The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

Part 22 out of 25

well-founded ground of complaint against the North, which ought to be
removed, which it is now in the power of the different departments of
this government to remove; which calls for the enactment of proper laws
authorizing the judicature of this government, in the several States, to
do all that is necessary for the recapture of fugitive slaves and for
their restoration to those who claim them. Wherever I go, and whenever I
speak on the subject, and when I speak here I desire to speak to the
whole North, I say that the South has been injured in this respect, and
has a right to complain; and the North has been too careless of what I
think the Constitution peremptorily and emphatically enjoins upon her as
a duty.

Complaint has been made against certain resolutions that emanate from
legislatures at the North, and are sent here to us, not only on the
subject of slavery in this District, but sometimes recommending Congress
to consider the means of abolishing slavery in the States. I should be
sorry to be called upon to present any resolutions here which could not
be referable to any committee or any power in Congress; and therefore I
should be unwilling to receive from the legislature of Massachusetts any
instructions to present resolutions expressive of any opinion whatever
on the subject of slavery, as it exists at the present moment in the
States, for two reasons: first, because I do not consider that the
legislature of Massachusetts has any thing to do with it; and next,
because I do not consider that I, as her representative here, have any
thing to do with it. It has become, in my opinion, quite too common; and
if the legislatures of the States do not like that opinion, they have a
great deal more power to put it down than I have to uphold it; it has
become, in my opinion, quite too common a practice for the State
legislatures to present resolutions here on all subjects and to instruct
us on all subjects. There is no public man that requires instruction
more than I do, or who requires information more than I do, or desires
it more heartily; but I do not like to have it in too imperative a
shape. I took notice, with pleasure, of some remarks made upon this
subject, the other day, in the Senate of Massachusetts, by a young man
of talent and character, of whom the best hopes may be entertained. I
mean Mr. Hillard. He told the Senate of Massachusetts that he would vote
for no instructions whatever to be forwarded to members of Congress, nor
for any resolutions to be offered expressive of the sense of
Massachusetts as to what her members of Congress ought to do. He said
that he saw no propriety in one set of public servants giving
instructions and reading lectures to another set of public servants. To
his own master each of them must stand or fall, and that master is his
constituents. I wish these sentiments could become more common. I have
never entered into the question, and never shall, as to the binding
force of instructions. I will, however, simply say this: if there be any
matter pending in this body, while I am a member of it, in which
Massachusetts has an interest of her own not adverse to the general
interests of the country, I shall pursue her instructions with gladness
of heart and with all the efficiency which I can bring to the occasion.
But if the question be one which affects her interest, and at the same
time equally affects the interests of all the other States, I shall no
more regard her particular wishes or instructions than I should regard
the wishes of a man who might appoint me an arbitrator or referee to
decide some question of important private right between him and his
neighbor, and then _instruct_ me to decide in his favor. If ever there
was a government upon earth it is this government, if ever there was a
body upon earth it is this body, which should consider itself as
composed by agreement of all, each member appointed by some, but
organized by the general consent of all, sitting here, under the solemn
obligations of oath and conscience, to do that which they think to be
best for the good of the whole.

Then, Sir, there are the Abolition societies, of which I am unwilling
to speak, but in regard to which I have very clear notions and opinions.
I do not think them useful. I think their operations for the last twenty
years have produced nothing good or valuable. At the same time, I
believe thousands of their members to be honest and good men, perfectly
well-meaning men. They have excited feelings; they think they must do
something for the cause of liberty; and, in their sphere of action, they
do not see what else they can do than to contribute to an Abolition
press, or an Abolition society, or to pay an Abolition lecturer. I do
not mean to impute gross motives even to the leaders of these societies;
but I am not blind to the consequences of their proceedings. I cannot
but see what mischiefs their interference with the South has produced.
And is it not plain to every man? Let any gentleman who entertains
doubts on this point recur to the debates in the Virginia House of
Delegates in 1832, and he will see with what freedom a proposition made
by Mr. Jefferson Randolph for the gradual abolition of slavery was
discussed in that body. Every one spoke of slavery as he thought; very
ignominious and disparaging names and epithets were applied to it. The
debates in the House of Delegates on that occasion, I believe, were all
published. They were read by every colored man who could read; and to
those who could not read, those debates were read by others. At that
time Virginia was not unwilling or afraid to discuss this question, and
to let that part of her population know as much of the discussion as
they could learn. That was in 1832. As has been said by the honorable
member from South Carolina, these Abolition societies commenced their
course of action in 1835. It is said, I do not know how true it may be,
that they sent incendiary publications into the slave States; at any
rate, they attempted to arouse, and did arouse, a very strong feeling;
in other words, they created great agitation in the North against
Southern slavery. Well, what was the result? The bonds of the slaves
were bound more firmly than before, their rivets were more strongly
fastened. Public opinion, which in Virginia had begun to be exhibited
against slavery, and was opening out for the discussion of the question,
drew back and shut itself up in its castle. I wish to know whether
anybody in Virginia can now talk openly as Mr. Randolph, Governor
McDowell, and others talked in 1832, and sent their remarks to the
press? We all know the fact, and we all know the cause; and every thing
that these agitating people have done has been, not to enlarge, but to
restrain, not to set free, but to bind faster, the slave population of
the South.[18]

Again, Sir, the violence of the Northern press is complained of. The
press violent! Why, Sir, the press is violent everywhere. There are
outrageous reproaches in the North against the South, and there are
reproaches as vehement in the South against the North. Sir, the
extremists of both parts of this country are violent; they mistake loud
and violent talk for eloquence and for reason. They think that he who
talks loudest reasons best. And this we must expect, when the press is
free, as it is here, and I trust always will be; for, with all its
licentiousness and all its evil, the entire and absolute freedom of the
press is essential to the preservation of government on the basis of a
free constitution. Wherever it exists there will be foolish and violent
paragraphs in the newspapers, as there are, I am sorry to say, foolish
and violent speeches in both houses of Congress. In truth, Sir, I must
say that, in my opinion, the vernacular tongue of the country has become
greatly vitiated, depraved, and corrupted by the style of our
Congressional debates. And if it were possible for those debates to
vitiate the principles of the people as much as they have depraved their
tastes, I should cry out, "God save the Republic!"

Well, in all this I see no solid grievance, no grievance presented by
the South, within the redress of the government, but the single one to
which I have referred; and that is, the want of a proper regard to the
injunction of the Constitution for the delivery of fugitive slaves.

There are also complaints of the North against the South. I need not go
over them particularly. The first and gravest is, that the North adopted
the Constitution, recognizing the existence of slavery in the States,
and recognizing the right, to a certain extent, of the representation of
slaves in Congress, under a state of sentiment and expectation which
does not now exist; and that, by events, by circumstances, by the
eagerness of the South to acquire territory and extend her slave
population, the North finds itself, in regard to the relative influence
of the South and the North, of the free States and the slave States,
where it never did expect to find itself when they agreed to the compact
of the Constitution. They complain, therefore, that, instead of slavery
being regarded as an evil, as it was then, an evil which all hoped would
be extinguished gradually, it is now regarded by the South as an
institution to be cherished, and preserved, and extended; an institution
which the South has already extended to the utmost of her power by the
acquisition of new territory.

Well, then, passing from that, everybody in the North reads; and
everybody reads whatsoever the newspapers contain; and the newspapers,
some of them, especially those presses to which I have alluded, are
careful to spread about among the people every reproachful sentiment
uttered by any Southern man bearing at all against the North; every
thing that is calculated to exasperate and to alienate; and there are
many such things, as everybody will admit, from the South, or some
portion of it, which are disseminated among the reading people; and they
do exasperate, and alienate, and produce a most mischievous effect upon
the public mind at the North. Sir, I would not notice things of this
sort appearing in obscure quarters; but one thing has occurred in this
debate which struck me very forcibly. An honorable member from Louisiana
addressed us the other day on this subject. I suppose there is not a
more amiable and worthy gentleman in this chamber, nor a gentleman who
would be more slow to give offence to anybody, and he did not mean in
his remarks to give offence. But what did he say? Why, Sir, he took
pains to run a contrast between the slaves of the South and the laboring
people of the North, giving the preference, in all points of condition,
and comfort, and happiness, to the slaves of the South. The honorable
member, doubtless, did not suppose that he gave any offence, or did any
injustice. He was merely expressing his opinion. But does he know how
remarks of that sort will be received by the laboring people of the
North? Why, who are the laboring people of the North? They are the whole
North. They are the people who till their own farms with their own
hands; freeholders, educated men, independent men. Let me say, Sir, that
five sixths of the whole property of the North is in the hands of the
laborers of the North; they cultivate their farms, they educate their
children, they provide the means of independence. If they are not
freeholders, they earn wages; these wages accumulate, are turned into
capital, into new freeholds, and small capitalists are created. Such is
the case, and such the course of things, among the industrious and
frugal. And what can these people think when so respectable and worthy a
gentleman as the member from Louisiana undertakes to prove that the
absolute ignorance and the abject slavery of the South are more in
conformity with the high purposes and destiny of immortal, rational
human beings, than the educated, the independent free labor of the

There is a more tangible and irritating cause of grievance at the North.
Free blacks are constantly employed in the vessels of the North,
generally as cooks or stewards. When the vessel arrives at a Southern
port, these free colored men are taken on shore, by the police or
municipal authority, imprisoned, and kept in prison till the vessel is
again ready to sail. This is not only irritating, but exceedingly
unjustifiable and oppressive. Mr. Hoar's mission, some time ago, to
South Carolina, was a well-intended effort to remove this cause of
complaint. The North thinks such imprisonments illegal and
unconstitutional; and as the cases occur constantly and frequently, they
regard it as a great grievance.

Now, Sir, so far as any of these grievances have their foundation in
matters of law, they can be redressed, and ought to be redressed; and so
far as they have their foundation in matters of opinion, in sentiment,
in mutual crimination and recrimination, all that we can do is to
endeavor to allay the agitation, and cultivate a better feeling and more
fraternal sentiments between the South and the North.

Mr. President, I should much prefer to have heard from every member on
this floor declarations of opinion that this Union could never be
dissolved, than the declaration of opinion by anybody, that, in any
case, under the pressure of any circumstances, such a dissolution was
possible. I hear with distress and anguish the word "secession,"
especially when it falls from the lips of those who are patriotic, and
known to the country, and known all over the world, for their political
services. Secession! Peaceable secession! Sir, your eyes and mine are
never destined to see that miracle. The dismemberment of this vast
country without convulsion! The breaking up of the fountains of the
great deep without ruffling the surface! Who is so foolish, I beg
everybody's pardon, as to expect to see any such thing? Sir, he who sees
these States, now revolving in harmony around a common centre, and
expects to see them quit their places and fly off without convulsion,
may look the next hour to see the heavenly bodies rush from their
spheres, and jostle against each other in the realms of space, without
causing the wreck of the universe. There can be no such thing as a
peaceable secession. Peaceable secession is an utter impossibility. Is
the great Constitution under which we live, covering this whole
country,--is it to be thawed and melted away by secession, as the snows
on the mountain melt under the influence of a vernal sun, disappear
almost unobserved, and run off? No, Sir! No, Sir! I will not state what
might produce the disruption of the Union; but, Sir, I see as plainly as
I see the sun in heaven what that disruption itself must produce; I see
that it must produce war, and such a war as I will not describe, _in its
twofold character_.

