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than the field fights which it had lost--the recent American party, that sprang at one bound from ten thousand dark chambers, and which seemed only yesterday at the very point of carrying the government by a coup de main. All these parties, that for brief periods seemed so strong and so unchanging, have perished, leaving no deep impression on the history of the country they aimed to direct and rule forever. The democratic party, too, that has clothed itself so complacently with the pleasant traditions of all preceding parties, and combined so felicitously the most popular of our rational sympathies with the most inveterate and repulsive of our conservative interests, that has won the south so dexterously, by stimulating its maddest ambition, and yet has held the north so tenaciously and so long, by awakening its wildest and most demoralizing fears. What is its condition? It is distinguished in fortune from its extinguished rivals only by the circumstance that both portions of its crew, divided as the hulk breaks into two not unequal parts, retain sufficient energy in their despair to seize on the drifting wrecks of other parties, and by a cunning though hopeless carpentry, to frame wretched and rickety rafts on which to sustain them. selves for one dark night more on the tempestuous sea of national politics. All these parties, it is now manifest, were organized, not specially to establish justice and maintain freedom and equality among an honest, jealous and liberty-loving people, but to achieve some material public advantage of temporary importance, or to secure the advancement of some chief to whose discretion, as if the government were an elective despotism instead of a republic, the distribution of its patronage and the direction of its affairs should be implicitly confided. They did, indeed, out of respect or fear of generous reforms, often affect to express elevated principles and generous sentiments in their carefully elaborated creeds, but these creeds, nevertheless, even when not ambiguously expressed, were from time to time revised and qualified and modified, so that at last the interpreters, who alone had them by heart, and were able to repeat them, were found perverting the constitution in its most unequivocal parts, and most palpable meaning, disparaging and rejecting the Declaration of Independence, and stultifying the founders of the republic. The parties thus constituted, dependent not on any national or even on any natural sentiment, but on mere discipline for their cohesion, and coming at last through constant demoralization, to assume that capital and not labor, property and not liberty, is the great interest of every people, and that religion, conversant only with the relations of men to an unseen and future world, must be abjured in their conduct toward each other on earth, have finally discarded justice and humanity from their systems, broken up nearly all the existing combinations for spiritual ends, and attempted to conduct affairs of government on principles equally in violation of the constitution and of the eternal laws of God's providence for the regulation of the universe.
These views of the characters of our modern parties, are by no means newly conceived on my part. In that high and intensely exciting debate in congress in the year 1850, which, overruling the administration of General Taylor, brought the two then dominating parties into a compromise at the time solemnly pronounced final, irrevocable and eternal, but which was nevertheless scattered to the winds of Heaven only four years afterward, the great statesman of Kentucky denounced party spirit as he assumed it to be raging throughout the country, as pregnant with the imminent and intolerable disasters of civil war and national dissolution. I ventured then to reply that, in my humble judgment, it was not a conflict of parties that we then were seeing and hearing, but it was, on the contrary, the agony of distracted parties, a convulsion resulting from the too narrow foundations of both of the great parties and of all the parties of the day, foundations that had been laid in compromises of natural justice and human rights—that a new and great questiona moral question transcending the too narrow creeds of existing parties had arisen—that the public conscience was expanding with it, and the green withes of party combinations were giving way and breaking under the pressure—that it was not the Union that was decaying and dying, as was supposed, of the fever of party spirit, but that the two great parties were smitten with paralysis, fatal indeed to them unless they should consent to be immediately renewed and reorganized, borrowing needful elements of health and vigor from a cordial embrace with the humane spirit of the age.
But to exempt our statesmen by casting blame on our political parties, does not reach, but only approximates the real source of responsibility. All of these parties have been composed of citizens, not a few but many citizens, in the aggregate all the citizens of the republic. They were not ignorant, willful or dishonest citizens, but sincere, faithful and useful members of the state. The parties of our country, what are they at any time, but ourselves, the people of our country ? Thus the faults of past administration, and of course the responsibility for existing evils, are brought directly home to your selves and myself—to the whole people. This is no hard saying. The wisest, justest and most virtuous of men occasionally errs and has need daily to implore the Divine goodness, that he be not led further into temptation; and just so the wisest, justest and most virtuous of nations often unconsciously lose and depart from their ancient, approved and safer ways. Is there any society, even of Christians, that has never had occasion to reform its practice, retrace its too careless steps and discard heresies that have corrupted its accepted faith? What was the English revolution of 1688, but a return from the dark and dangerous road of absolutism? What the French revolution, but a mighty convulsion, that while it carried a brave, enlightened and liberty-loving nation backward on their progress of three hundred years, owed all its horrors to the delay which had so long postponed the needed reaction!
