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THE LABORING CLASSES.
most heroic virtues. But an ignoble peace is more demoralizing than a sanguinary war. It is an incubus on a nation's character, in the oppression of which every true patriot must share ; till he could almost exclaim, with disgraced Cassio, “O! I have lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is běstial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!”
III. - NATIONAL OBLIGATIONS. I DIFFER, Mr. Chairman, from the honorable gentleman from Massachusetts, who denies that sympathy ought to be felt for the children of deceased officers, who may be in want. Those children have not served us, it is true; but their fathers who did are beyond the reach of our gratitude, and the transfer of the feeling is natural and just. Public benefits bestowed on the children of the deceased father encourages him who is alive in the discharge of his duty, by the purest of all motives— paternal affection; and that legislation must be unwise, indeed, that fails to enlist, in support of the State, all the best impulses of humanity.
Let that republic get on as it can, where the veteran, blind, maimed, and poor, like Belisarius, is forced to apply to public charity for support! Let that republic get on as it can, where contracts are broken, and public beneficence refused; where nothing is given but what is in the bond — and that is frequently refused! Let that republic get on as it can !
It will never produce any thing great; its career will be short and inglorious ; its fall certain and unpitied ; its history remembered as a warning, not as an example; and the names of its legislators and statesmen buried in the oblivion to which their false economy tends to consign the memory of those who have established its freedom, or defended it from aggression. May our republic show, by its decision on this bill, that it has a higher destiny, and that it is guarded as well by liberality and honor, as by justice!
EDWARD LIVINGSTON (Jan. 15, 1827).
IV. – THE LABORING CLASSES.
SIR, it is an insult to our laboring classes to compare them with the debased poor of Europe. Why, sir, we of this country do not know what poverty We have no poor in this country, in the sense in which that word is used abroad. Every laborer, even the most humble, in the United States, soon becomes a capitalist, and even, if he choose, a proprietor of land; for the West, with all its boundless fertility, is open to him.
How can any one dare to compare the mechanics of this land (whose inferiority, in any' substantial particular, in intelligence, in virtue, in wealth, to the other classes of our society, I have yet to learn) with that race of outcasts, of which so terrific a picture is presented by recent writers — the poor of Europe ?—a race among no inconsiderable portion of whom famine and pestilence may be said to dwell continually; many of whom are without morals, without education, without a country, without a God ! and
may be said to know society only by the terrors of its penal code, and to live in perpetual war with it. Poor bondmen! mocked with the name of liberty, that they may be sometimes tempted to break their chains, in order that, after a few days of starvation in idleness and dissipation, they may be driven back to their prison-house to take their shackles up again, heavier and more galling than before; severed, as it has been touchingly expressed, from nature, from the common air, and the light of the sun; knowing only by hearsay that the fields are green, that the birds sing, and that there is a per'fume in flowers !
And is it with a race whom the perverse institutions of Europe have thus degraded beneath the condition of humanity that the advocates, the patrons, the protectors, of our working-men, presume to compare them ? Sir, it is to treat them with a scorn at which their spirit should revolt, and does revolt.
HUGH $. LEGARÉ.
V. - ON THE EMBARGO.
The gentleman from North Carolina exclaimed, the other day, in a strain of pātriotic ardor, “What! shall not our laws be executed ? Shall their authority be defied ? I am for enforcing them, at every hazard.” I honor that gentleman's zeal, and I mean no deviation from that true respect I entertain for him, when I tell him that in this instance “his zeal is not according to knowledge.”
I ask this house, is there no control to its authority, is there no limit to the power of this national legislature? I hope I shall offend no man, when I intimate that two limits exist nature and the constitution. Should this house undertake to declare that this atmosphere should no longer surround us, that water should cease to flow, that gravity should not hereafter operate, that the needle should not vibrate to the pole, — sir, I hope I shall not offend — I think I may venture to affirm that,
such a law to the contrary notwithstanding, the air would continue to circulate; the Mississippi, the Hudson, and the Potomac, would roll their floods to the ocean; heavy bodies continue to descend, and the mysterious magnet hold on its course to its celestial cyn'osure.
Just as utterly absurd and contrary to nature is it to attempt to prohibit the people of New England, for any considerable length of time, from the ocean. Commerce is not only associated with all the feelings, the habits, the interests and relations, of that people, but the nature of our soil and of our coasts, the state of our population and its mode of distribution over our territory, render it indispensable. We have five hundred miles of sea-coast, all furnished with harbors, bays, creeks, rivers, inlets, basins, with every variety of invitation to the sea, with every species of facility to violate such laws as these. Our people are not scattered over an immense surface, at a solemn distance from each other, in lordly retirement, in the midst of extended plantations and intervening wastes ; they are collected on the margin of the ocean, by the sides of rivers, at the heads of bays, looking into the water, or on the surface of it, for the incitement and the reward of their industry.
