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administration was conducted with the highest ability; it was incorruptible; it was frugal; it was tolerant of opponents to its own injury. With the exception of half a dozen editors of newspapers warmly opposed to the administration, from whom the trifling privilege of printing the laws was withdrawn, no one was removed from office for political opinion. But the administration was unpopular, and was doomed from its formation. It was supported by very able men in both houses of Congress, and of these Mr. Webster was by all acknowledgment the chief. But it failed to command the confidence of a numerical majority of the people.
The leading measure of the first session of the Nineteenth Congress was the Congress of Panama. Mr. Adams had announced in his message at the commencement of the session, that an invitation to the congress had been accepted, and that "ministers on the part of the United States would be commissioned to attend its deliberations." In announcing this purpose, it is probable that the President regarded himself as within the ordinary limits of executive discretion. The power of nominating ambassadors and other public ministers is given by the Constitution to the President alone. No laws for the establishment of any particular missions have ever been passed, nor has any control been exercised over them by Congress beyond determining the salaries of the ministers of different ranks, and making the annual appropriations for their payment. The executive is manifestly the sole depositary of the knowledge of the foreign relations of the country which is necessary to determine what missions ought to be established. Notwithstanding these obvious considerations and constitutional principles, the novel and anomalous character of the proposed Congress afforded a temptation to the opposition too strong to be resisted. The President's announcement formed the great point of attack during the first session of the new Congress. The confirmation of the ministers was vigorously resisted in the Senate, and the resolution declaring the expediency of making the requisite appropriations as strenuously opposed in the House. The mischiefs likely to result from the public discussion of the measure showed the wisdom of those constitutional provisions on which the President had acted. The opposition, in denying that the executive control of foreign relations is exclusive, showed at any
rate that it ought to be, at least as far as it is made so by the
Constitution. After a lapse of twenty-six years, we can scarcely believe that any doubt should have existed, on the part of men of judgment and discretion, that sound policy required that the United States should be present at such a general conference of the American powers; if for no other reason, to observe their movements. But all the motives for such a course could not be avowed, and of those that could, a part of the force was weakened by the avowal. The influence of the United States was impaired in order that the administration might be distressed.
The subject was discussed with great ability in both houses. The greater portion of the senatorial debate was with closed doors. Mr. Webster's speech in the House is far the ablest of those published. It raised the question from the wretched level of party politics to the elevation of real statesmanship. It discussed the constitutional question with a clearness and power which make us wonder that it was ever raised; and it unfolded the true nature of the proposed congress, as viewed in the light of the public law. A very important topic of the speech was an explanation of the declaration of President Monroe, in his annual message of 1823, against the interposition of the governments of Europe for the purpose of enabling Spain to resubjugate her former colonial possessions on this continent. Mr. Webster pointed out the circumstances which warranted at the time the opinion that such interposition might be attempted; and he stated the important fact, not before known, that the purpose on the part of the United States to resist it was deliberately and unanimously formed by Mr. Monroe's cabinet, consisting at that time of Messrs. Adams, Crawford, Calhoun, Southard, and Wirt. The principles assumed in the debate on the Panama mission by the friends of Messrs. Crawford and Calhoun were greatly at variance with the spirit and tendency of the declaration, as they were with what has more recently been regarded as the true Democratic doctrine in reference to the relations of the United States to her sister republics on this continent.
The speech on the Panama question was the most considerable effort made by Mr. Webster in the Nineteenth Congress. In the interval of the two sessions, in November, 1826, he was reelected with but a show of opposition. The eulogy upon Adams and Jefferson, of which we have already spoken, was delivered in the month of August of this year. In the month of June, 1827, Mr. Webster was elected to the Senate of the United States by a large majority of the votes of the two houses of the legislature of Massachusetts, the Hon. Mr. Mills of Northampton, who had filled that station with great ability, having declined being a candidate for reelection in consequence of ill health.
The principal measure which occupied the attention of the two houses during the first session of the Twentieth Congress was the revision of the tariff. This measure had its origin in the distressed condition of the woollen interest, which found itself deprived (partly by the effect of the repeal of the duty on wool imported into Great Britain) of that measure of protection which the tariff law of 1824 was designed to afford. An unsuccessful attempt had been made at the last session of Congress, to pass a law exclusively for the relief of the woollen manufacturers; but no law having in view the protection of any one great interest is likely to be enacted by Congress, however called for by the particular circumstances of the case. At the present session an entire revision of the tariff was attempted. Political considerations unfortunately could not be excluded from the arrangements of the bill. A majority of the two houses was in favor of protection; but in a country so extensive as the United States, and embracing such a variety of interests, there were different views among the friends of the policy as to the articles to be protected and the amount of protection. This diversity of opinions and supposed diversity of interests enabled those wholly opposed to the principle and policy of protection, by uniting their votes on questions of detail with members who represented local interests, to render the bill objectionable in many parts to several of its friends, and to reduce them to the alternative of either voting against it, or tolerating more or less which they deemed inexpedient, and even highly injurious. Hence it received the name of the "Bill of Abominations."
The political motives alluded to caused the bill to be made as acceptable as possible to Pennsylvania and the other Middle States, and as unfavorable as possible to the leading interests of New England. The depression of the woollen manufactures had originally caused the revision of the tariff at this session. A heavy duty on the raw material was one ,of the features of the bill. But this was represented as due to the agricultural interest. The East, although it had now become eminently a manufacturing region, was still the seat of an active commerce, and largely concerned in the fisheries. The duty on molasses, a great article of consumption with the mariners and fishermen of the East, both in its natural form and that of cheap spirits, was doubled; but this, it was said, was required for the benefit of the grain-growers of the Middle States. Other provisions of this kind were introduced into the bill, in all cases with the assistance of the votes of its opponents, given in such a way as to render the bill as unpalatable as possible to the Northeastern manufacturers. Mr. Webster addressed the Senate, while the bill was before that body, exposing the objectionable features to which we have alluded. Believing, however, that the great article of woollens required the protection given it by the bill, and regarding the general system of protection as the established policy of the country and of the government, and feeling that the capital which had been invited into manufactures by former acts of legislation was now entitled to be sustained against the glut of foreign markets, fraudulent invoices, and the competition of foreign labor working at starvation wages, he gave his vote for the bill, and has ever since supported the policy of moderate protection. He has been accused of inconsistency in this respect; and by none more earnestly than by the friends of Mr. Calhoun, who was one of those influential statesmen of the South by whom, in the Fourteenth Congress, the foundation of a protective tariff was laid on the corner-stone of the square-yard duty on domestic cotton fabrics. But he has been sustained by the great majority of his constituents and of the people of the Northern, Middle, and Northwestern States; and should the prospects of success be fulfilled with which manufactures have been attempted at the South, there is little doubt that she will at length perceive that her own interest would be promoted by upholding the same policy.
When the speech 'of Mr. Webster of 1824, in which he assigned his reasons for voting against the tariff law of that year,
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is carefully compared with his speech of 1828, just referred to. it will be found that there is no other diversity than that which was induced by the change in the state of the country itself in reference to its manufacturing interests, and by the course pursued in reference to the details of the bill by those opposed to protection in toto. It is the best proof of this, that, in the former edition of Mr. Webster's works, the two speeches were, for more easy comparison, placed side by side.