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enemies of the murdered Banquo, at whose bidding his spirit would not down. The honourable gentleman is fresh in his reading of the English classics, and can put me right if I am wrong: but, according to my poor recollection, it was at those who had begun with caresses and ended with foul and treacherous murder that the gory locks were shaken. The ghost of Banquo, like that of Hamlet, was an honest ghost. It disturbed no innocent man. It knew where its appearance would strike terror, and who would cry out, “A ghost 1” It made itself visible in the right quarter, and compelled the guilty and the conscience-smitten, and none others, to start, with,
THEIR eyeballs were seared (was it not so, Sir?) who had thought to shield themselves by concealing their own hand, and laying the imputation of the crime on a low and hireling agency in wickedness; who had vainly attempted to stifle the workings of their own coward consciences, by ejaculating, through white lips and chattering teeth, “Thou canst not say I did it !” I have misread the great Poet if those who had no way partaken in the deed of the death either found that they were, or feared that they should be, pushed from their stools by the ghost of the slain, or exclaimed, to a spectre created by their own fears and their own remorse, “Avaunt 1 and quit our sight !”
There is another particular, Sir, in which the honourable member's quick perception of resemblances might, I should think, have seen something in the story of Banquo, making it not altogether a subject of the most pleasant contemplation. Those who murdered Banquo, what did they win by it? Substantial good? Permanent power? Or disappointment, rather, and sore mortification ; dust and ashes, the common fate of vaulting ambition overleaping itself? I)id not even-handed justice ere long commend the poisoned chalice to their own lips? Did they not soon find that for another they had “filed their mind?” that their ambition, though apparently for the moment successful, had but put a barren sceptre in their grasp?” Ay, sir,
5 The application here intended, though clear enough at the time, is somewhat obscure to us. Supposing there to have been a coalition, and that coalition to have been killed, the killing must have been done by the friends of Calhoun, among whom Mr. Hayne stood foremost. Of course they who had killed the coalition were the ones to be haunted by its ghost; and Webster here delicately implies that they had expected to stand first in the counsels of the
“a barren sceptre in their gripe, Thence to be wrench’d by an unlineal hand, No son of theirs succeeding.”
Sir, I need pursue the allusion no further. I leave the honourable gentleman to run it out at his leisure, and to derive from it all the gratification it is calculated to administer. If he finds himself pleased with the associations, and prepared to be quite satisfied though the parallel should be entirely completed, I had almost said I am satisfied also ; but that I shall think of. Yes, Sir, I will think of that.
In the course of my observations the other day, Mr. Presi. dent, I paid a passing tribute of respect to a very worthy man, Mr. Dane, of Massachusetts. It so happened that he drew the Ordinance of 1787, for the government of the Northwestern Territory. A man of so much ability, and so little pretence; of so great a capacity to do good, and so unmixed a disposition to do it for its own sake; a gentleman who had acted an important part, forty years ago, in a measure the influence of which is still deeply felt in the very matter which was the subject of debate, might, I thought, receive from me a commendatory recognition. But the honourable member was inclined to be facetious on the subject. He was rather disposed to make it matter of ridicule, that I had introduced into the debate the name of one Nathan Dane, of whom he assures us he had never before heard. Sir, if the honourable member had never before heard of Mr. Dane, I am sorry for it. It shows him less acquainted with the public men of the country than I had supposed. Let me tell him, however, that a sneer from him at the mention of the name of Mr. Dane is in bad taste. It may well be a mark of ambition, Sir, either with the honourable gentleman or myself, to accomplish as much to make our names known to advantage, and remembered with gratitude, as Mr. Dane has accomplished. But the truth is, Sir, I suspect, that Mr. Dane lives a little too far north. He is of Massachusetts, and too near the north star to be reached by the honourable gentleman’s telescope. If his sphere had happened to range south of Mason and Dixon's line, he might probably have come within the scope of his vision.
I spoke, Sir, of the Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery, in all future times, northwest of the Ohio, as a measure of great wisdom and foresight, and one which had been attended with highly beneficial and permanent consequences. I supposed that, on this point, no two gentlemen in the Senate could entertain different opinions. But the simple expression of this sentiment has led the gentleman not only into a laboured defence of slavery, in the abstract, and on principle, but also into a warm accusation against me, as having attacked the system of domestic slavery now existing in the Southern States. For all this, there was not the slightest foundation, in any thing said or intimated by me. I did not utter a single word which any ingenuity could torture into an attack on the slavery of the South. I only said that it was highly wise and useful, in legislating for the Northwestern country while it was yet a wilderness, to prohibit the introduction of slaves; and added, that I presumed there was no reflecting and intelligent person, in the neighbouring State of Kentucky, who would doubt that, if the same prohibition had been extended, at the same early period, over that commonwealth, her strength and population would, at this day, have been far greater than they are. If these opinions be thought doubtful, they are nevertheless, I trust, neither extraordinary nor disrespectful. They attack nobody and menace nobody. And yet, Sir, the gentleman’s optics have discovered, even in the mere expression of this sentiment, what he calls the very spirit of the Missouri question!" He represents me as making an onset on the whole South, and manifesting a spirit which would interfere with, and disturb, their domestic condition! Sir, this injustice no otherwise surprises me than as it is committed here, and committed without the slightest pretence of ground for it. I say it only surprises me as being done here; for I know full well that it is, and has been, the settled policy of some persons in the South, for years, to represent the people of the North as disposed to interfere with them in their own exclusive and peculiar concerns. This is a delicate and sensitive point, in Southern feeling ; and of late years it has always been touched, and generally with effect, whenever the object has been to unite the whole South against Northern men or Northern measures. This feeling, always carefully kept alive, and maintained at too intense a heat to admit discrimination or reflection, is a lever of great power in our political machine. It moves vast bodies, and gives to them one and the same direc
party in whose behalf the killing was done, and also to hold the succession of power. But it was not long in becoming evident that Van Buren, and not Cal. houn, had the ascendant in Jackson’s counsels; in fact, matters soon grew to a decided rupture between Jackson and Calhoun; and at the time when this speech was made it was manisest that Calhoun and his friends were cut off from the party succession.
