The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

Part 21 out of 25

third party man.

Now, Gentlemen, I remember it to have occurred, that, on very important
questions in Congress, the vote was lost for want of two or three
members which Massachusetts might have sent, but which, in consequence
of the division of parties, she did not send. And now I foresee that, if
in this district any considerable number of Whigs think it their duty to
join in the support of Mr. Van Buren, and in the support of gentlemen
whom that party may nominate for Congress, the same thing will take
place, and we shall be without a representative, in all probability, in
the first session of the next Congress, when the battle is to be fought
on this very slavery question. The same is likely to happen in other
districts. I am sure that honest, intelligent, and patriotic Whigs will
lay this consideration to their consciences, and judge of it as they
think they ought to do.

Gentlemen, I will detain you but a moment longer. You know that I gave
my vote in Congress against the treaty of peace with Mexico, because it
contained these cessions of territory, and brought under the authority
of the United States, with a pledge of future admission into the Union,
the great, vast, and almost unknown countries of New Mexico and

In the session before the last, one of the Southern Whig Senators, Mr.
Berrien of Georgia, had moved a resolution, to the effect that the war
ought not to be continued for the purposes of conquest and acquisition.
The resolution declared that the war with Mexico ought not to be
prosecuted by this government with any view to the dismemberment of that
republic, or to the acquisition, by conquest, of any portion of her
territory. That proposition he introduced into the Senate, in the form
of a resolution; and I believe that every Whig Senator but one voted for
it. But the Senators belonging to the Locofoco or Democratic party voted
against it. The Senators from New York voted against it. General Cass,
from the free State of Michigan, Mr. Fairfield, from Maine, Mr. Niles,
from Connecticut, and others, voted against it, and the vote was lost.
That is, these gentlemen,--some of them very prominent friends of Mr.
Van Buren, and ready to take the field for him,--these very gentlemen
voted not to exclude territory that might be obtained by conquest. They
were willing to bring in the territory, and then have a squabble and
controversy whether it should be slave or free territory. I was of
opinion that the true and safe policy was, to shut out the whole
question by getting no territory, and thereby keep off all controversy.
The territory will do us no good, if free; it will be an encumbrance, if
free. To a great extent, it will produce a preponderance in favor of the
South in the Senate, even if it be free. Let us keep it out, therefore.
But no. We will make the acquisition, bring in the territory, and manage
it afterwards. That was the policy.

Gentlemen, in an important crisis in English history, in the reign of
Charles the Second, when the country was threatened by the accession to
the throne of a prince, then called the Duke of York, who was a bigot to
the Roman Catholic religion, a proposition was made to exclude him from
the crown. Some said that was a very rash measure, brought forward by
very rash men; that they had better admit him, and then put limitations
upon him, chain him down, restrict him. When the debate was going on, a
member is reported to have risen and expressed his sentiments by rather
a grotesque comparison, but one of considerable force:--

"I hear a lion, in the lobby roar!
Say, Mr. Speaker, shall we shut the door,
And keep him out; or shall we let him in,
And see if we can get him out again?"

I was for shutting the door and keeping the lion out. Other more
confident spirits, who are of the character of Van Amburgh, were for
letting him in, and disturbing all the interests of the country. When
this Mexican treaty came before the Senate, it had certain clauses
ceding New Mexico and California to the United States. A Southern
gentleman, Mr. Badger, of North Carolina, moved to strike out those
clauses. Now you understand, that if a motion to strike out a clause of
a treaty be supported by one third, it will be struck out; that is, two
thirds of the Senate must vote for each clause, in order to have it
retained. The vote on this question of striking out stood 38 to 14, not
quite one third being against the cession, and so the clause was
retained. And why were there not one third? Just because there were four
New England Senators voting for these new territories. That is the

I hope I am as ardent an advocate for peace as any man living; but I
would not be carried away by the desire for peace to commit an act which
I believed highly injurious, likely to have consequences of a permanent
character, and indeed to endanger the existence of the government.
Besides, I believed that we could have struck out the cessions of
territory, and had peace just as soon. And I would be willing to go
before the people and leave it to them to say, whether they would carry
on the war any longer for acquisition of territory. If they would, then
they were the artificers of their own fortunes. I was not afraid of the
people on that subject. But if this course had continued the war
somewhat longer, I would have preferred that result, rather than that
those territories lying on our southern border should come in hereafter
as new States. I should speak, perhaps, with more confidence, if some
Whigs of the North had not voted for the treaty. My own opinion was then
clear and decisive. For myself I thought the case a perfectly plain one,
and no man has yet stated a reason to convince me to the contrary.

I voted to strike out the articles of cession. They would have been
struck out if four of the New England Senators had not voted against the
motion. I then voted against the ratification of the treaty, and that
treaty would have failed if three New England Senators had not voted for
it, and Whig Senators too. I should do the same thing again, and with
much more resolution. I would have run a still greater risk, I would
have endured a still greater shock, I would have risked anything, rather
than have been a participator in any measure which should have a
tendency to annex Southern territory to the States of the Union. I hope
it will be remembered, in all future time, that on this question of the
accession of these new territories of almost boundless extent, I voted
against them, and against the treaty which contained them,
notwithstanding all inducements to the contrary, and all the cries,
which I thought hasty and injudicious, of "Peace! Peace on any terms!" I
will add, that those who voted against the treaty were gentlemen from so
many parts of the country, that its rejection would have been an act
rather of national than of local resistance. There were votes against it
from both parties, and from all parties, the South and the West, the
North and the East. What we wanted was a few more New England votes.

Gentlemen, after I had the honor of receiving the invitation to meet my
fellow-citizens, I found it necessary, in the discharge of my duty,
though with great inconvenience to my health, to be present at the
closing scenes of the session. You know what there transpired. You know
the important decision that was made in both houses of Congress, in
regard to Oregon. The immediate question respected Oregon, or rather the
bill respected Oregon, but the question more particularly concerned
these new territories. The effect of the bill as passed in the Senate
was to establish these new territories as slave-holding States. The
House disagreed. The Senate receded from their ground, and the bill
passed, establishing Oregon as a free Territory, and making no provision
for the newly acquired territories on the South. My vote, and the
reasons I gave for it, are known to the good people of Massachusetts,
and I have not heard that they have expressed any particular
disapprobation of them.

But this question is to be resumed at the first session of the next
Congress. There is no probability that it will be settled at the next
session of this Congress. But at least at the first session of the next
Congress this question will be resumed. It will enter at this very
period into all the elections of the South.

And now I venture to say, Gentlemen, two things; the first well known to
you, that General Cass is in favor of what is called the Compromise
Line, and is of opinion that the Wilmot Proviso, or the Ordinance of
1787, which excludes slavery from territories, ought not to be applied
to territories lying south of 36 deg. 30'. He announced this before he was
nominated, and if he had not announced it, he would have been 36 deg. 30'
farther off from being nominated. In the next place, he will do all he
can to establish that compromise line; and lastly, which is a matter of
opinion, in my conscientious belief he will establish it.

Give him the power and the patronage of the government, let him exercise
it over certain portions of the country whose representatives voted on
this occasion to put off that question for future consideration; let him
have the power of this government with his attachments, with his
inducements, and we shall see the result. I verily believe, that unless
there is a renewed strength, an augmented strength, of Whig votes in
Congress, he will accomplish his purpose. He will surely have the
Senate, and with the patronage of the government, with every interest
which he can bring to bear, co-operating with every interest which the
South can bring to bear, he will establish the compromise line. We cry
safety before we are out of the woods, if we feel that the danger
respecting the territories is over.

Gentlemen, I came here to confer with you as friends and countrymen, to
speak my own mind and hear yours; but if we all should speak, and occupy
as much time as I have, we should make a late meeting. I shall detain
you no longer. I have been long in public life, longer, far longer than
I shall remain there. I have had some participation for more than thirty
years in the councils of the nation. I profess to feel a strong
attachment to the liberty of the United States, to the Constitution and
free institutions of this country, to the honor, and I may say the
glory, of my native land. I feel every injury inflicted upon it, almost
as a personal injury. I blush for every fault which I think I see
committed in its public councils, as if they were faults or mistakes of
my own. I know that, at this moment, there is no object upon earth so
much attracting the gaze of the intelligent and civilized nations of the
earth as this great republic. All men look at us, all men examine our
course, all good men are anxious for a favorable result to this great
experiment of republican liberty. We are on a hill and cannot be hid. We
cannot withdraw ourselves either from the commendation or the reproaches
of the civilized world. They see us as that star of empire which half a
century ago was represented as making its way westward. I wish they may
see it as a mild, placid, though brilliant orb, moving athwart the whole
heavens to the enlightening and cheering of mankind; and not as a meteor
of fire and blood terrifying the nations.


[The death of the Hon. Jeremiah Mason, one of the most eminent members
of the legal profession in the United States, took place at Boston, on
the 14th of October, 1848. At a meeting of the Bar of the County of
Suffolk, Mass., held on the 17th instant, appropriate resolutions in
honor of the deceased, accompanied with a few eloquent observations,
were introduced by Mr. Choate, and unanimously adopted. It was voted by
the meeting, that Mr. Webster should be requested to present these
resolutions to the Supreme Judicial Court at its next term in Boston.

In compliance with this request, at the opening of the next term of the
court, on the 14th of November, 1848, prayer having been offered, Mr.
Webster rose and spoke as follows.]

May it please your Honors,--JEREMIAH MASON, one of the counsellors of
this court, departed this life on the 14th of October, at his residence
in this city. The death of one of its members, so highly respected, so
much admired and venerated, could not fail to produce a striking
impression upon the members of this bar; and a meeting was immediately
called, at which a member of this court, just on the eve of leaving the
practice of his profession for a seat on the bench,[1] presided; and
resolutions expressive of the sense entertained by the bar of the high
character of the deceased, and of sincere condolence with those whom his
loss touched more nearly, were moved by one of his distinguished
brethren, and adopted with entire unanimity. My brethren have appointed
me to the honorable duty of presenting these resolutions to this court;
and it is in discharge of that duty that I rise to address you, and pray
that the resolutions which I hold in my hand may be read by the clerk.

The clerk of the court then read the resolutions, as follows:--

"_Resolved_, That the members of this bar have heard with profound
emotion of the decease of the Honorable Jeremiah Mason, one of the
most eminent and distinguished of the great men who have ever
adorned this profession; and, as well in discharge of a public
duty, as in obedience to the dictates of our private feelings, we
think it proper to mark this occasion by some attempt to record our
estimate of his pre-eminent abilities and high character.

"_Resolved_, That the public character and services of Mr. Mason
demand prominent commemoration; that, throughout his long life,
whether as a private person or in public place, he maintained a
wide and various intercourse with public men, and cherished a
constant and deep interest in public affairs, and by his vast
practical wisdom and sagacity, the fruit of extraordinary
intellectual endowments, matured thought, and profound observation,
and by the soundness of his opinions and the comprehensiveness and
elevated tone of his politics, he exerted at all times a great and
most salutary influence upon the sentiments and policy of the
community and the country; and that, as a Senator in the Congress
of the United States during a period of many years, and in a crisis
of affairs which demanded the wisdom of the wisest and the civil
virtues of the best, he was distinguished among the most eminent
men of his country for ability in debate, for attention to all the
duties of his great trust, for moderation, for prudence, for
fidelity to the obligations of that party connection to which he
was attached, for fidelity still more conspicuous and still more
admirable to the higher obligations of a thoughtful and enlarged

"_Resolved_, That it was the privilege of Mr. Mason to come to the
bar when the jurisprudence of New England was yet in its infancy;
that he brought to its cultivation great general ability, and a
practical sagacity, logical power, and patient
research,--constituting altogether a legal genius, rarely if ever
surpassed; that it was greatly through his influence that the
growing wants of a prosperous State were met and satisfied by a
system of common law at once flexible and certain, deduced by the
highest human wisdom from the actual wants of the community,
logically correct, and practically useful; that in the fact that
the State of New Hampshire now possesses such a system of law,
whose gladsome light has shone on other States, are seen both the
product and the monument of his labors, less conspicuous, but not
less real, than if embodied in codes and institutes bearing his
name; yet that, bred as he was to the common law, his great powers,
opened and liberalized by its study and practice, enabled him to
grasp readily, and wield with entire ease, those systems of equity,
applicable to the transactions of the land or the sea, which, in
recent times, have so much meliorated and improved the
administration of justice in our country.

