John Randolph of Roanoke Speech in the U.S. Senate on March 1-2, 1826 on Latin America
John Randolph of Roanoke, U.S. Senator from Virginia, is a great hero to modern neo-Confederates and has been praised in neo-Confederate magazines such as the Southern Partisan. This speech in the U.S. Senate is about slavery, race, egalitarianism and Latin America upon hearing that Simon Bolivar has called for a Congress of the nations of the Americas to meet in Panama. Randolph has a condescending and sarcastic racism towards the Latin Americans because of their racial origins. He is concerned that associating with Latin Americans who support emancipation will undermine slavery in the slave states. He even goes as far to threaten that the slave states will secede if that threat comes to pass.
Note that before the Civil War the United States of America was often referred to as a Confederacy.
From pages 112-132, Gales and Seaton's Register of Debates in Congress, 19th Congress, 1st Session, Commencing Dec. 5, 1825 and ending May 22, 1826.
Wednesday, March 1, 1826
Mr. RANDOLPH, of Va. rose, and said he wished to do what was with him a very unusual thing – not only to make a motion, but to make one asking information from the Executive branch of this Government. He had seen a proclamation purporting to have been issued by the celebrated General Bolivar. He had learned – and he learned with satisfaction, as far as regarded the fame and reputation of that distinguished individual – that that proclamation had been disclaimed by the consular authority here as a fabrication; at least a fabrication so far as it related to that particular part of the proclamation which had attracted his attention. Mr. R. said he was glad of it; but although, said he, that proclamation may be a fabrication – and no doubt it is so – it is as unquestionably true as that proclamation is false, that the principles contained in that proclamation are the avowed principles of the renowned individual to whom I refer; they are the avowed principles of the Governments over which he exercises almost unbounded sway; they are the avowed principles of the People composing those states – if States they may be called which States are none – and therefore it is, said Mr. R. that I wish for some official information, – not to satisfy myself – not to delay any business that is, or may be, before the Senate; I do not wish to wait for it, but official information that may satisfy the American People as to the true character of those States.
It is well known, said Mr. R. that in his public message to Congress, the President of the United States as intimated to us, and to the world, through us, that an invitation of a certain character has been given to him, and that inconsequence, ministers will be sent to the Congress about to be assembled at Panama. He hoped that the Ministers, whoever they might be, would be of that character and description who would labor under none of the odious and exploded prejudices, which revolted and repelled the fastidious southern man from Africans – from associating them as equals with them, or with People of African descent – that they may take their seat in Congress at Panama, beside the native African, their American descendants, the mixed breeds, the Indians, and the half breeds, without any offence or scandal at so motley a mixture. Mr. R. believed it was well understood as to the state – not the State in which this Congress is to be held, but in the immediate vicinage of the province where this Congress is to assemble – Guatemala – he believed it was considered as much a black Republic at this time as Hayti itself. There is, said Mr. R. a great deal of African blood in old Spain – the South of Spain – though not all negro blood – from the opposite coast of Barbary. There is a further deterioration – if a deterioration it bee – in the Creole Spaniards, in all the Spanish and Portuguese possessions, but above all in Guatemala, the immediate adjacent province to Panama, and in Brazil. Now these things said Mr. R. which are of no sort of importance to some
people, are of vital importance to that district and description of country, and not altogether contemptible, whether in point of extent or numbers, not quite unworthy of being taken into consideration in the deliberations and decisions of this body, and of the Federal Government. He would not detain the Senate farther than to suggest, that he had heard that this great man – he had no doubt he was a great man – a good man – there were a great many such great and good men – Lafayette was one of them – at the commencement of the French Revolution – would not hear of any parley at all with what the called the imprescriptible rights of man; they played the whole game, the would not hear of qualification, and we see what this desperate game has eventuated in – extremes always beget one another. This General Bolivar, called the South American Washington – as every man, said Mr. R. now a days, who has commanded a platoon, is a Cæsar or a Hannibal, a Eumenes or Sertorious at least – so he is the South American Washington. I remember, sir, that when the old Earl of Bedford, when he was condoled with by a hypocrite, who wished in fact to wound his feelings, on the murder of his son Lord Russell, indignantly replied that he would not exchange his dead son for the living son of any man on earth. So I, Mr. President, would not give our dead Washington for any living Washington, or any Washington, that is likely to live in your time, Mr. President, or mine; whatever be the blessings reserved for mankind in the womb of time. I do know – the world knows – that the principle of the American Revolution, and the principle that is now at work in the peninsula of South America and in Guatemala and New Spain, are principles as opposite as light and darkness – principles as opposite as a manly and rational liberty is opposed to the frantic orgies of the French Bacchanals of the Revolution, as opposite as a many and rational piety is opposed to that politico-religious fanaticism, which, I am sorry to see, is not at work only in the peninsula of South America and new Spain, but has pervaded, or is pervading, all this country, and has insinuated itself wherever it can, to the disturbance of the public peace, the loosening of the key-stone of this Constitution, and the undermining the foundation on which the arch of our Union rests. No, sir; they are as different as light and darkness – as common sense and practice differ from the visionary theories of moon-struck lunatics.
The Message of the President is before the world. The President of the United States has told us that he will act, and that he has the power. Let him – let him act – let him act on his own responsibility; but let the American People – and especially that part of the American People – that portion of them who reside south of the Ohio, and south of Mason and Dixon’s line – know what are the deputies whom hereafter we are likely to receive in return form them, in character and color to our Congress – that is what I want to see. I want this to open their eyes – I want, instead of public opinion re-acting on us from uninformed pubic bodies, however respectable; from toasts given at public dinners, however respectable th guests; a holy Alliance of liberty in opposition to a Holy Alliance of tyrants – I want the good sense of the People of the United States to be informed as to the fact; having the most perfect reliance on their decision when they shall have the facts, and having a disposition to submit most implicitly to that decision, whether it shall agree with my opinions or not: From these causes, I move that the President of the United States be requested to lay before the Senate such information as may be in the possession of the Executive, touching the principles and practice of the Spanish American States, or any of them, late colonies of old Spain, in regard to Negro slavery – I will submit the motion in writing.
[Having done so; and the resolution having been read – ]
Vol. II – 9
Mr. RANDOLPH again rose, and said he wished to supply an omission in the remarks he had made. It is, said he, generally of public notoriety that the Island of Cuba has been in a state of alarm from a threatened invasion from these Spanish American States; and that the chief cause of that alarm arises form the principles of those States in reference to this very question. Cuba, possessing an immense Negro population, which has been increased since the destruction of St. Domingo, incalculably, by importation, as well as by natural means – Cuba lies in a position, in reference to the United States, and especially and especially to the whole country on the Gulf of Mexico, as that the country may be invaded from Cuba in rowboats; and, in case those states should invade Cuba at all, it is unquestionable that this invasion will be made with this principle – this genius of universal emancipation – this sweeping anathema against the white population, in front; and then, sir, what is the situation of the Southern States? I throw out these only by way of hints; it would not be decorous, in a preface to a resolution, to entre into an elaborate argument, which I could do. This is one of those cases in which the suggestions of instinct are worth all the logic in the world – the instinct of self-preservation. It is one of those cases in which our passions instruct our reason. I shall not consider whether the President of the United States will send these Ministers or not – He says he will do it, and he is generally understood to be a man of his word – at lease, as much so as to do what he has officially said he will do. But I must consider how are I feel disposed, by my vote, to pledge Virginia in the common cause of States pledging these principles -- and to place our neutrality at the disposal of a belligerent Congress.