Among a people thus situated, thus educated, thus numerous, laws prohibiting them from the exercise of their natural rights will have a binding effect not one moment longer than the public sentiment supports them. Gentlemen talk of twelve revenue cutters additional, to enforce the embargo laws. Multiply the number by twelve, multiply it by a hundred, join all your ships of war, all your gun-boats, and all your militia, - in despite of them all, such laws as these are of no avail, when they become odious to public sentiment. JOSIAH QUINCY (Nov. 28, 1808).
VI. - NATIONAL GLORY. We are asked what have we gained by the war? I have shown that we have lost nothing in rights, territory, or honor; nothing for which we ought to have contended, according to the principles of the gentlemen on the other side, or according to
Have we gained nothing by the war? Let any man look at the degraded condition of this country before the war, the scorn of the universe, the contempt of ourselves, and tell me if we have gained nothing by the war.
Is there a man who would not desire a participation in the national glory acquired? Yes, national glory, which, however the expression may be condemned by some, must be cherished by every genuine patriot. What do I mean by national glory? Glory such as Hull, Jackson, and Perry, have acquired. And are gentlemen insensible to their deeds- - to the value of them in animating the country in the hour of peril hereafter? Did the battle of Thermop'ylæ preserve Greece but once? Whilst the Mississippi continues to bear the tributes of the Iron Mountains and the Alleghanies to her Delta and to the Gulf of Mexico, the 8th of January shall be remembered, and the glory of that day shall stimulate future patriots, and nerve the arms of unborn freemen in driving the presumptuous invader from our country's soil.
Gentlemen may boast of their insensibility to feelings inspired by the contemplation of such events. But I would ask, does the recollection of Bunker's Hill, Saratoga, and Yorktown, afford them no pleasure ? Every act of noble sacrifice to the country, every instance of patriotic devotion to her cause, has its beneficial influence. A nation's character is the sum of its splendid deeds; they constitute one common patrimony, the nation's inheritance. They awe foreign powers, they arouse and animate our own people.
Do gentlemen derive no pleasure from the recent transactions in the Mediterranean? Can they regard unmoved the honorable issue of a war in support of our nătional rights, declared, prosecuted, and terminated by a treaty, in which the enemy
submitted to a carte blanche* in the short period of forty days? The days of chivalry are not gone. They have been revived in the
person of Commodore Decatur, who, in releasing from infidel bondage Christian captives, the subjects of a foreign power, and restoring them to their country and friends, has placed himself beside the most renowned knights of former times. I love true glory. It is this sentiment which ought to be cherished; and, in spite of cavils, and sneers, and attempts to put it down, it will finally conduct this nation to that height to which God and nature have destined it.
VII. - IN FAVOR OF FREE TRADE. Sir, next to the Christian religion, I consider free trade in its largest sense as the greatest blessing that can be conferred upon any people. Hear, sir, what Patrick Henry, the great orator of Virginia, whose soul was the very temple of freedom, says on this subject :
Why should we fetter commerce? If a man is in chains, he * Pronounced kart blansh — the a in blansh having its sound as in father, and the n having a slightly nasal sound.
droops and bows to the earth, because his spirits are broken; but let him twist the fetters from his legs, and he will stand erect. Fetter not commerce! Let her be as free as the air. She will range the whole creation, and return on the four winds of heaven to bless the land with plenty.":
But it has been said that free trade would do very well if all nations would adopt it; but, as it is, every nation must protect itself from the effect of restrictions by countervailing measures. I am persuaded, sir, that this is a great, a most fatal error. If retaliation is resorted to for the honest purpose of producing a redress of the grievance, while adhered to no longer than there is a hope of success, it may, like war itself, be sometimes just and necessary. But if it have no such object, “it is the unprofitable combat of seeing which can do the other the most harm."
The case can hardly be conceived in which permanent restrictions, as a measure of retaliation, could be profitable. In every possible situation, a trade, whether more or less restricted, is profitable, or it is not. This can only be decided by experience; and if the trade be left to regulate itself, water would not more naturally seek its level, than the intercourse adjust itself to the true interest of the parties.
Sir, as to this idea of the regulation by government of the pursuits of men, I consider it as a remnant of barbarism, disgraceful to an enlightened age, and inconsistent with the first principles of rational liberty. I hold government to be utterly incapable, from its position, of exercising such a power wisely, prudently, or justly. Are the rulers of the world the depositaries of its collected wisdom? Sir, can we forget the advice of a great statesman to his son: “Go, see the world, my son, that you may learn with how little wisdom mankind is governed."
And is our own government an exception to this rule? Or do we not find here, as every where else, that
“ Mán, proud man,
Dressed in a little brief authority,
VIII. EUROPEAN EXAMPLES.
A continuation of the preceding speech. Tue gentleman has appealed to the example of other nations, on the subject of free trade. Sir, they are all against him. They have had restrictions enough, to be sure, but they are get