"_Resolved_, That as respects his practice as a counsellor and
advocate at this bar, we would record our sense of his integrity,
prudence, fidelity, depth of learning, knowledge of men and
affairs, and great powers of persuading kindred minds; and we know
well, that, when _he_ died, there was extinguished one of the few
great lights of the old common law.

"_Resolved_, That Mr. Webster be requested to present these
resolutions to the Supreme Judicial Court, at its next term, in
Boston; and the District Attorney of the United States be requested
to present them to the Circuit Court of the United States now in

"_Resolved_, That the Secretary communicate to the family of Mr.
Mason a copy of these resolutions, together with the respectful
sympathy of the bar."

The proprieties of this occasion (continued Mr. Webster) compel me, with
whatever reluctance, to refrain from the indulgence of the personal
feelings which arise in my heart, upon the death of one with whom I have
cultivated a sincere, affectionate, and unbroken friendship, from the
day when I commenced my own professional career, to the closing hour of
his life. I will not say, of the advantages which I have derived from
his intercourse and conversation, all that Mr. Fox said of Edmund Burke;
but I am bound to say, that of my own professional discipline and
attainments, whatever they may be, I owe much to that close attention to
the discharge of my duties which I was compelled to pay, for nine
successive years, from day to day, by Mr. Mason's efforts and arguments
at the same bar. _Fas est ab hoste doceri_; and I must have been
unintelligent, indeed, not to have learned something from the constant
displays of that power which I had so much occasion to see and to feel.

It is the more appropriate duty of the present moment to give some short
notice of his life, character, and the qualities of his mind and heart,
so that he may be presented as an example to those who are entering upon
or pursuing the same career. Four or five years ago, Mr. Mason drew up a
biography of himself, from the earliest period of his recollection to
the time of his removal to Portsmouth, in 1797; which is interesting,
not only for the information it gives of the mode in which the habits of
his life were formed, but also for the manner of its composition.

He was born on the 27th day of April, 1768, at Lebanon in Connecticut.
His remotest ancestor in this country was Captain John Mason (an officer
who had served with distinction in the Netherlands, under Sir Thomas
Fairfax), who came from England in 1630, and settled at Dorchester in
the Colony of Massachusetts. His great-grandfather lived at Haddam. His
grandfather, born in 1705, lived at Norwich, and died in the year 1779.
Mr. Mason remembered him, and recollected his character, as that of a
respectable and deeply religious man. His ancestor on the maternal side
was James Fitch, a learned divine, who came from England and settled in
Saybrook, but removed to Lebanon, where he died. A Latin epitaph, in the
ancient burying-ground of that town, records his merits. One of his
descendants held a large tract of land in the parish of Goshen, in the
town of Lebanon, by grant from the Indians; one half of which, near a
century afterwards, was bequeathed to his daughter, Elizabeth Fitch, the
mother of Mr. Mason. To this property Mr. Mason's father removed soon
after his marriage, and there he died, in 1813. The title of this land
was obtained from Uncas, an Indian sachem in that neighborhood, by the
great-grandfather of Mr. Mason's mother, and has never been alienated
from the family. It is now owned by Mr. Mason's nephew, Jeremiah Mason,
the son of his eldest brother James. The family has been distinguished
for longevity; the average ages of Mr. Mason's six immediate ancestors
having exceeded eighty-three years each. Mr. Mason was the sixth of nine
children, all of whom are now dead.

Mr. Mason's father was a man of intelligence and activity, of
considerable opulence, and highly esteemed by the community. At the
commencement of the Revolutionary war, being a zealous Whig, he raised
and commanded a company of minute-men, as they were called, and marched
to the siege of Boston. Here he rendered important service, being
stationed at Dorchester Heights, and engaged in fortifying that
position. In the autumn of that year, he was promoted to a colonelcy,
and joined the army with his regiment, in the neighborhood of New York.
At the end of the campaign, he returned home out of health, but retained
the command of his regiment, which he rallied and brought out with
celerity and spirit when General Arnold assaulted and burned New London.
He became attached to military life, and regretted that he had not at an
early day entered the Continental service. Colonel Mason was a good man,
affectionate to his family, kind and obliging to his neighbors, and
faithful in the observance of all moral and religious duties.

Mr. Mason's mother was distinguished for a good understanding, much
discretion, the purity of her heart and affections, and the exemplary
kindness and benevolence of her life. It was her great anxiety to give
all her children the best education, within the means of the family,
which the state of the country would allow; and she was particularly
desirous that Jeremiah should be sent to college. "In my recollection of
my mother," says Mr. Mason, "she was the personification of love,
kindness, and benevolence."

Destined for an education and for professional life, Mr. Mason was sent
to Yale College, at sixteen years of age; his preparatory studies having
been pursued under "Master Tisdale," who had then been forty years at
the head of a school in Lebanon, which had become distinguished, and
among the scholars of which were the Wheelocks, afterwards Presidents of
Dartmouth College. He was graduated in 1784, and performed a part in the
Commencement exercises, which greatly raised the expectation of his
friends, and gratified and animated his love for distinction. "In the
course of a long and active life," says he, "I recollect no occasion
when I have experienced such elevation of feeling." This was the effect
of that spirit of emulation which incited the whole course of his life
of usefulness. There is now prevalent among us a morbid and sickly
notion, that emulation, even as honorable rivalry, is a debasing
passion, and not to be encouraged. It supposes that the mind should be
left without such excitement, in a dreamy and undisturbed state, flowing
or not flowing, according to its own impulse, without such aids as are
furnished by the rivalry of one with another. For one, I do not believe
in this. I hold to the doctrine of the old school, as to this part of
education. Quinctilian says: "Sunt quidam, nisi institeris, remissi;
quidam imperio indignantur: quosdam continet metus, quosdam debilitat:
alios continuatio extundit, in aliis plus impetus facit. Mihi ille detur
puer, quem laus excitet, quem gloria juvet, qui victus fleat; hic erit
alendus ambitu, hunc mordebit objurgatio, hunc honor excitabit; in hoc
desidiam nunquam verebor." I think this is sound sense and just feeling.

Mr. Mason was destined for the law, and commenced the study of that
profession with Mr. Baldwin, a gentleman who has lived to perform
important public and private duties, has served his country in Congress,
and on the bench of the Supreme Court of Connecticut, and still lives to
hear the account of the peaceful death of his distinguished pupil. After
a year, he went to Vermont, in whose recently established tribunals he
expected to find a new sphere for the gratification of ambition, and the
employment of talents. He studied in the office of Stephen Rowe Bradley,
afterwards a Senator in Congress; and was admitted to the bar, in
Vermont and New Hampshire, in the year 1791.

He began his career in Westmoreland, a few miles below Walpole, at the
age of twenty-three; but in 1794, three years afterwards, removed to
Walpole, as being a larger village, where there was more society and
more business. There was at that time on the Connecticut River a rather
unusual number of gentlemen, distinguished for polite accomplishments
and correct tastes in literature, and among them some well known to the
public as respectable writers and authors. Among these were Mr. Benjamin
West, Mr. Dennie, Mr. Royall Tyler, Mr. Jacobs, Mr. Samuel Hunt, Mr.
J.W. Blake, Mr. Colman (who established, and for a long time edited, the
"New York Evening Post"), and Mr. Olcott. In the association with these
gentlemen, and those like them, Mr. Mason found an agreeable position,
and cultivated tastes and habits of the highest character.

About this period, he made a journey to Virginia, on some business
connected with land titles, where he had much intercourse with
Major-General Henry Lee; and, on his return, he saw President
Washington, at Philadelphia, and was greatly struck by the urbanity and
dignity of his manner. He heard Fisher Ames make his celebrated speech
upon the British treaty. All that the world has said with regard to the
extraordinary effect produced by that speech, and its wonderful
excellence, is fully confirmed by the opinion of Mr. Mason. He speaks of
it as one of the highest exhibitions of popular oratory that he had ever
witnessed; popular, not in any low sense, but popular as being addressed
to a popular body, and high in all the qualities of sound reasoning and
enlightened eloquence.

Mr. Mason was inclined to exercise his abilities in a larger sphere. He
had at this time made the acquaintance of Aaron Burr and Alexander
Hamilton. The former advised Mr. Mason to remove himself to New York.
His own preference was for Boston; but he thought, that, filled as it
then was by distinguished professional ability, it was too crowded to
allow him a place. That was a mistake. On the contrary, the bar of this
city, with the utmost liberality and generosity of feeling and
sentiment, have always been ready to receive, with open arms, every
honorable acquisition to the dignity and usefulness of the profession,
from other States. Mr. Mason, however, removed to Portsmouth in the
autumn of 1797; and, as was to be expected, his practice soon became
extensive. He was appointed Attorney-General in 1802. About that time,
the late learned and lamented Chief Justice Smith retired from his
professional duties, to take his place as a judge; and Mr. Mason became
the acknowledged head of his profession. He resigned the office of
Attorney-General, three or four years afterwards, to the great regret of
the court, the bar, and the country. As a prosecuting officer, he was
courteous, inflexible, and just; careful that the guilty should not
escape, and that the honest should be protected. He was impartial,
almost judicial, in the administration of his great office. He had no
morbid eagerness for conviction; and never permitted, as sometimes
occurs, an unworthy wrangling between the official power prosecuting,
and the zeal of the other party defending. His official course produced
exactly the ends it was designed to do. The honest felt safe; but there
was a trembling and fear in the evil disposed, that the transgressed
law would be vindicated.

Very much confined to his profession, he never sought office or
political elevation. Yet he held decided opinions upon all political
questions, and cultivated acquaintance with all the leading subjects of
the day; and no man was more keenly alive than he to whatever occurred,
at home or abroad, involving the great interests of the civilized world.

His political principles, opinions, judgments, were framed upon those of
the men of the times of Washington. From these, to the last, he never
swerved. The copy was well executed. His conversation on subjects of
state was as instructive and interesting as upon professional topics. He
had the same reach of thought, and exhibited the same comprehensive
mind, and sagacity quick and far seeing, with regard to political things
and men, as he did in professional affairs. His influence was,
therefore, hardly the less from the fact that he was not actively
engaged in political life. There was an additional weight given to his
judgment, arising from his being a disinterested beholder only. The
looker-on can sometimes form a more independent and impartial opinion of
the course and results of the contest, than those who are actually
engaged in it.

But at length, in June, 1813, he was persuaded to accept the post of a
Senator of the United States, and took his seat that month. He was in
Congress during the sessions of 1813 and 1814. Those were very exciting
times; party spirit ran very high, and each party put forward its most
prominent and gifted men. Both houses were filled by the greatest
intellects of the country. Mr. Mason found himself by the side of Rufus
King, Giles, Goldsborough, Gore, Barbour, Daggett, Hunter, and other
distinguished public men. Among men of whatever party, and however much
some of them differed from him in opinion or political principle, there
was not one of them all but felt pleasure if he spoke, and respected his
uncommon ability and probity, and his fair and upright demeanor in his
place and station. He took at once his appropriate position. Of his
associates and admirers in the other house, there are some eminent
persons now living who were occasional listeners to his speeches and
much struck with his ability; together with Pickering, Benson, Pitkin,
Stockton, Lowndes, Gaston, and Hopkinson, now all deceased, who used to
flock to hear him, and always derived deep gratification and instruction
from his talents, character, and power.

