The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

Part 4 out of 25

Memorial, p. 126; Belknap's American Biography, Vol. II.; Hutchinson's
History, Vol. II., App., pp. 456 _et seq._; Collections of the
Massachusetts Historical Society; Winthrop's Journal; and Thacher's

[Footnote 4: For the original name of what is now Plymouth, see Lives of
American Governors, p. 38, note, a work prepared with great care by J.B.
Moore, Esq.]

[Footnote 5: The twenty-first is now acknowledged to be the true
anniversary. See the Report of the Pilgrim Society on the subject.]

[Footnote 6: Herodot. VI. sec. 109.]

[Footnote 7: For the compact to which reference is made in the text,
signed on board the Mayflower, see Hutchinson's History, Vol. II.,
Appendix, No. I. For an eloquent description of the manner in which the
first Christian Sabbath was passed on board the Mayflower, at Plymouth,
see Barne's Discourse at Worcester.]

[Footnote 8: The names of the passengers in the Mayflower, with some
account of them, may be found in the New England Genealogical Register,
Vol. I. p. 47, and a narration of some of the incidents of the voyage,
Vol. II. p. 186. For an account of Mrs. White, the mother of the first
child born in New England, see Baylies's History of Plymouth, Vol. II.
p. 18, and for a notice of her son Peregrine, see Moore's Lives of
American Governors, Vol. I. p. 31, note.]

[Footnote 9: See the admirable letter written on board the Arbella, in
Hutchinson's History, Vol. I. Appendix, No. I.]

[Footnote 10: In reference to the British policy respecting Colonial
manufactures, see Representations of the Board of Trade to the House of
Lords, 23d Jan., 1734; also, 8th June, 1749. For an able vindication of
the British Colonial policy, see "Political Essays concerning the
Present State of the British Empire." London. 1772.]

[Footnote 11: Many interesting papers, illustrating the early history of
the Colony, may be found in Hutchinson's "Collection of Original Papers
relating to the History of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay."]

[Footnote 12: In reference to the fulfilment of this prediction, see Mr.
Webster's Address at the Celebration of the New England Society of New
York, on the 23d of December, 1850.]

[Footnote 13: John Adams, second President of the United States.]

[Footnote 14: See note B, at the end of the Discourse.]

[Footnote 15: Oratio pro Flacco, sec. 7.]

[Footnote 16: The first free school established by law in the Plymouth
Colony was in 1670-72. One of the early teachers in Boston taught school
more than _seventy_ years. See Cotton Mather's "Funeral Sermon upon Mr.
Ezekiel Cheever, the ancient and honorable Master of the Free School in

For the impression made upon the mind of an intelligent foreigner by the
general attention to popular education, as characteristic of the
American polity, see Mackay's Western World, Vol. III. p. 225 _et seq._
Also, Edinburgh Review, No. 186.]

[Footnote 17: By a law of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, passed as
early as 1647, it was ordered, that, "when any town shall increase to
the number of one hundred families or householders, they shall set up a
grammar school, the master thereof being able to instruct youth so far
as they may be fitted for the University."]

[Footnote 18: In reference to the opposition of the Colonies to the
slave-trade, see a representation of the Board of Trade to the House of
Lords, 23d January, 1733-4.]



Mr. President, the case is closed! The fate of the respondent is in your
hands. It is for you now to say, whether, from the law and the facts as
they have appeared before you, you will proceed to disgrace and
disfranchise him. If your duty calls on you to convict him, let justice
be done, and convict him; but, I adjure you, let it be a clear,
undoubted case. Let it be so for his sake, for you are robbing him of
that for which, with all your high powers, you can yield him no
compensation; let it be so for your own sakes, for the responsibility of
this day's judgment is one which you must carry with you through life.
For myself, I am willing here to relinquish the character of an
advocate, and to express opinions by which I am prepared to be bound as
a citizen and a man. And I say upon my honor and conscience, that I see
not how, with the law and constitution for your guides, you can
pronounce the respondent guilty. I declare that I have seen no case of
wilful and corrupt official misconduct, set forth according to the
requisitions of the constitution, and proved according to the common
rules of evidence. I see many things imprudent and ill-judged; many
things that I could wish had been otherwise; but corruption and crime I
do not see.

Sir, the prejudices of the day will soon be forgotten; the passions, if
any there be, which have excited or favored this prosecution will
subside; but the consequence of the judgment you are about to render
will outlive both them and you. The respondent is now brought, a single,
unprotected individual, to this formidable bar of judgment, to stand
against the power and authority of the State. I know you can crush him,
as he stands before you, and clothed as you are with the sovereignty of
the State. You have the power "to change his countenance and to send him
away." Nor do I remind you, that your judgment is to be rejudged by the
community; and, as you have summoned him for trial to this high
tribunal, that you are soon to descend yourselves from these seats of
justice, and stand before the higher tribunal of the world. I would not
fail so much in respect to this honorable court as to hint that it could
pronounce a sentence which the community will reverse. No, Sir, it is
not the world's revision which I would call on you to regard; but that
of your own consciences, when years have gone by and you shall look back
on the sentence you are about to render. If you send away the
respondent, condemned and sentenced, from your bar, you are yet to meet
him in the world on which you cast him out. You will be called to behold
him a disgrace to his family, a sorrow and a shame to his children, a
living fountain of grief and agony to himself.

If you shall then be able to behold him only as an unjust judge, whom
vengeance has overtaken and justice has blasted, you will be able to
look upon him, not without pity, but yet without remorse. But if, on the
other hand, you shall see, whenever and wherever you meet him, a victim
of prejudice or of passion, a sacrifice to a transient excitement; if
you shall see in him a man for whose condemnation any provision of the
constitution has been violated or any principle of law broken down, then
will he be able, humble and low as may be his condition, then will he be
able to turn the current of compassion backward, and to look with pity
on those who have been his judges. If you are about to visit this
respondent with a judgment which shall blast his house; if the bosoms of
the innocent and the amiable are to be made to bleed under your
infliction, I beseech you to be able to state clear and strong grounds
for your proceeding. Prejudice and excitement are transitory, and will
pass away. Political expediency, in matters of judicature, is a false
and hollow principle, and will never satisfy the conscience of him who
is fearful that he may have given a hasty judgment. I earnestly entreat
you, for your own sakes, to possess yourselves of solid reasons, founded
in truth and justice, for the judgment you pronounce, which you can
carry with you till you go down into your graves; reasons which it will
require no argument to revive, no sophistry, no excitement, no regard to
popular favor, to render satisfactory to your consciences; reasons which
you can appeal to in every crisis of your lives, and which shall be able
to assure you, in your own great extremity, that you have not judged a
fellow-creature without mercy.

Sir, I have done with the case of this individual, and now leave it in
your hands. But I would yet once more appeal to you as public men; as
statesmen; as men of enlightened minds, capable of a large view of
things, and of foreseeing the remote consequences of important
transactions; and, as such, I would most earnestly implore you to
consider fully of the judgment you may pronounce. You are about to give
a construction to constitutional provisions which may adhere to that
instrument for ages, either for good or evil. I may perhaps overrate the
importance of this occasion to the public welfare; but I confess it does
appear to me that, if this body give its sanction to some of the
principles which have been advanced on this occasion, then there is a
power in the State above the constitution and the law; a power
essentially arbitrary and despotic, the exercise of which may be most
dangerous. If impeachment be not under the rule of the constitution and
the laws, then may we tremble, not only for those who may be impeached,
but for all others. If the full benefit of every constitutional
provision be not extended to the respondent, his case becomes the case
of all the people of the Commonwealth. The constitution is their
constitution. They have made it for their own protection, and for his
among the rest. They are not eager for his conviction. They desire not
his ruin. If he be condemned, without having his offences set forth in
the manner which they, by their constitution, have prescribed, and in
the manner which they, by their laws, have ordained, then not only is he
condemned unjustly, but the rights of the whole people are disregarded.
For the sake of the people themselves, therefore, I would resist all
attempts to convict by straining the laws or getting over their
prohibitions. I hold up before him the broad shield of the
constitution; if through that he be pierced and fall, he will be but one
sufferer in a common catastrophe.



[The rise and progress of the revolution in Greece attracted great
attention in the United States. Many obvious causes contributed to this
effect, and their influence was seconded by the direct appeal made to
the people of America, by the first political body organized in Greece
after the breaking out of the revolution, viz. "The Messenian Senate of
Calamata." A formal address was made by that body to the people of the
United States, and forwarded by their committee (of which the celebrated
Koray was chairman), to a friend and correspondent in this country. This
address was translated and widely circulated; but it was not to be
expected that any great degree of confidence should be at once generally
felt in a movement undertaken against such formidable odds.

The progress of events, however, in 1822 and 1823, was such as to create
an impression that the revolution in Greece had a substantial foundation
in the state of affairs, in the awakened spirit of that country, and in
the condition of public opinion throughout Christendom. The interest
felt in the struggle rapidly increased in the United States. Local
committees were formed, animated appeals were made, and funds collected,
with a view to the relief of the victims of the war.

On the assembling of Congress, in December, 1823, President Monroe made
the revolution in Greece the subject of a paragraph in his annual
message, and on the 8th of December Mr. Webster moved the following
resolution in the House of Representatives:--

"_Resolved_, That provision ought to be made, by law, for defraying the
expense incident to the appointment of an Agent or Commissioner to
Greece, whenever the President shall deem it expedient to make such

These, it is believed, are the first official expressions favorable to
the independence of Greece uttered by any of the governments of
Christendom, and no doubt contributed powerfully towards the creation of
that feeling throughout the civilized world which eventually led to the
battle of Navarino, and the liberation of a portion of Greece from the
Turkish yoke.

The House of Representatives having, on the 19th of January, resolved
itself into a committee of the whole, and this resolution being taken
into consideration, Mr. Webster spoke to the following effect.]

I am afraid, Mr. Chairman, that, so far as my part in this discussion is
concerned, those expectations which the public excitement existing on
the subject, and certain associations easily suggested by it, have
conspired to raise, may be disappointed. An occasion which calls the
attention to a spot so distinguished, so connected with interesting
recollections, as Greece, may naturally create something of warmth and
enthusiasm. In a grave, political discussion, however, it is necessary
that those feelings should be chastised. I shall endeavor properly to
repress them, although it is impossible that they should be altogether
extinguished. We must, indeed, fly beyond the civilized world; we must
pass the dominion of law and the boundaries of knowledge; we must, more
especially, withdraw ourselves from this place, and the scenes and
objects which here surround us,--if we would separate ourselves entirely
from the influence of all those memorials of herself which ancient
Greece has transmitted for the admiration and the benefit of mankind.
This free form of government, this popular assembly, the common council
held for the common good,--where have we contemplated its earliest
models? This practice of free debate and public discussion, the contest
of mind with mind, and that popular eloquence, which, if it were now
here, on a subject like this, would move the stones of the
Capitol,--whose was the language in which all these were first
exhibited? Even the edifice in which we assemble, these proportioned
columns, this ornamented architecture, all remind us that Greece has
existed, and that we, like the rest of mankind, are greatly her

But I have not introduced this motion in the vain hope of discharging
any thing of this accumulated debt of centuries. I have not acted upon
the expectation, that we who have inherited this obligation from our
ancestors should now attempt to pay it to those who may seem to have
inherited from _their_ ancestors a right to receive payment. My object
is nearer and more immediate. I wish to take occasion of the struggle of
an interesting and gallant people, in the cause of liberty and
Christianity, to draw the attention of the House to the circumstances
which have accompanied that struggle, and to the principles which appear
to have governed the conduct of the great states of Europe in regard to
it; and to the effects and consequences of these principles upon the
independence of nations, and especially upon the institutions of free
governments. What I have to say of Greece, therefore, concerns the
modern, not the ancient; the living, and not the dead. It regards her,
not as she exists in history, triumphant over time, and tyranny, and
ignorance; but as she now is, contending, against fearful odds, for
being, and for the common privileges of human nature.

