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Among the demonstrations of public opinion which preceded the election of General Harrison, in November, 1840, the convention held upon Bunker Hill, on the 10th of September, was perhaps the most imposing. The suggestion of a grand meeting upon this spot, to be attended by numerous delegates, not merely from Massachusetts and New England, but the other States of the Union, even those most remote, was received with great favor throughout the country, and was carried into full effect. Many persons from the distant States, travelling to the North, made their arrangements to be in Boston on this occasion. Respectable delegations from every section of the Union were specially appointed for this purpose, and every part of New England was fully represented. The number of strangers drawn to Boston to attend or witness the meeting was estimated by some persons as high as fifty thousand.
On the morning of the 10th, a vast procession was formed on the Common in Boston, and in the neighboring streets, and by eleven o'clock was ready to move. It was headed by one hundred and fifty truckmen, in white frocks, followed by more than a thousand well-mounted citizens. Fifty barouches and carriages succeeded, containing Revolutionary soldiers, gentlemen of distinction from other States, and persons specially invited. The different sections of the cavalcade were indicated by a variety of characteristic banners.
After the cavalcade came the pedestrian portion of the procession, the delegates from the New England States arranged in the rear, the others occupying places in the order in which the Constitution was adopted by their respective States. Appropriate banners, with significant devices, many of which were executed with great spirit, were borne by the several delegations. The appearance of these respectable bodies from the extremest South and West was the peculiar feature of the day, and added much to its interest. It was the first occasion on which any similar display had taken place, to any thing like the same extent, in this part of the Union.
The delegations from the States were followed by those from the various counties and towns in Massachusetts, that of Suffolk bringing up the rear. These, also, all carried appropriate banners, many with devices and inscriptions highly significant, original, and spirited, and wrought with great beauty. A large body of seamen appeared in the Suffolk delegation. In another section of the same delegation was a printing-press, in full operation, drawn by six horses.
The length of the procession was four miles, and two hours were required for its passage by any given point. It is impossible adequately to describe the enthusiasm which prevailed, or the extreme beauty and singularity of the spectacle. Numerous bands of music were placed in different parts of the procession. The entire line of streets through which it passed was filled with spectators. The windows and balconies were thronged with women and children, waving their handkerchiefs in token of sympathy with the delegates, while the latter acknowledged the attention with continual cheers. The streets were decorated with ensigns and pennons, and occasionally with triumphal arches adorned with evergreens and flowers. The whole city was alive with the festival.
In this manner the procession moved, in perfect order, through the principal streets, over Warren Bridge, and thence to the battle-ground on Bunker Hill. A general expectation of a speech from Mr. Webster had gone abroad. But the vast multitude anticipated had seemed to render it expedient to dispense with the usual mode of proceeding at political meetings, and, instead of a popular discussion, to put forth a carefully prepared and formal manifesto of the principles which governed the Whig party in the existing contest. A slight organization accordingly took place. Mr. Webster was invited to act as the presiding officer of the convention, and the following declaration of principles, previously drawn up by him, and signed by him on behalf of the assembly, was publicly read.
This closed the proceedings on the Hill, where the dispersion of the multitude was hastened by a heavy rain. In the evening, political meetings were held in Faneuil Hall, and other public halls in Boston, at which patriotic addresses of great ability were made by Messrs. Watkins Leigh of Virginia, Ellsworth of Connecticut, Pennington of New Jersey, O'Fallon of Missouri, Ogden Hoffman, Philip Hone, and Charles King, of New York, Upham of Vermont, Neal of Maine, Dawson of Michigan, and many other gentlemen of distinction from various parts of the Union.
The importance of this demonstration, as a display of sympathy between the people of the remotest members of the Union, and its tendency, in this way, to fortify and animate the true spirit of the Constitution, have seemed to warrant a notice in greater detail than would be due, in this place, to the ordinary manifestations of contemporary political feel ing.
WHIG PRINCIPLES AND PURPOSES/
When men pause from their ordinary occupations, and assemble in great numbers, a proper respect for the judgment of the country and of the age requires that they should clearly set forth the grave causes which have brought them together, and the purposes which they seek to promote.
Feeling the force of this obligation, fifty thousand of the free electors of the New England States, honored also by the presence of like free electors from nearly every other State in the Union, having assembled on Bunker Hill, on this 10th day of September, 1840, proceed to set forth a declaration of their principles, and of the occasion and objects of their meeting.
