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and this power over all ingenuous minds never ceases, until frequent visits familiarize the mind
the scenes. There are in this vast multitude many who, like myself, never before stood on the spot where the Whig army of the Revolution, under the immediate command of their immortal leader, went through the privations, the sufferings, and the distress, of the winter of 1777 and 1778. The mention of Washington, the standing on the ground of his encampment, the act of looking around on the scenes which he and his officers and soldiers then beheld, cannot but carry us back, also, to the Revolution, and to one of its most distressing and darkest periods.
In September, the battle of Brandywine had been fought; in October, that of Germantown; and before Christmas, a little before the severity of winter set in, General Washington repaired to this spot, and put his army into huts for the winter. He had selected the position with great care, for the safety of his army, and with equal judgment, also, for the protection of as large a portion of the country as possible, the British troops being then in possession of Philadelphia.
We see, then, the Whig chief of the Whig army of the Revolution, as it were, before us. We
e see him surrounded by his military friends, distinguished not less for their social virtues than for their bravery in the field. Anthony Wayne was here, that great and good man. He was a native of the County of Chester, where his bones still rest. Green was here, and Knox, and Hamilton; and at that anxious moment, in order to keep alive the connection between the civil authority and the army, (for be it remembered now and at all times, that Washington and his army always acted in submission to the civil authority), a committee of Congress was here, Dana of Massachusetts, Gouverneur Morris, and that worthy gentleman, the especial favorite of Washington, who was afterwards President of your Commonwealth, General Reed.*
And now, Gentlemen, I could not depict, I could not describe, I could not trust my own feelings in attempting to describe, the horrible sufferings of that Whig army. Destitute of clothing, destitute of provisions, destitute of every thing but their trust in
* A very interesting letter from the Committee to the President of Congress, on the state of the army, written by General Reed, will be found in the Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, by his Grandson, William B. Reed. Vol. I.
p. 360 et seq.
God, and faith in their immortal leader, they went through that winter. The grounds now around us, particularly the grounds contiguous to the hospital, are rich in Revolutionary dust. Ev. ery excavation, as often as the season returns, brings to the surface the bones of Revolutionary officers and soldiers, who perished by disease, brought on by want of food, want of clothing, want of every thing but that boundless sympathy and commiseration for sufferings which he could not alleviate, that filled the bleeding heart of their illustrious leader. Long after peace returned, General Washington declared, at his own table, that it was no exaggeration, it was the literal truth, that the march of the army from Whitemarsh, to take up their quarters at this place, could be tracked by the blood on the snow from the unshod feet of the soldiers.
It is impossible to recall the associations of such a place without deep and solemn reflection. And when we, as Whigs, professing the principles of that great Whig leader and that Whig army, come here to advocate and avow those principles to one another, and professing to exercise the political rights transmitted to us by them, for the security of that liberty which they fought to establish, let us bring ourselves to feel in harmony with the scenes of the past. Let us endeavor to sober and solemnize our minds. For, if I have any apprehension of the condition of things under which we have met here, it is one that ought to produce that effect upon us. I feel, and all should feel, that there is a calamity impending over us. If we would avert that impending calamity, it is only to be done by a serious, and manly course.
And by the blood of our fathers, which cries to us from this hallowed ground, by the memory of their many virtues and brilliant achievements, by the sad story of their intense sufferings, by the blessings of that blood-bought inheritance of liberty which they suffered and died to obtain for us, we are called upon to perform the important duty that lies before us in the present crisis, to perform that duty fearlessly, to perform it promptly, and to perform it effectually.
It is under this feeling, my friends, that I come here to-day; and it is under this feeling that I intend to speak plainly and manfully, as man should speak to man, at a moment like this, on the important duties which are incumbent on us all.
We are on the eve of a general election, in which the people
are to choose a President and Vice-President of the United States. It is the great action of the citizen in carrying on his own plan of self-government. But the circumstances connected with this election render it peculiarly interesting, and of more importance than any former Presidential election. There are two candidates in the field, Mr. Clay of Kentucky, and Mr. Polk of Tennessee. I shall speak of them both with the respect to which their character and position entitle them; and at the same time with that freedom and candor which ought to be observed in discussing the merits of public men, especially those who are candidates for the highest office in the gift of the people.
