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HOLMES, ELIAS BELLOWS.
A HIS gentleman is to be classed among the public men of our country, of whom so many have their record in these pages, who owe to their own indomitable energy the signal success they have achieved in life. He was born in the town of Fletcher, Vermont, May 27th, 1807. At the age of sixteen years, his parents being dead, he was left destitute of property, with a younger brother and two still younger sisters dependent upon him. Five years previous to this time, owing to the straitened circumstances of his father, he had worked for a neighbor at the pay of six dollars per month, in order to procure means to defray the charge for attending the district school, and other personal expenses. At fifteen he took upon himself the office of instructor, and continued laboring during the summer and teaching during the winter, until the decease of his father. After that event, the means acquired through teaching and other personal efforts enabled him not only to educate his sisters, but also to prepare himself to enter upon the study of the law. In 1827 he removed to Pittsford, Monroe county, New York, where he entered, as a clerk and student, the law office of his uncle, Ira Bellows, with whom he remained until, in October, 1830, he was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the state. In February, 1831, he established an office at Brockport, then a thriving village in Monroe county, where he still resides. He soon found himself in the prosecution of a successful and lucrative practice, to which he gave his personal attention until 1837. In 1835 he was married to Maria, daughter of Hiel Brockway, of Brockport. He has two sons and one daughter living. In the mean time he had made large and somewhat fortunate investments in real estate, as well as in mercantile and other branches of business. Unremitted application, however, had somewhat impaired a constitution naturally vigorous, and ho therefore entered into a partnership by which he was relieved from the necessity of giving his personal attention to the business of his profession. He was thus restored to a state of comfortable health. In the year 1844 he was nominated as representative from the twenty-eighth district, comprising the county of Monroe, and was elected by a strong majority to the twenty-ninth Congress. Of that body he was not a speaking member, but, like many of the best, though least-known men in the national councils, a working member, uniformly in his seat, and scrupulously attentive to the business of the House. He belongs to the Whig party, whose confidence he enjoys, and whose principles he maintains and defends.
As an exception to the generally silent votes which he has given on matters of public concern, we note a speech delivered in the House, developing his views on the causes and policy of the Mexican war, and which is understood to have been so acceptable to his constituents as to have contributed to his re-election, by a largely-increased majority, to the thirtieth Congress. He had voted in favor of the act of the 13th of May, declaring the existence of a state of war with Mexico; first, however, having endeavored in vain to introduce an amendment to the first section, declaring that its provisions should not be "deemed to apply to that portion of the country west and south of the River Nueces, except so far as to withdraw, and, if need be, to rescue our army from the region of the Rio Grande." [See title, Robert C. Wintiirop.] Some weeks subsequent to this vote, he found opportunity to explain his reasons for the course he had taken. He believes the war to have been, from the outset, wantonly provoked and unconstitutionally commenced. Referring to the vote he had given, he says:
"Our army was in peril. The last that we heard from them was, that a part of them were prisoners of war, and the balance were short of provisions, and surrounded by ten thousand Mexicans. Whether they had been relieved, had relieved themselves, or at that moment were prisoners of war, on their way to the City of Mexico, was not known. I was for protection, and, if need be, for rescue at all hazards. Fifty thousand volunteers and ten millions of money were asked for by the President. In my judgment, this was necessary, if our army had been captured. I could not, by any act of the majority, be prevented from voting for those supplies and succor; when the majority tacked on the preamble, with a view to make political capital and shield the President, I still determined to vote the aid which I desired to grant, and content myself with protesting against that portion of the bill, the phraseology of which I could not prevent, but which I did not approve, as false and deceptive. In despite of your gag, I did so. The gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Dromgoole) took occasion, on this floor, to allude to this, and declared that the vote for this war bill would live when the protest shall have been forgotten, and tauntingly exclaimed, i I envy not the man who will vote for the affirmance of falsehood, and then openly proclaim the same.,
"Sir," said Mr. Holmes, "I can truly tell the honorable gentleman that he need noti envy, the man who, for political effect, is forced to have his feelings of morality and of patriotism weighed in the balance — pitted against each other. Ho need not i envy, the man who, in a great crisis, takes the pill, made unnecessarily bitter, which he loathes, for the sake of the good, which he desires. Nor need he, with all due deference allow me to say, ienvy, the man charged with the duty of writing the secret political history of that day. No man need envy his mousing toil in learning the names of public functionaries and their allies holding Texas debts and Texas scrip for land located and unlocated, nor his midnight care in depicting the cupidity which could not find land enough within the bounds of Texas proper to satisfy its desires, but must by the sword subjugate sixty thousand of the citizens of a neighboring republic, and appropriate the soil, thus desecrated with human blood, to satisfy its sordid appetite.
