its elevation above mere party purposes, down to the end of
its charter, and down even to the present day, it has been the subject
to which the selectest phrases of party denunciation have been
plentifully applied.

But Congress manifested no disposition to establish a treasury bank. On
the contrary, it was satisfied, and so was the country, most
unquestionably, with the bank then existing. In the summer of 1832,
Congress passed an act for continuing the charter of the bank, by strong
majorities in both houses. In the House of Representatives, I think, two
thirds of the members voted for the bill. The President gave it his
negative; and as there were not two thirds of the Senate, though a large
majority were for it, the bill failed to become a law.

But it was not enough that a continuance of the charter of the bank was
thus refused. It had the deposit of the public money, and this it was
entitled to, by law, for the few years which yet remained of its
chartered term. But this it was determined it should not continue to
enjoy. At the commencement of the session of 1832-33, a grave and sober
doubt was expressed by the Secretary of the Treasury, in his official
communication, whether the public moneys were safe in the custody of the
bank! I confess, Gentlemen, when I look back to this suggestion, thus
officially made, so serious in its import, so unjust, if not well
founded, and so greatly injurious to the credit of the bank, and
injurious, indeed, to the credit of the whole country, I cannot but
wonder that any man of intelligence and character should have been
willing to make it. I read in it, however, the first lines of another
chapter. I saw an attempt was now to be made to remove the deposits of
the public money from the bank, and such an attempt was made that very
session. But Congress was not to be prevailed upon to accomplish the end
by its own authority. It was well ascertained that neither house would
consent to it. The House of Representatives, indeed, at the heel of the
session, decided against the proposition by a very large majority.

The legislative authority having been thus invoked, and invoked in vain,
it was resolved to stretch farther the long arm of executive power, and
by that arm to reach and strike the victim. It so happened that I was in
this city in May, 1833, and here learned, from a very authentic source,
that the deposits would be removed by the President's order; and in
June, as afterwards appeared, that order was given.

Now it is obvious, Gentlemen, that thus far the changes in our financial
and fiscal system were effected, not by Congress, but by the executive;
not by law, but by the will and the power of the President. Congress
would have continued the charter of the bank; but the President
negatived the bill. Congress was of opinion that the deposits ought not
to be removed; but the President removed them. Nor was this all. The
public moneys being withdrawn from the custody which the law had
provided, by executive power alone, that same power selected the places
for their future keeping. Particular banks, existing under State
charters, were chosen. With these especial and particular arrangements
were made, and the public moneys were deposited in their vaults.
Henceforward these selected banks were to operate on the revenue and
credit of the government; and thus the original scheme, promulgated in
the annual message of December, 1829, was substantially carried into
effect. Here were banks chosen by the treasury; all the arrangements
with them made by the treasury; a set of duties to be performed by them
to the treasury prescribed; and these banks were to hold the whole
proceeds of the public revenue. In all this, Congress had neither part
nor lot. No law had caused the removal of the deposits; no law had
authorized the selection of deposit State banks; no law had prescribed
the terms on which the revenues should be placed in such banks. From the
beginning of the chapter to the end, it was all executive edict. And
now, Gentlemen, I ask if it be not most remarkable, that, in a country
professing to be under a government of laws, such great and important
changes in one of its most essential and vital interests should be
brought about without any change of law, without any enactment of the
legislature whatever? Is such a power trusted to the executive of any
government in which the executive is separated, by clear and
well-defined lines, from the legislative department? The currency of the
country stands on the same general ground as the commerce of the
country. Both are intimately connected, and both are subjects of legal,
not of executive, regulation.

It is worthy of notice, that the writers of the Federalist, in
discussing the powers which the Constitution conferred on the President,
made it matter of commendation, that it withdraws this subject
altogether from his grasp. "He can prescribe no rules," say they,
"concerning the commerce or _currency_ of the country." And so we have
been all taught to think, under all former administrations. But we have
now seen that the President, and the President alone, does prescribe the
rule concerning the currency. He makes it, and he alters it. He makes
one rule for one branch of the revenue, and another rule for another. He
makes one rule for the citizen of one State, and another for the citizen
of another State. This, it is certain, is one part of the treasury order
of July last.

But at last Congress interfered, and undertook to regulate the deposits
of the public moneys. It passed the law of July, 1836, placing the
subject under legal control, restraining the power of the executive,
subjecting the banks to liabilities and duties, on the one hand, and
securing them against executive favoritism, on the other. But this law
contained another important provision; which was, that all the money in
the treasury, beyond what was necessary for the current expenditures of
the government, should be deposited with the States. This measure passed
both houses by very unusual majorities, yet it hardly escaped a veto. It
obtained only a cold assent, a slow, reluctant, and hesitating approval;
and an early moment was seized to array against it a long list of
objections. But the law passed. The money in the treasury beyond the sum
of five millions was to go to the States. It has so gone, and the
treasury for the present is relieved from the burden of a surplus. But
now observe other coincidences. In the annual message of December, 1835,
the President quoted the fact of the rapidly increasing sale of the
public lands as proof of high national prosperity. He alluded to that
subject, certainly with much satisfaction, and apparently in something
of the tone of exultation. There was nothing said about monopoly, not a
word about speculation, not a word about over-issues of paper, to pay
for the lands. All was prosperous, all was full of evidence of a wise
administration of government, all was joy and triumph.

But the idea of a deposit or distribution of the surplus money with the
people suddenly damped this effervescing happiness. The color of the
rose was gone, and every thing now looked gloomy and black. Now no more
felicitation or congratulation, on account of the rapid sales of the
public lands; no more of this most decisive proof of national prosperity
and happiness. The executive Muse takes up a melancholy strain. She
sings of monopolies, of speculation, of worthless paper, of loss both of
land and money, of the multiplication of banks, and the danger of paper
issues; and the end of the canto, the catastrophe, is, that lands shall
no longer be sold but for gold and silver alone. The object of all this
is clear enough. It was to diminish the income from the public lands. No
desire for such a diminution had been manifested, so long as the money
was supposed to be likely to remain in the treasury. But a growing
conviction that some other disposition must be made of the surplus,
awakened attention to the means of preventing that surplus.

Toward the close of the last session, Gentlemen, a proposition was
brought forward in Congress for such an alteration of the law as should
admit payment for public lands to be made in nothing but gold and
silver. The mover voted for his own proposition; but I do not recollect
that any other member concurred in the vote. The proposition was
rejected at once; but, as in other cases, that which Congress refused to
do, the executive power did. Ten days after Congress adjourned, having
had this matter before it, and having refused to act upon it by making
any alteration in the existing laws, a treasury order was issued,
commanding that very thing to be done which Congress had been requested
and had refused to do. Just as in the case of the removal of the
deposits, the executive power acted in this case also against the known,
well understood, and recently expressed will of the representatives of
the people. There never has been a moment when the legislative will
would have sanctioned the object of that order; probably never a moment
in which any twenty individual members of Congress would have concurred
in it. The act was done without the assent of Congress, and against the
well-known opinion of Congress. That act altered the law of the land, or
purported to alter it, against the well-known will of the law-making

For one, I confess I see no authority whatever in the Constitution, or
in any law, for this treasury order. Those who have undertaken to
maintain it have placed it on grounds, not only different, but
inconsistent and contradictory. The reason which one gives, another
rejects; one confutes what another argues. With one it is the joint
resolution of 1816 which gave the authority; with another, it is the law
of 1820; with a third, it is the general superintending power of the
President; and this last argument, since it resolves itself into mere
power, without stopping to point out the sources of that power, is not
only the shortest, but in truth the most just. He is the most sensible,
as well as the most candid reasoner, in my opinion, who places this
treasury order on the ground of the pleasure of the executive, and stops
there. I regard the joint resolution of 1816 as mandatory; as
prescribing a legal rule; as putting this subject, in which all have so
deep an interest, beyond the caprice, or the arbitrary pleasure, or the
discretion, of the Secretary of the Treasury. I believe there is not the
slightest legal authority, either in that officer or in the President,
to make a distinction, and to say that paper may be received for debts
at the custom-house, but that gold and silver only shall be received at
the land offices. And now for the sequel.

