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Which in the South, uprising bold,
Hears many a tale of guilt and guile In the low murmur of the waves That light its azure Grottos' caves.
Here with the past the present blends-
Her sybil leaf of golden lore,
On all that touched the heart before. While Fancy stamps the very hour With Greatness! Genius! Splendor ! Power! The glorious gifts of olden time To Beauty-daughter of the clime.
Oh! Land of classic font and grove!
Fair haunt of Naiad and of Muse! Siren retreat of ease and love
There's nothing in thy vivid hues, And radiant aspect to impart One tinge of sorrow to the heart, Or check, at first, the rapturous gush Of feelings which to greet thee rush, As on the sands tumultuously The wild tide hurries from the sea. But ah! a secret horror dwells With Beauty in thy shadowy dells, Thy caves and far deep solitudes, Where sleeps the Lake shut in the woods, And where the mountain to the sky, By night glares upward fearfully. A thousand signs of wo and wail
Strown on thy fair but fatal coast, Reveal to time the awful tale
Of cities, with all their countless host Lost in their hour of revelry! 'Mong sights of joy and shouts of glee! Lost! ere the echo of their mirth Had ceased to jeer the perishing earth!
And yet there came a darker day
For thee! a doom more wretched still, When the wild shock had passed away
From riven plain and shattered hill! Would they had perished like the rest,
These monuments of glories past! Nor left one fragment to attest
Thy fall! They speak in scorn at last, And sear the Patriot's heart with shame That burns, but may not burst in flame, To light throughout thy lost domain Old Freedom's altar-fires again. Each sternly writ historic page Cries out on thee," degenerate age! Which from such vast ancestral fame, Hath garnered nothing but the name To scoff the miseries that await The crouching bondsman's bitter fate.
Still lovely as in days gone by
As if all 'neath the vault of blue,
The Doctrine of the "Higher Law." Mr. Seward's Speech."
This speech has made a considerable noise in the world; and if circumstances, apart from the merits of the performance, did not account for it, we should indulge our surprise without restraint. It is said that Mr. Seward is a man of ability, and an orator of more than ordinary power. This may possibly be true; but we do not hesitate to risk our whole credit as a critic, on the assertion, that nobody would ever imagine it from the speech before us. We have read it again and again, tested every link in the logic, and tried the full force of his attempts to be sublime. The result has been a very decided opinion, that if Mr. Seward is a man of real ability, the fact must have been discovered in something else than this speech. The style has the single merit of perspicuity. The logic is drawn with an affected regard to precision, under the apparent opinion, that the visible contact of the propositions would deepen the impression of strength, by giving the appearance of coherence; as if a skeleton with its bare and yawning ribs conveyed a more striking impression of strength, than a suit of muscles concealed by the skin. The statements of fact and doctrine, which form the premises of the argument, are distinguished by no quality of vigor of conception or force of expression. The intellectual merit of the effort is decidedly moderate; and yet no speech of the last session of Congress has attracted more attention, or roused such a variety and virulence of passion in the different sections of the country. The whole secret of this notoriety lies in a very small space. One reason of it consists in its being the speech of a notorious man. No doubt an address by Benedict Arnold, or an explanation by Judas Iscariot, on the subject of their respective treasons, would attract universal notice; and it is not to be disguised, that Mr. Seward has already made himself a
*CALIFORNIA, UNION AND FREEDOM. Speech of WILLIAM H. SEWARD, on the admission of California. Delivered in the Senate of the United States, March 11, 1850. pp. 16.
very formidable competitor to the great masters of treachery, for the detestation and contempt of mankind. Another reason consists in the extraordinary doctrines on the morality of the public law, which he did himself and his species the disgrace to promulge from his seat in the Senate. The great reason of all, consists in the fact, that these oracular responses on the immorality of the Constitution, and the claims of conscience, embody the policy and the ground of it, on which the abolition party are determined to be guided in their course towards the fugitive-slave-law.
"There is a higher law than the Constitution, which regulates our authority over the domain and devotes it to the same noble purposes."*
"A question, a moral question, transcending the too narrow creeds of parties, has arisen, the
* Speech, p. 10.
+ Speech, p. 6.
public conscience expands with it, and the green withes of party associations give way and break and fall off from it.'
