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and the establishment of a free domain along the Gulf of Mexico, and across the continent to the Pacific Ocean. Under these circumstances, Gov. Seward was elected to the Senate of the United States, in place of Hon. John A. Dix, whose term was about to expire. The vote of the legislature, which was given in February, 1849, stood for Gov. Seward, 121, and for all others 30. This was an unusually large majority, there being no serious opposition to his election. He entered the thirty-first Congress, together with thirty-three other whig members, and one democratic member, from the state of New York, who, in accordance with the prevailing sentiment of the state, were all understood to agree with him in the policy of circumscribing the region of slavery.
On arriving at Washington, in February before the commencement of his senatorial term, Gov. Seward found Congress engaged ɔn an amendment to the civil and diplomatic appropriation bill, proposed by Mr. Walker, of which the effect would be to abrogate the laws of Mexico for the prohibition of slavery. This amendment had already passed the Senate, but Gov. Seward, with characteristic energy, exerted himself to secure its defeat in the House. His efforts were successful; the amendment was lost in the house, after a long and excited debate; the senate receded from it, on the last night of the session.
The sagacity of Gen. Taylor, on his accession to office, was signally displayed in his choice of Gov. Seward as one of his most intimate friends and counsellors. Familiar with all the elements of northern society, with every aspect of public opinion, and the feelings and interests of the people-conversant with civil affairs as a jurist and statesman-cherishing a lofty sense of honor and a generous sympathy with popular rights-courteous and tolerant towards his opponents, though rigidly faithful to his convictions inspired with a glowing sentiment both of patriotism and humanity-and ardently devoted to the support of the federal Union,— he was eminently qualified to promote the welfare of his country in the responsible function of adviser to the president. With a delicate sense of propriety, while thus enjoying the confidence of Gen. Taylor, he declined being placed on any important committee of the Senate, lest it might be supposed, on some occasions, that he acted authoritatively in his behalf. He was unwilling to embarrass the administration by any sectional prejudices
against himself, but quietly to bring the aid of his wisdom and experience to the support of its head.
He concurred with Gen. Taylor in his invitation to California and New Mexico to organize state governments and apply for admission into the Union at the next session of Congress. The suggestion of the President was adopted. As Gov. Seward had anticipated, California appeared by her senators and representatives at the commencement of the congressional session in December, 1849, with a constitution excluding slavery. It was understood that New Mexico was preparing to come with a similar constitution.
To Gov. Seward belongs the authorship of the phrase—the Higher Law-which has acquired a fame that will never die. It was used by him in his speech in the Senate, March 11, 1850 on the admission of California into the Union.
This speech was unanimously acknowledged to be a bold, manly, and profound production. Lucid and consecutive in argument, learned in historical and philosophical illustrations, with a chaste elegance of diction, it was not surpassed for sound statesmanship and an acute exposition of the principles of natural and constitutional law, by any speech delivered in the Senate on the absorbing subject of freedom in the territories.
The enemies of Gov. Seward at once accused him of maintaining the existence of a Higher Law, in opposition to the Constitution, by which the new domain of California was devoted to justice, liberty, and union. But this was a flagrant misrepresentation of his language, which embodied a truth, that none but the grossest materialists and skeptics can call in question. No enlightened ethical philosopher, no man of ordinary religious feeling and conscientiousness will deny that there is a law higher than political constitutions and human legislation, "the law which governs all law-the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice, equity, the law of nature and of nations." Nor will it be doubted, that in case of a conflict between divine and human law, we ought to obey God, rather than man." But it was not the purpose of Gov. Seward on that occasion, to repeat a principle so plain as this. The phrase as used by him on the floor of the Senate would hardly seem capable of such misconstruction as has been given to it. We quote his words, precisely as they were spoken:
“It is true, indeed, that the national domain is ours. It is true it was acquired by
the valor and with the wealth of the whole nation. But we hold, nevertheless, arbitrary power over it. We hold no arbitrary authority over anything, whether acquired lawfully or seized by usurpation. The Constitution regulates our stewardship; the Constitution devotes the domain to union, to justice, to defence, to welfare, and to liberty. But there is a Higher Law than the Constitution, which regulates our authority over the domain, and devotes it to the same noble purposes. The territory is a part, no inconsiderable part, of the common heritage of mankind, bestowed upon them by the Creator of the Universe. We are his stewards, and must so discharge our trust as to secure in the highest attainable degree their happiness."
Every intelligent reader will perceive that while Gov. Seward devoutly recognizes the Law of God, and its paramount claims both on individuals and nations, he was far from asserting a contradiction between that law and the American Constitution on the subject in question. On the contrary, he declares that they agree in demanding freedom and justice for the new domain. Can any wise statesman, can any far-seeing patriot, can any friend of human improvement deny the soundness of this position?