Peaceable secession! Peaceable secession! The concurrent agreement of
all the members of this great republic to separate! A voluntary
separation, with alimony on one side and on the other. Why, what would
be the result? Where is the line to be drawn? What States are to secede?
What is to remain American? What am I to be? An American no longer? Am I
to become a sectional man, a local man, a separatist, with no country in
common with the gentlemen who sit around me here, or who fill the other
house of Congress? Heaven forbid! Where is the flag of the republic to
remain? Where is the eagle still to tower? or is he to cower, and
shrink, and fall to the ground? Why, Sir, our ancestors, our fathers and
our grandfathers, those of them that are yet living amongst us with
prolonged lives, would rebuke and reproach us; and our children and our
grandchildren would cry out shame upon us, if we of this generation
should dishonor these ensigns of the power of the government and the
harmony of that Union which is every day felt among us with so much joy
and gratitude. What is to become of the army? What is to become of the
navy? What is to become of the public lands? How is each of the thirty
States to defend itself? I know, although the idea has not been stated
distinctly, there is to be, or it is supposed possible that there will
be, a Southern Confederacy. I do not mean, when I allude to this
statement, that any one seriously contemplates such a state of things. I
do not mean to say that it is true, but I have heard it suggested
elsewhere, that the idea has been entertained, that, after the
dissolution of this Union, a Southern Confederacy might be formed. I am
sorry, Sir, that it has ever been thought of, talked of, or dreamed of,
in the wildest flights of human imagination. But the idea, so far as it
exists, must be of a separation, assigning the slave States to one side
and the free States to the other. Sir, I may express myself too
strongly, perhaps, but there are impossibilities in the natural as well
as in the physical world, and I hold the idea of a separation of these
States, those that are free to form one government, and those that are
slave-holding to form another, as such an impossibility. We could not
separate the States by any such line, if we were to draw it. We could
not sit down here to-day and draw a line of separation that would
satisfy any five men in the country. There are natural causes that would
keep and tie us together, and there are social and domestic relations
which we could not break if we would, and which we should not if we

Sir, nobody can look over the face of this country at the present
moment, nobody can see where its population is the most dense and
growing, without being ready to admit, and compelled to admit, that
erelong the strength of America will be in the Valley of the
Mississippi. Well, now, Sir, I beg to inquire what the wildest
enthusiast has to say on the possibility of cutting that river in two,
and leaving free States at its source and on its branches, and slave
States down near its mouth, each forming a separate government? Pray,
Sir, let me say to the people of this country, that these things are
worthy of their pondering and of their consideration. Here, Sir, are
five millions of freemen in the free States north of the river Ohio. Can
anybody suppose that this population can be severed, by a line that
divides them from the territory of a foreign and an alien government,
down somewhere, the Lord knows where, upon the lower banks of the
Mississippi? What would become of Missouri? Will she join the
_arrondissement_ of the slave States? Shall the man from the Yellowstone
and the Platte be connected, in the new republic, with the man who lives
on the southern extremity of the Cape of Florida? Sir, I am ashamed to
pursue this line of remark. I dislike it, I have an utter disgust for
it. I would rather hear of natural blasts and mildews, war, pestilence,
and famine, than to hear gentlemen talk of secession. To break up this
great government! to dismember this glorious country! to astonish Europe
with an act of folly such as Europe for two centuries has never beheld
in any government or any people! No, Sir! no, Sir! There will be no
secession! Gentlemen are not serious when they talk of secession.

Sir, I hear there is to be a convention held at Nashville. I am bound to
believe that, if worthy gentlemen meet at Nashville in convention, their
object will be to adopt conciliatory counsels; to advise the South to
forbearance and moderation, and to advise the North to forbearance and
moderation; and to inculcate principles of brotherly love and affection,
and attachment to the Constitution of the country as it now is. I
believe, if the convention meet at all, it will be for this purpose; for
certainly, if they meet for any purpose hostile to the Union, they have
been singularly inappropriate in their selection of a place. I remember,
Sir, that, when the treaty of Amiens was concluded between France and
England, a sturdy Englishman and a distinguished orator, who regarded
the conditions of the peace as ignominious to England, said in the House
of Commons, that, if King William could know the terms of that treaty,
he would turn in his coffin! Let me commend this saying of Mr. Windham,
in all its emphasis and in all its force, to any persons who shall meet
at Nashville for the purpose of concerting measures for the overthrow of
this Union over the bones of Andrew Jackson!

Sir, I wish now to make two remarks, and hasten to a conclusion. I wish
to say, in regard to Texas, that if it should be hereafter, at any time,
the pleasure of the government of Texas to cede to the United States a
portion, larger or smaller, of her territory which lies adjacent to New
Mexico, and north of 36 deg. 30' of north latitude, to be formed into free
States, for a fair equivalent in money or in the payment of her debt, I
think it an object well worthy the consideration of Congress, and I
shall be happy to concur in it myself, if I should have a connection
with the government at that time.

I have one other remark to make. In my observations upon slavery as it
has existed in this country, and as it now exists, I have expressed no
opinion of the mode of its extinguishment or melioration. I will say,
however, though I have nothing to propose, because I do not deem myself
so competent as other gentlemen to take any lead on this subject, that
if any gentleman from the South shall propose a scheme, to be carried on
by this government upon a large scale, for the transportation of free
colored people to any colony or any place in the world, I should be
quite disposed to incur almost any degree of expense to accomplish that
object. Nay, Sir, following an example set more than twenty years ago by
a great man,[19] then a Senator from New York, I would return to
Virginia, and through her to the whole South, the money received from
the lands and territories ceded by her to this government, for any such
purpose as to remove, in whole or in part, or in any way to diminish or
deal beneficially with, the free colored population of the Southern
States. I have said that I honor Virginia for her cession of this
territory. There have been received into the treasury of the United
States eighty millions of dollars, the proceeds of the sales of the
public lands ceded by her. If the residue should be sold at the same
rate, the whole aggregate will exceed two hundred millions of dollars.
If Virginia and the South see fit to adopt any proposition to relieve
themselves from the free people of color among them, or such as may be
made free, they have my full consent that the government shall pay them
any sum of money out of the proceeds of that cession which may be
adequate to the purpose.

And now, Mr. President, I draw these observations to a close. I have
spoken freely, and I meant to do so. I have sought to make no display. I
have sought to enliven the occasion by no animated discussion, nor have
I attempted any train of elaborate argument. I have wished only to speak
my sentiments, fully and at length, being desirous, once and for all, to
let the Senate know, and to let the country know, the opinions and
sentiments which I entertain on all these subjects. These opinions are
not likely to be suddenly changed. If there be any future service that I
can render to the country, consistently with these sentiments and
opinions, I shall cheerfully render it. If there be not, I shall still
be glad to have had an opportunity to disburden myself from the bottom
of my heart, and to make known every political sentiment that therein

And now, Mr. President, instead of speaking of the possibility or
utility of secession, instead of dwelling in those caverns of darkness,
instead of groping with those ideas so full of all that is horrid and
horrible, let us come out into the light of day; let us enjoy the fresh
air of Liberty and Union; let us cherish those hopes which belong to us;
let us devote ourselves to those great objects that are fit for our
consideration and our action; let us raise our conceptions to the
magnitude and the importance of the duties that devolve upon us; let our
comprehension be as broad as the country for which we act, our
aspirations as high as its certain destiny; let us not be pygmies in a
case that calls for men. Never did there devolve on any generation of
men higher trusts than now devolve upon us, for the preservation of this
Constitution and the harmony and peace of all who are destined to live
under it. Let us make our generation one of the strongest and brightest
links in that golden chain which is destined, I fondly believe, to
grapple the people of all the States to this Constitution for ages to
come. We have a great, popular, constitutional government, guarded by
law and by judicature, and defended by the affections of the whole
people. No monarchical throne presses these States together, no iron
chain of military power encircles them; they live and stand under a
government popular in its form, representative in its character, founded
upon principles of equality, and so constructed, we hope, as to last for
ever. In all its history it has been beneficent; it has trodden down no
man's liberty; it has crushed no State. Its daily respiration is liberty
and patriotism; its yet youthful veins are full of enterprise, courage,
and honorable love of glory and renown. Large before, the country has
now, by recent events, become vastly larger. This republic now extends,
with a vast breadth, across the whole continent. The two great seas of
the world wash the one and the other shore. We realize, on a mighty
scale, the beautiful description of the ornamental border of the buckler
of Achilles:--

"Now, the broad shield complete, the artist crowned
With his last hand, and poured the ocean round;
In living silver seemed the waves to roll,
And beat the buckler's verge, and bound the whole."

* * * * *


Page 619.

_Letter from Mr. Webster to the Editors of the National Intelligencer,
enclosing Extracts from a Letter of the late Dr. Channing._

_Washington, February 15, 1851._


Having occasion recently to look over some files of letters written
several years ago, I happened to fall on one from the late Rev. Dr. W.E.
Channing. It contains passages which I think, coming from such a source,
and written at such a time, would be interesting to the country. I have
therefore extracted them, and send them to you for publication in your

Yours respectfully,


* * * * *

_Boston, May 14, 1828._


I wish to call your attention to a subject of general interest.

A little while ago, Mr. Lundy of Baltimore, the editor of a paper called
"The Genius of Universal Emancipation," visited this part of the
country, to stir us up to the work of abolishing slavery at the South,
and the intention is to organize societies for this purpose. I know few
objects into which I should enter with more zeal, but I am aware how
cautiously exertions are to be made for it in this part of the country.
I know that our Southern brethren interpret every word from this region
on the subject of slavery as an expression of hostility. I would ask if
they cannot be brought to understand us better, and if we can do any
good till we remove their misapprehensions. It seems to me that, before
moving in this matter, we ought to say to them distinctly, "We consider
slavery as your calamity, not your crime, and we will share with you the
burden of putting an end to it. We will consent that the public lands
shall be appropriated to this object; or that the general government
shall be clothed with power to apply a portion of revenue to it."

I throw out these suggestions merely to illustrate my views. We must
first let the Southern States see that we are their _friends_ in this
affair; that we sympathize with them, and, from principles of patriotism
and philanthropy, are willing to share the toil and expense of
abolishing slavery, or I fear our interference will avail nothing. I am
the more sensitive on this subject from my increased solicitude for the
preservation of the Union. I know no public interest so important as
this. I ask from the general government hardly any other boon than that
it will hold us together, and preserve pacific relations and intercourse
among the States. I deprecate every thing which sows discord and
exasperates sectional animosities. If it will simply keep us at peace,
and will maintain in full power the national courts, for the purpose of
settling quietly among citizens of different States questions which
might otherwise be settled by arms, I shall be satisfied.

My fear in regard to our efforts against slavery is, that we shall make
the case worse by rousing sectional pride and passion for its support,
and that we shall only break the country into two great parties, which
may shake the foundations of government.

I have written to you because your situation gives you advantages which
perhaps no other man enjoys for ascertaining the method, if any can be
devised, by which we may operate beneficially and safely in regard to
slavery. Appeals will probably be made soon to the people here, and I
wish that wise men would save us from the rashness of enthusiasts, and
from the perils to which our very virtues expose us.

With great respect, your friend,



[Footnote 1: Mr. Calhoun.]

[Footnote 2: Mr. Calhoun.]

[Footnote 3: Mr. Mason of Virginia.]