Mr. R. then gave notice that he should respectfully ask for the consideration of the resolution to-morrow morning.
Thursday, March 2, 1826.
NEGRO SLAVERY IN SOUTH AMERICA
The Senate took up for consideration the following resolution, submitted yesterday by Mr. RANDOLPH:
“Resolved, That the President of the United States be requested to lay before the Senate such information as may be in the possession of the Executive, touching the principles and practice of the Spanish American States, or any of them, late colonies of old Spain, in regard to Negro slavery.”
The resolution having been read, and the question being on its adoption –
Mr. HAYNE, of South Carolina, said he had listened with great attention, and certainly with much interest, to the eloquent remarks made by the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Randolph,) yesterday, on the principles and policy of the new States of South America, in relation to the slave question. It was a subject on which no one, coming from the part of the country which he represented, could possibly be indifferent. The gentleman from Virginia had given us a clear, and, doubtless, a very accurate statement of the principles of these new states. Mr. H. believed, that the facts connected with this subject were notorious, and were as well known to the Senate now, as they could be from any communication of the executive could make in answer to the call proposed in the gentleman’s resolution. Whether the Proclamation, attributed to the Liberator, was genuine or not, this House and this Nation are not now to be informed that the new Republics were marching under the banner of universal emancipation. Mr. Hayne was, therefore, induced to doubt the necessity of calling on the President for information which was already in their possession. Certainly such a call ought not to be made, unless there was some reason to believe that it would furnish with some facts which we are not already acquainted. Mr. Hayne said, he did not rise to oppose the resolution, but merely to suggest the propriety of postponing the consideration of it for a few days, in order to give time for further deliberation as to the necessity of acting upon it. Having some doubts on that point, he hoped the gentleman from Virginia would not object to the postponement of the resolution to Monday next, which Mr. H. moved accordingly.
Mr. RANDOLPH then rose, and said, I had certainly not intended to have said one word more on the subject of this resolution, in case it should not meet with opposition; and, as a matter of courtesy, certainly should acquiesce in the request of the gentleman from South Carolina, if there was any probability of getting the motion taken up on a day fixed for the proposed amendment of the Constitution. But, at the same time, I hope that gentleman will pardon me for saying that the fate of my resolution reminds me of a very favorite old Spanish proverb of mine – for, although I am not very much smitten, or inoculated with the Spanish American fever, yet, the old Spanish proverbs are great and served favorites of mine, being perhaps the most pithy and pungent in the world; it is this – save me from my friends and I will take care of my enemies.
I did not apprehend, said Mr. R. that any gentleman here would have raised any opposition to this resolution. Sir, this session is drawing to a close I hope: for it will very soon be time to plant corn. Under existing circumstances, I wish this resolution to be acted on now; therefore, though it is no very great time from this to Monday, yet, as that day is assigned to a special order on the amendment of the Constitution, I cannot consent – and I hope the gentleman will pardon me in saying so – I cannot consent, by my vote, to the postponement – deeming it equivalent to a rejection of the motion – though, if it be the pleasure of the Senate to decided against me, I shall submit to it, as I always do to the majority, I hope with decency – but without the slightest change in my opinion – as to the expediency of the course proposed.
Sir, said Mr. R. I can say with a sincerity of heart that no man can question the truth of, that it is a matter to me of mortification and distress, that I have had so often, of late, imposed upon me, as I conceive, (whether truly or falsely,) the duty of throwing myself on the attention of this body. It has not been my habit elsewhere; it has not been my habit of late years more especially – Indeed, I have understood, since I took my seat in this body, that an imputation of a contrary nature – that I should be here an inactive member, a slothful public servant – was feared by some, even of my friends, and was the strongest amongst the objections of those candid adversaries, who damn with faint praise – to my being here at all, and while I disclaim that motive, it is possible that I may be unconsciously actuated by it. But, sir, under the circumstances in which I stand – in the place in which I stand – [Mr. R. was standing in Mr.Tazewell’s place, who is absent on account of family sickness] – in the situation in which the State of Virginia is placed by the absence of my associate – and in which I am happy to say she is placing has placed herself in array – in array against this Government – no, sir, not this Government, but the mal-administration of it – it is under these circumstances that I have been, as I conceived, bound in duty to offer my, perhaps, crude conceptions – but which have been as well concocted as long and patient thought could digest them – to the attention of this body. I know, sir, that the habit of frequently addressing this, or any other legislative body, but this body more especially – has a tendency to cheapen far grater talents than any that I possess, or ever laid claim to, and impair the value even of the greatest abilities. I know, sir, that, in this body, which is in itself a Congress, consisting of deputies from sovereign and independent States, co-ordinate and co-equal; where the least is equally on a footing with the greatest – where a State, which sends but one member to the other House is on a footing with one that sends forty, and on a footing there, too, under certain contingencies – for seen and provided for by the Constitution, that, for any individual member too frequently to obtrude himself on its attention, is fatal not only to any little reputation that he may have happened to acquire in the course of his public life, but -- what is of far more consequence – to his capacity to be useful to the Power that sent him here. It is a wise and salutary jealousy on the part of the Senate. I know, sir, that this is a body, above all others, in which they “shall not be heard for their much speaking,” in which “vain repetitions” do as little good as we know they will do in another place; and yet, sir, circumstanced as I am, I am compelled not only to break through that rule of propriety, which otherwise would restrain me, but to be guilty sometimes of those very “vain repetitions” also. May I hope to be pardoned for this, not only in consideration of the peculiarity of my situation – of my condition – but in consideration of a defect – whether of nature or of education, it is perfectly immaterial – perhaps proceeding from both – a defect which has disabled me, from my first entrance into public life, to the present day, to make what is called a regular speech – which, sir, like some other regular things, although constructed according to every rule of criticism, is sometimes extremely dull – not always convincing. There is no positive fault in the speech, or composition; the unities are all preserved – there is no
fault to be found with it, but as to its general effect, which is a want of effect altogether. Sir, although I give to the subjects submitted to the Senate the most patient consideration; though I turn them, and re-turn them, over and over again, in my mind, yet when I come to utter the results of that rumination, I am compelled to do so as an irregular – rather as a partizan officer than according to the regular art military; as an improvisatore – that I believe is the name which the Italians give to those who speak, not without much previous thinking indeed, but without the book, or even without notes. Sir, in respect to these regular arguments, it has often struck me that they resemble, in more regards than one, the modern invention of a chain bridge – which, provided the abutments and fixtures are perfectly strong, and provided there is no defective link in the whole chain – are amongst the finest and most useful specimens of human ingenuity: but, sir, when we reverse the proposition – when the abutments are not sufficient – and there is one single link which is defective – one is as god – as bad rather, as a thousand – that one is fatal to the whole structure, and souse down into the water comes the unwary passenger, who trusts himself to the treacherous edifice. There are artists, indeed – and some of them not far off either – who have the skill to elaborate those technical regular arguments of induction with such exquisite finish as to defy the eye, or even the touch of any man alive; but, while they puzzle and confound the understanding, they can never convince it, because they lead us to such monstrous and frightful conclusions, that no fair exercise of that reasoning faculty which has been given us by our Maker for our guide, can bring a plan man to. Here is a case, in which, if it not be safe to reason to conclusions, which perhaps is too much my habit; it is quite safe to reason from conclusions. Whenever any chain of reasoning, however learned and ingenious it may be, leads to conclusions so monstrous as to offend the common sense of mankind, I say that, although ou may not be able to detect in which link of the argument the defect is, yet you know, from the results to which it carries you, tat it is radically defective – that there is something somewhere about it, although neither our eye nor your touch can detect it, that renders it radically defective and unworthy of trust; and if I were called on for an illustration, I could give it, and would give it, in the opinion of the Supreme Court in the case of Cohens against the State of Virginia.
