Слике страница

blies than this. Sir, the gentleman seems to forget where and what we are. This is a Senate- a Senate of equals, of men of individual honor and personal character, and of absolute independence. We know no maso ters, we acknowledge no dictators. This is a hall for mutual consultation and discussion ; not an arena for the exhibition of champions. I offer myself, Sir, as a match for no man; I throw the challenge of debate at no man's

feet. But then, Sir, since the honorable member has put 10 the question in a manner that calls for an answer, I will

give him an answer; and I tell him that, holding myself to be the humblest of the members here, I yet know nothing in the arm of his friend from Missouri, either

alone, or when aided by the arm of his friend from South 15 Carolina, that need deter even me from espousing what

ever opinions I may choose to espouse, from debating whenever I may choose to debate, or from speaking whatever I may see fit to say, on the floor of the Senate. Sir,

when uttered as matter of commendation or compliment, 20 I should dissent from nothing which the honorable mem

ber might say of his friend. Still less do I put forth any pretensions of my own. But when put to me as matter of taunt, I throw it back, and say to the gentle

man that he could possibly say nothing less likely than 25 such a comparison to wound my pride of personal char

acter. The anger of its tone rescued the remark from intentional irony, which otherwise, probably, would have been its general acceptation. But, Sir, if it be imagined

that by this mutual quotation and commendation ; if it 30 be supposed that, by casting the characters of the drama,

assigning to each his part, to one the attack, to another the cry of onset; or if it be thought that, by a loud and empty vaunt of anticipated victory, any laurels are to be

won here; if it be imagined, especially, that any or all 35 these things will shake any purpose of mine, I can tell the honorable member, once for all, that he is greatly mistaken, and that he is dealing with one of whose temper and character he has yet much to learn. Sir, I shall not allow myself on this occasion, I hope on no occasion, to be betrayed into any loss of temper; but if provoked, 5 as I trust I never shall be, into crimination and recrimination, the honorable member may perhaps find that in that contest there will be blows to take as well as blows to give; that others can state comparisons as significant, at least, as his own, and that his impunity may possibly 10 demand of him whatever powers of taunt and sarcasm he may possess. I commend him to a prudent husbandry of his resources.

In the course of my observations the other day, Mr. President, I spoke of the Ordinance of 1787, which pro- 15 hibits slavery, in all future times, north-west of the Ohio, as a measure of great wisdom and foresight, and one which had been attended with highly beneficial and permanent consequences. I supposed that, on this point, no two gentlemen in the Senate could entertain different 20 opinions. But the simple expression of this sentiment has led the gentleman, not only into a labored defence of slavery in the abstract, and on principle, but also into a warm accusation against me, as having attacked the system of domestic slavery now existing in the Southern 25 States. For all this there was not the slightest foundation in anything said or intimated by me. I did not utter a single word which any ingenuity could torture into an attack on the slavery of the South. I said only that it was highly wise and useful, in legislating for the 30 North-western country, while it was yet a wilderness, to prohibit the introduction of slaves; and I added that I presumed there was no reflecting and intelligent person in the neighboring state of Kentucky, who would doubt that, if the same prohibition had been extended at the 35 same early period over that Commonwealth, her strength and population would, at this day, have been far greater than they are. If these opinions be thought doubtful, they are, nevertheless, I trust, neither extraordinary nor 5 disrespectful. They attack nobody, and menace nobody.

And yet, Sir, the gentleman's optics have discovered, even in the mere expression of this sentiment, what he calls the very spirit of the Missouri question! He rep

resents me as making an onset on the whole South, and 10 manifesting a spirit which would interfere with, and disturb, their domestic condition!

Sir, this injustice no otherwise surprises me, than as it is committed here, and committed without the slight

est pretence of ground for it. I say it only surprises me 15 as being done here; for I know full well that it is, and

has been, the settled policy of some persons in the South for years to represent the people of the North as disposed to interfere with them in their own exclusive and

peculiar concerns. This is a delicate and sensitive point 20 in Southern feeling ; and of late years it has always been

touched, and generally with effect, whenever the object has been to unite the whole South against Northern men or Northern measures. This feeling, always carefully

kept alive, and maintained at too intense a heat to admit 25 discrimination or reflection, is a lever of great power in

our political machine. It moves vast bodies, and gives to them one and the same direction. But it is without adequate cause, and the suspicion which exists is wholly

groundless. There is not, and never has been, a dispo30 sition in the North to interfere with these interests of

the South. Such interference has never been supposed to be within the power of government; nor has it been in any way attempted. The slavery of the South has

always been regarded as a matter of domestic policy, 35 left with the States themselves, and with which the federal government had nothing to do. Certainly, Sir, I am, and ever have been, of that opinion. The gentleman, indeed, argues that slavery in the abstract is no evil. Most assuredly, I need not say, I differ with him altogether and most widely, on that point. I regard domestic 5 slavery as one of the greatest evils, both moral and political. But whether it be a malady, and whether it be curable, and, if so, by what means; or, on the other hand, whether it be the vulnus immedicabile of the social system I leave it to those whose right and duty it is to 10 inquire and to decide. And this, I believe, Sir, is, and uniformly has been, the sentiment of the North.

[In support of this last statement Mr. Webster appeals to the history of attempts made to enlist the first Congress in the abolition of slavery. These attempts resulted in the famous resolutions 15 reported by a committee composed almost exclusively of Northern men, and adopted by a House.two-thirds of whose members were from the North, declaring that Congress has “ no authority to interfere in the emancipation of slaves, or in the treatment of them in any of the States.”]


The fears of the South, whatever fears they might have entertained, were allayed and quieted by this early decision; and so remained till they were excited afresh, without cause, but for collateral and indirect purposes. When it became necessary, or was thought so by some 25 political persons, to find an unvarying ground for the exclusion of Northern men from confidence and from lead in the affairs of the republic, then, and not till then, the cry was raised, and the feeling industriously excited, that the influence of Northern men in the public councils 30 would endanger the relation of master and slave.

For myself, I claim no other merit than that this gross and enormous injustice towards the whole North has not wrought upon me to change my opinions or my political

conduct. I hope I am above violating my principles, even under the smart of injury and false imputations. Unjust suspicions and undeserved reproach, whatever pain I may experience from them, will not induce me, I 5 trust, to overstep the limits of constitutional duty, or to

encroach on the rights of others. The domestic slavery of the Southern States I leave where I find it, — in the hands of their own governments. It is their affair, not

mine. Nor do I complain of the peculiar effect which 10 the magnitude of that population has had in the distribution of power under this federal government.

We know, Sir, that the representation of the States in the other House is not equal. We know that great advan

tage in that respect is enjoyed by the slave-holding 15 States; and we know, too, that the intended equivalent

for that advantage, that is to say, the imposition of direct taxes in the same ratio, has become merely nominal, the habit of the government being almost invariably to col

lect its revenue from other sources and in other modes. 20 Nevertheless, I do not complain; nor would I counte

nance any movement to alter this arrangement of representation. It is the original bargain, the compact; let it stand; let the advantage of it be fully enjoyed. The

Union itself is too full of benefit' to be hazarded in 25 propositions for changing its original basis. I go for

the Constitution as it is, and for the Union as it is. But I am resolved not to submit in silence to accusations either against myself individually or against the

North, wholly unfounded and unjust; accusations which 30 impute to us a disposition to evade the constitutional

compact, and to extend the power of the government over the internal laws and domestic condition of the States. All such accusations, wherever and whenever

made, all insinuations of the existence of any such pur35 poses, I know and feel to be groundless and injurious.

« ПретходнаНастави »