These sentences set forth the idea in a manner
In the statement of his policy and his argument to support it, Mr. Seward has displayed a moral sense of such extraordinary capacities of not to be mistaken; and it is an idea which dedistention and contraction, that it is really difficult serves to be thoroughly discussed. The great to do justice in describing it. The idea of strain- principle of religious freedom and the rights of ing at a gnat and swallowing a camel has receiv- conscience are involved. The application of the ed in this speech a fresh illustration, which sets principle to the subject of slavery may be easily its infamous absurdity in a strong light. The settled; but the principle itself is a subject of grand position which has given this performance immense importance. Mr. Seward himself does its notoriety and its influence, is the bold asserby no means fully comprehend the great doctrine tion of moral immunity by which the honorable involved in his appeal; he has mixed it with such senator proclaimed his title to an imperishable a strong infusion of error in his conceptions of reputation for integrity, on the ground that he it, and has made so awful a misapplication of it had violated his oath in compliment to his conto the subject before him, that in our hatred of science. The most cruel enemy of the gentle his detestable caricature, we are in danger of abolitionists, will not hesitate to accord to the trespassing on doctrines which lie at the bottom author of this speech, the credit of a new disThere is of our civil and religious freedom. covery in the science of canonization, by which need of a wary and cautious vigilance in the examination of this doctrine. Even independently perjury is made the passport to the reputation of a saint, and the deliberate violation of public of its intrinsic importance, its influence upon the faith is converted into an instrument of political destinies of this nation invest it with a dignity apotheosis. Who can sufficiently admire the approaching the sublime. abilities of the man, who has cut a new way to the crown of the martyr, and insists upon the honor of political destruction rather than be subjected to the torture of preserving his integrity at the expense of his passion for wickedness?
Of course the idea alluded to as the main feature of this speech, is the office of conscience in setting aside the Constitution. We must allow Mr. Seward to express it for himself. After arguing the right granted by the Constitution of the United States to exclude slavery from the soil of California, he proceeds to inform us that,
Again, referring to the clause for the recovery of fugitives in the federal Constitution, he declares that
the principles which lie at the foundation of this But before we enter upon the discussion of appeal from the laws of the land, to the supremacy of conscience, we feel bound to spend a few moments in attempting to express the ecstathe author of this speech. We are admirers of tic admiration with which we are inspired towards of the honorable gentleman from New York are greatness wherever it appears, and the claims their line, that are really remarkable. It is to be distinguished by several marks of excellence in supposed that Mr. Seward, on entering the Senate, was required to take the usual oath of fidelity to the Constitution. By his decided allusions to the clause in that instrument, for the recovery of fugitives, he clearly admits the existence of such a clause, which his oath of office bound
"We deem the principle of the law for the recapture of fugitives, therefore, unjust, unconsti- him to support. There is, therefore, a degree of tutional, and immoral, and thus while patriotism coolness and self-possession in the air, with which withholds its approbation, the consciences of our he announces that such compacts as the Constipeople condemn it."† tution of the United States are repudiated by the law of nature, and are offensive to his conscience, which is peculiar in the extreme.
"The law of nations disavows such compacts; the law of nature, written on the hearts and consciences of freemen, repudiates them. Armed power could not enforce them, because there is no public conscience to sustain them."†
Speech, p. 12. + Speech, p. 7.
The climax of impudence is gained at last! Indeed, there is a mixture of coolness, effrontery, and a hard consistency of wickedness in the moral sentiment of this speech, which is absolutely marvellous. No honest man can rise from a perusal of it without a sentiment of disgust amounting to horror.
There is an appearance of scrupulous integ-thousand times more at war with real duty, than rity, an exhibition of lofty religious principle, and any vice known by its name and distinguished by of a pure and saint-like elevation of character, character." proper in this constant parade of conscience, that is very attractive. But if we only fix a steady gaze for a single moment upon his Holiness of the Senate, we shall quickly discover that which will reverse the current of our admiration. Who would dare to suspect in these saintly appeals to the conscience of the senator, that he was endeavoring to conceal as bald and gross a perjury as ever led a thief to cultivate a profusion of hair, to cover a deficiency of ears? This age is the age of progress and improvement; and it is not to be denied, that the senator from New York has entitled himself to rank among the first leaders in the march of events. He has not only discovered that the violation of an oath may be made the means of political advantage, but actually has the portentous impudence to make it the basis of a claim to reputation for an integrity approaching the fulness of sanctification. We have hitherto been under the impression that the violation of an oath was one of the worst crimes of the decalogue; but who can measure the march of improvement, or set a bound to the excursions of genius? The recognized ethics of mankind are apparently doomed to perish under the fresh illuminations of the senator from New York. Whatever may be the correctness of the speculative position of the right of conscience, to repudiate the laws, it certainly cannot release from guilt a man who has bound himself by an oath to obey those laws. In spite of all that can be said in defence or palliation of Mr. Seward's conduct, he stands convicted of swearing to support a compact which his conscience pronounced to be immoral, and then of attempting to shrink
The abolition movements of the present day
man to the command of armies and the man-
of Edmund Burke.
Of the very same complexion is the conscience doctrine of the senator from New York. It coutains an obvious and acknowledged truth, whose
