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General Jackson, by the basest means, he was unwilling to accept the honors of a public dinner, lest it should imply even an exception against the result of the election.
General Jackson professes in his letter of the 6th of June-I quote again his words, “to have always intended should Mr. Clay come out over his own signature and deny having any knowledge of the communication made by his friends to my friends, and to me, that I would give him the name of the gentleman through whom that communication came.' He pretends never to have seen the Fayetteville letter; and yet the pretext of a denial under my signature is precisely that which had been urged by the principal editors who sustain his
If this be an unconcerted, it is nevertheless a most wonderful coincidence. The General never communicated to me his professed intention, but left me in entire ignorance of his generous purpose; like the overture itself, it was profoundly concealed from me. There was an authorized denial from me, which went the circle of the public prints, immediately after the arrival at Washington of the Fayetteville letter, In that denial my words are given. They were contained in a letter dated at Washington city on the 18th day of April last, and are correctly stated to have been “that the statement that his (my) friends had made such a proposition as the latter describes to the friends of General Jackson was, as far as he knew or believed, utterly destitute of foundation ; that he was unwilling to believe that General Jackson had made any such statement; but that no matter with whom it had originated, he was fully persuaded it was a gross fabrication of the same calumnious character with the Kremer story, put forth for the double purpose of injuring his public character, and propping the cause of General Jackson ; and then for himself and for his friends he defied the substantiation of the charge before any fair tribunal whatever.” Such were my own words transmitted in the form of a letter from a friend to a known person. Whereas the charge which they repelled was contained in a letter written by a person then unknown to some person also unknown. Did I not deny the charge under my own signature in my card of the 31st January, 1825, published in the National Intelligencer ? Was not there a substantial denial of it in my letter to Judge Brooke, dated the 28th of the same month? In my circular to my constituents ? In
Lewisburg speech? And may I not add, in the whole tenor of my public life and conduct? If General Jackson had offered to furnish me the
name of a member of Congress, who was capable of advising his acceptance of a base and corrupt proposition, ought I to have resorted to his infamous and discredited witness ?
It has been a thousand times asserted and repeated, that I violated instructions which I ought to have obeyed. I deny the charge ; and I am happy to have this opportunity of denying it in the presence of my assembled constituents. The general assembly requested the Kentucky delegation to vote in a particular way. A majority of that delegation, including myself, voted in opposition to that request. The legislature did not intend to give an imperative instruction. The distinction between a request and an instruction was familiar to the legislature, and their rolls attest that the former is always addressed to the members of the House of Representatives, and the latter only to the Senators of the United States.
But I do not rely exclusively on this recognized distinction. I dispute at once the right of the legislature to issue a mandatory instruction to the representatives of the people. Such a right has no foundation in the constitution, in the reason or nature of things, nor in usage of the Kentucky legislature. Its exercise would be a manifest usurpation. The general assembly has the incontrovertible right to express its opinions and to proclaim its wishes on any political subject whatever; and to such an expression great deference and respect are due; but it is not obligatory. The people, when, in August, 1824, they elected members to the general assembly, did not invest them with any power to regulate or control the exercise of the discretion of the Kentucky delegation in the Congress of the United States. I put it to the candor of every elector present, if he intended to part with his own right, or anticipated the exertion of any such power, by the legislature, when he gave his vote in August 1824?
The only instruction which I received from a legitimate source, emanated from a respectable portion of my immediate constituents; and that directed me to exercise my own discretion, regardless of the will of the legislature. You subsequently ratified my vote by unequivocal demonstrations, repeatedly given, of your affectionate attachment and your unshaken confidence. You ratified it two years ago by the election of my personal and political friend (Judge Clarke) to succeed me in the House of Representatives, who had himself sub
scribed the only legitimate instruction which I received. You ratify it by the presence and the approbation, of this vast and respectable assemblage.
I rejoice again and again, that the contest has at last assumed its present practical form. Heretofore, malignant whispers and dark surmises have been clandestinely circulated, or openly or unblushingly uttered by irresponsible agents. They were borne upon the winds, and like them were invisible and intangible. No responsible man stood forward to sustain them, with his acknowledged authority. They have at last a local habitation and a name. General Jackson has now thrown off the mask and comes confessedly forth from behind his concealed batteries, publicly to accuse and convict me. We stand confronted before the American people. Pronouncing the charges, as I again do, destitute of all foundation, and gross aspersions, whether clandestinely or openly issued from the halls of the capitol, the saloons of the Hermitage, or by press, by pen, or by tongue, and safely resting on my conscious integrity, I demanded the witness, and await the event with fearless confidence.