[Footnote 4: See Madison Papers, Vol. III. pp. 1390, 1428, _et seq._]

[Footnote 5: Seybert's Statistics, p. 92. A small parcel of cotton found
its way to Liverpool from the United States in 1784, and was refused
admission, on the ground that it could not be the growth of the United

[Footnote 6: Mr. Calhoun.]

[Footnote 7: Mr. Walker.]

[Footnote 8: Mr. Bell.]

[Footnote 9: Mr. Greene.]

[Footnote 10: Mr. Hamlin.]

[Footnote 11: Mr. Berrien.]

[Footnote 12: Mr. Upshur.]

[Footnote 13: Messrs. Niles of Connecticut and Dix of New York.]

[Footnote 14: See the remarks on the Admission of Texas, in Webster's
Works, Vol. V. p. 55.]

[Footnote 15: Mr. Bell.]

[Footnote 16: Art. IV. Sect. 2, sec. 2.]

[Footnote 17: Mr. Mason.]

[Footnote 18: See Note at the end of the Speech.]

[Footnote 19: Mr. Rufus King.]



Fellow-Citizens of the City of Buffalo,--I am very glad to see you; I
meet you with pleasure. It is not the first time that I have been in
Buffalo, and I have always come to it with gratification. It is at a
great distance from my own home. I am thankful that circumstances have
enabled me to be here again, and I regret that untoward events deprived
me of the pleasure of being with you when your distinguished
fellow-citizen, the President of the United States, visited you, and
received from you, as he deserved, not only a respectful, but a cordial
and enthusiastic welcome. The President of the United States has been a
resident among you for more than half his life. He has represented you
in the State and national councils. You know him and all his relations,
both public and private, and it would be bad taste in me to say any
thing of him, except that I wish to say, with emphasis, that, since my
connection with him in the administration of the government of the
United States, I have fully concurred with him in all his great and
leading measures. This might be inferred from the fact that I have been
one of his ordinary advisers. But I do not wish to let it rest on that
presumption; I wish to declare that the principles of the President, as
set forth in his annual message, his letters, and all documents and
opinions which have proceeded from him, or been issued by his authority,
in regard to the great question of the times,--all these principles are
my principles; and if he is wrong in them, I am, and always shall be.

Gentlemen, it has been suggested to me that it would be agreeable to the
citizens of Buffalo, and their neighbors in the county of Erie, that I
should state to you my opinions, whatever may be their value, on the
present condition of the country, its prospects, its hopes, and its
dangers; and, fellow-citizens, I intend to do that, this day, and this
hour, as far as my strength will permit.

Gentlemen, believe me, I know where I am. I know to whom I am speaking.
I know for whom I am speaking. I know that I am here in this singularly
prosperous and powerful section of the United States, Western New York,
and I know the character of the men who inhabit Western New York. I know
they are sons of liberty, one and all; that they sucked in liberty with
their mothers' milk; inherited it with their blood; that it is the
subject of their daily contemplation and watchful thought. They are men
of unusual equality of condition, for a million and a half of people.
There are thousands of men around us, and here before us, who till their
own soil with their own hands; and others who earn their own livelihood
by their own labor in the workshops and other places of industry; and
they are independent, in principle and in condition, having neither
slaves nor masters, and not intending to have either. These are the men
who constitute, to a great extent, the people of Western New York. But
the school-house, I know, is among them. Education is among them. They
read, and write, and think. Here, too, are women, educated, refined, and
intelligent; and here are men who know the history of their country, and
the laws of their country, and the institutions of their country; and
men, lovers of liberty always, and yet lovers of liberty under the
Constitution of the country, and who mean to maintain that Constitution
with all their strength. I hope these observations will satisfy you that
I know where I am, under what responsibility I speak, and before whom I
appear; and I have no desire that any word I shall say this day shall be
withholden from you, or your children, or your neighbors, or the whole
world; for I speak before you and before my country, and, if it be not
too solemn to say so, before the great Author of all things.

Gentlemen, there is but one question in this country now; or, if there
be others, they are but secondary, or so subordinate that they are all
absorbed in that great and leading question; and that is neither more
nor less than this: Can we preserve the union of the States, not by
coercion, not by military power, not by angry controversies,--but can we
of this generation, you and I, your friends and my friends,--can we so
preserve the union of these States, by such administration of the powers
of the Constitution as shall give content and satisfaction to all who
live under it, and draw us together, not by military power, but by the
silken cords of mutual, fraternal, patriotic affection? That is the
question, and no other. Gentlemen, I believe in party distinctions. I am
a party man. There are questions belonging to party in which I take an
interest, and there are opinions entertained by other parties which I
repudiate; but what of all that? If a house be divided against itself,
it will fall, and crush everybody in it. We must see that we maintain
the government which is over us. We must see that we uphold the
Constitution, and we must do so without regard to party.

Now how did this question arise? The question is for ever misstated. I
dare say, if you know much of me, or of my course of public conduct, for
the last fourteen months, you have heard of my attending Union meetings,
and of my fervent admonitions at Union meetings. Well, what was the
object of those meetings? What was their purpose? The object and purpose
have been designedly or thoughtlessly misrepresented. I had an
invitation, some time since, to attend a Union meeting in the county of
Westchester; I could not go, but wrote a letter. Well, some wise man of
the East said he did not think it was very necessary to hold Union
meetings in Westchester. He did not think there were many disunionists
about Tarrytown! And so in many parts of the country, there is a total
misapprehension of the purpose and object of these Union meetings. Every
one knows, that there is not a county, or a city, or a hamlet in the
State of New York, that is ready to go out of the Union, but only some
small bodies of fanatics. There is no man so insane in the State, not
fit for a lunatic asylum, as to wish it. But that is not the point. We
all know that every man and every neighborhood, and all corporations, in
the State of New York, except those I have mentioned, are attached to
the Union, and have no idea of withdrawing from it. But that is not, I
repeat, the point. The question, fellow-citizens, (and I put it to you
now as the real question,) the question is, Whether you and the rest of
the people of the great State of New York, and of all the States, will
so adhere to the Constitution, will so enact and maintain laws to
preserve that instrument, that you will not only remain in the Union
yourselves, but permit your brethren to remain in it, and help to
perpetuate it? That is the question. Will you concur in measures
necessary to maintain the Union, or will you oppose such measures? That
is the whole point of the case.

There are thirty or forty members of Congress from New York; you have
your proportion in the United States Senate. We have many members of
Congress from New England. Will they maintain the laws that are passed
for the administration of the Constitution, and respect the rights of
the South, so that the Union may be held together; and not only so that
we may not go out of it ourselves, which we are not inclined to do, but
so that, by maintaining the rights of others, they may also remain in
the Union? Now, Gentlemen, permit me to say, that I speak of no
concessions. If the South wish any concession from me, they will not get
it; not a hair's breadth of it. If they come to my house for it, they
will not find it, and the door will be shut; I concede nothing. But I
say that I will maintain for them, as I will maintain for you, to the
utmost of my power, and in the face of all danger, their rights under
the Constitution, and your rights under the Constitution. And I shall
never be found to falter in one or the other. It is obvious to every
one, and we all know it, that the origin of the great disturbance which
agitates the country is the existence of slavery in some of the States;
but we must meet the subject; we must consider it; we must deal with it
earnestly, honestly, and justly. From the mouth of the St. John's to the
confines of Florida, there existed, in 1775, thirteen colonies of
English origin, planted at different times, and coming from different
parts of England, bringing with them various habits, and establishing,
each for itself, institutions entirely different from the institutions
which they left, and in many cases from each other. But they were all of
English origin. The English language was theirs, Shakepeare and Milton
were theirs, the common law of England was theirs, and the Christian
religion was theirs; and these things held them together by the force of
a common character. The aggressions of the parent state compelled them
to assert their independence. They declared independence, and that
immortal act, pronounced on the 4th of July, 1776, made them

That was an act of union by the United States in Congress assembled. But
this act of itself did nothing to establish over them a general
government. They had a Congress. They had Articles of Confederation to
prosecute the war. But thus far they were still, essentially, separate
and independent each of the other. They had entered into a simple
confederacy, and nothing more. No State was bound by what it did not
itself agree to, or what was done according to the provisions of the
confederation. That was the state of things, Gentlemen, at that time.
The war went on; victory crowned the American arms; our independence was
acknowledged. The States were then united together under a confederacy
of very limited powers. It could levy no taxes. It could not enforce its
own decrees. It was a confederacy, instead of a united government.
Experience showed that this was insufficient and inefficient.
Accordingly, beginning as far back almost as the close of the war,
measures were taken for the formation of a united government, a
government in the strict sense of the term, a government that could pass
laws binding on the individual citizens of all the States, and which
could enforce those laws by its executive powers, having them
interpreted by a judicial power belonging to the government itself, and
yet a government strictly limited in its nature. Well, Gentlemen, this
led to the formation of the Constitution of the United States, and that
instrument was framed on the idea of a limited government. It proposed
to leave, and did leave, the different domestic institutions of the
several States to themselves. It did not propose consolidation. It did
not propose that the laws of Virginia should be the laws of New York, or
that the laws of New York should be the laws of Massachusetts. It
proposed only that, for certain purposes and to a certain extent, there
should be a united government, and that that government should have the
power of executing its own laws. All the rest was left to the several

We now come, Gentlemen, to the very point of the case. At that time
slavery existed in the Southern States, entailed upon them in the time
of the supremacy of British laws over us. There it was. It was obnoxious
to the Middle and Eastern States, and honestly and seriously disliked,
as the records of the country will show, by the Southern States
themselves. Now, how was it to be dealt with? Were the Northern and
Middle States to exclude from the government those States of the South
which had produced a Washington, a Laurens, and other distinguished
patriots, who had so truly served, and so greatly honored, the whole
country? Were they to be excluded from the new government because they
tolerated the institution of slavery? Your fathers and my fathers did
not think so. They did not see that it would be of the least advantage
to the slaves of the Southern States, to cut off the South from all
connection with the North. Their views of humanity led to no such
result; and of course, when the Constitution was framed and established,
and adopted by you, here in New York, and by New England, it contained
an express provision of security to the persons who lived in the
Southern States, in regard to fugitives who owed them service; that is
to say, it was stipulated that the fugitive from service or labor should
be restored to his master or owner if he escaped into a free State.
Well, that had been the history of the country from its first
settlement. It was a matter of common practice to return fugitives
before the Constitution was formed. Fugitive slaves from Virginia to
Massachusetts were restored by the people of Massachusetts. At that day
there was a great system of apprenticeship at the North, and many
apprentices at the North, taking advantage of circumstances, and of
vessels sailing to the South, thereby escaped; and they were restored on
proper claim and proof. That led to a clear, express, and well-defined
provision in the Constitution of the country on the subject. Now I am
aware that all these things are well known; that they have been stated a
thousand times; but in these days of perpetual discontent and
misrepresentation, to state things a thousand times is not enough; for
there are persons whose consciences, it would seem, lead them to
consider it their duty to deny, misrepresent, falsify, and cover up

Now these are words of the Constitution, fellow-citizens, which I have
taken the pains to transcribe therefrom, so that he who runs may read:--


Is there any mistake about that? Is there any forty-shilling attorney
here to make a question of it? No. I will not disgrace my profession by
supposing such a thing. There is not, in or out of an attorney's office
in the county of Erie, or elsewhere, one who could raise a doubt, or a
particle of a doubt, about the meaning of this provision of the
Constitution. He may act as witnesses do, sometimes, on the stand. He
may wriggle, and twist, and say he cannot tell, or cannot remember. I
have seen many such efforts in my time, on the part of witnesses, to
falsify and deny the truth. But there is no man who can read these words
of the Constitution of the United States, and say they are not clear and
imperative. "No person," the Constitution says, "held to service or
labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another,
shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged
from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the
party to whom such service or labor may be due." Why, you may be told by
forty conventions in Massachusetts, in Ohio, in New York, or elsewhere,
that, if a colored man comes here, he comes as a freeman; that is a _non
sequitur_. It is not so. If he comes as a fugitive from labor, the
Constitution says he is not a freeman, and that he shall be delivered up
to those who are entitled to his service.