6 This “Missouri question” was upon the admission of Missouri as a slave. holding State, in 1820. The question was agitated a long time with exceeding Weat and bitterness; the agitation ending at last in what was called “The Mis souri Compromise.”
tion. But it is without adequate cause, and the suspicion which exists is wholly groundless. There is not, and never has been, a disposition in the North to interfere with these interests of the South. Such interference has never been supposed to be within the power of government; nor has it been in any way attempted. The slavery of the South has always been regarded as a matter of domestic policy, left with the States themselves, and with which the federal government had nothing to do. Certainly, Sir, I am, and ever have been, of that opinion. The gentleman, indeed, argues that slavery, in the abstract, is no evil. Most assuredly I need not say I differ with him, altogether and most widely, on that point. I regard domestic slavery as one of the greatest of evils, both moral and political. But whether it be a malady, and whether it be curable, and, if so, by what means; or, on the other hand, whether it be the vulnus immedicabile of the social system, I leave it to those whose right and duty it is to inquire and to decide. And this I believe, Sir, is, and uniformly has been, the sentiment of the North. Having had occasion to recur to the Ordinance of 1787, in order to defend myself against the inferences which the honourable member has chosen to draw from my former observations on that subject, I am not willing now entirely to take leave of it without another remark. It need hardly be said that that paper expresses just sentiments on the great subject of civil and religious liberty. Such sentiments were common, and abound in all our State papers of that day. But this Ordinance did that which was not so common, and which is not even now universal; that is, it set forth and declared it a high and binding duty of government itself to support schools, and advance the means of education, on the plain reason that religion, morality, and knowledge are necessary to good government, and to the happiness of mankind. One observation further. The im. portant provision incorporated into the Constitution of the United States, and several of those of the States, and recently adopted into the reformed constitution of Virginia, restraining legislative power in questions of private right, and from impair. ing the obligation of contracts, is first introduced and established, as far as I am informed, as matter of express written constitutional law, in this Ordinance of 1787. And I must add, also, in regard to the author of the Ordinance, who has not had the happiness to attract the gentleman's notice heretofore, nor to avoid his sarcasm now, that he was chairman of that select committee of the old Congress whose report first expressed the strong sense of that body, that the old Confederation was not adequate to the exigencies of the country, and recommending
to the States to send delegates to the convention which formed the present Constitution. But the honourable member has now found out that this gentleman, Mr. Dane, was a member of the Hartford Convention." However uninformed the honourable member may be of characters and occurrences at the North, it would seem that he has at his elbow, on this occasion, some high-minded and lofty spirit, some magnanimous and true-hearted monitor, possessing the means of local knowledge, and ready to supply the honourable member with every thing, down even to forgotten and motheaten two-penny pamphlets, which may be used to the disadvantage of his own country. But, as to the IIartford Convention, Sir, allow me to say, that the proceedings of that body seem now to be less read and studied in New England than further south. They appear to be looked to, not in New England, but elsewhere, for the purpose of seeing how far they may serve as a precedent. But they will not answer the purpose; they are quite too tame. The latitude in which they originated was too cold. Other conventions, of more recent existence, have gone a whole bar's length beyond it. The learned doctors of Colleton and Abbeville have pushed their commentaries on the Hartford collect so far, that the original textwriters are thrown entirely into the shade. I have nothing to do, Sir, with the Hartford Convention. Its journal, which the gentleman has quoted, I never read. So far as the honourable member may discover in its proceedings a spirit in any degree resembling that which was avowed and justified in those other conventions to which I have alluded, or so far as those proceedings can be shown to be disloyal to the Constitution, or tending to disunion, so far I shall be as ready as any one to bestow on them reprehension and censure. Having dwelt long on this Convention, and other occurrences of that day, in the hope, probably, (which will not be gratified,) that I should leave the course of this debate to follow him at length in those excursions, the honourable member returned, and attempted another object. He referred to a speech of mine in the other House, the same which I had occasion to allude to myself, the other day; and has quoted a passage or two from it, with a bold though uneasy and labouring air of
7 The Hartford Convention was an assembly of delegates from some of the New England States, which met at Hartford, Connecticut, in the Winter of 1814–15, and sat with closed doors. The members were men of high personal character, belonging to the old Federal party, and were strongly opposed to the war then pending with Great Dritain; which brought upon them the reproach of having met for the treasonable purpose of withdrawing the New England States from the Union.