He resigned his seat in the Senate in 1817. His published speeches are
not numerous. The reports of that day were far less complete than now,
and comparatively few debates were preserved and revised. It was a
remarkable truth, that he always thought far too lightly of himself and
all his productions. I know that he was with difficulty persuaded to
prepare his speeches in Congress for publication; and in this memorial
of himself which I have before me he says, with every appearance and
feeling of sincerity, that he "has never acted any important part in
life, but has felt a deep interest in the conduct of others."

His two main speeches were, first, one of great vigor, in the Senate, in
February, 1814, on the Embargo, just before that policy was abandoned.
The other was later, in December, 1815, shortly before the peace, on Mr.
Giles's Conscription Bill, in which he discussed the subject of the
enlistment of minors; and the clause authorizing such enlistment was
struck out upon his motion.

He was afterwards for several years a member of the New Hampshire
Legislature, and assisted in revising the code of that State. He paid
much attention to the subject of the judicature, and performed his
services fully to the satisfaction of the State; and the result of his
labors was warmly commended. In 1824 he was again a candidate for the
Senate of the United States. The election was to be made by the
concurrent vote of the two branches of the Legislature. In the popular
branch he was chosen by a strong vote. The Senate, however,
non-concurred; by which means the election was lost,--a loss to the
country, not to him,--by force of circumstances and agencies not now or
ever fit to be recalled or remembered.

He continued to reside for many years in Portsmouth. His residence in
that ancient town was a happy one. He was happy in his family and in the
society of the town, surrounded by agreeable neighbors, respected by the
bar and the court, and standing at the head of his profession. He had a
great love of conversation. He took pleasure in hearing others talk, and
gave an additional charm by the freshness, agreeableness, and
originality of his own observations. His warm hospitality left him never
alone, and his usefulness was felt as much within the walls of the
homes, as of the tribunals, of Portsmouth. There are yet many in that
town who love him and his; many who witnessed, as children, and
recollect, the enthusiasm with which he was greeted by their fathers and
mothers; and all in New Hampshire old enough to remember him will feel
what we feel here on this occasion.

Led at last partly by the desire of exerting his abilities in a larger
sphere of usefulness, and partly by the fact of the residence here of
beloved domestic connections, he came to this city, and entered upon the
performance of his professional duties in 1832. Of the manner in which
he discharged those duties, this court is the most competent judge. You,
Mr. Chief Justice, and the venerable associate who usually occupies a
place at your right,[2] have been witnesses of the whole. You know the
fidelity with which he observed his duty to the court, as well as his
duty to his clients. In learning, assiduity, respect for the bench,
uprightness, and integrity, he stood as an example to the bar. You know
the general probity and talent with which he performed, for so many
years, the duty of a counsellor of this court.

I should hardly trust myself to make any analysis of Mr. Mason's mind. I
may be a partial judge. But I may speak of what I myself admire and
venerate. The characteristics of Mr. Mason's mind, as I think, were real
greatness, strength, and sagacity. He was great through strong sense and
sound judgment, great by comprehensive views of things, great by high
and elevated purposes. Perhaps sometimes he was too cautious and
refined, and his distinctions became too minute; but his discrimination
arose from a force of intellect, and quick-seeing, far-reaching
sagacity, everywhere discerning his object and pursuing it steadily.
Whether it was popular or professional, he grasped a point and held it
with a strong hand. He was sarcastic sometimes, but not frequently; not
frothy or petulant, but cool and vitriolic. Unfortunate for him on whom
his sarcasm fell!

His conversation was as remarkable as his efforts at the bar. It was
original, fresh, and suggestive; never dull or indifferent. He never
talked when he had nothing to say. He was particularly agreeable,
edifying, and instructive to all about him; and this was the charm of
the social intercourse in which he was connected.

As a professional man, Mr. Mason's great ability lay in the department
of the common law. In this part of jurisprudence he was profoundly
learned. He had drunk copiously from its deepest springs; and he had
studied with diligence and success the departures from the English
common law which had taken place in this country, either necessarily,
from difference of condition, or positively, by force of our own
statutes. In his addresses, both to courts and juries, he affected to
despise all eloquence, and certainly disdained all ornament; but his
efforts, whether addressed to one tribunal or the other, were marked by
a degree of clearness, directness, and force not easy to be equalled.
There were no courts of equity, as a separate and distinct jurisdiction,
in New Hampshire, during his residence in that State. Yet the equity
treatises and equity reports were all in his library, not "wisely ranged
for show," but for constant and daily consultation; because he saw that
the common law itself was growing every day more and more liberal, that
equity principles were constantly forcing themselves into its
administration and within its rules; that the subjects of litigation in
the courts were constantly becoming, more and more, such as escaped from
the technicalities and the trammels of the common law, and offered
themselves for discussion and decision on the broader principles of
general jurisprudence. Mr. Mason, like other accomplished lawyers, and
more than most, admired the searching scrutiny and the high morality of
a court of equity; and felt the instruction and edification resulting
from the perusal of the judgments of Lord Hardwicke, Lord Eldon, and Sir
William Grant, as well as of those of great names in our own country,
not now among the living.

Among his early associates in New Hampshire, there were many
distinguished men. Of those now dead were Mr. West, Mr. Gordon, Edward
St. Loe Livermore, Peleg Sprague, William K. Atkinson, George Sullivan,
Thomas W. Thompson, and Amos Kent; the last of these having been always
a particular personal friend. All of these gentlemen in their day held
high and respectable stations, and were eminent as lawyers of probity
and character.

Another contemporary and friend of Mr. Mason was Mr. Timothy Bigelow, a
lawyer of reputation, a man of probity and honor, attractive by his
conversation, and highly agreeable in his social intercourse. Mr.
Bigelow, we all know, was of this State, in which he filled high offices
with great credit; but, as a counsellor and advocate, he was constant in
his attendance on the New Hampshire courts. Having known Mr. Bigelow
from my early youth, I have pleasure in recalling the mutual regard and
friendship which I know to have subsisted between him and the subject of
these remarks. I ought not to omit Mr. Wilson and Mr. Betton, in
mentioning Mr. Mason's contemporaries at the bar. They were near his own
age, and both well known as lawyers and public men.

Mr. Mason, while yet in New Hampshire, found himself engaged in causes
in which that illustrious man, Samuel Dexter, also appeared. The late
Mr. Justice Story was still more frequently at the bar of that State;
and, at a period somewhat earlier, your great and distinguished
predecessor, Chief Justice Parsons, occasionally presented himself
before the courts at Portsmouth or Exeter, and he is known to have
entertained a very high regard, personal and professional, as well for
Mr. Mason as for the late Chief Justice Smith.

Among those still living, with whom Mr. Mason was on terms of intimacy,
and with whom he associated at the bar, were Messrs. Plumer, Arthur
Livermore, Samuel Bell, and Charles H. Atherton. If these respected men
could be here to-day, every one of them would unite with us in our
tribute of love and veneration to his memory.

But, Sir, political eminence and professional fame fade away and die
with all things earthly. Nothing of character is really permanent but
virtue and personal worth. These remain. Whatever of excellence is
wrought into the soul itself belongs to both worlds. Real goodness does
not attach itself merely to this life; it points to another world.
Political or professional reputation cannot last for ever; but a
conscience void of offence before God and man is an inheritance for
eternity. _Religion_, therefore, is a necessary and indispensable
element in any great human character. There is no living without it.
Religion is the tie that connects man with his Creator, and holds him to
his throne. If that tie be all sundered, all broken, he floats away, a
worthless atom in the universe; its proper attractions all gone, its
destiny thwarted, and its whole future nothing but darkness, desolation,
and death. A man with no sense of religious duty is he whom the
Scriptures describe, in such terse but terrific language, as living
"without God in the world." Such a man is out of his proper being, out
of the circle of all his duties, out of the circle of all his happiness,
and away, far, far away, from the purposes of his creation.

A mind like Mr. Mason's, active, thoughtful, penetrating, sedate, could
not but meditate deeply on the condition of man below, and feel its
responsibilities. He could not look on this mighty system,

"This universal frame, thus wondrous fair,"

without feeling that it was created and upheld by an Intelligence, to
which all other intelligences must be responsible. I am bound to say,
that in the course of my life I never met with an individual, in any
profession or condition of life, who always spoke, and always thought,
with such awful reverence of the power and presence of God. No
irreverence, no lightness, even no too familiar allusion to God and his
attributes, ever escaped his lips. The very notion of a Supreme Being
was, with him, made up of awe and solemnity. It filled the whole of his
great mind with the strongest emotions. A man like him, with all his
proper sentiments and sensibilities alive in him, must, in this state of
existence, have something to believe and something to hope for; or else,
as life is advancing to its close and parting, all is heart-sinking and
oppression. Depend upon it, whatever may be the mind of an old man, old
age is only really happy, when, on feeling the enjoyments of this world
pass away, it begins to lay a stronger hold on those of another.

Mr. Mason's religious sentiments and feelings were the crowning glories
of his character. One, with the strongest motives to love and venerate
him, and the best means of knowledge, says:--

"So far as my memory extends, he always showed a deep conviction of
the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, of the institutions of
Christianity, and of the importance of personal religion. Soon
after his residence in Boston, he entered the communion of the
Church, and has continued since regularly to receive the Lord's
Supper. From that time, he also habitually maintained domestic
worship, morning and evening. The death of two of his sons produced
a deep impression upon his mind, and directed it in an increased
degree to religious subjects.

"Though he was always reserved in the expression of religious
feeling, still it has been very apparent, for several years, that
his thoughts dwelt much upon his practical religious duties, and
especially upon preparation for another world. Within three or four
years, he frequently led the conversation to such subjects; and
during the year past, immediate preparation for his departure has
been obviously the constant subject of his attention. His
expressions in regard to it were deeply humble; and, indeed, the
very humble manner in which he always spoke of himself was most

"I have observed, of late years, an increasing tenderness in his
feelings and manner, and a desire to impress his family with the
conviction that he would not remain long with them. His allusions
of this kind have been repeated, even when apparently in his usual
health; and they indicated the current of his thoughts.

"He retained his consciousness till within a few hours of his
death, and made distinct replies to every question put to him. He
was fully aware that his end was near; and in answer to the
question, 'Can you now rest with firm faith upon the merits of your
Divine Redeemer?' he said, 'I trust I do, upon what else can I

"At another time, in reply to a similar question, he said, '_Of
course_, I have no other ground of hope.' We did not often speak to
him during those last three days, but had no doubt that he was
entirely conscious of his state, knew that his family were all
near, and that his mind was free from anxiety. He could not speak
with ease, and we were unwilling to cause him the pain of exertion.
His whole life, marked by uniform greatness, wisdom, and integrity,
his deep humility, his profound reverence for the Divine Majesty,
his habitual preparation for death, his humble trust in his
Saviour, left nothing to be desired for the consolation of his
family under this great loss. He was gradually prepared for his
departure. His last years were passed in calm retirement; and he
died as he wished to die, with his faculties unimpaired, without
great pain, with his family around his bed, the precious promises
of the Gospel before his mind, without lingering disease, and yet
not suddenly called away."

Such, Mr. Chief Justice, was the life, and such the death, of JEREMIAH
MASON. For one, I could pour out my heart like water, at the
recollection of his virtues and his friendship, and in the feeling of
his loss. I would embalm his memory in my best affections. His personal
regard, so long continued to me, I esteem one of the greatest blessings
of my life; and I hope that it may be known hereafter, that, without
intermission or coolness through many years, and until he descended to
his grave, Mr. Mason and myself were friends.

