Sivut kuvina

form of government that the wit of man ever devised; and yet, from its uncertainty alone, may, in effect, live under the worst government in the world. Sir, how often must I repeat, that

I change is not reform. I am willing that this new constitution shall stand as long as it is possible for it to stand, and that, believe me, is a very short time. Sir, it is in vain to deny it.They may say what they please about the old constitution—the defect is not there. It is not in the form of the old edifice, neither in the design nor the elevation : it is in the materialit is in the people of Virginia. To my knowledge that people are changed from what they have been. The four hundred men who went out to David were in debt. The partisans of Cæsar were in debt. The fellow-laborers of Catiline were in debt. And I defy you to show me a desperately indebted people, any where, who can bear a regular sober government. I throw the challenge to all who hear me. I


that the character of the good old Virginia planter—the man who owned from five to twenty slaves, or less, who lived by hard work, and who paid his debts, is passed away. A new order of things is come. The period has arrived of living by one's wits-of living by contracting debts that one cannot pay—and above all, of living by office-hunting.

Sir, what do we see? Bankrupts-branded bankrupts-giving great dinners—sending their children to the most expensive schools—giving grand parties—and just as well received as any body in society. I say, that in such a state of things, the old constitution was too good for them; they could not bear it. No, sir—they could not bear a freehold suffrage and a property representation.

I have always endeavored to do the people justice—but I will not flatter them— I will not pander to their appetite for change. I will do nothing to provide for change. I will not agree to any rule of future apportionment, or to any provision for future changes, called amendments to the constitution. They who love change—who delight in public confusion—who wish to feed the caldron, and make it bubble—may vote, if they please, for future changes. But by what spell—by what formula are you going to bind the people to all future time? You


make what entries upon parchment you please. Give me a constitution that will last for half a century—that is all I wish for. No constitution that you can make will last the one half of half a century.

Sir, I will stake any thing short of my salvation, that those who are malcontent now, will be more malcontent three years hence than they are at this day. I have no favor for this con

stitution. I shall vote against its adoption, and I shall advise all the people of my district to set their faces-aye—and their shoulders against it. But if we are to have it—let us not have it with its death-warrant in its very face ; with the sardonic grin of death upon its countenance.



[ocr errors]


Mr. President,—When this debate, sir, was to be resumed, on Thursday morning, it so happened that it would have been convenient for me to be elsewhere. The honorable member, however, did not incline to put off the discussion to another day. He had a shot, he said, to return, and he wished to discharge it. That shot, sir, which it was kind thus to inform us was coming, that we might stand out of the way, or prepare ourselves to fall before it and die with decency, has now been received. Under all advantages, and with expectation awakened, by the tone which preceded, it has been discharged, and has spent its force. It may become me to say no more of its effect, than, that if nobody is found, after all, either killed or wounded by it, it is not the first time, in the history of human affairs, that the vigor and success of the war have not quite come up to the lofty and sounding phrase of the manifesto.

The gentleman, sir, in declining to postpone the debate, told the senate, with the emphasis of his hand upon his heart, that there was something rankling here, which he wished to relieve. But the gentleman disclaims having used the word rankling. It would not, Mr. President, be safe for the honorable member to appeal to those around him, upon the question, whether he did, in fact, make use of that word. But he may have been unconscious of it. At any rate it is enough that he disclaims it. But still, with or without the use of that particular word, he had yet something here, he said, of which he wished to rid himself by an immediate reply. In this respect, sir, I have a great advantage over the honorable gentleman. There is nothing here, sir, which gives me the slightest uneasiness; neither fear, nor anger, nor that—which is sometimes more troublesome than either—the consciousness of having been in the wrong. There is nothing, either originating here, or now received here, by the gentleman's shot. Nothing original, for I have not the slightest feeling of disrespect or unkindness towards the honorable member. Some passages, it is true, had occurred since our acquaintance in this body, which I could

have wished might have been otherwise ; but I had used philosophy and forgotten them. When the honorable member rose, in his first speech, I paid him the respect of attentive listening; and when he sat down, though surprised, and I must say, even astonished, at some of his opinions, nothing was farther from my intentions than to commence any personal warfare; and through the whole of the few remarks I made in answer, I avoided studiously and carefully, every thing which I thought possible to be construed into disrespect. And, sir, while there is thus nothing originating here, which I wished at any time, or now wish to discharge, I must repeat, also, that nothing has been received here, which rankles, or in any way gives me annoyance. I will not accuse the honorable member of violating the rules of civilized war-I will not say that he poisoned his arrows.

But whether his shafts were, or were not dipped in that which would have caused rankling, if they had reached, there was not, as it happened, quite strength enough in the bow to bring them to their mark. If he wishes now to find those shafts, he must look for them elsewhere; they will not be found fixed and quivering in the object at which they were aimed.

