« PreviousContinue »
union was not founded in voluntary choice, nor does it exist by voluntary consent.
A union was proposed to the colonies by Franklin and others, in 1754; but such was their aversion to an abridgment of their own importance, respectively, that it was rejected even under the pressure of a disastrous invasion by France.
A union of choice was proposed to the colonies in 1775; but so strong was their opposition, that they went through the war of independence without having established more than a mere council of consultation.
But with independence came enlarged interests of agricultureabsolutely new interests of manufactures—interests of commerce, of fisheries, of navigation, of a common domain, of common debts, of common revenues and taxation, of the administration of justice, of public defence, of public honor; in short, interests of common nationality and sovereignty-interests which at last compelled the adoption of a more perfect union—a National Government.
The genius, talents, and learning of Hamilton, of Jay, and of Madison, surpassing perhaps the intellectual power ever exerted before for the establishment of a government, combined with the serene but mighty influence of Washington, were only sufficient to secure the reluctant adoption of the Constitution that is now the object of all our affections and of the hopes of mankind. No wonder that the conflicts in which that Constitution was born, and the almost desponding solemnity of Washington, in his farewell address, impressed his countrymen and mankind with a profound distrust of its perpetuity! No wonder that while the murmurs of that day are yet ringing in our ears, we cherish that distrust, with pious reverence, as a national and patriotic sentiment !
But it is time to prevent the abuses of that sentiment. It is time to shake off that fear, for fear is always weakness. It is time to remember that government, even when it arises by chance or accident, and is administered capriciously and oppressively, is ever the strongest of all human institutions, surviving many social and ecclesiastical changes and convulsions; and that this Constitution of ours has all the inherent strength common to governments in general, and added to them has also the solidity and firmness derived from broader and deeper foundations in national justice, and a better civil adaptation to promote the welfare and happiness of mankind.
The Union, the creature of necessities, physical, moral, social, and political, endures by virtue of the same necessities; and these necessities are stronger than when it was produced stronger by the greater amplitude of territory now covered by it-stronger by the sixfold increase of the society living under its beneficent protection-stronger by the augmentation ten thousand times of the fields, the workshops, the mines, and the ships, of that society; of its productions of the sea, of the plow, of the loom, and of the anvil, in their constant circle of internal and international exchange stronger in the long rivers penetrating regions before unknownstronger in all the artificial roads, canals, and other channels and avenues essential not only to trade but to defence stronger in steam navigation, in steam locomotion on the land, and in telegraph communications, unknown when the Constitution was adopted—stronger in the freedom and in the growing empire of the seas stronger in the element of national honor in all lands, and stronger than all in the now settled habits of veneration and affection for institutions so stupendous and so useful.
The Union, then, is, not because merely that men choose that it shall be, but because some government must exist here, and no other government than this can. If it could be dashed to atoms by the whirlwind, the lightning, or the earthquake, to-day, it would rise again in all its just and magnificent proportions to-morrow. This nation is a globe, still accumulating upon accumulation, not a dissolving sphere.
I have heard somewhat here, and almost for the first time in my life, of divided allegiance—of allegiance to the south and to the Union-of allegiance to states severally and to the Union. Sir, if sympathies with state emulation and pride of achievement could be allowed to raise up another sovereign to divide the allegiance of a citizen of the United States, I might recognize the claims of the state to which, by birth and gratitude, I belong—to the state of Hamilton and Jay, of Schuyler, of the Clintons, and of Fulton—the state which, with less than two hundred miles of natural navigation connected with the ocean, has, by her own enterprise, secured to herself the commerce of the continent, and is steadily advancing to the command of the commerce of the world. But for all this I know only one country and one sovereign—the United States of America and
the American People. And such as my allegiance is, is the
As I speak,
You may tell me, sir, that although all this may be true, yet the trial of faction has not yet been made. Sir, if the trial of faction has not been made, it has not been because faction has not always existed, and has not always menaced a trial, but because faction could find no fulcrum on which to place the lever to subvert the Union, as it can find no fulcrum now; and in this is my confidence. I would not rashly provoke the trial; but I will not suffer a fear, which I have not, to make me compromise one sentiment, one principle of truth or justice, to avert a danger that all experience teaches me is purely chimerical. Let, then, those who distrust the Union make compromises to save it. I shall not impeach their wisdom, as I certainly cannot their patriotism; but, indulging no such apprehensions myself, I shall vote for the admission of California directly, without conditions, without qualifications, and without compromise.
For the vindication of that vote, I look not to the verdict of the passing hour, disturbed as the public mind now is by conflicting interests and passions, but to that period, happily not far distant, when the vast regions over which we are now legislating shall have received their destined inhabitants.
While looking forward to that day, its countless generations seem to me to be rising up and passing in dim and shadowy review before us; and a voice comes forth from their serried ranks, saying: “Waste your treasures and your armies, if you will ; raze your fortifications to the ground; sink your navies into the sea ; transmit to us even a dishonored name, if you must; but the soil
you hold in trust for us give it to us free. You found it free, and conquered it to extend a better and surer freedom over it. Whatever choice you have made for yourselves, let us have no partial freedom; let us all be free; let the reversion of your broad domain descend to us unincumbered, and free from the calamities and from the sorrows of human bondage.”
FREEDOM IN THE NEW TERRITORIES:
THE COMPROMISE BILL.
JULY 2, 1850.
MR. PRESIDENT: If an alien in our land should chance to enter here during these high debates, he would ask whether California was a stranger and an enemy; or an unbidden and unwelcome intruder; or a fugitive, powerless and portionless, and therefore importunate; or an oppressor and scourge of mankind, and therefore hateful and dangerous. We should be obliged to answer, No! California yielded to persuasion, rather than to conquest. She has renounced her lineage, language, and ancient loyalty. She has brought us to the banks of streams which flow over precious sands, and, at the base of mountains which yield massive gold, she delivers into our hand the key that unlocks the long-coveted treasures of the eastern world, California refuses only to let us buy and sell each other within her domain, so rich in all the elements of legitimate commerce. She invites us to forego an unjust, injurious, and inglorious dominion over a caste, and to extend the sway of peace, of arts, and of freedom, over nations beyond the seas, still slumbering under the mingled reign of barbarian superstition and unalleviated despotism. The very head and front of her offending hath this extent-no more.
The President of the United States recommends, nevertheless, that California shall be admitted unconditionally, while a committee of the Senate insist on conditions.
I prefer the President's suggestion; but not merely because it is his, although I honor his patriotism and confide fully in his wisdom. Nor do I prefer his suggestion out of disrespect to the statesmen by whom it is opposed. My veneration for them has