Mr. Mason died in old age; not by a violent stroke from the hand of
death, not by a sudden rupture of the ties of nature, but by a gradual
wearing out of his constitution. He enjoyed through life, indeed,
remarkable health. He took competent exercise, loved the open air, and,
avoiding all extreme theories or practice, controlled his conduct and
habits of life by the rules of prudence and moderation. His death was
therefore not unlike that described by the angel, admonishing Adam:--

"I yield it just, said Adam, and submit.
But is there yet no other way, besides
These painful passages, how we may come
To death, and mix with our connatural dust?

"There is, said Michael, if thou well observe
The rule of 'Not too much,' by temperance taught,
In what thou eat'st and drink'st; seeking from thence
Due nourishment, not gluttonous delight;
Till many years over thy head return,
So mayst thou live; till, like ripe fruit, thou drop
Into thy mother's lap; or be with ease
Gathered, not harshly plucked; for death mature.
This is old age."

[Footnote 1: Mr. Justice Richard Fletcher.]

[Footnote 2: Mr. Justice Wilde.]



We have all had our sympathies much enlisted in the Hungarian effort for
liberty. We have all wept at its failure. We thought we saw a more
rational hope of establishing free government in Hungary than in any
other part of Europe, where the question has been in agitation within
the last twelve months. But despotic power from abroad intervened to
suppress that hope.

And, Gentlemen, what will come of it I do not know. For my part, at this
moment, I feel more indignant at recent events connected with Hungary
than at all those which passed in her struggle for liberty. I see that
the Emperor of Russia demands of Turkey that the noble Kossuth and his
companions shall be given up, to be dealt with at his pleasure. And I
see that this demand is made in derision of the established law of
nations. Gentlemen, there is something on earth greater than arbitrary
or despotic power. The lightning has its power, and the whirlwind has
its power, and the earthquake has its power; but there is something
among men more capable of shaking despotic thrones than lightning,
whirlwind, or earthquake, and that is, the excited and aroused
indignation of the whole civilized world. Gentlemen, the Emperor of
Russia holds himself to be bound by the law of nations, from the fact
that he negotiates with civilized nations, and that he forms alliances
and treaties with them. He professes, in fact, to live in a civilized
age, and to govern an enlightened nation. I say, that if, under these
circumstances, he shall perpetrate so great a violation of national law
as to seize these Hungarians and to execute them, he will stand as a
criminal and malefactor in the view of the public law of the world. The
whole world will be the tribunal to try him, and he must appear before
it, and hold up his hand, and plead, and abide its judgment.

The Emperor of Russia is the supreme lawgiver in his own country, and,
for aught I know, the executor of that law also. But, thanks be to God,
he is not the supreme lawgiver or executor of national law, and every
offence against that is an offence against the rights of the civilized
world. If he breaks that law in the case of Turkey, or any other case,
the whole world has a right to call him out, and to demand his

Our rights as a nation, like those of other nations, are held under the
sanction of national law; a law which becomes more important from day to
day; a law which none, who profess to agree to it, are at liberty to
violate. Nor let him imagine, nor let any one imagine, that mere force
can subdue the general sentiment of mankind. It is much more likely to
diffuse that sentiment, and to destroy the power which he most desires
to establish and secure.

Gentlemen, the bones of poor John Wickliffe were dug out of his grave,
seventy years after his death, and burnt for his heresy; and his ashes
were thrown upon a river in Warwickshire. Some prophet of that day said:

"The Avon to the Severn runs,
The Severn to the sea,
And Wickliffe's dust shall spread abroad,
Wide as the waters be."

Gentlemen, if the blood of Kossuth is taken by an absolute, unqualified,
unjustifiable violation of national law, what will it appease, what will
it pacify? It will mingle with the earth, it will mix with the waters of
the ocean, the whole civilized world will snuff it in the air, and it
will return with awful retribution on the heads of those violators of
national law and universal justice. I can not say when, or in what form;
but depend upon it, that, if such an act take place, then thrones, and
principalities, and powers, must look out for the consequences.

And now, Gentlemen, let us do our part; let us understand the position
in which we stand, as the great republic of the world, at the most
interesting era of its history. Let us consider the mission and the
destiny which Providence seems to have designed for us, and let us so
take care of our own conduct, that, with irreproachable hearts, and with
hands void of offence, we may stand up whenever and wherever called
upon, and, with a voice not to be disregarded, say, This shall not be
done, at least not without our protest.


MARCH, 1850.

[On the 25th of January, 1850, Mr. Clay submitted a series of
resolutions to the Senate, on the subject of slavery, in connection with
the various questions which had arisen in consequence of the acquisition
of Mexican territory. These resolutions furnished the occasion of a
protracted debate. On Wednesday, the 6th of March, Mr. Walker of
Wisconsin engaged in the discussion, but, owing to the length of time
taken up by repeated interruptions, he was unable to finish his
argument. In the mean time it had been generally understood that Mr.
Webster would, at an early day, take an opportunity of addressing the
Senate on the present aspect of the slavery question, on the dangers to
the Union of the existing agitation, and on the terms of honorable
adjustment. In the expectation of hearing a speech from him on these
all-important topics, an immense audience assembled in the
Senate-Chamber at an early hour of Thursday, the 7th of March. The
floor, the galleries, and the antechambers of the Senate were crowded,
and it was with difficulty that the members themselves were able to
force their way to their seats.

At twelve o'clock the special order of the day was announced, and the
Vice-President stated that Mr. Walker of Wisconsin was entitled to the
floor. That gentleman, however, rose and said:--

"Mr. President, this vast audience has not come together to hear
me, and there is but one man, in my opinion, who can assemble such
an audience. They expect to hear him, and I feel it to be my duty,
therefore, as it is my pleasure, to give the floor to the Senator
from Massachusetts. I understand it is immaterial to him upon which
of these questions he speaks, and therefore I will not move to
postpone the special order."

Mr. Webster then rose, and, after making his acknowledgments to the
Senators from Wisconsin (Mr. Walker) and New York (Mr. Seward) for their
courtesy in yielding the floor to him, delivered the following speech,
which, in consideration of its character and of the manner in which it
was received throughout the country, has been entitled a speech for "the
Constitution and the Union." In the pamphlet edition it was dedicated in
the following terms to the people of Massachusetts:--








Mr. President,--I wish to speak to-day, not as a Massachusetts man, nor
as a Northern man, but as an American, and a member of the Senate of the
United States. It is fortunate that there is a Senate of the United
States; a body not yet moved from its propriety, not lost to a just
sense of its own dignity and its own high responsibilities, and a body
to which the country looks, with confidence, for wise, moderate,
patriotic, and healing counsels. It is not to be denied that we live in
the midst of strong agitations, and are surrounded by very considerable
dangers to our institutions and government. The imprisoned winds are let
loose. The East, the North, and the stormy South combine to throw the
whole sea into commotion, to toss its billows to the skies, and disclose
its profoundest depths. I do not affect to regard myself, Mr. President,
as holding, or as fit to hold, the helm in this combat with the
political elements; but I have a duty to perform, and I mean to perform
it with fidelity, not without a sense of existing dangers, but not
without hope. I have a part to act, not for my own security or safety,
for I am looking out for no fragment upon which to float away from the
wreck, if wreck there must be, but for the good of the whole, and the
preservation of all; and there is that which will keep me to my duty
during this struggle, whether the sun and the stars shall appear, or
shall not appear, for many days. I speak to-day for the preservation of
the Union. "Hear me for my cause." I speak to-day, out of a solicitous
and anxious heart, for the restoration to the country of that quiet and
that harmony which make the blessings of this Union so rich, and so dear
to us all. These are the topics that I propose to myself to discuss;
these are the motives, and the sole motives, that influence me in the
wish to communicate my opinions to the Senate and the country; and if I
can do any thing, however little, for the promotion of these ends, I
shall have accomplished all that I expect.

Mr. President, it may not be amiss to recur very briefly to the events
which, equally sudden and extraordinary, have brought the country into
its present political condition. In May, 1846, the United States
declared war against Mexico. Our armies, then on the frontiers, entered
the provinces of that republic, met and defeated all her troops,
penetrated her mountain passes, and occupied her capital. The marine
force of the United States took possession of her forts and her towns,
on the Atlantic and on the Pacific. In less than two years a treaty was
negotiated, by which Mexico ceded to the United States a vast territory,
extending seven or eight hundred miles along the shores of the Pacific,
and reaching back over the mountains, and across the desert, until it
joins the frontier of the State of Texas. It so happened, in the
distracted and feeble condition of the Mexican government, that, before
the declaration of war by the United States against Mexico had become
known in California, the people of California, under the lead of
American officers, overthrew the existing Mexican provincial government,
and raised an independent flag. When the news arrived at San Francisco
that war had been declared by the United States against Mexico, this
independent flag was pulled down, and the stars and stripes of this
Union hoisted in its stead. So, Sir, before the war was over, the forces
of the United States, military and naval, had possession of San
Francisco and Upper California, and a great rush of emigrants from
various parts of the world took place into California in 1846 and 1847.
But now behold another wonder.

In January of 1848, a party of Mormons made a discovery of an
extraordinarily rich mine of gold, or rather of a great quantity of
gold, hardly proper to be called a mine, for it was spread near the
surface, on the lower part of the south, or American, branch of the
Sacramento. They attempted to conceal their discovery for some time; but
soon another discovery of gold, perhaps of greater importance, was made,
on another part of the American branch of the Sacramento, and near
Sutter's Fort, as it is called. The fame of these discoveries spread far
and wide. They inflamed more and more the spirit of emigration towards
California, which had already been excited; and adventurers crowded into
the country by hundreds, and flocked towards the Bay of San Francisco.
This, as I have said, took place in the winter and spring of 1848. The
digging commenced in the spring of that year, and from that time to this
the work of searching for gold has been prosecuted with a success not
heretofore known in the history of this globe. You recollect, Sir, how
incredulous at first the American public was at the accounts which
reached us of these discoveries but we all know, now, that these
accounts received, and continue to receive, daily confirmation, and down
to the present moment I suppose the assurance is as strong, after the
experience of these several months, of the existence of deposits of gold
apparently inexhaustible in the regions near San Francisco, in
California, as it was at any period of the earlier dates of the

It so happened, Sir, that although, after the return of peace, it became
a very important subject for legislative consideration and legislative
decision to provide a proper territorial government for California, yet
differences of opinion between the two houses of Congress prevented the
establishment of any such territorial government at the last session.
Under this state of things, the inhabitants of California, already
amounting to a considerable number, thought it to be their duty, in the
summer of last year, to establish a local government. Under the
proclamation of General Riley, the people chose delegates to a
convention, and that convention met at Monterey. It formed a
constitution for the State of California, which, being referred to the
people, was adopted by them in their primary assemblages. Desirous of
immediate connection with the United States, its Senators were appointed
and Representatives chosen, who have come hither, bringing with them the
authentic constitution of the State of California; and they now present
themselves, asking, in behalf of their constituents, that it may be
admitted into this Union as one of the United States. This constitution,
Sir, contains an express prohibition of slavery, or involuntary
servitude, in the State of California. It is said, and I suppose truly,
that, of the members who composed that convention, some sixteen were
natives of, and had been residents in, the slave-holding States, about
twenty-two were from the non-slaveholding States, and the remaining ten
members were either native Californians or old settlers in that country.
This prohibition of slavery, it is said, was inserted with entire

It is this circumstance, Sir, the prohibition of slavery, which has
contributed to raise, I do not say it has wholly raised, the dispute as
to the propriety of the admission of California into the Union under
this constitution. It is not to be denied, Mr. President, nobody thinks
of denying, that, whatever reasons were assigned at the commencement of
the late war with Mexico, it was prosecuted for the purpose of the
acquisition of territory, and under the alleged argument that the
cession of territory was the only form in which proper compensation
could be obtained by the United States, from Mexico, for the various
claims and demands which the people of this country had against that
government. At any rate, it will be found that President Polk's message,
at the commencement of the session of December, 1847, avowed that the
war was to be prosecuted until some acquisition of territory should be
made. As the acquisition was to be south of the line of the United
States, in warm climates and countries, it was naturally, I suppose,
expected by the South, that whatever acquisitions were made in that
region would be added to the slave-holding portion of the United States.
Very little of accurate information was possessed of the real physical
character, either of California or New Mexico, and events have not
turned out as was expected. Both California and New Mexico are likely to
come in as free States; and therefore some degree of disappointment and
surprise has resulted. In other words, it is obvious that the question
which has so long harassed the country, and at some times very seriously
alarmed the minds of wise and good men, has come upon us for a fresh
discussion,--the question of slavery in these United States.

