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sequences and results of measures. Time removes contemporary misconstruction. Posterity will give its judgment free from the misguiding interests and prejudices of a past generation. History is God's providence in human affairs, and it is a part of it to triumph over error, and to assign to the actors in great events their proper places.
“ Yours, Sir, we believe, will be with those master-spirits who framed the Constitution of our Union. It has already made us a great nation and a numerous people. With it, we shall become all that a nation can be ; without it, nothing that a people should be. The effort of your life has been to maintain that Constitution in all that you believe to be its legitimate powers. Others, and some of them our ablest men, differ from you. But whenever those differences have been discussed, you have never failed to gain the respect of those who did not agree with you; because your own opinions have always been openly avowed, and maintained with signal ability and conceded patriotic intention. All, too, admit that no man has been truer than yourself to the compromises of the Constitution. In the House of Representatives, in the Senate. chamber, in the courts, in your official despatches, and upon popular occasions, at home and elsewhere, when you have spoken, and when it was proper to say so, you have said that these compromises were to be kept as they were meant by the States which ratified it. We do not doubt that you will continue to think and to act so, with all that fervor of feeling with which you once exclaimed, in reference to the union of the States, ' Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable.'
“ From one of your constitutional suggestions every man in the land has been more or less benefited. We allude to it with the greater pleasure because it was in a controversy begun by a Georgian in behalf of the constitutional rights of the citizen. When the late Mr. Thomas Gibbons determined to hazard a large part of his fortune in testing the constitutionality of the laws of New York, limiting the navigation of the waters in that State to steamers belonging to a company, his own interest was not so much concerned as the right of every citizen to use a coasting license upon the waters of the United States, in whatever way their vessels were propelled. It was a sound view of the law, but not broad enough for the occasion. It is not unlikely that the case would have been decided upon it, even if you had not insisted that it should be put upon the broader constitutional ground of commerce and navigation. The court felt the application and force of your reasoning, and it made a decision releasing every creek and river, lake, bay, and harbor, in our country, from the interference of monopolies, which had already provoked unfriendly legislation between some of the States, and which would have been as little favorable to the interest of Fulton as they were unworthy of his genius.
“ Nor must we permit this occasion to pass without noticing your administration of the State Department. We of the South as a very large portion of your fellow-citizens did everywhere, recognize in what was then done practical ability remarkably suited to the time of action, with a comprehensive support of every American interest and right, domestic and foreign.
“ One word more, Sir. The place from which we give you our wel. come has been consecrated by us to the memory of Greene and Pulaski. It is a fit place for a people's welcome to be given to one who has deserved well of the republic. It reminds us of those Revolutionary events which excite in all Americans a common sympathy. It should be cultivated by all of us. It has hitherto resisted the contentions of interest and the passion of party. And if, at any time hereafter, some dark cloud shall threaten our harmony, it will be made harmless by holding up to the people the remembrance of their fathers, united in the cause of American freedom. Upon our part, we shall never forget that Georgia gave an early response to the earlier remonstrance of Massa. chusetts against those acts of Parliament of which she was the imme. diate victim, but which were levelled against the liberties of all the Colonies. When the language of Suffolk, bolder than any which had been used before,* proclaimed, for the first time, that the Colonies were only a part of the realm of England by compact, which would be dissolved, if the acts of which Massachusetts complained were not repealed, it was repeated here with pledges to our sister Colonies to join them in any and every measure of resistance. The patriots of Georgia were not slow in showing that they were in earnest. Their sons, and grandsons, and great-grandsons, bearing the honors of their paternity gracefully and unobtrusively, but with all the sympathies of their fathers, are here to-day to unite with the rest of us to give you our welcome.
Accept it, Sir, and should you, upon your return home, be called upon to tell any thing of your visit to the South, tell those to whom you may speak that you have been among a people who, in the real respect which they feel and have shown to yourself, intended also to manifest their attachment to their Northern and Eastern brethren, and to show that their prevailing political feeling is devotion to our Union.
“ May God animate all the people of all States with the same sentiment, and impress upon their hearts that it is a duty which we owe to him, to our fathers, and our posterity, to maintain, defend, and preserve the Union, and to transmit it entire to future generations !”
See resolutions of “the County of Suffolk in the Province of Massachusetts Bay,” of the 6th of September, 1774, laid before the Continental Congress on the 17th of that month.
To this speech Mr. Webster made the following reply.
Sir, — I beg you to believe me duly sensible of the respect paid me by the citizens of Savannah. They have appointed a committee to welcome me, composed of distinguished citizens, and placed at its head a gentleman well known to myself personally and to the public, as filling with equal honor to himself and the country the high station of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
The topics alluded to in the address just delivered are of great and permanent importance. At their head stands that of the Union of the States, and the Constitution. To such parts of the address as are complimentary to myself, I can of course, beyond the expression of my thanks, make no reply. What most becomes me, certainly, in this respect, is a grateful and respectful silence.