As it is never difficult to recite commonplace remarks and trite
aphorisms, so it may be easy, I am aware, on this occasion, to remind me
of the wisdom which dictates to men a care of their own affairs, and
admonishes them, instead of searching for adventures abroad, to leave
other men's concerns in their own hands. It may be easy to call this
resolution _Quixotic_, the emanation of a crusading or propagandist
spirit. All this, and more, may be readily said; but all this, and more,
will not be allowed to fix a character upon this proceeding, until that
is proved which it takes for granted. Let it first be shown, that in
this question there is nothing which can affect the interest, the
character, or the duty of this country. Let it be proved, that we are
not called upon, by either of these considerations, to express an
opinion on the subject to which the resolution relates. Let this be
proved, and then it will indeed be made out, that neither ought this
resolution to pass, nor ought the subject of it to have been mentioned
in the communication of the President to us. But, in my opinion, this
cannot be shown. In my judgment, the subject is interesting to the
people and the government of this country, and we are called upon, by
considerations of great weight and moment, to express our opinions upon
it. These considerations, I think, spring from a sense of our own duty,
our character, and our own interest. I wish to treat the subject on such
grounds, exclusively, as are truly _American_; but then, in considering
it as an American question, I cannot forget the age in which we live,
the prevailing spirit of the age, the interesting questions which
agitate it, and our own peculiar relation in regard to these interesting
questions. Let this be, then, and as far as I am concerned I hope it
will be, purely an American discussion; but let it embrace,
nevertheless, every thing that fairly concerns America. Let it
comprehend, not merely her present advantage, but her permanent
interest, her elevated character as one of the free states of the world,
and her duty towards those great principles which have hitherto
maintained the relative independence of nations, and which have, more
especially, made her what she is.

At the commencement of the session, the President, in the discharge of
the high duties of his office, called our attention to the subject to
which this resolution refers. "A strong hope," says that communication,
"has been long entertained, founded on the heroic struggle of the
Greeks, that they would succeed in their contest, and resume their equal
station among the nations of the earth. It is believed that the whole
civilized world takes a deep interest in their welfare. Although no
power has declared in their favor, yet none, according to our
information, has taken part against them. Their cause and their name
have protected them from dangers which might ere this have overwhelmed
any other people. The ordinary calculations of interest, and of
acquisition with a view to aggrandizement, which mingle so much in the
transactions of nations, seem to have had no effect in regard to them.
From the facts which have come to our knowledge, there is good cause to
believe that their enemy has lost for ever all dominion over them; that
Greece will become again an independent nation."

It has appeared to me that the House should adopt some resolution
reciprocating these sentiments, so far as it shall approve them. More
than twenty years have elapsed since Congress first ceased to receive
such a communication from the President as could properly be made the
subject of a general answer. I do not mean to find fault with this
relinquishment of a former and an ancient practice. It may have been
attended with inconveniences which justified its abolition. But,
certainly, there was one advantage belonging to it; and that is, that it
furnished a fit opportunity for the expression of the opinion of the
Houses of Congress upon those topics in the executive communication
which were not expected to be made the immediate subjects of direct
legislation. Since, therefore, the President's message does not now
receive a general answer, it has seemed to me to be proper that, in some
mode, agreeable to our own usual form of proceeding, we should express
our sentiments upon the important and interesting topics on which it

If the sentiments of the message in respect to Greece be proper, it is
equally proper that this House should reciprocate those sentiments. The
present resolution is designed to have that extent, and no more. If it
pass, it will leave any future proceeding where it now is, in the
discretion of the executive government. It is but an expression, under
those forms in which the House is accustomed to act, of the satisfaction
of the House with the general sentiments expressed in regard to this
subject in the message, and of its readiness to defray the expense
incident to any inquiry for the purpose of further information, or any
other agency which the President, in his discretion, shall see fit, in
whatever manner and at whatever time, to institute. The whole matter is
still left in his judgment, and this resolution can in no way restrain
its unlimited exercise.

I might well, Mr. Chairman, avoid the responsibility of this measure, if
it had, in my judgment, any tendency to change the policy of the
country. With the general course of that policy I am quite satisfied.
The nation is prosperous, peaceful, and happy; and I should very
reluctantly put its peace, prosperity, or happiness at risk. It appears
to me, however, that this resolution is strictly conformable to our
general policy, and not only consistent with our interests, but even
demanded by a large and liberal view of those interests.

It is certainly true that the just policy of this country is, in the
first place, a peaceful policy. No nation ever had less to expect from
forcible aggrandizement. The mighty agents which are working out our
greatness are time, industry, and the arts. Our augmentation is by
growth, not by acquisition; by internal development, not by external
accession. No schemes can be suggested to us so magnificent as the
prospects which a sober contemplation of our own condition, unaided by
projects, uninfluenced by ambition, fairly spreads before us. A country
of such vast extent, with such varieties of soil and climate, with so
much public spirit and private enterprise, with a population increasing
so much beyond former example, with capacities of improvement not only
unapplied or unexhausted, but even, in a great measure, as yet
unexplored,--so free in its institutions, so mild in its laws, so secure
in the title it confers on every man to his own acquisitions,--needs
nothing but time and peace to carry it forward to almost any point of

In the next place, I take it for granted that the policy of this
country, springing from the nature of our government and the spirit of
all our institutions, is, so far as it respects the interesting
questions which agitate the present age, on the side of liberal and
enlightened sentiments. The age is extraordinary; the spirit that
actuates it is peculiar and marked; and our own relation to the times we
live in, and to the questions which interest them, is equally marked and
peculiar. We are placed, by our good fortune and the wisdom and valor of
our ancestors, in a condition in which we _can_ act no obscure part. Be
it for honor, or be it for dishonor, whatever we do is sure to attract
the observation of the world. As one of the free states among the
nations, as a great and rapidly rising republic, it would be impossible
for us, if we were so disposed, to prevent our principles, our
sentiments, and our example from producing some effect upon the opinions
and hopes of society throughout the civilized world. It rests probably
with ourselves to determine whether the influence of these shall be
salutary or pernicious.

It cannot be denied that the great political question of this age is
that between absolute and regulated governments. The substance of the
controversy is whether society shall have any part in its own
government. Whether the form of government shall be that of limited
monarchy, with more or less mixture of hereditary power, or wholly
elective or representative, may perhaps be considered as subordinate.
The main controversy is between that absolute rule, which, while it
promises to govern well, means, nevertheless, to govern without control,
and that constitutional system which restrains sovereign discretion, and
asserts that society may claim as matter of right some effective power
in the establishment of the laws which are to regulate it. The spirit of
the times sets with a most powerful current in favor of these
last-mentioned opinions. It is opposed, however, whenever and wherever
it shows itself, by certain of the great potentates of Europe; and it is
opposed on grounds as applicable in one civilized nation as in another,
and which would justify such opposition in relation to the United
States, as well as in relation to any other state or nation, if time and
circumstances should render such opposition expedient.

What part it becomes this country to take on a question of this sort, so
far as it is called upon to take any part, cannot be doubtful. Our side
of this question is settled for us, even without our own volition. Our
history, our situation, our character, necessarily decide our position
and our course, before we have even time to ask whether we have an
option. Our place is on the side of free institutions. From the earliest
settlement of these States, their inhabitants were accustomed, in a
greater or less degree, to the enjoyment of the powers of
self-government; and for the last half-century they have sustained
systems of government entirely representative, yielding to themselves
the greatest possible prosperity, and not leaving them without
distinction and respect among the nations of the earth. This system we
are not likely to abandon; and while we shall no farther recommend its
adoption to other nations, in whole or in part, than it may recommend
itself by its visible influence on our own growth and prosperity, we
are, nevertheless, interested to resist the establishment of doctrines
which deny the legality of its foundations. We stand as an equal among
nations, claiming the full benefit of the established international law;
and it is our duty to oppose, from the earliest to the latest moment,
any innovations upon that code which shall bring into doubt or question
our own equal and independent rights.

I will now, Mr. Chairman, advert to those pretensions put forth by the
allied sovereigns of Continental Europe, which seem to me calculated, if
unresisted, to bring into disrepute the principles of our government,
and, indeed, to be wholly incompatible with any degree of national
independence. I do not introduce these considerations for the sake of
topics. I am not about to declaim against crowned heads, nor to quarrel
with any country for preferring a form of government different from our
own. The right of choice that we exercise for ourselves, I am quite
willing to leave also to others. But it appears to me that the
pretensions to which I have alluded are wholly inconsistent with the
independence of nations generally, without regard to the question
whether their governments be absolute, monarchical and limited, or
purely popular and representative. I have a most deep and thorough
conviction, that a new era has arisen in the world, that new and
dangerous combinations are taking place, promulgating doctrines and
fraught with consequences wholly subversive in their tendency of the
public law of nations and of the general liberties of mankind. Whether
this be so, or not, is the question which I now propose to examine, upon
such grounds of information as are afforded by the common and public
means of knowledge.

Everybody knows that, since the final restoration of the Bourbons to the
throne of France, the Continental powers have entered into sundry
alliances, which have been made public, and have held several meetings
or congresses, at which the principles of their political conduct have
been declared. These things must necessarily have an effect upon the
international law of the states of the world. If that effect be good,
and according to the principles of that law, they deserve to be
applauded. If, on the contrary, their effect and tendency be most
dangerous, their principles wholly inadmissible, their pretensions such
as would abolish every degree of national independence, then they are to
be resisted.

I begin, Mr. Chairman, by drawing your attention to the treaty concluded
at Paris in September, 1815, between Russia, Prussia, and Austria,
commonly called the Holy Alliance. This singular alliance appears to
have originated with the Emperor of Russia; for we are informed that a
draft of it was exhibited by him, personally, to a plenipotentiary of
one of the great powers of Europe, before it was presented to the other
sovereigns who ultimately signed it.[2] This instrument professes
nothing, certainly, which is not extremely commendable and praiseworthy.
It promises only that the contracting parties, both in relation to other
states, and in regard to their own subjects, will observe the rules of
justice and Christianity. In confirmation of these promises, it makes
the most solemn and devout religious invocations. Now, although such an
alliance is a novelty in European history, the world seems to have
received this treaty, upon its first promulgation, with general charity.
It was commonly understood as little or nothing more than an expression
of thanks for the successful termination of the momentous contest in
which those sovereigns had been engaged. It still seems somewhat
unaccountable, however, that these good resolutions should require to be
confirmed by treaty. Who doubted that these august sovereigns would
treat each other with justice, and rule their own subjects in mercy? And
what necessity was there for a solemn stipulation by treaty, to insure
the performance of that which is no more than the ordinary duty of every
government? It would hardly be admitted by these sovereigns, that by
this compact they consider themselves bound to introduce an entire
change, or any change in the course of their own conduct. Nothing
substantially new, certainly, can be supposed to have been intended.
What principle, or what practice, therefore, called for this solemn
declaration of the intention of the parties to observe the rules of
religion and justice?

It is not a little remarkable, that a writer of reputation upon the
Public Law, described, many years ago, not inaccurately, the character
of this alliance. I allude to Puffendorf. "It seems useless," says he,
"to frame any pacts or leagues, barely for the defence and support of
universal peace; for by such a league nothing is superadded to the
obligation of natural law, and no agreement is made for the performance
of any thing which the parties were not previously bound to perform; nor
is the original obligation rendered firmer or stronger by such an
addition. Men of any tolerable culture and civilization might well be
ashamed of entering into any such compact, the conditions of which imply
only that the parties concerned shall not offend in any clear point of
duty. Besides, we should be guilty of great irreverence towards God,
should we suppose that his injunctions had not already laid a sufficient
obligation upon us to act justly, unless we ourselves voluntarily
consented to the same engagement; as if our obligation to obey his will
depended upon our own pleasure.

