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eery were in session at Saratoga, and the Governor of the State was also in the village.
At half past three o'clock, the public meeting was called to order, and the Hon. John W. Taylor, of Ballston, formerly Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States, was called to the chair. Other persons of eminence were near him. At this moment, in casting the eye from the platform (which had been hastily, and, as the event proved, not very securely, put together), the spectacle which presented itself was of a novel and most striking character. In front, in a fine grove of pines, without any undergrowth, covering a circular eminence, about eight or ten diousand persons were collected. Near the platform were scats of rough boards capable of containing as many more. These seats were partly filled by ladies. The upturned faces of this great assemblage, as Mr. Webster, personally a stranger to most of them, stepped to the front of the stage, evinced the most intense and eager expectation. Beyond and wholly round to the rear of the platform stood thousands closely pressed together. The appearance of the speaker was the signal for the most enthusiastic cheering on the part of this vast multitude.
As soon as silence was restored, he commenced the following speech, which for more than three hours held the immense crowd in attention the most fixed and profound, except as it was interrupted by constantly repeated cheers. Before he had spoken many moments, an incident occurred, which at the time threatened disaster, but happily had no serious result. As it furnishes a happy instance of self-possession, it is worth recording.
The platform, which was of rough boards elevated some seven or eight feet from the ground, on which the speaker, the chairman, and the official and distinguished persons present were seated, suddenly-gave way and fell with a great crash. Mr. Webster, who was happily uninjured, was the first person on his feet; and, supporting himself on some fragments of the staging, announced to the anxious assembly that no one was hurt, adding the expression of his confidence and satisfaction, that " the great Whig platform was more solid than the frail structure on which he was standing." This annunciation relieved the apprehensions of the audience. The place of the shattered platform was supplied by a large wagon covered with planks, and from this extemporized rostrum Mr. Webster continued his address, without having been in the slightest degree disturbed in his tone of remark by the annoying incident.
MASS MEETING AT SARATOGA.*
We are, my friends, in the midst of a great movement of the people. That a revolution in public sentiment on some important questions of public policy has begun, and is in progress, it is vain to attempt to conceal, and folly to deny. What will be the extent of this revolution, what its immediate effects upon political men and political measures, what ultimate influence it may have on the integrity of the Constitution, and the permanent prosperity of the country, remains to be seen. Meantime, no one can deny that an extraordinary excitement exists in the country, such as has not been witnessed for more than half a century; not local, nor confined to any two, or three, or ten States, but pervading the whole, from north to south, and from east to west, with equal force and intensity. For an effect so general, a cause of equal extent must exist. No cause, local or partial, can produce consequences so general and universal. In some parts of the country, indeed, local causes may in some degree add to the flame; but no local cause, nor any number of local causes, can account for the generally excited state of the public mind.
In portions of the country devoted to agriculture and manufactures, we hear complaints of want of market and low prices. Yet there are other portions of the country, which are consumers, and not producers, of food and manufactures; and, as purchasers, they should, it would seem, be satisfied with the low prices of which the sellers complain; but in these portions, too, of the country, there are dissatisfaction and discontent. Everywhere we find complaining and a desire for change.
* Speech delivered at the Great Mass Meeting at Saratoga, New York, on the 19th of August, 1840.
There are those who think that this excitement among the people will prove transitory and evanescent. I am not of that opinion. So far as I can judge, attention to public affairs among the people of the United States has increased, is increasing, and is not likely to be diminished; and this not in one part of the country, but all over it. This certainly is the fact, if we may judge from recent information. The breeze of popular excitement is blowing everywhere. It fans the air in Alabama and the Carolinas; and I am of opinion, that, when it shall cross the Potomac, and range along the Northern Alleghanies, it will grow stronger and stronger, until, mingling with the gales of the Empire State, and the mountain blasts of New England, it will blow a perfect hurricane.
