The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

Part 17 out of 25

been explored, from the mouth of the Merrimack to the White Hills. In
one instance a gentleman had left the State, gone five hundred miles
off, and died. His papers were examined; a letter was found, and I have
understood it was brought to Washington; a conclave was held to consider
it, and the result was, that, if there was nothing else against Mr.
Webster, the matter had better be let alone. Sir, I hope to make
everybody of that opinion who brings against me a charge of want of
patriotism. Errors of opinion can be found, doubtless, on many subjects;
but as conduct flows from the feelings which animate the heart, I know
that no act of my life has had its origin in the want of ardent love of

Sir, when I came to Congress, I found the honorable gentleman a leading
member of the House of Representatives. Well, Sir, in what did we
differ? One of the first measures of magnitude, after I came here, was
Mr. Dallas's[1] proposition for a bank. It was a war measure. It was
urged as being absolutely necessary to enable government to carry on the
war. Government wanted revenue; such a bank, it was hoped, would furnish
it; and on that account it was most warmly pressed and urged on
Congress. You remember all this, Mr. President. You remember how much
some persons supposed the success of the war and the salvation of the
country depended on carrying that measure. Yet the honorable member from
South Carolina opposed this bill. He now takes to himself a good deal of
merit, none too much, but still a good deal of merit, for having
defeated it. Well, Sir, I agreed with him. It was a mere paper bank; a
machine for fabricating irredeemable paper. It was a new form for paper
money; and instead of benefiting the country, I thought it would plunge
it deeper and deeper in difficulty. I made a speech on the subject; it
has often been quoted. There it is; let whoever pleases read and examine
it. I am not proud of it for any ability it exhibits; on the other hand,
I am not ashamed of it for the spirit which it manifests. But, Sir, I
say again that the gentleman himself took the lead against this measure,
this darling measure of the administration. I followed him; if I was
seduced into error, or into unjustifiable opposition, there sits my

What, Sir, were other leading sentiments or leading measures of that
day? On what other subjects did men differ? The gentleman has adverted
to one, and that a most important one; I mean the navy. He says, and
says truly, that at the commencement of the war the navy was unpopular.
It was unpopular with his friends, who then controlled the politics of
the country. But he says he differed with his friends; in this respect
he resisted party influence and party connection, and was the friend and
advocate of the navy. Sir, I commend him for it. He showed his wisdom.
That gallant little navy soon fought itself into favor, and showed that
no man who had placed reliance on it had been disappointed.

Well, Sir, in all this I was exactly of the opinion of the honorable

Sir, I do not know when my opinion of the importance of a naval force to
the United States had its origin. I can give no date to my present
sentiments on this subject, because I never entertained different
sentiments. I remember, Sir, that immediately after coming into my
profession, at a period when the navy was most unpopular, when it was
called by all sorts of hard names and designated by many coarse
epithets, on one of those occasions on which young men address their
neighbors, I ventured to put forth a boy's hand in defence of the navy.
I insisted on its importance, its adaptation to our circumstances and to
our national character, and its indispensable necessity, if we intended
to maintain and extend our commerce. These opinions and sentiments I
brought into Congress; and the first time in which I presumed to speak
on the topics of the day, I attempted to urge on the House a greater
attention to the naval service. There were divers modes of prosecuting
the war. On these modes, or on the degree of attention and expense which
should be bestowed on each, different men held different opinions. I
confess I looked with most hope to the results of naval warfare, and
therefore I invoked government to invigorate and strengthen that arm of
the national defence. I invoked it to seek its enemy upon the seas, to
go where every auspicious indication pointed, and where the whole heart
and soul of the country would go with it.

Sir, we were at war with the greatest maritime power on earth. England
had gained an ascendency on the seas over all the combined powers of
Europe. She had been at war twenty years. She had tried her fortunes on
the Continent, but generally with no success. At one time the whole
Continent had been closed against her. A long line of armed exterior, an
unbroken hostile array, frowned upon her from the Gulf of Archangel,
round the promontory of Spain and Portugal, to the extreme point of
Italy. There was not a port which an English ship could enter.
Everywhere on the land the genius of her great enemy had triumphed. He
had defeated armies, crushed coalitions, and overturned thrones; but,
like the fabled giant, he was unconquerable only while he touched the
land. On the ocean he was powerless. That field of fame was his
adversary's, and her meteor flag was streaming in triumph over its whole

To her maritime ascendency England owed every thing, and we were now at
war with her. One of the most charming of her poets had said of her,--

"Her march is o'er the mountain waves,
Her home is on the deep."

Now, Sir, since we were at war with her, I was for intercepting this
march; I was for calling upon her, and paying our respects to her, at
home; I was for giving her to know that we, too, had a right of way over
the seas, and that our marine officers and our sailors were not entire
strangers on the bosom of the deep. I was for doing something more with
our navy than keeping it on our own shores, for the protection of our
coasts and harbors; I was for giving play to its gallant and burning
spirit; for allowing it to go forth upon the seas, and to encounter, on
an open and an equal field, whatever the proudest or the bravest of the
enemy could bring against it. I knew the character of its officers and
the spirit of its seamen; and I knew that, in their hands, though the
flag of the country might go down to the bottom, yet, while defended by
them, that it could never be dishonored or disgraced.

Since she was our enemy, and a most powerful enemy, I was for touching
her, if we could, in the very apple of her eye; for reaching the highest
feather in her cap; for clutching at the very brightest jewel in her
crown. There seemed to me to be a peculiar propriety in all this, as the
war was undertaken for the redress of maritime injuries alone. It was a
war declared for free trade and sailors' rights. The ocean, therefore,
was the proper theatre for deciding this controversy with our enemy, and
on that theatre it was my ardent wish that our own power should be
concentrated to the utmost.

So much, Sir, for the war, and for my conduct and opinions as connected
with it. And, as I do not mean to recur to this subject often, nor ever,
unless indispensably necessary, I repeat the demand for any charge, any
accusation, any allegation whatever, that throws me behind the honorable
gentleman, or behind any other man, in honor, in fidelity, in devoted
love to that country in which I was born, which has honored me, and
which I serve. I, who seldom deal in defiance, now, here, in my place,
boldly defy the honorable member to put his insinuation in the form of a
charge, and to support that charge by any proof whatever.

The gentleman has adverted to the subject of slavery. On this subject,
he says, I have not proved myself a friend to the South. Why, Sir, the
only proof is, that I did not vote for his resolutions.

Sir, this is a very grave matter; it is a subject very exciting and
inflammable. I take, of course, all the responsibility belonging to my
opinions; but I desire these opinions to be understood, and fairly
stated. If I am to be regarded as an enemy to the South, because I could
not support the gentleman's resolutions, be it so. I cannot purchase
favor from any quarter, by the sacrifice of clear and conscientious
convictions. The principal resolution declared that Congress had
plighted its faith not to interfere either with slavery or the slave
trade in the District of Columbia.

Now, Sir, this is quite a new idea. I never heard it advanced until this
session. I have heard gentlemen contend that no such power was in the
Constitution; but the notion, that, though the Constitution contained
the power, yet Congress had plighted its faith not to exercise such a
power, is an entire novelty, so far as I know. I must say, Sir, it
appeared to me little else than an attempt to put a prohibition into the
Constitution, because there was none there already. For this supposed
plighting of the public faith, or the faith of Congress, I saw no
ground, either in the history of the government, or in any one fact, or
in any argument. I therefore could not vote for the proposition.

Sir, it is now several years since I took care to make my opinion known,
that this government has, constitutionally, nothing to do with slavery,
as it exists in the States. That opinion is entirely unchanged. I stand
steadily by the resolution of the House of Representatives, adopted,
after much consideration, at the commencement of the government, which
was, that Congress has no authority to interfere in the emancipation of
slaves, or in the treatment of them, within any of the States; it
remaining with the several States alone to provide any regulations
therein, which humanity and true policy may require. This, in my
opinion, is the Constitution and the law. I feel bound by it. I have
quoted the resolution often. It expresses the judgment of men of all
parts of the country, deliberately and coolly formed; and it expresses
my judgment, and I shall adhere to it. But this has nothing to do with
the other constitutional question; that is to say, the mere
constitutional question whether Congress has the power to regulate
slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia.

On such a question, Sir, when I am asked what the Constitution is, or
whether any power granted by it has been compromised away, or, indeed,
could be compromised away, I must express my honest opinion, and always
shall express it, if I say any thing, notwithstanding it may not meet
concurrence either in the South, or the North, or the East, or the West.
I cannot express by my vote what I do not believe. The gentleman has
chosen to bring that subject into this debate, with which it has no
concern; but he may make the most of it, if he thinks he can produce
unfavorable impressions against me at the South from my negative to his
fifth resolution. As to the rest of them, they were commonplaces,
generally, or abstractions; in regard to which, one may well feel
himself not called on to vote at all.

And now, Sir, in regard to the tariff. That is a long chapter, but I am
quite ready to go over it with the honorable member.

He charges me with inconsistency. That may depend on deciding what
inconsistency is, in respect to such subjects, and how it is to be
proved. I will state the facts, for I have them in my mind somewhat more
fully than the honorable member has himself presented them. Let us begin
at the beginning. In 1816 I voted against the tariff law which then
passed. In 1824 I again voted against the tariff law which was then
proposed, and which passed. A majority of New England votes, in 1824,
were against the tariff system. The bill received but one vote from
Massachusetts; but it passed. The policy was established. New England
acquiesced in it; conformed her business and pursuits to it; embarked
her capital, and employed her labor, in manufactures; and I certainly
admit that, from that time, I have felt bound to support interests thus
called into being, and into importance, by the settled policy of the
government. I have stated this often here, and often elsewhere. The
ground is defensible, and I maintain it.

As to the resolutions adopted in Boston in 1820, and which resolutions
he has caused to be read, and which he says he presumes I prepared, I
have no recollection of having drawn the resolutions, and do not believe
I did. But I was at the meeting, and addressed the meeting, and what I
said on that occasion was produced here, and read in the Senate, years

The resolutions, Sir, were opposed to the commencing of a high tariff
policy. I was opposed to it, and spoke against it; the city of Boston
was opposed to it; the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was opposed to it.
Remember, Sir, that this was in 1820. This opposition continued till
1824. The votes all show this. But in 1824 the question was decided; the
government entered upon the policy; it invited men to embark their
property and their means of living in it. Individuals thus encouraged
have done this to a great extent; and therefore I say, so long as the
manufactures shall need reasonable and just protection from government,
I shall be disposed to give it to them. What is there, Sir, in all this,
for the gentleman to complain of? Would he have us always oppose the
policy adopted by the country on a great question? Would he have
minorities never submit to the will of majorities?

I remember to have said, Sir, at the meeting in Faneuil Hall, that
protection appeared to be regarded as incidental to revenue, and that
the incident could not be carried fairly above the principal; in other
words, that duties ought not to be laid for the mere object of
protection. I believe that proposition to be substantially correct. I
believe that, if the power of protection be inferred only from the
revenue power, the protection could only be incidental.

But I have said in this place before, and I repeat it now, that Mr.
Madison's publication after that period, and his declaration that the
Convention did intend to grant the power of protection under the
commercial clause, placed the subject in a new and a clear light. I will
add, Sir, that a paper drawn up apparently with the sanction of Dr.
Franklin, and read to a circle of friends at his house, on the eve of
the assembling of the Convention, respecting the powers which the
proposed new government ought to possess, shows plainly that, in
regulating commerce, it was expected that Congress would adopt a course
which should protect the manufactures of the North. He certainly went
into the Convention himself under that conviction.

Well, Sir, and now what does the gentleman make out against me in
relation to the tariff? What laurels does he gather in this part of
Africa? I opposed the _policy_ of the tariff, until it had become the
settled and established policy of the country. I have never questioned
the constitutional power of Congress to grant protection, except so far
as the remark made in Faneuil Hall goes, which remark respects only the
length to which protection might properly be carried, so far as the
power is derived from the authority to lay duties on imports. But the
policy being established, and a great part of the country having placed
vast interests at stake in it, I have not disturbed it; on the contrary,
I have insisted that it ought not to be disturbed. If there be
inconsistency in all this, the gentleman is at liberty to blazon it
forth; let him see what he can make of it.