Sir, I know there are gentlemen, not only from the Northern, but from the Southern states, who think that this unhappy question – for such it is – of negro slavery – which the Constitution has vainly attempted to blink, by not using the term – should never be brought into public notice, more especially into that of Congress, and most especially here. Sir, with every due respect for the gentlemen who think so, I differ from them, toto cælo. Sir, it is a thing which cannot be hid – it is not a dry rot that you can cover with the carpet, until the house tumbles about your ears – you might as well try to hide a volcano, in full operation – it cannot be hid – it is a cancer in our face, and must be treated secundum artem; it must not be tampered with by quacks, who never saw the disease of the patient, and prescribe across the Atlantic; it must be, if you will, let alone; but on this very principle of letting it alone, it is that I have brought in my resolution. I am willing to play what is called child’s play – let me alone and I will yet your alone; let my resolution alone, and I will say nothing in support of a resolution that nobody opposes. Sire, will the Senate pardon my repeating the words of a great man, which cannot be too often repeated? A small danger menacing an inestimable object, is of more importance, in the eyes of a wise man, than the greatest danger which can possibly threaten an object of minor consequence. The question before us is, is this an object of inestimable consequence? I do not put the question to you, sir. I know what your answer will be. I know what will be the answer of every husband, father, son, and brother, throughout the Southern States; I know that on this depends the honor of every matron and maiden – of every matron, (wife, or widow,) between the Ohio and the Gulf of Mexico: I know that upon it depends the life’s blood of the little ones, which are lying in their cradles, in happy ignorance of what is passing around them; and not the white ones only: for shall not we too kill – shall we not re-act the scenes which were acted in Guatemala, and elsewhere, except, I hope, with far different success; for if, with a superiority, in point of numbers, as well as of intelligence and courage, we should suffer ourselves to be, as there, vanquished – we should deserve to have negroes for our task-masters, and for the husbands of our wives. This, then, is the inestimable object which the gentleman from Carolina views in the same light that I do, and that ou do too, sir, and to which every Southern bosom responds: a chord, which, when touched, even by the most delicate hand, vibrates to the heart of every man in our country. I wish I could maintain, with truth, that it came within the other predicament – that it was a small danger – but it is a great danger – it is a danger that has increased, is increasing, and must be diminished, or it must come to its regular catastrophe.
Mr. President, within the last thirty years, or thereabouts – for I have been contemporary with the facts – a total change has taken place in public opinion, in Great Britain – which always acts as possessing a common language and almost a literature and laws in common, she must and she ought to act with great force on us – and in certain other parts of other countries, which I shall not now designate, in reference to this question. There was a time, sir, when the advocates for the abolition of the Slave Trade found, in almost every bosom possessing common humanity, a common sense, a friend. There were some few, to be sure, old veteran Swiss of State, who, upholding all administrations, and all abuses and corruptions, had gone more than knee deep in corruption – followers perhaps of Dundas, fellows of old George Rose, pledged five fathom deep in corruption – who still upheld that abomination. There were some few, indeed, of a very different description. From my early childhood, all my feelings and instincts were in opposition to slavery in every shape; to the subjugation of one man’s will to that of another; and from the time that I read Clarkson’s celebrated pamphlet, I was, I am afraid, as mad – as Clarkson himself. I read myself into this madness, as I have ready myself into some agricultural improvements; but, as with these last I worked myself out of them, so also I worked myself out of it. At the time sir, that the abolition of the Slave Trade was made piracy, and we had as good a right to make it treason, if the Constitution had not already defined treason – for it is as much treason as it is piracy – did I say as good a right? – I say you have the right – it has been settled by practice here at least already – ou can define treason by law – for what is the Constitution, opposed to the established practice under it? What is the old version to this, which is only one of the new readings, longe emendatior, of the old edition of the Constitution? You have, in a time of profound peace, suspended the privilege of the writ habeas corpus – the personal-security-act – so far as a bill passed by the Senate could do it. I do not often agree with William Cobbett, but I wish it had this name of personal-security-act, that the People might understand its real meaning and importance better than they seemed to do, when they gave their confidence to them that proposed and supported that suspension, in the teeth of an express constitutional prohibition. Then, the Society was got up, of which I was a most unworthy member; but, so far from keeping the faith, I have become a backslider; and whether I have left the Society, or the Society has left me, I cannot tell, and do not care. I had not much faith in it from the beginning; but I thought it a very desirable
thing, and still think it to be a very desirable thing, to get rid of the free negroes and colored people of this country, on the principle, and with the view of promoting the quiet, safety, and happiness, of the slaves themselves, as well as of their masters at home. “It is a vile bird” – and I shall not do any thing to disparage the nest, although it is no longer mine. Without meaning to say a word, at this time, against this Society; as an experiment, I must say it has failed; and, so far as it has done anything, has done mischief instead of good.
As regards the principles of those who were the first promoters of the abolition of the Slave Trade – I don’t say it of this Society – I am borne out by the facts when I assert that they have held, and yet hold, perhaps I ought to say, endeavor to hold, a language esoteric, and a language exoteric – one language for the novice, and a language for the initiated: or, to speak in terms more familiar to us, a language official, and a language confidential. They affected to have nothing in view but the abolition of the Slave Trade. Sir, they had another object – they had an object in view, which now they have the courage to declare, for which they have very lately united themselves into an anti-slavery society – they have given no small impulse, if not the first impulse, to this black “ball of Spanish American Revolution.” It is they who have done it – it is they who have been the fosterers of Hayti: for I could name illustrious names that are laboring under delusion as strong as that which led away the French Convention, when they though they were establishing liberty, equality, and fraternity, on a foundation slippery and red with human blood and judicial murder. I will name, I must name Wilberforce – I will name master Stephen, the celebrated author of “War in disguise,” and “The Dangers of the Country” – Macauley, the principal conductor of the “Christian Observer.” I do not mean to include all of that numerous and respectable body of men, who generally think and act with them, as equally intemperate; because I know that some, and believe that others, of those who associated with them, in religious opinions, who do not see, or seeing do not approve, the rash ulterior measures of these well-meaning, but misled men; amongst them I would name, if I dared to do it, the venerable President of the English Bible Society.
