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him to the direction of a hostile agent, who We are now, thank God, once more at peace. used it, as he could not but be sure he would, Our belligerent rights may, therefore, sleep for hostilely; in the other case, there was no original a season. May their repose be long and proforce; and that which was used was the per- found! But the time must arrive, when the sonal force of the enemy master, and not that interests and honor of this great nation will of the vessel. In our case, the force was ex- command them to awake, and when it does erted in direct opposition to the neutral's obliga- arrive, I feel undoubting confidence that they tion of submission with reference to the cargo; will rise from their slumber in the fulness of and in the other, the neutral had already sub- their strength and majesty, unenfeebled and mitted, and his goods were in the quiet pos- unimpaired by the judgment of this high court. session of the captors. In our case, a general The skill and valor of our infant navy, which capacity, legal and actual, of annoyance, as has illuminated every sea, and dazzled the maswell as of resistance, had been given, by or for ter states of Europe by the splendor of its trithe neutral, to the vessel as a belligerent ves- umphs, have given us a pledge, which, I trust, sel, (a capacity which she preserved during her will continue to be dear to every American voyage,) for which alone, independently of re- heart, and influence the future course of our sistance in fact, the neutral is, as I confidently policy, that the ocean is destined to acknowcontend, liable to the penalty of confiscation; ledge the youthful dominion of the West. I am in the other, the vessel was an ordinary, un- not likely to live to see it, and, therefore, the armed, commercial vehicle, which the neutral more do I seizo upon the enjoyment presented might hire and employ with perfect innocence by the glorious anticipation. That this dominand safety.
ion, when God shall suffer us to wrest it from
those who have abused it, will be exercised The little strength, with which I set out, is with such justice and moderation as will put to at last exhausted, and I must hasten to a con- shame the maritime tyranny of recent times, clusion. I commit to you, therefore, without and fix upon our power the affections of manfurther discussion, the cause of my clients, iden- | kind, it is the duty of us all to hope; but it is tified with the rights of the American people, equally our duty to hope that we shall not be and with those wholesome rules which give to inordinately just to others as to be unjust public law simplicity and system, and tend to ourselves. the quiet of the world.
SPEECH ON THE MISSOURI QUESTION.
This speech on a bill for the admission of Mis- / attention. My single purpose, as I suggested souri into the Union, with a clause prohibiting yesterday, is to subject to a friendly, yet close the introduction of slaves into the new State, posing, certainly, on account of the distinguished
examination, some portions of a speech, imwas delivered by Mr. Pinkney in the United quarter from whence it came—not very imStates Senate on the fifteenth of February, posing (if I may so say, without departing from 1820.*
that respect which I sincerely feel and intend
to manifest for eminent abilities and long exAs I am not a very frequent speaker in this perience) for any other reason. assembly, and have shown a desire, I trust, I believe, Mr. President, that I am about as rather to listen to the wisdom of others than to likely to retract an opinion which I have formed, lay claim to superior knowledge by undertaking as any member of this body, who, being a to advise, even when advice, by being season- lover of truth, inquires after it with diligence able in point of time, might have some chance before he imagines that he has found it; but I of being profitable, you will, perhaps, bear with suspect that we are all of us so constituted as me if I venture to trouble you once more on that neither argument nor declamation, levelled that eternal subject which has lingered here, against recorded and published decision, can until all its natural interest is exhausted, and easily discover a practicable avenue through every topic connected with it is literally worn which it may hope to reach either our heads or to tatters. I shall, I assure you, sir, speak with our hearts. I mention this, lest it may excite laudable brevity-not merely on account of the surprise, when I take the liberty to add, that feeble state of my health, and from some rev- the speech of the honorable gentleman from erence for the laws of good taste which forbid New York, upon the great subject with which me to speak otherwise, but also from a sense it was principally occupied, has left me as great of justice to those who honor me with their an infidel as it found me. It is possible, indeed,
that if I had had the good fortune to hear that * See the speech of Rufus King, on the same subfoct, at speech at an earlier stage of this debate, when page 44, precoding.
