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There is no possession which a free lawyers this couutry has produced, the people should guard with greater vigi. Hori. Jeremiah Mason. In 1812, when Jance than the reputation of such a states- scarcely thirty, and soon after the declaman as Mr. Webster. At a time when ration of war, he was elected a Repreparty and personal malice has assailed sentative in Congress from the State of him with even unwonted virulence, (hut New Hampshire. The first important happily meeting a most signal defeat,) we measure in which he took a prominent shall discharge only a plain public duty part was the Bill for “ encouraging vol. by a brief sketch, to remind the country unteers.” Although he represented a of what indeed it knows, but cannot too people strongly opposed to the war, he often ponder and celebrate.
felt it to be his duty to promote measures
essential to the dignity, honor and safety Mr. Webster was born in Salisbury, of the country; and, in his speech on a small farming town in New Hampshire, this occasion, he called upon the Gov. in 1782. His father, who was a farmer, ernment to build and equip a navy, as had served both in the old French War the first and highest of duties. and in the War of the Revolution. No time,” said he, you may be enabled to other advantages of education were redress injuries in the place where they within the reach of the son than the may be offered ; and, if need be, to accomcommon schools, for which New Eng. pany your own flag throughout the world land has long been famous; and at one of with the protection of your own cannon." these primitive institutions Mr. Webster Later, in the same Congress, he was fitted for Dartmouth College, where contended strenuously and successfully he was entered at the age of fifteen, and against the establishment of a mere paper where he was graduated in 1801. The currency; and it is to his exertions and circumstances of his family compelled his early views, maintained with singu. him to exert himself for his own support, lar zeal and foresight, that we owe the and in these exertions his professional establishment of a sound currency and studies were often interrupted. Some of the overthrow of the paper-bank system. the labors and personal sacrifices to In 1816, he introduced and carried a Rewhich he then voluntarily submitted, for solution, still part of the law of the Unitthe sake of his own and a brother's edu. ed States, the effect of which was to recation, are among the most remarkable quire the revenue to be received only in achievements of even his remarkable life. the legal currency of the United States, While engaged in these arduous efforts, or in bills equal to that currency in value. and at what may be called a tender age, Mr. Webster at this time retired from he went to reside in Boston, and entered Congress, and went to Boston to reside, the office of the late Gov. Gore, a lawyer to practice his profession. For six or of great eminence, a statesman and á eight years he devoted himself exclugentleman of the loftiest elevation, dig- sively to the law; and the Massachu. nity and purity of character. When Mr. setts Reports, and the Reports in the Gore presented his young pupil for ad- Circuit and Supreme Courts of the United mission to the bar, in 1805, he predicted States, show the great professional inhis future eminence in a few words ad come which must then have begun to dressed to the court, which have since flow in upon him, and what opportunibeen more than fulfilled. Mr. Webster ties for the acquisition of fortune he soon began the practice of his profession in sacrificed at the call of public duty. The Boscawen, in his native State, near the people of Boston demanded, however, residence of his father, then living, that such talents and acquirements should but, in 1807, after the death of his fa- again be in the service of the country. ther, he removed to Portsmouth. There He had already declined an offer of a his mind received ils remarkable di- seat in the Senate, but, in 1822, he acceptrection and attained its characteristic ed a seat as their Representative in Constrength, in the legal training into which gress. But before he came again into he was at once brought, by immediate ihe national councils, his mind bad reand daily conflict with one of the greatest ceived that peculiar bias, if we may so VOL. IV.-NO. I
call it, to Constitutional law, which has tune, that when the doctrines of nullifi. made him the great Constitutional states- cation were first boldly and confidently man of the country. He had, in the asserted in the Senate of the United interim, taken his place at the Bar of States, by a person of great respectability, the Supreme Court of the United States, talent and ingenuity, the whole past hisin the discussion of those great questions tory of Mr. Webster had singularly qualiof public and Constitutional law, to which fied him for the duty of defending the such a system of government as ours Constitution. This Government of the gives rise; and henceforth he was des- United States this Union is now in existtined to be the champion of that public ence, with its 'paramount powers unimliberty which has its seat and citadel in paired, because Mr. Webster's intellectual the Constitution of a free country. and moral relation to the Constitution,
We must wholly pass over his labors at that critical moment, enabled him to in the years 1823-4, and his great work encounter and defeat the peril of that of digesting and causing to be adopted hour. It was in debate, that the Consti. the Crimes Act in 1825. In 1826, a va. tution was to be saved. It was a great cancy in the Senate having occurred, he argument on the floor of the Senate, that was chosen to fill it by a very large ma. was demanded by the exigency of the jority of both houses in the Legislature discussion, to convince the country that of Massachusetts.
