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THE

AMERICAN REVIEW.

No. LXXXIV.

FOR DECEMBER, 1851.

THE DALLAS LETTER.

It is refreshing, after so long and pro- the pure, cool air, the fragrant forests, and the found a silence in that quarter, to obtain ripening harvests, – to postpone, until my return to

arid streets and studies, the attention to which a declaration of opinion on national politics your request is entitled. I cannot, however, feel from a leading Democrat. So great has at rest while imagining that my silence may posbeen the demand and so limited the supply sibly be misinterpreted, and therefore hasten to of late, that it is not surprising that there send you the views which you are kind enough to should be some inquiry for the political

wish repeated.

“Of the topics of your letter, dated the 4th opinions of the lesser lights that shine only inst., from Peach Point, Brazoria county, Texas, in the absence of stars of the first magni- I have long entertained definite and decided tude. Verily it is in the sphere of mind as opinions. As they are somewhat different from in that of material things: when genius, the any avowed by public men in this quarter, I divine luminary, shines not forth, the illumi- were it not that every day's progress in our great nating qualities of gas provide a pale and federal experiment confirms to me their soundness, wan substitute.

indeed their absolute necessity. I cannot work Such are the reflections awakened by a

out the safety of the Union in their absence. That perusal of the letter recently addressed by and most permanent security for as much of com

union was designed and is fitted to be the best the Hon. George M. Dallas, through the bined freedom and happiness as societies are perHon. Guy M. Bryan, of Texas, to twenty mitted to enjoy; and it has always seemed to me odd millions of glorious republicans. Moun- not merely rash and irrational, but grossly illotain scenery is supposed to exert an enlarg- gical, to disclaim or doubt any of its essential ing influence upon the ideas. Its images the opposite of consolidation. The elements ne

springs of vitality. Union, in its political sense, is of grandeur awaken all that is sublime in cessary to a bare idea of a union are antagonistic thought; its grand elevations are sugges to those of a consolidation ; and yet I cannot help tive of dignity and power; and its pure at- thinking that all the mistakes and mischiefs to mosphere removes far into the obscure dis- wbich we have been subjected, found an origin in

the habitual tendency of many very able statestance the intellectual horizon. Who will men to import from old consolidated empires their doubt the verity of this influence after lis- products of legislation and government, and to fasttening to the Delphic voice which has been en them upon the new American condition of mere uttered from Schooley's Mountain ? Hear federal union. How often do we hear and see the and judge

strictly deconstitutionalized term 'nation' substi

tuted for that of union !'- a substitute plausible SCHOOLEY's MOUNTAIN SPRING,

and innocent in the sphere of foreign nations, but NEW-JERSEY, July 25, 1851.

full of insinuating and pernicious encroachment

wherever the domestic limits, reservations and “My Dear Sir :—Having escaped the heats of guaranties are involved. It found no place in the the city, I am almost inclined, amid the beauties structure framed by the Convention of 1787. of nature which surround me here,—the high hills, Were I not at this nioment away from home, more

31

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VOL. VIII.

NO. VI.

NEW SERIES.

in search of health than disposed to labor, I should, ton, Madison, Franklin and Hamilton. Are they be tempted to nole, trom Congressional and Ex. not wise enough, then, to apply a single and simple ecutive records, some of the errors appar, ntly run cure for a disease which, after many years of into, both of reasoning and of policy, under the latent torpor, has suddenly alarmingly developed ? seductive influence of round language. No stronger With me there is no doubt that if my countrymen illustrations could be given of Mirabeau's asser- be given the legitimate opportunity, they will extion that words are things,' (ay, and fatally pressly and unqualifiedly prohibit, sooner or later, serious things, too,) than the extent to which, with what I have heretofore humbly believed they had such aids, the meaning of our Constitution, if not by the strongest implication already prohibited. the nature of our government, has been affected. They will prohibit from being forced by the sophI am not so unjust as to question the motives of istries of zealots to enact the part of consolidation; those who have thus deviated; they must rather they will place the constitutional canon too palpbe regarded as misled by a sort of ainbitious pa- ably for misconstruction against the self-slaughter triotisın, so intently aiming to augment the great of intermeddling with institutions and rights exness, wealth and power of their country, as un- clusively of State creation, State responsibility, guardedly to overlook the peculiar complications and State control; they will render it impossible, and nice adjustment of its political system. by any process short of treason or revolution, to