"If one engage to serve another, he does not set it down expressly and
particularly among the terms and conditions of the bargain, that he will
not betray nor murder him, nor pillage nor burn his house. For the same
reason, that would be a dishonorable engagement in which men should bind
themselves to act properly and decently, and not break the peace."[3]

Such were the sentiments of that eminent writer. How nearly he had
anticipated the case of the Holy Alliance will appear from the preamble
to that alliance. After stating that the allied sovereigns had become
persuaded, by the events of the last three years, that "their relations
with each other ought to be regulated exclusively by the sublime truths
taught by the eternal religion of God the Saviour," they solemnly
declare their fixed resolution "to adopt as the sole rule of their
conduct, both in the administration of their respective states, and in
their political relations with every other government, the precepts of
that holy religion, namely, the precepts of justice, charity, and peace,
which, far from being applicable to private life alone, ought, on the
contrary, to have a direct influence upon the counsels of princes, and
guide all their steps, as being the only means of consolidating human
institutions, and remedying their imperfections."[4]

This measure, however, appears principally important, as it was the
first of a series, and was followed afterwards by others of a more
marked and practical nature. These measures, taken together, profess to
establish two principles, which the Allied Powers would introduce as a
part of the law of the civilized world; and the establishment of which
is to be enforced by a million and a half of bayonets.

The first of these principles is, that all popular or constitutional
rights are held no otherwise than as grants from the crown. Society,
upon this principle, has no rights of its own; it takes good government,
when it gets it, as a boon and a concession, but can demand nothing. It
is to live by that favor which emanates from royal authority, and if it
have the misfortune to lose that favor, there is nothing to protect it
against any degree of injustice and oppression. It can rightfully make
no endeavor for a change, by itself; its whole privilege is to receive
the favors that may be dispensed by the sovereign power, and all its
duty is described in the single word _submission_. This is the plain
result of the principal Continental state papers; indeed, it is nearly
the identical text of some of them.

The circular despatch addressed by the sovereigns assembled at Laybach,
in the spring of 1821, to their ministers at foreign courts, alleges,
"that useful and necessary changes in legislation and in the
administration of states ought only to emanate from the free will and
intelligent and well-weighed conviction of those whom God has rendered
responsible for power. All that deviates from this line necessarily
leads to disorder, commotions, and evils far more insufferable than
those which they pretend to remedy."[5] Now, Sir, this principle would
carry Europe back again, at once, into the middle of the Dark Ages. It
is the old doctrine of the Divine right of kings, advanced now by new
advocates, and sustained by a formidable array of power. That the people
hold their fundamental privileges as matter of concession or indulgence
from the sovereign power, is a sentiment not easy to be diffused in this
age, any farther than it is enforced by the direct operation of military
means. It is true, certainly, that some six centuries ago the early
founders of English liberty called the instrument which secured their
rights a _charter_. It was, indeed, a concession; they had obtained it
sword in hand from the king; and in many other cases, whatever was
obtained, favorable to human rights, from the tyranny and despotism of
the feudal sovereigns, was called by the names of _privileges_ and
_liberties_, as being matter of special favor. Though we retain this
language at the present time, the principle itself belongs to ages that
have long passed by us. The civilized world has done with "the enormous
faith, of many made for one." Society asserts its own rights, and
alleges them to be original, sacred, and unalienable. It is not
satisfied with having kind masters; it demands a participation in its
own government; and in states much advanced in civilization, it urges
this demand with a constancy and an energy that cannot well nor long be
resisted. There are, happily, enough of regulated governments in the
world, and those among the most distinguished, to operate as constant
examples, and to keep alive an unceasing panting in the bosoms of men
for the enjoyment of similar free institutions.

When the English Revolution of 1688 took place, the English people did
not content themselves with the example of Runnymede; they did not build
their hopes upon royal charters; they did not, like the authors of the
Laybach circular, suppose that all useful changes in constitutions and
laws must proceed from those only whom God has rendered responsible for
power. They were somewhat better instructed in the principles of civil
liberty, or at least they were better lovers of those principles than
the sovereigns of Laybach. Instead of petitioning for charters, they
declared their rights, and while they offered to the Prince of Orange
the crown with one hand, they held in the other an enumeration of those
privileges which they did not profess to hold as favors, but which they
demanded and insisted upon as their undoubted rights.

I need not stop to observe, Mr. Chairman, how totally hostile are these
doctrines of Laybach to the fundamental principles of our government.
They are in direct contradiction; the principles of good and evil are
hardly more opposite. If these principles of the sovereigns be true, we
are but in a state of rebellion or of anarchy, and are only tolerated
among civilized states because it has not yet been convenient to reduce
us to the true standard.

But the second, and, if possible, the still more objectionable
principle, avowed in these papers, is the right of forcible interference
in the affairs of other states. A right to control nations in their
desire to change their own government, wherever it maybe conjectured, or
pretended, that such change might furnish an example to the subjects of
other states, is plainly and distinctly asserted. The same Congress that
made the declaration at Laybach had declared, before its removal from
Troppau, "that the powers have an undoubted right to take a hostile
attitude in regard to those states in which the overthrow of the
government may operate as an example."

There cannot, as I think, be conceived a more flagrant violation of
public law, or national independence, than is contained in this short

No matter what be the character of the government resisted; no matter
with what weight the foot of the oppressor bears on the neck of the
oppressed; if he struggle, or if he complain, he sets a dangerous
example of resistance,--and from that moment he becomes an object of
hostility to the most powerful potentates of the earth. I want words to
express my abhorrence of this abominable principle. I trust every
enlightened man throughout the world will oppose it, and that,
especially, those who, like ourselves, are fortunately out of the reach
of the bayonets that enforce it, will proclaim their detestation of it,
in a tone both loud and decisive. The avowed object of such declarations
is to preserve the peace of the world. But by what means is it proposed
to preserve this peace? Simply, by bringing the power of all governments
to bear against all subjects. Here is to be established a sort of
double, or treble, or quadruple, or, for aught I know, quintuple
allegiance. An offence against one king is to be an offence against all
kings, and the power of all is to be put forth for the punishment of the
offender. A right to interfere in extreme cases, in the case of
contiguous states, and where imminent danger is threatened to one by
what is occurring in another, is not without precedent in modern times,
upon what has been called the law of vicinage; and when confined to
extreme cases, and limited to a certain extent, it may perhaps be
defended upon principles of necessity and self-defence. But to maintain
that sovereigns may go to war upon the subjects of another state to
repress an example, is monstrous indeed. What is to be the limit to such
a principle, or to the practice growing out of it? What, in any case,
but sovereign pleasure, is to decide whether the example be good or bad?
And what, under the operation of such a rule, may be thought of our
example? Why are we not as fair objects for the operation of the new
principle, as any of those who may attempt a reform of government on the
other side of the Atlantic?

The ultimate effect of this alliance of sovereigns, for objects personal
to themselves, or respecting only the permanence of their own power,
must be the destruction of all just feeling, and all natural sympathy,
between those who exercise the power of government and those who are
subject to it. The old channels of mutual regard and confidence are to
be dried up, or cut off. Obedience can now be expected no longer than it
is enforced. Instead of relying on the affections of the governed,
sovereigns are to rely on the affections and friendship of other
sovereigns. There are, in short, no longer to be nations. Princes and
people are no longer to unite for interests common to them both. There
is to be an end of all patriotism, as a distinct national feeling.
Society is to be divided horizontally; all sovereigns above, and all
subjects below; the former coalescing for their own security, and for
the more certain subjection of the undistinguished multitude beneath.
This, Sir, is no picture drawn by imagination. I have hardly used
language stronger than that in which the authors of this new system have
commented on their own work. M. de Chateaubriand, in his speech in the
French Chamber of Deputies, in February last, declared, that he had a
conference with the Emperor of Russia at Verona, in which that august
sovereign uttered sentiments which appeared to him so precious, that he
immediately hastened home, and wrote them down while yet fresh in his
recollection. "The Emperor declared," said he, "that there can no longer
be such a thing as an English, French, Russian, Prussian, or Austrian
policy; there is henceforth but one policy, which, for the safety of
all, should be adopted both by people and kings. It was for me first to
show myself convinced of the principles upon which I founded the
alliance; an occasion offered itself,--the rising in Greece. Nothing
certainly could occur more for my interests, for the interests of my
people, nothing more acceptable to my country, than a religious war in
Turkey. But I have thought I perceived in the troubles of the Morea the
sign of revolution, and I have held back. Providence has not put under
my command eight hundred thousand soldiers to satisfy my ambition, but
to protect religion, morality, and justice, and to secure the prevalence
of those principles of order on which human society rests. It may well
be permitted, that kings may have public alliances to defend themselves
against secret enemies."

These, Sir, are the words which the French minister thought so important
that they deserved to be recorded; and I, too, Sir, am of the same
opinion. But if it be true that there is hereafter to be neither a
Russian policy, nor a Prussian policy, nor an Austrian policy, nor a
French policy, nor even, which yet I will not believe, an English
policy, there will be, I trust in God, an American policy. If the
authority of all these governments be hereafter to be mixed and blended,
and to flow in one augmented current of prerogative over the face of
Europe, sweeping away all resistance in its course, it will yet remain
for us to secure our own happiness by the preservation of our own
principles; which I hope we shall have the manliness to express on all
proper occasions, and the spirit to defend in every extremity. The end
and scope of this amalgamated policy are neither more nor less than
this: to interfere, by force, for any government against any people who
may resist it. Be the state of the people what it may, they shall not
rise; be the government what it will, it shall not be opposed.

The practical commentary has corresponded with the plain language of the
text. Look at Spain, and at Greece. If men may not resist the Spanish
Inquisition, and the Turkish cimeter, what is there to which humanity
must not submit? Stronger cases can never arise. Is it not proper for
us, at all times, is it not our duty, at this time, to come forth, and
deny, and condemn, these monstrous principles? Where, but here, and in
one other place, are they likely to be resisted? They are advanced with
equal coolness and boldness; and they are supported by immense power.
The timid will shrink and give way, and many of the brave may be
compelled to yield to force. Human liberty may yet, perhaps, be obliged
to repose its principal hopes on the intelligence and the vigor of the
Saxon race. As far as depends on us, at least, I trust those hopes will
not be disappointed; and that, to the extent which may consist with our
own settled, pacific policy, our opinions and sentiments may be brought
to act on the right side, and to the right end, on an occasion which is,
in truth, nothing less than a momentous question between an intelligent
age, full of knowledge, thirsting for improvement, and quickened by a
thousand impulses, on one side, and the most arbitrary pretensions,
sustained by unprecedented power, on the other.

This asserted right of forcible intervention in the affairs of other
nations is in open violation of the public law of the world. Who has
authorized these learned doctors of Troppau to establish new articles in
this code? Whence are their diplomas? Is the whole world expected to
acquiesce in principles which entirely subvert the independence of
nations? On the basis of this independence has been reared the beautiful
fabric of international law. On the principle of this independence,
Europe has seen a family of nations flourishing within its limits, the
small among the large, protected not always by power, but by a principle
above power, by a sense of propriety and justice. On this principle, the
great commonwealth of civilized states has been hitherto upheld. There
have been occasional departures or violations, and always disastrous, as
in the case of Poland; but, in general, the harmony of the system has
been wonderfully preserved. In the production and preservation of this
sense of justice, this predominating principle, the Christian religion
has acted a main part. Christianity and civilization have labored
together; it seems, indeed, to be a law of our human condition, that
they can live and flourish only together. From their blended influence
has arisen that delightful spectacle of the prevalence of reason and
principle over power and interest, so well described by one who was an
honor to the age;--

"And sovereign Law, the state's collected will,
O'er thrones and globes elate,
Sits empress,--crowning good, repressing ill:
Smit by her sacred frown,
The fiend, Discretion, like a vapor, sinks,
And e'en the all-dazzling crown
Hides his faint rays, and at her bidding shrinks."

But this vision is past. While the teachers of Laybach give the rule,
there will be no law but the law of the strongest.

It may now be required of me to show what interest _we_ have in
resisting this new system. What is it to _us_, it may be asked, upon
what principles, or what pretences, the European governments assert a
right of interfering in the affairs of their neighbors? The thunder, it
may be said, rolls at a distance. The wide Atlantic is between us and
danger; and, however others may suffer, _we_ shall remain safe.