Here, Sir, I cease to speak of myself; and respectfully ask pardon of
the Senate for having so long detained it upon any thing so unimportant
as what relates merely to my own public conduct and opinions.

Sir, the honorable member is pleased to suppose that our spleen is
excited, because he has interfered to snatch from us a victory over the
administration. If he means by this any personal disappointment, I shall
not think it worth while to make a remark upon it. If he means a
disappointment at his quitting us while we were endeavoring to arrest
the present policy of the administration, why then I admit, Sir, that I,
for one, felt that disappointment deeply. It is the policy of the
administration, its principles, and its measures, which I oppose. It is
not persons, but things; not men, but measures. I do wish most fervently
to put an end to this anti-commercial policy; and if the overthrow of
the policy shall be followed by the political defeat of its authors,
why, Sir, it is a result which I shall endeavor to meet with equanimity.

Sir, as to the honorable member's wresting the victory from us, or as to
his ability to sustain the administration in this policy, there may be
some doubt about that. I trust the citadel will yet be stormed, and
carried, by the force of public opinion, and that no Hector will be able
to defend its walls.

But now, Sir, I must advert to a declaration of the honorable member,
which, I confess, did surprise me. The honorable member says, that,
personally, he and myself have been on friendly terms, but that we
always differed on great constitutional questions. Sir, this is
astounding. And yet I was partly prepared for it; for I sat here the
other day, and held my breath, while the honorable gentleman declared,
and repeated, that he had always belonged to the State-rights party. And
he means, by what he has declared to-day, that he has always given to
the Constitution a construction more limited, better guarded, less
favorable to the extension of the powers of this government, than that
which I have given to it. He has always interpreted it according to the
strict doctrines of the school of State rights! Sir, if the honorable
member ever belonged, until very lately, to the State-rights party, the
connection was very much like a secret marriage. And never was secret
better kept. Not only were the espousals not acknowledged, but all
suspicion was avoided. There was no known familiarity, or even kindness,
between them. On the contrary, they acted like parties who were not at
all fond of each other's company.

Sir, is there a man in my hearing, among all the gentlemen now
surrounding us, many of whom, of both houses, have been here many years,
and know the gentleman and myself perfectly,--is there one who ever
heard, supposed, or dreamed that the honorable member belonged to the
State-rights party before the year 1825? Can any such connection be
proved upon him, can he prove it upon himself, before that time?

Sir, I will show you, before I resume my seat, that it was not until
after the gentleman took his seat in the chair which you now occupy,
that any public manifestation, or intimation, was ever given by him of
his having embraced the peculiar doctrines of the State-rights party.
The truth is, Sir, the honorable gentleman had acted a very important
and useful part during the war. But the war terminated. Toward the end
of the session of 1814-15, we received the news of peace. This closed
the Thirteenth Congress. In the fall of 1815, the Fourteenth Congress
assembled. It was full of ability, and the honorable gentleman stood
high among its distinguished members. He remained in the House, Sir,
through the whole of that Congress; and now, Sir, it is easy to show
that, during those two years, the honorable gentleman took a decided
lead in all those great measures which he has since so often denounced
as unconstitutional and oppressive, the bank, the tariff, and internal
improvements. The war being terminated, the gentleman's mind turned
itself toward internal administration and improvement. He surveyed the
whole country, contemplated its resources, saw what it was capable of
becoming, and held a political faith not so narrow and contracted as to
restrain him from useful and efficient action. He was, therefore, at
once a full length ahead of all others in measures which were national,
and which required a broad and liberal construction of the Constitution.
This is historic truth. Of his agency in the bank, and other measures
connected with the currency, I have already spoken, and I do not
understand him to deny any thing I have said, in that particular.
Indeed, I have said nothing capable of denial.

Now allow me a few words upon the tariff. The tariff of 1816 was
distinctly a South Carolina measure. Look at the votes, and you will see
it. It was a tariff for the benefit of South Carolina interests, and
carried through Congress by South Carolina votes and South Carolina
influence. Even the _minimum_, Sir, the so-much-reproached, the
abominable _minimum_, that subject of angry indignation and wrathful
rhetoric, is of Southern origin, and has a South Carolina parentage.

Sir, the contest on that occasion was chiefly between the cotton-growers
at home, and the importers of cotton fabrics from India. These India
fabrics were made from the cotton of that country. The people of this
country were using cotton fabrics not made of American cotton, and, so
far, they were diminishing the demand for such cotton. The importation
of India cottons was then very large, and this bill was designed to put
an end to it, and, with the help of the _minimum_, it did put an end to
it. The cotton manufactures of the North were then in their infancy.
They had some friends in Congress, but, if I recollect, the majority of
Massachusetts members and of New England members were against this
cotton tariff of 1816. I remember well, that the main debate was between
the importers of India cottons, in the North, and the cotton-growers of
the South. The gentleman cannot deny the truth of this, or any part of
it. Boston opposed this tariff, and Salem opposed it, warmly and
vigorously. But the honorable member supported it, and the law passed.
And now be it always remembered, Sir, that that act passed on the
professed ground of protection; that it had in it the _minimum_
principle, and that the honorable member, and other leading gentlemen
from his own State, supported it, voted for it, and carried it through

And now, Sir, we come to the doctrine of internal improvement, that
other usurpation, that other oppression, which has come so near to
justifying violent disruption of the government, and scattering the
fragments of the Union to the four winds. Have the gentleman's
State-rights opinions always kept him aloof from such unhallowed
infringements of the Constitution? He says he always differed with me
on constitutional questions. How was it in this most important
particular? Has he here stood on the ramparts, brandishing his
glittering sword against assailants, and holding out a banner of
defiance? Sir, it is an indisputable truth, that he is himself the man,
the _ipse_ that first brought forward in Congress a scheme of general
internal improvement, at the expense and under the authority of this
government. He, Sir, is the very man, the _ipsissimus ipse_, who
considerately, and on a settled system, began these unconstitutional
measures, if they be unconstitutional. And now for the proof.

The act incorporating the Bank of the United States was passed in April,
1816. For the privileges of the charter, the proprietors of the bank
were to pay to government a _bonus_, as it was called, of one million
five hundred thousand dollars, in certain instalments. Government also
took seven millions in the stock of the bank. Early in the next session
of Congress, that is, in December, 1816, the honorable member moved, in
the House of Representatives, that a committee be appointed to consider
the propriety of setting apart this _bonus_, and also the dividends on
the stock belonging to the United States, as a permanent fund for
internal improvement. The committee was appointed, and the honorable
member was made its chairman. He thus originated the plan, and took the
lead in its execution. Shortly afterwards, he reported a bill carrying
out the objects for which the committee had been appointed. This bill
provided that the dividends on the seven millions of bank stock
belonging to government, and also the whole of the _bonus_, should be
permanently pledged as a fund for constructing roads and canals; and
that this fund should be subject to such specific appropriations as
Congress might subsequently make.

This was the bill; and this was the first project ever brought forward
in Congress for a system of internal improvements. The bill goes the
whole doctrine at a single jump. The Cumberland Road, it is true, was
already in progress; and for that the gentleman had also voted. But
there were, and are now, peculiarities about that particular expenditure
which sometimes satisfy scrupulous consciences; but this bill of the
gentleman's, without equivocation or saving clause, without if, or and,
or but, occupied the whole ground at once, and announced internal
improvement as one of the objects of this government, on a grand and
systematic plan. The bill, Sir, seemed indeed too strong. It was thought
by persons not esteemed extremely jealous of State rights to evince too
little regard to the will of the States. Several gentlemen opposed the
measure in that shape, on that account; and among them Colonel
Pickering, then one of the Representatives from Massachusetts. Even
Timothy Pickering could not quite sanction, or concur in, the honorable
gentleman's doctrines to their full extent, although he favored the
measure in its general character. He therefore prepared an amendment, as
a substitute; and his substitute provided for two very important things
not embraced in the original bill:--

First, that the proportion of the fund to be expended in each State,
respectively, should be in proportion to the number of its inhabitants.

Second, that the money should be applied in constructing such roads,
canals, and so forth, in the several States, as Congress might direct,
_with the assent of the State_.

This, Sir, was Timothy Pickering's amendment to the gentleman's bill.
And now, Sir, how did the honorable gentleman, who has always belonged
to the State-rights party,--how did he treat this amendment, or this
substitute? Which way do you think his State-rights doctrine led him?
Why, Sir, I will tell you. He immediately rose, and moved to strike out
the words "_with the assent of the State_"! Here is the journal under my
hand, Sir; and here is the gentleman's motion. And certainly, Sir, it
will be admitted that this motion was not of a nature to intimate that
he was wedded to State rights. But the words were not struck out. The
motion did not prevail. Mr. Pickering's substitute was adopted, and the
bill passed the House in that form.

In committee of the whole on this bill, Sir, the honorable member made a
very able speech both on the policy of internal improvements and the
power of Congress over the subject. These points were fully argued by
him. He spoke of the importance of the system, the vast good it would
produce, and its favorable effect on the union of the States. "Let us,
then," said he, "bind the republic together with a perfect system of
roads and canals. Let us conquer space. It is thus the most distant
parts of the republic will be brought within a few days' travel of the
centre; it is thus that a citizen of the West will read the news of
Boston still moist from the press."

But on the power of Congress to make internal improvements, ay, Sir, on
the power of Congress, hear him! What were then his rules of
construction and interpretation? How did he at that time read and
understand the Constitution? Why, Sir, he said that "he was no advocate
for refined arguments on the Constitution. The instrument was not
intended as a thesis for the logician to exercise his ingenuity on. It
ought to be construed with plain good-sense." This is all very just, I
think, Sir; and he said much more in the same strain. He quoted many
instances of laws passed, as he contended, on similar principles, and
then added, that "he introduced these instances to prove the uniform
sense of Congress and of the country (for they had not been objected to)
as to our powers; and surely," said he, "they furnish better evidence of
the true interpretation of the Constitution than the most refined and
subtile arguments."

Here you see, Mr. President, how little original I am. You have heard me
again and again contending in my place here for the stability of that
which has been long settled; you have heard me, till I dare say you have
been tired, insisting that the sense of Congress, so often expressed,
and the sense of the country, so fully shown and so firmly established,
ought to be regarded as having decided finally certain constitutional
questions. You see now, Sir, what authority I have for this mode of
argument. But while the scholar is learning, the teacher renounces. Will
he apply his old doctrine now--I sincerely wish he would--to the
question of the bank, to the question of the receiving of bank-notes by
government, to the power of Congress over the paper currency? Will he
admit that these questions ought to be regarded as decided by the
settled sense of Congress and of the country? O, no! Far otherwise. From
these rules of judgment, and from the influence of all considerations of
this practical nature, the honorable member now takes these questions
with him into the upper heights of metaphysics, into the regions of
those refinements and subtile arguments which he rejected with so much
decision in 1817, as appears by this speech. He quits his old ground of
common-sense, experience, and the general understanding of the country,
for a flight among theories and ethereal abstractions.

