« PreviousContinue »
Hillard. He told the Senate of Massachusetts that he would vote for no instructions whatever to be forwarded to members of Congress, nor for any resolutions to be offered expressive of the sense of Massachusetts as to what her members of Congress ought to do. He said that he saw no propriety in one set of public Servants giving instructions and reading lectures to another set of public servants. To his own master each of them must stand or fall, and that master is his constituents. I wish these sentiments could become more common. I have never entered into the question, and never shall, as to the binding force of instructions. I will, however, simply say this : If there be any matter pending in this body, while I am a member of it, in which Massachusetts has an interest of her own not adverse to the general interests of the country, I shall pursue her instructions with gladness of heart, and with all the efficiency which I can bring to the occasion. But if the question be one which affects her interest, and at the same time equally affects the interests of all the other States, I shall no more regard her particular wishes or instructions, than I should regard the wishes of a man who might appoint me an arbitrator or referee, to decide some question of important private right between him and his neighbour, and then instruct me to decide in his favour. If ever there was a government upon Earth it is this government, if ever there were a body upon Earth it is this body, which should consider itself as composed by the agreement of all; each member appointed by some, but organized by the general consent of all, sitting here, under the solemn obligations of oath and conscience, to do that which they think to be best for the good of the whole.— Speech qf March 7, 1850.
MR. PRESIDENT, I should much prefer to have heard from every member on this floor declarations of opinion that this Union could never be dissolved, than the declaration of opinion by anybody, that, in any case, under the pressure of any circumstances, such a dissolution was possible. I hear with distress and anguish the word secession, especially when it falls from the lips of those who are patriotic, and known to the country, and known all over the world, for their political services. Secession! Peaceable secession! Sir, your eyes and mine are never destined to see that miracle. The dismemberment of this vast country without convulsion! The breaking up of the fountains of the great deep without ruffling the surface! Who is so foolish—I beg everybody's pardon — as to expect to see any such thing? Sir, he who sees these States, now revolving in harmony around a common centre, and expects to see them quit their places and fly off without convulsion, may look the next hour to see the heavenly bodies rush from their spheres, and jostle against each other in the realms of space, without causing the wreck of the Universe. There ean be no such thing as a peaceable secession. Peaceable secession is an utter impossibility. Is the great Constitution under which we live, covering this whole eountry, is it to be thawed and melted away by secession, as the snows on the mountain melt under the influence of avernal Sun, disappear almost unobserved, and run off? No, Sir! No, Sir! I will not state what might produce the disruption of the Union; but I see, as plainly as I see the Sun in heaven, what that disruption itself must produce: I see that it must produce war, and such a war as I will not describe, in its twofold character. Peaceable secession! The concurrent agreement of all the members of this great republic to separate! Where is the flag of the republic to remain P Where is the eagle still to tower? or is he to cower, and shrink, and fall to the ground? Why, Sir, our ancestors, our fathers and our grandfathers, those of them that are yet living amongst us with prolonged lives, would rebuke and reproach us; and our children and our grandchildren would cry shame upon us, if we of this generation should dishonour these ensigns of the power of the government and the harmony of that Union which is every day felt among us with so much joy and gratitude. I know the idea has been entertained, that, after the dissolution of this Union, a Southern Confederacy might be formed. I am sorry that it has ever been thought of, talked of, or dreamed of, in the wildest flights of human imagination. But the idea, so far as it exists, must be of a separation, assigning the slave States to one side, and the free States to the other. I may express myself too strongly, perhaps; but there are impossibilities in the natural as well as in the political world; and I hold the idea of a separation of these States, those that are free to form one government, and those that are slave-holding to form another, as such an impossibility. Sir, nobody can look over the face of this eountry at the present moment, nobody can see where its population is the most dense and growing, without being ready to admit, and compelled to admit, that ere long the strength of America will be in the Valley of the Mississippi. Well, now, I beg to inquire what the wildest enthusiast has to say on the possibility of cutting that river in two, and leaving free States at the source and on its branches, and slave States down near its mouth, each forming a separate government? Pray, Sir, let me say to the people of this country, that these things are worthy of their pondering and of their consideration. Here are five millions of freemen in the free States north of the river Ohio. Can anybody suppose that this population can be severed, by a line that divides them from the territory of a foreign and an alien government, down somewhere, the Lord knows where, upon the lower banks of the Mississippi ? Sir, I am ashamed to pursue this line of remark: I dislike it ; I have an utter disgust for it. I would rather hear of natural blasts and mildews, war, pestilence, and famine, than hear gentlemen talk of secession. To break up this great government 1 to astonish Europe with such an act of folly as Europe for two centuries has never beheld in any government or any people! Sir, I hear there is a convention to be held at Nashville. I am bound to believe that, if worthy gentlemen meet at Nashville in convention, their object will be to adopt conciliatory counsels; to advise the South to forbearance and moderation, and to advise the North to forbearance and moderation ; and to inculcate principles of brotherly love and affection, and attachment to the Constitution of the country as it now is. I believe, if the convention meet at