“As a people, we are generally calm and con- convert the confederacy into the means of destroy. servative-perhaps more tamely so than is con- ing the equality of its own members, or to direct genial with the spirit and anticipations of the its energies to fulfil the behests of some higher law Constitution. There is one provision of that in- starting up from the ever-ranging and incalculable strument, which more strongly than any other phantasies of the inner man. marks its practical wisdom, and yet it is curious "I have dispassionately, but anxiously watched to see with what almost superstitious dread we the manifest of political sentiment in the North and shrink from bringing it into action. I refer to the East, since the adjournment of Congress, and shall power and process of amendment. Our organic be most happy to find my impression dispelled in law was put in writing, its delegations and re- the future. At first the movements of the masses strictions of jurisdiction were given express and were independent of leadership, and gave a noble visible certainty; but as all human fabrics are earnestness to indicate their good faith, and to confessedly imperfect, and should ever be adapt- maintain the institutions and harmony of the able to the times

, the mode of peaceful change, Union; but—and I say it with reluctance-the horicorrection or addition, was prescribed with equal zon was not long permitted to remain so flattering. exactness. Why is it that we endure years of The abolitionists beat again their barbaric gong; dangerous agitation, unsettling our sentiments as the love of representative assemblages, regular or fellow-citizens, and winding gradually up to a social casual, was again taunting and vindictive; paltry convulsion, rather than frankly resort to this prof- and personal ambition renewed the agitation by fered expedient! Certainly, the Constitution can- which alope its hopes are fed; Vermont, Massanot be touched with too much reverence; certainly, chusetts, Ohio, New-York, and even Pennsylvania, what is usually stigmatized as “tinkering at it exbibited in succession sad proof that their respectshould be resolutely avoided; but when it is plain ive portions of the great Whig party were unwilthat the proper occasion has arisen, that nothing ling to forego the customary rallying outcry against less soleinn can be efficacious, and that the very the South. They affected not to know, to disbeUnion it creates and conservates is at risk, why lieve as fanciful, or to despise, if real, the dangers are we to recoil from the provided sanctuary of their course; the bold bully of Anti-slavery deOne of the authorized forms of amending is unac- fied to his face the eloquent apostle of Union, and companied by hazard of any kind—that of Con- defied him with impunity. The newspaper edi. gressional recommendation, to be followed by the torials, with exceptions few and far between, approval of three fourths of the local Legislatures. merged in the common current; at last it has beSuch a process seems just now to be unpromising, come quite manifest (bas it not ! and why represe but it may, after candid and diffuse discussion, turn our convictions ?) that the expectation fondly inout otherwise. Surely the Union is valued suffi- dulged of tranquilizing the country by the leg 8ciently to rally for its risk and renovation twenty- | lative measures, is delusive. The act for the exfour of the thirty-one States; or are we already pre- tradition of fugitives is the pretext for protracted pared to admit that the American people have and persevering war upon the guaranties of the become incapable of self-government, incapable Constitution; und if we are to raise the siege to of appreciating the true sources of their wonderful which that instrument is still subjected, can we do progress, and incapable of discarding the blind better than reinforce it from the arsenal

, and with though boisterous guides, ready to lead them, the orders of the people? I desire nothing so through disunion, into mu'ual and rancorous jeal much as the safety of the Union. Place it beyond ousies, into dependence on foreign guardianship, the striking distance of cunning, as well as mad into civil and servile wars, and into the poor feuds fanatici-m. Do this, if you can, without resorting of village trades and tariffs. I think it always a ! to the final remedy; but if you cannot, then give mistake to falter in reliance upon the shrewd and to the Constitution an express, positive, prohibitory sober judgment of the great body of our fellow- amendment, which shall for ever end the entanglecitizens. They were wise enough to discern the ments and pretexts of interpretation. untried excellence of the Constitution; they were “ But what, you may ask, if this doubtful and wise enough to amend, ay, and most admirably, dilatory course should prove

abortive? Much the work as it came from the hands of Washing- time and opportunity will have been afforded.

