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It appears to some persons, that a great deal too much use is made of the symbol of the log cabin. No man of sense supposes, certainly, that the having lived in a log cabin is any further proof of qualification for the Presidency, than as it creates a presumption that any one who, rising from humble condition, or under unfavorable circumstances, has been able to attract a considerable degree of public attention, is possessed of reputable qualities, moral and intellectual.
But it is to be remembered, that this matter of the log cabin originated, not with the friends of the Whig candidate, but with his enemies. Soon after his nomination at Harrisburg, a writer for one of the leading administration papers spoke of his "log cabin," and his use of "hard cider," by way of sneer and reproach. As might have been expected, (for pretenders are apt to be thrown off their guard,) this taunt at humble life proceeded from the party which claims a monopoly of the purest democracy. The whole party appeared to enjoy it, or, at least, they countenanced it by silent acquiescence; for I do not know that, to this day, any eminent individual or any leading newspaper attached to the administration has rebuked this scornful jeering at the supposed humble condition or circumstances in life, past or present, of a worthy man and a war-worn soldier. But it touched a tender point in the public feeling. It naturally roused indignation. What was intended as reproach was immediately seized on as merit. "Be it so! Be it so!" was the instant burst of the public voice. "Let him be the log cabin candidate. What you say in scorn, we will shout with all our lungs. From this day forward, we have our cry of rally; and we shall see whether he who has dwelt in one of the rude abodes of the West may not become the best house in the country!"
All this is natural, and springs from sources of just feeling. Other things, Gentlemen, have had a similar origin. We all know that the term " Whig" was bestowed in derision, two hundred years ago, on those who were thought too fond of liberty; and our national air of " Yankee Doodle" was composed by British officers, in ridicule of the American troops. Yet, ere long, the last of the British armies laid down its arms at Yorktown, while this same air was playing in the ears of officers and men. Gentlemen, it is only shallow-minded pretenders who either make distinguished origin matter of personal merit, or obscure origin matter of personal reproach. Taunt and scoffing at the humble condition of early life affect nobody, in this country, but those who are foolish enough to indulge in them, and they are generally sufficiently punished by public rebuke. A man who is not ashamed of himself need not be ashamed of his early condition.
Gentlemen, it did not happen to me to be born in a log cabin; but my elder brothers and sisters were born in a log cabin, raised amid the snow-drifts of New Hampshire, at a period so early that, when the smoke first rose from its rude chimney, and curled over the frozen hills, there was no similar evidence of a white man's habitation between it and the settlements on the rivers of Canada. Its remains still exist. I make to it an annual visit. I carry my children to it, to teach them the hardships endured by the generations which have gone before them. I love to dwell on the tender recollections, the kindred ties, the early affections, and the touching narratives and incidents, which mingle with all I know of this primitive family abode. I weep to think that none of those who inhabited it are now among the living; and if ever I am ashamed of it, or if I ever fail in affectionate veneration for him who reared it, and defended it against savage violence and destruction, cherished all the domestic virtues beneath its roof, and, through the fire and blood of a seven years' revolutionary war, shrunk from no danger, no toil, no sacrifice, to serve his country, and to raise his children to a condition better than his own, may my name and the name of my posterity be blotted for ever from the memory of mankind!
[Mr. Webster then reviewed the expenditures of the government; but the reporter finds, with regret, that the sheet containing this portion of the speech has been mislaid or lost. We supply, therefore, from memory, a very brief, and, we are aware, a very inadequate, outline of the argument.]
The expenditures of this administration have been eminently wasteful and extravagant. Over and above the ordinary revenue of the country, Mr. Van Buren has spent more than twenty millions that reached the treasury from other sources. I specify,
Reserved under the Deposit Act, . . . . $ 6,000,000 Fourth instalment of surplus, kept back, . . 9,000,000
Payment by the Bank of United States on its bonds, 5,000,000
But even this has been found insufficient for the prodigality of the administration; and we had not been long assembled in Congress before a demand was made upon it, notwithstanding the flattering representations of the message and the treasury report, for authority to issue five millions more of treasury notes. This, we were assured, if Congress would only keep within the estimates submitted by the departments, would be ample. Congress did keep within the estimates; and yet, before we broke up, intimations came from the treasury that they must have authority to borrow or issue treasury notes for four and a half millions more!
This time even the friends of the administration demurred, and, finally, refused to grant this new aid; and what then was the alternative? Why, after having voted appropriations for the various branches of the public service, all within the estimates, and all of which, they were told, were indispensable, Congress conferred on the President, by a special provision, authority to withhold these appropriations from such objects as he pleased, and, out of certain classes, to select, at his discretion, those upon which money should be expended. Entire authority was thus given to the President over all these expenditures, in evasion, as it seems to me, of that provision of the Constitution forbidding all expenditure except by virtue of appropriations, which, if it mean any thing, must mean the specification of distinct sums for distinct purposes.
