Слике страница
PDF
ePub

I held no secret conclaves ; I enticed no man to violate pledges given or instructions received. The members from Ohio, and from the other western States, with whom I voted, were all of them as competent as I was to form an opinion on the pending election. The McArthurs and the Metcalfs, and the other gentlemen from the West, (some of whom have, if I have not, bravely made an effort to repel an invading foe,”) are as incapable of dishonor as any men breathing; as disinterested, as unambitious, as exclusively devoted to the best interests of their country. It was quite as likely that I should be influenced by them, as that I could control their votes.

Our object was not to impair, but to preserve from all danger, the purity of our republican institutions. And how I prostrated the maxim which maintains the supremacy of the people's will, I am entirely at a loss to comprehend. The illusions of the General's imagination deceive him. The people of the United States had never decided the election in his favor. If the people had willed his election, he would have been elected. It was because they had not willed his election, nor that of any orher candidate, that the duty of making a choice devolved on the House of Representatives. The General remarks :

“Mr Clay has never yet risked himself for his country. He has never sacrificed his repose, nor made an effort to repel an invading foe; of course his conscience assured him it was altogether wrong in any other man to lead his countrymen to battle and victory."

The logic of this conclusion is not very striking. General Jackson fights better than he reasons. When have I failed to concur in awarding appropriate honors to those who, on the sea or on the land, have sustained the glory of our arms, if I could not always approve of the acts of some of them? It is true, that it has been

my

misfortune never to have repelled an invading foe, nor to have led my countrymen to victory. If I had, I should have left to others to proclaim and appreciate the deed. The General's destiny and mine have led us in different directions. In the civil employments of my country, to which I have been confined, I regret that the little service which I have been able to render it falls far short of my wishes. But why this denunciation of those who have not repelled an invading foe, or led our armies to victory? At the very moment when he is inveighing against an objection to his election to the Presidency, founded upon the exclusive military nature of his merits, does he not perceive that he is establishing its validity by proscribing every man who has

not successfully fought the public enemy; and that, by such a general proscription, and the requirement of successful military service as the only condition of civil preferment, the inevitable effect would be the ultimate establishment of a military government ?

If the contents of the letter to Mr. Swartwout were such as justly to excite surprise, there were other circumstances not calculated to diminish it. Of all the citizens of the United States, that gentleman is one of the last to whom it was necessary to address any vindication of General Jackson. He had given abundant evidence of his entire devotion to the cause of the General. He was here after the election, and was one of a committee who invited the General to a public dinner, proposed to be given to him in this place. My letter to Judge Brooke was published in the papers of this city on the twelfth of February. The General's note, declining the invitation of Messrs. Swartwout and others, was published on the fourteenth, in the National Journal. The probability therefore is, that he did not leave this city until after he had a full opportunity to receive, in a personal interview with the General, any verbal observations upon it which he might have thought proper to make. The letter to Mr. Swartwout bears date the twenty-third of February. If received by him in New York, it must have reached him, in the ordinary course of mail, on the twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth. Whether intended or not as a "private communication,” and not for the “public eye,” as alleged by him, there is much probability in believing that its publication in New York, on the fourth of March, was then made, like Mr. Kremer's address, with the view to its arrival in this city in time to affect my nomination to the Senate. In point of fact, it reached here the day before the Senate acted on that nomination.

Fellow-citizens, I am sensible that, generally, a public officer had better abstain from any vindication of his conduct, and leave it to the candor and justice of his countrymen, under all its attending circumstances. Such has been the course which I have heretofore prescribed to myself. This is the first, as I hope it may be the last, occasion of my thus appearing before you. The separation which has just taken place between us, and the venom, if not the vigor, of the late onsets upon my public conduct, will, I hope, be allowed in this instance to form an adequate apology. It has been upwards of twenty years

