« ПретходнаНастави »
opened my mouth in the councils of the country? The gentlemen at Buffalo have placed at the head of their party Mr. Van Buren, a gentleman for whom I have all the respect that I ought to entertain for one with whom I have been associated, in some degree, in public life for many years, and who has held the highest offices in the country. But really, speaking for myself, if I were to express confidence in Mr. Van Buren and his politics on any question, and most especially this very question of slavery, I think the scene would border upon the ludicrous, if not upon the contemptible. I never proposed any thing in my life of a general and public nature, that Mr. Van Buren did not oppose. Nor has it happened to me to support any important measure proposed by him. If he and I now were to find ourselves together under the Free Soil flag, I am sure that, with his accustomed good nature, he would laugh. If nobody were present, we should both laugh at the strange occurrences and stranger jumbles of political life that should have brought us to sit down cosily and snugly, side by side, on the same platform. That the leader of the Free Spoil party should so suddenly have become the leader of the Free Soil party would be a joke to shake his sides and mine.
Gentlemen, my first acquaintance in public life with Mr. Van Buren was when he was pressing with great power the election of Mr. Crawford to the Presidency, against Mr. Adams. Mr. Crawford was not elected, and Mr. Adams was, Mr. Van Buren was in the Senate nearly the whole of that administration; and during the remainder of it he was Governor of the State of New York. It is notorious that he was the soul and centre, throughout the whole of Mr. Adams's term, of the opposition made to him. He did more to prevent Mr. Adams's reëlection in 1828, and to obtain General Jackson's election, than any other man, - yes, than any ten other men in the country.
General Jackson was chosen, and Mr. Van Buren was appointed his Secretary of State. It so happened that in July, 1829, Mr. McLane went to England to arrange the controverted, difficult, and disputed point on the subject of the colonial trade. Mr. Adams had held a high tone on that subject. He had demanded, on the ground of reciprocity and right, the introduction of our products into all parts of the British territory, freely, in our own vessels, since Great Britain was allowed to bring her prod
uce into the United States upon the same terms. Mr. Adams placed this demand upon the ground of reciprocity and justice. Great Britain would not yield. Mr. Van Buren, in his instructions to Mr. McLane, told him to yield that question of right, and to solicit the free admission of American produce into the British colonies, on the ground of privilege and favor; intimating that there had been a change of parties, and that this favor ought not to be refused to General Jackson's administration because it had been demanded on the ground of right by Mr. Adams's. This is the sum and substance of the instruction.
Well, Gentlemen, it was one of the most painful duties of my life, on account of this, to refuse my assent to Mr. Van Buren's nomination. It was novel in our history, when an administration changes, for the new administration to seek to obtain privileges from a foreign power on the assertion that they have abandoned the ground of their predecessors. I suppose that such a course is held to be altogether undignified by all public men. When I went into the Department of State under General Harrison, I found in the conduct of my predecessor many things that I could have wished had been otherwise. Did I retract a jot or tittle of what Mr. Forsyth had said ? I took the case as he had left it, and conducted it upon the principles which he left. I should have considered that I disgraced myself if I had said, “ Pray, my Lord Ashburton, we are more rational persons than our predecessors, we are more considerate than they, and intend to adopt an entirely opposite policy.
Consider, my dear Lord, how much more friendly, reasonable, and amiable we are than our predecessors."
But now, on this very subject of the extension of the slave power, I would by no means do the least injustice to Mr. Van Buren. If he has come up to some of the opinions expressed in the platform of the Buffalo Convention, I am very glad of it. I do not mean to say that there may not be very good reasons for those of his own party who cannot conscientiously vote for General Cass to vote for him, because I think him much the least dangerous of the two. But, in truth, looking at Mr. Van Buren's conduct as President of the United States, I am amazed to find that he should be placed at the head of a party professing to be, beyond all other parties, friends of liberty and
enemies of African slavery in the Southern States. Why, the very first thing that Mr. Van Buren did after he was President was to declare, that, if Congress interfered with slavery in the District of Columbia, he would apply the veto to their bills. Mr. Van Buren, in his inaugural address, quotes the following expression from his letter accepting his nomination: “I must go into the Presidential chair the inflexible and uncompromising opponent of every attempt on the part of Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia against the wishes of the slaveholding States; and also with a determination equally decided to resist the slightest interference with it in the States where it exists.” He then proceeds: “I submitted also to my fellow-citizens, with fulness and frankness, the reasons which led me to this determination. The result authorizes me to believe that they have been approved and are confided in by a majority of the people of the United States, including those whom they most immediately affect. It now only remains to add, that no bill conflicting with these views can ever receive my constitutional sanction."
