صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

foundation of our title, not only to the Territory of Oregon, but the foundation of all human title to all human possessions."

"I will ask the clerk to read another passage of that book; and that is, I think, the eighth verse of the second Psalm."

The clerk read:

"8. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession."

"If the clerk will read a verse or two before that which he has just Tead, it will be seen to whom it is said He will give them."

The clerk read:

"6. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

"7. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee.

"8. Ask of me, and I shall give thec the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession."

"That," continued Mr. Adams, "is the personage to whom the promise was made of giving the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. Now, the promise contained in that verse was understood by all commentators upon the Bible, and by the Christian nations of all denominations, certainly before the reformation of Luther, to apply to the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, sir, without entering into any long historical detail, by the Christians and Christian nations (for I speak now of international law), the pope, or the Bishop of Rome, was considered as the representative of Christ upon earth; and this verse from the Psalm, promising the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, together with another verse at the close of one of the Gospels (which I will not detain the committee by asking the clerk to read), in which the Lord Jesus Christ, after rising from the dead, said to his disciples (in substance), 'Go forth and preach to all nations my Gospel; and I will be with you to the end of the world;' from these three several passages of the Scriptures, I say, the Pope of Rome asserted, and for many ages it was admitted, that he had the power of giving to any king or sovereign to whom ho pleased, the power of going and subduing all barbarous nations, and subduing and conquering all territory, either not subdued at all, or subdued by barbarous nations, for the purpose of converting them to Christianity. At the time of the discovery of the continents of North and South America by Christopher Columbus, this was the law of nations between Christians, recognized, acknowledged, admitted; and when Christopher Columbus came, under a commission from Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen of Castile, Leon, and Arragon—when he came and made his discovery, which he did in October, 1492, in the next year, some time in the month of March or April, 1493, the Pope of Rome—at that time authorized according to international law between Christians to do it—gave to Ferdinand and Isabella the whole continents of North and South America. He authorized the drawing of a line from pole to pole, one hundred leagues west of the Azores Islands and Cape de Verde; and he gave the whole one hundred leagues beyond, from pole to pole, to Ferdinand and Isabella. Now, do I intend to say that that is one of our titles? I must say it, although I think, perhaps, as little of it as any member of this House. But it was a good title when it was given. It was the understanding, the faith, the belief of all the Christian nations of Europe, that the pope had this power; and it was acquiesced in by them all for a time. That same pope, at that time, was in the custom of giving away, not only barbarous nations, but civilized nations. He dethroned sovereigns, put them under interdict, and excommunicated them from intercourse with all other Christians; and it was submitted to. And now, sir, the government of Great Britain—the nation of Great Britain—holds the island of Ireland on no other title. Three hundred years before that time, Pope Adrian of Rome gave, by that same power, to Henry the First of England, the island of Ireland, and England has held it from that day to this under that title, and no other; that is, no other, unless by conquest (for it has been in a continued state of rebellion ever since, and Great Britain has been obliged to conquer it half a dozen times since; and now the question is, whether Ireland shall ever become an independent kingdom. If we come to a war with Great Britain, she will find enough to do to maintain that island); I do not think it of very great value, though I think it does not go for nothing. Now that general authority given to man to increase, multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, was a grant from the Creator to man as man; it was a grant to every individual of the human race in his individual capacity. But, then, the portion that belongs to the individual, and was given thereby, was a matter for the whole human race to accommodate among themselves; that is to say, in communities, communities were to agree together what should be the metes and bounds of that portion of the earth given them by the general grant from the Creator. When communities were formed, it became a matter of legislation among them to whom any particular property—i. e., a lot of land on which to build a house —should belong. Any territorial right whatever, as between individuals, was to be regulated by legislation; as between nations, it was to be regulated by consent—by convention; and in that way the laws of nations, as they are called (which are nothing more than the customs of nations), and the treaties and conventions of nations, have regulated how every spot, every inch of land, shall be occupied. And, among the rest, it is by these laws and regulations — internal among communities, and international among nations—that you hold that seat (referring to the speaker's chair), and I do not, because you have it, elevated to it by the laws of the country, and no other man can take it, except by permission, so long as your right continues. Well, sir, our title to Oregon stands on the same foundation. When this discovery of Columbus came to be a matter of great importance among the nations of the earth, other nations took it into their heads to plant colonies on this continent, and then came the questions of controversy between them which never have been settled to this day. Our question now with Great Britain is one of the consequences of that state of things. There never has been any agreement between the nations of the earth how these points shall be settled."

