« ПретходнаНастави »
ment, there is not a man in the United States who would not cry out for redress and for vengeance. Any elevated government, in a case like this, where one of its citizens, in the performance of his duty, incurs such menaces and danger, assumes the responsibility; any elevated government says,
66 The act was mine, I am the man”; “ Adsum qui feci, in me convertite ferrum.”
Now, Gentlemen, information of the action of the British government on this subject was transmitted to us at Washington within a few days after the installation of General Harrison. I did not think that it was proper to make public then, nor is it important to say now, all that we knew on the subject; but I will tell you, in general terms, that if all that was known at Washington then had been divulged throughout the country, the value of the shipping interest of this city, and of every other interest connected with the commerce of the country, would have been depressed one half in six hours. I thought that the concussion might be averted, by holding up to view the principles of public law by which this question ought to be settled, and by demanding an apology for whatever had been done against those principles of public law by the British government or its officers. I thought we ought to put ourselves right in the first place, and then we could insist that they should do right in the next place. When in England, in the year 1839, I had occasion to address a large and respectable assemblage; and allusion having been made to the relations of things between the two countries, I stated then, what I thought and now think, that in any controversy which should terminate in war between the United States and England, the only eminent advantage that either would possess would be found in the rectitude of its cause. With the right on our side, we are a match for England; and with the right on her side, she is a match for us, or for any body.
We live in an age, fellow-citizens, when there has been established among the nations a more elevated tribunal than ever before existed on earth; I mean the tribunal of the enlightened public opinion of the world. Governments cannot go to war now, either with or against the consent of their own subjects or people, without the reprobation of other states, unless for grounds and reasons justifying them in the general judgment of
mankind. The judgment of civilization, of commerce, and of that heavenly light that beams over Christendom, restrains men, congresses, parliaments, princes, and people from gratifying the inordinate love of ambition through the bloody scenes of war. It has been wisely said, and it is true, that every settlement of national differences between Christian states by fair negotiation, without resort to arms, is a new illustration and a new proof of the benign influence of the Christian faith.
With regard to the terms of this treaty, and in relation to the other subjects connected with it, it is somewhat awkward for me to speak, because the documents connected with them have not been made public by authority. But I persuade myself, that, when the whole shall be calmly considered, it will be seen that there was throughout a fervent disposition to maintain the interest and honor of the country, united with a proper regard for the preservation of peace between us and the greatest commercial nation of the world.
Gentlemen, while I receive these commendations which you have bestowed, I have an agreeable duty to perform to others. In the first place, I have great pleasure in bearing testimony to the intelligent interest manifested by the President of the United States, under whose authority, of course, I constantly acted throughout the negotiation, and his sincere and anxious desire that it might result successfully. I take great pleasure in acknowledging here, as I will acknowledge everywhere, my
obligations to him for the unbroken and steady confidence reposed in me through the whole progress of an affair not unimportant to the country, and infinitely important to my own reputation.
A negotiator disparaged, distrusted, treated with jealousy by his own government, would be indeed a very unequal match for a cool and sagacious representative of one of the proudest and most powerful monarchies of Europe, possessing in the fullest extent the confidence of his government, and authorized to bind it in concerns of the greatest importance. I shall never forget the frankness and generosity with which, after a full and free interchange of suggestions upon the subject, I was told by the President that on my shoulders rested the responsibility of the negotiation, and on my discretion and judgment should rest the lead of every measure. I desire also to speak here of the hearty coöperation rendered every day by the other gentlemen connectVOL. II.
ed with the administration, from every one of whom I received important assistance. I speak with satisfaction, also, of the useful labors of all the Commissioners, although I need hardly say here, what has been already said officially, that the highest respect is due to the Commissioners from Maine and Massachusetts for their faithful adherence to the rights of their own States, mingled with a cordial coöperation in what was required by the general interests of the United States. And I hope I shall not be considered as trespassing on this occasion, if I speak of the happy selection made by England of a person to represent her government on this occasion," - a thorough Englishman, understanding and appreciating the great objects and interests of his own government, of large and liberal views, and of such standing and weight of character at home, as to impress a feeling of approbation of his course upon both government and people. He was fully acquainted with the subject, and always, on all occasions, as far as his allegiance and duty permitted, felt and manifested good-will towards this country.