At the commencement of the last session, as you know, Gentlemen, a
resolution was brought forward in the Senate for annulling and
abrogating this order, by Mr. Ewing, of Ohio, a gentleman of much
intelligence, of sound principles, of vigorous and energetic character,
whose loss from the service of the country I regard as a public
misfortune. The Whig members all supported this resolution, and all the
members, I believe, with the exception of some five or six, were very
anxious in some way to get rid of the treasury order. But Mr. Ewing's
resolution was too direct. It was deemed a pointed and ungracious
attack on executive policy. It must therefore be softened, modified,
qualified, made to sound less harsh to the ears of men in power, and to
assume a plausible, polished, inoffensive character. It was accordingly
put into the plastic hands of friends of the executive to be moulded and
fashioned, so that it might have the effect of ridding the country of
the obnoxious order, and yet not appear to question executive
infallibility. All this did not answer. The late President is not a man
to be satisfied with soft words; and he saw in the measure, even as it
passed the two houses, a substantial repeal of the order. He is a man of
boldness and decision; and he respects boldness and decision in others.
If you are his friend, he expects no flinching; and if you are his
adversary, he respects you none the less for carrying your opposition to
the full limits of honorable warfare. Gentlemen, I most sincerely regret
the course of the President in regard to this bill, and certainly most
highly disapprove it. But I do not suffer the mortification of having
attempted to disguise and garnish it, in order to make it acceptable,
and of still finding it thrown back in my face. All that was obtained by
this ingenious, diplomatic, and over-courteous mode of enacting a law,
was a response from the President and the Attorney-General, that the
bill in question was obscure, ill penned, and not easy to be understood.
The bill, therefore, was neither approved nor negatived. If it had been
approved, the treasury order would have been annulled, though in a
clumsy and objectionable manner. If it had been negatived, and returned
to Congress, no doubt it would have been passed by two thirds of both
houses, and in that way have become a law, and abrogated the order. But
it was not approved, it was not returned; it was retained. It had passed
the Senate in season; it had been sent to the House in season; but there
it was suffered to lie so long without being called up, that it was
completely in the power of the President when it finally passed that
body; since he is not obliged to return bills which he does not approve,
if not presented to him ten days before the end of the session. The bill
was lost, therefore, and the treasury order remains in force. Here again
the representatives of the people, in both houses of Congress, by
majorities almost unprecedented, endeavored to abolish this obnoxious
order. On hardly any subject, indeed, has opinion been so unanimous,
either in or out of Congress. Yet the order remains.

And now, Gentlemen, I ask you, and I ask all men who have not
voluntarily surrendered all power and all right of thinking for
themselves, whether, from 1832 to the present moment, the executive
authority has not effectually superseded the power of Congress, thwarted
the will of the representatives of the people, and even of the people
themselves, and taken the whole subject of the currency into its own
grasp? In 1832, Congress desired to continue the bank of the United
States, and a majority of the people desired it also; but the President
opposed it, and his will prevailed. In 1833, Congress refused to remove
the deposits; the President resolved upon it, however, and his will
prevailed. Congress has never been willing to make a bank founded on the
money and credit of the government, and administered, of course, by
executive hands; but this was the President's object, and he attained
it, in a great measure, by the treasury selection of deposit banks. In
this particular, therefore, to a great extent, his will prevailed. In
1836, Congress refused to confine the receipts for public lands to gold
and silver; but the President willed it, and his will prevailed. In
1837, both houses of Congress, by more than two thirds, passed a bill
for restoring the former state of things by annulling the treasury
order; but the President willed, notwithstanding, that the order should
remain in force, and his will again prevailed. I repeat the question,
therefore, and I would put it earnestly to every intelligent man, to
every lover of our constitutional liberty, are we under the dominion of
the law? or has the effectual government of the country, at least in
all that regards the great interest of the currency, been in a single

Gentlemen, I have done with the narrative of events and measures. I have
done with the history of these successive steps, in the progress of
executive power, towards a complete control over the revenue and the
currency. The result is now all before us. These pretended reforms,
these extraordinary exercises of power from an extraordinary zeal for
the good of the people, what have they brought us to?

In 1829, the currency was declared to be _neither sound nor uniform_; a
proposition, in my judgment, altogether at variance with the fact,
because I do not believe there ever was a country of equal extent, in
which paper formed any part of the circulation, that possessed a
currency so sound, so uniform, so convenient, and so perfect in all
respects, as the currency of this country, at the moment of the delivery
of that message, in 1829.

But how is it now? Where has the improvement brought it? What has reform
done? What has the great cry for hard money accomplished? Is the
currency _uniform_ now? Is money in New Orleans now as good, or nearly
so, as money in New York? Are exchanges at par, or only at the same low
rates as in 1829 and other years? Every one here knows that all the
benefits of this experiment are but injury and oppression; all this
reform, but aggravated distress.

And as to the _soundness_ of the currency, how does that stand? Are the
causes of alarm less now than in 1829? Is there less bank paper in
circulation? Is there less fear of a general catastrophe? Is property
more secure, or industry more certain of its reward? We all know,
Gentlemen, that, during all this pretended warfare against all banks,
banks have vastly increased. Millions upon millions of bank paper have
been added to the circulation. Everywhere, and nowhere so much as where
the present administration and its measures have been most zealously
supported, banks have multiplied under State authority, since the decree
was made that the Bank of the United States should be suffered to
expire. Look at Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana, Virginia, and other
States. Do we not see that banking capital and bank paper are enormously
increasing? The opposition to banks, therefore, so much professed,
whether it be real or whether it be but pretended, has not restrained
either their number or their issues of paper. Both have vastly

And now a word or two, Gentlemen, upon this hard-money scheme, and the
fancies and the delusions to which it has given birth. Gentlemen, this
is a subject of delicacy, and one which it is difficult to treat with
sufficient caution, in a popular and occasional address like this. I
profess to be a _bullionist_, in the usual and accepted sense of that
word. I am for a solid specie basis for our circulation, and for specie
as a part of the circulation, so far as it may be practicable and
convenient. I am for giving no value to paper, merely as paper. I abhor
paper; that is to say, irredeemable paper, paper that may not be
converted into gold or silver at the will of the holder. But while I
hold to all this, I believe, also, that an exclusive gold and silver
circulation is an utter impossibility in the present state of this
country and of the world. We shall none of us ever see it; and it is
credulity and folly, in my opinion, to act under any such hope or
expectation. The States will make banks, and these will issue paper; and
the longer the government of the United States neglects its duty in
regard to measures for regulating the currency, the greater will be the
amount of bank paper overspreading the country. Of this I entertain not
a particle of doubt.

While I thus hold to the absolute and indispensable necessity of gold
and silver, as the foundation of our circulation, I yet think nothing
more absurd and preposterous, than unnatural and strained efforts to
import specie. There is but so much specie in the world, and its amount
cannot be greatly or suddenly increased. Indeed, there are reasons for
supposing that its amount has recently diminished, by the quantity used
in manufactures, and by the diminished products of the mines. The
existing amount of specie, however, must support the paper circulations,
and the systems of currency, not of the United States only, but of other
nations also. One of its great uses is to pass from country to country,
for the purpose of settling occasional balances in commercial
transactions. It always finds its way, naturally and easily, to places
where it is needed for these uses. But to take extraordinary pains to
bring it where the course of trade does not bring it, where the state of
debt and credit does not require it to be, and then to endeavor, by
unnecessary and injurious regulations, treasury orders, accumulations at
the mint, and other contrivances, there to retain it, is a course of
policy bordering, as it appears to me, on political insanity. It is
boasted that we have seventy-five or eighty millions of specie now in
the country. But what more senseless, what more absurd, than this boast,
if there is a balance against us abroad, of which payment is desired
sooner than remittances of our own products are likely to make that
payment? What more miserable than to boast of having that which is not
ours, which belongs to others, and which the convenience of others, and
our own convenience also, require that they should possess? If Boston
were in debt to New York, would it be wise in Boston, instead of paying
its debt, to contrive all possible means of obtaining specie from the
New York banks, and hoarding it at home? And yet this, as I think, would
be precisely as sensible as the course which the government of the
United States at present pursues. We have, beyond all doubt, a great
amount of specie in the country, but it does not answer its accustomed
end, it does not perform its proper duty. It neither goes abroad to
settle balances against us, and thereby quiet those who have demands
upon us; nor is it so disposed of at home us to sustain the circulation
to the extent which the circumstances of the times require. A great part
of it is in the Western banks, in the land offices, on the roads through
the wilderness, on the passages over the Lakes, from the land offices to
the deposit banks, and from the deposit banks back to the land offices.
Another portion is in the hands of buyers and sellers of specie; of men
in the West, who sell land-office money to the new settlers for a high
premium Another portion, again, is kept in private hands, to be used
when circumstances shall tempt to the purchase of lands. And, Gentlemen,
I am inclined to think, so loud has been the cry about hard money, and
so sweeping the denunciation of all paper, that private holding, or
hoarding, prevails to some extent in different parts of the country.
These eighty millions of specie, therefore, really do us little good. We
are weaker in our circulation, I have no doubt, our credit is feebler,
money is scarcer with us, at this moment, than if twenty millions of
this specie were shipped to Europe, and general confidence thereby

