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quite two years old, indeed, but, as the farmers say of a colt, “ coming two next grass," and which, for eighteen months, have every day done yeoman's service? Away with it all! Away with this plan for humbling and degrading the free, intelligent, well-educated, and well-paid laborer of the United States to the level of the almost brute laborer of Europe!
There is not much danger that schemes and doctrines such as these shall find favor with the people. They understand their own interest too well for that. Gentlemen, I am a farmer, on the sea-shore, and have, of course, occasion to employ some degree of agricultural labor. I am sometimes also rowed out to sea, being, like other New England men, fond of occasionally catching a fish, and finding health and recreation, in warm weather, from the air of the ocean. For the few months during which I am able to enjoy this retreat from labor, public or professional, I do not often trouble my neighbors, or they me, with conversation on politics. It happened, however, about three weeks ago, that, on such an excursion as I have mentioned, with one man only with me, I mentioned this doctrine of the reduction of prices, and asked him his opinion of it. He said he did not like it. I replied, " The wages of labor, it is true, are reduced; but then flour and beef, and perhaps clothing, all of which you buy, are reduced also. What, then, can be your objections ?” “Why,” said he, “it is true that flour is now low; but then it is an article that may rise suddenly, by means of a scanty crop in England, or at home; and if it should rise from five dollars to ten, I do not know for certain that it would fetch the price of my labor up with it. But while wages are high, then I am safe; and if produce chances to fall, so much the better for me. But there is another thing. I have but one thing to sell, that is, my labor; but I must buy many things, not only flour, and meat, and clothing, but also some articles that come from other countries, - a little sugar, a little coffee, a little tea, a little of the common spices, and such like. Now, I do not see how these foreign articles will be brought down by reducing wages at home; and before the price is brought down of the only thing I have to sell, I want to be sure that the prices will fall also, not of a part, but of all the things which I must buy."
Now, Gentlemen, though he will be astonished, or amused,
that I should tell the story before such a vast and respectable assemblage as this, I will place this argument of Seth Peterson, sometimes farmer and sometimes fisherman on the coast of Massachusetts, stated to me while pulling an oar with each hand, and with the sleeves of his red shirt rolled up above his elbows, against the reasonings, the theories, and the speeches of the administration and all its friends, in or out of Congress, and take the verdict of the country, and of the civilized world, whether he has not the best of the argument.
Since I have adverted to this conversation, Gentlemen, allow me to say that this neighbor of mine is a man fifty years of age, one of several sons of a poor man; that by his labor he has obtained some few acres, his own unencumbered freehold, has a comfortable dwelling, and plenty of the poor man's blessings. Of these, I have known six, decently and cleanly clad, each with the book, the slate, and the map proper to its age, all going at the same time daily to enjoy the blessing of that which is the great glory of New England, the common free school. Who can contemplate this, and thousands of other cases like it, not as pictures, but as common facts, without feeling how much our free institutions, and the policy hitherto pursued, have done for the comfort and happiness of the great mass of our citizens ? Where in Europe, where in any part of the world out of our own country, shall we find labor thus rewarded, and the general condition of the people so good ? Nowhere; nowhere! Away, then, with the injustice and the folly of reducing the cost of productions with us to what is called the common standard of the world! Away, then, away at once and for ever, with the miserable policy which would bring the condition of a laborer in the United States to that of a laborer in Russia or Sweden, in France or Germany, in Italy or Corsica! Instead of following these examples, let us hold up our own, which all nations may well envy, and which, unhappily, in most parts of the earth, it is easier to envy than to imitate.
But it is the cry and effort of the times to stimulate those who are called poor against those who are called rich; and yet, among those who urge this cry, and seek to profit by it, there is betrayed sometimes an occasional sneer at whatever savors of humble life. Witness the reproach against a candidate now before the people for their highest honors, that a log cabin, with plenty of hard cider, is good enough for him!
It appears to some persons, that a great deal too much use is made of the symbol of the log cabin. No man of sense supposes, certainly, that the having lived in a log cabin is any further proof of qualification for the Presidency, than as it creates a presumption that any one who, rising from humble condition, or under unfavorable circumstances, has been able to attract a considerable degree of public attention, is possessed of repntable qualities, moral and intellectual.