a law of Congress could not and therefore Few intelligent persons in this coun. would not be nullified by a law of a try are so young or so ill-informed, as State. Mr. Webster had for years been not to know the events of his career trained in the school of the Constitution. from this period down to the time when He required no especial preparation, for he was appointed Secretary of State, and his whole life had been a course of pre. thence to the present hour. To give in paration for such an argument. The Condetail the public services of such a life stitution, in its true, broad and genuine as Mr. Webster has devoted to the sery spirit—the instrument that constitutes a ices of his country, in the pages of a government and not a collection of States, magazine, would be impossible. We which embraces the whole people under must devote our brief space to two great one National Union, and is subject to no transactions, in which he is to be regard defeat or dismemberment by local power ed as a public benefactor for what he has or sectional jealousy—this and nothing prevented, as well as for what he has less than this had been the object of his accomplished.
legal and political studies for years. He Of course, every reader will recur at had read it by no other light than good once to the overthrow of the doctrines of sense and the truth of history, faithful to Nullification, and to the treaty of Wash. its genuine text. He had imbued himself ington. With respect to these transac- with the opinions of its great founders. tions, we affirm no less a proposition With the doctrines of Washington and than this—that Mr. Webster is at this Jay and Hamilton and Madison, in the moment a living statesman, who has past; with those of Marshall and Story, saved his country from a civil war, at in the present; with all former and all one period of his life, and from a war modern means of genuine exposition, with England, with honor, at another with the study of its powers, with the period. Separate Mr. Webster from all contemplation of its vast benefits and other doings, erase the record of all his blessings; with its grand and transcend. other public acts, overlook all his history ently important history, out of which in its many bearings upon the peace and our political destiny must be forever prosperity of his country, and seek ac- shaped, his mind was as familiar as with quaintance with no facts in the formation the most ordinary knowledge. Some of of his character and opinions, except the brightest laurels he had ever won, such as are necessary to understand his had been gained in the forum, in causes adaptation for these great tasks; and involving the questions that spring from contemplate him solely as the statesman the Constitution of the United States and successfully concerned in these two acts, touch the sources of State power and and we know not where to look for a State Legislation. When therefore he greater debt of gratitude due from the was suddenly called upon to enter into a people of the United States to any living debate upon nullification, he was beyond individual, than is due to him.
all other men the most fit person to deIt happened, by a singular good for- fend the Constitution. It was also just
such a defence as he made, that was to the world. Years passed on--years of save and did save the country from a constant, faithful public service, of great civil war.
toil and sacritice, of perpetual good acIt was on the 21st and 22d of January, complished-and found him in a high 1830, that General Hayne formally de- office, with the foreign relations of the veloped in the Senate the doctrines of country entrusted to his care. Those nullification. His speech was grave, ar- relations were entangled with a Power, gumentative and plausible. It required from whose people our blood, language, an answer. Every one who heard it, or laws, letters and civilization are derived; heard of it, or read it, felt that a crisis who must be the most formidable enemy for the Constitution had arrived. If the on earth to us, as she ought to be the speech had remained unanswered ; above dearest friend. Diplomacy had exhaustall, if the answer had not been a trium- ed its resources and done its mischiefs. phant refutation, the Administration, with Dark and angry clouds lowered in the all the force of General Jackson's per- horizon, and the point of bonor, that sonal character, could not afterwards delicate and irritable spot in the passions have encountered the menaced resistance, of nations, had been almost reached and without a civil war. South Carolina wounded. Intricate controversies, crossafterwards actually stood with arms in ing each other in a singular confusion, the hands of her citizens, ready to resist conflicting rights and interests, principles the collection of revenue by the General of public law and objects of national Government, within her borders. But policy had for more than twenty years the battle of the Constitution had been been woven into a “mesh," that might fought in the Senate; and the moral vic- have appalled the clearest vision and the tory having been won there, the Govern- steadiest hand. But there was a frank ment could proceed with its demonstra- and sincere disposition on the part of the tions of force without the otherwise brave people with whom we were in this inevitable result of bloodshed: When a web of difficulties, to use conciliation ; faction is proceeding to rebellion upon and, above all, a profound respect and professed grounds of doctrine and princi- confidence towards the person and charple, it is more than half disarmed, in a acter of the American Secretary. Let us country of intelligence and a free press, pause here, for a moment, to consider as soon as its doctrines are morally over the consequences, if the Secretary had thrown, though the outward attitude of demeaned himself otherwise than as he resistance may even grow more belliger- did. ent.