Gentlemen, I will not say that some degree of pressure might not have
come upon us, if the treasury order had not issued. I will not say that
there has not been over-trading, and over-production, and a too great
expansion of bank circulation. This may all be so, and the
last-mentioned evil, it was easy to foresee, was likely to happen when
the United States discontinued their own bank. But what I do say is,
that, acting upon the state of things as it actually existed, and is now
actually existing the treasury order has been, and now is productive of
great distress. It acts upon a state of things which gives extraordinary
force to its stroke, and extraordinary point to its sting. It arrests
specie, when the free use and circulation of specie are most important;
it cripples the banks, at a moment when the banks more than ever need
all their means. It makes the merchant unable to remit, when remittance
is necessary for his own credit, and for the general adjustment of
commercial balances. I am not now discussing the general question,
whether prices must not come down, and adjust themselves anew to the
amount of bullion existing in Europe and America. I am dealing only with
the measures of our own government on the subject of the currency, and I
insist that these measures have been most unfortunate, and most ruinous
in their effects on the ordinary means of our circulation at home, and
on our ability of remittance abroad.

Their effects, too, on domestic exchanges, by deranging and misplacing
the specie which is in the country, are most disastrous. Let him who has
lent an ear to all these promises of a more uniform currency see how he
can now sell his draft on New Orleans or Mobile. Let the Northern
manufacturers and mechanics, those who have sold the products of their
labor to the South, and heretofore realized the prices with little loss
of exchange,--let them try present facilities. Let them see what reform
of the currency has done for them. Let them inquire whether, in this
respect, their condition is better or worse than it was five or six
years ago.

Gentlemen, I hold this disturbance of the measure of value, and the
means of payment and exchange, this derangement, and, if I may so say,
this violation of the currency, to be one of the most unpardonable of
political faults. He who tampers with the currency robs labor of its
bread. He panders, indeed, to greedy capital, which is keen-sighted, and
may shift for itself; but he beggars labor, which is honest,
unsuspecting, and too busy with the present to calculate for the future.
The prosperity of the working classes lives, moves, and has its being in
established credit, and a steady medium of payment. All sudden changes
destroy it. Honest industry never comes in for any part of the spoils in
that scramble which takes place when the currency of a country is
disordered. Did wild schemes and projects ever benefit the industrious?
Did irredeemable bank paper ever enrich the laborious? Did violent
fluctuations ever do good to him who depends on his daily labor for his
daily bread? Certainly never. All these things may gratify greediness
for sudden gain, or the rashness of daring speculation; but they can
bring nothing but injury and distress to the homes of patient industry
and honest labor. Who are they that profit by the present state of
things? They are not the many, but the few. They are speculators,
brokers, dealers in money, and lenders of money at exorbitant interest.
Small capitalists are crushed, and, their means being dispersed, as
usual, in various parts of the country, and this miserable policy having
destroyed exchanges, they have no longer either money or credit. And all
classes of labor partake, and must partake, in the same calamity. And
what consolation for all this is it, that the public lands are paid for
in specie? that, whatever embarrassment and distress pervade the
country, the Western wilderness is thickly sprinkled over with eagles
and dollars? that gold goes weekly from Milwaukie and Chicago to
Detroit, and back again from Detroit to Milwaukie and Chicago, and
performs similar feats of egress and regress, in many other instances,
in the Western States? It is remarkable enough, that, with all this
sacrifice of general convenience, with all this sky-rending clamor for
government payments in specie, government, after all, never gets a
dollar. So far as I know, the United States have not now a single specie
dollar in the world. If they have, where is it? The gold and silver
collected at the land offices is sent to the deposit banks; it is there
placed to the credit of the government, and thereby becomes the property
of the bank. The whole revenue of the government, therefore, after all,
consists in mere bank credits; that very sort of security which the
friends of the administration have so much denounced.

Remember, Gentlemen, in the midst of this deafening din against all
banks, that, if it shall create such a panic as shall shut up the banks,
it will shut up the treasury of the United States also.

Gentlemen, I would not willingly be a prophet of ill. I most devoutly
wish to see a better state of things; and I believe the repeal of the
treasury order would tend very much to bring about that better state of
things. And I am of opinion, that, sooner or later, the order will be
repealed. I think it must be repealed. I think the East, West, North,
and South will demand its repeal. But, Gentlemen, I feel it my duty to
say, that, if I should be disappointed in this expectation, I see no
immediate relief to the distresses of the community. I greatly fear,
even, that the worst is not yet.[2] I look for severer distresses; for
extreme difficulties in exchange, for far greater inconveniences in
remittance, and for a sudden fall in prices. Our condition is one which
is not to be tampered with, and the repeal of the treasury order, being
something which government can do, and which will do good, the public
voice is right in demanding that repeal. It is true, if repealed now,
the relief will come late. Nevertheless its repeal or abrogation is a
thing to be insisted on, and pursued, till it shall be accomplished.
This executive control over the currency, this power of discriminating,
by treasury order, between one man's debt and another man's debt, is a
thing not to be endured in a free country; and it should be the
constant, persisting demand of all true Whigs, "Rescind the illegal
treasury order, restore the rule of the law, place all branches of the
revenue on the same grounds, make men's rights equal, and leave the
government of the country where the Constitution leaves it, in the hands
of the representatives of the people in Congress." This point should
never be surrendered or compromised. Whatever is established, let it be
equal, and let it be legal. Let men know, to-day, what money may be
required of them to-morrow. Let the rule be open and public, on the
pages of the statute-book, not a secret, in the executive breast.

Gentlemen, in the session which has now just closed, I have done my
utmost to effect a direct and immediate repeal of the treasury order.

I have voted for a bill anticipating the payment of the French and
Neapolitan indemnities by an advance from the treasury.

I have voted with great satisfaction for the restoration of duties on
goods destroyed in the great conflagration in this city.

I have voted for a deposit with the States of the surplus which may be
in the treasury at the end of the year. All these measures have failed;
and it is for you, and for our fellow-citizens throughout the country,
to decide whether the public interest would, or would not, have been
promoted by their success.

But I find, Gentlemen, that I am committing an unpardonable trespass on
your indulgent patience. I will pursue these remarks no further. And yet
I cannot persuade myself to take leave of you without reminding you,
with the utmost deference and respect, of the important part assigned to
you in the political concerns of your country, and of the great
influence of your opinions, your example, and your efforts upon the
general prosperity and happiness.

Whigs of New York! Patriotic citizens of this great metropolis! Lovers
of constitutional liberty, bound by interest and by affection to the
institutions of your country, Americans in heart and in principle!--you
are ready, I am sure, to fulfil all the duties imposed upon you by your
situation, and demanded of you by your country. You have a central
position; your city is the point from which intelligence emanates, and
spreads in all directions over the whole land. Every hour carries
reports of your sentiments and opinions to the verge of the Union. You
cannot escape the responsibility which circumstances have thrown upon
you. You must live and act, on a broad and conspicuous theatre, either
for good or for evil to your country. You cannot shrink from your public
duties; you cannot obscure yourselves, nor bury your talent. In the
common welfare, in the common prosperity, in the common glory of
Americans, you have a stake of value not to be calculated. You have an
interest in the preservation of the Union, of the Constitution, and of
the true principles of the government, which no man can estimate. You
act for yourselves, and for the generations that are to come after you;
and those who ages hence shall bear your names, and partake your blood,
will feel, in their political and social condition, the consequences of
the manner in which you discharge your political duties.

Having fulfilled, then, on your part and on mine, though feebly and
imperfectly on mine, the offices of kindness and mutual regard required
by this occasion, shall we not use it to a higher and nobler purpose?
Shall we not, by this friendly meeting, refresh our patriotism, rekindle
our love of constitutional liberty, and strengthen our resolutions of
public duty? Shall we not, in all honesty and sincerity, with pure and
disinterested love of country, as Americans, looking back to the renown
of our ancestors, and looking forward to the interests of our posterity,
here, to-night, pledge our mutual faith to hold on to the last to our
professed principles, to the doctrines of true liberty, and to the
Constitution of the country, let who will prove true, or who will prove
recreant? Whigs of New York! I meet you in advance, and give you my
pledge for my own performance of these duties, without qualification and
without reserve. Whether in public life or in private life, in the
Capitol or at home, I mean never to desert them. I mean never to forget
that I have a country, to which I am bound by a thousand ties; and the
stone which is to lie on the ground that shall cover me, shall not bear
the name of a son ungrateful to his native land.

