Page images
PDF
EPUB

of freedom in South America. Sir, in my judgment, it was the noblest of them all.

Long after the recognition of the South American republics, the Holy League continued to entertain the appeal of Spain for their intervention. But the spirit of the American people would no longer brook such an unlawful act. In 1823, the President [Monroe] atoned for all past hesitation by that decisive and memorable protest, in which, after urging the inapplicability of the principles before held by our government on the subject of intervention to the case of the South American states, he avowed that it “was due to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and the Allied Powers of Europe, to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any part of this hemisphere as dangerous to our own peace and safety.

. And that, while we should still remain neutral in the contest, our position would change if their intervention should render it necessary.”

The Holy League, nevertheless, kept on secretly consulting on mediation with the sword for the good of the people of this continent, until John Quincy Adams, President, not appreciating their benevolence nor having the fear of force before his eyes, accepted for the United States, with the support of Congress, an invitation to attend a meeting of the new brotherhood of American Republics, called to discuss measures for the common safety and welfare. While explaining the reasons for that measure, that incorruptible and indomitable magistrate thus renewed the protest of his predecessor :

" To the question, 'Whether the Congress of Panama, and the principles which inay be adjusted by it, may not give umbrage to the Holy League of European powers, or offence to Spain,' it is a sufficient answer, that it can give no just cause of umbrage or offence to either, and that the United States will stipulate nothing there which shall give such just cause. Here the right of inquiry into our purposes and measures must stop. The fear of giving umbrage to the Holy League of Europe was urged as a motive för denying to the American nations the acknowledgment of their independence. That it would be viewed by Spain as hostile to her was not only urged, but directly declared by herself. The Congress and the administration of that day consulted their rights and duties, and not their fears

. Neither the representation of the United States at Panama, nor any measure to which their assent may be yielded there, will give to the Holy League, or any of its members, or to Spain, the right to take offence. For the rest, the United States must still, as heretofore, take counsel from their duties, not their fears."

And now, sir, the scene changes once more to Europe. Two thousand years ago, mercurial, vivacious, spiritual Greece, after continued and restless activity, fell asleep, and during her long slumber the false prophet of the Koran bound her limbs with hate

ani

ful and corroding chains. Within our day she moved, and awaked,

rose from the earth, and seized and attempted to break the instruments of her bondage. It was the spirit of the American Revolution, passing by, that roused her from that lethargy to that noble achievement. The Holy League of Europe, that had trampled freedom beneath their feet in France, and menaced it so long in South America, consulted how to crush it in the land of Homer and Pericles and Alcibiades. Greece, confined within her miniature islands and her narrow peninsula, was to us a stranger, a shadow of a name, known to us only by her primitive instructions in all philosophy, by her perfection in all ennobling arts, and by her nursing care of our holy religion. But for all that we were not indifferent; and although despotic Europe offered to unite with superstitious and despotic Asia for her subjugation, we were encouraged by the humane sympathies of the world, and did not quite fear to speak out. “It is impossible," said the President, [Monroe,] “to look to the oppressions of Greece without being deeply affected. A strong hope is entertained that that people will secure their independent name and their equal standing among the nations of the earth. From the facts which have come to our knowledge, there is good cause to believe that the enemy has lost all dominion over them, and that Greece will become an independent nation. That she may obtain that rank, is the object of our wishes.” This expression of sympathy for Greece, and this protest against the cruelty and oppression of her tyrant, was reiterated every year until, by the armed intervention of other generous powers, their object, the emancipation of that people, was obtained. Who can say now how much they did not contribute toward that gratifying result ?

Mr. President: just after the revolution of France in 1830, I had the honor to visit Lafayette in La Grange. The porch of his chateau was ornamented with two brass field-pieces captured from the army of Charles X. by the citizens of Paris, and presented to its noble proprietor. The hall of entrance was decorated with the mingled drapery of the tri-colored flag of his own country and the stars and stripes of ours. And there he was in retirement, cheerful and hopeful, although disgusted by the treachery of the Citizen King against the principles of the American Revolution, to which he owed his throne. “Sir," said Lafayette, “ Louis Philippe will be king some seventeen or eighteen years ; but no son of his will

ever sit on a throne in France.” That longest period had not elapsed when the throne in the Tuilleries disappeared, and the false monarch was an exile in England. We all recollect that the American Minister, without waiting for a permanent organization of the nation, or for instructions from home, or for intelligence of the dispositions of the monarchs of Europe, hastened to intervene and commit his country by saluting the new republic. The President [Polk] acted with equal promptness and decision.

