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river which carries, westward and southward, her products raised beyond the Alleghanies to the Gulf of Mexico. Thus she is open to the Gulf on the south and west, and to the ocean on the east. Her position is central, her population is numerous. If she chooses to say that she will connect the navigable waters which flow into the Gulf with the navigable waters of the Atlantic, she can do it without trespassing on any stranger's territory. It is with her a family affair. She has made one line of communication, she can make another, and as many as she pleases, to wed the waters of the Ohio with those of the Atlantic.
Gentlemen, I cannot help thinking that what Pennsylvania is, and that greater which Pennsylvania is to be, is and will be mainly owing to the constitutional government under which we live. I would not regard the Constitution of the United States, nor any other work of man, with idolatrous admiration; but, this side of idolatry, I hold it in profound respect. I believe that no human working on such a subject, no human ability exerted for such an end, has ever produced so much happiness, or holds out now to so many millions of people the prospect, through such a succession of ages and ages, of so much happiness, as the Constitution of the United States. We who are here for one generation, for a single life, and yet, in our several stations and relations in society, intrusted, in some degree, with its protection and support, — what duty does it devolve, — what duty does it not devolve upon us!
Gentlemen, there were those in the country at the time the Constitution was adopted who did not approve it. Some feared it from an excessive jealousy of power; others, for various causes, disliked it. The great majority of the people of the United States, however, adopted it, and placed Washington at the head of the first administration of the government. This Constitution, fairly expounded and justly interpreted, is the bond of our Union. Those who opposed it were all bound, in honor and justice, to follow the example of Patrick Henry, who himself opposed it, but who, when it had been adopted, took it in the fulness of its spirit, and to the highest extent of its honest interpretation. It was not, then, fair for those who had opposed he adoption of the Constitution to come in under it afterwards, and attempt to fritter away its provisions because they disliked them. The people had adopted the instrument as it stood, and they were bound by it, in its fair and full construction and interpretation. For the same reason, Gentlemen, those called upon to exercise high functions under the Constitution, in our day, may think that they could have made a better one. It may be the misfortune of the age of our fathers, that they had not the intelligence of this age. These persons may think that they could have made it much better, — that this thing and that ought not to have been put in it, and therefore they will try to get them out of it . That is not fair. Every man that is called upon to administer the Constitution of the United States, or act under it in any respect, is bound, in honor, and faith, and duty, to take it in its ordinary acceptation, and to act upon it as it was understood by those who framed it, and received by the people when they adopted it; and as it has been practised upon since, through all administrations of the government.
It may have happened, I think it has happened, on more than one occasion, that the spirit of this instrument has been departed from; that serious violations of that spirit have taken place. What of that? Are we to abandon it on that account? Are we to abandon it? Why, I should as soon think of abandoning my own father when ruffians attacked him! No! we are to rally around it with all our power and all our force, determined to stand by it, or fall with it. What was the conduct of the great lovers of liberty in the early periods of English history? They wrested from a reluctant monarch, King John, a great charter. The crown afterwards violated that charter. What did they then do? They remonstrated, they resisted, they reasserted, they reenforced it; and that, Gentlemen, is what we are to do.
Gentlemen, I have never felt more interested, I may say never so much interested, in the course of my public life, as during some periods of the last session of Congress. I could not but feel that we were in the midst of most important events. It was my purpose, towards the close of the session, to consider with some care the acts of Congress, and the course of the administration during that session, and to express my opinions on them, in my place in the Senate. It so happened, however, that, in the fleeting hours of the last week of the session, no opportunity was offered; and I therefore announced a purpose of taking some occasion before the public of reviewing the acts of Congress during the last session, and of making such comments upon them as, in my humble judgment, they deserved. The present may be a proper occasion for fulfilling that duty. But my purpose has been so long deferred, that it has been anticipated. Other commentators have arisen, more effective and authoritative than I, and they have expressed their opinions upon the conduct of the last session of Congress, with an emphasis which must have penetrated the dullest perception.