[Footnote 1: President Jackson.]

[Footnote 2: On the 10th of June following the delivery of this speech,
all the banks in the city of New York, by common consent, suspended the
payment of their notes in specie. On the next day, the same step was
taken by the banks of Boston and the vicinity, and the example was
followed by all the banks south of New York, as they received
intelligence of the suspension of specie payments in that city. On the
15th of June, (just three months from the day this speech was
delivered,) President Van Buren issued his proclamation calling an extra
session of Congress for the first Monday of September.]



[On the 27th of December, 1837, a series of resolutions was moved in the
Senate by Mr. Calhoun, on the subject of slavery. The fifth of the
series was expressed in the following terms:--

"_Resolved_, That the intermeddling of any State, or States, or their
citizens, to abolish slavery in this District, or any of the
Territories, on the ground, or under the pretext, that it is immoral or
sinful, or the passage of any act or measure of Congress with that view,
would be a direct and dangerous attack on the institutions of all the
slave-holding States."

These resolutions were taken up for discussion on several successive
days. On the 10th of January, 1838, Mr. Clay moved the following
resolution, as a substitute for the fifth of Mr. Calhoun's series:--

"_Resolved_, That the interference, by the citizens of any of the
States, with the view to the abolition of slavery in this District, is
endangering the rights and security of the people of the District; and
that any act or measure of Congress, designed to abolish slavery in this
District, would be a violation of the faith implied in the cessions by
the States of Virginia and Maryland, a just cause of alarm to the people
of the slave-holding States, and have a direct and inevitable tendency
to disturb and endanger the Union."

On the subject of this amendment, Mr. Webster addressed the Senate as

Mr. President,--I cannot concur in this resolution. I do not know any
matter of fact, or any ground of argument, on which this affirmation of
plighted faith can be sustained. I see nothing by which Congress has
tied up its hands, either directly or indirectly, so as to put its clear
constitutional power beyond the exercise of its own discretion. I have
carefully examined the acts of cession by the States, the act of
Congress, the proceedings and history of the times, and I find nothing
to lead me to doubt that it was the intention of all parties to leave
this, like other subjects belonging to legislation for the ceded
territory, entirely to the discretion and wisdom of Congress. The words
of the Constitution are clear and plain. None could be clearer or
plainer. Congress, by that instrument, has power to exercise exclusive
jurisdiction over the ceded territory, in all cases whatsoever. The acts
of cession contain no limitation, condition, or qualification whatever,
except that, out of abundant caution, there is inserted a _proviso_ that
nothing in the acts contained shall be construed to vest in the United
States any right of property in the soil, so as to affect the rights of
individuals therein, otherwise than as such individuals might themselves
transfer their right of soil to the United States. The acts of cession
declare, that the tract of country "is for ever ceded and relinquished
to Congress and to the government of the United States, in full and
absolute right and exclusive jurisdiction, as well of soil as of persons
residing or to reside therein, pursuant to the tenor and effect of the
eighth section of the first article of the Constitution of the United

Now, that section, to which reference is thus expressly made in these
deeds of cession, declares, that Congress shall have power "to exercise
exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, over such district, not
exceeding ten miles square, as may, by cession of particular States and
the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of government of the United

Nothing, therefore, as it seems to me, can be clearer, than that the
States making the cession expected Congress to exercise over the
District precisely that power, and neither more nor less, which the
Constitution had conferred upon it. I do not know how the provision, or
the intention, either of the Constitution in granting the power, or of
the States in making the cession, could be expressed in a manner more
absolutely free from all doubt or ambiguity.

I see, therefore, nothing in the act of cession, and nothing in the
Constitution, and nothing in the history of this transaction, and
nothing in any other transaction, implying any limitation upon the
authority of Congress.

If the assertion contained in this resolution be true, a very strange
result, as it seems to me, must follow. The resolution affirms that the
faith of Congress is pledged, indefinitely. It makes no limitation of
time or circumstance. If this be so, then it is an obligation that binds
us for ever, as much as if it were one of the prohibitions of the
Constitution itself. And at all times hereafter, even if, in the course
of their history, availing themselves of events, or changing their views
of policy, the States themselves should make provision for the
emancipation of their slaves, the existing state of things could not be
changed, nevertheless, in this District. It does really seem to me,
that, if this resolution, in its terms, be true, though slavery in every
other part of the world may be abolished, yet in the metropolis of this
great republic it is established in perpetuity. This appears to me to be
the result of the doctrine of plighted faith, as stated in the

In reply to Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Webster

The words of the resolution speak for themselves. They require no
comment. They express an unlimited plighted faith. The honorable member
will so see if he will look at those words. The gentleman asks whether
those who made the cession could have expected that Congress would ever
exercise such a power. To this I answer, that I see no reason to doubt
that the parties to the cession were as willing to leave this as to
leave other powers to the discretion of Congress. I see not the
slightest evidence of any especial fear, or any especial care or
concern, on the part of the ceding States, in regard to this particular
part of the jurisdiction ceded to Congress. And I think I can ask, on
the other side, a very important question for the consideration of the
gentleman himself, and for that of the Senate and the country; and that
is, Would Congress have accepted the cession with any such restraint
upon its constitutional power, either express or understood to be
implied? I think not. Looking back to the state of things then existing,
and especially to what Congress had so recently done, when it accepted
the cession of the Northwestern Territory, I entertain no doubt whatever
that Congress would have refused the cession altogether, if offered with
any condition or understanding that its constitutional authority to
exercise exclusive legislation over the District in all cases whatsoever
should be abridged.

The Senate will observe that I am speaking solely to the point of
plighted faith. Upon other parts of the resolution, and upon many other
things connected with it, I have said nothing. I only resist the
imposition of new obligations, or a new prohibition, not to be found, as
I think, either in the Constitution or any act of Congress. I have said
nothing on the expediency of abolition, immediate or gradual, or the
reasons which ought to weigh with Congress should that question be
proposed. I can, however, well conceive what would, as I think, be a
natural and fair mode of reasoning on such an occasion.

When it is said, for instance, by way of argument, that Congress,
although it have the power, ought not to take a lead in the business of
abolition, considering that the interest which the United States have in
the whole subject is vastly less than that which States have in it, I
can understand the propriety and pertinency of the observation. It is,
as far as it goes, a pertinent and appropriate argument, and I shall
always be ready to give it the full weight belonging to it. When it is
argued that, in a case so vital to the States, the States themselves
should be allowed to maintain their own policy, and that the government
of the United States ought not to do any thing which shall, directly or
indirectly, shake or disturb that policy, this is a line of argument
which I can understand, whatever weight I may be disposed to give to it;
for I have always not only admitted, but insisted, that slavery within
the States is a subject belonging absolutely and exclusively to the
States themselves.

But the present is not an attempt to establish any such course of
reasoning as this. The attempt is to set up a pledge of the public
faith, to do the same office that a constitutional prohibition in terms
would do; that is, to set up a direct bar, precluding all exercise of
the discretion of Congress over the subject. It has been often said, in
this debate, and I believe it is true, that a decided majority of the
Senate do believe that Congress has a clear constitutional power over
slavery in this District. But while this constitutional right is
admitted, it is at the same moment attempted effectually to counteract,
overthrow, and do away with it, by the affirmation of plighted faith, as
asserted in the resolution before us.

Now, I have already said I know of nothing to support this affirmation.
Neither in the acts of cession, nor in the act of Congress accepting it,
nor in any other document, history, publication, or transaction, do I
know of a single fact or suggestion supporting this proposition, or
tending to support it. Nor has any gentleman, so far as I know, pointed
out, or attempted to point out, any such fact, document, transaction, or
other evidence. All is left to the general and repeated statement, that
such a condition must have been intended by the States. Of all this I
see no proof whatever. I see no evidence of any desire on the part of
the States thus to limit the power of Congress, or thus to require a
pledge against its exercise. And, indeed, if this were made out, the
intention of Congress, as well as that of the States, must be inquired
into. Nothing short of a clear and manifest intention of both parties,
proved by proper evidence, can amount to plighted faith. The expectation
or intent of one party, founded on something not provided for nor hinted
at in the transaction itself, cannot plight the faith of the other

In short, I am altogether unable to see any ground for supposing that
either party to the cession had any mental reservation, any unexpressed
expectation, or relied on any implied, but unmentioned and unsuggested
pledge, whatever. By the Constitution, if a district should be ceded to
it for the seat of government, Congress was to have a right, in express
terms, to exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever. The
cession was made and accepted in pursuance of this power. Both parties
knew well what they were doing. Both parties knew that by the cession
the States surrendered all jurisdiction, and Congress acquired all
jurisdiction; and this is the whole transaction.