all, it will be for this purpose : for, certainly, if they meet for any purpose hostile to the Union, they have been singularly inappropriate in their selection of a place. I remember that, when the treaty of Amiens was concluded between France and England, a sturdy Englishman and a distinguished orator, who regarded the conditions of the peace as ignominious to England, said in the House of Commons that, if King William could know the terms of that treaty, he would turn in his coffin | Let me commend this saying of Mr. Windham, in all its emplmasis and all its force, to any persons who shall meet at Nashville for the purpose of concerting measures for the overthrow of this Union over the bones of Andrew Jackson l And now, Mr. President, instead of speaking of the possibility or utility of secession, instead of dwelling in those caverns of darkness, instead of groping with those ideas so full of all that is horrid and horrible, let us come out into the light of day; let us enjoy the fresh air of Liberty and Union; let us cherish those hopes which belong to us; let us devote ourselves to those great objects that are fit for our consideration and our action; let us raise our conceptions to the magnitude and the importance of the duties that devolve upon us; let our comprehension be as broad as the country for which we act, our aspirations as high as its certain destiny; let us not be pigmies in a case that calls for men. Never did there devolve on any generation of men higher trusts than now devolve upon us, for the preservation of this Constitution and the harmony and peace of all who are destined to live under it. Let us make our generation one of the strongest and brightest links in that golden chain which is destined, I fondly believe, to grapple the people of all the States to this Constitution for ages to come. No monarchical throne presses these States together, no iron chain of military power encircles them ; they live and stand under a government popular in its form, representative in its character, founded upon principles of equality, and so constructed, we hope, as to last for ever. In all its history it has been beneficent; it has trodden down no man’s liberty; it has crushed no State. Its daily respiration is liberty and patriotism ; its yet youthful veins are full of enterprise, courage, and honourable love of glory and renown. Large before, the country has now, by recent events, become vastly larger. This republic now extends, with a vast breadth, across the whole continent. The two great seas of the world wash the one and the other shore.— Speech of March 7, 1850.
STANDING UPON THE CONSTITUTION.
THE State in whose representation I bear a part is a Union State, thoroughly and emphatically : she is attached to the |Union and the Constitution by indissoluble ties: she connects all her own history from colonial times, her struggle for independence, her efforts for the establishment of this government, and all the benefits and blessings which she has enjoyed under it, in one great attractive whole, to which her affections are constantly and powerfully drawn. All these make up a history in which she has taken a part, and the whole of which she enjoys as a most precious inheritance. She is a State for the |Union; she will be for the Union. It is the law of her destiny; it is the law of her situation ; it is a law imposed upon her by the recollections of the past, and by every interest for the present and every hope for the future.
Mr. President, it has always seemed to me to be a grateful reflection that, however short and transient may be the lives of individuals, States may be permanent. The great corporations that embrace the government of mankind, protect their liberties, and secure their happiness, may have something of perpetuity, and, as I might say, of earthly immortality. For my part, Sir, I gratify myself by contemplating what in the future will be the condition of that generous State which has done me the honour to keep me in the counsels of the country for so many years. I see nothing about her in prospect less than that which encircles her now. I feel that, when I and all those that now hear me shall have gone to our last home, and afterwards, when mould may have gathered upon our memories, as it will have done upon our tombs, that State, so early to take her part in the great contest of the Revolution, will stand, as she has stood and now stands, like that column which, near her Capitol, perpetuates the memory of the first great battle of the Revolution, firm, erect, and immovable. I believe that, if commotion shall shake the country, there will be one rock for ever, as solid as the granite of her hills, for the Union to repose upon. I believe that, if disasters arise, bringing clouds which shall obscure the ensign now over her and over us, there will be one star that will but burn the brighter amid the darkness of that night; and I believe that, if in the remotest ages (I trust they will be infinitely remote) an occasion shall occur when the sternest duties of patriotism are demanded and to be performed, Massachusetts will imitate her own example; and that, as at the breaking-out of the IRevolution she was the first to offer the outpouring of her blood and her treasure in the struggle for liberty, so she will be hereafter ready, when the emergency arises, to repeat and renew that offer, with a thousand times as many warm hearts, and a thousand times as many strong hands. And now, Mr. President, to return at last to the principal and important question before us. What are we to do? How are we to bring this emergent and pressing question to an issue and an end? Here have we been seven and a half months, disputing about points which, in my judgment, are of no practical importance to one or the other part of the country. Are we to dwell for ever upon a single topic, a single idea 2 Are we to forget all the purposes for which .governments are instituted, and continue everlastingly to dispute about that which is of no essential consequence? I think, Sir, the country calls upon us loudly and imperatively to settle this question. I think that the whole world is looking to see whether this great popular government can get through such a crisis. We are the observed of all observers. We have stood through many trials. Can we stand through this, which takes so much the character of a sectional controversy 2 There is no inquiring man in all IEurope who does not ask himself that question every day, when he reads the intelligence of the morning. Can this country, with one set of interests at the South, and another set of inter