I think it is a sufficient answer to this to say, that we are one of the
nations of the earth; that we have an interest, therefore, in the
preservation of that system of national law and national intercourse
which has heretofore subsisted, so beneficially for all. Our system of
government, it should also be remembered, is, throughout, founded on
principles utterly hostile to the new code; and if we remain undisturbed
by its operation, we shall owe our security either to our situation or
our spirit. The enterprising character of the age, our own active,
commercial spirit, the great increase which has taken place in the
intercourse among civilized and commercial states, have necessarily
connected us with other nations, and given us a high concern in the
preservation of those salutary principles upon which that intercourse is
founded. We have as clear an interest in international law, as
individuals have in the laws of society.

But apart from the soundness of the policy, on the ground of direct
interest, we have, Sir, a duty connected with this subject, which I
trust we are willing to perform. What do _we_ not owe to the cause of
civil and religious liberty? to the principle of lawful resistance? to
the principle that society has a right to partake in its own government?
As the leading republic of the world, living and breathing in these
principles, and advanced, by their operation, with unequalled rapidity
in our career, shall we give _our_ consent to bring them into disrepute
and disgrace? It is neither ostentation nor boasting to say, that there
lies before this country, in immediate prospect, a great extent and
height of power. We are borne along towards this without effort, and not
always even with a full knowledge of the rapidity of our own motion.
Circumstances which never combined before have co-operated in our favor,
and a mighty current is setting us forward which we could not resist
even if we would, and which, while we would stop to make an observation,
and take the sun, has set us, at the end of the operation, far in
advance of the place where we commenced it. Does it not become us, then,
is it not a duty imposed on us, to give our weight to the side of
liberty and justice, to let mankind know that we are not tired of our
own institutions, and to protest against the asserted power of altering
at pleasure the law of the civilized world?

But whatever we do in this respect, it becomes us to do upon clear and
consistent principles. There is an important topic in the message to
which I have yet hardly alluded. I mean the rumored combination of the
European Continental sovereigns against the newly established free
states of South America. Whatever position this government may take on
that subject, I trust it will be one which can be defended on known and
acknowledged grounds of right. The near approach or the remote distance
of danger may affect policy, but cannot change principle. The same
reason that would authorize us to protest against unwarrantable
combinations to interfere between Spain and her former colonies, would
authorize us equally to protest if the same combination were directed
against the smallest state in Europe, although our duty to ourselves,
our policy, and wisdom, might indicate very different courses as fit to
be pursued by us in the two cases. We shall not, I trust, act upon the
notion of dividing the world with the Holy Alliance, and complain of
nothing done by them in their hemisphere if they will not interfere with
ours. At least this would not be such a course of policy as I could
recommend or support. We have not offended, and I hope we do not intend
to offend, in regard to South America, against any principle of national
independence or of public law. We have done nothing, we shall do
nothing, that we need to hush up or to compromise by forbearing to
express our sympathy for the cause of the Greeks, or our opinion of the
course which other governments have adopted in regard to them.

It may, in the next place, be asked, perhaps, Supposing all this to be
true, what can _we_ do? Are we to go to war? Are we to interfere in the
Greek cause, or any other European cause? Are we to endanger our pacific
relations? No, certainly not. What, then, the question recurs, remains
for us? If we will not endanger our own peace, if we will neither
furnish armies nor navies to the cause which we think the just one, what
is there within our power?

Sir, this reasoning mistakes the age. The time has been, indeed, when
fleets, and armies, and subsidies, were the principal reliances even in
the best cause. But, happily for mankind, a great change has taken place
in this respect. Moral causes come into consideration, in proportion as
the progress of knowledge is advanced; and the public opinion of the
civilized world is rapidly gaining an ascendency over mere brutal force.
It is already able to oppose the most formidable obstruction to the
progress of injustice and oppression; and as it grows more intelligent
and more intense, it will be more and more formidable. It may be
silenced by military power, but it cannot be conquered. It is elastic,
irrepressible, and invulnerable to the weapons of ordinary warfare. It
is that impassible, inextinguishable enemy of mere violence and
arbitrary rule, which, like Milton's angels,

"Vital in every part, ...
Cannot, but by annihilating, die."

Until this be propitiated or satisfied, it is vain for power to talk
either of triumphs or of repose. No matter what fields are desolated,
what fortresses surrendered, what armies subdued, or what provinces
overrun. In the history of the year that has passed by us, and in the
instance of unhappy Spain, we have seen the vanity of all triumphs in a
cause which violates the general sense of justice of the civilized
world. It is nothing that the troops of France have passed from the
Pyrenees to Cadiz; it is nothing that an unhappy and prostrate nation
has fallen before them; it is nothing that arrests, and confiscation,
and execution, sweep away the little remnant of national resistance.
There is an enemy that still exists to check the glory of these
triumphs. It follows the conqueror back to the very scene of his
ovations; it calls upon him to take notice that Europe, though silent,
is yet indignant; it shows him that the sceptre of his victory is a
barren sceptre; that it shall confer neither joy nor honor, but shall
moulder to dry ashes in his grasp. In the midst of his exultation, it
pierces his ear with the cry of injured justice; it denounces against
him the indignation of an enlightened and civilized age; it turns to
bitterness the cup of his rejoicing, and wounds him with the sting which
belongs to the consciousness of having outraged the opinion of mankind.

In my opinion, Sir, the Spanish nation is now nearer, not only in point
of time, but in point of circumstance, to the acquisition of a regulated
government, than at the moment of the French invasion. Nations must, no
doubt, undergo these trials in their progress to the establishment of
free institutions. The very trials benefit them, and render them more
capable both of obtaining and of enjoying the object which they seek.

I shall not detain the committee, Sir, by laying before it any
statistical, geographical, or commercial account of Greece. I have no
knowledge on these subjects which is not common to all. It is
universally admitted, that, within the last thirty or forty years, the
condition of Greece has been greatly improved. Her marine is at present
respectable, containing the best sailors in the Mediterranean, better
even, in that sea, than our own, as more accustomed to the long
quarantines and other regulations which prevail in its ports. The number
of her seamen has been estimated as high as 50,000, but I suppose that
estimate must be much too large. She has, probably, 150,000 tons of
shipping. It is not easy to ascertain the amount of the Greek
population. The Turkish government does not trouble itself with any of
the calculations of political economy, and there has never been such a
thing as an accurate census, probably, in any part of the Turkish
empire. In the absence of all official information, private opinions
widely differ. By the tables which have been communicated, it would seem
that there are 2,400,000 Greeks in Greece proper and the islands; an
amount, as I am inclined to think, somewhat overrated. There are,
probably, in the whole of European Turkey, 5,000,000 Greeks, and
2,000,000 more in the Asiatic dominions of that power.

The moral and intellectual progress of this numerous population, under
the horrible oppression which crushes it, has been such as may well
excite regard. Slaves, under barbarous masters, the Greeks have still
aspired after the blessings of knowledge and civilization. Before the
breaking out of the present revolution, they had established schools,
and colleges, and libraries, and the press. Wherever, as in Scio, owing
to particular circumstances, the weight of oppression was mitigated, the
natural vivacity of the Greeks, and their aptitude for the arts, were
evinced. Though certainly not on an equality with the civilized and
Christian states of Europe,--and how is it possible, under such
oppression as they endured, that they should be?--they yet furnished a
striking contrast with their Tartar masters. It has been well said, that
it is not easy to form a just conception of the nature of the despotism
exercised over them. Conquest and subjugation, as known among European
states, are inadequate modes of expression by which to denote the
dominion of the Turks. A conquest in the civilized world is generally no
more than an acquisition of a new dominion to the conquering country. It
does not imply a never-ending bondage imposed upon the conquered, a
perpetual mark,--an opprobrious distinction between them and their
masters; a bitter and unending persecution of their religion; an
habitual violation of their rights of person and property, and the
unrestrained indulgence towards them of every passion which belongs to
the character of a barbarous soldiery. Yet such is the state of Greece.
The Ottoman power over them, obtained originally by the sword, is
constantly preserved by the same means. Wherever it exists, it is a mere
military power. The religious and civil code of the state being both
fixed in the Koran, and equally the object of an ignorant and furious
faith, have been found equally incapable of change. "The Turk," it has
been said, "has been _encamped_ in Europe for four centuries." He has
hardly any more participation in European manners, knowledge, and arts,
than when he crossed the Bosphorus. But this is not the worst. The power
of the empire is fallen into anarchy, and as the principle which belongs
to the head belongs also to the parts, there are as many despots as
there are pachas, beys, and viziers. Wars are almost perpetual between
the Sultan and some rebellious governor of a province; and in the
conflict of these despotisms, the people are necessarily ground between
the upper and the nether millstone. In short, the Christian subjects of
the Sublime Porte feel daily all the miseries which flow from despotism,
from anarchy, from slavery, and from religious persecution. If any thing
yet remains to heighten such a picture, let it be added, that every
office in the government is not only actually, but professedly,
venal,--the pachalics, the vizierates, the cadiships, and whatsoever
other denomination may denote the depositary of power. In the whole
world, Sir, there is no such oppression felt as by the Christian Greeks.
In various parts of India, to be sure, the government is bad enough; but
then it is the government of barbarians over barbarians, and the feeling
of oppression is, of course, not so keen. There the oppressed are
perhaps not better than their oppressors; but in the case of Greece,
there are millions of Christian men, not without knowledge, not without
refinement, not without a strong thirst for all the pleasures of
civilized life, trampled into the very earth, century after century, by
a pillaging, savage, relentless soldiery. Sir, the case is unique. There
exists, and has existed, nothing like it. The world has no such misery
to show; there is no case in which Christian communities can be called
upon with such emphasis of appeal.

But I have said enough, Mr. Chairman, indeed I need have said nothing to
satisfy the House, that it must be some new combination of
circumstances, or new views of policy in the cabinets of Europe, which
have caused this interesting struggle not merely to be regarded with
indifference, but to be marked with opprobrium. The very statement of
the case, as a contest between the Turks and Greeks, sufficiently
indicates what must be the feeling of every individual, and every
government, that is not biassed by a particular interest, or a
particular feeling, to disregard the dictates of justice and humanity.

And now, Sir, what has been the conduct pursued by the Allied Powers in
regard to this contest? When the revolution broke out, the sovereigns
were assembled in congress at Laybach; and the papers of that assembly
sufficiently manifest their sentiments. They proclaim their abhorrence
of those "criminal combinations which had been formed in the eastern
parts of Europe"; and, although it is possible that this denunciation
was aimed, more particularly, at the disturbances in the provinces of
Wallachia and Moldavia, yet no exception is made, from its general
terms, in favor of those events in Greece which were properly the
commencement of her revolution, and which could not but be well known at
Laybach, before the date of these declarations. Now it must be
remembered, that Russia was a leading party in this denunciation of the
efforts of the Greeks to achieve their liberation; and it cannot but be
expected by Russia, that the world should also remember what part she
herself has heretofore acted in the same concern. It is notorious, that
within the last half-century she has again and again excited the Greeks
to rebellion against the Porte, and that she has constantly kept alive
in them the hope that she would, one day, by her own great power, break
the yoke of their oppressor. Indeed, the earnest attention with which
Russia has regarded Greece goes much farther back than to the time I
have mentioned. Ivan the Third, in 1482, having espoused a Grecian
princess, heiress of the last Greek Emperor, discarded St. George from
the Russian arms, and adopted the Greek two-headed black eagle, which
has continued in the Russian arms to the present day. In virtue of the
same marriage, the Russian princes claim the Greek throne as their

