« السابقةمتابعة »
val his place was filled by Nathan Appleton. He was married in 1802, but has been a widower for upward of five years.
He has taken a prominent part in the important debates and proceedings of the House of Representatives. As a public speaker, we class him in the most elevated rank of either branch of Congress. The cvidenco of his power as a debater may be found in the respectful and, not unfrequently, the rapt attention with which he is regarded when he speaks. His style of oratory is graceful and impressive, ranging, when occasion demands, into the highest order of fervid eloquence. Under its controlling influence, wc have often seen the perturbed spirit of the House hushed into profound stillness; as, for instance, when, in one of his speeches on the Mexican war, he said:
"Sir, I cherish no feelings of ill will toward Texas. Now that she is a member of our Union, I would speak of her in the terms which belong to the intercourse of sister states. But I can not fail to speak plainly in regard to the unconstitutional act of hex annexation, and the disastrous consequences which have thus far attended it. Who forgets the glowing terms in which the addition of that lone star to our American constellation was heralded? How much of prospcrilv nnd of peace, of protection to our labor and defense to our land, was augured from it? Who now can reflect on its consequences as already developed; who can think of the deep wound which, in the judgment of many, it has inflicted on our Constitution; of the alienations and heart-burnings which it has produced among different members of the Union; of the fearful lookings-for of disunion which it has excited; of the treasure it has cost, and the precious lives it has wasted in the war now in progress; of the poison it has, in so many ways, mingled with the previously healthy current of our national career, without being reminded of another lone star which 'fell from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters, and the name of the star is called wormwood, and the third part of the waters became wormwood, and many men died of the waters, because they were bitter?'"
"Sir, it is not to be donied that something of distrust is useful in relation to all human governments, and more especially in relation to our own government: but it is equally undeniable that some degree of confidence, that a great deal of confidence, is not only useful, but absolutely indispensable to the*successful operation of every government, and even to the very existence of a free government. It is true, our institutions aro not based on a theory of human perfectibility, but they are based on a theory of human morality, integrity, and virtue. This is the distinctive feature of free governments. It was laid down truly by Montesquieu, long ago, that the foundation principle of a despotism was fear; of monarchv, honor; but of a republic, virtue. There must be public virtue as well as private virtue—virtue in the government as well as virtue among the people. The two things are, in fact, inseparable for any long period of time; for a virtuous people will either expel a corrupt administration, or a corrupt administration will debauch a virtuous people. If virtue, therefore, shall indeed have taken its final flight from our public councils and from those who preside over them, as this report would almost seem to intimate, vain, vain will be the attempt to bolster up our political fabric by any mere artificial machinery, or to prevent its downfall by any degree of distrustful vigilance. Sir, if such be really the deplorable and desperate condition of our Republic, the passage of this resolution will do nothin" to save it from ruin, nor will the adoption of the exchequer plan be at all responsible for its overthrow. It will fall by its own weakness and ita own weight, like any other structure whose corner-stone has already crumbled into dust.
"But I do not apprehend so disastrous a catastrophe at present. I freely admit that we have had no great encouragement to cherish any very implicit trust in our rulers for some years past. Within the last year, eveu, we have seen demonstrations and heard declarations but too well calculated to check the flow, if not entirely to congeal the current, of that tide of returning confidenee which came out to greet the accession of a uew administration. But I am not willins to believe that the age of virtuous politics is gone forever. I trust that we mav again see at the head of this Republic men like. those who have stood there in its early days; men like those we have seen there in years within our own remembrance; men who will feel, in entering upon public office, that they have been called to no pitiful job, but to a sacred function; men who may be addressed in the words, though certainly not in the spirit, in which Macbeth was addressed by— the demi-demon, I had almost said, with whom his destiny was associated:
",What thou wouldst highly, that wouldst thou holily;
And. sir, if such a day should again arrive, how would the petty and paltry contentions which imbitter and embroil us here, and in the prosecution of which the trae interests of the nation are so often forgotten and neglected, be hushed into silence! How would the public prosperity revive, the public peace bo restored, the confidence of the people in the government be reassured, and the public faith resume again, in the eyes of all the world, that robe of stainless and inviolate sanctity with which it was first clothed by the fathers of the Republic!"
One more extract:
"If it be a fit subject for reproach to entertain the most anxious and ardent desire for the peace of this country, its peace with England, its peace with all the world, I submit myself willingly to the fullest measure of that reproach. War between the United States and Great Britain for Oregon! Sir, there is .something in this idea too monstrous to be entertained for a moment. The two greatest nations on the globe, with more territorial possessions than they know what to do with already, and bound together by so many ties of kindred, and language, and commercial interest, goiug- to war for a piece of barren earth! Why, it would put back the cause of civilization a whole century, and would be enough not merely to call down the rebuke of men, but the curse of God. I do not yield io the honorable gentleman in a just concern for the national honor. I am ready to maintain that honor, whenever it is really at stake, against Great Britain as readily as against any other nation. Indeed, if war is to come upon us, I am quite willing that it should be war with a first-rate power—with a foeman worthy of our steel.