Mr. Clay has been before the country for a long period, nearly forty years. Over thirty years he has taken a leading and highly important part in the public affairs of this country. He is acknowledged to be a man of singular and almost universal talent. He has had great experience in the administration of our public affairs in various departments. He has served for many years with wonderful judgment and ability, in both houses of Congress, of one of which he performed the arduous and difficult duties of its presiding officer, with unexampled skill and success. He has rendered most important services to his country of a diplomatic character, as the representative of this government in Europe, at one of the most trying periods of our history, and ably assisted to conduct to a satisfactory conclusion a very delicate and important negotiation. He has performed the duties of the department of state with ability and fidelity. He is a man of frankness and honor, of unquestioned talent and ability, and of a noble and generous bearing.
Mr. Polk is a much younger man than Mr. Clay. He is a very respectable gentleman in private life; he has been in Congress; was once Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States, and once Governor of the State of Tennessee.
Such are the candidates before the country for its choice; and it will not be invidious to say, that, in point of character and talent, and general standing before the country and the world, there is no sort of comparison between the two men.
It is for the people to choose between them; and if they prefer one who is secondary to one who is first rate, such preferences can only be ascribed to one of two causes. If they prefer
Mr. Polk to Mr. Clay, it will be either because party attachment is so strong, that they will vote for any man that may be nominated by their party, independent of any other consideration whatever; or it will be because his measures, principles, and opinions are such as they approve, whilst the measures, principles, and opinions of Mr. Clay are such as they do not approve.
I suppose that the existence of parties in a republican government cannot be avoided; and to a certain extent, perhaps, under such form of government, they may exercise a wholesome, restraining, and necessary influence upon the rulers. But I still think that, when party spirit carries men so far that they will not inquire into the men and measures that are placed before them for their sanction and support, but will only inquire to what party the men belong, or what party recommends the measures, that is a state of things which is dangerous to the stability of a free government.
It has been said that party is the madness of many for the gain of the few. This is true, because of all inventions dangerous to liberty, of all inventions calculated to subvert free institutions and popular forms of government, of all inventions calculated to apply a bandage to the eyes of man, an unscrupulous, heated, undistinguishing spirit of party is the most effectual. I will ask you all to talk to your neighbors who propose to vote for Mr. Polk, on this point; to reason with them, to ask them the question, and you will find, when you come to bring them to it, that they purpose doing so because Mr. Polk is of their party, and Mr. Clay is of the other party. You will find, when you come to ask them, that many who propose to vote for Mr. Polk desire, nevertheless, to see all his policy defeated. Of this there is no doubt. Many of the leading men among our opponents, and many of those connected with the public press, have openly expressed themselves dissatisfied with the nomination. They have issued their manifestoes to that effect, and they advise the people to do what they intend to do themselves, that is, support Mr. Polk for the Presidency, but take especial care to support also, as members of Congress, those men that will defeat his policy.
Now, I do not suppose that our free government could long be maintained by such a miserable, crooked policy as this. The plan of our opponents is to elect Mr. Polk to the office of chief
magistrate of this country, and at the same time to give him, intentionally, and by design, a Congress that shall defeat his policy; to elect him to an office wherein he is to be the guardian of the whole people, an office that has been filled by Washington, and an office that we had hoped always to see filled by men of Washington's principles, if not of his ability, — to select and elect a man to fill this office, and then to put him under guardianship in order to defeat his measures!
The case is a serious one. It addresses itself to the conscience of every man, to see that he does not support in any way, as candidate for the Presidency, a man whose whole course of policy and opinions he is utterly opposed to. And it comes to this: Is there such a sense of the great duty which they owe to their fellow-men, to their children, and to generations yet unborn, such a sense of the necessity of preserving unimpaired the benefits and efficiency of our free, our noble institutions, such a sense of the deep responsibility that rests on them at this important crisis, such a sense of patriotism and integrity, that men will prefer their country to their party in the coming contest, or not? (Cries of " There is !” “ There is!”)
I believe it. And, to take the other hypothesis, if those who vote for Mr. Polk do not do it under the stimulus of party feeling, then it must be that they vote for him because they are opposed to Mr. Clay's principles. They may be supposed to say,
“ It is true that Mr. Clay is the most distinguished man, it is true that he has rendered infinitely more important services to his country than Mr. Polk, it is true that the country regards him with far more favor than his opponent, still his measures and principles, as he has avowed them, incline us to elect an inferior man, because we like the principles of the latter better, and believe that they will be more beneficial to the country." Very well. If that case be made out, then you and I, and all Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, are bound to take Mr. Polk. Because, if we suppose and believe that his principles and his measures will conform to our principles and our interests, and the interests of the country, and that Mr. Clay's principles and measures will not conform to our principles and our interests, and the interests of the country, then we are bound to take the second best.
And this leads us directly to the inquiry, What are the measures, principles, and opinions of the one and of the other, as sub