all was fresh and new, although I feel confident
that the analysis which it contained of the con- | the goodly fabric of the Union to its foundations, stitution, illustrated as it was by historial anec- but reduce it to a melancholy ruin. The peodote rather than by reasoning, would have been ple of this country, if I do not wholly mistake just as unsatisfactory to me then as it is now, I their character, are wise as well as virtuous. might not have been altogether unmoved by They know the value of that federal association those warnings of approaching evil which it which is to them the single pledge and guarseemed to intimate, especially when taken in antee of power and peace. Their warm and connection with the observations of the same pious affections will cling to it as to their only honorable gentleman on a preceding day, “that hope of prosperity and happiness, in defiance delays in disposing of this subject, in the of pernicious abstractions, by whomsoever inmanner he desires, are dangerous, and that we culcated, or howsoever seductive or alluring in stand on slippery ground." I must be per- their aspect. mitted, however, (speaking only for myself,) to Sir, it is not an occasion like this, although say, that the hour of dismay is passed. I have connected, as contrary to all reasonable expecheard the tones of the larum bell on all sides, tation it has been, with fearful and disorganizing until they have become familiar to my ear, and theories, which would make our estimates, have lost their power to appal, if, indeed, they whether fanciful or sound, of natural law, the ever possessed it. Notwithstanding occasional measure of civil rights and political sovereignty appearances of rather an unfavorable descrip- in the social state, that can harm the Union. tion, I have long since persuaded myself that It must, indeed, be a mighty storm that can the Missouri question, as it is called, might be push from its moorings this sacred ark of the laid to rest, with innocence and safety, by some common safety. It is not every trifling breeze, conciliatory compromise at least, by which, as however it may be made to sob and howl in is our duty, we might reconcile the extremes imitation of the tempest, by the auxiliary breath of conflicting views and feelings, without any of the ambitious, the timid, or the discontented, sacrifice of constitutional principle; and in any that can drive this gallant vessel, freighted with event, that the Union would easily and trium- every thing that is dear to an American bosom, phantly emerge from those portentous clouds upon the rocks, or lay it a sheer hulk upon the with which this controversy is supposed to ocean. I may perhaps mistake the flattering have environed it.
suggestions of hope, (the greatest of all flatI confess to you, nevertheless, that some of terers, as we are told,) for the conclusions of the principles announced by the honorable gen- sober reason. Yet it is pleasing error, if it tleman from New York,* with an explicitness be an error, and no man shall take it from me. that reflected the highest credit on his candor, I will continue to cherish the belief, in defiance did, when they were first presented, startle me of the public patronage given by the honorable not a little. They were not perhaps entirely gentleman from New York, with more than new. Perhaps I had seen them before in some his ordinary zeal and solemnity, to deadly shadowy and doubtful shape,
speculations, which, invoking the name of God
to aid their faculties for mischief, strike at all “If shape it might be called, that shape had none, Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb.”