As to any provision in the acts of cession stipulating for the security
of property, there is none, excepting only what I have already stated;
the condition, namely, that no right of individuals to the soil should
be construed to be transferred, but only the jurisdiction. But, no
doubt, all rights of property ought to be duly respected by Congress,
and all other legislatures.

And since the subject of compensation to the owners of emancipated
slaves has been referred to, I take occasion to say, that if Congress
should think that a wise, just, and politic legislation for this
District required it to make compensation for slaves emancipated here,
it has the same constitutional authority to make such compensation as to
make grants for roads and bridges, almshouses, penitentiaries, and other
similar objects, in the District. A general and absolute power of
legislation carries with it all the necessary and just incidents
belonging to such legislation.

Mr. Clay having made some remarks in reply, Mr. Webster

The honorable member from Kentucky asks the Senate to suppose the
opposite case; to suppose that the seat of government had been fixed in
a free State, Pennsylvania, for example; and that Congress had attempted
to establish slavery in a district over which, as here, it had thus
exclusive legislation. He asks whether, in that case, Congress could
establish slavery in such a place. This mode of changing the question
does not, I think, vary the argument; and I answer, at once, that,
however improbable or improper such an act might be, yet, if the power
were universal, absolute, and without restriction, it might
unquestionably be so exercised. No limitation being expressed or
intimated in the grant itself, or any other proceeding of the parties,
none could be implied.

And in the other cases, of forts, arsenals, and dock-yards, if Congress
has exclusive and absolute legislative power, it must, of course, have
the power, if it could be supposed to be guilty of such folly, whether
proposed to be exercised in a district within a free State, to establish
slavery, or in a district in a slave State, to abolish or regulate it.
If it be a district over which Congress has, as it has in this District,
unlimited power of legislation, it seems to me that whatever would stay
the exercise of this power, in either case, must be drawn from
discretion, from reasons of justice and true policy, from those high
considerations which ought to influence Congress in questions of such
extreme delicacy and importance; and to all these considerations I am
willing, and always shall be willing, I trust, to give full weight. But
I cannot, in conscience, say that the power so clearly conferred on
Congress by the Constitution, as a power to be exercised, like others,
at its own discretion, is immediately taken away again by an implied
faith that it shall not be exercised at all.



Now, Mr. President, what I understand by the credit system is, that
which thus connects labor and capital, by giving to labor the use of
capital. In other words, intelligence, good character, and good morals
bestow on those who have not capital a power, a trust, a confidence,
which enables them to obtain it, and to employ it usefully for
themselves and others. These active men of business build their hopes of
success on their attentiveness, their economy, and their integrity. A
wider theatre for useful activity is under their feet, and around them,
than was ever open to the young and enterprising generations of men, on
any other spot enlightened by the sun. Before them is the ocean. Every
thing in that direction invites them to efforts of enterprise and
industry in the pursuits of commerce and the fisheries. Around them, on
all hands, are thriving and prosperous manufactures, an improving
agriculture, and the daily presentation of new objects of internal
improvement; while behind them is almost half a continent of the richest
land, at the cheapest prices, under healthful climates, and washed by
the most magnificent rivers that on any part of the globe pay their
homage to the sea. In the midst of all these glowing and glorious
prospects, they are neither restrained by ignorance, nor smitten down by
the penury of personal circumstances. They are not compelled to
contemplate, in hopelessness and despair, all the advantages thus
bestowed on their condition by Providence. Capital they may have little
or none, but CREDIT supplies its place; not as the refuge of the
prodigal and the reckless; not as gratifying present wants with the
certainty of future absolute ruin; but as the genius of honorable trust
and confidence; as the blessing voluntarily offered to good character
and to good conduct as the beneficent agent, which assists honesty and
enterprise in obtaining comfort and independence.

Mr. President, take away this credit, and what remains? I do not ask
what remains to the few, but to the many? Take away this system of
credit, and then tell me what is left for labor and industry, but mere
manual toil and daily drudgery? If we adopt a system that withdraws
capital from active employment, do we not diminish the rate of wages? If
we curtail the general business of society, does not every laboring man
find his condition grow daily worse? In the politics of the day, Sir, we
hear much said about divorcing the government from the banks; but when
we abolish credit, we shall divorce labor from capital; and depend upon
it, Sir, when we divorce labor from capital, capital is hoarded, and
labor starves.

The declaration so often quoted, that "all who trade on borrowed capital
ought to break," is the most aristocratic sentiment ever uttered in this
country. It is a sentiment which, if carried out by political
arrangement, would condemn the great majority of mankind to the
perpetual condition of mere day-laborers. It tends to take away from
them all that solace and hope which arise from possessing something
which they can call their own. A man loves his own; it is fit and
natural that he should do so; and he will love his country and its
institutions, if he have some stake in that country, although it be but
a very small part of the general mass of property. If it be but a
cottage, an acre, a garden, its possession raises him, gives him
self-respect, and strengthens his attachment to his native land. It is
our happy condition, by the blessing of Providence, that almost every
man of sound health, industrious habits, and good morals, can ordinarily
attain, at least, to this degree of comfort and respectability; and it
is a result devoutly to be wished, both for its individual and its
general consequences.

But even to this degree of acquisition that credit of which I have
already said so much is highly important, since its general effect is to
raise the price of wages, and render industry productive. There is no
condition so low, if it be attended with industry and economy, that it
is not benefited by credit, as any one will find, if he will examine and
follow out its operations.

Sir, if there be any aristocrats in Massachusetts, the people are all
aristocrats; because I do not believe there is on earth, in a highly
civilized society, a greater equality in the condition of men than
exists there. If there be a man in the State who maintains what is
called an equipage, has servants in livery, or drives four horses in his
coach, I am not acquainted with him. On the other hand, there are few
who are not able to carry their wives and daughters to church in some
decent conveyance. It is no matter of regret or sorrow to us that few
are very rich; but it is our pride and glory that few are very poor. It
is our still higher pride, and our just boast, as I think, that all her
citizens possess means of intelligence and education, and that, of all
her productions, she reckons among the very chiefest those which spring
from the culture of the mind and the heart.

Mr. President, one of the most striking characteristics of this age in
the extraordinary progress which it has witnessed in popular knowledge.
A new and powerful impulse has been acting in the social system of late,
producing this effect in a most remarkable degree. In morals, in
politics, in art, in literature, there is a vast accession to the number
of readers and to the number of proficients. The present state of
popular knowledge is not the result of a slow and uniform progress,
proceeding through a lapse of years, with the same regular degree of
motion. It is evidently the result of some new causes, brought into
powerful action, and producing their consequences rapidly and
strikingly. What, Sir, are these causes?

This is not an occasion, Sir, for discussing such a question at length;
allow me to say, however, that the improved state of popular knowledge
is but the necessary result of the improved condition of the great mass
of the people. Knowledge is not one of our merely physical wants. Life
may be sustained without it. But, in order to live, men must be fed and
clothed and sheltered; and in a state of things in which one's whole
labor can do no more than procure clothes, food, and shelter, he can
have no time nor means for mental improvement. Knowledge, therefore, is
not attained, and cannot be attained, till there is some degree of
respite from daily manual toil and never-ending drudgery. Whenever a
less degree of labor will produce the absolute necessaries of life, then
there come leisure and means both to teach and to learn.

If this great and wonderful extension of popular knowledge be the result
of an improved condition, it may, in the next place, well be asked, What
are the causes which have thus suddenly produced that great improvement?
How is it that the means of food, clothing, and shelter are now so much
more cheaply and abundantly procured than formerly? Sir, the main cause
I take to be the progress of scientific art, or a new extension of the
application of science to art. This it is which has so much
distinguished the last half-century in Europe and in America, and its
effects are everywhere visible, and especially among us. Man has found
new allies and auxiliaries in the powers of nature and in the inventions
of mechanism.