There are those, again, who think these vast popular meetings are got up by effort; but I say that no effort could get them up, and no effort can keep them down. There must, then, be some general cause that animates the whole country. What is that cause? It is upon this point I propose to give my opinion today. I have no design to offend the feelings of any, but I mean in perfect plainness to express my views to the vast multitude assembled around. I know there are among them many who from first to last supported General Jackson. I know there are many who, if conscience and patriotism permitted, would support his successor;* and I should ill repay the attention with which they may honor me by any reviling or denunciation. Again, I come to play no part of oratory before you. If there have been times and occasions in my life when I might be supposed anxious to exhibit myself in such a light, that period has passed, and this is not one of the occasions. I come to dictate and prescribe to no man. If my experience, not now short, in the affairs of government, entitle my opinions to any respect, those opinions are at the service of my fellow-citizens. What I shall state as facts, I hold myself and my character responsible for; what I shall state as opinions, all are alike at liberty to reject or to receive. I ask such consideration for them only as the fairness and sincerity with which they are uttered may claim.
What, then, has excited the whole land, from Maine to Georgia, and gives us assurance, that, while we are meeting here
* Mr. Van Buren.
in New York in such vast numbers, other like meetings are holding throughout all the States? That this cause must be general is certain, for it agitates the whole country, and not parts only.
When that fluid in the human system indispensable to life becomes disordered, corrupted, or obstructed in its circulation, not the head or the heart alone suffers; but the whole body — head, heart, and hand, all the members, and all the extremities — is affected with debility, paralysis, numbness, and death. The analogy between the human system and the social and political system is complete; and what the lifeblood is to the former, circulation, money, currency, is to the latter; and if that be disordered or corrupted, paralysis must fall on the system.
The original, leading, main cause, then, of all our difficulties and disasters, is the disordered state of the circulation. This is, perhaps, not a perfectly obvious truth; and yet it is one susceptible of easy demonstration. In order to explain this the more readily, I wish to bring your minds to the consideration of the internal condition, and the vast domestic trade, of the United States. Our country is not a small province or canton, but an empire, extending over a large and diversified surface, with a population of various conditions and pursuits. It is in this variety that consists its prosperity; for the different parts become useful one to the other, not by identity, but by difference, of production, and thus each by interchange contributes to the interest of the other. Hence, our internal trade, that which carries on this exchange of the products and industry of the different portions of the United States, is one of our most important interests, I had almost said, the most important. Its operations are easy and silent, not always perceptible, but diffusing health and life throughout the system by the intercourse thus promoted, from neighborhood to neighborhood, and from State to State.
Let me explain this a little in detail. You are here in a graingrowing State. Your interest, then, is to have consumers, not growers, of grain. The hands that, in the broad belt which stretches across the country in which grain best succeeds, grow wheat, are interested to find mouths elsewhere to consume what they raise. The manufacturers of the North and East need the grain of the Middle States, and the cotton of the South, and
these in turn buy the manufactures of the East. Nor is this solely matter of interest, but it is in some degree brought about by the regulations of foreign governments. Our manufactures find no sale in Europe; and much of our grain is, under ordinary circumstances, excluded from its markets. In France it is never admitted, and in England in a manner so contingent and uncertain as to tantalize rather than gratify the American husbandman.
The internal trade, moreover, moves as it were in a circle, and not directly. The great imports of the country are at New York, whence they pass to the South and to the West, while our exports are not mainly from New York, but from the South. Thus the main imports are at one quarter of the Union, and the exports from another. The same thing is true of other branches of trade. The produce of Ohio, much of it, descends the river to New Orleans; but Ohio is supplied with foreign commodities and domestic fabrics chiefly through the New York canals, the Lakes, and the Ohio Canal. The live stock of Kentucky goes to the Carolinas; where, however, Kentucky buys nothing, but transmits the money to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, and in those cities procures what she wants, to be sent to her across the Alleghanies.
This circuit of trade, in a country of such great extent as ours, demands, more than in any country under heaven, a uniform currency for the whole people; that what is money in Carolina shall be so elsewhere; that what the Kentucky drover receives, what the planter of Alabama sells for, what the laborer in New York gets in pay for his work, and carries home to support his family, shall be of ascertained and uniform value.
This is not the time nor the occasion for an essay or dissertation on money; but I mean distinctly to express the opinion, that until the general government shall take in hand the currency of the country, until that government shall devise some means, I say not what, of raising the whole currency to the level of gold and silver, there can be no prosperity.
Let us retrace briefly the history of the currency question in this country, a most important branch of the commercial question. I appeal to all who have studied the history of the times, and of the Constitution, whether our fathers, in framing the Constitution which should unite us in common rights and a