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I am not bold enough to try a definition. I will not try to gauge how far the advance of moral forces has kept pace with that extension of material forces in the world of which this continent, conspicuous before all others, bears such astounding evidence. This, of course, is the question of questions, because as an ill.u.s.trious English writer--to whom, by the way, I owe my friendship with your founder many long years ago--as Matthew Arnold said in America here, it is moral ideas that at bottom decide the standing or falling of states and nations. Without opening this vast discussion at large, many a sign of progress is beyond mistake. The practise of a.s.sociated action--one of the master keys of progress--is a new force in a hundred fields, and with immeasurable diversity of forms. There is less acquiescence in triumphant wrong.
Toleration in religion has been called the best fruit of the last four centuries, and in spite of a few bigoted survivals, even in our United Kingdom, and some savage outbreaks of hatred, half religious, half racial, on the Continent of Europe, this glorious gain of time may now be taken as secured. Perhaps of all the contributions of America to human civilization this is greatest. The reign of force is not yet over, and at intervals it has its triumphant hours, but reason, justice, humanity fight with success their long and steady battle for a wider sway.
Of all the points of social advance, in my country at least, during the last generation none is more marked than the change in the position of women, in respect of rights of property, of education, of access to new callings. As for the improvement of material well-being, and its diffusion among those whose labor is a prime factor in its creation, we might grow sated with the jubilant monotony of its figures, if we did not take good care to remember, in the excellent words of the President of Harvard, that those gains, like the prosperous working of your inst.i.tutions and the principles by which they are sustained, are in essence moral contributions, "being principles of reason, enterprise, courage, faith, and justice, over pa.s.sion, selfishness, inertness, timidity, and distrust." It is the moral impulses that matter. Where they are safe, all is safe.
When this and the like is said, n.o.body supposes that the last word has been spoken as to the condition of the people either in America or Europe. Republicanism is not itself a panacea for economic difficulties.
Of self it can neither stifle nor appease the accents of social discontent. So long as it has no root in surveyed envy, this discontent itself is a token of progress.
What, cries the skeptic, what has become of all the hopes of the time when France stood upon the top of golden hours? Do not let us fear the challenge. Much has come of them. And over the old hopes time has brought a stratum of new.
Liberalism is sometimes suspected of being cold to these new hopes, and you may often hear it said that Liberalism is already superseded by Socialism. That a change is pa.s.sing over party names in Europe is plain, but you may be sure that no change in name will extinguish these principles of society which are rooted in the nature of things, and are accredited by their success. Twice America has saved liberalism in Great Britain. The War for Independence in the eighteenth century was the defeat of usurping power no less in England than here. The War for Union in the nineteenth century gave the decisive impulse to a critical extension of suffrage, and an era of popular reform in the mother country. Any miscarriage of democracy here reacts against progress in Great Britain.
If you seek the real meaning of most modern disparagement of popular or parliamentary government, it is no more than this, that no politics will suffice of themselves to make a nation's soul. What could be more true?
Who says it will? But we may depend upon it that the soul will be best kept alive in a nation where there is the highest proportion of those who, in the phrase of an old worthy of the seventeenth century, think it a part of a man's religion to see to it that his country be well governed.
Democracy, they tell us, is afflicted by mediocrity and by sterility.
But has not democracy in my country, as in yours, shown before now that it well knows how to choose rulers neither mediocre nor sterile; men more than the equals in unselfishness, in rect.i.tude, in clear sight, in force, of any absolutist statesman, that ever in times past bore the scepter? If I live a few months, or it may be even a few weeks longer, I hope to have seen something of three elections--one in Canada, one in the United Kingdom, and the other here. With us, in respect of leadership, and apart from height of social prestige, the personage corresponding to the president is, as you know, the prime minister. Our general election this time, owing to personal accident of the pa.s.sing hour, may not determine quite exactly who shall be the prime minister, but it will determine the party from which the prime minister shall be taken. On normal occasions our election of a prime minister is as direct and personal as yours, and in choosing a member of Parliament people were really for a whole generation choosing whether Disraeli or Gladstone or Salisbury should be head of the government.