In the first place, we declare our unalterable attachment to that public liberty, the purchase of so much blood and treasure, in the acquisition of which the field whereon we stand obtained early and imperishable renown. Bunker Hill is not a spot on which we shall forget the principles of our fathers, or suffer any thing to quench within our own bosoms the love of freedom which we have inherited from them. *
In the next place, we declare our warm and hearty devotion to the Constitution of the country, and to that Union of the States which it has so happily cemented, and so long and so prosperously preserved. We call ourselves by no local names, we recognize no geographical divisions, while we give utterance to our sentiments on high constitutional and political subjects. We are Americans, citizens of the United States, knowing no other country, and desiring to be distinguished by no other ap* A Declaration of Principles and Purposes, adopted by a General Convention of the Whigs of New England, at Bunker Hill, on the 10th of September, 1840, prepared by Mr. Webster, and signed by him as President of the Convention.
pellation. "We believe the Constitution, while administered wisely and in its proper spirit, to be capable of protecting all parts of the country, securing all interests, and perpetuating a national brotherhood among all the States. We believe that to foment local jealousies, to attempt to prove the existence of opposite interests between one part of the country and another, and thus to disseminate feelings of distrust and alienation, while it is in contemptuous disregard of the counsels of the great father of his country, is but one form in which irregular ambition, destitute of all true patriotism, and a love of power, reckless of the means of its gratification, exhibit their unsubdued and burning desire.
We believe, too, that party spirit, however natural or unavoidable it may be in free republics, yet, when it gains such an ascendency in men's minds as leads them to substitute party for country, to seek no ends but party ends, no approbation but party approbation, and to fear no reproach or contumely so that there be no party dissatisfaction, not only alloys the true enjoyment of such institutions, but weakens, every day, the foundations on which they stand.
We are in favor of the liberty of speech and of the press; we are friends of free discussion; we espouse the cause of popular education; we believe in man's capacity for self-government; we desire to see the freest and widest dissemination of knowledge and of truth; and we believe, especially, in the benign influence of religious feeling and moral instruction on the social, as well as on the individual, happiness of man.
Holding these general sentiments and opinions, we have come together to declare that, under the present administration of the general government, a course of measures has been adopted and pursued, in our judgments, disastrous to the best interests of the country, threatening the accumulation of still greater evils, utterly hostile to the true spirit of the Constitution and to the principles of civil liberty, and calling upon all men of honest purpose, disinterested patriotism, and unbiased intelligence, to put forth their utmost constitutional efforts in order to effect a change.
General Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States, and took the oaths of office on the 4th of March, 1829; and we readily admit that, under his administration, certain portions of the public affairs were conducted with ability. But we have to lament that he was not proof against the insinuations and influences of evil counsellors, or perhaps against his own passions, when moved and excited. Hence, in one most important branch of the public interest, in that essential part of commercial regulation which respects the money, the currency, the circulation, and the internal exchanges of the country, accidental occurrences, acting on his characteristic love of rule, and uneasiness under opposition, led him to depart from all that was expected from him, and to enter upon measures which plunged both him and the country in greater and greater difficulties at every step, so that, in this respect, his whole course of administration was but a series of ill-fated experiments, and of projects framed in disregard of prudence and precedent, and bursting in rapid succession; the final explosion taking place a few months after his retirement from office.
General Jackson was not elected with any desire or expectation, on the part of any of his supporters, that he would interfere with the currency of the country. We affirm this as the truth of history. It is incapable of refutation or denial. It is as certain as that the American Revolution was not undertaken to destroy the rights of property, or overthrow the obligation of morals.
But, unhappily, he became involved in a controversy with the then existing Bank of the United States. He manifested a desire, how originating or by whom inspired is immaterial, to exercise a political influence over that institution, and to cause that institution to exercise, in turn, a political influence over the community. Published documents prove this, as plainly as they prove any other act of his administration. In this desire he was resisted, thwarted, and finally defeated. But what he could not govern, he supposed he could destroy; and the event showed that he did not overrate his popularity and his power. He pursued the bank to the death, and achieved his triumph by the veto of 1832. The accustomed means of maintaining a sound and a uniform currency, for the use of the whole country, having been thus trampled down and destroyed, recourse was had to those new modes of experimental administration, to which we have already adverted, and which terminated so disastrously, both for the reputation of his administration and for the welfare of the country.