And now, Sir, let me ask, when did the honorable member relinquish these
early opinions and principles of his? When did he make known his
adhesion to the doctrines of the State-rights party? We have been
speaking of transactions in 1816 and 1817. What the gentleman's opinions
then were, we have seen. When did he announce himself a State-rights
man? I have already said, Sir, that nobody knew of his claiming that
character until after the commencement of 1825; and I have said so,
because I have before me an address of his to his neighbors at
Abbeville, in May of that year, in which he recounts, very properly, the
principal incidents in his career as a member of Congress, and as head
of a department; and in which he says that, as a member of Congress, he
had given his zealous efforts in favor of a restoration of specie
currency, of a due protection of those manufactures which had taken root
during the war, and, finally, of a system for connecting the various
parts of the country by a judicious system of internal improvement. He
adds, that it afterwards became his duty, as a member of the
administration, to aid in sustaining against the boldest assaults those
very measures which, as a member of Congress, he had contributed to

And now, Sir, since the honorable gentleman says he has differed with me
on constitutional questions, will he be pleased to say what
constitutional opinion I have ever avowed for which I have not his
express authority? Is it on the bank power? the tariff power? the power
of internal improvement? I have shown his votes, his speeches, and his
conduct, on all these subjects, up to the time when General Jackson
became a candidate for the Presidency. From that time, Sir, I know we
have differed; but if there was any difference before that time, I call
upon him to point it out, to declare what was the occasion, what the
question, and what the difference. And if before that period, Sir, by
any speech, any vote, any public proceeding, or by any mode of
announcement whatever, he gave the world to know that he belonged to the
State-rights party, I hope he will now be kind enough to produce it, or
to refer to it, or to tell us where we may look for it.

Sir, I will pursue this topic no farther. I would not have pursued it so
far, I would not have entered upon it at all, had it not been for the
astonishment I felt, mingled, I confess, with something of warmer
feeling, when the honorable gentleman declared that he had always
differed with me on constitutional questions. Sir, the honorable member
read a quotation or two from a speech of mine in 1816, on the currency
or bank question. With what intent, or to what end? What inconsistency
does he show? Speaking of the _legal_ currency of the country, that is,
the coin, I then said it was in a good state. Was not that true? I was
speaking of the legal currency; of that which the law made a tender. And
how is that inconsistent with any thing said by me now, or ever said by
me? I declared then, he says, that the framers of this government were
hard-money men. Certainly they were. But are not the friends of a
convertible paper _hard-money men_, in every practical and sensible
meaning of the term? Did I, in that speech, or any other, insist on
excluding all convertible paper from the uses of society? Most assuredly
I did not. I never quite so far lost my wits, I think. There is but a
single sentence in that speech which I should qualify if I were to
deliver it again, and that the honorable member has not noticed. It is a
paragraph respecting the power of Congress over the circulation of State
banks, which might perhaps need explanation or correction. Understanding
it as applicable to the case then before Congress, all the rest is
perfectly accordant with my present opinions. It is well known that I
never doubted the power of Congress to create a bank; that I was always
in favor of a bank, constituted on proper principles; that I voted for
the bank bill of 1815; and that I opposed that of 1816 only on account
of one or two of its provisions, which I and others hoped to be able to
strike out. I am a hard-money man, and always have been, and always
shall be. But I know the great use of such bank paper as is convertible
into hard money on demand; which may be called specie paper, and which
is equivalent to specie in value, and much more convenient and useful
for common purposes. On the other hand, I abhor all irredeemable paper;
all old-fashioned paper money; all deceptive promises; every thing,
indeed, in the shape of paper issued for circulation, whether by
government or individuals, which cannot be turned into gold and silver
at the will of the holder.

But, Sir, I have insisted that government is bound to protect and
regulate the means of commerce, to see that there is a sound currency
for the use of the people. The honorable gentleman asks, What then is
the limit? Must Congress also furnish all means of commerce? Must it
furnish weights and scales and steelyards? Most undoubtedly, Sir, it
must regulate weights and measures, and it does so. But the answer to
the general question is very obvious. Government must furnish all that
which none but government can furnish. Government must do that for
individuals which individuals cannot do for themselves. That is the very
end of government. Why else have we a government? Can individuals make a
currency? Can individuals regulate money? The distinction is as broad
and plain as the Pennsylvania Avenue. No man can mistake it, or well
blunder out of it. The gentleman asks if government must furnish for the
people ships, and boats, and wagons. Certainly not. The gentleman here
only recites the President's message of September. These things, and all
such things, the people can furnish for themselves; but they cannot make
a currency; they cannot, individually, decide what shall be the money of
the country. That, everybody knows, is one of the prerogatives, and one
of the duties, of government; and a duty which I think we are most
unwisely and improperly neglecting. We may as well leave the people to
make war and to make peace, each man for himself, as to leave to
individuals the regulation of commerce and currency.

Mr. President, there are other remarks of the gentleman of which I might
take notice. But should I do so, I could only repeat what I have already
said, either now or heretofore. I shall, therefore, not now allude to
them. My principal purpose in what I have said has been to defend
myself; that was my first object; and next, as the honorable member has
attempted to take to himself the character of a strict constructionist,
and a State-rights man, and on that basis to show a difference, not
favorable to me, between his constitutional opinions and my own,
heretofore, it has been my intention to show that the power to create a
bank, the power to regulate the currency by other and direct means, the
power to enact a protective tariff, and the power of internal
improvement, in its broadest sense, are all powers which the honorable
gentleman himself has supported, has acted on, and in the exercise of
which, indeed, he has taken a distinguished lead in the counsels of

If this has been done, my purpose is answered. I do not wish to prolong
the discussion, nor to spin it out into a colloquy. If the honorable
member has any thing new to bring forward; if he has any charge to make,
any proof, or any specification; if he has any thing to advance against
my opinions or my conduct, my honor or patriotism, I am still at home. I
am here. If not, then, so far as I am concerned, this discussion will
here terminate.

I will say a few words, before I resume my seat, on the motion now
pending. That motion is to strike out the specie-paying part of the
bill. I have a suspicion, Sir, that the motion will prevail. If it
should, it will leave a great vacuum; and how shall that vacuum be

The part proposed to be struck out is that which requires all debts to
government to be paid in specie. It makes a good provision for
government, and for public men, through all classes. The Secretary of
the Treasury, in his letter at the last session, was still more watchful
of the interests of the holders of office. He assured us, that, bad as
the times were, and notwithstanding the floods of bad paper which
deluged the country, members of Congress should get gold and silver. In
my opinion, Sir, this is beginning the use of good money in payments at
the wrong end of the list. If there be bad money in the country, I think
that Secretaries and other executive officers, and especially members of
Congress, should be the last to receive any good money; because they
have the power, if they will do their duty, and exercise it, of making
the money of the country good for all. I think, Sir, it was a leading
feature in Mr. Burke's famous bill for economical reform, that he
provided, first of all, for those who are least able to secure
themselves. Everybody else was to be well paid all they were entitled
to, before the ministers of the crown, and other political characters,
should have any thing. This seems to me very right. But we have a
precedent, Sir, in our own country, more directly to the purpose; and
as that which we now hope to strike out is the part of the bill
furnished or proposed originally by the honorable member from South
Carolina, it will naturally devolve on him to supply its place. I wish,
therefore, to draw his particular attention to this precedent, which I
am now about to produce.

Most members of the Senate will remember, that before the establishment
of this government, and before or about the time that the territory
which now constitutes the State of Tennessee was ceded to Congress, the
inhabitants of the eastern part of that territory established a
government for themselves, and called it the State of Franklin. They
adopted a very good constitution, providing for the usual branches of
legislative, executive, and judicial power. They laid and collected
taxes, and performed other usual acts of legislation. They had, for the
present, it is true, no maritime possessions, yet they followed the
common forms in constituting high officers; and their governor was not
only captain-general and commander-in-chief, but admiral also, so that
the navy might have a commander when there should be a navy.

Well, Sir, the currency in this State of Franklin became very much
deranged. Specie was scarce, and equally scarce were the notes of
specie-paying banks. But the legislature did not propose any divorce of
government and people; they did not seek to establish two currencies,
one for men in office, and one for the rest of the community. They were
content with neighbor's fare. It became necessary to pass what we should
call now-a-days the civil-list appropriation bill. They passed such a
bill; and when we shall have made a void in the bill now before us by
striking out specie payments for government, I recommend to its friends
to fill the gap, by inserting, if not the same provisions as were in the
law of the State of Franklin, at least something in the same spirit.

The preamble of that law, Sir, begins by reciting, that the collection
of taxes in specie had become very oppressive to the good people of the
commonwealth, for the want of a circulating medium. A parallel case to
ours, Sir, exactly. It recites further, that it is the duty of the
legislature to hear, at all times, the prayer of their constituents, and
apply as speedy a remedy as lies in their power. These sentiments are
very just, and I sincerely wish there was a thorough disposition here to
adopt the like.

Acting under the influence of these sound opinions, Sir, the legislature
of Franklin passed a law for the support of the civil list, which, as it
is short, I will beg permission to read. It is as follows:--

"_Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Franklin,
and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same_, That, from
the first day of January, A.D. 1789, the salaries of the civil
officers of this commonwealth be as follows, to wit:

"His excellency, the governor, _per annum_, one thousand
deer-skins; his honor, the chief justice, five hundred do. do.; the
attorney-general, five hundred do. do.; secretary to his excellency
the governor, five hundred raccoon do.; the treasurer of the State,
four hundred and fifty otter do.; each county clerk, three hundred
beaver do.; clerk of the house of commons, two hundred raccoon do.;
members of assembly, _per diem_, three do. do.; justice's fee for
signing a warrant, one muskrat do.; to the constable, for serving a
warrant, one mink do.

"Enacted into a law this 18th day of October, 1788, under the great
seal of the State.

"Witness his excellency, &c.

"_Governor, captain-general, commander-in-chief, and admiral in and
over said State_."

This, Sir, is the law, the spirit of which I commend to gentlemen. I
will not speak of the appropriateness of these several allowances for
the civil list. But the example is good, and I am of opinion that, until
Congress shall perform its duty, by seeing that the country enjoys a
good currency, the same medium which the people are obliged to use,
whether it be skins or rags, is good enough for its own members.

[Footnote 1: The Secretary of the Treasury.]



Let me remind you, then, in the first place, Sir, that, commercial as
the country is, and having experienced as it has done, and experiencing
as it now does, great vicissitudes of trade and business, it is almost
forty years since any law has been in force by which any honest man,
failing in business, could be effectually discharged from debt by
surrendering his property. The former bankrupt law was repealed on the
19th of December, 1803. From that day to this, the condition of an
insolvent, however honest and worthy, has been utterly hopeless, so far
as he depended on any legal mode of relief. This state of things has
arisen from the peculiar provisions of the Constitution of the United
States, and from the omission by Congress to exercise this branch of its
constitutional power. By the Constitution, the States are prohibited
from passing laws impairing the obligation of contracts. Bankrupt laws
impair the obligation of contracts, if they discharge the bankrupt from
his debts without payment. The States, therefore, cannot pass such laws.
The power, then, is taken from the States, and placed in our hands. It
is true that it has been decided, that, in regard to contracts entered
into after the passage of any State bankrupt law, between the citizens
of the State having such law, and sued in the State courts, a State
discharge may prevail. So far, effect has been given to State laws. I
have great respect, habitually, for judicial decisions; but it has
nevertheless, I must say, always appeared to me that the distinctions on
which these decisions are founded are slender, and that they evade,
without answering, the objections founded on the great political and
commercial objects intended to be secured by this part of the
Constitution. But these decisions, whether right or wrong, afford no
effectual relief. The qualifications and limitations which I have stated
render them useless, as to the purpose of a general discharge. So much
of the concerns of every man of business is with citizens of other
States than his own, and with foreigners, that the partial extent to
which the validity of State discharges reaches is of little benefit.