But let us not be misunderstood. In vindicating Gov. Seward from the aspersions which were brought upon him by the expression alluded to, it is far from our intention to disclaim for him a belief that the obligation of human laws is founded on their harmony with the principles of eternal justice. He is no adherent of the superficial and wretched philosophy which derives the distinctions of morality from the caprices of opinion. In common with the greatest thinkers of all ages, he traces the obligation of right to the uncreated wisdom of the Deity. With Plato and Cicero, in ancient times, with Bacon, Hooker, and Cudworth, at a later date, he recognizes the bosom of the Deity as the seat and fountain of law-" whose voice is the harmony of the world." This ennobling idea pervades the writings of Gov. Seward,-it is the pivot of his personal character, as well as of his public and legislative career. Among other instances of its operation, we find it in an argument, in 1847, relating to the fugitive slave law of 1793, where he uses the following striking expression: "Congress has no power to inhibit any duty commanded by God on Mount Sinai, or by his Son on the Mount of Olives."*
During the discussion of the "Compromise Bill," Gov. Seward addressed the Senate, July 2, 1850, in a speecht remarkable for the vigor of its dialectics, its comprehensive and sagacious states*See Forensic Arguments, Parks vs. Van Zandt, Vol I. † See Vol. I. p. 44-110
manship, and its noble zeal for freedom, as well as for the appositeness of its classical illustrations, and the polished beauty of its style. His exposition of the dangers and evils of the compromise is in a strain of masterly eloquence. After appealing to the wisdom of his auditors to adopt the true principle of conciliation by gradual reform, he closed his remarks with one of those genuine touches of poetry which often flash over the severity of his argumentative discourse. "We shall then realize once more the concord which results from mutual league, united councils, and equal hopes and hazards in the most sublime and beneficent enterprise the earth has witnessed. The fingers of the Powers above would tune the harmony of such a peace."
This speech was succeeded by speeches on "New Mexico," and "Freedom in the District of Columbia," in which Gov. Seward displayed his usual elevation of thought in applying the principles of universal justice to the maintenance of human rights. In January, 1851, Gov. Seward delivered a speech, on the question of "Indemnities for French Spoliations," giving a luminous analysis of the whole subject, accompanied with ample historical proofs, and eloquently enforcing the necessity of justice and good faith to national honor. The state that would be prosperous must be free from the burden of violated engagements. The people that would dwell in safety, without fear for fireside, fane, or capitol, must practice an austere and pure morality-must embody in their daily lives the spirit of the eternal law through which "the most ancient Heavens are fresh and strong."
The next great topic, on which Gov. Seward addressed the Senate was the "Public Domain." In his speech on this subject, Feb. 27, 1851, without maintaining the absurdity that the land of any country ought to be or can be equally divided and enjoyed, he shows the evils arising to the highest interests of society from great inequalities in landed estates. His views of the gratuitous distribution of portions of the public domain to actual settlers, although they may fail to win the sympathy of politicians, are marked by equal humanity and good sense, and will challenge the attention of all intelligent friends of social progress.
In Dec. 1851, Gov. Seward submitted a resolution to the Senate, in favor of a cordial welcome by Congress to Kossuth, to be communicated by the president as the executive organ of the United States. His sentiments in regard to the illustrious champion of Hungary are expressed in two speeches on the subject, which
handle the objections of the opponents to the resolution with a good-humored severity of argument, and a remarkable terseness of language, while they present the claims of Kossuth to the admiration of American freemen, in a style of fervid eloquence that is equally touching in its pathos and convincing in its appeals.
During the following February, the discussion of Mr. Foote's resolution, declaring the sympathy of Congress with the exiled Irish patriots, Smith O'Brien and Thomas F. Meagher, came up in the Senate, when Gov. Seward took occasion to express his deep interest in the welfare of Ireland, enforcing his views with his usual vigor of argument and liveliness of illustration. This was succeeded in March by a speech on "Freedom in Europe;" in which he presents an admirable sketch of the Hungarian revolution, discusses the neutral policy of Washington in regard to foreign nations, explains the true character of intervention, and argues at length in its defence. The tone of this speech is lofty and severe, and in some passages rises to an almost Miltonic grandeur.
The next speeches of Gov. Seward in the Senate were on "American Steam Navigation," "Survey of the Arctic and Pacific Oceans," and "The American Fisheries." A peculiar value attaches to these speeches from their eminently practical charac'ter, the variety and accuracy of the statistics which they embody, their clear and cogent reasonings on the facts they present, the intimate knowledge which they exhibit of the commercial and industrial relations of the country, and the enlightened and glowing patriotism with which they are inspired. To the admirers of Gov. Seward they are of no less interest, on account of their fine illustrations both of his mental habits and his personal character. In the action of his intellect, patience and depth of research, a constant aim at the integral unity of the subject, a logical grouping of particulars in reference to a future pregnant inference, and a singular self-possession in the exercise of judgment, ever serve as the basis which underlies the expression of a masculine and generous enthusiasm and an earnest-hearted sympathy with all that is beautiful in the progress, or sacred in the hopes of collective humanity.
The speeches of Gov. Seward in the Senate since the commencement of the current year (1853) have been on questions of great practical interest. In his remarks in the debate on "Continental Rights and Relations," he pays a graceful and feeling tribute to