The general doctrine of political economy is, that wealth consists in
whatever is useful or convenient to man, and that labor is the producing
cause of all this wealth. This is very true. But, then, what is labor?
In the sense of political writers, and in common language, it means
human industry; in a philosophical view, it may receive a much more
comprehensive meaning. It is not, in that view, human toil only, the
mere action of thews and muscles; but it is any active agency which,
working upon the materials with which the world is supplied, brings
forth products useful or convenient to man. The materials of wealth are
in the earth, in the seas, and in their natural and unaided productions.
Labor obtains these materials, works upon them, and fashions them to
human use. Now it has been the object of scientific art, or of the
application of science to art, to increase this active agency, to
augment its power, by creating millions of laborers in the form of
machines all but automatic, all to be diligently employed and kept at
work by the force of natural powers. To this end these natural powers,
principally those of steam and falling water, are subsidized and taken
into human employment. Spinning-machines, power-looms, and all the
mechanical devices, acting, among other operatives, in the factories and
workshops, are but so many laborers. They are usually denominated
labor-_saving_ machines, but it would be more just to call them
labor-_doing_ machines. They are made to be active agents; to have
motion, and to produce effect; and though without intelligence, they are
guided by laws of science, which are exact and perfect, and they produce
results, therefore, in general, more accurate than the human hand is
capable of producing. When we look upon one of these, we behold a mute
fellow-laborer, of immense power, of mathematical exactness, and of
ever-during and unwearied effort. And while he is thus a most skilful
and productive laborer, he is a non-consumer, at least beyond the wants
of his mechanical being. He is not clamorous for food, raiment, or
shelter, and makes no demands for the expenses of education. The eating
and drinking, the reading and writing, and the clothes-wearing world,
are benefited by the labors of these co-operatives, in the same way as
if Providence had provided for their service millions of beings, like
ourselves in external appearance, able to labor and to toil, and yet
requiring little or nothing for their own consumption or subsistence; or
rather, as if Providence had created a race of giants, each of whom,
demanding no more for his support and consumption than a common laborer,
should yet be able to perform the work of a hundred.

Now, Sir, turn back to the Massachusetts tables of production, and you
will see that it is these automatic allies and co-operators, and these
powers of nature, thus employed and placed under human direction, which
have come, with such prodigious effect, to man's aid, in the great
business of procuring the means of living, of comfort, and of wealth,
and which have so swollen the products of her skilful industry. Look at
these tables once more, Sir, and you will see the effects of labor,
united with and acting upon capital. Look yet again, and you will see
that credit, mutual trust, prompt and punctual dealings, and commercial
confidence, are all mixed up as indispensable elements in the general

I will ask you to look yet once more, Sir, and you will perceive that
general competence, great equality in human condition, a degree of
popular knowledge and intelligence nowhere surpassed, if anywhere
equalled, the prevalence of good moral sentiment, and extraordinary
general prosperity, are the result of the whole. Sir, I have done with
Massachusetts. I do not praise the old "Bay State" of the Revolution; I
only present her as she is.

Mr. President, such is the state of things actually existing in the
country, and of which I have now given you a sample. And yet there are
persons who constantly clamor against this state of things. They call it
aristocracy. They excite the poor to make war upon the rich, while in
truth they know not who are either rich or poor. They complain of
oppression, speculation, and the pernicious influence of accumulated
wealth. They cry out loudly against all banks and corporations, and all
the means by which small capitals become united, in order to produce
important and beneficial results. They carry on a mad hostility against
all established institutions. They would choke up the fountains of
industry, and dry all its streams.

In a country of unbounded liberty, they clamor against oppression. In a
country of perfect equality, they would move heaven and earth against
privilege and monopoly. In a country where property is more equally
divided than anywhere else, they rend the air with the shouting of
agrarian doctrines. In a country where the wages of labor are high
beyond all parallel, and where lands are cheap, and the means of living
low, they would teach the laborer that he is but an oppressed slave.
Sir, what can such men want? What do they mean? They can want nothing,
Sir, but to enjoy the fruits of other men's labor. They can mean nothing
but disturbance and disorder, the diffusion of corrupt principles, and
the destruction of the moral sentiments and moral habits of society. A
licentiousness of feeling and of action is sometimes produced by
prosperity itself. Men cannot always resist the temptation to which they
are exposed by the very abundance of the bounties of Providence, and the
very happiness of their own condition; as the steed, full of the
pasture, will sometimes throw himself against its enclosures, break away
from its confinement, and, feeling now free from needless restraint,
betake himself to the moors and barrens, where want, erelong, brings him
to his senses, and starvation and death close his career.



Having had occasion, Mr. President, to speak of nullification and the
nullifiers, I beg leave to say that I have not done so for any purpose
of reproach. Certainly, Sir, I see no possible connection, myself,
between their principles or opinions, and the support of this
measure.[1] They, however, must speak for themselves. They may have
intrusted the bearing of their standard, for aught I know, to the hands
of the honorable member from South Carolina; and I perceived last
session what I perceive now, that in his opinion there is a connection
between these projects of government and the doctrines of nullification.
I can only say, Sir, that it will be marvellous to me, if that banner,
though it be said to be tattered and torn, shall yet be lowered in
obeisance, and laid at the footstool of executive power. To the
sustaining of that power, the passage of this bill is of the utmost
importance. The administration will regard its success as being to them,
what Cromwell said the battle of Worcester was to him, "a crowning
mercy." Whether gentlemen, who have distinguished themselves so much by
their extreme jealousy of this government, shall now find it consistent
with their principles to give their aid in effecting this consummation,
remains to be seen.

The next exposition of the honorable gentleman's sentiments and opinions
is in his letter of the 3d of November.

This letter, Sir, is a curiosity. As a paper describing political
operations, and exhibiting political opinions, it is without a parallel.
Its phrase is altogether military. It reads like a despatch, or a
bulletin from head-quarters. It is full of attacks, assaults, and
repulses. It recounts movements and counter-movements; speaks of
occupying one position, falling back upon another, and advancing to a
third; it has positions to cover enemies, and positions to hold allies
in check. Meantime, the celerity of all these operations reminds one of
the rapidity of the military actions of the king of Prussia, in the
Seven Years' war. Yesterday, he was in the South, giving battle to the
Austrian; to-day he is in Saxony, or Silesia. Instantly he is found to
have traversed the Electorate, and is facing the Russian and the Swede
on his northern frontier. If you look for his place on the map, before
you find it he has quitted it. He is always marching, flying, falling
back, wheeling, attacking, defending, surprising; fighting everywhere,
and fighting all the time. In one particular, however, the campaigns
described in this letter are conducted in a different manner from those
of the great Frederick. I think we nowhere read, in the narrative of
Frederick's achievements, of his taking a position to cover an enemy, or
a position to hold an ally in check. These refinements in the science of
tactics and of war are of more recent discovery.

Mr. President, public men must certainly be allowed to change their
opinions, and their associations, whenever they see fit. No one doubts
this. Men may have grown wiser; they may have attained to better and
more correct views of great public subjects. It would be unfortunate, if
there were any code which should oblige men, in public or private life,
to adhere to opinions once entertained, in spite of experience and
better knowledge, and against their own convictions of their erroneous
character. Nevertheless, Sir, it must be acknowledged, that what appears
to be a sudden, as well as a great change, naturally produces a shock. I
confess that, for one, I was shocked when the honorable gentleman, at
the last session, espoused this bill of the administration. And when I
first read this letter of November, and, in the short space of a column
and a half, ran through such a succession of political movements, all
terminating in placing the honorable member in the ranks of our
opponents, and entitling him to take his seat, as he has done, among
them, if not at their head, I confess I felt still greater surprise. All
this seemed a good deal too abrupt. Sudden movements of the affections,
whether personal or political, are a little out of nature.

Several years ago, Sir, some of the wits of England wrote a mock play,
intended to ridicule the unnatural and false feeling, the
_sentimentality_ of a certain German school of literature. In this play,
two strangers are brought together at an inn. While they are warming
themselves at the fire, and before their acquaintance is yet five
minutes old, one springs up and exclaims to the other, "A sudden thought
strikes me! Let us swear an eternal friendship!" This affectionate offer
was instantly accepted, and the friendship duly sworn, unchangeable and
eternal! Now, Sir, how long this eternal friendship lasted, or in what
manner it ended, those who wish to know may learn by referring to the

But it seerns to me, Sir, that the honorable member has carried his
political sentimentality a good deal higher than the flight of the
German school: for he appears to have fallen suddenly in love, not with
strangers, but with opponents. Here we all had been, Sir, contending
against the progress of executive power, and more particularly, and most
strenuously, against the projects and experiments of the administration
upon the currency. The honorable member stood among us, not only as an
associate, but as a leader. We thought we were making some headway. The
people appeared to be coming to our support and our assistance. The
country had been roused, every successive election weakening the
strength of the adversary, and increasing our own. We were in this
career of success carried strongly forward by the current of public
opinion, and only needed to hear the cheering voice of the honorable

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!"

and we should have prostrated for ever this anti-constitutional,
anti-commercial, anti-republican, and anti-American policy of the
administration. But instead of these encouraging and animating accents,
behold! in the very crisis of our affairs, on the very eve of victory,
the honorable member cries out to the enemy,--not to us, his allies, but
to the enemy: "Hollo! A sudden thought strikes me! I abandon my allies!
Now I think of it, they have always been my oppressors! I abandon them,
and now let _you and me_ swear an eternal friendship!" Such a
proposition, from such a quarter, Sir, was not likely to be long
withstood. The other party was a little coy, but, upon the whole,
nothing loath. After proper hesitation, and a little decorous blushing,
it owned the soft impeachment, admitted an equally sudden sympathetic
impulse on its own side; and, since few words are wanted where hearts
are already known, the honorable gentleman takes his place among his new
friends amidst greetings and caresses, and is already enjoying the
sweets of an eternal friendship.