"When all the secret springs and motives of men shall have been brought to view, when the minute details of this gross iniquity shall have been placed in letters of living light upon the page of history, the world will be astonished at the consummation of the schome which was thus protested; and if, perchance, as the honorable gentleman says, the protest shall have escaped the historian, and lie buried in oblivion, as search in vain is made therefor, the astonishment will be increased by the thought that no one rose in his place, of that whole number, to protest against the governmental sanction of such iniquities."
"It is alleged upon this floor, that to declare one's self for the war, and to speak against the present administration of this government, is an absurdity; that, while he pretends to go for it, he goes against it, by weakening the moral power of the government.
"I had supposed the moral power of the government, so far as these functionaries could wield it, had been expended; and that now, moral suasion proving inefficient, we had determined to try the physical force of the country. It is termed a kind of moral treason, to speak against the present administration. What! treason to speak of the manner in which this moral power has been exerted, and of the causes which led to the necessity of resorting to force against a sister republic! It may be treason to the party. It may be counter to the edicts of the executive to have any of its votaries call any of its acts to the attention of the people. Such may not do it. But shall the motives of those who do not bend the pliant knee to power, and tamely submit to executive usurpation, be called in question? charged with opposition to the country? Is this the freedom of your boasted institutions? Sir, it is because I am in favor of the country that I am endeavoring to show how its moral power has been polluted, paralyzed, and perverted by the conduits through which it has passed. I do it with no personal or vindictive feelings, but in view of a solemn duty imposed upon me as a representative, and in tho hope that the people will seo the necessity of rising in their might, and exerting, with efficiency and effect, the moral power which has fallen stillborn from the hands of the executive.
"Notwithstanding the morality of the sentiment uttered by my friend from Ohio (Mr. Delano), that in time of war he was for his country, right or wrong, has been questioned in this hall, I reiterate it. I hope the moral sense of gentlemen will stand the shock when I tell them I am for my country, any way and always, right or wrong. In all time, under all circumstances, in prosperity or in adversity, in peace or in war, in every respect which ingenuity can invent or imagination conceive, I am for my country, right or wrong. Sir, I am for my children, right or wrong. My duty impels me to chide and rebuke them when wrong; but to be for them, and feel for them, and to act for their prosperity, happiness, and protection, whether right or wrong, is a feeling interwoven with the very ligaments of my nature. In this same sense I am for my country, right or .wrong; freely reproving her public functionaries when wrong, and holding up their constitutional aggressions and their legislative oppressions to the just judgment of the people. And now, sir, at this moment, in view of my sense of duty, impelled only by that, I hold up the President of the United States as having transgressed the rules of propriety and justice, and violated the Constitution, in ordering the army on to the left bank of the Rio Grande; in ousting the Mexican civil authorities from the exercise of their accustomed duties and the collection of their revenue; in ereoting batteries, and pointing our cannon in solemn defiance at a Mexican city; in allowing, without inquiry, soldiers, in time of peace, to be shot, without the form of trial; in blockading, in time of profound peace, in violation of solemn treaty stipulations, the city of a sister republic, and cutting off its supplies, thereby reducing to famine and death its citizens and soldiers. I wish I could array in a mirror of burning light before the people, the Constitution, which says, Congress alone shall have power to declare war and direct acts of hostilities—its broken fragments, the author of its violated condition, and his abettors. I would point to these executive usurpations, and to the uncalled-for intolerance and oppression of this House.
"Sir, the Constitution guaranties the liberty of speech and of the press; but on the 11th of May, where was the boasted prerogative of our Constitution in relation to the liberty of speech? Where this inestimable prerogative of freedom? Its death-knell was heard in this hall. The lips of the six thousand farmers, the four thousand mechanics, and the hundreds of manufacturers and professional men speaking through me upon this floor, were sealed in silence. Tho vivid and conscious convictions of an outraged people were stifled, and denied an utterance. The minority on this floor, representing, as appears by the popular vote, a majority of the people, were denied the right of speech. The grave and momentous question of peace or war, involving the life, the liberty of our people, and the happiness of our common country, was pressed upon us without debate. The imprudent acts of the President, as well as the perilous condition of our army, their cries and their blood by reason of this imprudence, were made known to us, and yet not one word could be said upon the subject. The shield of se