Now, Sir, I propose, perhaps at the expense of some detail and
consequent detention of the Senate, to review historically this
question, which, partly in consequence of its own importance, and
partly, perhaps mostly, in consequence of the manner in which it has
been discussed in different portions of the country, has been a source
of so much alienation and unkind feeling between them.

We all know, Sir, that slavery has existed in the world from time
immemorial. There was slavery, in the earliest periods of history, among
the Oriental nations. There was slavery among the Jews; the theocratic
government of that people issued no injunction against it. There was
slavery among the Greeks; and the ingenious philosophy of the Greeks
found, or sought to find, a justification for it exactly upon the
grounds which have been assumed for such a justification in this
country; that is, a natural and original difference among the races of
mankind, and the inferiority of the black or colored race to the white.
The Greeks justified their system of slavery upon that idea, precisely.
They held the African and some of the Asiatic tribes to be inferior to
the white race; but they did not show, I think, by any close process of
logic, that, if this were true, the more intelligent and the stronger
had therefore a right to subjugate the weaker.

The more manly philosophy and jurisprudence of the Romans placed the
justification of slavery on entirely different grounds. The Roman
jurists, from the first and down to the fall of the empire, admitted
that slavery was against the natural law, by which, as they maintained,
all men, of whatsoever clime, color, or capacity, were equal; but they
justified slavery, first, upon the ground and authority of the law of
nations, arguing, and arguing truly, that at that day the conventional
law of nations admitted that captives in war, whose lives, according to
the notions of the times, were at the absolute disposal of the captors,
might, in exchange for exemption from death, be made slaves for life,
and that such servitude might descend to their posterity. The jurists of
Rome also maintained, that, by the civil law, there might be servitude
or slavery, personal and hereditary; first, by the voluntary act of an
individual, who might sell himself into slavery; secondly, by his being
reduced into a state of slavery by his creditors, in satisfaction of his
debts; and, thirdly, by being placed in a state of servitude or slavery
for crime. At the introduction of Christianity, the Roman world was full
of slaves, and I suppose there is to be found no injunction against that
relation between man and man in the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus
Christ or of any of his Apostles. The object of the instruction imparted
to mankind by the Founder of Christianity was to touch the heart, purify
the soul, and improve the lives of individual men. That object went
directly to the first fountain of all the political and social relations
of the human race, as well as of all true religious feeling, the
individual heart and mind of man.

Now, Sir, upon the general nature and influence of slavery there exists
a wide difference of opinion between the northern portion of this
country and the southern. It is said on the one side, that, although not
the subject of any injunction or direct prohibition in the New
Testament, slavery is a wrong; that it is founded merely in the right of
the strongest; and that it is an oppression, like unjust wars, like all
those conflicts by which a powerful nation subjects a weaker to its
will; and that, in its nature, whatever may be said of it in the
modifications which have taken place, it is not according to the meek
spirit of the Gospel. It is not "kindly affectioned"; it does not "seek
another's, and not its own"; it does not "let the oppressed go free."
These are sentiments that are cherished, and of late with greatly
augmented force, among the people of the Northern States. They have
taken hold of the religious sentiment of that part of the country, as
they have, more or less, taken hold of the religious feelings of a
considerable portion of mankind. The South, upon the other side, having
been accustomed to this relation between the two races all their lives,
from their birth, having been taught, in general, to treat the subjects
of this bondage with care and kindness, and I believe, in general,
feeling great kindness for them, have not taken the view of the subject
which I have mentioned. There are thousands of religious men, with
consciences as tender as any of their brethren at the North, who do not
see the unlawfulness of slavery; and there are more thousands, perhaps,
that, whatsoever they may think of it in its origin, and as a matter
depending upon natural right, yet take things as they are, and, finding
slavery to be an established relation of the society in which they live,
can see no way in which, let their opinions on the abstract question be
what they may, it is in the power of the present generation to relieve
themselves from this relation. And candor obliges me to say, that I
believe they are just as conscientious, many of them, and the religious
people, all of them, as they are at the North who hold different

The honorable Senator from South Carolina[1] the other day alluded to
the separation of that great religious community, the Methodist
Episcopal Church. That separation was brought about by differences of
opinion upon this particular subject of slavery. I felt great concern,
as that dispute went on, about the result. I was in hopes that the
difference of opinion might be adjusted, because I looked upon that
religious denomination as one of the great props of religion and morals
throughout the whole country, from Maine to Georgia, and westward to our
utmost western boundary. The result was against my wishes and against my
hopes. I have read all their proceedings and all their arguments; but I
have never yet been able to come to the conclusion that there was any
real ground for that separation; in other words, that any good could be
produced by that separation. I must say I think there was some want of
candor and charity. Sir, when a question of this kind seizes on the
religious sentiments of mankind, and comes to be discussed in religious
assemblies of the clergy and laity, there is always to be expected, or
always to be feared, a great degree of excitement. It is in the nature
of man, manifested by his whole history, that religious disputes are apt
to become warm in proportion to the strength of the convictions which
men entertain of the magnitude of the questions at issue. In all such
disputes, there will sometimes be found men with whom every thing is
absolute; absolutely wrong, or absolutely right. They see the right
clearly; they think others ought so to see it, and they are disposed to
establish a broad line, of distinction between what is right and what is
wrong. They are not seldom willing to establish that line upon their own
convictions of truth and justice; and are ready to mark and guard it by
placing along it a series of dogmas, as lines of boundary on the earth's
surface are marked by posts and stones. There are men who, with clear
perceptions, as they think, of their own duty, do not see how too eager
a pursuit of one duty may involve them in the violation of others, or
how too warm an embracement of one truth may lead to a disregard of
other truths equally important. As I heard it stated strongly, not many
days ago, these persons are disposed to mount upon some particular duty,
as upon a war-horse, and to drive furiously on and upon and over all
other duties that may stand in the way. There are men who, in reference
to disputes of that sort, are of opinion that human duties may be
ascertained with the exactness of mathematics. They deal with morals as
with mathematics; and they think what is right may be distinguished from
what is wrong with the precision of an algebraic equation. They have,
therefore, none too much charity towards others who differ from them.
They are apt, too, to think that nothing is good but what is perfect,
and that there are no compromises or modifications to be made in
consideration of difference of opinion or in deference to other men's
judgment. If their perspicacious vision enables them to detect a spot on
the face of the sun, they think that a good reason why the sun should be
struck down from heaven. They prefer the chance of running into utter
darkness to living in heavenly light, if that heavenly light be not
absolutely without any imperfection. There are impatient men; too
impatient always to give heed to the admonition of St. Paul, that we are
not to "do evil that good may come"; too impatient to wait for the slow
progress of moral causes in the improvement of mankind. They do not
remember that the doctrines and the miracles of Jesus Christ have, in
eighteen hundred years, converted only a small portion of the human
race; and among the nations that are converted to Christianity, they
forget how many vices and crimes, public and private, still prevail, and
that many of them, public crimes especially, which are so clearly
offences against the Christian religion, pass without exciting
particular indignation. Thus wars are waged, and unjust wars. I do not
deny that there may be just wars. There certainly are; but it was the
remark of an eminent person, not many years ago, on the other side of
the Atlantic, that it is one of the greatest reproaches to human nature
that wars are sometimes just. The defence of nations sometimes causes a
just war against the injustice of other nations. In this state of
sentiment upon the general nature of slavery lies the cause of a great
part of those unhappy divisions, exasperations, and reproaches which
find vent and support in different parts of the Union.

But we must view things as they are. Slavery does exist in the United
States. It did exist in the States before the adoption of this
Constitution, and at that time. Let us, therefore, consider for a moment
what was the state of sentiment, North and South, in regard to slavery,
at the time this Constitution was adopted. A remarkable change has taken
place since; but what did the wise and great men of all parts of the
country think of slavery then? In what estimation did they hold it at
the time when this Constitution was adopted? It will be found, Sir, if
we will carry ourselves by historical research back to that day, and
ascertain men's opinions by authentic records still existing among us,
that there was then no diversity of opinion between the North and the
South upon the subject of slavery. It will be found that both parts of
the country held it equally an evil,--a moral and political evil. It
will not be found that, either at the North or at the South, there was
much, though there was some, invective against slavery as inhuman and
cruel. The great ground of objection to it was political; that it
weakened the social fabric; that, taking the place of free labor,
society became less strong and labor less productive; and therefore we
find from all the eminent men of the time the clearest expression of
their opinion that slavery is an evil. They ascribed its existence here,
not without truth, and not without some acerbity of temper and force of
language, to the injurious policy of the mother country, who, to favor
the navigator, had entailed these evils upon the Colonies. I need hardly
refer, Sir, particularly to the publications of the day. They are
matters of history on the record. The eminent men, the most eminent men,
and nearly all the conspicuous politicians of the South, held the same
sentiments,--that slavery was an evil, a blight, a scourge, and a curse.
There are no terms of reprobation of slavery so vehement in the North at
that day as in the South. The North was not so much excited against it
as the South; and the reason is, I suppose, that there was much less of
it at the North, and the people did not see, or think they saw, the
evils so prominently as they were seen, or thought to be seen, at the

Then, Sir, when this Constitution was framed, this was the light in
which the Federal Convention viewed it. That body reflected the judgment
and sentiments of the great men of the South. A member of the other
house, whom I have not the honor to know, has, in a recent speech,
collected extracts from these public documents. They prove the truth of
what I am saying, and the question then was, how to deal with it, and
how to deal with it as an evil. They came to this general result. They
thought that slavery could not be continued in the country if the
importation of slaves were made to cease, and therefore they provided
that, after a certain period, the importation might be prevented by the
act of the new government. The period of twenty years was proposed by
some gentleman from the North, I think, and many members of the
Convention from the South opposed it as being too long. Mr. Madison
especially was somewhat warm against it. He said it would bring too much
of this mischief into the country to allow the importation of slaves for
such a period. Because we must take along with us, in the whole of this
discussion, when we are considering the sentiments and opinions in which
the constitutional provision originated, that the conviction of all men
was, that, if the importation of slaves ceased, the white race would
multiply faster than the black race, and that slavery would therefore
gradually wear out and expire. It may not be improper here to allude to
that, I had almost said, celebrated opinion of Mr. Madison. You observe,
Sir, that the term _slave_, or _slavery_, is not used in the
Constitution. The Constitution does not require that "fugitive slaves"
shall be delivered up. It requires that persons held to service in one
State, and escaping into another, shall be delivered up. Mr. Madison
opposed the introduction of the term _slave_, or _slavery_, into the
Constitution; for he said that he did not wish to see it recognized by
the Constitution of the United States of America that there could be
property in men.