The States, then, cannot pass effectual bankrupt laws; that is,
effectual for the discharge of the debtor. There is no doubt that most,
if not all, the States would now pass such laws, if they had the power;
although their legislation would be various, interfering, and full of
all the evils which the Constitution of the United States intended to
provide against. But they have not the power; Congress, which has the
power, does not exercise it. This is the peculiarity of our condition.
The States would pass bankrupt laws, but they cannot; we can, but we
will not. And between this want of power in the States and want of will
in Congress, unfortunate insolvents are left to hopeless bondage. There
are probably one or two hundred thousand debtors, honest, sober, and
industrious, who drag out lives useless to themselves, useless to their
families, and useless to their country, for no reason but that they
cannot be legally discharged from debts in which misfortunes have
involved them, and which there is no possibility of their ever paying. I
repeat, again, that these cases have now been accumulating for a whole

It is true they are not imprisoned; but there may be, and there are,
restraint and bondage outside the walls of the jail, as well as in.
Their power of earning is, in truth, taken away, their faculty of useful
employment is paralyzed, and hope itself become extinguished. Creditors,
generally, are not inhuman or unkind; but there will be found some who
hold on, and the more a debtor struggles to free himself, the more they
feel encouraged to hold on. The mode of reasoning is, that, the more
honest the debtor may be, the more industrious, the more disposed to
struggle and bear up against his misfortunes, the greater the chance is,
that, in the end, especially if the humanity of others shall have led
them to release him, their own debts may be finally recovered.

Now, in this state of our constitutional powers and duties, in this
state of our laws, and with this actually existing condition of so many
insolvents before us, it is not too serious to ask every member of the
Senate to put it to his own conscience to say, whether we are not bound
to exercise our constitutional duty. Can we abstain from exercising it?
The States give to their own laws all the effect they can. This shows
that they desire the power to be exercised. Several States have, in the
most solemn manner, made known their earnest wishes to Congress. If we
still refuse, what is to be done? Many of these insolvent persons are
young men with young families. Like other men, they have capacities both
for action and enjoyment. Are we to stifle all these for ever? Are we to
suffer all these persons, many of them meritorious and respectable, to
be pressed to the earth for ever, by a load of hopeless debt? The
existing diversities and contradictions of State laws on the subject
admirably illustrate the objects of this part of the Constitution, as
stated by Mr. Madison; and they form that precise case for which the
clause was inserted. The very evil intended to be provided against is
before us, and around us, and pressing us on all sides. How can we, how
dare we, make a perfect dead letter of this part of the Constitution,
which we have sworn to support? The insolvent persons have not the power
of locomotion. They cannot travel from State to State. They are
prisoners. To my certain knowledge, there are many who cannot even come
here to the seat of government, to present their petitions to Congress,
so great is their fear that some creditor will dog their heels, and
arrest them in some intervening State, or in this District, in the hope
that friends will appear to save them, by payment of the debt, from

These are truths; not creditable to the country, but they are truths. I
am sorry for their existence. Sir, there is one crime, quite too common,
which the laws of man do not punish, but which cannot escape the justice
of God; and that is, the arrest and confinement of a debtor by his
creditor, with no motive on earth but the hope that some friend, or some
relative, perhaps almost as poor as himself, his mother it may be, or
his sisters, or his daughters, will give up all their own little
pittance, and make beggars of themselves, to save him from the horrors
of a loathsome jail. Human retribution cannot reach this guilt; human
feeling may not penetrate the flinty heart that perpetrates it; but an
hour is surely coming, with more than human retribution on its wings,
when that flint shall be melted, either by the power of penitence and
grace, or in the fires of remorse.

Sir, I verily believe that the power of perpetuating debts against
debtors, for no substantial good to the creditor himself, and the power
of imprisonment for debt, at least as it existed in this country ten
years ago, have imposed more restraint on personal liberty than the law
of debtor and creditor imposes in any other Christian and commercial
country. If any public good were attained, any high political object
answered, by such laws, there might be some reason for counselling
submission and sufferance to individuals. But the result is bad, every
way. It is bad to the public and to the country, which loses the efforts
and the industry of so many useful and capable citizens. It is bad to
creditors, because there is no security against preferences, no
principle of equality, and no encouragement for honest, fair, and
seasonable assignments of effects. As to the debtor, however good his
intentions or earnest his endeavors, it subdues his spirit and degrades
him in his own esteem; and if he attempts any thing for the purpose of
obtaining food and clothing for his family, he is driven to unworthy
shifts and disguises, to the use of other persons' names, to the
adoption of the character of agent, and various other contrivances, to
keep the little earnings of the day from the reach of his creditors.
Fathers act in the name of their sons, sons act in the name of their
fathers; all constantly exposed to the greatest temptation to
misrepresent facts and to evade the law, if creditors should strike. All
this is evil, unmixed evil. And what is it all for? Of what benefit to
anybody? Who likes it? Who wishes it? What class of creditors desire it?
What consideration of public good demands it?

Sir, we talk much, and talk warmly, of political liberty; and well we
may, for it is among the chief of public blessings. But who can enjoy
political liberty if he is deprived, permanently, of personal liberty,
and the exercise of his own industry and his own faculties? To those
unfortunate individuals, doomed to the everlasting bondage of debt, what
is it that we have free institutions of government? What is it that we
have public and popular assemblies? What is even this Constitution
itself to them, in its actual operation, and as we now administer it?
What is its aspect to them, but an aspect of stern, implacable severity?
an aspect of refusal, denial, and frowning rebuke? nay, more than that,
an aspect not only of austerity and rebuke, but, as they must think it,
of plain injustice also, since it will not relieve them, nor suffer
others to give them relief? What love can they feel towards the
Constitution of their country, which has taken the power of striking off
their bonds from their own paternal State governments, and yet,
inexorable to all the cries of justice and of mercy, holds it
unexercised in its own fast and unrelenting grasp? They find themselves
bondsmen, because we will not execute the commands of the Constitution;
bondsmen to debts they cannot pay, and which all know they cannot pay,
and which take away the power of supporting themselves. Other slaves
have masters, charged with the duty of support and protection; but their
masters neither clothe, nor feed, nor shelter; they only bind.

But, Sir, the fault is not in the Constitution. The Constitution is
beneficent as well as wise in all its provisions on this subject. The
fault, I must be allowed to say, is in us, who have suffered ourselves
quite too long to neglect the duty incumbent upon us. The time will
come, Sir, when we shall look back and wonder at the long delay of this
just and salutary measure. We shall then feel as we now feel when we
reflect on that progress of opinion which has already done so much on
another connected subject; I mean the abolition of imprisonment for
debt. What should we say at this day, if it were proposed to
re-establish arrest and imprisonment for debt, as it existed in most of
the States even so late as twenty years ago? I mean for debt alone, for
mere, pure debt, without charge or suspicion of fraud or falsehood.

Sir, it is about that length of time, I think, since you,[1] who now
preside over our deliberations, began here your efforts for the
abolition of imprisonment for debt; and a better work was never begun in
the Capitol. Ever remembered and ever honored be that noble effort! You
drew the attention of the public to the question, whether, in a
civilized and Christian country, debt incurred without fraud, and
remaining unpaid without fault, is a crime, and a crime fit to be
punished by denying to the offender the enjoyment of the light of
heaven, and shutting him up within four walls. Your own good sense, and
that instinct of right feeling which often outruns sagacity, carried you
at once to a result to which others were more slowly brought, but to
which nearly all have at length been brought, by reason, reflection, and
argument. Your movement led the way; it became an example, and has had a
powerful effect on both sides of the Atlantic. Imprisonment for debt, or
even arrest and holding to bail for mere debt, no longer exists in
England; and former laws on the subject have been greatly modified and
mitigated, as we all know, in our States. "Abolition of imprisonment for
debt," your own words in the title of your own bill, has become the
title of an act of Parliament.

Sir, I am glad of an occasion to pay you the tribute of my sincere
respect for these your labors in the cause of humanity and enlightened
policy. For these labors thousands of grateful hearts have thanked you;
and other thousands of hearts, not yet full of joy for the
accomplishment of their hopes, full, rather, at the present moment, of
deep and distressing anxiety, have yet the pleasure to know that your
advice, your counsel, and your influence will all be given in favor of
what is intended for their relief in the bill before us.

Mr. President, let us atone for the omissions of the past by a prompt
and efficient discharge of present duty. The demand for this measure is
not partial or local. It comes to us, earnest and loud, from all classes
and all quarters. The time is come when we must answer it to our own
consciences, if we suffer longer delay or postponement. High hopes, high
duties, and high responsibilities concentrate themselves on this measure
and this moment. With a power to pass a bankrupt law, which no other
legislature in the country possesses, with a power of giving relief to
many, doing injustice to none, I again ask every man who hears me, if he
can content himself without an honest attempt to exercise that power. We
may think it would be better to leave the power with the States; but it
was not left with the States; they have it not, and we cannot give it to
them. It is in our hands, to be exercised by us, or to be for ever
useless and lifeless. Under these circumstances, does not every man's
heart tell him that he has a duty to discharge? If the final vote shall
be given this day, and if that vote shall leave thousands of our
fellow-citizens and their families, in hopeless and helpless distress,
to everlasting subjection to irredeemable debt, can we go to our beds
with satisfied consciences? Can we lay our heads upon our pillows, and,
without self-reproach, supplicate the Almighty Mercy to forgive us our
debts as we forgive our debtors? Sir, let us meet the unanimous wishes
of the country, and proclaim relief to the unfortunate throughout the
land. What should hinder? What should stay our hands from this good
work? Creditors do not oppose it,--they apply for it; debtors solicit
it, with an importunity, earnestness, and anxiety not to be described;
the Constitution enjoins it; and all the considerations of justice,
policy, and propriety, which are wrapped up in the phrase Public Duty,
demand it, as I think, and demand it loudly and imperatively, at our
hands. Sir, let us gratify the whole country, for once, with the joyous
clang of chains, joyous because heard falling from the limbs of men. The
wisest among those whom I address can desire nothing more beneficial
than this measure, or more universally desired; and he who is youngest
may not expect to live long enough to see a better opportunity of
causing new pleasures and a happiness long untasted to spring up in the
hearts of the poor and the humble. How many husbands and fathers are
looking with hopes which they cannot suppress, and yet hardly dare to
cherish, for the result of this debate! How many wives and mothers will
pass sleepless and feverish nights, until they know whether they and
their families shall be raised from poverty, despondency, and despair,
and restored again to the circles of industrious, independent, and happy

Sir, let it be to the honor of Congress that, in these days of political
strife and controversy, we have laid aside for once the sin that most
easily besets us, and, with unanimity of counsel, and with singleness of
heart and of purpose, have accomplished for our country one measure of
unquestionable good.

[Footnote 1: Hon. Richard M. Johnson, Vice-President of the United



But it is the cry and effort of the times to stimulate those who are
called poor against those who are called rich; and yet, among those who
urge this cry, and seek to profit by it, there is betrayed sometimes an
occasional sneer at whatever savors of humble life. Witness the reproach
against a candidate now before the people for their highest honors, that
a log cabin, with plenty of hard cider, is good enough for him!

It appears to some persons, that a great deal too much use is made of
the symbol of the log cabin. No man of sense supposes, certainly, that
the having lived in a log cabin is any further proof of qualification
for the Presidency, than as it creates a presumption that any one who,
rising from humble condition, or under unfavorable circumstances, has
been able to attract a considerable degree of public attention, is
possessed of reputable qualities, moral and intellectual.

But it is to be remembered, that this matter of the log cabin
originated, not with the friends of the Whig candidate, but with his
enemies. Soon after his nomination at Harrisburg, a writer for one of
the leading administration papers spoke of his "log cabin," and his use
of "hard cider," by way of sneer and reproach. As might have been
expected, (for pretenders are apt to be thrown off their guard,) this
taunt at humble life proceeded from the party which claims a monopoly of
the purest democracy. The whole party appeared to enjoy it, or, at
least, they countenanced it by silent acquiescence; for I do not know
that, to this day, any eminent individual or any leading newspaper
attached to the administration has rebuked this scornful jeering at the
supposed humble condition or circumstances in life, past or present, of
a worthy man and a war-worn soldier. But it touched a tender point in
the public feeling. It naturally roused indignation. What was intended
as reproach was immediately seized on as merit. "Be it so! Be it so!"
was the instant burst of the public voice. "Let him be the log cabin
candidate. What you say in scorn, we will shout with all our lungs. From
this day forward, we have our cry of rally; and we shall see whether he
who has dwelt in one of the rude abodes of the West may not become the
best house in the country!"