We have been led into this digression partly from a desire to show how many legislative arguments might have been declared "profane," if the speaker had, in that aspect, sustained the point of order, and partly because we thought that there were many readers to whom a train of reasoning so curious, and from such a source, might not be uninteresting.

We knew a venerable man—now resting in his narrow bed —a member of the Convention to reform the Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania, who kept a large family Bible over by his side, ready for all emergencies, precisely as a member of the House of Representatives would keep Jefferson's Manual. He had Scripture arguments and quotations at hand, applicable to the minutest item of the fundamental law. He fell into the grave error of supposing that every member of the body was as familiar with chapter and verse as himself, and would sometimes, in the heat of debate, place his nearest neighbors in an awkward dilemma on that account. "Where," said he, on one occasion, "will you find a general like unto Joshua? or what weapons of war can we boast, which will produce wonders so great as those which the eyes of men beheld when the walls of Jericho fell before the blast of a ram's horn? Mr. Ingersoll, give me the chapter, that I may read it."

But to return. The remarks of the gentleman having been ruled out of order, the usual motion was put that he have leave to proceed; and the House, by an overwhelming vote, accorded it. The Western member, obviously taken by surprise at the sweeping nature of the vote in his favor, declared, in the most solemn manner, that up to that hour he had entertained no idea of his otvn jwpularity, and that the best return he could make to the House for the compliment it had paid him was to trespass no longer on its attention. So he took his seat, amid much merriment and loud calls to order, protesting against the construction of profaneness put upon his remarks, and declaring his intention to write them out for the benefit of his constituents.

Such are some of the results of the One Hour Rule. Undoubtedly there are cases in which an extension of time might be useful and proper. They are not numerous. On the other hand, there are instances where even the hour hangs heavily on the member's hands. It has come to be something of a point of honor to speak out the full time; but we have known members sorely pressed to do so. Wo have seen them ever and anon turn round and look wistfully at the clock, and then at their own watches, as though to say, "Gallop apace, ye fiery-footed steeds, to Phcebus's mansion. Oh! that my hour were come." The softest music that ever floated on the summer breeze would not be half so sweet a melody to them as the descent of the speaker's hammer, indicating, by its harsh monotone, that they might rest from their labors. Yet, in the midst of these mute invocations to Time, they will not fail to begin and end their speeches with a protest against that infringement of the freedom of debate, which, they say, is unconstitutionally decreed against them.

It is worthy of remark, that this rule has been introduced into some of the courts of Pennsylvania, not made applicable, indeed, to important cases, but to such as belong to current business, in which no great principles are involved, and where there are no papers or documents to be read. And it has been said that Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, who, half a century ago, were the leading advocates of the New York bar, never spoke more than one hour.

The rule first took its station among the standing orders of the House on the 7th of July, 1841, on a motion to that effect made by Lott Warren, of Georgia. But a commentator, now in his grave, possessing during his life more studied information on these matters than perhaps any cotemporary—Colonel Samuel Borche—remarks: "Although this was not finally adopted as a rule of the House until the 7th of July, 1841, motions had been made to the same effect for about twenty years preceding."

The kindred rule to which we have alluded is that which gives to a majority of the House power to terminate debate, in committee, on any pending bill, thin answering to what Is called " the previous question" in the House. It has more concentrated despotism about it than its mate, the One Hour Rule. Its potent influence has, however, been invoked by both parties; and there is not a charge of arbitrary resort to it, which one party can bring against the other, which that other may not retort with accumulated force. It is but one day older than its brother, having been adopted on the sixth of July, 1841. It was reported from a select committee, which had been appointed on the rules, and of which Mr. Calhoun, of Massachusetts, was chairman. These measures form a material portion of that powerful machinery commonly designated "The Screws"—an influential family, to some other branches of which we may hereafter pay our respects.

« السابقةمتابعة »