Under Peter the Great, the policy of Russia developed itself more fully.
In 1696, he rendered himself master of Azof, and, in 1698, obtained the
right to pass the Dardanelles, and to maintain, by that route,
commercial intercourse with the Mediterranean. He had emissaries
throughout Greece, and particularly applied himself to gain the clergy.
He adopted the _Labarum_ of Constantine, "In hoc signo vinces"; and
medals were struck, with the inscription, "Petrus I. Russo-Graecorum
Imperator." In whatever new direction the principles of the Holy
Alliance may now lead the politics of Russia, or whatever course she may
suppose Christianity now prescribes to her, in regard to the Greek
cause, the time has been when she professed to be contending for that
cause, as identified with Christianity. The white banner under which the
soldiers of Peter the First usually fought, bore, as its inscription,
"In the name of the Prince, and for our country." Relying on the aid of
the Greeks, in his war with the Porte, he changed the white flag to red,
and displayed on it the words, "In the name of God, and for
Christianity." The unfortunate issue of this war is well known. Though
Anne and Elizabeth, the successors of Peter, did not possess his active
character, they kept up a constant communication with Greece, and held
out hopes of restoring the Greek empire. Catharine the Second, as is
well known, excited a general revolt in 1769. A Russian fleet appeared
in the Mediterranean, and a Russian army was landed in the Morea. The
Greeks in the end were disgusted at being expected to take an oath of
allegiance to Russia, and the Empress was disgusted because they refused
to take it. In 1774, peace was signed between Russia and the Porte, and
the Greeks of the Morea were left to their fate. By this treaty the
Porte acknowledged the independence of the Khan of the Crimea; a
preliminary step to the acquisition of that country by Russia. It is not
unworthy of remark, as a circumstance which distinguished this from most
other diplomatic transactions, that it conceded to the cabinet of St.
Petersburg the right of intervention in the interior affairs of Turkey,
in regard to whatever concerned the religion of the Greeks. The
cruelties and massacres that happened to the Greeks after the peace
between Russia and the Porte, notwithstanding the general pardon which
had been stipulated for them, need not now be recited. Instead of
retracing the deplorable picture, it is enough to say, that in this
respect the past is justly reflected in the present. The Empress soon
after invaded and conquered the Crimea, and on one of the gates of
Kerson, its capital, caused to be inscribed, "The road to Byzantium."
The present Emperor, on his accession to the throne, manifested an
intention to adopt the policy of Catharine the Second as his own, and
the world has not been right in all its suspicions, if a project for the
partition of Turkey did not form a part of the negotiations of Napoleon
and Alexander at Tilsit.

All this course of policy seems suddenly to be changed. Turkey is no
longer regarded, it would appear, as an object of partition or
acquisition, and Greek revolts have all at once become, according to the
declaration of Laybach, "criminal combinations." The recent congress at
Verona exceeded its predecessor at Laybach in its denunciations of the
Greek struggle. In the circular of the 14th of December, 1822, it
declared the Grecian resistance to the Turkish power to be rash and
culpable, and lamented that "the firebrand of rebellion had been thrown
into the Ottoman empire." This rebuke and crimination we know to have
proceeded on those settled principles of conduct which the Continental
powers had prescribed for themselves. The sovereigns saw, as well as
others, the real condition of the Greeks; they knew as well as others
that it was most natural and most justifiable, that they should
endeavor, at whatever hazard, to change that condition. They knew that
they themselves, or at least one of them, had more than once urged the
Greeks to similar efforts; that they themselves had thrown the same
firebrand into the midst of the Ottoman empire. And yet, so much does it
seem to be their fixed object to discountenance whatsoever threatens to
disturb the actual government of any country, that, Christians as they
were, and allied, as they professed to be, for purposes most important
to human happiness and religion, they have not hesitated to declare to
the world that they have wholly forborne to exercise any compassion to
the Greeks, simply because they thought that they saw, in the struggles
of the Morea, the sign of revolution. This, then, is coming to a plain,
practical result. The Grecian revolution has been discouraged,
discountenanced, and denounced, solely because it _is_ a revolution.
Independent of all inquiry into the reasonableness of its causes or the
enormity of the oppression which produced it; regardless of the peculiar
claims which Greece possesses upon the civilized world; and regardless
of what has been their own conduct towards her for a century; regardless
of the interest of the Christian religion,--the sovereigns at Verona
seized upon the case of the Greek revolution as one above all others
calculated to illustrate the fixed principles of their policy. The
abominable rule of the Porte on one side, the value and the sufferings
of the Christian Greeks on the other, furnished a case likely to
convince even an incredulous world of the sincerity of the professions
of the Allied Powers. They embraced the occasion with apparent ardor:
and the world, I trust, is satisfied.

We see here, Mr. Chairman, the direct and actual application of that
system which I have attempted to describe. We see it in the very case of
Greece. We learn, authentically and indisputably, that the Allied
Powers, holding that all changes in legislation and administration ought
to proceed from kings alone, were wholly inexorable to the sufferings of
the Greeks, and entirely hostile to their success. Now it is upon this
practical result of the principle of the Continental powers that I wish
this House to intimate its opinion. The great question is a question of
principle. Greece is only the signal instance of the application of that
principle. If the principle be right, if we esteem it conformable to the
law of nations, if we have nothing to say against it, or if we deem
ourselves unfit to express an opinion on the subject, then, of course,
no resolution ought to pass. If, on the other hand, we see in the
declarations of the Allied Powers principles, not only utterly hostile
to our own free institutions, but hostile also to the independence of
all nations, and altogether opposed to the improvement of the condition
of human nature; if, in the instance before us, we see a most striking
exposition and application of those principles, and if we deem our
opinions to be entitled to any weight in the estimation of
mankind,--then I think it is our duty to adopt some such measure as the
proposed resolution.

It is worthy of observation, Sir, that as early as July, 1821, Baron
Strogonoff, the Russian minister at Constantinople, represented to the
Porte, that, if the undistinguished massacres of the Greeks, both of
such as were in open resistance and of those who remained patient in
their submission were continued, and should become a settled habit, they
would give just cause of war against the Porte to all Christian states.
This was in 1821.[6] It was followed, early in the next year, by that
indescribable enormity, that appalling monument of barbarian cruelty,
the destruction of Scio; a scene I shall not attempt to describe; a
scene from which human nature shrinks shuddering away; a scene having
hardly a parallel in the history of fallen man. This scene, too, was
quickly followed by the massacres in Cyprus; and all these things were
perfectly known to the Christian powers assembled at Verona. Yet these
powers, instead of acting upon the case supposed by Baron Strogonoff,
and which one would think had been then fully made out,--instead of
being moved by any compassion for the sufferings of the Greeks,--these
powers, these Christian powers, rebuke their gallantry and insult their
sufferings by accusing them of "throwing a firebrand into the Ottoman
empire." Such, Sir, appear to me to be the principles on which the
Continental powers of Europe have agreed hereafter to act; and this, an
eminent instance of the application of those principles.

I shall not detain the committee, Mr. Chairman, by any attempt to recite
the events of the Greek struggle up to the present time. Its origin may
be found, doubtless, in that improved state of knowledge which, for some
years, has been gradually taking place in that country. The emancipation
of the Greeks has been a subject frequently discussed in modern times.
They themselves are represented as having a vivid remembrance of the
distinction of their ancestors, not unmixed with an indignant feeling
that civilized and Christian Europe should not ere now have aided them
in breaking their intolerable fetters.

In 1816 a society was founded in Vienna for the encouragement of Grecian
literature. It was connected with a similar institution at Athens, and
another in Thessaly, called the "Gymnasium of Mount Pelion." The
treasury and general office of the institution were established at
Munich. No political object was avowed by these institutions, probably
none contemplated. Still, however, they had their effect, no doubt, in
hastening that condition of things in which the Greeks felt competent to
the establishment of their independence. Many young men have been for
years annually sent to the universities in the western states of Europe
for their education; and, after the general pacification of Europe, many
military men, discharged from other employment, were ready to enter even
into so unpromising a service as that of the revolutionary Greeks.

In 1820, war commenced between the Porte and Ali, the well-known Pacha
of Albania. Differences existed also with Persia and with Russia. In
this state of things, at the beginning of 1821, an insurrection broke
out in Moldavia, under the direction of Alexander Ypsilanti, a
well-educated soldier, who had been major-general in the Russian
service. From his character, and the number of those who seemed inclined
to join him, he was supposed to be countenanced by the court of St.
Petersburg. This, however, was a great mistake, which the Emperor, then
at Laybach, took an early opportunity to rectify. The Turkish government
was alarmed at these occurrences in the northern provinces of European
Turkey, and caused search to be made of all vessels entering the Black
Sea, lest arms or other military means should be sent in that manner to
the insurgents. This proved inconvenient to the commerce of Russia, and
caused some unsatisfactory correspondence between the two powers. It may
be worthy of remark, as an exhibition of national character, that,
agitated by these appearances of intestine commotion, the Sultan issued
a proclamation, calling on all true Mussulmans to renounce the pleasures
of social life, to prepare arms and horses, and to return to the manner
of their ancestors, the life of the plains. The Turk seems to have
thought that he had, at last, caught something of the dangerous
contagion of European civilization, and that it was necessary to reform
his habits, by recurring to the original manners of military roving

It was about this time, that is to say, at the commencement of 1821,
that the revolution burst out in various parts of Greece and the isles.
Circumstances, certainly, were not unfavorable to the movement, as one
portion of the Turkish army was employed in the war against Ali Pacha in
Albania, and another part in the provinces north of the Danube. The
Greeks soon possessed themselves of the open country of the Morea, and
drove their enemy into the fortresses. Of these, that of Tripolitza,
with the city, fell into their hands, in the course of the summer.
Having after these first movements obtained time to breathe, it became,
of course, an early object to establish a government. For this purpose
delegates of the people assembled, under that name which describes the
assembly in which we ourselves sit, that name which "freed the
Atlantic," a _Congress_. A writer, who undertakes to render to the
civilized world that service which was once performed by Edmund Burke, I
mean the compiler of the English Annual Register, asks, by what
authority this assembly could call itself a Congress. Simply, Sir, by
the same authority by which the people of the United States have given
the same name to their own legislature. We, at least, should be
naturally inclined to think, not only as far as names, but things also,
are concerned, that the Greeks could hardly have begun their revolution
under better auspices; since they have endeavored to render applicable
to themselves the general principles of our form of government, as well
as its name. This constitution went into operation at the commencement
of the next year. In the mean time, the war with Ali Pacha was ended, he
having surrendered, and being afterwards assassinated, by an instance of
treachery and perfidy, which, if it had happened elsewhere than under
the government of the Turks, would have deserved notice. The negotiation
with Russia, too, took a turn unfavorable to the Greeks. The great point
upon which Russia insisted, beside the abandonment of the measure of
searching vessels bound to the Black Sea, was, that the Porte should
withdraw its armies from the neighborhood of the Russian frontiers; and
the immediate consequence of this, when effected, was to add so much
more to the disposable force ready to be employed against the Greeks.
These events seemed to have left the whole force of the Ottoman empire,
at the commencement of 1822, in a condition to be employed against the
Greek rebellion; and, accordingly, very many anticipated the immediate
destruction of the cause. The event, however, was ordered otherwise.
Where the greatest effort was made, it was met and defeated. Entering
the Morea with an army which seemed capable of bearing down all
resistance, the Turks were nevertheless defeated and driven back, and
pursued beyond the isthmus, within which, as far as it appears, from
that time to the present, they have not been able to set their foot.