All this is natural, and springs from sources of just feeling. Other
things, Gentlemen, have had a similar origin. We all know that the term
"Whig" was bestowed in derision, two hundred years ago, on those who
were thought too fond of liberty; and our national air of "Yankee
Doodle" was composed by British officers, in ridicule of the American
troops. Yet, erelong, the last of the British armies laid down its arms
at Yorktown, while this same air was playing in the ears of officers
and men. Gentlemen, it is only shallow-minded pretenders who either make
distinguished origin matter of personal merit, or obscure origin matter
of personal reproach. Taunt and scoffing at the humble condition of
early life affect nobody, in this country, but those who are foolish
enough to indulge in them, and they are generally sufficiently punished
by public rebuke. A man who is not ashamed of himself need not be
ashamed of his early condition.

Gentlemen, it did not happen to me to be born in a log cabin; but my
elder brothers and sisters were born in a log cabin, raised amid the
snow-drifts of New Hampshire, at a period so early that, when the smoke
first rose from its rude chimney, and curled over the frozen hills,
there was no similar evidence of a white man's habitation between it and
the settlements on the rivers of Canada. Its remains still exist. I make
to it an annual visit. I carry my children to it, to teach them the
hardships endured by the generations which have gone before them. I love
to dwell on the tender recollections, the kindred ties, the early
affections, and the touching narratives and incidents, which mingle with
all I know of this primitive family abode. I weep to think that none of
those who inhabited it are now among the living; and if ever I am
ashamed of it, or if I ever fail in affectionate veneration for him who
reared it, and defended it against savage violence and destruction,
cherished all the domestic virtues beneath its roof, and, through the
fire and blood of a seven years' revolutionary war, shrunk from no
danger, no toil, no sacrifice, to serve his country, and to raise his
children to a condition better than his own, may my name and the name of
my posterity be blotted for ever from the memory of mankind!



[The visit of Mr. Webster to Richmond was short, and his public
engagements so numerous, as to put it out of his power to return the
calls of his friends, or to pay his respects to their families. It was
accordingly proposed that the ladies who might desire to do so should
assemble in the "Log Cabin," and that he should there pay his respects
to them collectively. The meeting was large, and the building quite
full. On being introduced to them in a few appropriate remarks, by Mr.
Lyons, Mr. Webster addressed them in the following speech.]

Ladies,--I am very sure I owe the pleasure I now enjoy to your kind
disposition, which has given me the opportunity to present my thanks and
my respects to you thus collectively, since the shortness of my stay in
the city does not allow me the happiness of calling upon those,
severally and individually, from members of whose families I have
received kindness and notice. And, in the first place, I wish to express
to you my deep and hearty thanks, as I have endeavored to do to your
fathers, your husbands, and your brothers, for the unbounded hospitality
I have received ever since I came among you. This is registered, I
assure you, in a grateful heart, in characters of an enduring nature.
The rough contests of the political world are not suited to the dignity
and the delicacy of your sex; but you possess the intelligence to know
how much of that happiness which you are entitled to hope for, both for
yourselves and for your children, depends on the right administration of
government, and a proper tone of public morals. That is a subject on
which the moral perceptions of woman are both quicker and juster than
those of the other sex. I do not speak of that administration of
government whose object is merely the protection of industry, the
preservation of civil liberty, and the securing to enterprise of its due
reward. I speak of government in a somewhat higher point of view; I
speak of it in regard to its influence on the morals and sentiments of
the community. We live in an age distinguished for great benevolent
exertion, in which the affluent are consecrating the means they possess
to the endowment of colleges and academies, to the building of churches,
to the support of religion and religious worship, to the encouragement
of schools, lyceums, and athenaeums, and other means of general popular
instruction. This is all well; it is admirable; it augurs well for the
prospects of ensuing generations. But I have sometimes thought, that,
amidst all this activity and zeal of the good and the benevolent, the
influence of government on the morals and on the religious feelings of
the community is apt to be overlooked or underrated. I speak, of course,
of its indirect influence, of the power of its example, and the general
tone which it inspires.

A popular government, in all these respects, is a most powerful
institution; more powerful, as it has sometimes appeared to me, than the
influence of most other human institutions put together, either for
good or for evil, according to its character. Its example, its tone,
whether of regard or disregard for moral obligation, is most important
to human happiness; it is among those things which most affect the
political morals of mankind, and their general morals also. I advert to
this, because there has been put forth, in modern times, the false
maxim, that there is one morality for politics, and another morality for
other things; that, in their political conduct to their opponents, men
may say and do that which they would never think of saying or doing in
the personal relations of private life. There has been openly announced
a sentiment, which I consider as the very essence of false morality,
which declares that "all is fair in politics." If a man speaks falsely
or calumniously of his neighbor, and is reproached for the offence, the
ready excuse is this: "It was in relation to public and political
matters; I cherished no personal ill-will whatever against that
individual, but quite the contrary; I spoke of my adversary merely as a
political man." In my opinion, the day is coming when falsehood will
stand for falsehood, and calumny will be treated as a breach of the
commandment, whether it be committed politically or in the concerns of
private life.

It is by the promulgation of sound morals in the community, and more
especially by the training and instruction of the young, that woman
performs her part towards the preservation of a free government. It is
generally admitted that public liberty, and the perpetuity of a free
constitution, rest on the virtue and intelligence of the community which
enjoys it. How is that virtue to be inspired, and how is that
intelligence to be communicated? Bonaparte once asked Madame de Stael in
what manner he could best promote the happiness of France. Her reply is
full of political wisdom. She said, "Instruct the mothers of the French
people." Mothers are, indeed, the affectionate and effective teachers of
the human race. The mother begins her process of training with the
infant in her arms. It is she who directs, so to speak, its first mental
and spiritual pulsations. She conducts it along the impressible years of
childhood and youth, and hopes to deliver it to the stern conflicts and
tumultuous scenes of life, armed by those good principles which her
child has received from maternal care and love.

If we draw within the circle of our contemplation the mothers of a
civilized nation, what do we see? We behold so many artificers working,
not on frail and perishable matter, but on the immortal mind, moulding
and fashioning beings who are to exist for ever. We applaud the artist
whose skill and genius present the mimic man upon the canvas; we admire
and celebrate the sculptor who works out that same image in enduring
marble; but how insignificant are these achievements, though the highest
and the fairest in all the departments of art, in comparison with the
great vocation of human mothers! They work, not upon the canvas that
shall perish, or the marble that shall crumble into dust, but upon mind,
upon spirit, which is to last for ever, and which is to bear, for good
or evil, throughout its duration, the impress of a mother's plastic

I have already expressed the opinion, which all allow to be correct,
that our security for the duration of the free institutions which bless
our country depends upon habits of virtue and the prevalence of
knowledge and of education. The attainment of knowledge does not
comprise all which is contained in the larger term of education. The
feelings are to be disciplined; the passions are to be restrained; true
and worthy motives are to be inspired; a profound religious feeling is
to be instilled, and pure morality inculcated, under all circumstances.
All this is comprised in education. Mothers who are faithful to this
great duty will tell their children, that neither in political nor in
any other concerns of life can man ever withdraw himself from the
perpetual obligations of conscience and of duty; that in every act,
whether public or private, he incurs a just responsibility; and that in
no condition is he warranted in trifling with important rights and
obligations. They will impress upon their children the truth, that the
exercise of the elective franchise is a social duty, of as solemn a
nature as man can be called to perform; that a man may not innocently
trifle with his vote; that every free elector is a trustee, as well for
others as himself; and that every man and every measure he supports has
an important bearing on the interests of others, as well as on his own.
It is in the inculcation of high and pure morals such as these, that, in
a free republic, woman performs her sacred duty, and fulfils her
destiny. The French, as you know, are remarkable for their fondness for
sententious phrases, in which much meaning is condensed into a small
space. I noticed lately, on the title-page of one of the books of
popular instruction in France, this motto: "Pour instruction on the
heads of the people! you owe them that baptism." And, certainly, if
there be any duty which may be described by a reference to that great
institute of religion,--a duty approaching it in importance, perhaps
next to it in obligation,--it is this.

I know you hardly expect me to address you on the popular political
topics of the day. You read enough, you hear quite enough, on those
subjects. You expect me only to meet you, and to tender my profound
thanks for this marked proof of your regard, and will kindly receive the
assurances with which I tender to you, on parting, my affectionate
respects and best wishes.



[On the accession of General Harrison to the Presidency of the United
States, on the 4th of March, 1841, Mr. Webster was called to the office
of Secretary of State, in which, after the President's untimely death,
he continued under Mr. Tyler for about two years. The relations of the
country with Great Britain were at that time in a very critical
position. The most important and difficult subject which engaged the
attention of the government, while he filled the Department of State,
was the negotiation of the treaty with Great Britain, which was signed
at Washington on the 9th of August, 1842. The other members of General
Harrison's Cabinet having resigned their places in the autumn of 1841,
discontent was felt by some of their friends, that Mr. Webster should
have consented to retain his. But as Mr. Tyler continued to place entire
confidence in Mr. Webster's administration of the Department of State,
the great importance of pursuing a steady line of policy in reference to
foreign affairs, and especially the hope of averting a rupture with
England by an honorable settlement of our difficulties with that
country, induced Mr. Webster to remain at his post.

On occasion of a visit made by him to Boston, after the adjournment of
Congress, in August, 1842, a number of his friends were desirous of
manifesting their sense of the services which he had rendered to the
country by pursuing this course. A public meeting of citizens was
accordingly held in Faneuil Hall, on the 30th of September, 1842. At
this meeting the following speech was made.]

I know not how it is, Mr. Mayor, but there is something in the echoes of
these walls, or in this sea of upturned faces which I behold before me,
or in the genius that always hovers over this place, fanning ardent and
patriotic feeling by every motion of its wings,--I know not how it is,
but there is something that excites me strangely, deeply, before I even
begin to speak. It cannot be doubted that this salutation and greeting
from my fellow-citizens of Boston is a tribute dear to my heart. Boston
is indeed my home, my cherished home. It is now more than twenty-five
years since I came to it with my family, to pursue, here in this
enlightened metropolis, those objects of professional life for which my
studies and education were designed to fit me. It is twenty years since
I was invited by the citizens of Boston to take upon myself an office of
public trust in their service.[1] It gives me infinite pleasure to see
here to-day, among those who hold the seats yielded to such as are more
advanced in life, not a few of the gentlemen who were earnestly
instrumental in inducing me to enter upon a course of life wholly
unexpected, and to devote myself to the service of the public.

Whenever the duties of public life have withdrawn me from this home, I
have felt it, nevertheless, to be the attractive spot to which all local
affection tended. And now that the progress of time must shortly bring
about the period, if it should not be hastened by the progress of
events, when the duties of public life shall yield to the influences of
advancing years, I cherish no hope more precious, than to pass here in
these associations and among these friends what may remain to me of
life; and to leave in the midst of you, fellow-citizens, partaking of
your fortunes, whether for good or for evil, those who bear my name, and
inherit my blood.

The Mayor has alluded, very kindly, to the exertions which I have made
since I have held a position in the Cabinet, and especially to the
results of the negotiation in which I have been recently engaged. I
hope, fellow-citizens, that something has been done which may prove
permanently useful to the public. I have endeavored to do something, and
I hope my endeavors have not been in vain. I have had a hard summer's
work, it is true, but I am not wholly unused to hard work. I have had
some anxious days, I have spent some sleepless nights; but if the
results of my efforts shall be approved by the community, I am richly
compensated. My other days will be the happier, and my other nights will
be given to a sweeter repose.

It was an object of the highest national importance, no doubt, to
disperse the clouds which threatened a storm between England and
America. For several years past there has been a class of questions open
between the two countries, which have not always threatened war, but
which have prevented the people from being assured of permanent peace.

