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DANIEL W E B STER.
SPEECH IN REPLY TO HAYNE.1
WHEN this debate, Sir, was to be resumed, on Thursday morning, it so happened that it would have been convenient for me to be elsewhere.” The honourable member, however, did not incline to put off the discussion to another day. He had a shot, he said, to return, and he wished to discharge it. That shot, Sir, which he thus kindly informed us was coming, that we might stand out of the way, or prepare ourselves to fall by it and die with decency, has now been received. Under all advantages, and with expectation awakened by the tone which preceded it, it has been discharged, and has spent its force. It may become me to say no more of its effect than that, if nobody is found, after all, either killed or wounded, it is not the first time, in the history of human affairs, that the vigour and success of the war have not quite come up to the lofty and sounding phrase of the manifesto. L e-joo, o żo . *
The gentleman, Sir, in declining to postpone the debate, told the Senate, with the emphasis of his hand upon his heart, that there was something rankling here, of which he wished to rid himself by an immediate reply. In this respect, Sir, I have a great advantage over the honourable gentleman. There is nothing here, Sir, which gives me the slightest uneasiness; neither fear, nor anger, nor that which is sometimes more troublesome than either,-the consciousness of having been in the wrong. There is nothing either originating here or now received here by the gentleman’s shot. Nothing originating here, for I had not the slightest feeling of unkindness towards the honourable member. Some passages, it is true, had occurred since our acquaintance in this body, which I could have wished might have been otherwise; but I had used philosophy and forgotten them. I paid the honourable member the attention of listening with respect to his first speech; and when he sat down, though surprised, and I must even say astonished, at some of his opinions, nothing was further from my intention than to commence any personal warfare. Through the whole of the few remarks I made in answer, I avoided, studiously and carefully, every thing which I thought possible to be construed into disrespect. And, Sir, while there is thus nothing originating here, which I have wished at any time, or now wish, to discharge, I must repeat, also, that nothing has been received here which rankles, or in any way gives me annoyance. I will not accuse the honourable member of violating the rules of civilized war; I will not say that he poisoned his arrows. But whether his shafts were, or were not, dipped in that which would have caused rankling if they had reached their destination, there was not, as it happened, quite strength enough in the bow to bring them to their mark. If he wishes now to gather up those shafts, he must look for them elsewhere: they will not be found fixed and quivering in the object at which they were aimed. The honourable member complained that I had slept on his speech. I must have slept on it, or not slept at all. The moment the honourable member sat down, his friend from Missouri rose,” and, with much honeyed commendation of the speech, suggested that the impressions which it had produced were too charming and delightful to be disturbed by other sentiments or other sounds, and proposed that the Senate should adjourn. Would it have been quite amiable in me, Sir, to interrupt this excellent good feeling? Must I not have been absolutely malicious, if I could have thrust myself forward, to destroy sensations thus pleasing? Was it not much better and kinder, both to sleep upon them myself, and to allow others also the pleasure of sleeping upon them 2 But if it be meant, by sleeping upon his speech, that I took time to prepare a reply, it is quite a mistake. Owing to other engagements, l could not employ even the interval between the adjournment of the Senate and its meeting the next morning, in attention to the subject of this debate. Nevertheless, Sir, the mere matter of fact is undoubtedly true. I did sleep on the gentleman's speech, and slept soundly. And I slept equally well on his speech of yesterday, to which I am now replying. It is quite possible that in this respect, also, I possess some advantage over the honourable member, attributable, doubtless, to a cooler temperament on my part; for, in truth, Islept upon his speeches remarkably well, + , , , , , , , o j . ." # -o * -- 8. But the gentleman inquires why he was made the object of such a reply? Why was he singled out? If an attack has been made on the East, he, he assures us, did not begin it : it was made by the gentleman from Missouri. Sir, I answered the gentleman’s speech because I happened to hear it; and because, also, I chose to give an answer to that speech which, if unanswered, I thought most likely to produce injurious impressions. I did not stop to inquire who was the original drawer of the bill. I found a responsible indorser before me, and it was my purpose to hold him liable, and to bring him to his just responsibility, without delay. But, Sir, this interrogatory of the honourable member was only introductory to another. He proceeded to ask me whether I had turned upon him, in this debate, from the consciousness that I should find an overmatch, if I ventured on a contest with his friend from Missouri. If, Sir, the honourable member, modestiao gratia, had chosen thus to defer to his friend, and to pay him a compliment, without intentional disparagement to others, it would have been quite according to the friendly courtesies of debate, and not at all ungrateful to my own feelings. I am not one of those, Sir, who esteem any tribute of regard, whether light and occasional, or more serious and deliberate, which may be bestowed on others, as so much unjustly withholden from themselves. But the tone and manner of the gentleman’s question forbid me thus to interpret it. I am not at liberty to consider it as nothing more than a civility to his friend. It had an air of taunt and disparagement, something of the loftiness of asserted superiority, which does not allow me to pass it over without notice. It was put as a question for me to answer, and so put as if it were difficult for me to answer, whether I deemed the member from Missouri an overmatch for myself in debate here. It seems to me, Sir, that this is extraordinary language, and an extraordinary tone, for the discussions of this body. C. : * ~ * > . J Matches and overmatches! Those terms are more applicable elsewhere than here, and fitter for other assemblies than this.