The world (said he to Congress] has seldom witnessed a scene more interesting and sublime than the peaceful rising of the French people, resolved to secure to themselves enlarged liberty, and to assert, in the majesty of their strength, the great truth, the in this enlightened age, man is capable of governing himself. The prompt recognition of her new Government by the representative of the United States meets my full and unqualified approbation. The policy of the United States has ever been that of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries—leaving each to establish the form of government of their own choice. While this wise policy will be maintained towards France, now suddenly transformed from a monarchy into a republic, all our sympathies are naturally enlisted on the side of a great people who, imitating our example, have resolved to be free. .... Our ardent and sincere congratulations are extended to the patriotic people of France, upon their poble and thus far successful efforts to found for their future government liberal institutions similar to our own."

Congress echoed these just sentiments, and, in the name and behalf of the American people, “tendered their congratulations to the people of France upon the success of their recent efforts to consolidate the principles of liberty in a republican form of government."

Mr. President: a spark from the flame which, thus breaking out in Paris, was regarded with so much pleasure here, kindled the material which had been long gathered and prepared by Louis Kossuth and his compatriots in Hungary. Remote as we were, we watched and followed the revolution in that ancient country with intense interest. We had an agent there ready to tender our congratulations ; but the cause went down under the iron pressure of Russian intervention. When we could do no more, we sought the exiled chief in Turkey, procured his release from duress and surveillance; and while the Russian and Austrian monarchs, with menaces, demanded his surrender to them by the Ottoman, we brought him, with the ovation of a conqueror, under protection of our flag, down the Mediterranean, across the ocean, and home to our own shores, and received him with honors that have divided the homage of mankind between ourselves and him.

Sir, even while this slow and languid debate has been going on, we have interceded—informally, indeed, but nevertheless we have interceded—with Great Britain for clemency to imprisoned patriots who, under auspices hopeless, but under the pressure of national evils quite intolerable, had attempted to renew the American Revolution in Ireland. And you and I, and every Senator here, whether he suppresses utterance as some may do, or speaks out as I do, is earnestly hoping that that act of intercession may prevail with the amiable and virtuous monarch who wields a benignant sceptre over those realms.

Here, sir, the history ends. I will add no glosses to the recital. I will not attempt to simplify the subject, involved as it is in the confusion resulting from the want of definitions of intervention, and from the neglect to discriminate between intervention in the domestic affairs of a nation and opposition against the flagrant act of a strong foreign power in attacking, without just cause or motive, a weak but brave one struggling with its proper enemy. I shall not ask the Senate or the country to distinguish between intercession, solicitation, or protest, on the one side, and armed intervention, entangling alliances, and artificial ties, on the other. I will only say that either this Protest is not an Intervention, or we have done little else than to intervene in every contest for Freedom and Humanity throughout the world since we became a nation. That if this act be wrong, we have never done right. If we approve and own the precedents of our predecessors, this act is one which cannot be justly or wisely omitted. The question before us, then, is not whether we shall depart from our traditional policy, but whether we shall adhere to it.

Inasmuch as some will say that I have presented, in too strong relief, the action of the government in behalf of freedom, I call now on those who maintain that its policy has been one of indifference, to show one act that the United States ever committed, one word that they ever spake, or one thought that they ever indulged, of congratulation, of sympathy, or even of toleration, toward a falling despotism or a successful usurpation.

Having vindicated my country and her statesmen against the implications of indifference, coldness, and isolation, I hope it will not now be thought presumptuous on my part, or irreverent to the memory of Washington, or dangerous to the state, if I inquire on what principle the duty of neutrality was founded by that illustrious man, and whether he enjoined that policy as one of absolute anil jerpetual obligation? “The duty of holding a neutral conduct,” said he, in his Farewell Address, "may be inferred without any thing more from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation in cases in which it is free to act to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity toward other nations." Our "freedom," in that case, resulted from the circumstances which excused us from co-operating with France, notwithstanding our treaty of alliance; and the exercise of justice and humanity” was in favor of our own people. “The inducements of interest for observing that conduct, (said he), will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and constancy which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own for

tune.”

I will not venture on such a question as whether humanity and justice may not, in some contingencies, require that we should afford substantial aid to nations as weak as we were in our revolutionary contest when we shall have matured our strength. Nor will I inquire whether time enough has not been already gained to give us, speaking always with a due sense of dependence on an ever-gracious Providence, the command of our own fortune.

It is clear enough, however, that we distrust our strength seldom, except when such diffidence will serve as a plea for the nonperformance of some obligation of justice or of humanity. But it is not necessary to press such inquiries. What is demanded here is not any part of our fifty millions of annual revenue, nor any use of our credit, nor any employment of our army or of our navy, but simply the exercise of our free right of speech. If we are not strong enough now to dare to speak, shall we be bolder when we become stronger ? If we are never to speak out, for what were national lungs given us?

Senators and Representatives of America, if I may borrow the tone of that sturdy republican, John Milton, I would have you consider what nation it is of which you are governors--a nation quick and vigorous of thought, free and bold in speech, prompt and resolute in action, and just and generous in purpose—a nation existing for something, and designed for something more than indifference and inertness in times of universal speculation and activity. Why else was this nation chosen, that “out of her, as

« PreviousContinue »