The issue is fairly joined. The imputed offence does not comprehend a single friend, but the collective body of my friends in Congress; and it accuses them of offering, and me with sanctioning corrupt propositions, derogating from honor, and in violation of the most sacred of duties. The charge has been made after two years deliberation. General Jackson has voluntarily taken his position, and without provocation. In voting against him as President of the United States, I gave him no just cause of offence. I exercised no more than my indisputable privilege, as, on a subsequent occasion, of which I have never complained, he exercised his in voting against me as Secretary of State. Had I voted for him, I must have gone
counter to every fixed principle of my public life. I believed him incompetent, and his election fraught with danger. At this early period of the Republic, keeping steadily in view the dangers which had overturned every other Free State, I believed it to be essential to the lasting preservation of our liberties, that a man, devoid of civil talents, and offering no recommendation but one founded on military service, should not be selected to administer the government. I believe so yet; and I shall consider the days of the Commonwealth numbered when an opposite principle is established. I believed, and still be
lieve, that now, when our institutions are in comparative infancy, is the time to establish the great principle, that military qualification alone is not a sufficient title to the Presidency. If we start right, we may run a long race of liberty, happiness, and glory. If we stumble in setting out, we shall fall as others have fallen before us, and fall without even a claim to the regrets or sympathies of mankind.
I have never done General Jackson, knowingly, any injustice. I have taken pleasure, on every proper occasion, to bestow on him merited praise for the glorious issue of the battle of New Orleans. No American citizen enjoyed higher satisfaction than I did with the event. I heard for the first time on the boulevards of Paris; and I eagerly perused the details of the actions, with the anxious hope that I should find that the gallant militia of my own State had avenged, on the banks of the Mississippi, the blood which they had so freely spilt on the disastrous field of Raisin. That hope was not then gratified; and although I had the mortification to read in the official statement, that they ingloriously fled, I was nevertheless thankful for the success of the arms of my country, and felt grateful to him who had most contributed to the ever memorable victory. This concession is not now made for the purpose of conciliating the favor or mitigating the wrath of General Jackson. He has erected an impassable barrier between us, and I would scorn to accept any favor at his hands. I thank my God that He has endowed me with a soul incapable of apprehensions from the anger of any being but himself.
I have as your Representative, freely examined, and in my deliberate judgment, justly condemned the conduct of General Jackson in some of our Indian wars. I believed, and yet believe him, to have trampled upon the constitution of his country, and to have violated the principles of humanity. Entertaining these opinions, I did not and could not vote for him.
I owe you, my friends and fellow-citizens, many apologies for this long interruption of the festivities of the day. I hope that my desire to vindicate their honored object, and to satisfy you that he is not altogether unworthy of them, will be deemed sufficient.
AT LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY, JULY 12, 1827.
[Mr. Clay visited Kentucky in 1827, while Secretary of State under Mr. Adams, and was received by large gatherings of his former constituents and fellow-citizens, who insisted on meeting him around the festive board. At Paris, Bourbon County, in Woodford County, and at Lexington, he met and addressed large assemblages of the People. At the latter place, the folowing toast was given :
“ Our Distinguished Guest, Henry Cưár–The furnace of persecution may be heated seven times hotter, and seventy times more he will come out unscathed by the fire of malignity, brighter to all and dearer to his friends; while his enemies shall sink with the dross of their own vile materials."
Mr. Clay, after the above toast had been drunk, addressed the company as follows:]
Mr. PRESIDENT, FRIENDS, AND Fellow-CITIZENS :- I beg permission to offer my hearty thanks, and to make my respectful acknowledgments, for the affectionate reception which has been given me during my present visit to my old Congressional District, and for this hospitable and honorable testimony of your esteem and confidence. And I thank you especially for the friendly sentiments and feelings expressed in the toast which you have just done me the honor to drink. I always had the happiness of knowing that I enjoyed, in a high degree, the attachment of that portion of my fellow-citizens whom I formerly represented; but I should never have been sensible of the strength and ardor of their affection, except for the extraordinary character of the times. For near two years and a half I have been assailed with a rancor and bitterness which have few examples. I have found myself the particular object of concerted and concentrated abuse; and others, thrústing themselves between you and me, have dared to arraign me for treachery to your interests. But my former constituents, unaffected by the