1 Under this heading I give nearly all of what is commonly known as Webster's “Second Speech on Foot's Resolution,” delivered in the National Senate, January 26, 1830. Foot was one of the Senators from Connecticut; and his resolution had reference only to the disposal of the public lands in the West. The Hon. Robert Y. Hayne, whose speech drew forth this great effort, was one of the Senators from South Carolina, and was admitted on all hands to be a very able and brilliant and eloquent speaker. But his speech, on this occasion, was highly discursive, not to say rambling, introducing a large variety of topics, and hardly touching upon the special subject-matter of the resolution before the Senate. I give the argument of Webster's speech entire, I believe, in all its parts, omitting only some amplifications which, though apt and telling at the time, would now be rather in the way, besides that they make the speech too long for this volume.
2 Webster had at that time a pressing and important engagement in the Supreme Court, which occupied him so much that he had no thought of sharing in this debate till Hayne's speech *; riveted his mind to the question.
3 This “friend from Missouri” was Mr. Benton, one of the leaders of what was then called the Jackson party, in the Senate,
Sir, the gentleman seems to forget where and what we are. This is a Senate, a Senate of equals, of men of individual honour and personal character, and of absolute independence. We know no masters, we acknowledge no dictators. This is a hall for mutual consultation and discussion; not an arena for the exhibition of champions. I offer myself, Sir, as a match for no man; I throw the challenge of debate at no man's feet. But then, Sir, since the honourable member has put the question in a manner that calls for an answer, I will give him an answer ; and I tell him that, holding myself to be the humblest of the members here, I yet know nothing in the arm of his friend from Missouri, either alone or when aided by the arm of his friend from South Carolina, that need deter even me from espousing whatever opinions I may choose to espouse, from debating whenever I may choose to debate, or from speaking whatever I may see fit to say, on the floor of the Senate. Sir, when uttered as matter of commendation or compliment, I should dissent from nothing which the honourable member might say of his friend. Still less do I put forth any pretensions of my own. But when put to me as matter of taunt, I throw it back, and say to the gentleman that he could possibly say nothing more likely than such a comparison to wound my pride of personal character. The anger of its tone rescued the remark from intentional irony, which otherwise, probably, would have been its general acceptation. But, Sir, if it be imagined that by this mutual quotation and commendation; if it be supposed that, by casting the characters of the drama, assigning to each his part, to one the attack, to another the cry of onset; or if it be thought that, by a loud and empty vaunt of anticipated victory, any laurels are to be won here ; if it be imagined, especially, that any, or all these things will shake any purpose of mine, I can tell the honourable member, once for all, that he is greatly mistaken, and that he is dealing with one of whose temper and character he has yet much to learn. Sir, I shall not allow myself, on this occasion, I hope on no occasion, to be betrayed into any loss of temper: but if provoked, as I trust I never shall be, into crimination and recrimination, the honourable member may perhaps find that, in that contest, there will be blows to take as well as blows to give ; that others can state comparisons as significant, at least, as his own; and that his impunity may possibly demand of him whatever powers of taunt and sarcasm he may possess. I commend him to a prudent husbandry of his TeSOurceS. But, Sir, the Coalition | The Coalition 1 Ay, “the murdered Coalition l’” The gentlemen asks, if I were led or frighted into this debate by the spectre of the Coalition,
“Was it the ghost of the murdered Coalition,” he exclaims, “which haunted the member from Massachusetts; and which, like the ghost of Banquo, would never down?” “The murdered Coalition!” SA", this charge of a coalition, in reference to the late administration,” is not original with the honourable member. It did not spring up in the Senate. Whether as a fact, as an ar. gument, or as an embellishment, it is all borrowed. He adopts it, indeed, from a very low origin, and a still lower present condition. It is one of the thousand calumnies with which the press teemed during an excited political canvass. It was a charge, of which there was not only no proof or probability, but which was in itself wholly impossible to be true. No man of common information ever believed a syllable of it. Yet it was of that class of falsehoods which, by continued repetition through all the organs of detraction and abuse, are capable of misleading those who are already far misled, and of further fanning passion already kindling into flame. Doubtless it served in its day, and, in greater or less degree, the end designed by it. Having done that, it has sunk into the general mass of stale and loathed calumnies. It is the very cast-off slough of a polluted and shameless press. Incapable of further mischief, it lies in the sewer, lifeless and despised. It is not now, Sir, in the power of the honourable member to give it dignity or decency, by attempting to elevate it, and to introduce it into the Senate. He cannot change it from what it is, an object of general disgust and scorn. On the contrary, the contact, if he choose to touch it, is more likely to drag him down, down, to the place where it lies itself. But, Sir, the honourable member was not, for other reasons, entirely happy in his allusion to the story of Banquo's murder and Banquo's ghost. It was not, I think, the friends, but the
4 “The Coalition l’” was one of the partisan outcries raised against the administration of President John Quincy Adams; and it was urged with incredi. ble violence during the canvass of 1828, in order to defeat the reëlection of Adams, and bring in General Jackson. In 1824, Mr. Clay was a candidate for the Presidency along with Adams. As there was then no election by the people, it fell to the House of Representatives to elect a President, and Clay's friends, or the most of them, voted for Adams, and thus secured a majority of the States in his favour. Adams gave the first seat in his cabinet to Clay; not from any previous understanding between them, or between their friends, but because Clay was evidently the right man for the place. This appointment was eagerly seized upon as inferring a bargain; and the false accusation of a corrupt coali. tion thus grounded probably did a good deal towards defeating the reëlection of Adams in 1828. Mr. Calhoun was elected Vice-President both in 1824 and in 1828; and in the latter year he gave all his influence against Adams and in favour of Jackson. All through those years, Calhoun carried the politics of South Carolina in his pocket, nor was his strength by any means confined to that State.