It was in April of this year that the destruction of Scio took place.
That island, a sort of appanage of the Sultana mother, enjoyed many
privileges peculiar to itself. In a population of 130,000 or 140,000, it
had no more than 2,000 or 3,000 Turks; indeed, by some accounts, not
near as many. The absence of these ruffian masters had in some degree
allowed opportunity for the promotion of knowledge, the accumulation of
wealth, and the general cultivation of society. Here was the seat of
modern Greek literature; here were libraries, printing-presses, and
other establishments, which indicate some advancement in refinement and
knowledge. Certain of the inhabitants of Samos, it would seem, envious
of this comparative happiness of Scio, landed upon the island in an
irregular multitude, for the purpose of compelling its inhabitants to
make common cause with their countrymen against their oppressors. These,
being joined by the peasantry, marched to the city and drove the Turks
into the castle. The Turkish fleet, lately reinforced from Egypt,
happened to be in the neighboring seas, and, learning these events,
landed a force on the island of fifteen thousand men. There was nothing
to resist such an army. These troops immediately entered the city and
began an indiscriminate massacre. The city was fired; and in four days
the fire and sword of the Turk rendered the beautiful Scio a clotted
mass of blood and ashes. The details are too shocking to be recited.
Forty thousand women and children, unhappily saved from the general
destruction, were afterwards sold in the market of Smyrna, and sent off
into distant and hopeless servitude. Even on the wharves of our own
cities, it has been said, have been sold the utensils of those hearths
which now exist no longer. Of the whole population which I have
mentioned, not above nine hundred persons were left living upon the
island. I will only repeat, Sir, that these tragical scenes were as
fully known at the Congress of Verona, as they are now known to us; and
it is not too much to call on the powers that constituted that congress,
in the name of conscience and in the name of humanity, to tell us if
there be nothing even in these unparalleled excesses of Turkish
barbarity to excite a sentiment of compassion; nothing which they regard
as so objectionable as even the very idea of popular resistance to

The events of the year which has just passed by, as far as they have
become known to us, have been even more favorable to the Greeks than
those of the year preceding. I omit all details, as being as well known
to others as to myself. Suffice it to say, that with no other enemy to
contend with, and no diversion of his force to other objects, the Porte
has not been able to carry the war into the Morea; and that, by the last
accounts, its armies were acting defensively in Thessaly. I pass over,
also, the naval engagements of the Greeks, although that is a mode of
warfare in which they are calculated to excel, and in which they have
already performed actions of such distinguished skill and bravery, as
would draw applause upon the best mariners in the world. The present
state of the war would seem to be, that the Greeks possess the whole of
the Morea with the exception of the three fortresses of Patras, Coron,
and Modon; all Candia, but one fortress; and most of the other islands.
They possess the citadel of Athens, Missolonghi, and several other
places in Livadia. They have been able to act on the offensive, and to
carry the war beyond the isthmus. There is no reason to believe their
marine is weakened; more probably, it is strengthened. But, what is most
important of all, they have obtained time and experience. They have
awakened a sympathy throughout Europe and throughout America; and they
have formed a government which seems suited to the emergency of their

Sir, they have done much. It would be great injustice to compare their
achievements with our own. We began our Revolution, already possessed of
government, and, comparatively, of civil liberty. Our ancestors had from
the first been accustomed in a great measure to govern themselves. They
were familiar with popular elections and legislative assemblies, and
well acquainted with the general principles and practice of free
governments. They had little else to do than to throw off the paramount
authority of the parent state. Enough was still left, both of law and of
organization, to conduct society in its accustomed course, and to unite
men together for a common object. The Greeks, of course, could act with
little concert at the beginning; they were unaccustomed to the exercise
of power, without experience, with limited knowledge, without aid, and
surrounded by nations which, whatever claims the Greeks might seem to
have upon them, have afforded them nothing but discouragement and
reproach. They have held out, however, for three campaigns; and that, at
least, is something. Constantinople and the northern provinces have sent
forth thousands of troops;--they have been defeated. Tripoli, and
Algiers, and Egypt, have contributed their marine contingents;--they
have not kept the ocean. Hordes of Tartars have crossed the
Bosphorus;--they have died where the Persians died. The powerful
monarchies in the neighborhood have denounced their cause, and
admonished them to abandon it and submit to their fate. They have
answered them, that, although two hundred thousand of their countrymen
have offered up their lives, there yet remain lives to offer; and that
it is the determination of _all_, "yes, of ALL," to persevere until they
shall have established their liberty, or until the power of their
oppressors shall have relieved them from the burden of existence.

It may now be asked, perhaps, whether the expression of our own
sympathy, and that of the country, may do them good? I hope it may. It
may give them courage and spirit, it may assure them of public regard,
teach them that they are not wholly forgotten by the civilized world,
and inspire them with constancy in the pursuit of their great end. At
any rate, Sir, it appears to me that the measure which I have proposed
is due to our own character, and called for by our own duty. When we
shall have discharged that duty, we may leave the rest to the
disposition of Providence.

I do not see how it can be doubted that this measure is entirely
_pacific_. I profess my inability to perceive that it has any possible
tendency to involve our neutral relations. If the resolution pass, it is
not of necessity to be immediately acted on. It will not be acted on at
all, unless, in the opinion of the President, a proper and safe occasion
for acting upon it shall arise. If we adopt the resolution to-day, our
relations with every foreign state will be to-morrow precisely what they
now are. The resolution will be sufficient to express our sentiments on
the subjects to which I have adverted. Useful for that purpose, it can
be mischievous for no purpose. If the topic were properly introduced
into the message, it cannot be improperly introduced into discussion in
this House. If it were proper, which no one doubts, for the President to
express his opinions upon it, it cannot, I think, be improper for us to
express ours. The only certain effect of this resolution is to signify,
in a form usual in bodies constituted like this, our approbation of the
general sentiment of the message. Do we wish to withhold that
approbation? The resolution confers on the President no new power, nor
does it enjoin on him the exercise of any new duty; nor does it hasten
him in the discharge of any existing duty.

I cannot imagine that this resolution can add any thing to those
excitements which it has been supposed, I think very causelessly, might
possibly provoke the Turkish government to acts of hostility. There is
already the message, expressing the hope of success to the Greeks and
disaster to the Turks, in a much stronger manner than is to be implied
from the terms of this resolution. There is the correspondence between
the Secretary of State and the Greek Agent in London, already made
public, in which similar wishes are expressed, and a continuance of the
correspondence apparently invited. I might add to this, the unexampled
burst of feeling which this cause has called forth from all classes of
society, and the notorious fact of pecuniary contributions made
throughout the country for its aid and advancement. After all this,
whoever can see cause of danger to our pacific relations from the
adoption of this resolution has a keener vision than I can pretend to.
Sir, there is no augmented danger; there is no danger. The question
comes at last to this, whether, on a subject of this sort, this House
holds an opinion which is worthy to be expressed.

Even suppose, Sir, an agent or commissioner were to be immediately
sent,--a measure which I myself believe to be the proper one,--there is
no breach of neutrality, nor any just cause of offence. Such an agent,
of course, would not be accredited; he would not be a public minister.
The object would be inquiry and information; inquiry which we have a
right to make, information which we are interested to possess. If a
dismemberment of the Turkish empire be taking place, or has already
taken place; if a new state be rising, or be already risen, in the
Mediterranean,--who can doubt, that, without any breach of neutrality,
we may inform ourselves of these events for the government of our own
concerns? The Greeks have declared the Turkish coasts in a state of
blockade; may we not inform ourselves whether this blockade be _nominal_
or _real_? and, of course, whether it shall be regarded or disregarded?
The greater our trade may happen to be with Smyrna, a consideration
which seems to have alarmed some gentlemen, the greater is the reason,
in my opinion, why we should seek to be accurately informed of those
events which may affect its safety. It seems to me impossible,
therefore, for any reasonable man to imagine that this resolution can
expose us to the resentment of the Sublime Porte.

As little reason is there for fearing its consequences upon the conduct
of the Allied Powers. They may, very naturally, dislike our sentiments
upon the subject of the Greek revolution; but what those sentiments are
they will much more explicitly learn in the President's message than in
this resolution. They might, indeed, prefer that we should express no
dissent from the doctrines which they have avowed, and the application
which they have made of those doctrines to the case of Greece. But I
trust we are not disposed to leave them in any doubt as to our
sentiments upon these important subjects. They have expressed their
opinions, and do not call that expression of opinion an interference;
in which respect they are right, as the expression of opinion in such
cases is not such an interference as would justify the Greeks in
considering the powers at war with them. For the same reason, any
expression which we may make of different principles and different
sympathies is no interference. No one would call the President's message
an interference; and yet it is much stronger in that respect than this
resolution. If either of them could be construed to be an interference,
no doubt it would be improper, at least it would be so according to my
view of the subject; for the very thing which I have attempted to resist
in the course of these observations is the right of foreign
interference. But neither the message nor the resolution has that
character. There is not a power in Europe which can suppose, that, in
expressing our opinions on this occasion, we are governed by any desire
of aggrandizing ourselves or of injuring others. We do no more than to
maintain those established principles in which we have an interest in
common with other nations, and to resist the introduction of new
principles and new rules, calculated to destroy the relative
independence of states, and particularly hostile to the whole fabric of
our government.

I close, then, Sir, with repeating, that the object of this resolution
is to avail ourselves of the interesting occasion of the Greek
revolution to make our protest against the doctrines of the Allied
Powers, both as they are laid down in principle and as they are applied
in practice. I think it right, too, Sir, not to be unseasonable in the
expression of our regard, and, as far as that goes, in a manifestation
of our sympathy with a long oppressed and now struggling people. I am
not of those who would, in the hour of utmost peril, withhold such
encouragement as might be properly and lawfully given, and, when the
crisis should be past, overwhelm the rescued sufferer with kindness and
caresses. The Greeks address the civilized world with a pathos not easy
to be resisted. They invoke our favor by more moving considerations than
can well belong to the condition of any other people. They stretch out
their arms to the Christian communities of the earth, beseeching them,
by a generous recollection of their ancestors, by the consideration of
their desolated and ruined cities and villages, by their wives and
children sold into an accursed slavery, by their blood, which they seem
willing to pour out like water, by the common faith, and in the name,
which unites all Christians, that they would extend to them at least
some token of compassionate regard.

[Footnote 1: The interior of the hall of the House of Representatives is
surrounded by a magnificent colonnade of the composite order. [1824.]]

[Footnote 2: See Lord Castlereagh's speech in the House of Commons,
February 3, 1816. Debates in Parliament, Vol. XXXVI. p. 355; where also
the treaty may be found at length.]

[Footnote 3: Law of Nature and Nations, Book II. cap. 2, sec. 11.]

[Footnote 4: Martens, Recueil des Traites, Tome XIII. p. 656.]

[Footnote 5: Annual Register for 1821, p. 601.]

[Footnote 6: Annual Register for 1821, p. 251.]



[At an early period of the session of Congress of 1823-24 a bill was
introduced into the House of Representatives to amend the several acts
laying duties on imports. The object of the bill was a comprehensive
revision of the existing laws, with a view to the extension of the
protective system. The bill became the subject of a protracted debate,
in which much of the talent of the House on both sides was engaged. Mr.
Webster took an active part in the discussion, and spoke upon many of
the details of the bill, while it remained in the committee of the whole
House on the state of the Union. Several objectionable provisions were
removed, and various amendments were introduced upon his motion; and it
was a matter of regret to him, as seen in the following speech, that the
friends of the bill were not able or willing to bring it into a form in
which, as a whole, he could give it his support. On the 30th and 31st of
March, Mr. Clay, Speaker of the House, addressed the committee of the
whole, at length and with great ability, on the general principles of
the bill; and he was succeeded by Mr. Webster, on the 1st and 2d of
April, in the following speech.]

MR. CHAIRMAN,--I will avail myself of the present occasion to make some
remarks on certain principles and opinions which have been recently
advanced, and on those considerations which, in my judgment, ought to
govern us in deciding upon the several and respective parts of this very
important and complex measure. I can truly say that this is a painful
duty. I deeply regret the necessity which is likely to be imposed upon
me of giving a general affirmative or negative vote on the whole of the
bill. I cannot but think this mode of proceeding liable to great
objections. It exposes both those who support and those who oppose the
measure to very unjust and injurious misapprehensions. There may be good
reasons for favoring some of the provisions of the bill, and equally
strong reasons for opposing others; and these provisions do not stand to
each other in the relation of principal and incident. If that were the
case, those who are in favor of the principal might forego their
opinions upon incidental and subordinate provisions. But the bill
proposes enactments entirely distinct and different from one another in
character and tendency. Some of its clauses are intended merely for
revenue; and of those which regard the protection of home manufactures,
one part stands upon very different grounds from those of other parts.
So that probably every gentleman who may ultimately support the bill
will vote for much which his judgment does not approve; and those who
oppose it will oppose something which they would very gladly support.

Being intrusted with the interests of a district highly commercial, and
deeply interested in manufactures also, I wish to state my opinions on
the present measure, not as on a whole, for it has no entire and
homogeneous character, but as on a collection of different enactments,
some of which meet my approbation and some of which do not.