His Honor the Mayor has paid a just tribute to that lamented personage,
by whom, in 1841, I was called to the place I now occupy; and although,
Gentlemen, I know it is in very bad taste to speak much of one's self,
yet here, among my friends and neighbors, I wish to say a word or two on
subjects in which I am concerned. With the late President Harrison I had
contracted an acquaintance while we were both members of Congress, and I
had an opportunity of renewing it afterwards in his own house, and
elsewhere. I have made no exhibition or boast of the confidence which it
was his pleasure to repose in me; but circumstances, hardly worthy of
serious notice, have rendered it not improper for me to say on this
occasion, that as soon as President Harrison was elected, without, of
course, one word from me, he wrote to me inviting me to take a place in
his Cabinet, leaving to me the choice of that place, and asking my
advice as to the persons that should fill every other place in it. He
expressed rather a wish that I should take the administration of the
treasury, because, as he was pleased to say, I had devoted myself with
success to the examination of the questions of currency and finance, and
he felt that the wants of the country,--the necessities of the country,
on the great subjects of currency and finance,--were moving causes that
produced the revolution which had placed him in the presidential chair.

It so happened, Gentlemen, that my preference was for another
place,--for that which I have now the honor to fill. I felt all its
responsibilities; but I must say, that, with whatever attention I had
considered the general questions of finance, I felt more competent and
willing to undertake the duties of an office which did not involve the
daily drudgery of the treasury.

I was not disappointed, Gentlemen, in the exigency which then existed in
our foreign relations. I was not unaware of all the difficulties which
hung over us; for although the whole of the danger was not at that
moment developed, the cause of it was known, and it seemed as if an
outbreak was inevitable. I allude now to that occurrence on the frontier
of which the chairman has already spoken, which took place in the winter
of 1841 the case of Alexander McLeod.

A year or two before, the Canadian government had seen fit to authorize
a military incursion, for a particular purpose, within the territory of
the United States. That purpose was to destroy a steamboat, charged with
being employed for hostile purposes against its forces and the
peaceable subjects of the crown. The act was avowed by the British
government at home as a public act. Alexander McLeod, a person who
individually could claim no regard or sympathy, happened to be one of
the agents who, in a military character, performed the act of their
sovereign. Coming into the United States some years after, he was
arrested under a charge of homicide committed in this act, and was held
to trial as for a private felony.

According to my apprehensions, a proceeding of this kind was directly
adverse to the well-settled doctrines of the public law. It could not
but be received with lively indignation, not only by the British
government, but among the people of England. It would be so received
among us. If a citizen of the United States should as a military man
receive an order of his government and obey it, (and he must either obey
it or be hanged,) and should afterwards, in the territory of another
power, which by that act he had offended, be tried for a violation of
its law, as for a crime, and threatened with individual punishment,
there is not a man in the United States who would not cry out for
redress and for vengeance. Any elevated government, in a case like this,
where one of its citizens, in the performance of his duty, incurs such
menaces and danger, assumes the responsibility; any elevated government
says, "The act was mine,--I am the man";--"Adsum qui feci, in me
convertite ferrum."

Now, Gentlemen, information of the action of the British government on
this subject was transmitted to us at Washington within a few days after
the installation of General Harrison. I did not think that it was proper
to make public then, nor is it important to say now, all that we knew on
the subject; but I will tell you, in general terms, that if all that was
known at Washington then had been divulged throughout the country, the
value of the shipping interest of this city, and of every other interest
connected with the commerce of the country, would have been depressed
one half in six hours. I thought that the concussion might be averted,
by holding up to view the principles of public law by which this
question ought to be settled, and by demanding an apology for whatever
had been done against those principles of public law by the British
government or its officers. I thought we ought to put ourselves right in
the first place, and then we could insist that they should do right in
the next place. When in England, in the year 1839, I had occasion to
address a large and respectable assemblage; and allusion having been
made to the relations of things between the two countries, I stated
then, what I thought and now think, that in any controversy which should
terminate in war between the United States and England, the only eminent
advantage that _either_ would possess would be found in the rectitude of
its cause. With the right on our side, we are a match for England; and
with the right on her side, she is a match for us, or for anybody.

We live in an age, fellow-citizens, when there has been established
among the nations a more elevated tribunal than ever before existed on
earth; I mean the tribunal of the enlightened public opinion of the
world. Governments cannot go to war now, either with or against the
consent of their own subjects or people, without the reprobation of
other states, unless for grounds and reasons justifying them in the
general judgment of mankind. The judgment of civilization, of commerce,
and of that heavenly light that beams over Christendom, restrains men,
congresses, parliaments, princes, and people from gratifying the
inordinate love of ambition through the bloody scenes of war. It has
been wisely said, and it is true, that every settlement of national
differences between Christian states by fair negotiation, without resort
to arms, is a new illustration and a new proof of the benign influence
of the Christian faith.

With regard to the terms of this treaty, and in relation to the other
subjects connected with it, it is somewhat awkward for me to speak,
because the documents connected with them have not been made public by
authority. But I persuade myself, that, when the whole shall be calmly
considered, it will be seen that there was throughout a fervent
disposition to maintain the interest and honor of the country, united
with a proper regard for the preservation of peace between us and the
greatest commercial nation of the world.

Gentlemen, while I receive these commendations which you have bestowed,
I have an agreeable duty to perform to others. In the first place, I
have great pleasure in bearing testimony to the intelligent interest
manifested by the President of the United States, under whose authority,
of course, I constantly acted throughout the negotiation, and his
sincere and anxious desire that it might result successfully. I take
great pleasure in acknowledging here, as I will acknowledge everywhere,
my obligations to him for the unbroken and steady confidence reposed in
me through the whole progress of an affair not unimportant to the
country, and infinitely important to my own reputation.

A negotiator disparaged, distrusted, treated with jealousy by his own
government, would be indeed a very unequal match for a cool and
sagacious representative of one of the proudest and most powerful
monarchies of Europe, possessing in the fullest extent the confidence of
his government, and authorized to bind it in concerns of the greatest
importance. I shall never forget the frankness and generosity with
which, after a full and free interchange of suggestions upon the
subject, I was told by the President that on my shoulders rested the
responsibility of the negotiation, and on my discretion and judgment
should rest the lead of every measure. I desire also to speak here of
the hearty co-operation rendered every day by the other gentlemen
connected with the administration, from every one of whom I received
important assistance. I speak with satisfaction, also, of the useful
labors of all the Commissioners, although I need hardly say here, what
has been already said officially, that the highest respect is due to the
Commissioners from Maine and Massachusetts for their faithful adherence
to the rights of their own States, mingled with a cordial co-operation
in what was required by the general interests of the United States. And
I hope I shall not be considered as trespassing on this occasion, if I
speak of the happy selection made by England of a person to represent
her government on this occasion,[2]--a thorough Englishman,
understanding and appreciating the great objects and interests of his
own government, of large and liberal views, and of such standing and
weight of character at home, as to impress a feeling of approbation of
his course upon both government and people. He was fully acquainted with
the subject, and always, on all occasions, as far as his allegiance and
duty permitted, felt and manifested good-will towards this country.

Aside from the question of the boundary, there were other important
subjects to be considered, to which I know not whether this is a proper
occasion to allude. When the results of the negotiation shall be fully
before the public, it will be seen that these other questions have not
been neglected, questions of great moment and importance to the country;
and then I shall look with concern, but with faith and trust, for the
judgment of that country upon them. It is but just to take notice of a
very important act, intended to provide for such cases as McLeod's, for
which the country is indebted to the Whig majorities in the two houses
of Congress, acting upon the President's recommendation. Events showed
the absolute necessity of removing into the national tribunals questions
involving the peace and honor of the United States.

There yet remain, Gentlemen, several other subjects still unsettled with
England. First, there is that concerning the trade between the United
States and the possessions of England, on this continent and in the West
Indies. It has been my duty to look into that subject, and to keep the
run of it, as we say, from the arrangement of 1829 and 1830, until the
present time. That arrangement was one unfavorable to the shipping
interests of the United States, and especially so to the New England
States. To adjust these relations is an important subject, either for
diplomatic negotiation, or the consideration of Congress. One or both
houses of Congress, indeed, have already called upon the proper
department for a report upon the operations of that arrangement, and a
committee of the House of Representatives has made a report, showing
that some adjustment of these relations is of vital importance to the
future prosperity of our navigating interests.

There is another question, somewhat more remote; that of the Northwest
Boundary, where the possessions of the two countries touch each other
upon the Pacific. There are evident public reasons why that question
should be settled before the country becomes peopled.

There are also, Gentlemen, many open questions respecting our relations
with other governments. Upon most of the other States of this continent,
citizens of the United States have claims, with regard to which the
delays already incurred have caused great injustice; and it becomes the
government of the United States, by a calm and dignified course, and a
deliberate and vigorous tone of administration of public affairs, to
secure prompt justice to our citizens in these quarters.

I am here to-day as a guest. I was invited by a number of highly valued
personal and political friends to partake with them of a public dinner,
for the purpose of giving them an opportunity to pass the usual greeting
of friends upon my return; of testifying their respect for my public
services heretofore; and of exchanging congratulations upon the results
of the late negotiation. It was at my instance that the proposed dinner
took the form of this meeting, and, instead of meeting them at the
festive board, I agreed to meet them, and those who chose to meet me
with them, here. Still, the general character of the meeting seems not
to be changed. I am here as a guest; here to receive greetings and
salutations for particular services, and not under any intimation or
expectation that I should address the gentlemen who invited me or others
here, upon subjects not suggested by themselves. It would not become me
to use the occasion for any more general purpose. Because, although I
have a design, at some time not far distant, to make known my sentiments
upon political matters generally, and upon the political state of the
country and that of its several parties, yet I know very well that I
should be trespassing beyond the bounds of politeness and propriety,
should I enter upon this whole wide field now. I will not enter upon it,
because the gentlemen who invited me entertain on many of these topics
views different from my own, and they would very properly say, that they
came here to meet Mr. Webster, to congratulate him upon the late
negotiation, and to exchange sentiments upon matters about which they
agreed with him; and that it was not in very correct taste for him to
use the occasion to express opinions upon other subjects on which they
differ. It is on that account that I shall forbear discussing political
subjects at large, and shall endeavor to confine my remarks to what may
be considered as affecting myself, directly or indirectly.

The Mayor was kind enough to say, that having, in his judgment,
performed the duties of my own department to the satisfaction of my
country, it might be left to me to take care of my own honor and
reputation. I suppose that he meant to say, that in the present
distracted state of the Whig party, and among the contrariety of
opinions that prevail (if there be a contrariety of opinion) as to the
course proper for _me_ to pursue, the decision of that question might be
left to myself. I am exactly of his opinion. I am quite of opinion that
on a question touching my own honor and character, as I am to bear the
consequences of the decision, I had a great deal better be trusted to
make it. No man feels more highly the advantage of the advice of friends
than I do; but on a question so delicate and important as that, I like
to choose myself the friends who are to give me advice; and upon this
subject, Gentlemen, I shall leave you as enlightened as I found you.

I give no pledges, I make no intimations, one way or the other; and I
will be as free, when this day closes, to act as duty calls, as I was
when the dawn of this day--(Here Mr. Webster was interrupted by
tremendous applause. When silence was restored he continued:)

There is a delicacy in the case, because there is always delicacy and
regret when one feels obliged to differ from his friends; but there is
no embarrassment. There is no embarrassment, because, if I see the path
of duty before me, I have that within me which will enable me to pursue
it, and throw all embarrassment to the winds. A public man has no
occasion to be embarrassed, if he is honest. Himself and his feelings
should be to him as nobody and as nothing; the interest of his country
must be to him as every thing; he must sink what is personal to himself,
making exertions for his country; and it is his ability and readiness to
do this which are to mark him as a great or as a little man in time to

There were many persons in September, 1841, who found great fault with
my remaining in the President's Cabinet. You know, Gentlemen, that
twenty years of honest, and not altogether undistinguished service in
the Whig cause, did not save me from an outpouring of wrath, which
seldom proceeds from Whig pens and Whig tongues against anybody. I am,
Gentlemen, a little hard to coax, but as to being driven, that is out of
the question. I chose to trust my own judgment, and thinking I was at a
post where I was in the service of the country, and could do it good, I
stayed there. And I leave it to you to-day to say, I leave it to my
country to say, whether the country would have been better off if I had
left also. I have no attachment to office. I have tasted of its sweets,
but I have tasted of its bitterness. I am content with what I have
achieved; I am more ready to rest satisfied with what is gained, than to
run the risk of doubtful efforts for new acquisition.