establishments, that the union of these States
is formed to bear up against far greater shocks But in the honorable gentleman's speech they than, through all vicissitudes, it is ever likely were shadowy and doubtful no longer. He ex- to encounter. I will continue to cherish the hibited them in forms so boldly and accurately belief, that, although like all other human indefined with contours so distinctly traced stitutions it may for a season be disturbed, or with features so pronounced and striking, that suffer momentary eclipse by the transit across I was unconscious for a moment that they its disk of some malignant planet, it possesses might be old acquaintances. I received them a recuperative force, a redeeming energy in the as "novi hospites” within these walls, and hearts of the people, that will soon restore it gazed upon them with astonishment and alarm. to its wonted calm, and give it back its accusI have recovered, however, thank God, from tomed splendor. On such a subject I will disthis paroxysm of terror, although not from that card all hysterical apprehensions—I will deal of astonishment. I have sought and found in no sinister auguries—I will indulge in no tranquillity and courage in my former consola- hypochondriacal forebodings. I will look fortory faith. My reliance is that these principles ward to the future with gay and cheerful hope; will obtain no general currency; for, if they and will make the prospect smile, in fancy at should, it requires no gloomy imagination to least, until overwhelming reality shall render sadden the perspective of the future. My re- it no longer possible. liance is upon the unsophisticated good sense I have said thus much, sir, in order that I and noble spirit of the American people. I may be understood as meeting the constituhave what I may be allowed to call a proud tional question as a mere question of interpreand patriotic trust, that they will give counte- tation, and as disdaining to press into the sernance to no principles, which, if followed out to vice of my argument upon it prophetic fears their obvious consequences, will not only shake of any sort, however they may be countenanced
by an avowal, formidable by reason of the high reputation of the individual by whom it has
* Mr. King.
been hazarded, of sentiments the most destruc- this odious and revolting distinction, and I am tive, which if not borrowed from, are identical referred for the proofs of that power to various with, the worst visions of the political philos- parts of the constitution, but principally to ophy of France when all the elements of dis- that part of it which authorizes the admission cord and misrule were let loose upon that of new States into the Union. I am myself devoted nation. I mean “the infinite perfec-of opinion that it is in that part only that the tibility of man and his institutions," and the advocates for this restriction can, with any resolution of every thing into a state of nature. hope of success, apply for a license to impose I have another motive, which, at the risk of it; and that the efforts which have been made being misconstrued, I will declare without to find it in other portions of that instrument,
With my convictions, and with my are too desperate to require to be encountered. feelings, I never will consent to hold confed- I shall, however, examine those other portions erated America as bound together by a silken before I have done, lest it should be supposed cord, which any instrument of mischief may by those who have relied upon them, that what sever, to the view of monarchical foreigners, I omit to answer I believe to be unanswerable. who look with a jealous eye upon that glorious The clause of the constitution which relates experiment which is now in progress amongst to the admission of new States is in these us in favor of republican freedom. Let them words: “The Congress may admit new States make such prophecies as they will, and nourish into this Union," &c., and the advocates for such feelings as they may: I will not contribute restriction maintain that the use of the word to the fulfilment of the former, nor minister to “may” imports discretion to admit or to reject; the gratification of the latter.
and that in this discretion is wrapped up Sir, it was but the other day that we were another—that of prescribing the terms and forbidden, (properly forbidden I am sure, for conditions of admission in case you are willing the prohibition came from you,) to assume that to admit: “Cujus est dare ejus est disponere. there existed any intention to impose a pros- I will not for the present inquire whether this pective restraint on the domestic legislation of involved discretion to dictate the terms of adMissouri—a restraint to act upon it contempo- mission belongs to you or not. It is fit that I raneously with its origin as a State, and to con- should first look to the nature and extent of it. tinue adhesive to it through all the stages of I think I may assume that if such a power its political existence. We are now, however, be any thing but nominal, it is much more than permitted to know that it is determined by a adequate to the present object—that it is a sort of political surgery to amputate one of the power of vast expansion, to which human limbs of its local sovereignty, and thus mangled sagacity can assign no reasonable limits—that and disparaged, and thus only, to receive it into it is a capacious reservoir of authority, from the bosom of the constitution. It is now which