Sir, the same great authority whom I before quoted, lays it down as a principle, that, when men are furiously and fanatically fond of any object, of any set of opinions whatever, they will sacrifice to that fanatical attachment, their own property, their own peace, there own lives, and (he adds) can there be a doubt that they would prefer it to the peace of their country? Will the love, then, of another country, of Jamaica, or the Southern States, be a consideration strong enough to induce them to halt – to pause? Fanaticism, political or religious, has no stopping place short of Heaven – or of Hell. All history upholds me in this. What were the crusades? I speak it in sober sadness – they were, in my opinion, as regarded their object, incomparably more worthy, more desirable, in the object, more wise in the means taken to attain it, than this modern black crusade. What did they fight for? For the sepulcher of the Redeemer of an otherwise undone world. It was a noble object, however mistaken the principle. But what were they fighting for? For a hewn stone, if it yet existed, which had belonged to a rich and pious Jew of Arimathea – for they knew – they believed – they said they did, and no doubt they were sincere – but they did no recollect that it was not a place of human sepulture – that the body, never subjected to the animal law, was gone – that the incarnate part also had ascended to its Father that is in Heaven. They might as well have got up a crusade for the manger in which the lowly infant had lain in its swaddling clothes; still here was a sentiment, something elevating and ennobling, that the heart is better for having felt; and whose blood did they seek to shed when they poured out their own like water in this cause? That of the Saracens – of infidels – of Mahounds and Termagaunts – who were painted in the same colors by the priesthood and fanatics of that day that the Pharisees and Fanatis of this day, paint every man in, whose misfortune, or whose good fortune it is, to be master of slaves. Sir, I have no hesitation in saying, that the affections of these men whom I have named, are more strongly riveted upon the French African descendants of Hayti – on the Negroes of Jamaica and Sierra Leone – than they are not only on us unfortunate Southrons – than they are on their own fellow subjects of Jamaica – and I verily believe of Old England also, of Lancaster and or Yorkshire. There was once a time, Sir, when a ministerial member had the indiscretion – no minister can always stop the mouth of an indiscreet friend – to say – it was during the Prussian war, which consisted of the battle of Jena – that Hanover ought to be as dear to England as Hampshire; I suppose for the sake of the alliteration. I do believe that I should not be far wrong in saying – I know that to a great portion of these misled men, the black population of the West Indies and the Africans of this country, are dearer than their English fellow-subjects: and why so? I judge them partly by their language which I have heard – not in private – but in Freemason’s Hall – in London – with an applauding auditory of thousands – but chiefly by their acts, which never lie. I have heard as pious, as good a man, apparently, as ever lived – I believe – I don’t know it – he had every characteristic of a good man and pious Christian, except this mania – setting this aside, he was all that could be wished, and in this he manifested that there was guile in him – he is an officer in the British army – I could have had him cashiered – say that, in case of a revolt in the Island of Jamaica, he should feel himself compelled to take part with the blacks, as the oppressed party. I say Old England – I wish it may not extend any where else – I hope it does not. One thing it behooves me to say – one act of justice it behooves me to do – and I trust I shall never refuse justice to any many man: -- up to this time, the conduct of the President of the United States – I mean prior to his becoming President of the United States – has been such as no Southern man could take exception to, in this behalf, at least – I restrict my admission to that. I will go farther in saying, that this body has already shown that it possesses the will, as well as the power – which I trust it will exercise on more than that occasion – of resisting influence within, and clamor from without – I speak in reference to the Treaty on the subject of the Slave Trade and the Right of Search. Sir, the Senate have acquitted themselves like me, like Senators, like conscript fathers; I hope, as I believe, that they will never acquit themselves otherwise – “Be just, and fear not.”
And now, Sir, one word. I will readily agree that, if the gentleman from South Carolina had made the motion, to amend, I would have accepted his modification with great pleasure, if it had been to this effect – to inquire officially what proportion the black, sambo, the mulatto, and the mestizo population, and the proportion that the Indians, the mixed, and the half-breeds, of that race, bear, respectively, in those States, to what is called the white population – for a great deal of it, although not the major part, is white population, whether Creoles or natives of Old Spain. This is an important thing to be taken into consideration. If, therefore, the Senate will indulge me in not postponing my resolution, I will so modify it as to obtain the thing by the best authority accessible to us.
Sir, I said yesterday, tat I was very glad to find that this Proclamation of General Bolivar was denied by the consular authority here. I said so on the information of a gentleman, whose information on such subjects I very much respect, and whose information on such subjects I very much respect, and of whose accuracy, in this instance, I entertain no doubt; but when I said so, I did not mean to say, that the disavowal by the consular authority would satisfy me, when there was a regular diplomatic envoy
from that court at our court. I would follow the good rule of courts that I am more conversant with – not to take a worse proof when a better was within my reach; therefore I shall wait with patience, and trust, (whether this resolution shall pass or be rejected,) that the President will be enabled to inform this body, that the proper Spanish American Minister – I don’t know is name or designation; I never saw one of them in my life – has disavowed this Proclamation. That he can disavow the principles, which, I agree with the gentleman from South Carolina, are of general notoriety, is impossible. But, sir, there is a wide difference between invading and conquering the country – and doing with them in our own country whatever you please, however wild and mischievous – and, indeed, wicked – it may be. If the State of Virginia was, in a moment of phrenzy, to pass an act of general and immediate emancipation – that would be one thing. If the State of Virginia – supposing the control of this Government to be out of the way – should go on a crusade into the Carolinas with these principles before them, and the negroes behind them, it would be doing a very different thing. It is, therefore, of importance to us to know officially, if we can, whether these provinces mean to make use of this instrument of revolution and conquest, as the French Convention made use of their weapons, their liberté, egalité, fraternité, against the rest of the world. It is of the utmost importance that we should know it officially, although it be a matter of notorious alarm to Cuba, as I said yesterday. Cuba has labored under this apprehension, not without cause, and has taken means to guard against it.
There is another circumstance to be taken into our estimate of danger, whether on this quarter or on that of our neutrality, and that is, the present condition of these former colonies of Spain – these South American States – whether it be pacific and neutral, like our own, or, as it notoriously is, belligerent. Have they not armies on foot and navies afloat, and does this count for nothing in the calculation of wise men and statesmen, as to what they may do, or we may suffer from Powers so circumstanced? Are we to consider and treat with a country as if in time of peace, and with its armor thrown off? Are we to consider what she even says, then, in the same light that we would consider it in, when she is bristled with steel, armed cap-a-pie for war? The two cases are very different – whereas they are belligerent, the United States are pacific – every thing is on the peace establishment – our armor thrown aside, and our attitude that of the most amiable and enviable repose. The U. States are, moreover, not only what every peaceable People ought to be – neutral; but they have a treaty of amity with Spain; they have a positive stipulation with Spain to do no un-neutral act. Does this, or does it not, affect the question? It does. If affects the question vitally, as affecting the capacity, as well as the disposition, to act without breach of neutral duty and of faith, express as well as implied. How long is it since our neutral rights ceased to be dear to us? Do they not imply neutral duties? How long since the faith of the United States has become so cheap? The warlike attitude and armor of these belligerents will, with every man of sober sense, enter into the calculation of their means of enforcing their principles of universal emancipation upon us, through the instrumentality of an invasion and servile war of insurrection in Cuba – for, sir, a wise man will disregard threats coming from a quarter which has no capacity to enforce them; they indicate only a silly malignity, that is best treated with contempt. Any man who should be blockhead enough now to say, that he would take the President of the United States out of his palace in the dead of night, and put him into a boat, and take him down the Potomac, and ship him off to a foreign country, would be taken for a moon-struck madman. Ye he who is said to have once uttered that threat, passed for a man of very uncommon abilities. But this, sir, is a threat which the parties have not only the capacity, as well as the disposition, but the peculiar capacity to carry into execution; and shall we stand idle? Shall we sit still, like those Roman Senators who had no other resource, Mr. President, until the Gauls shall come into this room, and after offering indignity to our persons, finish the tragedy with our blood? No, sir; we are not brought to that point – the capitol is untouched; the sentinels, it is to be hoped, are vigilant; the God Terminus has not gone back – yes, sir, he has gone back – he has given way, and, at the very point, too, of weakness; and he who is now considered to be the right arm of this administration, was the loudest and fiercest denouncer of that retrograde movement, and of the councils under which it was made. I speak of the cession on the Southwest; I speak of Texas, of the cession adjacent to the country known to us as New Mexico; of the cession of the Upper Red River; of the cession of the Gates, of the Keys of New Orleans; and shall Louisiana support this, whether it be the man or the measure? I hope not. Yes, sir; they have the capacity, and they have the will; and, unless we take some steps to arrest it, the evil must come home to your bosom, to mine; and we must then do what all other People do under like circumstances, never fail to do, or perish: for, sir, when things get to extremes, the ink and parchment fail. It will signify very little what my notions, or yours, or any other man’s notions may be, of the powers of the Federal government or the rights of the States, because, according to the exigencies of the case, we shall act for our self preservation: “for, as self-preservation is in individuals the first law of nature, so it is with societies.” The Southern States will look to their safety as States and as individuals, whatever the ink and sheepskin may say, or be made to say, whatever Congress may decree.