Now, Sir, all this took place in the Convention in 1787; but connected
with this, concurrent and contemporaneous, is another important
transaction, not sufficiently attended to. The Convention for framing
this Constitution assembled in Philadelphia in May, and sat until
September, 1787. During all that time the Congress of the United States
was in session at New York. It was a matter of design, as we know, that
the Convention should not assemble in the same city where Congress was
holding its sessions. Almost all the public men of the country,
therefore, of distinction and eminence, were in one or the other of
these two assemblies; and I think it happened, in some instances, that
the same gentlemen were members of both bodies. If I mistake not, such
was the case with Mr. Rufus King, then a member of Congress from
Massachusetts. Now, at the very time when the Convention in Philadelphia
was framing this Constitution, the Congress in New York was framing the
Ordinance of 1787, for the organization and government of the territory
northwest of the Ohio. They passed that Ordinance on the 13th of July,
1787, at New York, the very month, perhaps the very day, on which these
questions about the importation of slaves and the character of slavery
were debated in the Convention at Philadelphia. So far as we can now
learn, there was a perfect concurrence of opinion between these two
bodies; and it resulted in this Ordinance of 1787, excluding slavery
from all the territory over which the Congress of the United States had
jurisdiction, and that was all the territory northwest of the Ohio.
Three years before, Virginia and other States had made a cession of that
great territory to the United States; and a most munificent act it was.
I never reflect upon it without a disposition to do honor and justice,
and justice would be the highest honor, to Virginia, for the cession of
her northwestern territory. I will say, Sir, it is one of her fairest
claims to the respect and gratitude of the country, and that, perhaps,
it is only second to that other claim which belongs to her,--that from
her counsels, and from the intelligence and patriotism of her leading
statesmen, proceeded the first idea put into practice of the formation
of a general constitution of the United States. The Ordinance of 1787
applied to the whole territory over which the Congress of the United
States had jurisdiction. It was adopted two years before the
Constitution of the United States went into operation; because the
Ordinance took effect immediately on its passage, while the Constitution
of the United States, having been framed, was to be sent to the States
to be adopted by their conventions; and then a government was to be
organized under it. This Ordinance, then, was in operation and force
when the Constitution was adopted, and the government put in motion, in
April, 1789.

Mr. President, three things are quite clear as historical truths. One
is, that there was an expectation that, on the ceasing of the
importation of slaves from Africa, slavery would begin to run out here.
That was hoped and expected. Another is, that, as far as there was any
power in Congress to prevent the spread of slavery in the United States,
that power was executed in the most absolute manner, and to the fullest
extent. An honorable member,[2] whose health does not allow him to be
here to-day--

A SENATOR. He is here.

I am very happy to hear that he is; may he long be here, and in the
enjoyment of health to serve his country! The honorable member said, the
other day, that he considered this Ordinance as the first in the series
of measures calculated to enfeeble the South, and deprive them of their
just participation in the benefits and privileges of this government. He
says, very properly, that it was enacted under the old Confederation,
and before this Constitution went into effect; but my present purpose is
only to say, Mr. President, that it was established with the entire and
unanimous concurrence of the whole South. Why, there it stands! The vote
of every State in the Union was unanimous in favor of the Ordinance,
with the exception of a single individual vote, and that individual vote
was given by a Northern man. This Ordinance prohibiting slavery for ever
northwest of the Ohio has the hand and seal of every Southern member in
Congress. It was therefore no aggression of the North on the South. The
other and third clear historical truth is, that the Convention meant to
leave slavery in the States as they found it, entirely under the
authority and control of the States themselves.

This was the state of things, Sir, and this the state of opinion, under
which those very important matters were arranged, and those three
important things done; that is, the establishment of the Constitution of
the United States with a recognition of slavery as it existed in the
States; the establishment of the ordinance for the government of the
Northwestern Territory, prohibiting, to the full extent of all territory
owned by the United States, the introduction of slavery into that
territory, while leaving to the States all power over slavery in their
own limits; and creating a power, in the new government, to put an end
to the importation of slaves, after a limited period. There was entire
coincidence and concurrence of sentiment between the North and the
South, upon all these questions, at the period of the adoption of the
Constitution. But opinions, Sir, have changed, greatly changed; changed
North and changed South. Slavery is not regarded in the South now as it
was then. I see an honorable member of this body paying me the honor of
listening to my remarks;[3] he brings to my mind, Sir, freshly and
vividly, what I have learned of his great ancestor, so much
distinguished in his day and generation, so worthy to be succeeded by so
worthy a grandson, and of the sentiments he expressed in the Convention
in Philadelphia.[4]

Here we may pause. There was, if not an entire unanimity, a general
concurrence of sentiment running through the whole community, and
especially entertained by the eminent men of all parts of the country.
But soon a change began, at the North and the South, and a difference of
opinion showed itself; the North growing much more warm and strong
against slavery, and the South growing much more warm and strong in its
support. Sir, there is no generation of mankind whose opinions are not
subject to be influenced by what appear to them to be their present
emergent and exigent interests. I impute to the South no particularly
selfish view in the change which has come over her. I impute to her
certainly no dishonest view. All that has happened has been natural. It
has followed those causes which always influence the human mind and
operate upon it. What, then, have been the causes which have created so
new a feeling in favor of slavery in the South, which have changed the
whole nomenclature of the South on that subject, so that, from being
thought and described in the terms I have mentioned and will not repeat,
it has now become an institution, a cherished institution, in that
quarter; no evil, no scourge, but a great religious, social, and moral
blessing, as I think I have heard it latterly spoken of? I suppose this,
Sir, is owing to the rapid growth and sudden extension of the COTTON
plantations of the South. So far as any motive consistent with honor,
justice, and general judgment could act, it was the COTTON interest that
gave a new desire to promote slavery, to spread it, and to use its
labor. I again say that this change was produced by causes which must
always produce like effects. The whole interest of the South became
connected, more or less, with the extension of slavery. If we look back
to the history of the commerce of this country in the early years of
this government, what were our exports? Cotton was hardly, or but to a
very limited extent, known. In 1791 the first parcel of cotton of the
growth of the United States was exported, and amounted only to 19,200
pounds.[5] It has gone on increasing rapidly, until the whole crop may
now, perhaps, in a season of great product and high prices, amount to a
hundred millions of dollars. In the years I have mentioned, there was
more of wax, more of indigo, more of rice, more of almost every article
of export from the South, than of cotton. When Mr. Jay negotiated the
treaty of 1794 with England, it is evident from the twelfth article of
the treaty, which was suspended by the Senate, that he did not know that
cotton was exported at all from the United States.

Well, Sir, we know what followed. The age of cotton became the golden
age of our Southern brethren. It gratified their desire for improvement
and accumulation, at the same time that it excited it. The desire grew
by what it fed upon, and there soon came to be an eagerness for other
territory, a new area or new areas for the cultivation of the cotton
crop; and measures leading to this result were brought about rapidly,
one after another, under the lead of Southern men at the head of the
government, they having a majority in both branches of Congress to
accomplish their ends. The honorable member from South Carolina[6]
observed that there has been a majority all along in favor of the North.
If that be true, Sir, the North has acted either very liberally and
kindly, or very weakly; for they never exercised that majority
efficiently five times in the history of the government, when a division
or trial of strength arose. Never. Whether they were outgeneralled, or
whether it was owing to other causes, I shall not stop to consider; but
no man acquainted with the history of the Union can deny that the
general lead in the politics of the country, for three fourths of the
period that has elapsed since the adoption of the Constitution, has been
a Southern lead.

In 1802, in pursuit of the idea of opening a new cotton region, the
United States obtained a cession from Georgia of the whole of her
western territory, now embracing the rich and growing States of Alabama
and Mississippi. In 1803 Louisiana was purchased from France, out of
which the States of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri have been framed,
as slave-holding States. In 1819 the cession of Florida was made,
bringing in another region adapted to cultivation by slaves. Sir, the
honorable member from South Carolina thought he saw in certain
operations of the government, such as the manner of collecting the
revenue, and the tendency of measures calculated to promote emigration
into the country, what accounts for the more rapid growth of the North
than the South. He ascribes that more rapid growth, not to the operation
of time, but to the system of government and administration established
under this Constitution. That is matter of opinion. To a certain extent
it may be true; but it does seem to me that, if any operation of the
government can be shown in any degree to have promoted the population,
and growth, and wealth of the North, it is much more sure that there are
sundry important and distinct operations of the government, about which
no man can doubt, tending to promote, and which absolutely have
promoted, the increase of the slave interest and the slave territory of
the South. It was not time that brought in Louisiana; it was the act of
men. It was not time that brought in Florida; it was the act of men. And
lastly, Sir, to complete those acts of legislation which have
contributed so much to enlarge the area of the institution of slavery,
Texas, great and vast and illimitable Texas, was added to the Union as a
slave State in 1845; and that, Sir, pretty much closed the whole
chapter, and settled the whole account.

That closed the whole chapter and settled the whole account, because the
annexation of Texas, upon the conditions and under the guaranties upon
which she was admitted, did not leave within the control of this
government an acre of land, capable of being cultivated by slave labor,
between this Capitol and the Rio Grande or the Nueces, or whatever is
the proper boundary of Texas; not an acre. From that moment, the whole
country, from this place to the western boundary of Texas, was fixed,
pledged, fastened, decided, to be slave territory for ever, by the
solemn guaranties of law. And I now say, Sir, as the proposition upon
which I stand this day, and upon the truth and firmness of which I
intend to act until it is overthrown, that there is not at this moment
within the United States, or any territory of the United States, a
single foot of land, the character of which, in regard to its being free
territory or slave territory, is not fixed by some law, and some
irrepealable law, beyond the power of the action of the government. Is
it not so with respect to Texas? It is most manifestly so. The honorable
member from South Carolina, at the time of the admission of Texas, held
an important post in the executive department of the government; he was
Secretary of State. Another eminent person of great activity and
adroitness in affairs, I mean the late Secretary of the Treasury,[7] was
a conspicuous member of this body, and took the lead in the business of
annexation, in co-operation with the Secretary of State; and I must say
that they did their business faithfully and thoroughly; there was no
botch left in it. They rounded it off, and made as close joiner-work as
ever was exhibited. Resolutions of annexation were brought into
Congress, fitly joined together, compact, efficient, conclusive upon the
great object which they had in view, and those resolutions passed.

Allow me to read a part of these resolutions. It is the third clause of
the second section of the resolution of the 1st of March, 1845, for the
admission of Texas, which applies to this part of the case. That clause
is as follows:--

"New States, of convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in
addition to said State of Texas, and having sufficient population,
may hereafter, by the consent of said State, he formed out of the
territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the
provisions of the Federal Constitution. And such States as may be
formed out of that portion of said territory lying south of
thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude, commonly known as
the Missouri Compromise line, shall be admitted into the Union with
or without slavery, as the people of each State asking admission
may desire; and in such State or States as shall be formed out of
said territory north of said Missouri Compromise line, slavery or
involuntary servitude (except for crime) shall be prohibited."

Now what is here stipulated, enacted, and secured? It is, that all Texas
south of 36 deg. 30', which is nearly the whole of it, shall be admitted
into the Union as a slave State. It was a slave State, and therefore
came in as a slave State; and the guaranty is, that new States shall be
made out of it, to the number of four, in addition to the State then in
existence and admitted at that time by these resolutions, and that such
States as are formed out of that portion of Texas lying south of 36 deg. 30'
may come in as slave States. I know no form of legislation which can
strengthen this. I know no mode of recognition that can add a tittle of
weight to it. I listened respectfully to the resolutions of my honorable
friend from Tennessee.[8] He proposed to recognize that stipulation with
Texas. But any additional recognition would weaken the force of it;
because it stands here on the ground of a contract, a thing done for a
consideration. It is a law founded on a contract with Texas, and
designed to carry that contract into effect. A recognition now, founded
not on any consideration, or any contract, would not be so strong as it
now stands on the face of the resolution. I know no way, I candidly
confess, in which this government, acting in good faith, as I trust it
always will, can relieve itself from that stipulation and pledge, by any
honest course of legislation whatever. And therefore I say again, that,
so far as Texas is concerned, in the whole of that State south of 36 deg.
30', which, I suppose, embraces all the territory capable of slave
cultivation, there is no land, not an acre, the character of which is
not established by law; a law which cannot be repealed without the
violation of a contract, and plain disregard of the public faith.

