Слике страница
PDF
ePub

my advent into public life, when the controversy arose between the Federal Government and the State of South Carolina, and it became necessary for Andrew Jackson, then President of the United States, to issue his proclamation, exhorting that people to obey the law and comply with the requirements of the Constitution, I planted myself upon the principles then announced by him. I believed that the positions taken then by General Jackson, and those who came to his support, were the true doctrines of the Constitution, and the only doctrines upon which this Government could be preserved. I have been uniformly, from that period to the present time, opposed to the doctrine of secession, or of nullification, which is somewhat of a hermaphrodite, but approximates to the doctrine of secession. I repeat, that I then viewed it as a heresy and as an element which, if maintained, would result in the destruction of this Government. I maintain the same position to-day.

I oppose this heresy for another reason: not only as being destructive of the existing Government, but as being destructive of all future confederacies that may be established as a consequence of a disruption of the present one; and I availed myself of the former occasion on which I spoke, to enter my protest against it, and to do something to extinguish a political heresy that ought never to be incorporated upon this or any other

Government which may be subsequently established. I look upon it as the prolific mother of political sin; as a fundamental error; as a heresy that is intolerable in contrast with the existence of the Government itself. I look upon it as being productive of anarchy; and anarchy is the next step to despotism. The developments that we have recently seen in carrying this doctrine into practice, admonish us, I think, that this will be the result.

But, Mr. President, since I made that speech, on the 19th of December, I have been the peculiar object of attack. I have been denounced, because I happened to be the first man south of Mason and Dixon's line who entered a protest or made an argument in the Senate against this political error. From what I saw here on the evening when I concluded my speech - although some may have thought that it intimidated and discouraged me—I was inspired with confidence; I felt that I had struck Treason a blow. I thought then, and I know now, that men who were engaged in treason felt the blows that I dealt out on that occasion. As I have been made the peculiar object of attack, not only in the Senate, but out of the Senate, my purpose on this occasion is to meet some of these attacks, and to say some things in addition to what I then said against this movement.

REPLY TO MR. BENJAMIN.

Yesterday the last of the Senators who represent what are called the seceding States, retired, and a

drama was enacted. The piece was well performed; the actors were perfect in their parts; it was got up to order; I will not say that the mourning auxiliaries had been selected in advance. One of the retiring Senators, in justifying the course that his State had taken, made a very specious and plausible argument in reference to the doctrine of secession. I allude to the Senator from Louisiana.1 He argued that the sovereignty of that State had never passed to the United States; that the Government held it. in trust; that no conveyance was made; that sovereignty could not be transferred; that out of the gracious pleasure and good-will which the First Consul of France entertained toward the American people, the transfer was made of the property without consideration, and the sovereignty was in abeyance or trust, and therefore his State had violated no faith, and had a right to do precisely what she has done. With elaborate preparation and seeming sincerity, with sweet tones, euphonious utterances, mellifluous voice, and the greatest earnestness, he called our attention to the treaty to sustain his assumption. But when we examine the subject, Mr. President, how do the facts stand? I like fairness: I will not say that the Senator, in making quotations from the treaty and commenting upon them, was intentionally unfair; nor can I say that the Senator from Louisiana, with all his acumen, his habits of industry, and his great research, had not read and understood

1 Mr. Benjamin.

all the provisions of the treaty. In doing so, I should reflect upon his character; it might be construed as a reflection upon his want of research, for which he has such a distinguished reputation. The omission to read important portions of the treaty I will not attribute to any intention to mislead; I will simply call the attention of the Senate and the country to his remarks, and then to the treaty. The Senator, after premising, went on to say:

"I have said that the Government assumed to act as trustee or guardian of the people of the ceded province, and covenanted to transfer to them the sovereignty thus held in trust for their use and benefit, as soon as they were capable of exercising it. What is the express language of the treaty?”

He then read the third article of the treaty of cession of Louisiana, which provides merely for their incorporation into the United States; their protection in the enjoyment of their religion, &c.; and thus he commented on it: :

"And, sir, as if to mark the true nature of the cession in a manner too significant to admit of misconstruction, the treaty stipulates no price; and the sole consideration for the conveyance, as stated on its face, is the desire to afford a strong proof of the friendship of France for the United States. By the terms of a separate convention stipulating the payment of a sum of money, the precaution is again observed of stating that the payment is to be made, not as a consideration, or a price, or a condition precedent of the cession, but it is carefully distinguished as being a consequence of the cession."

Now, Mr. President, to make this matter more intelligible, and better understood by the country, it seems to me it would have been better to read the first article of the treaty, which commences thus:

"The President of the United States of America, and the First Consul of the French Republic, in the name of the French people, desiring to remove all source of misunderstanding relative to objects of discussion," &c.

After reciting the other treaties pending between France and the United States and Spain, they go on in the first article as follows:

[ocr errors]

"And whereas, in pursuance of the treaty, and particularly the third article, the French Republic has an incontestable title to the domain and to the possession of the said territory, [that is, of Louisiana,] the First Consul of the French Republic, desiring to give to the United States a strong proof of his friendship, doth hereby cede to the said United States, in the name of the French Republic, forever and in full sovereignty, the said territory, with all its rights and appurtenances, as fully and in the same manner as they have been acquired by the French Republic, in virtue of the above-mentioned treaty concluded with his Catholic Majesty."

Now, sir, is there not a clear and distinct and explicit conveyance of sovereignty, of property, of jurisdiction, of everything that resided in the First Consul of France, to the people of the United States? Clearly and distinctly the jurisdiction and control of that Government were transmitted absolutely by the treaty. Why not have read that part of the treaty first?

The second article is in these words:

« ПретходнаНастави »