If, said Mr. R. I were, what I am not – an acute philologer – I should sometimes amuse myself with the manner in which words slip from their original meanings, and come to purport something very different from what any body ever attached to them when they first came into use: the word sophist, (a wise man,) got so much into disrepute, that philosopher, (a lover of wisdom,) had to supply its place; the word libertine meant what a liberal means now; that is, a man attached to enlarged and free principles – a votary of liberty; but the libertines made so ill an use of their principles, that the word as come, (even since the days of Shakespeare,) to be taken in a bad sense; and liberal will share the same fate, I fear, if it contracts this black alliance. There are some other words, such as principle, “conscience,” which are also in great danger. But I am coming to a word which is in the mouth of every man in this country every day and all day long – it is Congress. Why, sir, although this body, this Senate, be indeed, in some sense, a Congress of deputies from sovereign States, yet – the Constitution to the contrary notwithstanding – (for if there is any thing that I find in the Constitution itself which I deem not to be true, I shall not scruple to deny it – or in any bill of rights, or declaratory act, or any where else – always excepting the Bible – because I do not believe that there is any thing in that book that is not true – not meaning, however, to make a confession of my faith) – this word Congress was properly applied to the deputies first assembled at Albany, to bring about a closer colonial union, and afterwards at Philadelphia, to create a Confederacy that might enable us to carry on the war with more effect against the common enemy. At first, she was not the common enemy – we did no so consider her, or call her – we did, indeed, call her our unkind mother, but we professed the most dutiful love for her, and only asked
to be treated on the footing of her other children. We distinguished between her and the unworthy hands to which she had committed her authority – but avowed that, if she would deny us the rights which we claimed as British subjects, as her legitimate children, of voting away our own money; would insist and persist to do what we suffer every day to be done here – lunge her hands into our pockets ad libitum con amore, da capo, for purposes utterly foreign to our interests – we should be driven however reluctantly, to resist here injustice.
This was a Congress – its object was the formation of a new Confederacy, and the name is endeared to everyman of the good old thirteen States of America, and is deservedly dear to them and to the shoots, the scions that have sprung from them – the other States; and what are the other States? They are bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. This word Congress, sir, was deservedly dear to the American People; for out of it grew their Confederation and their Independence; and when the new Constitution was made, the framers of it were men well enough versed in human nature to know that words were things, and they called the new project the Congress of the United States of America. It is a Congress by force of the Constitution, but, to all intents and purposes, it is not a Congress according to the meaning of the word in the English language. What, then, is it? It is a convention, or legislature, like another proposed Congress for a confederacy. Suppose that, during the late war, every state in the Union had sent a deputation, as Mr. Jefferson had said – to “the Hartford convention” – it would have been a Congress, such as we are not invited to. Suppose, now under the Constitution, a convention, to be got up to amend the Constitution, according to its provisions in article five, will it not be what the Constitution declares it to be – a convention – a coming together of states for particular purposes? Now, sir, in reference to that on which my resolution bears: suppose that, during the last war, France, or any other neutral Power – France was not a neutral Power – any neutral Power, if such could have been found – had sent deputies to our Congress at Hartford, for purposes certainly not of embarrassing, much les endangering, the Union, but of giving force and effect – such I understood to have been the avowed motive of that meeting – to the war – could they have shown authority from their Governments for so doing? Would they not have partaken of your belligerent nature and character? I go further, and say, that, in a Congress of states, it is a very strange sort of bargain that the Congress should be constituted by deputies from each of its states, and that we twenty-four states should be represented by deputies only from the aggregate body of States. If we are to go, let us go, the representatives of all the States; let each of our States be represented as well as their States; and why not? This is the fact – they, as a Spanish American Confederation, are one body politic; we, as a North American Confederacy, are another. Whoever heard of a Congress of Ministers form two Governments? No, sir, I should as soon expect to hear of a concert of two instruments; we might have a duet; but whoever heard of a Congress where there were only two parties? We have a treaty with Great Britain that makes special provision for an umpire to decide in certain cases of difference. Our umpire is dead – he does not sleep, he is dead – and death will constitute to any man who can and will look before as well as after – who is not engrossed with the present – and that with is own advancement – a consideration that will make him pause before he does any thing that might influence, directly or indirectly, the peace, the safety, the neutrality, of these United states, which, under the new circumstances in which the world is about to be placed, we shall find it no easy matter to preserve without any foreign entanglements.
Mr. Fox was a statesman: he was not only an orator, confessedly the first debater that he world ever saw, but a statesman. I am one of those who think that this world has been much injured by Parliamentary eloquence; by a false notion, that ability of this sort is a necessary qualification for Government; and England to her dying day – if she ever does die – will repent her of the dialects of Mr. Pitt. He was admirably qualified for a Professor of Rhetoric; he would have filled that Chair well at Cambridge – I do not mean Cantabrigiæ Nov-Anglorum, but Cambridge in Old England – but as a Minister, his great measures all failed. He was, indeed, a most expert gladiator on the floor of Parliament – a good Palinurus in smooth water – but he, too, must be a soldier, and from that day, as to his measures, they every one failed; and his friend and admirer, Mr. Windham, assigns their failure in justification of his vote of a refusal to grant him the honor of a public funeral – for there, and every where but hear, a public funeral counts for something as it ought to do – on the ground that public funerals and monuments should never be erected except to eminently successful statesmen, generals, or admirals, not to the defeated – and the public funeral and the monument of Pitt, Mr. Windham, with his manly independence and sagacity of character, was unwilling to pay for – (he did not grudge the money – that was another consideration – he voted to pay the debts of Pitt) – and that funeral and monument voted to the defeated statesman – the monument to the pilot that did not weather the storm – was the forerunner of the monument voted to General Pakeham for his glorious attack on New Orleans. – This is the way to render that cheap and worthless, which is above all price; that which indeed may well be called the cheap defence of nations.
Mr. Fox said, speaking of the history of James the Second and Charles the Second, that of all Governments in the world, restorations were the worst: he applied it to the restoration of the House of Stuart, not against the consent of the People – but by general acclamation, which soon lead to as general a vote of expulsion, of that misguided, unteachable, bigot race. The House of Bourbon, restored by foreign bayonets, forced upon France against the wishes of a large majority of her People, was not then an example to which the illustrious historian could have referred – a yet stronger proof of the truth and sagacity of that wonderful man. There is, said Mr. R. another restoration of another illustrious house – I push the parallel no further – by what means it has been brought back upon us, I shall not now stop to inquire, though in my heart and conscience, I believe the scepter having been clutched, this is the last four years of the Administration of the father, renewed in the person of the son. I am not afraid of the re-enactment of the sedition law – No, not at all. One of our diplomatists said, in Paris, I think, speaking of their Protean vexations of our commerce, that the mode only, not the measure, was changed – So it is here – For old federalism, we have ultra federalism – I do not speak in the future but in the plus quam perfectum, in the preterpluperfect tense.