*

We propose

Congress, the Executive, and the people will have | ern; and the right not to be impressed by British perceived that the resources of the Constitution naval audacity was cherished alike in the fields of for the defense of the State rights were patiently Kentucky and on the Atlantic coast; and so I tell exhausted, and may become sensible that a single you that the right of each State to be accounted further step of invasion will, like the last feather an equal of every other State, and to secure, if she on the camel's back, break down the confederacy. so pleases, to ber inhabitants the enjoyment of as At all events, the responsibility of pertinaciously ample and unrestricted a scope for the exercise of perverting, after reiterated warning, the functions their minds and means as can be secured else. of the Union, will, even more strongly than now, where, is not a sectional, not a Southern, but a rest with those who dare gravely claim to dom- common Union or constitutional right. Such, I ineer the condition and consciences of others. I am sure, was the design of all those who, as master Instead of forbearing remonstrance, of reasoning, workmen, built on the basis of the confederation and of appeals to the bulwark of the fundamental the United States; such I believe to have been compact, the quick instinct of self-preservation will the sense of those who, after the most widely alone be left. * Even at that crisis, when disunion, popular form of consultation, adopted the strucpartial or temporary, shall seem the alternative on ture, and entered upon its occupancy; and such which to shun consolidation, I shall not cease to must be-for the truth is mighty and will prevailhope that faction may yet be stunned into sobriety, the ultimate judgment even of those who, with the and that the confronting presence of liberty and bigoted frenzy of crusaders, would attain what usurpation may, in this western world of ours, ter- their delirium deceives them by depicting as the rify the latter into retreat.

will of God.'” “I do not think that I misjudge my countrymen in saying, that the party in the wrong must ulti

Such are the opinions of a sometime mately yield; but it is well to remember, that in Vice President upon the great topics that order to retain the position of right, extreme for have agitated the Union. bearance is necessary, and that perhaps gross, op: briefly to review the opinions here presented, borne. In contests of speculative politics, a salu- not as possessing any intrinsic merit, nor as tary something can always be anticipated from the likely to exercise any important influence soothing and truth-disclosing influence of time. To upon thought or action in reference to any Aling the gauntlet while yet the civil controversy great interests, nor yet as emanating from a within which you may really have more friends source likely to give weight to any opinion than fåes, is chivalry of the kind painted by Cer- by the prestige of an established political vantes. Napoleon, the restive and intractable, leadership; but simply because the transowned and inculcated, as to all projects, the wisdom parent Machiavelism of the distinguished of waiting till the pear is ripe, and cot imitate writer has displayed, what his more adroit the savage who cuts down the tree to reach the fruit. Southern men whose faith wavers in the competitors for the Presidency would fain meaning and purpose of the Constitution, as to conceal, the aims and thoughts of the leadState equality and non-intervention, are naturally ers of the Democratic party. made testy and choleric by their own unisgivings; but it is the province of conscious justice and per- same sort, distinguished for the intensity of