We will not for an instant make the Mr. Webster answered General Hayne. smallest concession to that spirit, which The world knows the history of that regards a war with England as anything answer by heart. It was a demonstra- less than a crime and a calamity for these tion of the principle that a State cannot, United States if wantonly and carelessly and therefore the country felt that South produced. That hoarse and vulgar paCarolina would not, nullify a Law of triotism, which cannot find in honorable Congress. A remarkable eagerness seiz- peace the highest honor of one's country, ed on the public mind to read this speech. and does not regard war as the last dread It was spread over the country, from evil for nations, will never learn “ to Maine to Missouri vastly more copies hate the cowardice of doing wrong." of it having been printed than of any But in the judgment of the vast majority other speech in the history of the Gov. of mankind, in their cool and reflecting ernment. What followed was a neces. moments, he who saves his country from sary attitude of preparation and compul- a war, by skillful, able and upright negosion taken by the Government, when tiation; who gains for her by the pen occasion called for it—an attitude which more than all that she could have gained it owed the power to take to Mr. Web- by the sword; who averts, without loss ster's great and successful argumentation. of dignity, and with a vast accession of
It was said, soon after, in a periodical honor, the crimes, and misery, and ruin, of high standing, published at Philadel- that follow in the train of hostile armies, phia, that Mr. Webster might regard achieves a distinction and a praise, highthis achievement as the chief honor of er than all other earthly honors. His his life. But who shall set limits to the reputation will be dear to his country, power of a great statesman to do good, beyond all price, for it is bound up with as long as Providence continues him in the sources of her prosperity and happi
nessmit is established on the broad and made, is an assertion on which none but imperishable foundations of the public the foolhardy will now venture, and good.
which none can maintain. Every inLet any American sit down and follow quiry, therefore, as to the propriety and out the consequences of a different line greatness of Mr. Webster's course in of conduct from that pursued by Mr. that negotiation must come back to this : Webster. Let him suppose that a war Shall a statesman, who can with perfect had been suffered to grow out of the honor save his country from a war by Caroline and McLeod affair. No man negotiation, exercise his whole power to at this day can be found to assert that that end, or shall he assume that war is upon the question of international law, a result of no importance compared with respecting McLeod, we were not clearly the gratification of a false patriotism and and wholly in the wrong: Let then a an exaggerated sense of the value of war have grown out of his individual what is immediately in dispute ? The fate, by the refusal of the United States world, the Christian world, has but one to admit the true principle applicable to answer to give to such a question. It his case.
For the sake of an obstinate has given this answer to Mr. Websteradherence to wrong, let the commerce of an answer which he cannot mistake, and this vast country have been exposed to which the malice of envy and detraction the British Navy, let lowns have been can never take away. burned, let lives and treasure have been Whatever the future may have in store squandered, let Anglo-Saxon Christians for us, whoever may be entrusted with have met for each other's blood on land power, the people of these United States and sea, let the fierce struggle of kindred have witnessed one great example of nations have commenced, to end God peace honorably preserved from the bazknows wben and how. Wheresoever ards created by previous mismanagement. victory might have perched, is there Few men, probably, are aware how anything within the range of the human great those hazards were. But they imagination more bitter, than the curses passed away. Uninterrupted commerce of millions, that would have followed rolled its treasures of sea and land through the name of that statesman, who should the wonted channels of public and prihave been too weak and too cowardly to vate enterprise. The ship sailed on, the meet his duty on a question so paltry in loom remained active on every stream, its details, but fraught with such conse- the plough on every hill-side and in quences from the principles involved ? every valley stood not still. The barOr take the North-eastern Boundary as a vest was gathered; the pulsations that cause for war between England and beat along every artery in the life of America. Title to a wild and unsettled trade, through a great land of production country-mere title, capable of fair ad- and consumption, were undisturbed. The justment by compromise and agreement quivering fibres of domestic life and love, -as a cause for war, presents an idea throughout millions of homes, were torn that no honest mind can contemplate by no anguish of “ war’s alarums," no without a shudder. National honor, if news of the slain and wounded on deck it become involved in a question of title, or field. Peace, with its countless bless. so that it cannot be extricated without ings and its anthems of thanksgiving, an appeal to arms, is one thing. But remained upon the earth.