But, sir, I shall be told, perhaps, that there is only a nominal war between Spain and these belligerents – that there is nothing else – a war of name – and that Spain is unable any longer to wag a finger – to use a familiar phrase – or any thing but here tongue in the contest. – If that be the condition of Spain, by what arguments a king-craft and priest-craft be prevailed on to renounce this nominal claim, which will, like some others, keep cold until the chapter of accidents may realize it. Did Philip the Second ever recognize the independence of the Dutch, the illustrious ancestors of my friend, [Mr. Van Buren] on my left, when that independence was more firmly established than his own? No, sir – Spain is made of sterner stuff. Truce after truce was patched up without any such recognition – and they were the united Provinces, and so remained till the French gave them the coup de grace by the true fraternal hug. – What, sir, was the con-
dition of the war between England and France a little while ago – one not having a ship at sea, except a few frigates, which she employed in burning our ships in a friendly way, so as to induce us to join in making a diversion in aid of her crusade against Moscow – from which I hope we shall take warning; for that attempt was not only plausible, but promised success – was quite practicable, compared with the crusade to which I have alluded – and England had not a man, at the time I speak of, after the battle of Jena, in arms on her side, on the continent of Europe – not one man; and there they stood, a complete non-conductor interposed between them, except the United States, who received the blows of both!
But, though that war was for a long time little else but a suspension of arms, from the inability of each to attack on the other’s element – was it nominal – was it war like a peace, or even a peace like a war, as was said of Amiens? – Oh no – old England had nailed the colors to the mast; she had determined to go down rather than give up the ship – She wisely saw no safety for her in what might be called a peace; and it was a glorious determination; and it is that spirit – it is not thews, muscle – though I have the greatest for the authority of the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. Rowan) – it is not brawn, it is that spirit which gives life to every nation – that spirit which carries a man, however feeble, through conflicts with giants, compared to him in point of strength, honorably triumphantly. Sir, I consider the late conflict between England and France – England against the congregated continent of Europe – to say nothing of any other make weights in the scale – confident against a world in arms – as far surpassing, in sublimity of example, the tenaciousness of purpose of Rome during the second Punic war, as that surpasses any of our famous Indian wars and expeditions. It is a lesson of the constancy of the human mind, which ought never to be thrown away; and I have sometimes been inclined to believe that it has done that nation more good than – I know I make a dangerous admission – than the debt accumulated by the war has done her harm. But when we look at her present condition under the operation of that system, I think we shall pause, as she might have done, before we take any measures that may lead to a suspension of specie payments, to the dissolution of all law, and of all morals; to that state of things which places the honest man not merely on a footing with the dishonest, but far below him.
But, sir, perhaps I may be told, that in case I do not accede to the proposition of the gentleman from South Carolina, the answer is very plain and triumphant to my resolution. That the principles of these South American States are the principles that were of high authority on another great question – the Missouri question – are the principles of the declaration of Independence. What more will you have, what more can you ask? What resource have you now left? Sir, my only objection is, that these principles, pushed to their extreme consequences – that all men are born free and equal – I can never ascent to, for the best of all reasons, because it is not true; and as I cannot agree to the intrinsic meaning of the word Congress, though sanctioned by the Constitution of the United states, so neither can I agree to a false hood, and a most pernicious falsehood, even though I find it in the Declaration of Independence, which has been set up, on the Missouri and other questions, as paramount to the Constitution. I say pernicious falsehood – it must be, if true, self-evident: for it is incapable of demonstration; and there are thousands and tens of thousands of them that mislead the great vulgar as well as the small. There are some in bald Latin, such as principia non homines – principles not men – that sounds quite antithetical and quaint, and is quite taking with some folks – but what are principles without mean any more than men without principles? And how can you tell the principles of the man until you are shown the man of the principles? But this and such like conceits are given over and again in toasts and sentiments, until the People at last come to believe that there is something in them besides a clinch of words. What would be said to a proposition just about as true and sensible as this principia non hominess, announced in these words: “Love, not women” – worth just as much as your principles not men. There is another, which, taken from a different source, I shall speak of as I trust I shall always feel, with reverence – I mean faith without works, as the means of salvation. All these great positions, that all men are born equally free, and faith without works, are in a certain sense, in which they are hardly ever received by the multitude, but in another sense, in which they are almost invariably received by nineteen out of twenty, they are false and pernicious. I hope I am understood, sir. The principles to be sure are what make the man; but you must see the man, to be a judge of his principles; ou must know the man; it is not his making a profession of faith, political or religious – you must know his conduct – thistles do not produce figs; so, sir, it is impossible that weak, wicked, or bad public councils can proceed from a man of good public principles: So is it as it regards works and faith: there is no question in the minds of nineteen out of twenty Christians, that it is the faith and not the works that they are to be indebted to – and they are in fact so far right; but then they forget that the works constitute the only competent evidence of faith; and that with a bad life there is no true faith; yet Christians go on tearing one another to pieces about these things, and yet may find, if they will but take the trouble to consider, that they have been all along beating the air and disputing about terms, except such are strict predestinarians and such as believe in works of supererogation – tat they can buy a place in heaven, spare a little to a friend to help him in his purchase. In regard to this principle, that all are born free and equal, if there is an animal on earth to which it does not apply – that is not born free, it is man – he is born in the state of most abject want, and a state of perfect helplessness and ignorance, which is the foundation of the connubial tie. I have heard it lamented elsewhere, that the complainant was born to infancy; but that is only the common lot of all men, except the first man; and I believe the schoolmen were as well employed in disputing, as Hidbras tells us they were in his day, whether any signs of the Umbilicus were found about Adam, as they have been disputing this nice distinction, without a difference in practice, of faith without works. I have heard it lamented by the same person that he ws born to indigence, but none of us bring any thing more into the world (not even the breath of our nostrils) than we carry out of it – and as to ignorance, Locke says that we bring no innate ideas with us into the world; it is true, but man is born with certain capacities – which assume the impression, that may be given by education and circumstances; but the mathematician and the astronomer, who of all men on earth are the most unsafe, in affairs of government and common life – who should say that all the soil in the world is equally rich, the first rate land in Kentucky and the Highlands of Scotland, because of the superficial content of the acre is the same, would be just as right, as he who should maintain the absolute equality of man in virtue of his birth. The rickety and scrofulous little wretch that first sees the light in a work-house, or in a brothel, and who feels the effects of alcohol before the effects of vital air, is not equal in any respect to the ruddy offspring of the honest yeoman; nay, I will go further, and say that a prince, provided he is no better born than blood royal will make him, is not equal to the healthy son of a peasant.