I suppose I ought to pause here. (Cries of "Go on!") I ought, perhaps,
to allude to nothing more, and I will not allude to any thing further
than it may be supposed to concern myself, directly or by implication.
Gentlemen, and Mr. Mayor, a most respectable convention of Whig
delegates met in this place a few days since, and passed very important
resolutions. There is no set of gentlemen in the Commonwealth, so far as
I know them, who have more of my respect and regard. They are Whigs, but
they are no better Whigs than I am. They have served the country in the
Whig ranks; so have I, quite as long as most of them, though perhaps
with less ability and success. Their resolutions on political subjects,
as representing the Whigs of the State, are entitled to respect, so far
as they were authorized to express opinion on those subjects, and no
further. They were sent hither, as I supposed, to agree upon candidates
for the offices of Governor and Lieutenant-Governor for the support of
the Whigs of Massachusetts; and if they had any authority to speak in
the name of the Whigs of Massachusetts to any other purport or intent, I
have not been informed of it. I feel very little disturbed by any of
those proceedings, of whatever nature; but some of them appear to me to
have been inconsiderate and hasty, and their point and bearing can
hardly be mistaken. I notice, among others, a declaration made, in
behalf of all the Whigs of this Commonwealth, of "a full and final
separation from the President of the United States." If those gentlemen
saw fit to express their own sentiments to that extent, there was no
objection. Whigs speak their sentiments everywhere; but whether they may
assume a privilege to speak for others on a point on which those others
have not given them authority, is another question. I am a Whig, I
always have been a Whig, and I always will be one; and if there are any
who would turn me out of the pale of that communion, let them see who
will get out first. I am a Massachusetts Whig, a Faneuil Hall Whig,
having breathed this air for five-and-twenty years, and meaning to
breathe it as long as my life is spared. I am ready to submit to all
decisions of Whig conventions on subjects on which they are authorized
to make decisions; I know that great party good and great public good
can only be so obtained. But it is quite another question whether a set
of gentlemen, however respectable they may be as individuals, shall have
the power to bind me on matters which I have not agreed to submit to
their decision at all.

"A full and final separation" is declared between the Whig party of
Massachusetts and the President. That is the text: it requires a
commentary. What does it mean? The President of the United States has
three years of his term of office yet unexpired. Does this declaration
mean, then, that during those three years all the measures of his
administration are to be opposed by the great body of the Whig party of
Massachusetts, whether they are right or wrong? There are great public
interests which require his attention. If the President of the United
States should attempt, by negotiation, or by earnest and serious
application to Congress, to make some change in the present
arrangements, such as should be of service to those interests of
navigation which are concerned in the colonial trade, are the Whigs of
Massachusetts to give him neither aid nor succor? If the President of
the United States shall direct the proper department to review the whole
commercial policy of the United States, in respect of reciprocity in the
indirect trade, to which so much of our tonnage is now sacrificed, if
the amendment of this policy shall be undertaken by him, is there such a
separation between him and the Whigs of Massachusetts as shall lead them
and their representatives to oppose it. Do you know (there are gentlemen
now here who do know) that a large proportion, I rather think more than
one half, of the carrying trade between the empire of Brazil and the
United States is enjoyed by tonnage from the North of Europe, in
consequence of this ill-considered principle with regard to reciprocity.
You might just as well admit them into the coasting trade. By this
arrangement, we take the bread out of our children's mouths and give it
to strangers. I appeal to you, Sir, (turning to Captain Benjamin Rich,
who sat by him,) is not this true? (Mr. Rich at once replied, True!) Is
every measure of this sort, for the relief of such abuses, to be
rejected? Are we to suffer ourselves to remain inactive under every
grievance of this kind until these three years shall expire, and through
as many more as shall pass until Providence shall bless us with more
power of doing good than we have now?

Again, there are now in this State persons employed under government,
allowed to be pretty good Whigs, still holding their offices;
collectors, district attorneys, postmasters, marshals. What is to become
of them in this separation? Which side are they to fall? Are they to
resign? or is this resolution to be held up to government as an
invitation or a provocation to turn them out? Our distinguished
fellow-citizen, who, with so much credit to himself and to his country,
represents our government in England,[3]--is _he_ expected to come home,
on this separation, and yield his place to his predecessor,[4] or to
somebody else? And in regard to the individual who addresses you,--what
do his brother Whigs mean to do with him? Where do they mean to place
me? Generally, when a divorce takes place, the parties divide their
children. I am anxious to know where, in the case of this divorce, I
shall fall. This declaration announces a full and final separation
between the Whigs of Massachusetts and the President. If I choose to
remain in the President's councils, do these gentlemen mean to say that
I cease to be a Massachusetts Whig? I am quite ready to put that
question to the people of Massachusetts.

I would not treat this matter too lightly, nor yet too seriously. I know
very well that, when public bodies get together, resolutions can never
be considered with any degree of deliberation. They are passed as they
are presented. Who the honorable gentlemen were who drew this resolution
I do not know. I suspect that they had not much meaning in it, and that
they have not very clearly defined what little meaning they had. They
were angry; they were resentful; they had drawn up a string of charges
against the President,--a bill of indictment, as it were,--and, to close
the whole, they introduced this declaration about "a full and final
separation." I could not read this, of course, without perceiving that
it had an intentional or unintentional bearing on my position; and
therefore it was proper for me to allude to it here.

Gentlemen, there are some topics on which it has been my fortune to
differ from my old friends. They may be right on these topics; very
probably they are; but I am sure _I_ am right in maintaining my
opinions, such as they are, when I have formed them honestly and on
deliberation. There seems to me to be a disposition to postpone all
attempts to do good to the country to some future and uncertain day. Yet
there is a Whig majority in each house of Congress, and I am of opinion
that now is the time to accomplish what yet remains to be accomplished.
Some gentlemen are for suffering the present Congress to expire; another
Congress to be chosen, and to expire also; a third Congress to be
chosen, and then, if there shall be a Whig majority in both branches,
and a Whig President, they propose to take up highly important and
pressing subjects. These are persons, Gentlemen, of more sanguine
temperament than myself. "Confidence," says Lord Chatham, "is a plant of
slow growth in an old bosom." He referred to confidence in men, but the
remark is as true of confidence in predictions of future occurrences.
Many Whigs see before us a prospect of more power, and a better chance
to serve the country, than we now possess. Far along in the horizon,
they discern mild skies and halcyon seas, while fogs and darkness and
mists blind other sons of humanity from beholding all this bright
vision. It was not so that we accomplished our last great victory, by
simply brooding over a glorious Whig future. We succeeded in 1840, but
not without an effort; and I know that nothing but union, cordial,
sympathetic, fraternal union, can prevent the party that achieved that
success from renewed prostration. It is not,--I would say it in the
presence of the world,--it is not by premature and partial, by
proscriptive and denunciatory proceedings, that this great Whig family
can ever be kept together, or that Whig counsels can maintain their
ascendency. This is perfectly plain and obvious. It was a party, from
the first, made up of different opinions and principles, of gentlemen of
every political complexion, uniting to make a change in the
administration. They were men of strong State-rights principles, men of
strong federal principles, men of extreme tariff, and men of extreme
anti-tariff notions. What could be expected of such a party, unless
animated by a spirit of conciliation and harmony, of union and sympathy?
Its true policy was, from the first, and must be, unless it meditates
its own destruction, to heal, and not to widen, the breaches that
existed in its ranks. It consented to become united in order to save the
country from a continuation of a ruinous course of measures. And the
lesson taught by the whole history of the revolution of 1840 is the
momentous value of conciliation, friendship, sympathy, and union.

Gentlemen, if I understand the matter, there were four or five great
objects in that revolution. And, in the first place, one great object
was that of attempting to secure permanent peace between this country
and England. For although, as I have said, we were not actually at war,
we were subjected to perpetual agitations, which disturb the interests
of the country almost as much as war. They break in upon men's pursuits,
and render them incapable of calculating or judging of their chances of
success in any proposed line or course of business. A settled peace was
one of the objects of that revolution. I am glad if you think this is

The next object of that revolution was an increase of revenue. It was
notorious that, for the several last years, the expenditures for the
administration of government had exceeded the receipts; in other words,
government had been running in debt, and in the mean time the operation
of the compromise act was still further and faster diminishing the
revenue itself. A sound revenue was one of those objects; and that it
has been accomplished, our thanks and praise are due to the Congress
that has just adjourned.

A third object was protection, protection incidental to revenue, or
consequent upon revenue. Now as to that, Gentlemen, much has been done,
and I hope it will be found that enough has been done. And for this,
too, all the Whigs who supported that measure in Congress are entitled
to high praise: they receive mine, and I hope they do yours; it is right
that they should. But let us be just. The French rhetoricians have a
maxim, that there is nothing beautiful that is not true; I am afraid
that some of our jubilant oratory would hardly stand the test of this
canon of criticism. It is not true that a majority, composed of Whigs,
could be found, in either house, in favor of the tariff bill. More than
thirty Whigs, many of them gentlemen of lead and influence, voted
against the law, from beginning to end, on all questions, direct and
indirect; and it is not pleasant to consider what would have been the
state of the country, the treasury, and the government itself, at this
moment, if the law actually passed, for revenue and for protection, had
depended on Whig votes alone. After all, it passed the House of
Representatives by a single vote; and there is a good deal of _eclat_
about that single vote. But did not every gentleman who voted for it
take the responsibility and deserve the honor of that single vote?
Several gentlemen in the opposition thus befriended the bill; thus did
our neighbor from the Middlesex District of this State,[5] voting for
the tariff out and out, as steadily as did my honored friend, the member
from this city.[6] We hear nothing of his "coming to the rescue," and
yet he had that _one vote_, and held the tariff in his hand as
absolutely as if he had had a presidential veto! And how was it in the
Senate? It passed by one vote again there, and could not have passed at
all without the assistance of the two Senators from Pennsylvania, of Mr.
Williams of Maine, and of Mr. Wright of New York. Let us then admit the
truth (and a lawyer may do that when it helps his case), that it was
necessary that a large portion of the other party should come to the
assistance of the Whigs to enable them to carry the tariff, and that, if
this assistance had not been rendered, the tariff must have failed.

And this is a very important truth for New England. Her children,
looking to their manufactures and industry for their livelihood, must
rejoice to find the tariff, so necessary to these, no party question.
Can they desire, can they wish, that such a great object as the
protection of industry should become a party object, rising with party,
and with the failure of the party that supported it going to the grave?
This is a public, a national question. The tariff ought to be inwrought
in the sentiments of all parties; and although I hope that the
pre-eminence of Whig principles may be eternal, I wish to take bond and
security, that we may make the protection of domestic industry more
durable even than Whig supremacy.

Let us be true in another respect. This tariff has accomplished much,
and is an honor to the men who passed it. But in regard to protection it
has only restored the country to the state in which it was before the
compromise act, and from which it fell under the operation of that act.
It has repaired the consequences of that measure, and it has done _no
more_. I may speak of the compromise act. My turn has come now. No
measure ever passed Congress during my connection with that body that
caused me so much grief and mortification. It was passed by a few
friends joining the whole host of the enemy. I have heard much of the
motives of that act. The personal motives of those that passed the act
were, I doubt not, pure; and all public men are supposed to act from
pure motives. But if by motives are meant the objects proposed by the
act itself, and expressed in it, then I say, if those be the motives
alluded to, they are worse than the act itself. The principle was bad,
the measure was bad, the consequences were bad. Every circumstance, as
well as every line of the act itself, shows that the design was to
impose upon legislation a restraint that the Constitution had not
imposed; to insert in the Constitution a new prohibitory clause,
providing that, after the year 1842, no revenue should be collected
except according to an absurd horizontal system, and none exceeding
twenty per cent. It was then pressed through under the great emergency
of the public necessities. But I may now recur to what I then said,
namely, that its principle was false and dangerous, and that, when its
time came, it would rack and convulse our system. I said we should not
get rid of it without throes and spasms. Has not this been as predicted?
We have felt the spasms and throes of this convulsion; but we have at
last gone through them, and begin to breathe again. It is something that
that act is at last got rid of; and the present tariff is deserving in
this, that it is specific and discriminating, that it holds to common
sense, and rejects and discards the principles of the compromise act, I
hope for ever.