How came it it is the business of statesmen, for which to be so ? they may be said to be furnished with Then and there, in the City of Washpower, to prevent national bonor from ington, Anno Domini 1842, in the heats becoming so entangled. The assailants of a Southern Summer, an earnest man, of Mr. Webster on the Treaty are, there- of deep wisdom and vast capacity for fore, driven to answer this question : labor, held the peace of his country in What would have been the judgment of his hand. It could not but be known to mankind, if he had refused to make a him, that a failure in the undertaking boundary by agreement, and standing at would be followed by a war begun inall points on the extreme verge of our gloriously, if it should end with what claim, bad presented the alternative of war, may be called success. It could not but and thereby made it inevitable? This is be known to bim that his country looked the true issue. It is a moral question; to him for an issue out of a perplexing for that we did not get the most ample and hazardous business, that should save equivalent for every concession that we both its interests and its honor. He
could not but feel that the civilized world which this has occurred, have been those Jooked with interest on his position, and which spring from the great propensity would hold America and him to a solemn of England to give the utmost force and account for the opportunities before him. extension to her own municipal law. A What anxious nights, what laborious citizen of the world, looking calmly updays were his; he who runs may read on English Diplomacy and English Juin the results that have since come forth. risprudence, in some features, would be Never found unequal to any part in hu. likely to infer that the Law of England, man affairs, the Secretary was equal to by some peculiar power, is able to ope. himself; and he who seeks to detract rate proprio rigore farther than the munifrom the merit of that great deed, seeks cipal codes of other countries ; and that his country's dishonor, and will be sure it can even override, by its own eminent 10 accomplish his own infamy.
virtue, in case of conflict, any other sysWhile the American negotiator aimed tem of law, in any place where the conat the preservation of peace, he preserved flict may occur. But it would be mani. the country in an attitude of the utmost fest 'to such an observer, that however dignity. Nothing is more striking delicately such a pretension may be exthroughout the whole correspondence, ercised, however magnanimous and highthan the American tone, temper and feels principled the power that puts it forth, ing, that pervade Mr. Webster's discus- the doctrine is utterly inconsistent with sions. By no diplomatist, at home or the equality and independence of nations abroad, have American rights been up- —that great millennial state, to which the held with a firmer hand, and by none public law ought to be made to tend. have they been farther advanced. Would Two instances of this pretension on the that it were in our power, through the part of England have been quite remarklength and breadth of this broad land, to able. The one is, the English doctrine go into every honest man's dwelling, of Impressment, founded on the idea that where such documents seldom penetrate, a British subject owes perpetual allegiand there sit down to show how safe the ance to the British Crown, which may national honor was, in the bands of Dan- claim his services in war wherever he iel Webster. Those who have heard him may be found, and therefore, it was said, reviled for making a Treaty about boun a British officer may enter an American dary, are they aware that against the ship, carrying with him this principle of greatest maritime power in the world, he British law, to search for and remove has maintained our rights, with a spirit British subjects. All this implies the noand a force which will cause them to be tion that the municipal law of England respected as they have never been be can operate in the territory of another nafore?
tion. The other instance is the English The Law of Nations has made great doctrine, more recently promulgated, that progress within the last fifty years; but slaves, the properly of an American citiin the Treaty of Washington and in the zen of a slaveholding State, on board a Correspondence connected therewith, it vessel driven by stress of weather into a advanced farther than it had during the British port, there become free, because whole of the fifty years that preceded. the municipal law of England does not We can make this apparent by a very tolerate slavery. This again involves few remarks.
the notion that the municipal law of EngIt is not to be denied that the true land, in a British port, enters such a ves. scope and tendency of the Law of Na- sel and governs the relations of those on tions consist in promoting and securing board, to the exclusion of the municipal the national independence of every sepa- law of their own country, a part of rate people on the globe. It is also not which, by the law of nations, such vessel to be denied, that while the policy and actually is. measures of England have, in some cases Now, it is in no boastful or triumphant of intervention and the like, proceeded spirit, but with that satisfaction which upon and enforced this great leading ob- springs from the belief that mankind are ject of the Christian States, her policy to be benefited by the result, that we say, and measures have in other instances that Mr. Webster met and abolished these trenched upon the independence of other pretensions. He has abolished them, so powers, and tended to its exclusion, as a far as America is concerned, inasmuch as principle, from the system of public law. they cannot hereafter be advanced and Some of the most remarkable cases in acted upon, without giving cause for war,