We know that this Constitution is a Constitution of compromise, of compact, between States. It is a com-
pact between States, which acknowledges the rights of he master over his negro slave, in terms to be sure, somewhat squeamish as to words. I may be told that the word is not in the Constitution. I care not a farthing whether the word is in the Constitution or not; not only the existence of negro slavery, but the slave trade itself for a limited time, was secured under the panoply of he Constitution – and thousands were brought, under that guarantee, into the ports of Charleston and Savannah, and sold as slaves, and their progeny will be slaves ad indefinitum, unless the States of Georgia and South Carolina shall, in their sovereign capacities, choose to decree the contrary. Did south Carolina stickle for the trade in slaves, as she had a right to do, and with the aid of Connecticut especially, carry her point until 1808; and were the Southern men so ineffably stupid as to take no security for their slaves already here, or that might be brought here under the “first clause of the 9th section of he 1s article” of he Constitution, which was unalterable, even by the mode prescribed by the Constitution in other cases, until that time? And even if they had been so unguarded, what would be the casus omissus prove but that, the Constitution being silent, Congress have no power over the subject? If these things are not recognized by the book, let me put a case, and it is a question for the court below. Nothing too hard for them – Supposing that an African should sue for his liberty – where? In the federal court – why – is he a citizen? No – Is he an alien? No – Is he of a different State from his master? No – Nothing of all this; but is it not “a case arising under the Constitution?” Will not the Supreme Court clutch it – can they refuse jurisdiction? Is there a man on that bench who for one instant – I am putting a supposititious case – a case being brought in the last resort to that tribunal – is there a judge there or any where else, who would, for one instant, listen to Counsel, who should rely upon the Declaration of Independence, or any other fanfaronade of abstractions, as paramount law – paramount to the Constitution itself. The language I have applied to it is strong, but who can be cold in such a cause?
If, said Mr. R. I make use, in the heat of debate, of any improper expression, I beg pardon of the Senate. I have long thought that I could discern, even in that paper [the Declaration of Independence] rather more of the professor of a university than the language of an old statesman; what I have discerned in other state papers I shall not now say. But I will now, with the liberty of the Senate, relieve them from my tedious talk, by reading an authority from this book [taking up a volume of Burke’s works] which is pat to my purpose. It is on the subject of any man of sense suffering himself to be led away from the case before him, to travel out of the record of common sense, into the mazes of abstraction.
“I never govern myself – no rational man ever did govern himself by abstractions and universals. I do not put abstract ideas wholly out of any question, because I well know that, under that name, I should dismiss principles; and that, without the guide and light of sound, well-understood principles, all reasoning in politics, as in every thing else, would be only a confused jumble of particular facts and details, without the means of drawing out any sort of theoretical or practical conclusion. The statesman differs from the professor of an university – the later has only the general view of society, the former, (the statesman,) has a number of circumstances to combine with those general ideas, and to take into his consideration. Circumstances are infinite, are infinitely combined – are variable and transient; he who does not take them into consideration, is not erroneous, but stark mad – dat operam ut cum ratione insaniat – he is metaphysically mad. A statesman, never losing sight of principles, is to be guided by circumstances; and, judging contrary to the exigencies of the moment, he may ruin his country forever.” But, said Mr. R. how is it with the professor? In the next edition of his book, or in the refutation of his adversary, all the mischief that he has done may be undone and corrected. But when this same professor becomes a statesman? If you want to know of the effect of his metaphysical madness, look to the history of the French Revolution, and the undoing of the country – look to the history of such men as Condorcet and Brissot, and Mirabeau – men of good intentions, of learning, and genius – not that I count Mirabeau among the good men of that Revolution: but Lafayette was one of them. What ws the consequences of this not stopping to parley with the imprescriptible rights of man, in the abstract? It is that they have now full leisure to mediate on the impresriptible rights of their king in the concrete; that is the result of devotedness to abstract politics – of their management – look at Hayti and every where – I would say, if I was not afraid of being considered as treating this subject too lightly, which lies heavy on my heart – look at the famous academy of Lagrado, and you will have a pretty fair specimen of a country governed by Mathematicians and star-gazers, form light-houses in the sky. It is mournful while it is ludicrous. I have seen men who could not write a book, or even make a speech – men who cold not even spell this famous word Congress – (they spelled it with a K) who had more practical sense and were more trust-worthy, as statesmen, or generals, than any mathematician, any naturalist, or any literati, under the sun.
Sir, as a natural death is preferable to a death superinduced by the lavish use of chemical and mineral poisons – so, in my humble judgment, at least, a natural fool is preferable to a fool secundum artem – he is the least dangerous animal of the two – at least, not having been deeply cultivated, like other shallow soils, what little mother-wit is in him is not turned up by some new patent plow, and buried beneath the sand, never to give birth to vegetation more; whereas, the over-educated fool never dreams that, with all his learning and acquirements, he is but a greater fool than ever. We, of he cotton country, sir, know that deep cultivation is fatal to shallow soils, Some of these wise men have discovered that a whale is not a fish, but we have not, therefore, altered the phraseology of the laws relating to the whale fishery, because one of our cognocenti has found out that a whale is no fish at all, and has not, as far as I know, told us what to call it; and the hardy seamen of Marblehead and Cape Ann, who have stood by us, and by whom I will stand, no wiser than the Congress, for all their schooling, will persist in talking of their good or bad fishing, and of their having taken so many fish.
Sir, we have a military school, and w are to have a naval school – I should not like to see the experiment tried – but, sir, it would be a good subject for a bet, (not that a bet is a proper subject to be named here,) but it would be a good thing __ I would take some rough Massachusetts or Nantucket, or Maine and Sagadahock, or New Hampshire seamen – such as a man as Isaac Hull, and pit him against any man coming from a navel academy. If we had an army of cadets, if they came across such a man as Jackson, or Morgan, or such self-taught men, their diagrams at West Point would stand them in little stead in time of action. We must at last come down from our stilts – we must agree to be what the fathers of the Constitution, the pater patriæ, made us to be, the good old United States, courting the arts of peace, minding our own business, and not interfering with that of others, or with alliances, holy or unholy, Greek or Barbarian; above all, not departing, under the idea of a foreign mission, of sending to England or France, or to the Congress of Verona, ministers to change our whole policy, and perhaps our very form of government – departing, fundamentally, from the principles of the Constitution. The
manner in which any change is to be made in our articles of union and confederation, is already provided for in the Constitution itself – in article fifth. The Constitution has provided that, whenever these confederated States shall see cause to use them – means by which this instrument shall be changed, always saving, until 1808, the clause securing the slave trade and capitation tax from any alteration until that time. If we choose to go into common alliance with the South American States, or with the State of Hayti, or the States of Barbary – (Algiers, too, is a Republic) – we have a right to do it – States, and the People of the States, are not in pupilage – they are sui juris – they have a right to become parties to the Holy Alliance to-morrow; but how? Agreeably to the provisions of this little book, if they please – but they do not please; and above all, they will not please – they will not please to have that change made, not according to the rules established by themselves, but the sic volo, the sic jubeo, the stat pro ratione voluntas, of any man, however high in office, by the instrumentality, and under the color of fitting out a foreign mission for any Congress or Confederacy on the face of the earth. There is a regular Constitutional mode in which these things are properly to be done; there is a regular Constitutional mode by which, if you please, every Negro in the United States may be set free; because of the Southern States have, each for herself, the right if they please; but they don’t please; and they as little lease to do it by a law of their own making, as to have it done by measures that tend to a fundamental change in the original compact between them as States; by going into joint stock companies with any other States whatever, except such as we may choose to create out of our own Territory –out of that which was part of the god old United States, or out of the territory which the United States have acquired by treaty with foreign Powers.