In this way, then, it is proposed to keep back from indispensable works, or works declared by the administration to be indispensable, four and a half millions, which are, nevertheless, appropriated, and which, with five millions of treasury notes already issued, will constitute a debt of from nine to ten millions.
So, then, when General Harrison shall succeed, in March next, to the Presidential chair, all that he will inherit from his predecessors, besides their brilliant example, will be these treasury vaults and safes, without a dollar in them, and a debt of ten millions of dollars.
The whole revenue policy of this administration has been founded in error. While the treasury is becoming poorer and poorer, articles of luxury are admitted free of duty. Look at the custom-house returns, — twenty millions of dollars worth o,f silks imported in one year, free of duty, and other articles of luxury in proportion, that should be made to contribute to the revenue.
We have, in my judgment, imported excessively; and yet the President urges it as an objection to works of public improvement, to railroads and canals, that they diminish our importations, and thereby interfere with the comforts of the people. His message says,—
"Our people will not long be insensible to the extent of the burdens entailed upon them by the false system that has been operating on their sanguine, energetic, and industrious character; nor to the means necessary to extricate themselves from these embarrassments. The weight which presses upon a large portion of the people and the States is an enormous debt, foreign and domestic. The foreign debt of our States, corporations, and men of business can scarcely be less than two hundred millions of dollars, requiring more than ten millions of dollars a year to pay the interest. This sum has to be paid out of the exports of the country, and must of necessity cut off imports to that extent, or plunge the country more deeply in debt from year to year. It is easy to see that the increase of this foreign debt must augment the annual demand on the exports to pay the interest, and to the same extent diminish the imports; and in proportion to the enlargement of the foreign debt, and the consequent increase of interest, must be the decrease of the import trade. In lieu of the comforts which it now brings us, we might have one gigantic banking institution, and splendid, but in many instances profitless, railroads and canals, absorbing, to a great extent, in interest upon the capital borrowed to construct them, the surplus fruits of national industry for years to come, and securing to posterity no adequate return for the comforts which the labor of their hands might otherwise have secured."
What are these comforts that we are to get so much more of, if we will only stop our railroads and canals? Foreign goods, loss of employment at home, European wages, and, lastly, direct taxation.
One of the gentlemen of the South, of that nullifying State Rights party which has absorbed the administration, or been absorbed by it, comes boldly out with the declaration, that the period is arrived for a direct tax on land; and, holding up this idea, others have said that it will bring the North to the grindstone. We shall see, before this contest is over, who will be the parties ground, and who the grinders. It is, however, but just to add, that, thus far, this is only an expression of individual opinion, and I do not allege it to be otherwise.
I had proposed to say something of the militia bill; but it is already so late that I must forego this topic. [" No, no! Go on, go on!" — from the crowd.]
[Mr. Webster resumed, and briefly analyzed the bill. Owing, however, to the lateness of the hour, he did not go largely into the discussion. He did not, he said, mean to charge Mr. Van Buren with any purpose to play the part of a Ceesar or a Cromwell; but he did say that, in his judgment, the plan, as recommended by the President in his message, and of which the annual report of the Secretary of War, accompanying the message, developed the leading features, would, if carried into operation, be expensive, burdensome, in derogation of the Constitution, and dangerous to our liberties. Mr. Webster referred to the President's recent letter to some gentleman in Virginia, endeavoring to exculpate himself for the recommendation in-the message, by attempting to show a difference between the plan then so strongly commended, and that submitted in detail, some months afterwards, by the Secretary of War, to Congress. Mr. Webster pronounced this attempt wholly unsatisfactory, and then went on to say,]
I have now frankly stated my opinions as to the nature of the present excitement, and have answered the question I propounded as to the causes of the revolution in public sentiment now in progress. Will this revolution succeed? Does it move the masses, or is it an ebullition merely on the surface? And who is it that opposes the change which seems to be going forward? [Here some one in the crowd cried out, " None, hardly, but the office-holders, oppose it."] I hear one say that the officeholders oppose it; and that is true. If they were quiet, in my opinion, a change would take place almost by common consent. I have heard of an anecdote, perhaps hardly suited to the sobriety and dignity of this occasion, but which confirms the answer which my friend in the crowd has given to my question. It happened to a farmer's son, that his load of hay was blown over by a sudden gust, on an exposed plain. Those near him, seeing him manifest a degree of distress, which such an accident would not usually occasion, asked him the reason; he said he should not take on so much about it, only father was under the load. I think it very probable, Gentlemen, that there are many now very active and zealous friends, who would not care much whether the wagon of the administration were blown over