Aside from the question of the boundary, there were other important subjects to be considered, to which I know not whether this is a proper occasion to allude. When the results of the negotiation shall be fully before the public, it will be seen that these other questions have not been neglected, questions of great moment and importance to the country; and then I shall look with concern, but with faith and trust, for the judgment of that country upon them. It is but just to take notice of a very important act, intended to provide for such cases as McLeod's, foi which the country is indebted to the Whig majorities in the two houses of Congress, acting upon the President's recommendation. Events showed the absolute necessity of removing into the national tribunals questions involving the peace and honor of the United States.
There yet remain, Gentlemen, several other subjects still unsettled with England. First, there is that concerning the trade between the United States and the possessions of England, on this continent and in the West Indies. It has been my duty to look into that subject, and to keep the run of it, as we say, from the arrangement of 1829 and 1830, until the present time. That
* Lord Ashburton.
arrangement was one unfavorable to the shipping interests of the United States, and especially so to the New England States. To adjust these relations is an important subject, either for diplomatic negotiation, or the consideration of Congress. One or both houses of Congress, indeed, have already called upon the proper department for a report upon the operations of that arrangement, and a committee of the House of Representatives has made a report, showing that some adjustment of these relations is of vital importance to the future prosperity of our navigating interests.
There is another question, somewhat more remote; that of the Northwest Boundary, where the possessions of the two countries touch each other upon the Pacific. There are evident public reasons why that question should be settled before the country becomes peopled.
There are also, Gentlemen, many open questions respecting our relations with other governments. Upon most of the other States of this continent, citizens of the United States have claims, with regard to which the delays already incurred have caused great injustice; and it becomes the government of the United States, by a calm and dignified course, and a deliberate and vigorous tone of administration of public affairs, to secure prompt justice to our citizens in these quarters.
I am here to-day as a guest. I was invited by a number of highly valued personal and political friends to partake with them of a public dinner, for the purpose of giving them an opportunity to pass the usual greeting of friends upon my return; of testifying their respect for my public services heretofore; and of exchanging congratulations upon the results of the late negotiation. It was at my instance that the proposed dinner took the form of this meeting, and instead of meeting them at the festive board, I agreed to meet them, and those who chose to meet me with them, here. Still, the general character of the meeting seems not to be changed. I am here as a guest; here to receive greetings and salutations for particular services, and not under any intimation or expectation that I should address the gentlemen who invited me or others here, upon subjects not suggested by themselves. It would not become me to use the occasion for any more general purpose. Because, although I have a design, at some time not far distant, to make known my
sentiments upon political matters generally, and upon the political state of the country and that of its several parties, yet I know very well that I should be trespassing beyond the bounds of politeness and propriety, should I enter upon this whole wide
I will not enter upon it, because the gentlemen who invited me entertain on many of these topics views different from my own, and they would very properly say, that they came here to meet Mr. Webster, to congratulate him upon the late negotiation, and to exchange sentiments upon matters about which they agreed with him; and that it was not in very correct taste for him to use the occasion to express opinions upon other subjects on which they differ. It is on that account that I shall forbear discussing political subjects at large, and shall endeavor to confine my remarks to what may be considered as affecting myself, directly or indirectly.
The Mayor was kind enough to say, that having, in his judgment, performed the duties of my own department to the satisfaction of my country, it might be left to me to take care of my own honor and reputation. I suppose that he meant to say, that in the present distracted state of the Whig party, and among the contrariety of opinions that prevail (if there be a contrariety of opinion) as to the course proper for me to pursue, the decision of that question might be left to myself. I am exactly of his opinion. I am quite of opinion that on a question touching my own honor and character, as I am to bear the consequences of the decision, I had a great deal better be trusted to make it. No man feels more highly the advantage of the advice of friends than I do; but on a question so delicate and important as that, I like to choose myself the friends who are to give me advice; and upon this subject, Gentlemen, I shall leave you as enlightened as I found you.
I give no pledges, I make no intimations, one way or the other; and I will be as free, when this day closes, to act as duty calls, as I was when the dawn of this day — (Here Mr. Webster was interrupted by tremendous applause. When silence was restored he continued :)
There is a delicacy in the case, because there is always delicacy and regret when one feels obliged to differ from his friends; but there is no embarrassment. There is no embarrassment, because, if I see the path of duty before me, I have that within