ce I first entered the public service. Nearly three-fourths of that

time, with some intermissions, I have represented the same district in Congress, with but little variation in its form. During that long period, you have beheld our country passing through scenes of peace and war, of prosperity and adversity, and of party divisions, local and general, often greatly exasperated against each other. I have been an actor in most of those scenes. Throughout the whole of them you have clung to me with an affectionate confidence which has never been surpassed. I have found in your attachment, in every embarrassment in my public career, the greatest consolation, and the most encouraging support. I should regard the loss of it as one of the most afflicting public misfortunes which could befall me. That I have often misconceived your true interests, is highly probable. That I have ever sacrificed them to the object of personal aggrandizement, I utterly deny. And, for the purity of my motives,, however in other respects I may be unworthy to approach the Throne of Grace and Mercy, I appeal to the justice of my God, with all the confidence which can flow from a consciousness of perfect rectitude.

ON AMERICAN INDUSTRY.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, MARCH 30 AND 31, 1824.

[The bill imposing farther duties on Imports in aid of the great Producing Interests of the country, (which became a law, and is now known as the Tariff of 1824,) being under consideration in the House, sitting as a Committee of the Whole, and Mr. P. P. BARBOUR, of Virginia, having spoken at length in opposition to its passage, Mr. Clay took the floor in reply, and spoke as follows:]

The gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Barbour) has embraced the occasion produced by the proposition of the gentleman from Tennessee, to strike out the minimum price in the bill on cotton fabrics, to express his sentiments at large on the policy of the pending measure; and it is scarcely necessary for me to say, that he has evinced his usual good temper, ability, and decorum. The parts of the bill are so intermingled and interwoven together, that there can be no doubt of the fitness of this occasion to exhibit its merits or its defects. It is my intention, with the permission of the committee, to avail myself also of this opportunity, to present to its consideration those general views, as they appear to me, of the true policy of this country, which imperiously demand the passage of this bill. I am deeply sensible, Mr. Chairman, of the high responsibility of my present situation. But that responsibility inspires me with no other apprehension than that I shall be unable to fulfil my duty ; with no other solicitude than that I may, at least, in some small degree, contribute to recall my country from the pursuit of a fatal policy, which appears to me inevitably to lead to its impoverishment and ruin. I do feel most awfully this responsibility. And, if it were allowable for us, at the present day, to imitate ancient examples, I would invoke the aid of the Most High. I would anxiously and fervently implore His Di

vine assistance; that He would be graciously pleased to shower on my country His richest blessings; and that He would sustain, on this interesting occasion, the humble individual who stands before Him, and lend him the power, moral and physical, to perform the solemn duties which now belong to his public station.

Two classes of politicians divide the people of the United States. According to the system of one, the produce of foreign industry should be subjected to no other impost than such as may be necessary to provide a public revenue; and the produce of American industry should be left to sustain itself, if it can, with no other than that incidental protection, in its competition, at home as well as abroad, with rival foreign articles. According to the system of the other class, whilst they agree that the imposts should be mainly, and may, under any modification, be safely relied on as a fit and convenient source of public revenue, they would so adjust and arrange the duties on foreign fabrics as to afford a gradual but adequate protection to American industry, and lessen our dependance on foreign nations, by securing a certain and ultimately a cheaper and better supply of our own wants from our own abundant resources. Both classes are equally sincere in their respective opinions, equally honest, equally patriotic, and desirous of advancing the prosperity of the country. In the discussion and consideration of these opposite opinions, for the purpose of ascertaining which has the support of truth and reason, we should, therefore, exercise every indulgence, and the greatest spirit of mutual moderation and forbearance. And, in our deliberations on this great question, we should look fearlessly and truly at the actual condition of the country, retrace the causes which have brought us into it, and snatch, if possible, a view of the future. We should, above all, consult experience—the experience of other nations, as well as our own, as our truest and most unerring guide.

In casting our eyes around us, the most prominent circumstance which fixes our attention, and challenges our deepest regret, is the general distress which pervades the whole country. It is forced upon us by numerous facts of the most incontestable character. It is indicated by the diminished exports of native produce; by the depressed and reduced state of our foreign navigation ; by our diminished commerce; by successive unthrashed crops of grain, perishing in our barns and barn-yards for the want of a market; by the alarming dimi

« ПретходнаНастави »