In this letter, Mr. President, the writer says, in substance, that he
saw, at the commencement of the last session, that affairs had reached
the point when he and his friends, according to the course they should
take, would reap the full harvest of their long and arduous struggle
against the encroachments and abuses of the general government, or lose
the fruits of all their labors. At that time, he says, State
interposition (viz. Nullification) had overthrown the protective tariff
and the American system, and put a stop to Congressional usurpation;
that he had previously been united with the National Republicans; but
that, in joining such allies, he was not insensible to the embarrassment
of his position; that with them victory itself was dangerous, and that
therefore he had been waiting for events; that now (that is to say, in
September last) the joint attacks of the allies had brought down
executive power; that the administration had become divested of power
and influence, and that it was now clear that the combined attacks of
the allied forces would utterly overthrow and demolish it. All this he
saw. But he saw, too, as he says, that in that case the victory would
inure, not to him or his cause, but to his allies and their cause. I do
not mean to say that he spoke of personal victories, or alluded to
personal objects, at all. He spoke of his cause.

He proceeds to say, then, that never was there before, and never,
probably, will there be again, so fair an opportunity for himself and
his friends to carry out _their own principles and policy_, and to reap
the fruits of their long and arduous struggle. These principles and this
policy, Sir, be it remembered, he represents, all along, as identified
with the principles and policy of nullification. And he makes use of
this glorious opportunity by refusing to join his late allies in any
further attack on those in power, and rallying anew the old State-rights
party to hold in check their old opponents, the National Republican
party. This, he says, would enable him to prevent the complete
ascendency of his allies, and to compel the Southern division of the
administration party to occupy the ground of which he proposes to take
possession, to wit, the ground of the old State-rights party. They will
have, he says, no other alternative.

Mr. President, stripped of its military language, what is the amount of
all this, but that, finding the administration weak, and likely to be
overthrown, if the opposition continued with undiminished force, he went
over to it, he joined it; intending to act, himself, upon nullification
principles, and to compel the Southern members of the administration to
meet him on those principles?--in other words, to make a nullification
administration, and to take such part in it as should belong to him and
his friends. He confesses, Sir, that in thus abandoning his allies, and
taking a position to cover those in power, he perceived a shock would be
created which would require some degree of resolution and firmness. In
this he was right. A shock, Sir, has been created; yet there he is.

This administration, Sir, is represented as succeeding to the last, by
an inheritance of principle. It professes to tread in the footsteps of
its illustrious predecessor. It adopts, generally, the sentiments,
principles, and opinions of General Jackson, _proclamation and all_; and
yet, though he be the very prince of nullifiers, and but lately regarded
as the chiefest of sinners, it receives the honorable gentleman with the
utmost complacency. To all appearance, the delight is mutual; they find
him an able leader, he finds them complying followers. But, Sir, in all
this movement he understands himself. He means to go ahead, and to take
them along. He is in the engine-car; he controls the locomotive. His
hand regulates the steam, to increase or retard the speed at his
discretion. And as to the occupants of the passenger-cars, Sir, they are
as happy a set of gentlemen as one might desire to see of a summer's
day. They feel that they are in progress; they hope they shall not be
run off the track; and when they reach the end of their journey, they
desire to be thankful!

The arduous struggle is now all over. Its richest fruits are all
reaped; nullification embraces the sub-treasuries, and oppression and
usurpation will be heard of no more.

On the broad surface of the country, Sir, there is a spot called "the
Hermitage." In that residence is an occupant very well known, and not a
little remarkable both in person and character. Suppose, Sir, the
occupant of the Hermitage were now to open that door, enter the Senate,
walk forward, and look over the chamber to the seats on the other side.
Be not frightened, gentlemen; it is but fancy's sketch. Suppose he
should thus come in among us, Sir, and see into whose hands has fallen
the chief support of that administration, which was, in so great a
degree, appointed by himself, and which he fondly relied on to maintain
the principles of his own. If gentlemen were now to see his steady
military step, his erect posture, his compressed lips, his
firmly-knitted brow, and his eye full of fire, I cannot help thinking,
Sir, they would all feel somewhat queer. There would be, I imagine, not
a little awkward moving and shifting in their seats. They would expect
soon to hear the roar of the lion, even if they did not feel his paw.

Sir, the spirit of union is particularly liable to temptation and
seduction in moments of peace and prosperity. In war, this spirit is
strengthened by a sense of common danger, and by a thousand
recollections of ancient efforts and ancient glory in a common cause.
But in the calms of a long peace, and in the absence of all apparent
causes of alarm, things near gain an ascendency over things remote.
Local interests and feelings overshadow national sentiments. Our
attention, our regard, and our attachment are every moment solicited to
what touches us closest, and we feel less and less the attraction of a
distant orb. Such tendencies we are bound by true patriotism and by our
love of union to resist. This is our duty; and the moment, in my
judgment, has arrived when that duty should be performed. We hear, every
day, sentiments and arguments which would become a meeting of envoys,
employed by separate governments, more than they become the common
legislature of a united country. Constant appeals are made to local
interests, to geographical distinctions, and to the policy and the pride
of particular States. It would sometimes appear as if it were a settled
purpose to convince the people that our Union is nothing but a jumble of
different and discordant interests, which must, erelong, be all resolved
into their original state of separate existence; as if, therefore, it
was of no great value while it should last, and was not likely to last
long. The process of disintegration begins by urging as a fact the
existence of different interests.

Sir, is not the end to which all this leads us obvious? Who does not see
that, if convictions of this kind take possession of the public mind,
our Union can hereafter be nothing, while it remains, but a connection
without harmony; a bond without affection; a theatre for the angry
contests of local feelings, local objects, and local jealousies? Even
while it continues to exist in name, it may by these means become
nothing but the mere form of a united government. My children, and the
children of those who sit around me, may meet, perhaps, in this chamber,
in the next generation; but if tendencies now but too obvious be not
checked, they will meet as strangers and aliens. They will feel no sense
of common interest or common country; they will cherish no common object
of patriotic love. If the same Saxon language shall fall from their
lips, it may be the chief proof that they belong to the same nation. Its
vital principle exhausted and gone, its power of doing good terminated,
the Union itself, become productive only of strife and contention, must
ultimately fall, dishonored and unlamented.

The honorable member from Carolina himself habitually indulges in
charges of usurpation and oppression against the government of his
country. He daily denounces its important measures, in the language in
which our Revolutionary fathers spoke of the oppressions of the mother
country. Not merely against executive usurpation, either real or
supposed, does he utter these sentiments, but against laws of Congress,
laws passed by large majorities, laws sanctioned for a course of years
by the people. These laws he proclaims, every hour, to be but a series
of acts of oppression. He speaks of them as if it were an admitted fact,
that such is their true character. This is the language he utters, these
are the sentiments he expresses, to the rising generation around him.
Are they sentiments and language which are likely to inspire our
children with the love of union, to enlarge their patriotism, or to
teach them, and to make them feel, that their destiny has made them
common citizens of one great and glorious republic? A principal object
in his late political movements, the gentleman himself tells us, was to
_unite the entire South_; and against whom, or against what, does he
wish to unite the entire South? Is not this the very essence of local
feeling and local regard? Is it not the acknowledgment of a wish and
object to create political strength by uniting political opinions
geographically? While the gentleman thus wishes to unite the entire
South, I pray to know, Sir, if he expects me to turn toward the polar
star, and, acting on the same principle, to utter a cry of Rally! to the
whole North? Heaven forbid! To the day of my death, neither he nor
others shall hear such a cry from me.

Finally, the honorable member declares that he shall now march off,
under the banner of State rights! March off from whom? March off from
what? We have been contending for great principles. We have been
struggling to maintain the liberty and to restore the prosperity of the
country; we have made these struggles here, in the national councils,
with the old flag, the true American flag, the Eagle, and the Stars and
Stripes, waving over the chamber in which we sit. He now tells us,
however, that he marches off under the State-rights banner!