The one central difference between your system and ours is that the American president is in for a fixed time, whereas the British prime minister depends upon the support of the House of Commons. If he loses that, his power may not endure a twelvemonth; if on the other hand, he keeps it, he may hold office for a dozen years. There are not many more interesting or important questions in political discussion than the question whether our cabinet government or your presidential system of government is the better. This is not the place to argue it.
Between 1868 and now--a period of thirty-six years--we have had eight ministries. This would give an average life of four and a half years. Of these eight governments five lasted over five years. Broadly speaking, then, our executive governments have lasted about the length of your fixed term. As for ministers swept away by a gust of pa.s.sion, I can only recall the overthrow of Lord Palmerston in 1858 for being thought too subservient to France. For my own part, I have always thought that by its free play, its comparative fluidity, its rapid flexibility of adaptation, our cabinet system has most to say for itself.
Whether democracy will make for peace, we all have yet to see. So far democracy has done little in Europe to protect us against the turbid whirlpools of a military age. When the evils of rival states, antagonistic races, territorial claims, and all the other formulas of international conflict are felt to be unbearable and the curse becomes too great to be any longer borne, a school of teachers will perhaps arise to pick up again the thread of the best writers and wisest rulers on the eve of the revolution. Movement in this region of human things has not all been progressive. If we survey the European courts from the end of the Seven Years' War down to the French Revolution, we note the marked growth of a distinctly international and pacific spirit. At no era in the world's history can we find so many European statesmen after peace and the good government of which peace is the best ally. That sentiment came to violent end when Napoleon arose to scourge the world.
ON RESIGNING FROM THE SENATE, 1861
The success of the Abolitionists and their allies, under the name of the Republican party, has produced its logical results already. They have for long years been sowing dragons' teeth and have finally got a crop of armed men. The Union, sir, is dissolved. That is an accomplished fact in the path of this discussion that men may as well heed. One of your confederates has already wisely, bravely, boldly confronted public danger, and she is only ahead of many of her sisters because of her greater facility for speedy action. The greater majority of those sister States, under like circ.u.mstances, consider her cause as their cause; and I charge you in their name to-day: "Touch not Saguntum." It is not only their cause, but it is a cause which receives the sympathy and will receive the support of tens and hundreds of honest patriot men in the nonslaveholding States, who have hitherto maintained const.i.tutional rights, and who respect their oaths, abide by compacts, and love justice.
And while this Congress, this Senate, and this House of Representatives are debating the const.i.tutionality and the expediency of seceding from the Union, and while the perfidious authors of this mischief are showering down denunciations upon a large portion of the patriotic men of this country, those brave men are coolly and calmly voting what you call revolution--aye, sir, doing better than that: arming to defend it.
They appealed to the Const.i.tution, they appealed to justice, they appealed to fraternity, until the Const.i.tution, justice, and fraternity were no longer listened to in the legislative halls of their country, and then, sir, they prepared for the arbitrament of the sword; and now you see the glittering bayonet, and you hear the tramp of armed men from your capitol to the Rio Grande. It is a sight that gladdens the eyes and cheers the hearts of other millions ready to second them. Inasmuch, sir, as I have labored earnestly, honestly, sincerely, with these men to avert this necessity so long as I deemed it possible, and inasmuch as I heartily approve their present conduct of resistance, I deem it my duty to state their case to the Senate, to the country, and to the civilized world.
Senators, my countrymen have demanded no new government; they have demanded no new Const.i.tution. Look to their records at home and here from the beginning of this national strife until its consummation in the disruption of the empire, and they have not demanded a single thing except that you shall abide by the Const.i.tution of the United States; that const.i.tutional rights shall be respected, and that justice shall be done. Sirs, they have stood by your Const.i.tution; they have stood by all its requirements, they have performed all its duties unselfishly, uncalculatingly, disinterestedly, until a party sprang up in this country which endangered their social system--a party which they arraign, and which they charge before the American people and all mankind with having made proclamation of outlawry against four thousand millions of their property in the Territories of the United States; with having put them under the ban of the empire in all the States in which their inst.i.tutions exist outside the protection of federal laws; with having aided and abetted insurrection from within and invasion from without with the view of subverting those inst.i.tutions, and desolating their homes and their firesides. For these causes they have taken up arms.