And allow me, Sir, in the first place, to state my regret, if indeed I
ought not to express a warmer sentiment, at the names or designations
which Mr. Speaker[1] has seen fit to adopt for the purpose of describing
the advocates and the opposers of the present bill. It is a question, he
says, between the friends of an "American policy" and those of a
"foreign policy." This, Sir, is an assumption which I take the liberty
most directly to deny. Mr. Speaker certainly intended nothing invidious
or derogatory to any part of the House by this mode of denominating
friends and enemies. But there is power in names, and this manner of
distinguishing those who favor and those who oppose particular measures
may lead to inferences to which no member of the House can submit. It
may imply that there is a more exclusive and peculiar regard to American
interests in one class of opinions than in another. Such an implication
is to be resisted and repelled. Every member has a right to the
presumption, that he pursues what he believes to be the interest of his
country with as sincere a zeal as any other member. I claim this in my
own case; and while I shall not, for any purpose of description or
convenient arrangement use terms which may imply any disrespect to other
men's opinions, much less any imputation upon other men's motives, it is
my duty to take care that the use of such terms by others be not,
against the will of those who adopt them, made to produce a false

Indeed, Sir, it is a little astonishing, if it seemed convenient to Mr.
Speaker, for the purposes of distinction, to make use of the terms
"American policy" and "foreign policy," that he should not have applied
them in a manner precisely the reverse of that in which he has in fact
used them. If names are thought necessary, it would be well enough, one
would think, that the name should be in some measure descriptive of the
thing; and since Mr. Speaker denominates the policy which he recommends
"a new policy in this country"; since he speaks of the present measure
as a new era in our legislation; since he professes to invite us to
depart from our accustomed course, to instruct ourselves by the wisdom
of others, and to adopt the policy of the most distinguished foreign
states,--one is a little curious to know with what propriety of speech
this imitation of other nations is denominated an "American policy,"
while, on the contrary, a preference for our own established system, as
it now actually exists and always has existed, is called a "foreign
policy." This favorite American policy is what America has never tried;
and this odious foreign policy is what, as we are told, foreign states
have never pursued. Sir, that is the truest American policy which shall
most usefully employ American capital and American labor, and best
sustain the whole population. With me it is a fundamental axiom, it is
interwoven with all my opinions, that the great interests of the country
are united and inseparable; that agriculture, commerce, and manufactures
will prosper together or languish together; and that all legislation is
dangerous which proposes to benefit one of these without looking to
consequences which may fall on the others.

Passing from this, Sir, I am bound to say that Mr. Speaker began his
able and impressive speech at the proper point of inquiry,--I mean the
present state and condition of the country,--although I am so
unfortunate, or rather although I am so happy, as to differ from him
very widely in regard to that condition. I dissent entirely from the
justice of that picture of distress which he has drawn. I have not seen
the reality, and know not where it exists. Within my observation, there
is no cause for so gloomy and terrifying a representation. In respect to
the New England States, with the condition of which I am of course best
acquainted, the present appears to me a period of very general
prosperity. Not, indeed, a time for sudden acquisition and great
profits, not a day of extraordinary activity and successful
speculation. There is no doubt a considerable depression of prices, and,
in some degree, a stagnation of business. But the case presented by Mr.
Speaker was not one of _depression_, but of _distress_; of universal,
pervading, intense distress, limited to no class and to no place. We are
represented as on the very verge and brink of national ruin. So far from
acquiescing in these opinions, I believe there has been no period in
which the general prosperity was better secured, or rested on a more
solid foundation. As applicable to the Eastern States, I put this remark
to their representatives, and ask them if it is not true. When has there
been a time in which the means of living have been more accessible and
more abundant? When has labor been rewarded, I do not say with a larger,
but with a more certain success? Profits, indeed, are low; in some
pursuits of life, which it is not proposed to benefit, but to _burden_,
by this bill, very low. But still I am unacquainted with any proofs of
extraordinary distress. What, indeed, are the general indications of the
state of the country? There is no famine nor pestilence in the land, nor
war, nor desolation. There is no writhing under the burden of taxation.
The means of subsistence are abundant; and at the very moment when the
miserable condition of the country is asserted, it is admitted that the
wages of labor are high in comparison with those of any other country. A
country, then, enjoying a profound peace, perfect civil liberty, with
the means of subsistence cheap and abundant, with the reward of labor
sure, and its wages higher than anywhere else, cannot be represented as
in gloom, melancholy, and distress, but by the effort of extraordinary
powers of tragedy.

Even if, in judging of this question, we were to regard only those
proofs to which we have been referred, we shall probably come to a
conclusion somewhat different from that which has been drawn. Our
exports, for example, although certainly less than in some years, were
not, last year, so much below an average formed upon the exports of a
series of years, and putting those exports at a fixed value, as might be
supposed. The value of the exports of agricultural products, of animals,
of the products of the forest and of the sea, together with gunpowder,
spirits, and sundry unenumerated articles, amounted in the several years
to the following sums, viz.:--

In 1790, $27,716,152
1804, 33,842,316
1807, 38,465,854

Coming up now to our own times, and taking the exports of the years
1821, 1822, and 1823, of the same articles and products, at the same
prices, they stand thus:--

In 1821, $45,643,175
1822, 48,782,295
1823, 55,863,491

Mr. Speaker has taken the very extraordinary year of 1803, and, adding
to the exportation of that year what he thinks ought to have been a just
augmentation, in proportion to the increase of our population, he swells
the result to a magnitude, which, when compared with our actual exports,
would exhibit a great deficiency. But is there any justice in this mode
of calculation? In the first place, as before observed, the year 1803
was a year of extraordinary exportation. By reference to the accounts,
that of the article of flour, for example, there was an export that year
of thirteen hundred thousand barrels; but the very next year it fell to
eight hundred thousand, and the next year to seven hundred thousand. In
the next place, there never was any reason to expect that the increase
of our exports of agricultural products would keep pace with the
increase of our population. That would be against all experience. It is,
indeed, most desirable, that there should be an augmented demand for the
products of agriculture; but, nevertheless, the official returns of our
exports do not show that absolute want of all foreign market which has
been so strongly stated.

But there are other means by which to judge of the general condition of
the people. The quantity of the means of subsistence consumed, or, to
make use of a phraseology better suited to the condition of our own
people, the quantity of the comforts of life enjoyed, is one of those
means. It so happens, indeed, that it is not so easy in this country as
elsewhere to ascertain facts of this sort with accuracy. Where most of
the articles of subsistence and most of the comforts of life are taxed,
there is, of course, great facility in ascertaining, from official
statements, the amount of consumption. But in this country, most
fortunately, the government neither knows, nor is concerned to know, the
annual consumption; and estimates can only be formed in another mode,
and in reference only to a few articles. Of these articles, tea is one.
It is not quite a luxury, and yet is something above the absolute
necessaries of life. Its consumption, therefore, will be diminished in
times of adversity, and augmented in times of prosperity. By deducting
the annual export from the annual import, and taking a number of years
together, we may arrive at a probable estimate of consumption. The
average of eleven years, from 1790 to 1800, inclusive, will be found to
be two millions and a half of pounds. From 1801 to 1812, inclusive, the
average was three millions seven hundred thousand; and the average of
the last three years, to wit, 1821, 1822, and 1823, was five millions
and a half. Having made a just allowance for the increase of our
numbers, we shall still find, I think, from these statements, that there
is no distress which has limited our means of subsistence and enjoyment.

In forming an opinion of the degree of general prosperity, we may
regard, likewise, the progress of internal improvements, the investment
of capital in roads, bridges, and canals. All these prove a balance of
income over expenditure; they afford evidence that there is a surplus of
profits, which the present generation is usefully vesting for the
benefit of the next. It cannot be denied, that, in this particular, the
progress of the country is steady and rapid.

We may look, too, to the sums expended for education. Are our colleges
deserted? Do fathers find themselves less able than usual to educate
their children? It will be found, I imagine, that the amount paid for
the purpose of education is constantly increasing, and that the schools
and colleges were never more full than at the present moment. I may add,
that the endowment of public charities, the contributions to objects of
general benevolence, whether foreign or domestic, the munificence of
individuals towards whatever promises to benefit the community, are all
so many proofs of national prosperity. And, finally, there is no
defalcation of revenue, no pressure of taxation.

The general result, therefore, of a fair examination of the present
condition of things, seems to me to be, that there is a considerable
depression of prices, and curtailment of profit; and in some parts of
the country, it must be admitted, there is a great degree of pecuniary
embarrassment, arising from the difficulty of paying debts which were
contracted when prices were high. With these qualifications, the general
state of the country may be said to be prosperous; and these are not
sufficient to give to the whole face of affairs any appearance of
general distress.

Supposing the evil, then, to be a depression of prices, and a partial
pecuniary pressure, the next inquiry is into the causes of that evil;
and it appears to me that there are several; and in this respect, I
think, too much has been imputed by Mr. Speaker to the single cause of
the diminution of exports. Connected, as we are, with all the commercial
nations of the world, and having observed great changes to take place
elsewhere, we should consider whether the causes of those changes have
not reached us, and whether we are not suffering by the operation of
them, in common with others. Undoubtedly, there has been a great fall in
the price of all commodities throughout the commercial world, in
consequence of the restoration of a state of peace. When the Allies
entered France in 1814, prices rose astonishingly fast, and very high.
Colonial produce, for instance, in the ports of this country, as well as
elsewhere, sprung up suddenly from the lowest to the highest extreme. A
new and vast demand was created for the commodities of trade. These were
the natural consequences of the great political changes which then took
place in Europe.

We are to consider, too, that our own war created new demand, and that a
government expenditure of twenty-five or thirty million dollars a year
had the usual effect of enhancing prices. We are obliged to add, that
the paper issues of our banks carried the same effect still further. A
depreciated currency existed in a great part of the country; depreciated
to such an extent, that, at one time, exchange between the centre and
the North was as high as twenty per cent. The Bank of the United States
was instituted to correct this evil; but, for causes which it is not
necessary now to enumerate, it did not for some years bring back the
currency of the country to a sound state. This depreciation of the
circulating currency was so much, of course, added to the nominal prices
of commodities, and these prices, thus unnaturally high, seemed, to
those who looked only at the appearance, to indicate great prosperity.
But such prosperity is more specious than real. It would have been
better, probably, as the shock would have been less, if prices had
fallen sooner. At length, however, they fell; and as there is little
doubt that certain events in Europe had an influence in determining the
time at which this fall took place, I will advert shortly to some of the
principal of those events.

In May, 1819, the British House of Commons decided, by a unanimous vote,
that the resumption of cash payments by the Bank of England should not
be deferred beyond the ensuing February. The restriction had been
continued from time to time, and from year to year, Parliament always
professing to look to the restoration of a specie currency whenever it
should be found practicable. Having been, in July, 1818, continued to
July, 1819, it was understood that, in the interim, the important
question of the time at which cash payments should be resumed should be
finally settled. In the latter part of the year 1818, the circulation of
the bank had been greatly reduced, and a severe scarcity of money was
felt in the London market. Such was the state of things in England. On
the Continent, other important events took place. The French Indemnity
Loan had been negotiated in the summer of 1818, and the proportion of it
belonging to Austria, Russia, and Prussia had been sold. This created an
unusual demand for gold and silver in those countries. It has been
stated, that the amount of the precious metals transmitted to Austria
and Russia in that year was at least twenty millions sterling. Other
large sums were sent to Prussia and to Denmark. The effect of this
sudden drain of specie, felt first at Paris, was communicated to
Amsterdam and Hamburg, and all other commercial places in the North of

The paper system of England had certainly communicated an artificial
value to property. It had encouraged speculation, and excited
over-trading. When the shock therefore came, and this violent pressure
for money acted at the same moment on the Continent and in England,
inflated and unnatural prices could be kept up no longer. A reduction
took place, which has been estimated to have been at least equal to a
fall of thirty, if not forty per cent. The depression was universal; and
the change was felt in the United States severely, though not equally so
in every part. There are those, I am aware, who maintain that the events
to which I have alluded did not cause the great fall of prices, but that
that fall was natural and inevitable, from the previously existing state
of things, the abundance of commodities, and the want of demand. But
that would only prove that the effect was produced in another way,
rather than by another cause. If these great and sudden calls for money
did not reduce prices, but prices fell, as of themselves, to their
natural state, still the result is the same; for we perceive that, after
these new calls for money, prices could not be kept longer at their
unnatural height.

