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This is a condition of things novel and interesting, and worthy of our reflection. In national relations, we sustain a rank, we hold a certain place, and we have high duties to perform. Of course it is our duty to abstain from all interference in the political affairs of other countries. But then there is one thing which we are bound to do. We are bound to show to the whole world, in the midst of which we are placed, that a regular, steady, conservative government, founded on broad, popular, representative systems, is a practicable thing. We are bound to show, that there may be such a government, not merely for a small, but for a great country, in which life and property shall be secure, religion and the worship of the Deity observed, good morals cultivated, commerce and the arts encouraged, and the general prosperity of all classes maintained and advanced.
It strikes me, and I repeat the sentiment only to show the strength of my own conviction, that our great destiny on earth is to exhibit the practicability of good, safe, secure, popular gove ernments; to prove, and I hope we do prove, that there may be security for property, and for personal rights, that there may be provision for the maintenance of religion and morals, for an extensive diffusion of knowledge, and for carrying all branches of education and culture to their highest pitch, by means of institutions founded on republican principles. The prophecies and the poets are with us. Every body knows Bishop Berkeley's lines, written a hundred years ago :
“ There shall be sung another golden age,
The rise of empire and of arts;
The wisest heads and noblest hearts."
The four first acts already past,
Time's noblest offspring is the last.” And at a more recent period, but still when there was nothing to be seen in this vast North American continent but a few colonial settlements, another English poet suggests to his country, that she shall see a great nation, her own offspring, springing up, with wealth, and power, and glory, in the New World :
6 In other lands, another Britain see;
And what thou art, America shall be."
But, in regard to this country, there is no poetry like the poetry of events; and all the prophecies lag behind their fulfil. ment.
That is the doctrine which you, and I, of America, are bound to teach. Does any body doubt that, on this broad, popular platform, there exists now, in these United States, a safe government? Tell me where there is one safer. Or tell me of any on the face of the Old World on which public faith is more confidently reposed. I say the government of the United States is one of the safest. I do not know how long it may be before it will become one of the oldest governments in the world.
We are in an age of progress. That progress is towards selfgovernment by the enlightened portion of the community, everywhere. And the great question is, how this impulse can be carried on, without running to excess; how popular government can be established, without falling into licentiousness. That is the great question, and we have seen how difficult it is, by those not taught in the school of experience, to establish such a system.
It is a common sentiment uttered by those who would revolutionize Europe, that, to be free, men have only to will it. That is a fallacy. There must be prudence and a balancing of departments, and there must be persons who will teach the science of free, popular governments; and there are but few, except in this country, who can teach that science. We have arrived at this ability by an experience of two hundred years. And how has it come? Why, we are an offshoot of the British constitution. In that constitution there is a popular element, that is, a representation of the people. This element is there mixed up with the monarchical and the aristocratic elements.
But our ancestors brought with them no aristocracy, and no monarchical rule, except a general submission and allegiance to the crown of England. Their immediate government was altogether a popular representation; and the country has been thoroughly trained, and schooled, in the practice of such a government.
To abide by the voice of the representatives fairly chosen, by the edicts of those who make the legislative enactments, has been and is our only system. From the first settlement of the colony at Plymouth, through all our subsequent history, we
have adhered to this principle. We threw off the power of the king, and we never admitted the power of the Parliament. That was the doctrine of Adams and Jefferson. That was the reason why the Parliament was not alluded to in the Declaration of Independence. The Colonies acknowledged the power of the crown, but never having acknowledged the authority of the Par. liament, they disdained to give any reason for throwing it off.
When the Revolution severed us from the mother country, we had nothing to do but to go on with our elections, supplying the governors no longer appointed by the crown by our own election, thus making the whole government popular, and to proceed as at first. It was in this way that the Colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island were enabled, down to a very late period, to continue their ancient constitutions.
If look anywhere, beside at France, on the continent of Europe, can you find any thing that bears the aspect of a representative government? There is nothing. It is very difficult to establish a free conservative government for the equal advancement of all the interests of society. What has Germany done, learned Germany, fuller of ancient lore than all the world beside? What has Italy done, what have they done who dwell on the spot where Cicero and Cato lived? They have not the power of self-government which a common town-meeting with us possesses.