Let him go. I remain. I am where I ever have been, and ever mean to be.
Here, standing on the platform of the general Constitution, a platform
broad enough and firm enough to uphold every interest of the whole
country, I shall still be found. Intrusted with some part in the
administration of that Constitution, I intend to act in its spirit, and
in the spirit of those who framed it. Yes, Sir, I would act as if our
fathers, who formed it for us and who bequeathed it to us, were looking
on me; as if I could see their venerable forms bending down to behold us
from the abodes above. I would act, too, as if the eye of posterity was
gazing on me.

Standing thus, as in the full gaze of our ancestors and our posterity,
having received this inheritance from the former, to be transmitted to
the latter, and feeling that, if I am born for any good, in my day and
generation, it is for the good of the whole country, no local policy or
local feeling, no temporary impulse, shall induce me to yield my
foothold on the Constitution of the Union. I move off under no banner
not known to the whole American people, and to their Constitution and
laws. No, Sir; these walls, these columns,

"shall fly
From their firm base as soon as I."

I came into public life, Sir, in the service of the United States. On
that broad altar, my earliest, and all my public vows, have been made. I
propose to serve no other master. So far as depends on any agency of
mine, they shall continue united States; united in interest and in
affection; united in every thing in regard to which the Constitution has
decreed their union; united in war, for the common defence, the common
renown, and the common glory; and united, compacted, knit firmly
together in peace, for the common prosperity and happiness of ourselves
and our children.

[Footnote 1: The Sub-Treasury.]



[On Thursday, the 22d of March, Mr. Calhoun spoke at length in answer to
Mr. Webster's speech of the 12th of March.

When he had concluded, Mr. Webster immediately rose, and addressed the
Senate as follows.]

Mr. President,--I came rather late to the Senate this morning, and,
happening to meet a friend on the Avenue, I was admonished to hasten my
steps, as "the war was to be carried into Africa," and I was expected to
be annihilated. I lost no time in following the advice, Sir, since it
would be awkward for one to be annihilated without knowing any thing
about it.

Well, Sir, the war has been carried into Africa. The honorable member
has made an expedition into regions as remote from the subject of this
debate as the orb of Jupiter from that of our earth. He has spoken of
the tariff, of slavery, and of the late war. Of all this I do not
complain. On the contrary, if it be his pleasure to allude to all or any
of these topics, for any purpose whatever, I am ready at all times to
hear him.

Sir, this carrying the war into Africa, which has become so common a
phrase among us, is, indeed, imitating a great example; but it is an
example which is not always followed with success. In the first place,
every man, though he be a man of talent and genius, is not a Scipio; and
in the next place, as I recollect this part of Roman and Carthaginian
history,--the gentleman may be more accurate, but, as I recollect it,
when Scipio resolved upon carrying the war into Africa, Hannibal was not
at home. Now, Sir, I am very little like Hannibal, but I am at home; and
when Scipio Africanus South-Caroliniensis brings the war into my
territories, I shall not leave their defence to Asdrubal, nor Syphax,
nor anybody else. I meet him on the shore, at his landing, and propose
but one contest.

"Concurritur; horae
Momento cita mors venit, aut victoria laeta."

Mr. President, I had made up my mind that, if the honorable gentleman
should confine himself to a reply in the ordinary way, I would not say
another syllable. But he has not done so. He has gone off into topics
quite remote from all connection with revenue, commerce, finance, or
sub-treasuries, and invites to a discussion which, however uninteresting
to the public at the present moment, is too personal to be declined by

He says, Sir, that I undertook to compare my political character and
conduct with his. Far from it. I attempted no such thing. I compared the
gentleman's political opinions at different times with one another, and
expressed decided opposition to those which he now holds. And I did,
certainly, advert to the general tone and drift of the gentleman's
sentiments and expressions for some years past, in their bearing on the
Union, with such remarks as I thought they deserved; but I instituted no
comparison between him and myself. He may institute one if he pleases,
and when he pleases. Seeking nothing of this kind, I avoid nothing. Let
it be remembered, that the gentleman began the debate, by attempting to
exhibit a contrast between the present opinions and conduct of my
friends and myself, and our recent opinions and conduct. Here is the
first charge of inconsistency; let the public judge whether he has made
it good. He says, Sir, that on several questions I have taken different
sides, at different times; let him show it. If he shows any change of
opinion, I shall be called on to give a reason, and to account for it. I
leave it to the country to say whether, as yet, he has shown any such

But, Sir, before attempting that, he has something else to say. He had
prepared, it seems, to draw comparisons himself. He had intended to say
something, if time had allowed, upon our respective opinions and conduct
in regard to the war. If time had allowed! Sir, time does allow, time
must allow. A general remark of that kind ought not to be, cannot be,
left to produce its effect, when that effect is obviously intended to be
unfavorable. Why did the gentleman allude to my votes or my opinions
respecting the war at all, unless he had something to say? Does he wish
to leave an undefined impression that something was done, or something
said, by me, not now capable of defence or justification? something not
reconcilable with true patriotism? He means that, or nothing. And now,
Sir, let him bring the matter forth; let him take the responsibility of
the accusation; let him state his facts. I am here to answer; I am here,
this day, to answer. Now is the time, and now the hour. I think we read,
Sir, that one of the good spirits would not bring against the Arch-enemy
of mankind a railing accusation; and what is railing but general
reproach, an imputation without fact, time, or circumstance? Sir, I call
for particulars. The gentleman knows my whole conduct well; indeed, the
journals show it all, from the moment I came into Congress till the
peace. If I have done, then, Sir, any thing unpatriotic, any thing
which, as far as love to country goes, will not bear comparison with his
or any man's conduct, let it now be stated. Give me the fact, the time,
the manner. He speaks of the war; that which we call the late war,
though it is now twenty-five years since it terminated. He would leave
an impression that I opposed it. How? I was not in Congress when war was
declared, nor in public life anywhere. I was pursuing my profession,
keeping company with judges and jurors, and plaintiffs and defendants.
If I had been in Congress, and had enjoyed the benefit of hearing the
honorable gentleman's speeches, for aught I can say, I might have
concurred with him. But I was not in public life. I never had been, for
a single hour; and was in no situation, therefore, to oppose or to
support the declaration of war. I am speaking to the fact, Sir; and if
the gentleman has any fact, let us know it. Well, Sir, I came into
Congress during the war. I found it waged, and raging. And what did I do
here to oppose it? Look to the journals. Let the honorable gentleman tax
his memory. Bring up any thing, if there be any thing to bring up, not
showing error of opinion, but showing want of loyalty or fidelity to the
country. I did not agree to all that was proposed, nor did the honorable
member. I did not approve of every measure, nor did he. The war had been
preceded by the restrictive system and the embargo. As a private
individual, I certainly did not think well of these measures. It
appeared to me that the embargo annoyed ourselves as much as our
enemies, while it destroyed the business and cramped the spirits of the
people. In this opinion I may have been right or wrong, but the
gentleman was himself of the same opinion. He told us the other day, as
a proof of his independence of party on great questions, that he
differed with his friends on the subject of the embargo. He was
decidedly and unalterably opposed to it. It furnishes in his judgment,
therefore, no imputation either on my patriotism, or on the soundness of
my political opinions, that I was opposed to it also. I mean opposed in
opinion; for I was not in Congress, and had nothing to do with the act
creating the embargo. And as to opposition to measures for carrying on
the war, after I came into Congress, I again say, let the gentleman
specify; let him lay his finger on any thing calling for an answer, and
he shall have an answer.

Mr. President, you were yourself in the House during a considerable part
of this time. The honorable gentleman may make a witness of you. He may
make a witness of anybody else. He may be his own witness. Give us but
some fact, some charge, something capable in itself either of being
proved or disproved. Prove any thing, state any thing, not consistent
with honorable and patriotic conduct, and I am ready to answer it. Sir,
I am glad this subject has been alluded to in a manner which justifies
me in taking public notice of it; because I am well aware that, for ten
years past, infinite pains has been taken to find something, in the
range of these topics, which might create prejudice against me in the
country. The journals have all been pored over, and the reports
ransacked, and scraps of paragraphs and half-sentences have been
collected, fraudulently put together, and then made to flare out as if
there had been some discovery. But all this failed. The next resort was
to supposed correspondence. My letters were sought for, to learn if, in
the confidence of private friendship, I had ever said any thing which an
enemy could make use of. With this view, the vicinity of my former
residence has been searched, as with a lighted candle. New Hampshire has


Back to Full Books