A national departure always happens when a great emergency occurs unobserved and unfelt, bringing the necessity for the attain. ment of some new and important object, which can only be secured through the inspiration of some new but great and generous national sentiment
Let us see if we can ascertain, in the present case, when our departure from the right and safe way occurred. Certainly it was not in the revolutionary age. The nation then experienced and felt a stern necessity, perceived and resolutely aimed at a transcendently sublime object, and accepted cheerfully the awakening influences of an intensely moving and generous principle. The necessity was deliverance from British oppression; the object, independence; the principle, the inalienable rights of man. The revolution was a success, because the country had in Adams and Jefferson and Washington and their associates the leaders, and in the whigs the party, needful for this crisis, and these were sustained by the people.
Our departure was not at the juncture of the establishment of the constitution. The country then had and owned a new and overpowering necessity, perceived and demanded a new object, and adopted a new and most animating principle. The necessity, the escape from anarchy; the object, federal Union ; the principle, fra
ternity of the American people. The constitution, with the ordi. nance of 1787, practically a part of it, was not a failure, because Hamilton and Jay and Madison and King were competent, and the federal party was constant, and the people gave it a confiding and generous support.
It was not in 1800, that the national deviation took place. Then were disclosed a new public necessity, new object, and new principle. A separation and removal of aristocratic checks and interests from the mechanism of our republican institutions. The needed reform did not fail, because Jefferson and George Clinton, with their associates, braved all resistance, the republican party defended, and the people sustained them.
Again, the departure did not occur in 1812. Then was discovered a further necessity, bringing into view a further object and introducing yet another new and noble principle of action. The necessity, a vindication of national rights; the object, freedom of intercourse with mankind; the principle, the defense of our homes and our honor. The war of 1812 was a success, because Clay, Calhoun and Tompkins did not shrink from the trial; the republican party approved and the people sustained them.
In 1820, however, the nation had unconsciously reached and entered a new stage in its successful career, namely, that of expansion. By purchases from France and Spain it had extended its borders from the St. Mary's southward around the peninsula of Florida, and from the Mississippi to the Rocky mountains, an expansion to be afterwards indefinitely continued. We all know the advantages of expansion. They are augmented wealth and population. But we all know equally well, if we will only reflect, that no new advantage is ever gained in national more than in individual life without exposure to some new danger. What then is the danger which attends expansion? It is nothing less and can be nothing less than an increase of the strain upon the bonds of the Union. The time bad come to organize government finally in the newly acquired territory of Louisiana, on principles that should be applied thereafter in all cases of further expansion. This necessity brought into glaring light a new object, namely, since the only existing cause of mutual alienation among the states was slavery, which was already carefully circumscribed by the ordinance of 1787, that anomalous institution must now be further circumscribed by extending the ordinance to cover the new states to be established in the Louisiania purchase. To this end a new and humane impulse naturally moved the country, namely, the freedom of human labor.
But although statesmen qualified for the crisis appeared, no party stood forth to support them with constancy, and the country, after a temporary glow of free soil excitement, subsided into cold indifference—and so a compromise was made which divided the newly acquired domain between free labor and capital in slaves, between freedom and slavery, a memorable compromise, which, after a trial of only thirty-four years, proved to be effective only in its concessions to slavery, while its greater guaranties of freedom were found unavailing and worthless. History says that the compromise of 1820 was necessary to save the Union from disruption. I do not dispute history, nor debate the settled moral questions of the past. I only lament that it was necessary, if indeed it was so. History tells us that the course then adopted was wise. I do not controvert it. I only mourn the occurrence of even one case most certainly the only one that ever did happen, in which the way of wisdom has failed to be also the way of pleasantness, and the path of pear. It was in 1820, therefore, that the national deviation began. We have continued ever since the divergent course then so inconsiderately entered, until at last we have reached a point, where, amid confusion, bewilderment and mutual recriminations, it seems alike impossible to go forward or to return. We have added territory after territory, and region after region with the customary boldness of feebly resisted conquerors, not merely neglecting to keep slavery out of our new possessions, but actually removing all the barriers against it which we found standing at the times of conquest. In doing this we have defied the moral opinions of mankind, overturned the laws and systems of our fathers, and dishonored their memories by declaring that the unequaled and glorious constitution which they gave us, carries with it, as it attends our eagles, not freedom and personal rights to the oppressed, but slavery and a hateful and baleful commerce in slaves, wherever we win a conquest by sea or land over the whole habitable globe.
While we must now, in deference to history, excuse the first divergence, it is manifest that our subsequent persistence in the same course has been entirely unnecessary and unjustifiable. New Bruns wick, Nova Scotia and Canada, what remains of Mexico, all of the