About the time of these foreign events, our own bank system underwent a
change; and all these causes, in my view of the subject, concurred to
produce the great shock which took place in our commercial cities, and
in many parts of the country. The year 1819 was a year of numerous
failures, and very considerable distress, and would have furnished far
better grounds than exist at present for that gloomy representation of
our condition which has been presented. Mr. Speaker has alluded to the
strong inclination which exists, or has existed, in various parts of the
country, to issue paper money, as a proof of great existing
difficulties. I regard it rather as a very productive cause of those
difficulties; and the committee will not fail to observe, that there is,
at this moment, much the loudest complaint of distress precisely where
there has been the greatest attempt to relieve it by systems of paper
credit. And, on the other hand, content, prosperity, and happiness are
most observable in those parts of the country where there has been the
least endeavor to administer relief by law. In truth, nothing is so
baneful, so utterly ruinous to all true industry, as interfering with
the legal value of money, or attempting to raise artificial standards to
supply its place. Such remedies suit well the spirit of extravagant
speculation, but they sap the very foundation of all honest acquisition.
By weakening the security of property, they take away all motive for
exertion. Their effect is to transfer property. Whenever a debt is
allowed to be paid by any thing less valuable than the legal currency in
respect to which it was contracted, the difference between the value of
the paper given in payment and the legal currency is precisely so much
property taken from one man and given to another, by legislative

When we talk, therefore, of protecting industry, let us remember that
the first measure for that end is to secure it in its earnings; to
assure it that it shall receive its own. Before we invent new modes of
raising prices, let us take care that existing prices are not rendered
wholly unavailable, by making them capable of being paid in depreciated
paper. I regard, Sir, this issue of irredeemable paper as the most
prominent and deplorable cause of whatever pressure still exists in the
country; and, further, I would put the question to the members of this
committee, whether it is not from that part of the people who have tried
this paper system, and tried it to their cost, that this bill receives
the most earnest support? And I cannot forbear to ask, further, whether
this support does not proceed rather from a general feeling of
uneasiness under the present condition of things, than from the clear
perception of any benefit which the measure itself can confer? Is not
all expectation of advantage centred in a sort of vague hope, that
change may produce relief? Debt certainly presses hardest where prices
have been longest kept up by artificial means. They find the shock
lightest who take it soonest; and I fully believe that, if those parts
of the country which now suffer most had not augmented the force of the
blow by deferring it, they would have now been in a much better
condition than they are. We may assure ourselves, once for all, Sir,
that there can be no such thing as payment of debts by legislation. We
may abolish debts indeed; we may transfer property by visionary and
violent laws. But we deceive both ourselves and our constituents, if we
flatter either ourselves or them with the hope that there is any relief
against whatever pressure exists, but in economy and industry. The
depression of prices and the stagnation of business have been in truth
the necessary result of circumstances. No government could prevent them,
and no government can altogether relieve the people from their effect.
We have enjoyed a day of extraordinary prosperity; we had been neutral
while the world was at war, and had found a great demand for our
products, our navigation, and our labor. We had no right to expect that
that state of things would continue always. With the return of peace,
foreign nations would struggle for themselves, and enter into
competition with us in the great objects of pursuit.

Now, Sir, what is the remedy for existing evils? What is the course of
policy suited to our actual condition? Certainly it is not our wisdom to
adopt any system that may be offered to us, without examination, and in
the blind hope that whatever changes our condition may improve it. It is
better that we should

"bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of."

We are bound to see that there is a fitness and an aptitude in whatever
measures may be recommended to relieve the evils that afflict us; and
before we adopt a system that professes to make great alterations, it is
our duty to look carefully to each leading interest of the community,
and see how it may probably be affected by our proposed legislation.

And, in the first place, what is the condition of our commerce? Here we
must clearly perceive, that it is not enjoying that rich harvest which
fell to its fortune during the continuance of the European wars. It has
been greatly depressed, and limited to small profits. Still, it is
elastic and active, and seems capable of recovering itself in some
measure from its depression. The shipping interest, also, has suffered
severely, still more severely, probably, than commerce. If any thing
should strike us with astonishment, it is that the navigation of the
United States should be able to sustain itself. Without any government
protection whatever, it goes abroad to challenge competition with the
whole world; and, in spite of all obstacles, it has yet been able to
maintain eight hundred thousand tons in the employment of foreign trade.
How, Sir, do the ship-owners and navigators accomplish this? How is it
that they are able to meet, and in some measure overcome, universal
competition? It is not, Sir, by protection and bounties: but by
unwearied exertion, by extreme economy, by unshaken perseverance, by
that manly and resolute spirit which relies on itself to protect itself.
These causes alone enable American ships still to keep their element,
and show the flag of their country in distant seas. The rates of
insurance may teach us how thoroughly our ships are built, and how
skilfully and safely they are navigated. Risks are taken, as I learn,
from the United States to Liverpool, at one per cent; and from the
United States to Canton and back, as low as three per cent. But when we
look to the low rate of freight, and when we consider, also, that the
articles entering into the composition of a ship, with the exception of
wood, are dearer here than in other countries, we cannot but be utterly
surprised that the shipping interest has been able to sustain itself at
all. I need not say that the navigation of the country is essential to
its honor and its defence. Yet, instead of proposing benefits for it in
this hour of its depression, we threaten by this measure to lay upon it
new and heavy burdens. In the discussion, the other day, of that
provision of the bill which proposes to tax tallow for the benefit of
the oil-merchants and whalemen, we had the pleasure of hearing eloquent
eulogiums upon that portion of our shipping employed in the
whale-fishery, and strong statements of its importance to the public
interest. But the same bill proposes a severe tax upon that interest,
for the benefit of the iron-manufacturer and the hemp-grower. So that
the tallow-chandlers and soapboilers are sacrificed to the
oil-merchants, in order that these again may contribute to the
manufacturers of iron and the growers of hemp.

If such be the state of our commerce and navigation, what is the
condition of our home manufactures? How are they amidst the general
depression? Do they need further protection? and if any, how much? On
all these points, we have had much general statement, but little
precise information. In the very elaborate speech of Mr. Speaker, we are
not supplied with satisfactory grounds of judging with respect to these
various particulars. Who can tell, from any thing yet before the
committee, whether the proposed duty be too high or too low on any one
article? Gentlemen tell us, that they are in favor of domestic industry;
so am I. They would give it protection; so would I. But then all
domestic industry is not confined to manufactures. The employments of
agriculture, commerce, and navigation are all branches of the same
domestic industry; they all furnish employment for American capital and
American labor. And when the question is, whether new duties shall be
laid, for the purpose of giving further encouragement to particular
manufactures, every reasonable man must ask himself, both whether the
proposed new encouragement be necessary, and whether it can be given
without injustice to other branches of industry.

It is desirable to know, also, somewhat more distinctly, how the
proposed means will produce the intended effect. One great object
proposed, for example, is the increase of the home market for the
consumption of agricultural products. This certainly is much to be
desired; but what provisions of the bill are expected wholly or
principally to produce this, is not stated. I would not deny that some
increase of the home market may follow, from the adoption of this bill,
but all its provisions have not an equal tendency to produce this
effect. Those manufactures which employ most labor, create, of course,
most demand for articles of consumption; and those create least in the
production of which capital and skill enter as the chief ingredients of
cost. I cannot, Sir, take this bill merely because a committee has
recommended it. I cannot espouse a side, and fight under a flag. I
wholly repel the idea that we must take this law, or pass no law on the
subject. What should hinder us from exercising our own judgments upon
these provisions, singly and severally? Who has the power to place us,
or why should we place ourselves, in a condition where we cannot give to
every measure, that is distinct and separate in itself, a separate and
distinct consideration? Sir, I presume no member of the committee will
withhold his assent from what he thinks right, until others will yield
their assent to what they think wrong. There are many things in this
bill acceptable, probably, to the general sense of the House. Why should
not these provisions be passed into a law, and others left to be decided
upon their own merits, as a majority of the House shall see fit? To some
of these provisions I am myself decidedly favorable; to others I have
great objections; and I should have been very glad of an opportunity of
giving my own vote distinctly on propositions which are, in their own
nature, essentially and substantially distinct from one another.

But, Sir, before expressing my own opinion upon the several provisions
of this bill, I will advert for a moment to some other general topics.
We have heard much of the policy of England, and her example has been
repeatedly urged upon us, as proving, not only the expediency of
encouragement and protection, but of exclusion and direct prohibition
also. I took occasion the other day to remark, that more liberal notions
were becoming prevalent on this subject; that the policy of restraints
and prohibitions was getting out of repute, as the true nature of
commerce became better understood; and that, among public men, those
most distinguished were most decided in their reprobation of the broad
principle of exclusion and prohibition. Upon the truth of this
representation, as matter of fact, I supposed there could not be two
opinions among those who had observed the progress of political
sentiment in other countries, and were acquainted with its present
state. In this respect, however, it would seem that I was greatly
mistaken. We have heard it again and again declared, that the English
government still adheres, with immovable firmness, to its old doctrines
of prohibition; that although journalists, theorists, and scientific
writers advance other doctrines, yet the practical men, the legislators,
the government of the country, are too wise to follow them. It has even
been most sagaciously hinted, that the promulgation of liberal opinions
on these subjects is intended only to delude other governments, to
cajole them into the folly of liberal ideas, while England retains to
herself all the benefits of the admirable old system of prohibition. We
have heard from Mr. Speaker a warm commendation of the complex mechanism
of this system. The British empire, it is said, is, in the first place,
to be protected against the rest of the world; then the British Isles
against the colonies; next, the isles respectively against each other,
England herself, as the heart of the empire, being protected most of
all, and against all.

Truly, Sir, it appears to me that Mr. Speaker's imagination has seen
system, and order, and beauty, in that which is much more justly
considered as the result of ignorance, partiality, or violence. This
part of English legislation has resulted, partly from considering
Ireland as a conquered country, partly from the want of a complete
union, even with Scotland, and partly from the narrow views of colonial
regulation, which in early and uninformed periods influenced the
European states.

Nothing, I imagine, would strike the public men of England more
singularly, than to find gentlemen of real information and much weight
in the councils of this country expressing sentiments like these, in
regard to the existing state of these English laws. I have never said,
indeed, that prohibitory laws do not exist in England; we all know they
do; but the question is, Does she owe her prosperity and greatness to
these laws? I venture to say, that such is not the opinion of public men
now in England, and the continuance of the laws, even without any
alteration, would not be evidence that their opinion is different from
what I have represented it; because the laws having existed long, and
great interests having been built up on the faith of them, they cannot
now be repealed without great and overwhelming inconvenience. Because a
thing has been wrongly done, it does not therefore follow that it can
now be undone; and this is the reason, as I understand it, for which
exclusion, prohibition, and monopoly are suffered to remain in any
degree in the English system; and for the same reason, it will be wise
in us to take our measures, on all subjects of this kind, with great
caution. We may not be able, but at the hazard of much injury to
individuals, hereafter to retrace our steps. And yet, whatever is
extravagant or unreasonable is not likely to endure. There may come a
moment of strong reaction; and if no moderation be shown in laying on
duties, there may be as little scruple in taking them off.

It may be here observed, that there is a broad and marked distinction
between entire prohibition and reasonable encouragement. It is one
thing, by duties or taxes on foreign articles, to awaken a home
competition in the production of the same articles; it is another thing
to remove all competition by a total exclusion of the foreign article;
and it is quite another thing still, by total prohibition, to raise up
at home manufactures not suited to the climate, the nature of the
country, or the state of the population. These are substantial
distinctions, and although it may not be easy in every case to determine


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