", Oh! the blood more stirs
If the young Queen of England were the veritable Victoria whom the ancient poets have sometimes described as descending from the right hand of Jupiter to crown the bauner of predestined Triumph, I would still not shrink from the attempt to vindicate the rights of my country on every proper occasion. To her
Vol. I.—B B
forces, however, as well as to ours, may come the 'cita morg' as well as the ' Vi& toria Iccla.' We have nothing to fear from a protracted war with any nation, though our want of preparation might give us the worst of it in the first encounter. We are all and always ready for war, when there is no other alternative for maintaining our country's honor. We are all and always ready for any war into which a Christian man, in a civilized land, and in this age of the world, can have the face to enter. But I thank God that there are very few such cases. War and honor are fast getting to have less and less to do with each other. The highest honor of any country is to preserve pence, even under provocations .which might justify war. The deepest disgrace to any country is to plunge into war under circumstances which leave the honorahle alternative of peace. I heartily hope and trust, sir, that, in deference to the sense of the civilized world—in deference to that spirit of Christianity which is now spreading its benign and healing influences over both hemispheres with such signal rapidity, we 6hall explore the whole field of diplomacy, and exhaust every art of negotiation? before we give loose to that passion for conflict which the honorable gentleman from Pennsylvania seems to regard as so grand and glorious an element of the American charnctcr."
When the twenty-seventh Congress assembled, the financial concerns of the government were in a state of confusion and embarrassment. The Compromise Act was about reachin"; its final consummation. The experiment which it proposed of a uniform twenty per cent, ad valorem system was about to commence, and it was yet extremely uncertain what the financial policy of the government would be. In this state of things, he introduced a resolution instructing the Committee on Commerce to inquire into the expediency of providing, either by a select committee of Congress sitting in the recess, or by a special commission appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury, for taking evidence at the principal ports of entry and elsewhere as to the operation of the then existing system and rates of duty on imports, upon the manufacturing, commercial, and agricultural interests of the country. The Committee on Commerce, through its chairman, made a unanimous report, concluding with a resolution providing for the appointment of a select committee of nine members, not more than one of whom should W from any one state, for the purposes indicated. The resolution, after some debate, was adopted by the House, but the vote was immediately reconsidered, and the resolution was finally, bv a small majority, laid upon the table.
At the session of 1842-3, the question for the first time was presented of the imprisonment of colored seamen from Massachusetts in the Southern States. It appeared that in the lar■re number of Massachusett vessels accustomed to touch at the Southern ports of the Union, it was frequently necessary to employ free persons of color; that it often happened that at the ports of Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, and New Orleans, these persons were taken from the vessels to which they belonged, thrown into prison, and there detained at their own expense. Upward of one hundred and fifty citizens of Boston, many of them deeply interested in commerce and navigation, and others eminently distinguished in legal, scientific, or literary pursuits, memorialized Congress, asking that relief might be granted to them, and that the privileges of citizenship, secured by the Constitution of the United States, might be rendered effectual in their behalf. The subject was referred to the Committee on Commerce, who made a report through Mr. Winthrop.
He treated it in a calm and dispassionate manner, without reference to those topics of agitation and excitement which so often prevent a fair consideration of controversies between the North and the South. A year or two afterward, we may remark, the law gave occasion to a discussion in the Legislature of South Carolina, and, after an animated debate, it was repealed by one branch of that body, but the other branch declined to concur.
The committee maintained that the acts complained of by the memorialists were violations of the privileges of citizenship secured by the Constitution. "The Constitution of the United States," says the report, "expressly provides [art, 4, sect. 2] , that citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states." Now it is well understood that some of the states of this Union recognize no distinction of color in relation to citizenship. Their citizens are all free, their freemen all citizens. In Massachusetts, eertainly—the state from which this memorial emanates—the colored man has enjoyed the full and equal privileges of citizenship since the last remnant of slavery was abolished within her borders by the Constitution of 17S0, nine years before the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution of the United States, therefore, at its adoption, found the colored man at Massachusetts a citizen of Massachusetts, and entitled him, as such, to all the privileges and immunities of a citizen in the several states. And of these privileges and immunities, the acts set forth in the memorial constitute a plain and palpable violation.
"It matters not to this argument, in the opinion of the committee, what may be the precise interpretation given to this clause of the Constitution. However extended or however limited may be the privileges and immunities which it secures, the citizens of each state are entitled to them equally, without discrimination of color or condition; and unless it is maintained that the citizens of Massachusetts generally may be made subject to seizure and imprisonment for entering these Southern ports in the prosecution of their rightful business, whenever the Legislatures of South Carolina, or Louisiana, or Alabama, or Georgia may see lit to enact laws to that eflect, it is impossible to perceive upon what principle the acts in question can be reconciled with this constitutional provision.
"The state laws under which these acts are committed are also, in the judgment of the committee, in direct contravention of another provision of the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution of the United States gives the power to Congress 'to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states.' This power is, from its very nature, a paramount and exclusive power, and has always been so considered and so construed. There is no analogy between this power of regulating commerce and most of the other powers which have been granted to the general government. The power to regulate admits of no partition. It excludes the idea of all concurrent, as well as of all conflicting action. It can be exercised but by one authority. Regulation may be as much disturbed and deranged by restraining what is designed to be left free, as by licensing what is designed to be restrained. The grant necessarily carries with it the control of the whole subject, leaving nothing in reference to it for the states to act upon. But it is too obvious to require, or even bear, an argument, that the laws in question, imposing severe penalties, as they do, upon certain classes of seamen for entering certain ports, are infringements, by the states in which they have been enacted, upon this exclusive authority of the general government.
"Nor can the states which have enacted these laws escape, in the judgment of the committee, from the charge of having violated still another provision of the Federal Constitution. The sixth article of that instrument declares that ' all treaties