Gentlemen, that is the Constitution of the United States. Do we, or do
we not, mean to conform to it, and to execute that part of the
Constitution as well as the rest of it? I believe there are before me
here members of Congress. I suppose there may be here members of the
State legislature, or executive officers under the State government. I
suppose there may be judicial magistrates of New York, executive
officers, assessors, supervisors, justices of the peace, and constables
before me. Allow me to say, Gentlemen, that there is not, that there
cannot be, any one of these officers in this assemblage, or elsewhere,
who has not, according to the form of the usual obligation, bound
himself by a solemn oath to support the Constitution. They have taken
their oaths on the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God, or by uplifted
hand, as the case may be, or by a solemn affirmation, as is the practice
in some cases; but among all of them there is not a man who holds, nor
is there any man who can hold, any office in the gift of the United
States, or of this State, or of any other State, who does not bind
himself, by the solemn obligation of an oath, to support the
Constitution of the United States. Well, is he to tamper with that? Is
he to palter? Gentlemen, our political duties are as much matters of
conscience as any other duties; our sacred domestic ties, our most
endearing social relations, are no more the subjects for conscientious
consideration and conscientious discharge, than the duties we enter upon
under the Constitution of the United States. The bonds of political
brotherhood, which hold us together from Maine to Georgia, rest upon the
same principles of obligation as those of domestic and social life.

Now, Gentlemen, that is the plain story of the Constitution of the
United States, on the question of slavery. I contend, and have always
contended, that, after the adoption of the Constitution, any measure of
the government calculated to bring more slave territory into the United
States was beyond the power of the Constitution, and against its
provisions. That is my opinion, and it always has been my opinion. It
was inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States, or thought
to be so, in Mr. Jefferson's time, to attach Louisiana to the United
States. A treaty with France was made for that purpose. Mr. Jefferson's
opinion at that moment was, that an alteration of the Constitution was
necessary to enable it to be done. In consequence of considerations to
which I need not now refer, that opinion was abandoned, and Louisiana
was admitted by law, without any provision in, or alteration of, the
Constitution. At that time I was too young to hold any office, or take
any share in the political affairs of the country. Louisiana was
admitted as a slave State, and became entitled to her representation in
Congress on the principle of a mixed basis. Florida was afterwards
admitted. Then, too, I was out of Congress. I had formerly been a
member, but had ceased to be so. I had nothing to do with the Florida
treaty, or the admission of Florida. My opinion remains unchanged, that
it was not within the original scope or design of the Constitution to
admit new States out of foreign territory; and, for one, whatever may be
said at the Syracuse Convention, or at any other assemblage of insane
persons, I never would consent, and never have consented, that there
should be one foot of slave territory beyond what the old thirteen
States had at the time of the formation of the Union. Never, never! The
man cannot show his face to me, and say he can prove that I ever
departed from that doctrine. He would sneak away, and slink away, or
hire a mercenary press to cry out, What an apostate from liberty Daniel
Webster has become! But he knows himself to be a hypocrite and a

But, Gentlemen, I was in public life when the proposition to annex Texas
to the United States was brought forward. You know that the revolution
in Texas, which separated that country from Mexico, occurred in the year
1835 or 1836. I saw then, and I do not know that it required any
particular foresight, that it would be the very next thing to bring
Texas, which was designed to be a slave-holding State, into this Union.
I did not wait. I sought an occasion to proclaim my utter aversion to
any such measure, and I determined to resist it with all my strength to
the last. On this subject, Gentlemen, you will bear with me, if I now
repeat, in the presence of this assembly, what I have before spoken
elsewhere. I was in this city in the year 1837, and, some time before I
left New York on that excursion from which I returned to this place, my
friends in New York were kind enough to offer me a public dinner as a
testimony of their regard. I went out of my way, in a speech delivered
in Niblo's Saloon, on that occasion, for the purpose of showing that I
anticipated the attempt to annex Texas as a slave territory, and said it
should be opposed by me to the last extremity. Well, there was the press
all around me,--the Whig press and the Democratic press. Some spoke in
terms commendatory enough of my speech, but all agreed that I took pains
to step out of my way to denounce in advance the annexation of Texas as
slave territory to the United States. I said on that occasion:--

"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. The free States, and all the States, are then
at liberty to accept or to reject. When it is proposed to bring new
members into this political partnership, the old members have a
right to say on what terms such new partners are to come in, and
what they are to bring along with them. In my opinion, the people
of the United States will not consent to bring into the Union a
new, vastly extensive, and slave-holding country, large enough for
half a dozen or a dozen States. In my opinion they ought not to
consent to it."

Gentlemen, I was mistaken; Congress did consent to the bringing in of
Texas. They did consent, and I was a false prophet. Your own State
consented, and the majority of the representatives of New York
consented. I went into Congress before the final consummation of the
deed, and there I fought, holding up both my hands, and urging, with a
voice stronger than it now is, my remonstrances against the whole of it.
But you would have it so, and you did have it so. Nay, Gentlemen, I will
tell the truth, whether it shames the Devil or not. Persons who have
aspired high as lovers of liberty, as eminent lovers of the Wilmot
Proviso, as eminent Free Soil men, and who have mounted over our heads,
and trodden us down as if we were mere slaves, insisting that they are
the only true lovers of liberty, they are the men, the very men, that
brought Texas into this Union. This is the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth, and I declare it before you, this day. Look to
the journals. Without the consent of New York, Texas would not have come
into the Union, either under the original resolutions or afterwards.
But New York voted for the measure. The two Senators from New York voted
for it, and decided the question; and you may thank them for the glory,
the renown, and the happiness of having five or six slave States added
to the Union. Do not blame me for it. Let them answer who did the deed,
and who are now proclaiming themselves the champions of liberty, crying
up their Free Soil creed, and using it for selfish and deceptive
purposes. They were the persons who aided in bringing in Texas. It was
all fairly told to you, both beforehand and afterwards. You heard Moses
and the prophets, but if one had risen from the dead, such was your
devotion to that policy, at that time, you would not have listened to
him for a moment. I do not, of course, speak of the persons now here
before me, but of the general political tone in New York, and especially
of those who are now Free Soil apostles. Well, all that I do not
complain of; but I will not now, or hereafter, before the country, or
the world, consent to be numbered among those who introduced new slave
power into the Union. I did all in my power to prevent it.

Then, again, Gentlemen, the Mexican war broke out. Vast territory was
acquired, and the peace was made; and, much as I disliked the war, I
disliked the peace more, because it brought in these territories. I
wished for peace indeed, but I desired to strike out the grant of
territory on the one side, and the payment of the $12,000,000 on the
other. That territory was unknown to me; I could not tell what its
character might be. The plan came from the South. I knew that certain
Southern gentlemen wished the acquisition of California, New Mexico, and
Utah, as a means of extending slave power and slave population.
Foreseeing a sectional controversy, and, as I conceived, seeing how much
it would distract the Union, I voted against the treaty with Mexico. I
voted against the acquisition. I wanted none of her territory, neither
California, New Mexico, nor Utah. They were rather ultra-American, as I
thought. They were far from us, and I saw that they might lead to a
political conflict, and I voted against them all, against the treaty and
against the peace, rather than have the territories. Seeing that it
would be an occasion of dispute, that by the controversy the whole Union
would be agitated, Messrs. Berrien, Badger, and other respectable and
distinguished men of the South, voted against the acquisition, and the
treaty which secured it; and if the men of the North had voted the same
way, we should have been spared all the difficulties that have grown out
of it. We should have had peace without the territories.

Now there is no sort of doubt, Gentlemen, that there were some persons
in the South who supposed that California, if it came into the Union at
all, would come in as a slave State. You know the extraordinary events
which immediately occurred, and the impulse given to emigration by the
discovery of gold. You know that crowds of Northern people immediately
rushed to California, and that an African slave could no more live there
among them, than he could live on the top of Mount Hecla. Of necessity
it became a free State, and that, no doubt, was a source of much
disappointment to the South. And then there were New Mexico and Utah;
what was to be done with them? Why, Gentlemen, from the best
investigation I had given to the subject, and the reflection I had
devoted to it, I was of the opinion that the mountains of New Mexico and
Utah could no more sustain American slavery than the snows of Canada. I
saw it was impossible. I thought so then; it is quite evident now.
Therefore, when it was proposed in Congress to apply the Wilmot Proviso
to New Mexico and Utah, it appeared to me just as absurd as to apply it
here in Western New York. I saw that the snow-capped hills, the eternal
mountains, and the climate of those countries would never support
slavery. No man could carry a slave there with any expectation of
profit. It could not be done; and as the South regarded the Proviso as
merely a source of irritation, and as designed by some to irritate, I
thought it unwise to apply it to New Mexico or Utah. I voted
accordingly, and who doubts now the correctness of that vote? The law
admitting those territories passed without any proviso. Is there a
slave, or will there ever be one, in either of those territories? Why,
there is not a man in the United States so stupid as not to see, at this
moment, that such a thing was wholly unnecessary, and that it was only
calculated to irritate and to offend. I am not one who is disposed to
create irritation, or give offence among brethren, or to break up
fraternal friendship, without cause. The question was accordingly left
legally open, whether slavery should or should not go to New Mexico or
Utah. There is no slavery there, it is utterly impracticable that it
should be introduced into such a region, and utterly ridiculous to
suppose that it could exist there. No one, who does not mean to deceive,
will now pretend it can exist there.

Well, Gentlemen, we have a race of agitators all over the country; some
connected with the press, some, I am sorry to say, belonging to the
learned professions. They agitate; their livelihood consists in
agitating; their freehold, their copyhold, their capital, their all in
all, depend on the excitement of the public mind. The events now briefly
alluded to were going on at the commencement of the year 1850. There
were two great questions before the public. There was the question of
the Texan boundary, and of a government for Utah and New Mexico, which I
consider as one question; and there was the question of making a
provision for the restoration of fugitive slaves. On these subjects, I
have something to say. Texas, as you know, established her independence
of Mexico by her revolution and the battle of San Jacinto, which made
her a sovereign power. I have already stated to you what I then
anticipated from the movement, namely, that she would ask to come into
the Union as a slave State. We admitted her in 1845, and we admitted her
as a slave State. We admitted her also with an undefined boundary;
remember that. She claimed by conquest the whole of that territory
commonly called New Mexico, east of the Rio Grande. She claimed also
those limits which her constitution had declared and marked out as the
proper limits of Texas. This was her claim, and when she was admitted
into the United States, the United States did not define her territory.
They admitted her as she was. We took her as she defined her own limits,
and with the power of making four additional slave States. I say "we,"
but I do not mean that I was one; I mean the United States admitted her.