Mr. Dallas, in company with a few of the fection to be patient, and to abide the inevitable triumph of truth. Nor ought it to be forgotten, their partisan antipathies, regards consolithat however convenient and admissible in ordinary dation as the especial evil genius of this parlance the language is, there are, under the Republic. The federal bond he regards as Constitution, no such separate realities as “South too strong, and likely to merge the separate ern rights; that an outrage upon reserved sover. eignty, on any subject, is just as much an infringe sovereignties of the States into one vast, ment of my right in Pennsylvania as of yours in overshadowing empire. And while professTexas, and that a large proportion of the people on ing admiration and devoted attachment for this side of Mason and Dixon's line have been the Union, he proposes to weaken its bond taught by experience and reflection to know that for the sake of enhancing the dignity of the sources in the North. A citizen who truly esti: State sovereignties. An occasion more op-mates and loves the Union, who is capable of portune than the present might have been comprehending that to the domestic tranquillity selected for the promulgation of such deand enduring freedom of the American people it nationalizing opinions; for if the destiny of is a political necessity, feels as sensitively a blow the Union is likely to be affected in any another —upon the fisheries, the navigation of the way by the discussion of the great question Mississippi, the liberty of the seas, the freedom of of the day, it will inevitably arise from the the press, or the local sovereignty over soil and preponderance of the centrifugal over the than Southern; the right which was in momentary centralizing force. While the harmony of jeopardy at Ghent, of exclusive use of the waters the States is disturbed by the conflict of a of the Mississippi, is no more Western than East- diversity of policy and interest, there is little to fear from consolidation. At such times The author of the Schooley's Mountain our study should be to discover how we may letter has displayed presumption if not praisecement most firmly the Union, while the worthy ambition in attempting to mount discussion of such dangerous abstractions the rostrum so recently left by the great should be deferred to times when more is to master-spirit of discontent. He draws about be feared from apathy than from agitation. his meagre limbs the robe of his master, with That there exists no pressing and immedi- less dignity than self-satisfaction, and glances ate necessity for the discussion of this topic, with complacency at his admired proporis strikingly evinced by the fact that such tions, as he counterfeits the tone and manacute politicians as Mr. Dallas discover so ner of his ideal. We will listen to the strong an opposite tendency, that they are voice of the oracle. willing to hazard their expectations and The great error of the day, reasons this reputations, if they have any, upon an effort first-born of wisdom's children, consists in a to ride into place and power upon the cur- misapplication of the term “nation,” an “imrent of State-right opinions.

port from old consolidated empires," unsuited If there ever arrives a time when the to“ the new American condition of mere well-balanced structure of our Union will federal union.We have been taught by be in danger from consolidation, it will hap- the poets that there is but little in a name; pen when some grand scheme of conquest, but we venture to assert that a nation has like that conceived for the administration of not half the fragrance that invests a mere which Mr. Dallas was a member, shall ab- federal union for the delicate sense of the sorb the thought and feeling of the nation. philosophic Pickwickian. It is left in unSuch unholy bandings to pillage and annex certainty whether Mr. Dallas aims his crititerritory exert the very influence which Mr. cal thrust against those devoted self-laudaDallas dreads. The strongest governments are tors who delight to distinguish ourselves those which exist among plundering hordes; and our country as “a great nation," or while the peaceful pursuits of industry, whether the objects that excite his indignaintellectual and moral culture, the legitimate tion are those inoffensive beings, the makers pursuits of civilized societies, have a ten- of dictionaries, whose single and humane dency to distribute and equalize political effort is to rescue good English from the powers. In ages widely separated by time, hands of murderers; but it is evident that and under dissimilar conditions of social ex- Mr. Dallas is deeply concerned for the safety istence, the republics of Rome and France of our country, while there are those who sank under the weight ofan imperial ambition. are silly enough or wicked enough to call it

The sentiments of Mr. Dallas call to mind a nation. If the stability of our institutions the days of the Titans, when similar doc- is endangered by it, however much we may trines were propounded by a Calhoun. Mr. regret the loss of a euphonious word from Calhoun impressed his age with a conviction our language, interwoven as it is with not a of his earnestness. Those who differed few pleasant associations, we solemnly defrom him saw more reason to regret the clare, and write it with a firm pen, that danoverwrought sensibility of his temperament gerous word, that emissary from old conthan to censure his motives or doubt his solidated empires, must be forthwith banpower. He was Southern in heart and im- ished from the dictionaries. pulse, and actuated by a generous warmth, We cannot restrain an emotion of pity for that ennobled the man, notwithstanding his one who sees air-drawn daggers in such errors of judgment. The prophetic warn- minute and inoffensive objects ; but as such ings of such a mind challenge the attention, hallucinations are confirmed by opposition, however they may fail to convince the rea- we will pass without disputing the reality of son, and become the rallying-cry of devoted the phantom to graver topics suggested by partisans.

this subject. The history of the severest struggle It would have been gratifying to bave through which our Union has yet been eall- learned from Mr. Dallas the precise causes ed to pass, leaves little to fear from the same which in his judgment are productive of weapon in hands such as those of Mr. Dal- danger to the existence of the State soverlas. It is the club of Hercules in the hands eignties, and it would hardly be deemed unof Paris.

reasonable to have required him to establish

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