Sir, said Mr. R. if, in the course of the very tedious and desultory remarks – more tedious even to me than they appear to have been to the Senate – which I have submitted, I may have let drop any unwary or unfounded expression in reference to any individual, particularly any trans-Atlantic individual, I hope to be permitted to take the full benefit of all the qualifications which a man of honor never fails voluntarily to give to any rash or harsh expression, dropped in heat of blood, however founded in fact, and which he is particularly anxious always to give to men who are emphatically men of peace. I must be permitted to say, that there exists, in the nature of man, ab ovo, ab origine, of degraded and fallen man – for the first-born was a murderer – a disposition to escape from our own proper duties, to undertake the duties of somebody or any body else. There exists a disposition, not to do as our good old Catechism teaches us to do – to fulfill our duty in that station to which it has pleased God to call us. No, sir, it is obsolete and worm-eaten – we must insist upon going to take upon ourselves the situation and office of some one else, to which it has not pleased God to all us – of Hindoos and the Otaheitan; of any body or any thing but our own proper business and families; and these very amiable – for such they are – these very pious men – for such I believe them to be – I don’t mean all of that connexion – but I mean the men whom I particularly have named or indicated – are lead away by this self-delusion, aided by the influence of the moral atmosphere of London, which breathe with impunity – men of abstraction and visionary character more especially. Let me be understood – the physical atmosphere of London is of such a nature – the physical excitement is so great – the wonders, the stir, the bustle, the objects continually changing before the eyes –the pulse of life is so habitually stimulated – that the best bred physicians have agreed that the diseases which imperiously require depletion in the country, will not bear that practice in town – that it cannot be safely followed in London. You might as well attempt to deplete a habitual sot, whose pulse, once got down, not even brandy will get up again; a man accustomed to the preternatural stimulus – I have stated, as to deplete a Londoner, who is accustomed to the stimulus of the excitement of the atmosphere. But there is a moral atmosphere too in London – there is not a place on the face of the earth, where there is so much public spirit – so much active benevolence – where there is so much munificence, and so much is given away in charity. I speak not of the gross amount, but in proportion to her wealth, over-grown and enormous as it is. I believe, with the author of this book, [Burke] that the spires of her charities avert from here the lightning of Heaven, which her depravity would otherwise call down. There is a moral atmosphere – there is hardly a man of note, who does not belong to some society – like our Colonization Society, and like that, it is a theatre for display, like other theatres. They go there to praise one another to their faces, in a manner that I had no conception of then. But the example has not been lost upon us. They are all of one opinion; a set of resolutions are drawn up which nobody is expected to oppose. It would be unheard of to do so, and reckoned indecent to do so. All is cut and dry – like what is called here a caucus, why, I could never tell.
No one thinks it worth while to oppose them, for it would be labor lost – speeches are made, cheerings follow, and clapping and thundering applause – such as is seen in our theatres, and might well shake the nerves of such as are not used to it – such overweening praises are given. And these men are in the habit of imbibing so much and such refined as well as gross adulation, that they cannot live out of the atmosphere of London. The fine ladies of course have the vapors upon the abstraction of this stimulus – this moral stimulus of the atmosphere of London is necessary to their existence. I can only suppose them – these good men – subject to the infirmities of our nature, and falling under the temptation to which they are peculiarly exposed. The theatre of their glory was the slave trade – now it is the abolition of slavery every where; at every risk of consequences, to which they are stone-blind. If they would only be content to let the man alone – if they would not insist upon plastering him an inch thick with mercurial ointment, and I know not what active poisons without, and filling him to the throat with calomel and jalap, within, he will, may be, get well; or at best, he an but die a natural death – probably an easy one. But, no sir, the poltico-religious Quack, like the Quack in medicine, and in every thing else, will hear of nothing but his nostrum – al is to be forced – nothing can be trusted to time, or to nature. The disease will run its course – it has run its course in the Northern states; it is beginning to run its course in Maryland. The natural death of slavery is the unprofitableness of its most expensive labor – it is also beginning in the meadow and grain country of Virginia – among those people there – who have no staple that can pay for slave labor – especially amongst those who have none or very few slaves – these are the strenuous advocates of all these principles – in Virginia – most of them of the best intentions – all of them mistaken. The moment the labor of the slave ceases to be profitable to the master, or very soon after it has reached that state – if the slave will not run away from the master, the master will run away from the slave; and this is the history of the passage from slavery to freedom of the villainage of England. The free-born Englishmen were one adscripti glebæ, like the serfs in Poland. Are not those of Russia and Poland going through this very operation at this very time, and from this very cause? And shall we be made to suffer shipwreck, we of the South I mean, in steering our bark through this Euripus, by the madness of our pilot and our own folly – steering between this Scylla and Carybdis (not
of the Bahama passage) but of the imprescriptible rights of Kings (jure divino) on the one hand, and the imprescriptible rights of Negro slaves on the other? Is there no medium? No medio tutissimus ibis? No parental injunction,
“Parce, Puer stimulis et fortiter utere loris?”
No – nothing of this. Thus fools rush in where angles fear to tread – whether ill meaning or well-meaning fools is of no importance to me, if my ruin is to be accomplished by their interference. What matters it whether the firebrands scattered were scattered by the hand of a Guy Faux, with religion in his mouth, a firebrand in his hand, and hell in his heart? Nothing at all. It is important to the agent, as it regards his guilt in the sight of God, but both of them would be apt to meet their doom from the hand of man.
I have said, sir, a great deal that I did not mean to say, and have left unsaid a great deal that I did intend to say – and have said nothing as I wished to day it; this is one of the inseparable and insuperable difficulties of a man who speaks without a note, s I have done, aggravated by circumstances that I shall not intrude upon the Senate. Sire, I never could speak or quarrel by the book – by the card, as Touchstone tells us, was the fashion in his day. I have no gift at this special pleading – at the retort courteous and the countercheck quarrelsome, till things get to the point, where nothing is left for it but to back out or fight. We are asked, sir, by this new Executive Government of ours – not in the very words, but it is a great deal like it – of the son of Climene – to give some token, some proof, that they possess legitimate claims to the confidence of the People – which they have modestly confessed they do not possess in the same degree as their predecessors. I will answer them in the words of the father of that son. Pignora certa petis – Do pignora cera timendo. But, sire, the Phæton is at the door, ambition burns to mount. Whether the Mississippi, like the Po, is to suffer a metamorphosis, not in its poplars – whether the blacks shall be turned into whites, or the whites into blacks, the slaves into masters, or the masters into slaves, or the murdered and their murderers to change their color, like the mulberry trees, belongs to men of greater sagacity than I am to foretell. I am content to act the part of Cassandra, to life up my voice, whether it be heeded, or heard only to be disregarded, until too late – I will cry out obsta principiis – Yes, sir, in this case, as in so many others – c’est ne que le premier pas qui coute – the first step is all the difficulty – that taken, they may take for their motto – vestigia nulla retrorsum – there is no retreat – I tell you these gentlemen there is no retreat – it is cut off – there is no retreat, even as tedious and painful as that conducted by Xenophon – There is no Anabasis for us – and if there was, where is our Xenophon? I do not feel lightly on this occasion – far otherwise – but the heaviest heart often vents itself in light expressions. There is a mirth of sadness, as well as tears of joy. If I could talk lightly on this sad subject, I would remind gentlemen of the rely given by a wiseacre, who was sent to search the vaults of the Parliament House at the time of the gunpowder plot, and who had searched and reported that he had found fifty barrels of powder concealed under the faggots and other fuel – that he had removed twenty-five, and hoped the other twenty-five would do no harm. The step you are about to take is the match of that powder – whether it be twenty-five or fifty barrels is quite immaterial – it is enough to blow – not the first of the Stuarts – but the last of another dynasty – sky high – sky high.