What, then, was the state of things in 1850? There was Texas claiming
all, or a great part, of that which the United States had acquired from
Mexico as New Mexico. She claimed that it belonged to her by conquest
and by her admission into the United States, and she was ready to
maintain her claim by force of arms. Nor was this all. A man must be
ignorant of the history of the country who does not know, that, at the
commencement of 1850, there was great agitation throughout the whole
South. Who does not know that six or seven of the largest States of the
South had already taken measures looking toward secession; were
preparing for disunion in some way? They concurred apparently, at least
some of them, with Texas, while Texas was prepared or preparing to
enforce her rights by force of arms. Troops were enlisted by her, and
many thousand persons in the South disaffected towards the Union, or
desirous of breaking it up, were ready to make common cause with Texas;
to join her ranks, and see what they could make in a war to establish
the right of Texas to New Mexico. The public mind was disturbed. A
considerable part of the South was disaffected towards the Union, and in
a condition to adopt any course that should be violent and destructive.

What then was to be done, as far as Texas was concerned? Allow me to
say, Gentlemen, there are two sorts of foresight. There is a military
foresight, which sees what will be the result of an appeal to arms; and
there is also a statesmanlike foresight, which looks not to the result
of battles and carnage, but to the results of political disturbances,
the violence of faction carried into military operations, and the
horrors attendant on civil war. I never had a doubt, that, if the
administration of General Taylor had gone to war, and had sent troops
into New Mexico, the Texan forces would have been subdued in a week. The
power on one side was far superior to all the power on the other. But
what then? What if Texan troops, assisted by thousands of volunteers
from the disaffected States, had gone to New Mexico, and had been
defeated and turned back? Would that have settled the boundary question?
Now, Gentlemen, I wish I had ten thousand voices. I wish I could draw
around me the whole people of the United States, and I wish I could make
them all hear what I now declare on my conscience as my solemn belief,
before the Power who sits on high, and who will judge you and me
hereafter, that, if this Texan controversy had not been settled by
Congress in the manner it was, by the so-called adjustment measures,
civil war would have ensued; blood, American blood, would have been
shed; and who can tell what would have been the consequences? Gentlemen,
in an honorable war, if a foreign foe invade us, if our rights are
threatened, if it be necessary to defend them by arms, I am not afraid
of blood. And if I am too old myself, I hope there are those connected
with me by ties of relationship who are young, and willing to defend
their country to the last drop of their blood. But I cannot express the
horror I feel at the shedding of blood in a controversy between one of
these States and the government of the United States, because I see in
it a total and entire disruption of all those ties that make us a great
and happy people. Gentlemen, this was the great question, the leading
question, at the commencement of the year 1850.

Then there was the other matter, and that was the Fugitive Slave Law.
Let me say a word about that. Under the provisions of the Constitution,
during Washington's administration, in the year 1793, there was passed,
by general consent, a law for the restoration of fugitive slaves. Hardly
any one opposed it at that period; it was thought to be necessary, in
order to carry the Constitution into effect; the great men of New
England and New York all concurred in it. It passed, and answered all
the purposes expected from it, till about the year 1841 or 1842, when
the States interfered to make enactments in opposition to it. The act of
Congress said that State magistrates might execute the duties of the
law. Some of the States passed enactments imposing a penalty on any
State officers who exercised authority under the law, or assisted in its
execution; others denied the use of their jails to carry the law into
effect; and, in general, at the commencement of the year 1850, it had
become absolutely indispensable that Congress should pass some law for
the execution of this provision of the Constitution, or else give up
that provision entirely. That was the question. I was in Congress when
it was brought forward. I was for a proper law. I had, indeed, proposed
a different law; I was of opinion that a summary trial by a jury might
be had, which would satisfy the people of the North, and produce no harm
to those who claimed the service of fugitives; but I left the Senate,
and went to another station, before any law was passed. The law of 1850
passed. Now I undertake, as a lawyer, and on my professional character,
to say to you, and to all, that the law of 1850 is decidedly more
favorable to the fugitive than General Washington's law of 1793; and I
will tell you why. In the first place, the present law places the power
in much higher hands; in the hands of independent judges of the Supreme
and Circuit Courts, and District Courts, and of commissioners who are
appointed to office for their legal learning. Every fugitive is brought
before a tribunal of high character, of eminent ability, of respectable
station. In the second place, when a claimant comes from Virginia to New
York, to say that one A or one B has run away, or is a fugitive from
service or labor, he brings with him a record of the court of the county
from which he comes, and that record must be sworn to before a
magistrate, and certified by the county clerk, and bear an official
seal. The affidavit must state that A or B had departed under such and
such circumstances, and had gone to another State; and that record under
seal is, by the Constitution of the United States, entitled to full
credit in every State. Well, the claimant or his agent comes here, and
he presents to you the seal of the court in Virginia, affixed to a
record of his declaration, that A or B had escaped from service. He must
then prove that the fugitive is here. He brings a witness; he is asked
if this is the man, and he proves it; or, in nine cases out of ten, the
fact would be admitted by the fugitive himself.

Such is the present law; and, much opposed and maligned as it is, it is
more favorable to the fugitive slave than the law enacted during
Washington's administration, in 1793, which was sanctioned by the North
as well as by the South. The present violent opposition has sprung up in
modern times. From whom does this clamor come? Why, look at the
proceedings of the antislavery conventions; look at their resolutions.
Do you find among those persons who oppose this Fugitive Slave Law any
admission whatever, that any law ought to be passed to carry into effect
the solemn stipulations of the Constitution? Tell me any such case; tell
me if any resolution was adopted by the convention at Syracuse favorable
to the carrying out of the Constitution. Not one! The fact is,
Gentlemen, they oppose the constitutional provision; they oppose the
whole! Not a man of them admits that there ought to be any law on the
subject. They deny, altogether, that the provisions of the Constitution
ought to be carried into effect. Look at the proceedings of the
antislavery conventions in Ohio, Massachusetts, and at Syracuse, in the
State of New York. What do they say? "That, so help them God, no colored
man shall be sent from the State of New York back to his master in
Virginia!" Do not they say that? And, to the fulfilment of that they
"pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor." Their
sacred honor! They pledge their sacred honor to violate the
Constitution; they pledge their sacred honor to commit treason against
the laws of their country!

I have already stated, Gentlemen, what your observation of these things
must have taught you. I will only recur to the subject for a moment, for
the purpose of persuading you, as public men and private men, as good
men and patriotic men, that you ought, to the extent of your ability and
influence, to see to it that such laws are established and maintained as
shall keep you, and the South, and the West, and all the country,
together, on the terms of the Constitution. I say, that what is demanded
of us is to fulfil our constitutional duties, and to do for the South
what the South has a right to demand.

Gentlemen, I have been some time before the public. My character is
known, my life is before the country. I profess to love liberty as much
as any man living; but I profess to love American liberty, that liberty
which is secured to the country by the government under which we live;
and I have no great opinion of that other and higher liberty which
disregards the restraints of law and of the Constitution. I hold the
Constitution of the United States to be the bulwark, the only bulwark,
of our liberties and of our national character, I do not mean that you
should become slaves under the Constitution. That is not American
liberty. That is not the liberty of the Union for which our fathers
fought, that liberty which has given us a right to be known and
respected all over the world. I mean only to say, that I am for
constitutional liberty. It is enough for me to be as free as the
Constitution of the country makes me.

Now, Gentlemen, let me say, that, as much as I respect the character of
the people of Western New York, as much as I wish to retain their good
opinion, if I should ever hereafter be placed in any situation in public
life, let me tell you now that you must not expect from me the slightest
variation, even of a hair's breadth, from the Constitution of the United
States. I am a Northern man. I was born at the North, educated at the
North, have lived all my days at the North. I know five hundred Northern
men to one Southern man. My sympathies, all my sympathies, my love of
liberty for all mankind, of every color, are the same as yours. My
affections and hopes in that respect are exactly like yours. I wish to
see all men free, all men happy. I have few personal associations out of
the Northern States. My people are your people. And yet I am told
sometimes that I am not a friend of liberty, because I am not a Free
Soil man. What am I? What was I ever? What shall I be hereafter, if I
could sacrifice, for any consideration, that love of American liberty
which has glowed in my breast since my infancy, and which, I hope, will
never leave me till I expire?

Gentlemen, I regret that slavery exists in the Southern States; but it
is clear and certain that Congress has no power over it. It may be,
however, that, in the dispensations of Providence, some remedy for this
evil may occur, or may be hoped for hereafter. But, in the mean time, I
hold to the Constitution of the United States, and you need never expect
from me, under any circumstances, that I shall falter from it; that I
shall be otherwise than frank and decisive. I would not part with my
character as a man of firmness and decision, and honor and principle,
for all that the world possesses. You will find me true to the North,
because all my sympathies are with the North. My affections, my
children, my hopes, my everything, are with the North. But when I stand
up before my country, as one appointed to administer the Constitution of
the country, by the blessing of God I will be just.

Gentlemen, I expect to be libelled and abused. Yes, libelled and abused.
But it does not disturb me. I have not lost a night's rest for a great
many years from any such cause. I have some talent for sleeping. And why
should I not expect to be libelled? Is not the Constitution of the
United States libelled and abused? Do not some people call it a covenant
with hell? Is not Washington libelled and abused? Is he not called a
bloodhound on the track of the African negro? Are not our fathers
libelled and abused by their own children? And ungrateful children they
are. How, then, shall I escape? I do not expect to escape; but, knowing
these things, I impute no bad motive to any men of character and fair
standing. The great settlement measures of the last Congress are laws.
Many respectable men, representatives from your own State and from other
States, did not concur in them. I do not impute any bad motive to them.
I am ready to believe they are Americans all. They may not have thought
these laws necessary; or they may have thought that they would be
enacted without their concurrence. Let all that pass away. If they are
now men who will stand by what is done, and stand up for their country,
and say that, as these laws were passed by a majority of the whole
country, we must stand by them and live by them, I will respect them all
as friends.

Now, Gentlemen, allow me to ask of you, What do you think would have
been the condition of the country, at this time, if these laws had not
been passed by the last Congress? if the question of the Texas boundary
had not been settled? if New Mexico and Utah had been left as
desert-places, and no government had been provided for them? And if the
other great object to which State laws had opposed so many obstacles,
the restoration of fugitives, had not been provided for, I ask, what
would have been the state of this country now? You men of Erie County,
you men of New York, I conjure you to go home to-night and meditate on
this subject. What would have been the state of this country, now, at
this moment, if these laws had not been passed? I have given my opinion
that we should have had a civil war. I refer it to you, therefore, for
your consideration; meditate on it; do not be carried away by any
abstract notions or metaphysical ideas; think practically on the great
question, What would have been the condition of the United States at
this moment, if we had not settled these agitating questions? I repeat,
in my opinion, there would have been a civil war.