I hope, Sir, it is now apparent that my proposition, so far as it
respects Texas, has been maintained, and that the provision in this
article is clear and absolute; and it has been well suggested by my
friend from Rhode Island,[9] that that part of Texas which lies north of
36 deg. 30' of north latitude, and which may be formed into free States, is
dependent, in like manner, upon the consent of Texas, herself a slave

Now, Sir, how came this? How came it to pass that within these walls,
where it is said by the honorable member from South Carolina that the
free States have always had a majority, this resolution of annexation,
such as I have described it, obtained a majority in both houses of
Congress? Sir, it obtained that majority by the great number of Northern
votes added to the entire Southern vote, or at least nearly the whole of
the Southern vote. The aggregate was made up of Northern and Southern
votes. In the House of Representatives there were about eighty Southern
votes and about fifty Northern votes for the admission of Texas. In the
Senate the vote for the admission of Texas was twenty-seven, and
twenty-five against it; and of those twenty-seven votes, constituting
the majority, no less than thirteen came from the free States, and four
of them were from New England. The whole of these thirteen Senators,
constituting within a fraction, you see, one half of all the votes in
this body for the admission of this immeasurable extent of slave
territory, were sent here by free States.

Sir, there is not so remarkable a chapter in our history of political
events, political parties, and political men as is afforded by this
admission of a new slave-holding territory, so vast that a bird cannot
fly over it in a week. New England, as I have said, with some of her own
votes, supported this measure. Three fourths of the votes of
liberty-loving Connecticut were given for it in the other house, and one
half here. There was one vote for it from Maine, but, I am happy to say,
not the vote of the honorable member who addressed the Senate the day
before yesterday,[10] and who was then a Representative from Maine in
the House of Representatives; but there was one vote from Maine, ay, and
there was one vote for it from Massachusetts, given by a gentleman then
representing, and now living in, the district in which the prevalence of
Free Soil sentiment for a couple of years or so has defeated the choice
of any member to represent it in Congress. Sir, that body of Northern
and Eastern men who gave those votes at that time are now seen taking
upon themselves, in the nomenclature of politics, the appellation of the
Northern Democracy. They undertook to wield the destinies of this
empire, if I may give that name to a republic, and their policy was, and
they persisted in it, to bring into this country and under this
government all the territory they could. They did it, in the case of
Texas, under pledges, absolute pledges, to the slave interest, and they
afterwards lent their aid in bringing in these new conquests, to take
their chance for slavery or freedom. My honorable friend from
Georgia,[11] in March, 1847, moved the Senate to declare that the war
ought not to be prosecuted for the conquest of Territory, or for the
dismemberment of Mexico. The whole of the Northern Democracy voted
against it. He did not get a vote from them. It suited the patriotic and
elevated sentiments of the Northern Democracy to bring in a world from
among the mountains and valleys of California and New Mexico, or any
other part of Mexico, and then quarrel about it; to bring it in, and
then endeavor to put upon it the saving grace of the Wilmot Proviso.
There were two eminent and highly respectable gentlemen from the North
and East, then leading gentlemen in the Senate, (I refer, and I do so
with entire respect, for I entertain for both of those gentlemen, in
general, high regard, to Mr. Dix of New York and Mr. Niles of
Connecticut,) who both voted for the admission of Texas. They would not
have that vote any other way than as it stood; and they would have it as
it did stand. I speak of the vote upon the annexation of Texas. Those
two gentlemen would have the resolution of annexation just as it is,
without amendment; and they voted for it just as it is, and their eyes
were all open to its true character. The honorable member from South
Carolina who addressed us the other day was then Secretary of State. His
correspondence with Mr. Murphy, the Charge d'Affaires of the United
States in Texas, had been published. That correspondence was all before
those gentlemen, and the Secretary had the boldness and candor to avow
in that correspondence, that the great object sought by the annexation
of Texas was to strengthen the slave interest of the South. Why, Sir,
he said so in so many words--

MR. CALHOUN. Will the honorable Senator permit me to interrupt him
for a moment?


MR. CALHOUN. I am very reluctant to interrupt the honorable
gentleman; but, upon a point of so much importance, I deem it right
to put myself _rectus in curia_. I did not put it upon the ground
assumed by the Senator. I put it upon this ground: that Great
Britain had announced to this country, in so many words, that her
object was to abolish slavery in Texas, and, through Texas, to
accomplish the abolition of slavery in the United States and the
world. The ground I put it on was, that it would make an exposed
frontier, and, if Great Britain succeeded in her object, it would
be impossible that that frontier could be secured against the
aggressions of the Abolitionists; and that this government was
bound, under the guaranties of the Constitution, to protect us
against such a state of things.

That comes, I suppose, Sir, to exactly the same thing. It was, that
Texas must be obtained for the security of the slave interest of the

MR. CALHOUN. Another view is very distinctly given.

That was the object set forth in the correspondence of a worthy
gentleman not now living,[12] who preceded the honorable member from
South Carolina in the Department of State. There repose on the files of
the Department, as I have occasion to know, strong letters from Mr.
Upshur to the United States Minister in England, and I believe there are
some to the same Minister from the honorable Senator himself, asserting
to this effect the sentiments of this government; namely, that Great
Britain was expected not to interfere to take Texas out of the hands of
its then existing government and make it a free country. But my
argument, my suggestion, is this: that those gentlemen who composed the
Northern Democracy when Texas was brought into the Union saw clearly
that it was brought in as a slave country, and brought in for the
purpose of being maintained as slave territory, to the Greek Kalends. I
rather think the honorable gentleman who was then Secretary of State
might, in some of his correspondence with Mr. Murphy, have suggested
that it was not expedient to say too much about this object, lest it
should create some alarm. At any rate, Mr. Murphy wrote to him that
England was anxious to get rid of the constitution of Texas, because it
was a constitution establishing slavery; and that what the United States
had to do was to aid the people of Texas in upholding their
constitution; but that nothing should be said which should offend the
fanatical men of the North. But, Sir, the honorable member did avow this
object himself, openly, boldly, and manfully; he did not disguise his
conduct or his motives.

MR. CALHOUN. Never, never.

What he means he is very apt to say.

MR. CALHOUN. Always, always.

And I honor him for it.

This admission of Texas was in 1845. Then in 1847, _flagrante bello_
between the United States and Mexico, the proposition I have mentioned
was brought forward by my friend from Georgia, and the Northern
Democracy voted steadily against it. Their remedy was to apply to the
acquisitions, after they should come in, the Wilmot Proviso. What
follows? These two gentlemen,[13] worthy and honorable and influential
men, (and if they had not been they could not have carried the measure,)
these two gentlemen, members of this body, brought in Texas, and by
their votes they also prevented the passage of the resolution of the
honorable member from Georgia, and then they went home and took the
lead in the Free Soil party. And there they stand, Sir! They leave us
here, bound in honor and conscience by the resolutions of annexation;
they leave us here, to take the odium of fulfilling the obligations in
favor of slavery which they voted us into, or else the greater odium of
violating those obligations, while they are at home making capital and
rousing speeches for free soil and no slavery. And therefore I say, Sir,
that there is not a chapter in our history, respecting public measures
and public men, more full of what would create surprise, more full of
what does create in my mind, extreme mortification, than that of the
conduct of the Northern Democracy on this subject.

Mr. President, sometimes, when a man is found in a new relation to
things around him and to other men, he says the world has changed, and
that he has not changed. I believe, Sir, that our self-respect leads us
often to make this declaration in regard to ourselves when it is not
exactly true. An individual is more apt to change, perhaps, than all the
world around him. But under the present circumstances, and under the
responsibility which I know I incur by what I am now stating here, I
feel at liberty to recur to the various expressions and statements, made
at various times, of my own opinions and resolutions respecting the
admission of Texas, and all that has followed. Sir, as early as 1836, or
in the early part of 1837, there was conversation and correspondence
between myself and some private friends on this project of annexing
Texas to the United States; and an honorable gentleman with whom I have
had a long acquaintance, a friend of mine, now perhaps in this chamber,
I mean General Hamilton, of South Carolina, was privy to that
correspondence. I had voted for the recognition of Texan independence,
because I believed it to be an existing fact, surprising and astonishing
as it was, and I wished well to the new republic; but I manifested from
the first utter opposition to bringing her, with her slave territory,
into the Union. I happened, in 1837, to make a public address to
political friends in New York, and I then stated my sentiments upon the
subject. It was the first time that I had occasion to advert to it; and
I will ask a friend near me to have the kindness to read an extract from
the speech made by me on that occasion. It was delivered in Niblo's
Saloon, in 1837.

Mr. Greene then read the following extract from the speech of Mr.
Webster to which he referred:--

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

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

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

I have nothing, Sir, to add to, or to take from, those sentiments. That
speech, the Senate will perceive, was made in 1837. The purpose of
immediately annexing Texas at that time was abandoned or postponed; and
it was not revived with any vigor for some years. In the mean time it
happened that I had become a member of the executive administration, and
was for a short period in the Department of State. The annexation of
Texas was a subject of conversation, not confidential, with the
President and heads of departments, as well as with other public men. No
serious attempt was then made, however, to bring it about. I left the
Department of State in May, 1843, and shortly after I learned, though by
means which were no way connected with official information, that a
design had been taken up of bringing Texas, with her slave territory and
population, into this Union. I was in Washington at the time, and
persons are now here who will remember that we had an arranged meeting
for conversation upon it. I went home to Massachusetts and proclaimed
the existence of that purpose, but I could get no audience and but
little attention. Some did not believe it, and some were too much
engaged in their own pursuits to give it any heed. They had gone to
their farms or to their merchandise, and it was impossible to arouse any
feeling in New England, or in Massachusetts, that should combine the two
great political parties against this annexation; and, indeed, there was
no hope of bringing the Northern Democracy into that view, for their
leaning was all the other way. But, Sir, even with Whigs, and leading
Whigs, I am ashamed to say, there was a great indifference towards the
admission of Texas, with slave territory, into this Union.

The project went on. I was then out of Congress. The annexation
resolutions passed on the 1st of March, 1845; the legislature of Texas
complied with the conditions and accepted the guaranties; for the
language of the resolution is, that Texas is to come in "upon the
conditions and under the guaranties herein prescribed." I was returned
to the Senate in March, 1845, and was here in December following, when
the acceptance by Texas of the conditions proposed by Congress was
communicated to us by the President, and an act for the consummation of
the union was laid before the two houses. The connection was then not
completed. A final law, doing the deed of annexation ultimately, had not
been passed; and when it was put upon its final passage here, I
expressed my opposition to it, and recorded my vote in the negative; and
there that vote stands, with the observations that I made upon that
occasion.[14] Nor is this the only occasion on which I have expressed
myself to the same effect. It has happened that, between 1837 and this
time, on various occasions, I have expressed my entire opposition to the
admission of slave States, or the acquisition of new slave territories,
to be added to the United States. I know, Sir, no change in my own
sentiments, or my own purposes, in that respect. I will now ask my
friend from Rhode Island to read another extract from a speech of mine
made at a Whig Convention in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the month of
September, 1847.