I have stated that the discontented States of this Union have demanded nothing but clear, distinct, unequivocal, well-acknowledged const.i.tutional rights--rights affirmed by the highest judicial tribunals of their country; rights older than the Const.i.tution; rights which are planted upon the immutable principles of natural justice; rights which have been affirmed by the good and the wise of all countries, and of all centuries. We demand no power to injure any man. We demand no right to injure our confederate States. We demand no right to interfere with their inst.i.tutions, either by word or deed. We have no right to disturb their peace, their tranquillity, their security. We have demanded of them simply, solely--nothing else--to give us _equality, security and tranquillity_. Give us these, and peace restores itself. Refuse them, and take what you can get.
What do the rebels demand? First, "that the people of the United States shall have an equal right to emigrate and settle in the present or any future acquired Territories, with whatever property they may possess (including slaves), and be securely protected in its peaceable enjoyment until such Territory may be admitted as a State into the Union, with or without slavery, as she may determine, on an equality with all existing States." That is our Territorial demand. We have fought for this Territory when blood was its price. We have paid for it when gold was its price. We have not proposed to exclude you, tho you have contributed very little of blood or money. I refer especially to New England. We demand only to go into those Territories upon terms of equality with you, as equals in this great Confederacy, to enjoy the common property of the whole Union, and receive the protection of the common government, until the Territory is capable of coming into the Union as a sovereign State, when it may fix its own inst.i.tutions to suit itself.
The second proposition is, "that property in slaves shall be ent.i.tled to the same protection from the government of the United States, in all of its departments, everywhere, which the Const.i.tution confers the power upon it to extend to any other property, provided nothing herein contained shall be construed to limit or restrain the right now belonging to every State to prohibit, abolish, or establish and protect slavery within its limits." We demand of the common government to use its granted powers to protect our property as well as yours. For this protection we pay as much as you do. This very property is subject to taxation. It has been taxed by you and sold by you for taxes.
The t.i.tle to thousands and tens of thousands of slaves is derived from the United States. We claim that the government, while the Const.i.tution recognizes our property for the purposes of taxation, shall give it the same protection that it gives yours.
Ought it not to be so? You say no. Every one of you upon the committee said no. Your senators say no. Your House of Representatives says no.
Throughout the length and breadth of your conspiracy against the Const.i.tution there is but one shout of no! This recognition of this right is the price of my allegiance. Withhold it, and you do not get my obedience. This is the philosophy of the armed men who have sprung up in this country. Do you ask me to support a government that will tax my property: that will plunder me; that will demand my blood, and will not protect me? I would rather see the population of my native State laid six feet beneath her sod than they should support for one hour such a government. Protection is the price of obedience everywhere, in all countries. It is the only thing that makes government respectable. Deny it and you can not have free subjects or citizens; you may have slaves.
We demand, in the next place, "that persons committing crimes against slave property in one State, and fleeing to another, shall be delivered up in the same manner as persons committing crimes against other property, and that the laws of the State from which such persons flee shall be the test of criminality." That is another one of the demands of an extremist and a rebel.
But the nonslaveholding States, treacherous to their oaths and compacts, have steadily refused, if the criminal only stole a negro and that negro was a slave, to deliver him up. It was refused twice on the requisition of my own State as long as twenty-two years ago. It was refused by Kent and by Fairfield, governors of Maine, and representing, I believe, each of the then federal parties. We appealed then to fraternity, but we submitted; and this const.i.tutional right has been practically a dead letter from that day to this. The next case came up between us and the State of New York, when the present senior senator [Mr. Seward] was the governor of that State; and he refused it. Why? He said it was not against the laws of New York to steal a negro, and therefore he would not comply with the demand. He made a similar refusal to Virginia. Yet these are our confederates; these are our sister States! There is the bargain; there is the compact. You have sworn to it. Both these governors swore to it. The senator from New York swore to it. The governor of Ohio swore to it when he was inaugurated. You can not bind them by oaths. Yet they talk to us of treason; and I suppose they expect to whip freemen into loving such brethren! They will have a good time in doing it!