In the next place, we know that Mr. Van Buren's casting vote was given for a law of very doubtful propriety, - a law to allow postmasters to open the mails and see if there was any incendiary matter in them, and if so, to destroy it. I do not say that there was no constitutional power to pass such a law. Perhaps the people of the South thought it was necessary to protect themselves from incitements to insurrection. So far as any thing endangers the lives and property of the South, so far I agree that there may be such legislation in Congress as shall prevent such results.
But, Gentlemen, no man has exercised a more controlling influence on the conduct of his friends in this country than Mr. Van Buren. I take it that the most important event in our time tending to the extension of slavery and its everlasting establishment on this continent, was the annexation of Texas, in 1844. Where was Mr. Van Buren then? Let me ask, Three or four years ago, where was he then? Every friend of Mr. Van Buren, so far as I know, supported the measure. The two Senators from New York supported it, and the members of the House of Representatives from New York supported it, and nobody resisted it but Whigs. And I say in the face of the world,
I say in the face of those connected with, or likely to be benefited by, the Buffalo Convention, I say to all of them, that there has been no party of men in this country which has firmly and sternly resisted the progress of the slave power but the Whigs.
Why, look to this very question of the annexation of Texas. We talk of the dictation of the slave power! At least they do, I do not. I do not allow that any body dictates to me. They talk of the triumph of the South over the North! There is not a word of truth or reason in the whole of it. I am bound to say on my conscience, that, of all the evils inflicted upon us by these acquisitions of slave territory, the North has borne its full part in the infliction. Northern votes, in full proportion, have been given in both houses for the acquisition of new territory, in which slavery existed. We talk of the North. There has for a long time been no North. I think the North Star is at last discovered; I think there will be a North ; but up to the recent session of Congress there has been no North, no geographical section of the country, in which there has been found a strong, conscientious, and united opposition to slavery. No such North has existed. Pope says, you know,
“ Ask where's the North? At York, 't is on the Tweed;
At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where." Now, if there has heretofore been such a North as I have described, a North strong in opinion and united in action against slavery, - if such a North has existed anywhere, it has existed “the Lord knows where,” I do not. Why, on this very question of the admission of Texas, it may be said with truth, that the North let in Texas. The Whigs, North and South, resisted Texas. Ten Senators from slaveholding States, of the Whig party, resisted Texas. Two, only, as I remember, voted for it. But the Southern Whig votes against Texas were overpowered by the Democratic votes from the free States, and from New England among the rest. Yes, if there had not been votes from New England in favor of Texas, Texas would have been out of the Union to this day. Yes, if men from New England had been true, Texas would have been nothing but Texas still. There were four votes in the Senate from New England, in favor of the admission of Texas, Mr. Van Buren's friends, Dem
ocratic members: one from Maine; two from New Hampshire; one from Connecticut. Two of these gentlemen were confidential friends of Mr. Van Buren, and had both been members of his cabinet. They voted for Texas; and they let in Texas, against Southern Whigs and Northern Whigs. That is the truth of it, my friends. Mr. Van Buren, by the wave of his hand, could have kept out Texas. A word, a letter, though it had been even shorter than General Cass's letter to the Chicago Convention, would have been enough, and would have done the work. But he was silent.
When Northern members of Congress voted, in 1820, for the Missouri Compromise, against the known will of their constituents, they were called “ Dough Faces.” I am afraid, fellow. citizens, that the generation of " dough faces” will be as perpetual as the generation of men.
In 1814, as we all know, Mr. Van Buren was a candidate for the Presidency, on the part of the Democratic party, but lost the nomination at Baltimore. We now learn, from a letter from General Jackson to Mr. Butler, that Mr. Van Buren's claims were superseded, because, after all, the South thought that the accomplishment of the annexation of Texas might be more safely intrusted to Southern hands. We all know that the Northern portion of the Democratic party were friendly to Mr. Van Buren. Our neighbors from New Hampshire, and Maine, and elsewhere, were Van Buren men. But the moment it was ascertained that Mr. Polk was the favorite of the South, and the favorite of the South upon the ground I have mentioned, as a man more certain to bring about the annexation of Texas than Mr. Van Buren, these friends of Mr. Van Buren in the North all “ caved in,” not a man of them stood. Mr. Van Buren him. self wrote a letter very complimentary to Mr. Polk and Mr. Dallas, and found no fault with the nomination.
Now, Gentlemen, if they were “dough faces” who voted for the Missouri Compromise, what epithet should describe these men, here in our New England, who were so ready, not only to change or abandon him whom they most cordially wished to support, but did so in order to make more sure the annexation of Texas. They nominated Mr. Polk at the request of gentlemen from the South, and voted for him, through thick and thin, till the work was accomplished, and Mr. Polk elected. For my