Gentlemen, will you allow me, for a moment, to advert to myself? I have
been a long time in public life; of course, not many years remain to me.
At the commencement of 1850, I looked anxiously at the condition of the
country, and I thought the inevitable consequence of leaving the
existing controversies unadjusted would be civil war. I saw danger in
leaving Utah and New Mexico without any government, a prey to the power
of Texas. I saw the condition of things arising from the interference of
some of the States in defeating the operation of the Constitution in
respect to the restoration of fugitive slaves. I saw these things, and I
made up my mind to encounter whatever might betide me in the attempt to
avert the impending catastrophe. And allow me to add something which is
not entirely unworthy of notice. A member of the House of
Representatives told me that he had prepared a list of one hundred and
forty speeches which had been made in Congress on the slavery question.
"That is a very large number, my friend," I said; "but how is that?"
"Why," said he, "a Northern man gets up and speaks with considerable
power and fluency until the Speaker's hammer knocks him down. Then gets
up a Southern man, and he speaks with more warmth. He is nearer the sun,
and he comes out with the greater fervor against the North. He speaks
his hour, and is in turn knocked down. And so it has gone on, until I
have got one hundred and forty speeches on my list." "Well," said I,
"where are they, and what are they?" "If the speaker," said he, "was a
Northern man, he held forth against slavery; and if he was from the
South, he abused the North; and all these speeches were sent by the
members to their own localities, where they served only to aggravate the
local irritation already existing. No man reads both sides. The other
side of the argument is not heard; and the speeches sent from Washington
in such prodigious numbers, instead of tending to conciliation, do but
increase, in both sections of the Union, an excitement already of the
most dangerous character."

Gentlemen, in this state of things, I saw that something must be done.
It was impossible to look with indifference on a danger of so formidable
a character. I am a Massachusetts man, and I bore in mind what
Massachusetts has ever been to the Constitution and the Union. I felt
the importance of the duty which devolved upon one to whom she had so
long confided the trust of representing her in either house of Congress.
As I honored her, and respected her, I felt that I was serving her in my
endeavors to promote the welfare of the whole country.

And now suppose, Gentlemen, that, on the occasion in question, I had
taken a different course. If I may allude so particularly to an
individual so insignificant as myself, suppose that, on the 7th of
March, 1850, instead of making a speech that would, so far as my power
went, reconcile the country, I had joined in the general clamor of the
Antislavery party. Suppose I had said, "I will have nothing to do with
any accommodation; we will admit no compromise; we will let Texas invade
New Mexico; we will leave New Mexico and Utah to take care of
themselves; we will plant ourselves on the Wilmot Proviso, let the
consequences be what they may." Now, Gentlemen, I do not mean to say
that great consequences would have followed from such a course on my
part; but suppose I had taken such a course. How could I be blamed for
it? Was I not a Northern man? Did I not know Massachusetts feelings and
prejudices? But what of that? I am an American. I was made a whole man,
and I did not mean to make myself half a one. I felt that I had a duty
to perform to my country, to my own reputation; for I flattered myself
that a service of forty years had given me some character, on which I
had a right to repose for my justification in the performance of a duty
attended with some degree of local unpopularity. I thought it my duty to
pursue this course, and I did not care what was to be the consequence. I
felt it was my duty, in a very alarming crisis, to come out; to go for
my country, and my whole country; and to exert any power I had to keep
that country together. I cared for nothing, I was afraid of nothing, but
I meant to do my duty. Duty performed makes a man happy; duty neglected
makes a man unhappy. I therefore, in the face of all discouragements and
all dangers, was ready to go forth and do what I thought my country,
your country, demanded of me. And, Gentlemen, allow me to say here
to-day, that if the fate of John Rogers had stared me in the face, if I
had seen the stake, if I had heard the fagots already crackling, by the
blessing of Almighty God I would have gone on and discharged the duty
which I thought my country called upon me to perform. I would have
become a martyr to save that country.

And now, Gentlemen, farewell. Live and be happy. Live like patriots,
live like Americans. Live in the enjoyment of the inestimable blessings
which your fathers prepared for you; and if any thing that I may do
hereafter should be inconsistent, in the slightest degree, with the
opinions and principles which I have this day submitted to you, then
discard me for ever from your recollection.



Fellow-Citizens,--I greet you well; I give you joy, on the return of
this anniversary; and I felicitate you, also, on the more particular
purpose of which this ever-memorable day has been chosen to witness the
fulfilment. Hail! all hail! I see before and around me a mass of faces,
glowing with cheerfulness and patriotic pride. I see thousands of eyes
turned towards other eyes, all sparkling with gratification and delight.
This is the New World! This is America! This is Washington! and this the
Capitol of the United States! And where else, among the nations, can the
seat of government be surrounded, on any day of any year, by those who
have more reason to rejoice in the blessings which they possess?
Nowhere, fellow-citizens! assuredly, nowhere! Let us, then, meet this
rising sun with joy and thanksgiving!

This is that day of the year which announced to mankind the great fact
of American Independence. This fresh and brilliant morning blesses our
vision with another beholding of the birthday of our nation; and we see
that nation, of recent origin, now among the most considerable and
powerful, and spreading over the continent from sea to sea.

Among the first colonists from Europe to this part of America, there
were some, doubtless, who contemplated the distant consequences of their
undertaking, and who saw a great futurity. But, in general, their hopes
were limited to the enjoyment of a safe asylum from tyranny, religious
and civil, and to respectable subsistence, by industry and toil. A thick
veil hid our times from their view. But the progress of America, however
slow, could not but at length awaken genius, and attract the attention
of mankind.

In the early part of the second century of our history, Bishop Berkeley,
who, it will be remembered, had resided for some time in Newport, in
Rhode Island, wrote his well-known "Verses on the Prospect of Planting
ARTS and LEARNING in AMERICA." The last stanza of this little poem seems
to have been produced by a high poetical inspiration:--

"Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The four first acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day:
Time's noblest offspring is the last."

This extraordinary prophecy may be considered only as the result of long
foresight and uncommon sagacity; of a foresight and sagacity stimulated,
nevertheless, by excited feeling and high enthusiasm. So clear a vision
of what America would become was not founded on square miles, or on
existing numbers, or on any common laws of statistics. It was an
intuitive glance into futurity; it was a grand conception, strong,
ardent, glowing, embracing all time since the creation of the world,
and all regions of which that world is composed, and judging of the
future by just analogy with the past. And the inimitable imagery and
beauty with which the thought is expressed, joined to the conception
itself, render it one of the most striking passages in our language.

On the day of the Declaration of Independence our illustrious fathers
performed the first scene in the last great act of this drama; one in
real importance infinitely exceeding that for which the great English
poet invokes

"A muse of fire, ...
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!"

The Muse inspiring our fathers was the Genius of Liberty, all on fire
with a sense of oppression, and a resolution to throw it off; the whole
world was the stage, and higher characters than princes trod it; and,
instead of monarchs, countries and nations and the age beheld the
swelling scene. How well the characters were cast, and how well each
acted his part, and what emotions the whole performance excited, let
history, now and hereafter, tell.

At a subsequent period, but before the Declaration of Independence, the
Bishop of St. Asaph published a discourse, in which the following
remarkable passages are found:--

"It is difficult for man to look into the destiny of future ages;
the designs of Providence are vast and complicated, and our own
powers are too narrow to admit of much satisfaction to our
curiosity. But when we see many great and powerful causes
constantly at work, we cannot doubt of their producing
proportionable effects.

"The colonies in North America have not only taken root and
acquired strength, _but seem hastening with an accelerated progress
to such a powerful state as may introduce a new and important
change in human affairs_.

"Descended from ancestors of the most improved and enlightened part
of the Old World, they receive, as it were by inheritance, all the
improvements and discoveries of their mother country. And it
happens fortunately for them to commence their flourishing state at
a time when the human understanding has attained to the free use of
its powers, and has learned to act with vigor and certainty. They
may avail themselves, not only of the experience and industry, but
even of the errors and mistakes, of former days. Let it be
considered for how many ages a great part of the world appears not
to have thought at all; how many more they have been busied in
forming systems and conjectures, while reason has been lost in a
labyrinth of words, and they never seem to have suspected on what
frivolous matters their minds were employed.

"And let it be well understood what rapid improvements, what
important discoveries, have been made, in a few years, by a few
countries, with our own at their head, which have at last
discovered the right method of using their faculties.

"May we not reasonably expect that a number of provinces possessed
of these advantages and quickened by mutual emulation, with only
the common progress of the human mind, should very considerably
enlarge the boundaries of science?

"The vast continent itself, over which they are gradually
spreading, may be considered as a treasure yet untouched of natural
productions that shall hereafter afford ample matter for commerce
and contemplation. And if we reflect what a stock of knowledge may
be accumulated by the constant progress of industry and
observation, fed with fresh supplies from the stores of nature,
assisted sometimes by those happy strokes of chance which mock all
the powers of invention, and sometimes by those superior characters
which arise occasionally to instruct and enlighten the world, it is
difficult even to imagine to what height of improvement their
discoveries may extend.

"_And perhaps they may make as considerable advances in the arts of
civil government and the conduct of life._ We have reason to be
proud, and even jealous, of our excellent constitution; but those
equitable principles on which it was formed, an equal
representation (the best discovery of political wisdom), and a just
and commodious distribution of power, which with us were the price
of civil wars, and the rewards of the virtues and sufferings of our
ancestors, descend to them as a natural inheritance, without toil
or pain.

"_But must they rest here, as in the utmost effort of human genius?
Can chance and time, the wisdom and the experience of public men,
suggest no new remedy aqainst the evils_ which vices and ambition
are perpetually apt to cause? May they not hope, without
presumption, to preserve a greater zeal for piety and public
devotion than we have alone? For sure it can hardly happen to them,
as it has to us, that, when religion is best understood and
rendered most pure and reasonable, then should be the precise time
when many cease to believe and practise it, and all in general
become most indifferent to it.

"May they not possibly be more successful than their mother country
has been in preserving that reverence and authority which are due
to the laws? to those who make, and to those who execute them? _May
not a method be invented of procuring some tolerable share of the
comforts of life to those inferior useful ranks of men to whose
industry we are indebted for the whole? Time and discipline may
discover some means to correct the extreme inequalities of
condition between the rich and the poor, so dangerous to the
innocence and happiness of both._ They may fortunately be led by
habit and choice to despise that luxury which is considered with us
the true enjoyment of wealth. They may have little relish for that
ceaseless hurry of amusements which is pursued in this country
without pleasure, exercise, or employment. And perhaps, after
trying some of our follies and caprices, and rejecting the rest,
they may be led by reason and experiment to that old simplicity
which was first pointed out by nature, and has produced those
models which we still admire in arts, eloquence, and manners. _The
diversity of new scenes and situations, which so many growing
states must necessarily pass through, may introduce changes in the
fluctuating opinions and manners of men which we can form no
conception of_; and not only the gracious disposition of
Providence, but the visible preparation of causes, seems to
indicate strong tendencies towards a general improvement."

Fellow-citizens, this "gracious disposition of Providence," and this
"visible preparation of causes," at length brought on the hour for
decisive action. On the 4th of July, 1776, the Representatives of the
United States of America, in Congress assembled, declared that these
United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT

This Declaration, made by most patriotic and resolute men, trusting in
the justice of their cause and the protection of Heaven, and yet made
not without deep solicitude and anxiety, has now stood for seventy-five
years, and still stands. It was sealed in blood. It has met dangers, and
overcome them; it has had enemies, and conquered them; it has had
detractors, and abashed them all; it has had doubting friends, but it
has cleared all doubts away; and now, to-day, raising its august form
higher than the clouds, twenty millions of people contemplate it with
hallowed love, and the world beholds it, and the consequences which have
followed from it, with profound admiration.