# Speech, p. 5.
"Far, far from the commons of Great Britain be all manner of real vice; but ten thousand times farther from them, as far as from pole to pole, be the whole tribe of spurious. affected, counterfeit, and hypocritical virtues. These are the things which are ten thousand times more at war with real virtue; these are the things which are ten
effect no one could fear; but this truth is so mixed Paley declares, that "still it is right to obey with error and so distorted in its application, that God rather than man." Nothing that we have no friend of religion or his country can view it said encroaches upon the truth of this sacred and without horror. The honorable senator, when undisputed maxim. The magistrate is not to be bending from his spiritual elevation to dispense obeyed in temporals more than in spirituals, where his oracles on the Constitution, did not feel him- a repugnance is perceived between his commands self under the slightest obligations to common and any credited manifestation of the divine decency and sense to draw a single discrimination in the principle itself. or its application in Adam Smith declares, "that to obey the will practice. The omission was wise; a single de- of the Deity is the first rule of duty, all men are scent from the broadest generalities would be agreed. But concerning the particular comfatal to his cause. It is our purpose to disentan-mandment which that will may impose upon us, gle this truth from the folds of error that encom- they differ widely from one another. In this, pass it, and to display the only true and safe prin- therefore, the greatest mutual forbearance and ciples which can govern its application to civil toleration is due, and though the defence of soand political affairs. ciety requires that crimes should be punished, from whatever motives they proceed, yet a good man will always punish them with reluctance, when they evidently proceed from false notions of religious duty."†
Burke sets forth that "religion to have any force on men's understandings, indeed to exist at all, must be supposed paramount to laws, and independent for its substance upon any human institutions." They conceive that he who gave our nature to be perfected by our virtue, willed also the necessary means of its perfection. He willed therefore the State. He willed its connection with the source and original archetype of all perfection. They who are convinced of this his will, which is the law of laws, and the sovereign of sovereigns, cannot think it reprehensible that this our corporate fealty and homage,
The law of God is unquestionably superior to the enactments of men. No humau legislation can make it the duty of the citizen to commit a crime. No law of man can under any possible circumstances supersede the law of God. This great fact is taught by the plainest language of that this our recognition of a signiory paramount, the Bible, by the consent of all the great masters I had almost said this oblation of the state itself, of moral philosophy, and by the ablest political as a worthy offering on the high altar of univerand philosophical writers of modern times. The sal praise, should be performed as all public doctrine of the Bible is perfectly explicit. We solemn acts are performed, in buildings, in music, ought to obey God, rather than man.* The Apos- in decorations, in speech, in the dignity of pertles of Christ were ordered by the authorities of sons, according to the customs of mankind, taught Judea to quit preaching the Gospel; yet no one by their nature, that is with modest splendor, with will contend that such an order superseded the unassuming state, with mild majesty and sober commands of Christ, and nullified the Apostolic pomp."§ commission. The early Christians were repeatedly ordered by the decrees of the Pagan Emperors to renounce Christ and sacrifice to Jupiter, yet all will admit that obedience to those decrees would have been a high crime against heaven. The blood of every martyr, who has perished for his faith, is an example of the lawful supersedure of human by divine law.
Wayland declares, We have no right to obey an unrighteous law, since we must obey God at all hazards. And aside from this the yielding to injustice forms a precedent for wrong, which may work the most extensive mischief to those who shall come after us."†
The whole argument of the honorable Senator in his appeal from the Constitution is based upon the assumption, that moral is superior to human law. This is very true. No one in his senses can deny or dispute it; and he must be a very great fool who is alarmed at this admission. Truth is not to be feared, and the man who dreads the closest application of truth to the institution of slavery, shows that he knows very little of the real strength of the cause which he espouses with such zeal and defeuds with such folly.
⚫ Acts v. 29,-also Acts iv. 19.
Burlamaque informs us, that in certain cases we should nobly exert our courage and with all our might resist injustice, even at the peril of our lives. It is better to obey God than man. For in promising obedience to the sovereign, we could never do it, but on condition, that he should not order anything manifestly contrary to the laws of God whether natural or revealed."||
Blackstone declares that this law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any
*Paley's Moral Philosophy, vol. 5, p. 396.
+ A. Smith's Moral Sentiments, p. 283.
other. It is binding over all the globe, in all vorced from the authority of religion, are plung-
These authorities have been quoted to let the
All that is necessary now to the complete discomfiture of Mr. Seward on his own principles, would be to inquire whether the law for the recovery of fugitive slaves is really an offence against the law of God, or whether it be not in fact merely a repetition of that law. But we will postpone this inquiry for the present. for the purpose of ascending the broadest principles involved in the issue, and there face to face, with the newly illuminated Senator from New York, crowd him to the edge of his spiritual elevation and pitch him from the battlements. To enable us to accomplish our object, we must beg the patience of the reader in a preliminary survey of the field of argument.
It will be perceived at once that this doctrine of require that the wages of all men should be re
the higher law" involves the great principles of duced within the limits of justice, by a scale of religious liberty and the rights of conscience. It equality. Another would rob the husband of his forms one of the grand divisions of the contest, right to the exclusive possession of his wife, as a which is now about joining for a mortal struggle trespass upon the equal rights of his neighbor. between the hosts of error and the armies of All the horrors of a spirit of agrarianism far fiercer truth, on the issue of which are suspended far and more ravenous than in the days of the Grachigher and more magnificent results than even chi, may be logically justified by a misapplication the fate of this noble republic. The abolition of the great truths contained in the theory of movements of these days are members of that freedom. The metaphysical distinctions which great family of pretended reforms, which, di- guard the cause of truth from these consequences. from its principles, are so subtle and attenuated that the intellect of the masses is unable to
Tucker's Blackstone,vol. 1, p. 41.