But it is to be remembered, that this matter of the log cabin originated, not with the friends of the Whig candidate, but with his enemies. Soon after his nomination at Harrisburg, a writer for one of the leading administration papers spoke of his "log cabin," and his use of “hard cider," by way of sneer and reproach. As might have been expected, (for pretenders are apt to be thrown off their guard,) this taunt at humble life proceeded from the party which claims a monopoly of the purest democracy. The whole party appeared to enjoy it, or, at least, they countenanced it by silent acquiescence; for I do not know that, to this day, any eminent individual or any leading newspaper attached to the administration has rebuked this scornful jeering at the supposed humble condition or circumstances in life, past or present; of a worthy man and a war-worn soldier. But it touched a tender point in the public feeling. It naturally roused indignation. What was intended as reproach was immediately seized on as merit. “ Be it so! Be it so!" was the instant burst of the public voice. “Let him be the log cabin candidate. What
you say in scorn, we will shout with all our lungs. From this day forward, we have our cry of rally; and we shall see whether he who has dwelt in one of the rude abodes of the West may not become the best house in the country!”
All this is natural, and springs from sources of just feeling. Other things, Gentlemen, have had a similar origin. We all know that the term “ Whig” was bestowed in derision, two hundred years ago, on those who were thought too fond of liberty; and our national air of “ Yankee Doodle” was composed by British officers, in ridicule of the American troops. Yet, ere long, the last of the British armies laid down its arms at Yorktown, while this same air was playing in the ears of officers and men. Gentlemen, it is only shallow-minded pretenders who either make distinguished origin matter of personal merit, or obscure
origin matter of personal reproach. Taunt and scoffing at the humble condition of early life affect nobody, in this country, but those who are foolish enough to indulge in them, and they are generally sufficiently punished by public rebuke. A man who is not ashamed of himself need not be ashamed of his early condition.
Gentlemen, it did not happen to me to be born in a log cabin; but my elder brothers and sisters were born in a log cabin, raised amid the snow-drifts of New Hampshire, at a period so early that, when the smoke first rose from its rude chimney, and curled over the frozen hills, there was no similar evidence of a white man's habitation between it and the settlements on the rivers of Canada. Its remains still exist. I make to it an annual visit. I carry my children to it, to teach them the hardships endured by the generations which have gone before them. I love to dwell on the tender recollections, the kindred ties, the early affections, and the touching narratives and incidents, which mingle with all I know of this primitive family abode. I weep to think that none of those who inhabited it are now among the living; and if ever I am ashamed of it, or if I ever fail in affectionate veneration for him who reared it, and defended it against savage violence and destruction, cherished all the domestic virtues beneath its roof, and, through the fire and blood of a seven years' revolutionary war, shrunk from no danger, no toil, no sacrifice, to serve his country, and to raise his children to a condition better than his own, may my name and the name of my posterity be blotted for ever from the memory of mankind!
[Mr. Webster then reviewed the expenditures of the government; but the reporter finds, with regret, that the sheet containing this portion of the speech has been mislaid or lost. We supply, therefore, from memory, a very brief, and, we are aware, a very inadequate, outline of the argument]
The expenditures of this administration have been eminently wasteful and extravagant. Over and above the ordinary revenue of the country, Mr. Van Buren has spent more than twenty millions that reached the treasury rom other sources. I specify, Reserved under the Deposit Act,
$ 6,000,000 Fourth instalment of surplus, kept back,
9,000,000 Payment by the Bank of United States on its bonds, 5,000,000
But even this has been found insufficient for the prodigality of the administration; and we had not been long assembled in Congress before a demand was made upon it, notwithstanding the flattering representations of the message and the treasury report, for authority to issue five millions more of treasury notes. This, we were assured, if Congress would only keep within the estimates submitted by the departments, would be ample. Congress did keep within the estimates; and yet, before we broke up, intimations came from the treasury that they must have authority to borrow or issue treasury notes for four and a half millions more!
This time even the friends of the administration demurred, and, finally, refused to grant this new aid; and what then was the alternative? Why, after having voted appropriations for the various branches of the public service, all within the estimates, and all of which, they were told, were indispensable, Congress conferred on the President, by a special provision, authority to withhold these appropriations from such objects as he pleased, and, out of certain classes, to select, at his discretion, those upon which money should be expended. Entire authority was thus given to the President over all these expenditures, in evasion, as it seems to me, of that provision of the Constitution forbidding all expenditure except by virtue of appropriations, which, if it mean any thing, must mean the specification of distinct sums for distinct purposes.
In this way, then, it is proposed to keep back from indispensable works, or works declared by the administration to be indispensable, four and a half millions, which are, nevertheless, appropriated, and which, with five millions of treasury notes already issued, will constitute a debt of from nine to ten millions.
So, then, when General Harrison shall succeed, in March next, to the Presidential chair, all that he will inherit from his predecessors, besides their brilliant example, will be these treasury vaults and safes, without a dollar in them, and a debt of ten millions of dollars.
The whole revenue policy of this administration has been founded in error. While the treasury is becoming poorer and poorer, articles of luxury are admitted free of duty. Look at the custom-house returns, - twenty millions of dollars worth of silks imported in one year, free of duty, and other articles of