It is natural we should want this provision of the Const.i.tution carried out. The Const.i.tution says slaves are property; the Supreme Court says so; the Const.i.tution says so. The theft of slaves is a crime; they are a subject-matter of felonious asportation. By the text and letter of the Const.i.tution you agreed to give them up. You have sworn to do it, and you have broken your oaths. Of course, those who have done so look out for pretexts. n.o.body expected them to do otherwise. I do not think I ever saw a perjurer, however bald and naked, who could not invent some pretext to palliate his crime, or who could not, for fifteen shillings, hire an Old Bailey lawyer to invent some for him. Yet this requirement of the Const.i.tution is another one of the extreme demands of an extremist and a rebel.
The next stipulation is that fugitive slaves shall be surrendered under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, without being ent.i.tled either to a writ of habeas corpus, or trial by jury, or other similar obstructions of legislation, in the State to which he may flee. Here is the Const.i.tution:
"No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."
This language is plain, and everybody understood it the same way for the first forty years of your government. In 1793, in Washington's time, an act was pa.s.sed to carry out this provision. It was adopted unanimously in the Senate of the United States, and nearly so in the House of Representatives. n.o.body then had invented pretexts to show that the Const.i.tution did not mean a negro slave. It was clear; it was plain. Not only the federal courts, but all the local courts in all the States, decided that this was a const.i.tutional obligation. How is it now? The North sought to evade it; following the instincts of their natural character, they commenced with the fraudulent fiction that fugitives were ent.i.tled to habeas corpus, ent.i.tled to trial by jury in the State to which they fled. They pretended to believe that our fugitive slaves were ent.i.tled to more rights than their white citizens; perhaps they were right, they know one another better than I do. You may charge a white man with treason, or felony, or other crime, and you do not require any trial by jury before he is given up; there is nothing to determine but that he is legally charged with a crime and that he fled, and then he is to be delivered up upon demand. White people are delivered up every day in this way; but not slaves. Slaves, black people, you say, are ent.i.tled to trial by jury; and in this way schemes have been invented to defeat your plain const.i.tutional obligations.
Senators, the Const.i.tution is a compact. It contains all our obligations and the duties of the federal government. I am content and have ever been content to sustain it. While I doubt its perfection, while I do not believe it was a good compact, and while I never saw the day that I would have voted for it as a proposition _de novo_, yet I am bound to it by oath and by that common prudence which would induce men to abide by established forms rather than to rush into unknown dangers. I have given to it, and intend to give to it, unfaltering support and allegiance, but I choose to put that allegiance on the true ground, not on the false idea that anybody's blood was shed for it. I say that the Const.i.tution is the whole compact. All the obligations, all the chains that fetter the limbs of my people, are nominated in the bond, and they wisely excluded any conclusion against them, by declaring that "the powers not granted by the Const.i.tution to the United States, or forbidden by it to the States, belonged to the States respectively or the people."
Now I will try it by that standard; I will subject it to that test. The law of nature, the law of justice, would say--and it is so expounded by the publicists--that equal rights in the common property shall be enjoyed. Even in a monarchy the king can not prevent the subjects from enjoying equality in the disposition of the public property. Even in a despotic government this principle is recognized. It was the blood and the money of the whole people (says the learned Grotius, and say all the publicists) which acquired the public property, and therefore it is not the property of the sovereign. This right of equality being, then, according to justice and natural equity, a right belonging to all States, when did we give it up? You say Congress has a right to pa.s.s rules and regulations concerning the Territory and other property of the United States. Very well. Does that exclude those whose blood and money paid for it? Does "dispose of" mean to rob the rightful owners? You must show a better t.i.tle than that, or a better sword than we have.
What, then, will you take? You will take nothing but your own judgment; that is, you will not only judge for yourselves, not only discard the court, discard our construction, discard the practise of the government, but you will drive us out, simply because you will it. Come and do it!