Gentlemen, the political events that have occurred in the country since the termination of the session have impressed me with very profound feelings. The results of the elections, especially in the central States on the Atlantic, while they have awakened new hopes and new prospects, have been, nevertheless, of a nature to excite emotions far too deep to be expressed in any evanescent glow of party feeling. It appears to me quite plain, that no such revolution of public opinion as we have now witnessed has happened in this country before, for nearly fifty years. I may confine my remarks, in this respect, to those two great States, Pennsylvania and New York. When has such a change of public sentiment been manifested before, in the State of Pennsylvania, since the great controversy of 1799 and 1800? At that period, a very strong political dispute was carried on in this city, as well as elsewhere throughout the State, of which controversy the election between Governor McKean and Mr. Ross was one part and one element. The former was elected, and certain highly important political results followed. Since that time, no such entire revolution of popular sentiment, in regard to questions connected with the general government, as that witnessed within the last year, has taken place in Pennsylvania. I may say the same, in substance, I believe, of New York. Since the time of the great controversy in that State about the same period, I know of no change of sentiment in New York of such magnitude, and which has taken every body so much by surprise. At the same time, it is quite manifest that these changes have not been produced by effort. The country has been calm, the public mind serene. There have been no mass meetings, no extraordinary efforts of the press, no great attempts of any kind to influence men's opinions. It seems to me that the most remarkable circumstance connected with the occurrence is the spontaneous, self
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moved, conscientious conviction and feeling of the people, producing this great result.
Now, Gentlemen, the question is, What is this revolution? What is its character? For whom, and against whom, for what, and against what, has it taken place?
Gentlemen, I intend to perform the duty before me this evening, without denunciation, without vituperation; I intend to avoid, as far as possible, all reflections upon men, and all unjust reflections upon parties. But it does appear to me as clear as the light of noonday, that the revolution which has now taken place in the country, in public sentiment, is a revolution against the measures and the principles of this now existing administration. It is against the manner in which this war with Mexico has been brought on. (Loud cries of " You're right!" "You're right!" and great applause.) It is against the tariff of 1846. (Deafening applause.) It is against that absurdity of all absurdities, the sub-treasury bill. (Shouts of laughter.) It is against the duplicate vetoes. (Great applause.)
Gentlemen, the present administration is not regarded as the just representative or the regular successor of any administration. In its principles and in its measures, it certainly does not resemble the administration of General Jackson, or of Mr. Van Buren, and most certainly it resembles no other. Now we must be just, we must be just to those who, in time past, have differed from us. We must, in some measure, forget the things which are behind. I take this to be the truth, that this administration has adopted a system of its own, and measures of its own, and assumed a character of its own, distinct and separate from what was the character of all preceding administrations. I take it to be for that reason, that hundreds and thousands of our fellow-citizens in this State and in other States, who were supporters of General Jackson's administration and Mr. Van Buren's administration, repudiate this administration. I think, therefore, that this administration stands alone, I will not say in its glory, but certainly in its measures and its policy. I think it is certain, that the sober-minded and intelligent portion of the community who have heretofore sustained what has been called the Democratic party have found that this administration of Mr. Polk either adopts new measures, not before known to the party, or has carried the sentiments of the party hitherto re
ceived and expressed to such extremes, that it is impossible for honest and just men to follow it; and that therefore they have come out, laying aside the natural reluctance which men feel in acting against the party of their friends, — they have come out, nevertheless, and in order to manifest their disapprobation of the principles and measures of this administration, they have flocked to the polls by thousands, and given plumpers to Whig candidates. Now, are they right in this? Are they right in supposing that this administration has adopted new doctrines, or carried old doctrines to extremes? Gentlemen, it is perfectly evident to me that they are right; that on questions of vital interest to these central States, and to all the States, the principles and measures of the present administration are marked departures from the principles and measures of General Jackson.
I will, with your permission and patience, illustrate this sentiment by one or two instances, beginning with that of the protective policy of the country.
It seems to me almost too light a question to ask, whether in this respect Young Hickory is like Old Hickory. But it is a great question to be put to the people of the United States, and which has been put, and which they have answered, whether the principles of the present administration, in regard to the protective policy of the country, are or are not entire departures from the principles of Andrew Jackson. I say they are.
Gentlemen, I have not been an advocate of the policy of General Jackson. We all know that he was a man of decided and strong character. For one, I believe that in general his wishes were all for the happiness and glory of the country. He thought, perhaps, that, to establish that happiness and perfect that glory, it was incumbent on him to exert a little more power than I believed the Constitution gave him. But I never doubted that he meant well; and that, while he sought to establish his own glory and renown, he intended to connect them with the glory and renown of the whole country.
Gentlemen, after the passage of what is called, or has been called, the Compromise Act of 1833, no great agitation arose on the tariff subject until the expiration, or near the expiration, of the period prescribed by that act. Within that time, Mr. Van Buren's administration began, went through, and terminated. The circumstances of the country, therefore, and the business