Allow me to say, that no more than justice is done me, in ascribing to me a steady adhesion to the Union of the States, upon the principles and according to the provisions of the Constitution.
I have made this present tour, which has proved so delightful to me while enjoying it, and which will leave so many pleasant reminiscences to dwell upon after my return, for the purpose of visiting those younger sisters of the family of the Old Thirteen whom I had not before known. I heartily rejoice that I have done so, for the reception which has welcomed me has proved that we of the North and the South are still brethren in feeling, and members of the same great political family, bound together by the articles of agreement in our glorious Constitution. He must be a presumptuous man indeed, who would venture to think that he could suggest any new features of improvement, or in any way improve our present form of united government. By its provisions and compromises I stand, as I have ever stood, and woe to the meddling politicians who would assail them in the hope of getting surer and safer guaranties for State rights and State institutions. In itself it is already complete and perfect; any change could only result in marring the harmony of its separate parts. The Constitution was the result of concessions and compromises. It gave to the general government certain specific rights and duties, and it left to the States the free
exercise of their own appropriate rights, and the unrestricted enjoyment of their own laws and the control of their own social institutions. It has stood the test of experience, and proved itself capable, under a wise administration, of carrying forward the prosperity of the country. Our duty is to be content with the Constitution as it is, to resist all changes from whatever quarter, to preserve its original spirit and original purpose, and to commend it, as it is, to the care of those who are to come
In reply to Judge Wayne's handsome allusion to the argument made by me before the Supreme Court, in the suit instituted by Thomas Gibbons, to try the exclusive right of the heirs of Fulton to the exclusive navigation by steam of all the waters within the State of New York, I would observe, that it has been my fortune in the courts of law, as well as in the halls of Congress, to take frequent parts in the discussion of constitutional questions of this character. The case referred to by Judge Wayne is one of them. It is true, that, in the case of Gibbons v. Ogden, I declined to argue the cause on any other ground than that of the great commercial question presented by it, - the then novel question of the constitutional authority of Congress exclusively to regulate commerce in all its forms, on all the navigable waters of the United States, their bays, rivers, and harbors, without any monopoly, restraint, or interference created by State legislation.
That question I regarded as all-important. Other grounds might have been sufficient for the disposal of this particular cause, but they were of no public or permanent importance. If that great point had then been waived or evaded, it is not easy now to see what inferences unfavorable to the just authority of Congress might have been drawn.
But my agency in this and similar questions before the Su . preme Court has been but subordinate; the decision has rested with the court itself. No higher judicial tribunal exists than the Supreme Court of the United States, distinguished alike for the wisdom of its decisions and the eminent qualities of the judges who compose it, both in their private and public capaci. ties. It is the expounder of fundamental principles of government; it is the appointed umpire on questions of the profoundest interest and most enduring consequences between conflicting
sovereignties. The American people, if they are wise, will ever cherish it as their most valuable possession, since its duration will be coexistent with that of the Constitution, of which it is the sole interpreter. The decisions of this tribunal have in general commanded public respect and inspired public confidence. Great talents and great learning have adorned its bench. Some of its judgments on questions of great magnitude have manifested unsurpassed ability. Let us hope that its future may resemble its past, and that the same learning and dignity, the same integrity and firmness, which have characterized its decisions in times past, may also distinguish them in times to come.
I beg, Sir, leave also to acknowledge the kindness with which you have noticed the manner in which I have discharged the duties of the Department of State. I held that office but for a short period; during that period, however, the question of the Northeastern Boundary was definitively settled, and an opportunity was afforded for considering and discussing other objects of great interest, which had remained unsettled, and which had become attended with no small difficulty. That opportunity was embraced. I am happy to think that good has been done, and to learn from you that the conduct of that negotiation received the approbation of the citizens of Savannah. There was as much, perhaps, in the favorable circumstances of the occasion, as in any ability manifested in the conduct of the negotiation.
You have alluded, Sir, to the spot where we stand, and the monument which rises before us. It reminds us, indeed, of the days of the Revolution, when State called upon State for aid in the cause of independence. What citizen of Massachusetts can forget the noble response of Georgia to her call? Georgia was then far distant; the wonder-working agency of the telegraph, that annihilates space, was then undreamed of, and long and weary miles of wilderness intervened between the oldest and the youngest of the original Thirteen. But the call was heard and answered. The blood of New England, in her turn, was freely poured out upon Southern soil, and her sons stood shoulder to shoulder with those of Georgia in the common cause. Sons and grandsons of those patriots, whom I now address! Georgians! shall we not cherish the recollection of those