You have sapped the foundations of society; you have destroyed almost all hope of peace. In a compact where there is no common arbiter, where the parties finally decide for themselves, the sword alone at last becomes the real, if not the const.i.tutional, arbiter. Your party says that you will not take the decision of the Supreme Court. You said so at Chicago; you said so in committee; every man of you in both Houses says so. What are you going to do? You say we shall submit to your construction. We shall do it, if you can make us; but not otherwise, or in any other manner. That is settled. You may call it secession, or you may call it revolution; but there is a big fact standing before you, ready to oppose you--that fact is, freemen with arms in their hands.
MY FELLOW CITIZENS:--No people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of boastfulness in our own strength, but with grat.i.tude to the Giver of Good, Who has blessed us with the conditions which have enabled us to achieve so large a measure of well-being and happiness.
To us as a people it has been granted to lay the foundations of our national life in a new continent. We are the heirs of the ages, and yet we have had to pay few of the penalties which in old countries are exacted by the dead hand of a bygone civilization. We have not been obliged to fight for our existence against any alien race; and yet our life has called for the vigor and effort without which the manlier and hardier virtues wither away.
Under such conditions it would be our own fault if we failed, and the success which we have had in the past, the success which we confidently believe the future will bring, should cause in us no feeling of vainglory, but rather a deep and abiding realization of all that life has offered us; a full acknowledgment of the responsibility which is ours; and a fixed determination to show that under a free government a mighty people can thrive best, alike as regard the things of the body and the things of the soul.
Much has been given to us, and much will rightfully be expected from us.
We have duties to others and duties to ourselves--and we can shirk neither. We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relation to the other nations of the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities.
Toward all other nations, large and small, our att.i.tude must be one of cordial and sincere friendship. We must show not only in our words but in our deeds that we are earnestly desirous of securing their good will by acting toward them in a spirit of just and generous recognition of all their rights.
But justice and generosity in a nation, as in an individual, count most when shown not by the weak but by the strong. While ever careful to refrain from wronging others, we must be no less insistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We wish peace; but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness. We wish it because we think it is right, and not because we are afraid. No weak nation that acts rightly and justly should ever have cause to fear, and no strong power should ever be able to single us out as a subject for insolent aggression.
Our relations with the other powers of the world are important; but still more important are our relations among ourselves. Such growth in wealth, in population, and in power, as a nation has seen during a century and a quarter of its national life, is inevitably accompanied by a like growth in the problems which are ever before every nation that rises to greatness. Power invariably means both responsibility and danger. Our forefathers faced certain perils which we have outgrown. We now face other perils the very existence of which it was impossible that they should foresee.
Modern life is both complex and intense, and the tremendous changes wrought by the extraordinary industrial development of the half century are felt in every fiber of our social and political being. Never before have men tried so vast and formidable an experiment as that of administering the affairs of a continent under the forms of a democratic republic. The conditions which have told for our marvelous material well-being, which have developed to a very high degree our energy, self-reliance, and individual initiative, also have brought the care and anxiety inseparable from the acc.u.mulation of great wealth in industrial centers.
Upon the success of our experiment much depends--not only as regards our own welfare, but as regards the welfare of mankind. If we fail, the cause of free self-government throughout the world will rock to its foundations, and therefore our responsibility is heavy, to ourselves, to the world as it is to-day, and to the generations yet unborn.
There is no good reason why we should fear the future, but there is every reason why we should face it seriously, neither hiding from ourselves the gravity of the problems before us, nor fearing to approach these problems with the unbending, unflinching purpose to solve them aright.
Yet after all, tho the problems are new, tho the tasks set before us differ from the tasks set before our fathers, who founded and preserved this Republic, the spirit in which these tasks must be undertaken and these problems faced, if our duty is to be well done, remains essentially unchanged. We know that self-government is difficult. We know that no people needs such high traits of character as that people which seeks to govern its affairs aright through the freely expressed will of the free men who compose it.
But we have faith that we shall not prove false to memories of the men of the mighty past. They did their work; they left us the splendid heritage we now enjoy. We in our turn have an a.s.sured confidence that we shall be able to leave this heritage unwasted and enlarged to our children's children.