Another great and principal object of the revolution of 1840 was a
restoration of the currency. Our troubles did not begin with want of
money in the treasury, or under the sapping and mining operation of the
compromise act. They are of earlier date. The trouble and distress of
the country began with the _currency_ in 1833, and broke out with new
severity in 1837. Other causes of difficulty have since arisen, but the
first great shock was a shock on the currency; and from the effect of
this the country is not yet relieved. I hope the late act may yield
competent revenue, and am sure it will do much for protection. But until
you provide a better currency, so that you may have a universal one, of
equal and general value throughout the land, I am hard to be persuaded
that we shall see the day of our former prosperity. Currency, accredited
currency, and easy and cheap internal exchanges,--until these things be
obtained, depend upon it, the country will find no adequate relief.

And now, fellow-citizens, I will say a word or two on the history of the
transactions on this subject. At the special session of Congress, the
Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Ewing, arranged a plan for a national
bank. That plan was founded upon the idea of a large capital, furnished
mainly by private subscriptions, and it included branches for local
discounts. I need not advert, Gentlemen, to the circumstances under
which this scheme was drawn up, and received, as it did, the approbation
of the President and Cabinet, as the best thing that could be done. I
need not remind you, that he whom we had all agreed should hold the
second place in the government had been called to the head of it. I need
not say that he held opinions wholly different from mine on the subjects
which now came before us. But those opinions were fixed, and therefore
it was thought the part of wisdom and prudence not to see how strong a
case might be made against the President, but to get along as well as we
might. With such views, Mr. Ewing presented his plan to Congress. As
most persons will remember, the clause allowing the bank to establish
branches provided that those branches might be placed in any State which
should give its consent. I have no idea that there is any necessity for
such a restriction. I believe Congress has the power to establish the
branches without, as well as with, the consent of the States. But that
clause, at most, was theoretical. I never could find anybody who could
show any practical mischief resulting from it. Its opponents went upon
the theory, which I do not exactly accord with, that an omission to
exercise a power, in any case, amounts to a surrender of that power. At
any rate, it was the best thing that could be done; and its rejection
was the commencement of the disastrous dissensions between the President
and Congress.

Gentlemen, it was exceedingly doubtful at the time when that plan was
prepared whether the capital would be subscribed. But we did what we
could about it. We asked the opinion of the leading merchants of the
principal commercial cities. They were invited to Washington to confer
with us. They expressed doubts whether the bank could be put into
operation, but they expressed hopes also, and they pledged themselves to
do the best they could to advance it. And as the commercial interests
were in its favor, as the administration was new and fresh and popular,
and the people were desirous to have something done, a great earnestness
was felt that that bill should be tried.

It was sent to the Senate at the Senate's request, and by the Senate it
was rejected. Another bill was reported in the Senate, without the
provision requiring the consent of the States to branches, was discussed
for six weeks or two months, and then could not pass even a Whig Senate.
Here was the origin of distrust, disunion, and resentment.

I will not pursue the unhappy narrative of the latter part of the
session of 1841. Men had begun to grow excited and angry and resentful.
I expressed the opinion, at an early period, to all those to whom I was
entitled to speak, that it would be a great deal better to forbear
further action at present. That opinion, as expressed to the two Whig
Senators from Massachusetts, is before the public. I wished Congress to
give time for consultation to take place, for harmony to be restored;
because I looked for no good, except from the united and harmonious
action of all the branches of the Whig government. I suppose that
counsel was not good, certainly it was not followed. I need not add the

This brings us, as far as concerns the questions of currency, to the
last session of Congress. Early in that session the Secretary of the
Treasury sent in a plan of an exchequer. It met with little favor in
either House, and therefore it is necessary for me, Gentlemen, lest the
whole burden fall on others, to say that it had my hearty, sincere, and
entire approbation. Gentlemen, I hope that I have not manifested through
my public life a very overweening confidence in my own judgment, or a
very unreasonable unwillingness to accept the views of others. But there
are some subjects on which I feel entitled to pay some respect to my own
opinion. The subject of currency, Gentlemen, has been the study of my
life. Thirty years ago, a little before my entrance into the House of
Representatives, the questions connected with a mixed currency,
involving the proper relation of paper to specie, and the proper means
of restricting an excessive issue of paper, came to be discussed by the
most acute and well-disciplined understandings in England in Parliament.
At that time, during the suspension of specie payments by the bank, when
paper was fifteen per cent below par, Mr. Vansittart had presented his
celebrated resolution, declaring that a bank-note was still worth the
value expressed on its face; that the bank note had not depreciated, but
that the price of bullion had risen. Lord Liverpool and Lord Castlereagh
espoused this view, as we know, and it was opposed by the close
reasoning of Huskisson, the powerful logic of Horner, and the practical
sagacity and common sense of Alexander Baring, now Lord Ashburton. The
study of those debates made me a bullionist. They convinced me that
paper could not circulate safely in any country, any longer than it was
immediately redeemable at the place of its issue. Coming into Congress
the very next year, or the next but one after, and finding the finances
of the country in a most deplorable condition, I then and ever after
devoted myself, in preference to all other public topics, to the
consideration of the questions relating to them. I believe I have read
every thing of value that has been published since on those questions,
on either side of the Atlantic. I have studied by close observation the
laws of paper currency, as they have exhibited themselves in this and in
other countries, from 1811 down to the present time. I have expressed my
opinions at various times in Congress, and some of the predictions which
I have made have not been altogether falsified by subsequent events. I
must therefore be permitted, Gentlemen, without yielding to any flippant
newspaper paragraph, or to the hasty ebullitions of debate in a public
assembly, to say, that I believe the plan for an exchequer, as presented
to Congress at its last session, is the _best_ measure, the _only_
measure for the adoption of Congress and the trial of the people. I am
ready to stake my reputation upon it, and that is all that I have to
stake. I am ready to stake my reputation, that, if this Whig Congress
will take that measure and give it a fair trial, within three years it
will be admitted by the whole American people to be the most beneficial
measure of any sort ever adopted in this country, the Constitution only

I mean that they should take it as it was when it came from the Cabinet,
not as it looked when the committees of Congress had laid their hands
upon it. For when the committees of Congress had struck out the proviso
respecting exchange, it was not worth a rush; it was not worth the
parchment it would be engrossed upon. The great desire of this country
is a general currency, a facility of exchange; a currency which shall be
the same for you and for the people of Alabama and Louisiana, and a
system of exchange which shall equalize credit between them and you,
with the rapidity and facility with which steam conveys men and
merchandise. That is what the country wants, what you want; and you have
not got it. You have not got it, you cannot get it, but by some adequate
provision of government. Exchange, ready exchange, that will enable a
man to turn his Orleans means into money to-day, (as we have had in
better times millions a year exchanged, at only three quarters of one
per cent,) is what is wanted How are we to obtain this? A Bank of the
United States founded on a private subscription is out of the question.
That is an obsolete idea. The country and the condition of things have
changed. Suppose that a bank were chartered with a capital of fifty
millions, to be raised by private subscription. Would it not be out of
all possibility to find the money? Who would subscribe? What would you
get for shares? And as for the local discount, do you wish it? Do you,
in State Street, wish that the nation should send millions of untaxed
banking capital hither to increase your discounts? What, then, shall we
do? People who are waiting for power to make a Bank of the United States
may as well postpone all attempts to benefit the country to the incoming
of the Jews.

What, then, shall we do? Let us turn to this plan of the exchequer,
brought forward last year. It was assailed from all quarters. One
gentleman did say, I believe, that by some possibility some good might
come out of it, but in general it met with a different opposition from
every different class. Some said it would be a perfectly lifeless
machine,--that it was no system at all,--that it would do nothing, for
good or evil; others thought that it had a great deal too much vitality,
admitting that it would answer the purpose perfectly well for which it
was designed, but fearing that it would increase the executive power:
thus making it at once King Log and King Serpent. One party called it a
ridiculous imbecility; the other, a dangerous giant, that might subvert
the Constitution. These varied arguments, contradicting, if not
refuting, one another, convinced me of one thing at least,--that the
bill would not be adopted, nor even temperately and candidly considered.
And it was not. In a manner quite unusual, it was discussed, assailed,
denounced, before it was allowed to take the course of reference and

The difficulties we meet in carrying out our system of constitutional
government are indeed extraordinary. The Constitution was intended as
an instrument of great political good; but we sometimes so dispute its
meaning, that we cannot use it at all. One man will not have a bank,
without the power of local discount, against the consent of the States;
for that, he insists, would break the Constitution. Another will not
have a bank with such a power, because he thinks that would break the
Constitution. A third will not have an exchequer, with authority to deal
in exchanges, because that would increase executive influence, and so
might break the Constitution. And between them all, we are like the
boatman who, in the midst of rocks and currents and whirlpools, will not
pull one stroke for safety, lest he break his oar. Are we now looking
for the time when we can charter a United States Bank with a large
private subscription? When will that be? When confidence is restored.
Are we, then, to do nothing to save the vessel from sinking, till the
chances of the winds and waves have landed us on the shore? He is more
sanguine than I am, who thinks that the time will soon come when the
Whigs have more power to work effectually for the good of the country
than they now have. The voice of patriotism calls upon them not to
postpone, but to act at this moment, at the very next session; to make
the best of their means, and to try. You say that the administration is
responsible; why not, then, try the plan it has recommended. If it
fails, let the President bear the responsibility. If you will not try
this plan, why not propose something else?

Gentlemen, in speaking of events that have happened, I ought to say, and
will, since I am making a full and free communication, that there is no
one of my age, and I am no longer very young, who has written or spoken
more against the abuse and indiscreet use of the veto power than I have.
And there is no one whose opinions upon this subject are less changed. I
presume it is universally known, that I have advised against the use of
the veto power on every occasion when it has been used since I have been
in the Cabinet. But I am, nevertheless, not willing to join those who
seem more desirous to make out a case against the President, than of
serving their country to the extent of their ability, vetoes
notwithstanding. Indeed, at the close of the extra session, the received
doctrine of many seemed to be, that they would undertake nothing until
they could amend the Constitution so as to do away with this power. This
was mere mockery. If we were now reforming the Constitution, we might
wish for some, I do not say what, guards and restraints upon this power
more than the Constitution at present contains; but no convention would
recommend striking it out altogether. Have not the people of New York
lately amended their constitution, so as to require, in certain
legislative action, votes of two thirds? and is not this same
restriction in daily use in the national House of Representatives
itself, in the case of suspension of the rules? This constitutional
power, therefore, is no greater a restraint than this body imposes on
itself. But it is utterly hopeless to look for such an amendment; who
expects to live to see its day? And to give up all practical efforts,
and to go on with a general idea that the Constitution must be amended
before anything can be done, was, I will not say trifling, but treating
the great necessities of the people as of quite too little importance.
This Congress accomplished, in this regard, nothing for the people. The
exchequer plan which was submitted to it will accomplish some of the
objects of the people, and especially the Whig people. I am confident of
it; I know it. When a mechanic makes a tool, an axe, a saw, or a plane,
and knows that the temper is good and the parts are well proportioned,
he knows that it will answer its purpose. And I know that this plan will
answer its purpose.

There are other objects which ought not to be neglected, among which is


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