Mr. Greene here read the following extract:--

"We hear much just now of a _panacea_ for the dangers and evils of
slavery and slave annexation, which they call the 'Wilmot Proviso.'
That certainly is a just sentiment, but it is not a sentiment to
found any new party upon. It is not a sentiment on which
Massachusetts Whigs differ. There is not a man in this hall who
holds to it more firmly than I do, nor one who adheres to it more
than another.

"I feel some little interest in this matter, Sir. Did not I commit
myself in 1837 to the whole doctrine, fully, entirely? And I must
be permitted to say that I cannot quite consent that more recent
discoverers should claim the merit and take out a patent.

"I deny the priority of their invention. Allow me to say, Sir, it
is not their thunder....

"We are to use the first and the last and every occasion which
offers to oppose the extension of slave power.

"But I speak of it here, as in Congress, as a political question, a
question for statesmen to act upon. We must so regard it. I
certainly do not mean to say that it is less important in a moral
point of view, that it is not more important in many other points
of view; but as a legislator, or in any official capacity, I must
look at it, consider it, and decide it as a matter of political

On other occasions, in debates here, I have expressed my determination
to vote for no acquisition, cession, or annexation, north or south, east
or west. My opinion has been, that we have territory enough, and that we
should follow the Spartan maxim, "Improve, adorn what you have," seek no
further. I think that it was in some observations that I made on the
three-million loan bill that I avowed this sentiment. In short, Sir, it
has been avowed quite as often, in as many places, and before as many
assemblies, as any humble opinions of mine ought to be avowed.

But now that, under certain conditions, Texas is in the Union, with all
her territory, as a slave State, with a solemn pledge, also, that, if
she shall be divided into many States, those States may come in as slave
States south of 36 deg. 30', how are we to deal with this subject? I know no
way of honest legislation, when the proper time comes for the enactment,
but to carry into effect all that we have stipulated to do. I do not
entirely agree with my honorable friend from Tennessee,[15] that, as
soon as the time comes when she is entitled to another representative,
we should create a new State. On former occasions, in creating new
States out of territories, we have generally gone upon the idea that,
when the population of the territory amounts to about sixty thousand, we
would consent to its admission as a State. But it is quite a different
thing when a State is divided, and two or more States made out of it. It
does not follow in such a case that the same rule of apportionment
should be applied. That, however, is a matter for the consideration of
Congress, when the proper time arrives. I may not then be here; I may
have no vote to give on the occasion; but I wish it to be distinctly
understood, that, according to my view of the matter, this government is
solemnly pledged, by law and contract, to create new States out of
Texas, with her consent, when her population shall justify and call for
such a proceeding, and, so far as such States are formed out of Texan
territory lying south of 36 deg. 30', to let them come in as slave States.
That is the meaning of the contract which our friends, the Northern
Democracy, have left us to fulfil; and I, for one, mean to fulfil it,
because I will not violate the faith of the government. What I mean to
say is, that the time for the admission of new States formed out of
Texas, the number of such States, their boundaries, the requisite amount
of population, and all other things connected with the admission, are in
the free discretion of Congress, except this; to wit, that, when new
States formed out of Texas are to be admitted, they have a right, by
legal stipulation and contract, to come in as slave States.

Now, as to California and New Mexico, I hold slavery to be excluded from
those territories by a law even superior to that which admits and
sanctions it in Texas. I mean the law of nature, of physical geography,
the law of the formation of the earth. That law settles for ever, with a
strength beyond all terms of human enactment, that slavery cannot exist
in California or New Mexico. Understand me, Sir; I mean slavery as we
regard it; the slavery of the colored race as it exists in the Southern
States. I shall not discuss the point, but leave it to the learned
gentlemen who have undertaken to discuss it; but I suppose there is no
slavery of that description in California now. I understand that
_peonism_, a sort of penal servitude, exists there, or rather a sort of
voluntary sale of a man and his offspring for debt; an arrangement of a
peculiar nature known to the law of Mexico. But what I mean to say is,
that it is as impossible that African slavery, as we see it among us,
should find its way, or be introduced, into California and New Mexico,
as any other natural impossibility. California and New Mexico are
Asiatic in their formation and scenery. They are composed of vast ridges
of mountains, of great height, with broken ridges and deep valleys. The
sides of these mountains are entirely barren; their tops capped by
perennial snow. There may be in California, now made free by its
constitution, and no doubt there are, some tracts of valuable land. But
it is not so in New Mexico. Pray, what is the evidence which every
gentleman must have obtained on this subject, from information sought by
himself or communicated by others? I have inquired and read all I could
find, in order to acquire information on this important subject. What is
there in New Mexico that could, by any possibility, induce anybody to go
there with slaves? There are some narrow strips of tillable land on the
borders of the rivers; but the rivers themselves dry up before midsummer
is gone. All that the people can do in that region is to raise some
little articles, some little wheat for their _tortillas_, and that by
irrigation. And who expects to see a hundred black men cultivating
tobacco, corn, cotton, rice, or any thing else, on lands in New Mexico,
made fertile only by irrigation?

I look upon it, therefore, as a fixed fact, to use the current
expression of the day, that both California and New Mexico are destined
to be free, so far as they are settled at all, which I believe, in
regard to New Mexico, will be but partially for a great length of time;
free by the arrangement of things ordained by the Power above us. I have
therefore to say, in this respect also, that this country is fixed for
freedom, to as many persons as shall ever live in it, by a less
repealable law than that which attaches to the right of holding slaves
in Texas; and I will say further, that, if a resolution or a bill were
now before us, to provide a territorial government for New Mexico, I
would not vote to put any prohibition into it whatever. Such a
prohibition would be idle, as it respects any effect it would have upon
the territory; and I would not take pains uselessly to reaffirm an
ordinance of nature, nor to re-enact the will of God. I would put in no
Wilmot Proviso for the mere purpose of a taunt or a reproach. I would
put into it no evidence of the votes of superior power, exercised for no
purpose but to wound the pride, whether a just and a rational pride, or
an irrational pride, of the citizens of the Southern States. I have no
such object, no such purpose. They would think it a taunt, an indignity;
they would think it to be an act taking away from them what they regard
as a proper equality of privilege. Whether they expect to realize any
benefit from it or not, they would think it at least a plain theoretic
wrong; that something more or less derogatory to their character and
their rights had taken place. I propose to inflict no such wound upon
anybody, unless something essentially important to the country, and
efficient to the preservation of liberty and freedom, is to be effected.
I repeat, therefore, Sir, and, as I do not propose to address the Senate
often on this subject, I repeat it because I wish it to be distinctly
understood, that, for the reasons stated, if a proposition were now here
to establish a government for New Mexico, and it was moved to insert a
provision for a prohibition of slavery, I would not vote for it.

Sir, if we were now making a government for New Mexico, and anybody
should propose a Wilmot Proviso, I should treat it exactly as Mr. Polk
treated that provision for excluding slavery from Oregon. Mr. Polk was
known to be in opinion decidedly averse to the Wilmot Proviso; but he
felt the necessity of establishing a government for the Territory of
Oregon. The proviso was in the bill, but he knew it would be entirely
nugatory; and, since it must be entirely nugatory, since it took away no
right, no describable, no tangible, no appreciable right of the South,
he said he would sign the bill for the sake of enacting a law to form a
government in that Territory, and let that entirely useless, and, in
that connection, entirely senseless, proviso remain. Sir, we hear
occasionally of the annexation of Canada; and if there be any man, any
of the Northern Democracy, or any one of the Free Soil party, who
supposes it necessary to insert a Wilmot Proviso in a territorial
government for New Mexico, that man would of course be of opinion that
it is necessary to protect the everlasting snows of Canada from the foot
of slavery by the same overspreading wing of an act of Congress. Sir,
wherever there is a substantive good to be done, wherever there is a
foot of land to be prevented from becoming slave territory, I am ready
to assert the principle of the exclusion of slavery. I am pledged to it
from the year 1837; I have been pledged to it again and again; and I
will perform those pledges; but I will not do a thing unnecessarily that
wounds the feelings of others, or that does discredit to my own

Now, Mr. President, I have established, so far as I proposed to do so,
the proposition with which I set out, and upon which I intend to stand
or fall; and that is, that the whole territory within the former United
States, or in the newly acquired Mexican provinces, has a fixed and
settled character, now fixed and settled by law which cannot be
repealed,--in the case of Texas without a violation of public faith, and
by no human power in regard to California or New Mexico; that,
therefore, under one or other of these laws, every foot of land in the
States or in the Territories has already received a fixed and decided

Mr. President, in the excited times in which we live, there is found to
exist a state of crimination and recrimination between the North and
South. There are lists of grievances produced by each, and those
grievances, real or supposed, alienate the minds of one portion of the
country from the other, exasperate the feelings, and subdue the sense of
fraternal affection, patriotic love, and mutual regard. I shall bestow a
little attention, Sir, upon these various grievances existing on the one
side and on the other. I begin with complaints of the South. I will not
answer, further than I have, the general statements of the honorable
Senator from South Carolina, that the North has prospered at the expense
of the South in consequence of the manner of administering this
government, in the collecting of its revenues, and so forth. These are
disputed topics, and I have no inclination to enter into them. But I
will allude to other complaints of the South, and especially to one
which has in my opinion just foundation; and that is, that there has
been found at the North, among individuals and among legislators, a
disinclination to perform fully their constitutional duties in regard to
the return of persons bound to service who have escaped into the free
States. In that respect, the South, in my judgment, is right, and the
North is wrong. Every member of every Northern legislature is bound by
oath, like every other officer in the country, to support the
Constitution of the United States; and the article of the
Constitution[16] which says to these States that they shall deliver up
fugitives from service is as binding in honor and conscience as any
other article. No man fulfils his duty in any legislature who sets
himself to find excuses, evasions, escapes from this constitutional
obligation. I have always thought that the Constitution addressed itself
to the legislatures of the States or to the States themselves. It says
that those persons escaping to other States "shall be delivered up," and
I confess I have always been of the opinion that it was an injunction
upon the States themselves. When it is said that a person escaping into
another State, and coming therefore within the jurisdiction of that
State, shall be delivered up, it seems to me the import of the clause
is, that the State itself, in obedience to the Constitution, shall cause
him to be delivered up. That is my judgment. I have always entertained
that opinion, and I entertain it now. But when the subject, some years
ago, was before the Supreme Court of the United States, the majority of
the judges held that the power to cause fugitives from service to be
delivered up was a power to be exercised under the authority of this
government. I do not know, on the whole, that it may not have been a
fortunate decision. My habit is to respect the result of judicial
deliberations and the solemnity of judicial decisions. As it now stands,
the business of seeing that these fugitives are delivered up resides in
the power of Congress and the national judicature, and my friend at the
head of the Judiciary Committee[17] has a bill on the subject now before
the Senate, which, with some amendments to it, I propose to support,
with all its provisions, to the fullest extent. And I desire to call the
attention of all sober-minded men at the North, of all conscientious
men, of all men who are not carried away by some fanatical idea or some
false impression, to their constitutional obligations. I put it to all
the sober and sound minds at the North as a question of morals and a
question of conscience. What right have they, in their legislative
capacity or any other capacity, to endeavor to get round this
Constitution, or to embarrass the free exercise of the rights secured by
the Constitution to the persons whose slaves escape from them? None at
all; none at all. Neither in the forum of conscience, nor before the
face of the Constitution, are they, in my opinion, justified in such an
attempt. Of course it is a matter for their consideration. They
probably, in the excitement of the times, have not stopped to consider
of this. They have followed what seemed to be the current of thought and
of motives, as the occasion arose, and they have neglected to
investigate fully the real question, and to consider their
constitutional obligations; which, I am sure, if they did consider, they
would fulfil with alacrity. I repeat, therefore, Sir, that here is a


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