Yes, I say that those persons who have gone from our townmeetings to dig gold in California, are more fit to make a republican government than any body of men in Germany or Italy, because they have learned this one great lesson, that there is no security without law, and that, under the circumstances in which they are placed, where there is no military authority to overawe them, there is no sovereign will but the will of the majority; that therefore, if they remain, they must submit to that will.
It is the prevalence of this general sentiment of obedience to law, — that they must have representatives, and that, if they be fairly chosen, their edicts must stand for law,- it is the general diffusion of this opinion that enables our people everywhere to govern themselves. Where they have our habits, you will find that they will establish government upon the foundation of a free, popular constitution, and nothing else.
Now I think, Gentlemen, that while we prescribe no forms, while we dictate to nobody, our mission is to show that a constitutional, representative, conservative government, founded on the freest possible principles, can do, can do, for the advancement of general morals and the general prosperity, as much as any other government can do. This is our business, this our mission among the nations; and it is a nobler destiny, even, than that which Virgil assigns to imperial Rome.
“ Excudent alii spirantia mollius aera,
Credo equidem ; vivos ducent de marmore vultus ;
Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos.” Gentlemen, two things are to be maintained and insisted on. One, that men in an enlightened age are capable of self-government; that the enjoyment of equal rights is a practicable thing; and that freedom is not a dangerous thing for a body politic. And the other is, that freedom from restraint is not FREEDOM; that licentiousness, the discharge from moral duties, and that general scramble which leads the idle and the extravagant to hope for a time when they may put their hands into their neighbors' pockets, call it what you please, is tyranny. It is no matter whether the Sultan of Turkey robs his subject of his property, or whether, under the notion of equal rights, the property earned by one shall be taken from him by a majority. I would not choose the latter. On the contrary, give me Turkey, for I would prefer one despot to ten thousand. Who would labor if there were not a security that what he earns will be his own, for his own enjoyment, for the education of his children, for the support of his age, and the gratification of all his reasonable desires ?
Gentlemen, the events of the past year are many, and some of them most interesting. They seem to result from an indefinite purpose of those who wish to meliorate the condition of things in Europe. They have had no distinct ideas. There may be incidental benefits arising from the scenes of turmoil and of blood; but no general and settled change for the better. These wars may somewhat assuage the imperial sway of des
pots. They may serve to convince those who hold despotic power, that they may shake their own thrones if they do not yield something to popular demands. In that sense some good may come of these events.
Then, Gentlemen, there is another aspect. We have all had our sympathies much enlisted in the Hungarian effort for liberty. We have all wept at its failure. We thought we saw a more rational hope of establishing free government in Hungary than in any other part of Europe, where the question has been in agitation within the last twelve months. But despotic power from abroad intervened to suppress that hope.
And, Gentlemen, what will come of it I do not know. For my part, at this moment, I feel more indignant at recent events connected with Hungary than at all those which passed in her struggle for liberty. I see that the Emperor of Russia demands of Turkey that the noble Kossuth and his companions shall be given up, to be dealt with at his pleasure. And I see that this demand is made in derision of the established law of nations. Gentlemen, there is something on earth greater than arbitrary or despotic power. The lightning has its power, and the whirlwind has its power, and the earthquake has its power; but there is something among men more capable of shaking despotic thrones than lightning, whirlwind, or earthquake, and that is, the excited and aroused indignation of the whole civilized world. Gentlemen, the Emperor of Russia holds himself to be bound by the law of nations, from the fact that he negotiates with civilized nations, and that he forms alliances and treaties with them. He professes, in fact, to live in a civilized age, and to govern an enlightened nation. I say that if, under these circumstances, he shall perpetrate so great a violation of national law as to seize these Hungarians and to execute them, he will stand as a criminal and malefactor in the view of the public law of the world. The whole world will be the tribunal to try him, and he must appear before it, and hold up his hand, and plead, and abide its judgment.
The Emperor of Russia is the supreme lawgiver in his own country, and, for aught I know, the executor of that law, also. But, thanks be to God, he is not the supreme lawgiver or executor of national law, and every offence against that is an offence against the rights of the civilized world. If he breaks