This anniversary animates and gladdens and unites all American hearts.
On other days of the year we may be party men, indulging in
controversies, more or less important to the public good; we may have
likes and dislikes, and we may maintain our political differences, often
with warm, and sometimes with angry feelings. But to-day we are
Americans all; and all nothing but Americans. As the great luminary over
our heads, dissipating mists and fogs, now cheers the whole hemisphere,
so do the associations connected with this day disperse all cloudy and
sullen weather in the minds and hearts of true Americans. Every man's
heart swells within him; every man's port and bearing become somewhat
more proud and lofty, as he remembers that seventy-five years have
rolled away, and that the great inheritance of liberty is still his;
his, undiminished and unimpaired; his in all its original glory; his to
enjoy, his to protect, and his to transmit to future generations.

Fellow-citizens, this inheritance which we enjoy to-day is not only an
inheritance of liberty, but of our own peculiar American liberty.
Liberty has existed in other times, in other countries, and in other
forms. There has been a Grecian liberty, bold and powerful, full of
spirit, eloquence, and fire; a liberty which produced multitudes of
great men, and has transmitted one immortal name, the name of
Demosthenes, to posterity. But still it was a liberty of disconnected
states, sometimes united, indeed, by temporary leagues and
confederacies, but often involved in wars between themselves. The sword
of Sparta turned its sharpest edge against Athens, enslaved her, and
devastated Greece; and, in her turn, Sparta was compelled to bend before
the power of Thebes. And let it ever be remembered, especially let the
truth sink deep into all American minds, that it was the WANT OF UNION
among her several states which finally gave the mastery of all Greece to
Philip of Macedon.

And there has also been a Roman liberty, a proud, ambitious, domineering
spirit, professing free and popular principles in Rome itself, but, even
in the best days of the republic, ready to carry slavery and chains into
her provinces, and through every country over which her eagles could be
borne. What was the liberty of Spain, or Gaul, or Germany, or Britain,
in the days of Rome? Did true constitutional liberty then exist? As the
Roman empire declined, her provinces, not instructed in the principles
of free popular government, one after another declined also, and when
Rome herself fell, in the end, all fell together.

I have said, Gentlemen, that our inheritance is an inheritance of
American liberty. That liberty is characteristic, peculiar, and
altogether our own. Nothing like it existed in former times, nor was
known in the most enlightened states of antiquity; while with us its
principles have become interwoven into the minds of individual men,
connected with our daily opinions, and our daily habits, until it is, if
I may so say, an element of social as well as of political life; and the
consequence is, that to whatever region an American citizen carries
himself, he takes with him, fully developed in his own understanding and
experience, our American principles and opinions, and becomes ready at
once, in co-operation with others, to apply them to the formation of new
governments. Of this a most wonderful instance may be seen in the
history of the State of California.

On a former occasion I ventured to remark, that "it is very difficult to
establish a free conservative government for the equal advancement of
all the interests of society. What has Germany done, learned Germany,
more full of ancient lore than all the world beside? What has Italy
done? What have they done who dwell on the spot where Cicero lived? They
have not the power of self-government which a common town-meeting, with
us, possesses.... Yes, I say that those persons who have gone from our
town-meetings to dig gold in California are more fit to make a
republican government than any body of men in Germany or Italy; because
they have learned this one great lesson, that there is no security
without law, and that, under the circumstances in which they are placed,
where there is no military authority to cut their throats, there is no
sovereign will but the will of the majority; that, therefore, if they
remain, they must submit to that will." And this I believe to be
strictly true.

Now, fellow-citizens, if your patience will hold out, I will venture,
before proceeding to the more appropriate and particular duties of the
day, to state, in a few words, what I take these American political
principles in substance to be. They consist, as I think, in the first
place, in the establishment of popular governments, on the basis of
representation; for it is plain that a pure democracy, like that which
existed in some of the states of Greece, in which every individual had a
direct vote in the enactment of all laws, cannot possibly exist in a
country of wide extent. This representation is to be made as equal as
circumstances will allow. Now, this principle of popular representation,
prevailing either in all the branches of government, or in some of them,
has existed in these States almost from the days of the settlements at
Jamestown and Plymouth; borrowed, no doubt, from the example of the
popular branch of the British legislature. The representation of the
people in the British House of Commons was, however, originally very
unequal, and is yet not equal. Indeed, it may be doubted whether the
appearance of knights and burgesses, assembling on the summons of the
crown, was not intended at first as an assistance and support to the
royal prerogative, in matters of revenue and taxation, rather than as a
mode of ascertaining popular opinion. Nevertheless, representation had a
popular origin, and savored more and more of the character of that
origin, as it acquired, by slow degrees, greater and greater strength,
in the actual government of the country. The constitution of the House
of Commons was certainly a form of representation, however unequal;
numbers were counted, and majorities prevailed; and when our ancestors,
acting upon this example, introduced more equality of representation,
the idea assumed a more rational and distinct shape. At any rate, this
manner of exercising popular power was familiar to our fathers when they
settled on this continent. They adopted it, and generation has risen up
after generation, all acknowledging it, and all learning its practice
and its forms.

The next fundamental principle in our system is, that the will of the
majority, fairly expressed through the means of representation, shall
have the force of law; and it is quite evident that, in a country
without thrones or aristocracies or privileged castes or classes, there
can be no other foundation for law to stand upon.

And, as the necessary result of this, the third element is, that the law
is the supreme rule for the government of all. The great sentiment of
Alcaeus, so beautifully presented to us by Sir William Jones, is
absolutely indispensable to the construction and maintenance of our
political systems:--

"What constitutes a state?
Not high-raised battlement or labored mound,
Thick wall or moated gate;
Not cities proud, with spires and turrets crowned;
Not bays and broad-armed ports,
Where, laughing at the storm, rich navies ride;
Not starred and spangled courts,
Where low-browed baseness wafts perfume to pride.
No: MEN, high-minded MEN,
With powers as far above dull brutes endued,
In forest, brake, or den,
As beasts excel cold rocks and brambles rude:
Men who their duties know,
But know their rights, and, knowing, dare maintain;
Prevent the long-aimed blow,
And crush the tyrant while they rend the chain:
These constitute a state;
And SOVEREIGN LAW, that state's collected will,
O'er thrones and globes elate
Sits empress, crowning good, repressing ill."

And, finally, another most important part of the great fabric of
American liberty is, that there shall be written constitutions, founded
on the immediate authority of the people themselves, and regulating and
restraining all the powers conferred upon government, whether
legislative, executive, or judicial.

This, fellow-citizens, I suppose to be a just summary of our American
principles, and I have on this occasion sought to express them in the
plainest and in the fewest words. The summary may not be entirely exact,
but I hope it may be sufficiently so to make manifest to the rising
generation among ourselves, and to those elsewhere who may choose to
inquire into the nature of our political institutions, the general
theory upon which they are founded.

And I now proceed to add, that the strong and deep-settled conviction of
all intelligent persons amongst us is, that, in order to support a
useful and wise government upon these popular principles, the general
education of the people, and the wide diffusion of pure morality and
true religion, are indispensable. Individual virtue is a part of public
virtue. It is difficult to conceive how there can remain morality in the
government when it shall cease to exist among the people; or how the
aggregate of the political institutions, all the organs of which consist
only of men, should be wise, and beneficent, and competent to inspire
confidence, if the opposite qualities belong to the individuals who
constitute those organs, and make up that aggregate.

And now, fellow-citizens, I take leave of this part of the duty which I
proposed to perform; and, once more felicitating you and myself that
our eyes have seen the light of this blessed morning, and that our ears
have heard the shouts with which joyous thousands welcome its return,
and joining with you in the hope that every revolving year may renew
these rejoicings to the end of time, I proceed to address you, shortly,
upon the particular occasion of our assembling here to-day.

Fellow-citizens, by the act of Congress of the 30th of September, 1850,
provision was made for the extension of the Capitol, according to such
plan as might be approved by the President of the United States, and for
the necessary sums to be expended, under his direction, by such
architect as he might appoint. This measure was imperatively demanded,
for the use of the legislative and judiciary departments, the public
libraries, the occasional accommodation of the chief executive
magistrate, and for other objects. No act of Congress incurring a large
expenditure has received more general approbation from the people. The
President has proceeded to execute this law. He has approved a plan; he
has appointed an architect; and all things are now ready for the
commencement of the work.

The anniversary of national independence appeared to afford an
auspicious occasion for laying the foundation-stone of the additional
building. That ceremony has now been performed by the President himself,
in the presence and view of this multitude. He has thought that the day
and the occasion made a united and imperative call for some short
address to the people here assembled; and it is at his request that I
have appeared before you to perform that part of the duty which was
deemed incumbent on us.

Beneath the stone is deposited, among other things, a list of which will
be published, the following brief account of the proceedings of this
day, in my handwriting:--

"On the morning of the first day of the seventy-sixth year of the
Independence of the United States of America, in the city of
Washington, being the 4th day of July, 1851, this stone, designed
as the corner-stone of the extension of the Capitol, according to a
plan approved by the President, in pursuance of an act of Congress,
was laid by



"assisted by the Grand Master of the Masonic Lodges, in the presence
of many members of Congress, of officers of the Executive and
Judiciary Departments, National, State, and District, of officers
of the army and navy, the corporate authorities of this and
neighboring cities, many associations, civil and military and
masonic, members of the Smithsonian Institution and National
Institute, professors of colleges and teachers of schools of the
District, with their students and pupils, and a vast concourse of
people from places near and remote, including a few surviving
gentlemen who witnessed the laying of the corner-stone of the
Capitol by President Washington, on the 18th day of September, A.D.

"If, therefore, it shall be hereafter the will of God that this
structure shall fall from its base, that its foundation be
upturned, and this deposit brought to the eyes of men, be it then
known, that on this day the Union of the United States of America
stands firm, that their Constitution still exists unimpaired, and
with all its original usefulness and glory; growing every day
stronger and stronger in the affections of the great body of the
American people, and attracting more and more the admiration of the
world. And all here assembled, whether belonging to public life or
to private life, with hearts devoutly thankful to Almighty God for
the preservation of the liberty and happiness of the country, unite
in sincere and fervent prayers that this deposit, and the walls and
arches, the domes and towers, the columns and entablatures, now to
be erected over it, may endure for ever!



"_Secretary of State of the United States_."

Fellow-citizens, fifty-eight years ago Washington stood on this spot to
execute a duty like that which has now been performed. He then laid the
corner-stone of the original Capitol. He was at the head of the
government, at that time weak in resources, burdened with debt, just
struggling into political existence and respectability, and agitated by
the heaving waves which were overturning European thrones. But even
then, in many important respects, the government was strong. It was
strong in Washington's own great character; it was strong in the wisdom
and patriotism of other eminent public men, his political associates and
fellow-laborers; and it was strong in the affections of the people.
Since that time astonishing changes have been wrought in the condition
and prospects of the American people; and a degree of progress witnessed
with which the world can furnish no parallel. As we review the course of
that progress, wonder and amazement arrest our attention at every step.
The present occasion, although allowing of no lengthened remarks, may
yet, perhaps, admit of a short comparative statement of important
subjects of national interest as they existed at that day, and as they
now exist. I have adopted for this purpose the tabular form of
statement, as being the most brief and significant.


Year 1793. Year 1851.