[ocr errors]



Far be it from me to cherish, in any shape, a spirit of national prejudice, or to excite in others a disgusting national vanity. But when I reflect upon the part which this country is probably to act in the renovation of the world, I rejoice that I am a citizen of this great republic. This western continent has, at different periods, been the subject of every species of transatlantic abuse. In former days, some of the naturalists of Europe told us, that every thing here was constructed upon a small scale. The frowns of nature were represented as investing the whole hemisphere we inhabit. It has been asserted, that the eternal storms, which are said to beat upon the brows of our mountains, and to roll the tide of desolation at their bases—the hurricanes which sweep our vales, and the volcanic fires which issue from a thousand flaming craters—the thunderbolts which perpetually descend from heaven, and the earthquakes, whose trepidations are felt to the very centre of our globe, have superinduced a degeneracy through all the productions of nature. Men have been frightened into intellectual dwarfs, and the beasts of the forest have not attained more than half their ordinary growth !-While some of the lines and


touches of this picture have been blotted out by the reversing hand of time, others have been added, which have, in some respects, carried the conceit still farther. In later days, and in some instances even down to the present period, it has been published and republished from the enlightened presses of the old world, that so strong is the tendency to deterioration on this continent, that the descendants of European ancestors are far inferior to the original stock from which they sprang. But inferior in what? In national spirit and patriotic achievement ? Let the revolutionary conflict—the opening scenes at Boston, and the catastrophe at Yorktown-furnish the reply. Let Bennington and Saratoga support their respective claims. Inferior in enterprise ? Let the sail that whitens every ocean, and the commercial spirit that braves every element, and visits every bustling mart, refute the unfounded aspersion. Inferior in deeds of zeal and valor for the church? Let our missionaries in the bosom of our own forest, in the distant regions of the east, and on the islands of the great Pacific, answer the question. Inferior in science, and letters, and the arts? It is true our nation is young; but we may challenge the world to furnish a national maturity which, in these respects, will compare with

The character and institutions of this country have already produced a deep impression upon the world we inhabit. What but our example has stricken the chains of despotism from the provinces of South America-giving, by a single impulse, freedom to half a hemisphere? A Washington here, has created a Bolivar there. The flag of independence which has long waved from the summit of our Alleghany, has now been answered by a corresponding signal from the heights of the Andes. And the same spirit, too, that came across the Atlantic wave with the pilgrims, and made the rock of Plymouth the corner-stone of freedom and of this republic, is traveling back to the east. It has already carried its influence into the cabinets of princes; and it is, at this moment, sung by the Grecian bard, and emulated by the Grecian hero.




It was one of those great days, one of those elemental occasions in the world's affairs, when the people rise and act for themselves. Some organization and preparation had been made ; but, from the nature of the case, with scarce any effect on the events of thắt day. It may be doubted, whether there was an efficient order given the whole day to any body of men as large as a regiment. It was the people, in their first capacity, as citizens and as freemen, starting from their beds at midnight, from their firesides and their fields, to take their own cause into their own hands. Such a spectacle is the height of the moral sublime ; when the want of every thing is fully made up by the spirit of the cause ; and the soul within stands in place of discipline, organization, resources. In the prodigious efforts of a veteran army, beneath the dazzling splendor of their array, there is something revolting to the reflecting mind. The ranks are filled with the desperate, the mercenary, the depraved; and iron slavery, by the name of subordination, merges the free will of one hundred thousand men in the unqualified despotism of one; the humanity, mercy, and remorse, which scarce ever desert the individual bosom, are sounds without a meaning to that fearful, ravenous, irrational monster of prey, a mercenary army. It is hard to say who are most to be commiserated, the wretched people on whom it is let loose, or the still more wretched people whose substance has been sucked out to nourish it into strength and fury. But in the efforts of the people, of the people struggling for their rights, moving, not in organized, disciplined masses, but in their spontaneous action, man for man, and heart for heart,though I like not war nor any of its works,—there is something glorious. They can then move forward without orders, act together without combination, and brave the flaming lines of battle, without intrenchments to cover, or walls to shield them. No di: ute

has worn off fror feelings of the youthful soldier the freshness of that home, where his mother and his sisters sit waiting, with tearful eyes and aching hearts, to hear good news from the wars; no long service in the ranks of the conqueror has turned the veteran's heart into marble; their valor springs not from recklessness, from habit, from indifference to the preservation of a life, knit by no pledges to the life of others; but in the strength and spirit of the cause alone, they act, they contend, they bleed. In this they conquer. The people always conquer. They always must conquer. Armies may be defeated; kings may be overthrown, and new dynasties imposed by foreign arms on an ignorant and slavish race, that care not in what language the covenant of their subjection runs, nor in whose name the deed of their barter and sale is made out. But the people never invade ; and when they rise against the invader, are never subdued. If they are driven from the plains, they fly to the mountains. Steep rocks


« EdellinenJatka »