Number of States 15 31
Representatives and Senators in Congress 135 295
Population of the United States 3,929,328 23,267,498
Population of Boston 18,038 136,871
Population of Baltimore 13,503 169,054
Population of Philadelphia 42,520 409,045
Population of New York (city) 33,121 515,507
Population of Washington . . . 40,075
Population of Richmond 4,000 27,582
Population of Charleston 16,359 42,983
Amount of receipts into the Treasury $5,720,624 $52,312,980
Amount of expenditures $7,529,575 $48,005,879
Amount of imports $31,000,000 $215,725,995
Amount of exports $26,109,000 $217,517,130
Amount of tonnage (tons) 520,764 3,772,440
Area of the United States in square miles 805,461 3,314,365
Rank and file of the army 5,120 10,000
Militia (enrolled) . . . 2,006,456
Navy of the United States (vessels) (None.) 76
Navy armament (ordnance) . . . 2,012
Treaties and conventions with foreign powers 9 90
Light-houses and light-boats 12 372
Expenditures for ditto $12,061 $529,265
Area of the Capitol 1/2 acre. 4-1/8 acres.
Number of miles of railroad in operation . . . 10,287
Cost of ditto . . . $306,607,954
Number of miles in course of construction . . . 10,092
Lines of electric telegraph, in miles . . . 15,000
Number of post-offices 209 21,551
Number of miles of post-route 5,642 196,290
Amount of revenue from post-offices $104,747 $6,727,867
Amount of expenditures of Post-Office Department $72,040 $6,024,567
Number of miles of mail transportation . . . 52,465,724
Number of colleges 19 121
Public libraries 35 694
Volumes in ditto 75,000 2,201,632
School libraries . . . 10,000
Volumes in ditto . . . 2,000,000
Emigrants from Europe to the United States 10,000 299,610
Coinage at the Mint $9,664 $52,019,465

In respect to the growth of Western trade and commerce, I extract a few
sentences from a very valuable address before the Historical Society of
Ohio, by William D. Gallagher, Esq., 1850:--

"A few facts will exhibit as well as a volume the wonderful growth
of Western trade and commerce. Previous to the year 1800, some
eight or ten keel-boats, of twenty or twenty-five tons each,
performed all the carrying trade between Cincinnati and Pittsburg.
In 1802 the first government vessel appeared on Lake Erie. In 1811
the first steamboat (the Orleans) was launched at Pittsburg. In
1826 the waters of Michigan were first ploughed by the keel of a
steamboat, a pleasure trip to Green Bay being planned and executed
in the summer of this year. In 1832 a steamboat first appeared at
Chicago. At the present time the entire number of steamboats
running on the Mississippi and Ohio and their tributaries is more
probably over than under six hundred, the aggregate tonnage of
which is not short of one hundred and forty thousand; a larger
number of steamboats than England can claim, and a greater steam
commercial marine than that employed by Great Britain and her

And now, fellow-citizens, having stated to you this infallible proof of
the growth and prosperity of the nation, I ask you, and I would ask
every man, whether the government which has been over us has proved
itself an infliction or a curse to the country, or any part of it?

Ye men of the South, of all the original Southern States, what say you
to all this? Are you, or any of you, ashamed of this great work of your
fathers? Your fathers were not they who storied the prophets and killed
them. They were among the prophets; they were of the prophets; they were
themselves the prophets.

Ye men of Virginia, what do you say to all this? Ye men of the Potomac,
dwelling along the shores of that river on which WASHINGTON lived and
died, and where his remains now rest, ye, so many of whom may see the
domes of the Capitol from your own homes, what say ye?

Ye men of James River and the Bay, places consecrated by the early
settlement of your Commonwealth, what do you say? Do you desire, from
the soil of your State, or as you travel to the North, to see these
halls vacated, their beauty and ornaments destroyed, and their national
usefulness gone for ever?

Ye men beyond the Blue Ridge, many thousands of whom are nearer to this
Capitol than to the seat of government of your own State, what do you
think of breaking this great association into fragments of States and of
people? I know that some of you, and I believe that you all, would be
almost as much shocked at the announcement of such a catastrophe, as if
you were to be informed that the Blue Ridge itself would soon totter
from its base. And ye men of Western Virginia, who occupy the great
slope from the top of the Alleghanies to Ohio and Kentucky, what benefit
do you propose to yourselves by disunion? If you "secede," what do you
"secede" from, and what do you "accede" to? Do you look for the current
of the Ohio to change, and to bring you and your commerce to the
tidewaters of Eastern rivers? What man in his senses can suppose that
you would remain part and parcel of Virginia a month after Virginia
should have ceased to be part and parcel of the United States?

The secession of Virginia! The secession of Virginia, whether alone or
in company, is most improbable, the greatest of all improbabilities.
Virginia, to her everlasting honor, acted a great part in framing and
establishing the present Constitution. She has had her reward and her
distinction. Seven of her noble sons have each filled the Presidency,
and enjoyed the highest honors of the country. Dolorous complaints come
up to us from the South, that Virginia will not head the march of
secession, and lead the other Southern States out of the Union. This, if
it should happen, would be something of a marvel, certainly, considering
how much pains Virginia took to lead these same States into the Union,
and considering, too, that she has partaken as largely of its benefits
and its government as any other State.

And ye men of the other Southern States, members of the Old Thirteen;
yes, members of the Old Thirteen; that always touches my regard and my
sympathies; North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina! What page in your
history, or in the history of any one of you, is brighter than those
which have been recorded since the Union was formed? Or through what
period has your prosperity been greater, or your peace and happiness
better secured? What names even has South Carolina, now so much
dissatisfied, what names has she of which her intelligent sons are more
proud than those which have been connected with the government of the
United States? In Revolutionary times, and in the earliest days of this
Constitution, there was no State more honored, or more deserving of
honor. Where is she now? And what a fall is there, my countrymen! But I
leave her to her own reflections, commending to her, with all my heart,
the due consideration of her own example in times now gone by.

Fellow-citizens, there are some diseases of the mind as well as of the
body, diseases of communities as well as diseases of individuals, that
must be left to their own cure; at least it is wise to leave them so
until the last critical moment shall arrive.

I hope it is not irreverent, and certainly it is not intended as
reproach, when I say, that I know no stronger expression in our language
than that which describes the restoration of the wayward son,--"he came
to himself." He had broken away from all the ties of love, family, and
friendship. He had forsaken every thing which he had once regarded in
his father's house. He had forsworn his natural sympathies, affections,
and habits, and taken his journey into a far country. He had gone away
from himself and out of himself. But misfortunes overtook him, and
famine threatened him with starvation and death. No entreaties from home
followed him to beckon him back; no admonition from others warned him of
his fate. But the hour of reflection had come, and nature and conscience
wrought within him, until at length "_he came to himself_."

And now, ye men of the new States of the South! You are not of the
original thirteen. The battle had been fought and won, the Revolution
achieved, and the Constitution established, before your States had any
existence as States. You came to a prepared banquet, and had seats
assigned you at table just as honorable as those which were filled by
older guests. You have been and are singularly prosperous; and if any
one should deny this, you would at once contradict his assertion. You
have bought vast quantities of choice and excellent land at the lowest
price; and if the public domain has not been lavished upon you, you
yourself will admit that it has been appropriated to your own uses by a
very liberal hand. And yet in some of these States, not in all, persons
are found in favor of a dissolution of the Union, or of secession from
it. Such opinions are expressed even where the general prosperity of the
community has been the most rapidly advanced. In the flourishing and
interesting State of Mississippi, for example, there is a large party
which insists that her grievances are intolerable, that the whole body
politic is in a state of suffering; and all along, and through her whole
extent on the Mississippi, a loud cry rings that her only remedy is
"Secession," "Secession." Now, Gentlemen, what infliction does the State
of Mississippi suffer under? What oppression prostrates her strength or
destroys her happiness? Before we can judge of the proper remedy, we
must know something of the disease; and, for my part, I confess that the
real evil existing in the case appears to me to be a certain inquietude
or uneasiness growing out of a high degree of prosperity and
consciousness of wealth and power, which sometimes lead men to be ready
for changes, and to push on unreasonably to still higher elevation. If
this be the truth of the matter, her political doctors are about right.
If the complaint spring from over-wrought prosperity, for that disease
I have no doubt that secession would prove a sovereign remedy.

But I return to the leading topic on which I was engaged. In the
department of invention there have been wonderful applications of
science to arts within the last sixty years. The spacious hall of the
Patent Office is at once the repository and proof of American inventive
art and genius. Their results are seen in the numerous improvements by
which human labor is abridged.

Without going into details, it may be sufficient to say, that many of
the applications of steam to locomotion and manufactures, of electricity
and magnetism to the production of mechanical motion, the electrical
telegraph, the registration of astronomical phenomena, the art of
multiplying engravings, the introduction and improvement among us of all
the important inventions of the Old World, are striking indications of
the progress of this country in the useful arts. The net-work of
railroads and telegraphic lines by which this vast country is
reticulated have not only developed its resources, but united
emphatically, in metallic bands, all parts of the Union. The hydraulic
works of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston surpass in extent and
importance those of ancient Rome.

But we have not confined our attention to the immediate application of
science to the useful arts. We have entered the field of original
research, and have enlarged the bounds of scientific knowledge.

Sixty years ago, besides the brilliant discoveries of Franklin in
electricity, scarcely any thing had been done among us in the way of
original discovery. Our men of science were content with repeating the
experiments and diffusing a knowledge of the discoveries of the learned
of the Old World, without attempting to add a single new fact or
principle to the existing stock. Within the last twenty-five or thirty
years a remarkable improvement has taken place in this respect. Our
natural history has been explored in all its branches; our geology has
been investigated with results of the highest interest to practical and
theoretical science. Discoveries have been made in pure chemistry and
electricity, which have received the approbation of the world. The
advance which has been made in meteorology in this country, within the
last twenty years, is equal to that made during the same period in all
the world besides.

In 1793 there was not in the United States an instrument with which a
good observation of the heavenly bodies could be made. There are now
instruments at Washington, Cambridge, and Cincinnati equal to those at
the best European observatories, and the original discoveries in
astronomy within the last five years, in this country, are among the
most brilliant of the age. I can hardly refrain from saying, in this
connection, that the "Celestial Mechanics" of La Place has been
translated and commented upon by Bowditch.

Our knowledge of the geography and topography of the American continent
has been rapidly extended by the labor and science of the officers of
the United States army, and discoveries of much interest in distant seas
have resulted from the enterprise of the navy.

In 1807, a survey of the coast of the United States was commenced, which
at that time it was supposed no American was competent to direct. The
work has, however, grown within the last few years, under a native
superintendent, in importance and extent, beyond any enterprise of the
kind ever before attempted.

These facts conclusively prove that a great advance has been made among
us, not only in the application of science to the wants of ordinary
life, but in science itself, in its highest branches, in its adaptation
to satisfy the cravings of the immortal mind.

In respect to literature, with the exception of some books of elementary
education, and some theological treatises, of which scarcely any but
those of Jonathan Edwards have any permanent value, and some works on
local history and politics, like Hutchinson's Massachusetts, Jefferson's
Notes on Virginia, the Federalist, Belknap's New Hampshire, and Morse's
Geography, and a few others, America had not produced a single work of
any repute in literature. We were almost wholly dependent on imported
books. Even our Bibles and Testaments were, for the most part, printed
abroad. The book trade is now one of the greatest branches of business,
and many works of standard value, and of high reputation in Europe as


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