you may take, in all time to come, as avowed that, while Maine is to be ushered into occasion may serve, the means of oppression the Union with every possible demonstration as well as of benefaction. I know that it proof studious reverence on our part, and on hers fesses at this moment to be the chosen instruwith colors flying, and all the other graceful ment of protecting mercy, and would win upon accompaniments of honorable triumph, this ill- us by its benignant smiles: but I know too it conditioned upstart of the West, this obscure can frown, and play the tyrant, if it be so disfoundling of a wilderness that was but yester- posed. Notwithstanding the softness which it day the hunting ground of the savage, is to now assumes, and the care with which it confind her way into the American family as she ceals its giant proportions beneath the deceitful can, with an humiliating badge of remediless drapery of sentiment, when it next appears inferiority patched upon her garments, with before you it may show itself with a sterner the mark of recent, qualified manumission upon countenance and in more awful dimensions. It her, or rather with a brand upon her forehead is, to speak the truth, sir, a power of colossal to tell the story of her territorial vassalage, size if indeed it be not an abuse of language and to perpetuate the memory of her evil pro- to call it by the gentle name of a power. Sir, pensities. is now avowed that, while the it is a wilderness of powers, of which fancy in robust district of Maine is to be seated by the her happiest mood is unable to perceive the far side of her truly respectable parent, co-ordinate distant and shadowy boundary. Armed with in authority and honor, and is to be dandled such a power, with religion in one hand and into that power and dignity of which she does philanthropy in the other, and followed with a not stand in need, but which undoubtedly she goodly train of public and private virtues, you deserves, the more infantine and feeble Missouri may achieve more conquests over sovereignties is to be repelled with harshness, and forbidden not your own, than falls to the common lot of to come at all, unless with the iron collar of even uncommon ambition. By the aid of such servitude about her neck, instead of the civic a power, skilfully employed, you may “bridge crown of republican freedom upon her brows, your way " over the Hellespont that separates and is to be doomed for ever to leading-strings, State legislation from that of Congress; and unless she will exchange those leading-strings you may do so for pretty much the same purfor shackles.
pose with which Xerxes once bridged his way I am told that you have the power to establish | across the Hellespont that separates Asia from
Europe. He did so, in the language of Milton, memorial, and speech, with which the press has “the liberties of Greece to yoke.' You may lately groaned, is a foul blot upon our otherwise do so for the analogous purpose of subjugating immaculate reputation. Let this be conceded and reducing the sovereignties of States, as —yet you are no nearer than before to the your taste or convenience may suggest, and conclusion that you possess power which may fashioning them to your imperial will. There deal with other subjects as effectually as with are those in this House who appear to think, this. Slavery, we are further told, with some and I doubt not sincerely, that the particular pomp of metaphor, is a canker at the root of restraint now under consideration is wise, and all that is excellent in this republican empire, benevolent, and good; wise as respects the a pestilent disease that is snatching the youthful Union-good as respects Missouri—benevolent bloom from its cheek, prostrating its honor and as respects the unhappy victims whom with a withering its strength. Be it so-yet if you novel kindness it would incarcerate in the south, have power to medicine to it in the way proand bless by decay and extirpation. Let all posed, and in virtue of the diploma which you such beware, lest in their desire for the effect claim, you have also power in the distribution which they believe the restriction will produce, of your political alexipharmics to present the they are too easily satisfied that they have the deadliest drugs to every territory that would right to impose it. The moral beauty of the become a State, and bid it drink or remain a present purpose, or even its political recom- colony forever. Slavery, we are also told, is now mendations, (whatever they may be,) can do “ rolling onward with a rapid tide towards the nothing for a power like this, which claims to boundless regions of the west," threatening to prescribe conditions “ad libitum,” and to be doom them to sterility and sorrow, unless some competent to this purpose, because it is com- potent voice can say to it—thus fár shalt thou petent to all. This restriction, if it be not go, and no farther. Slavery engenders pride smothered in its birth, will be but a small part and indolence in him who commands, and inof the progeny of that prolific power. It teems flicts intellectual and moral degradation on him with a mighty brood, of which this may be who serves. Slavery, in fine, is unchristian entitled to the distinction of comeliness as well and abominable. Sir, I shall not stop to deny as of primogeniture. The rest may want the that slavery is all this and more; but I shall boasted loveliness of their predecessor, and be not think myself the less authorized to deny even oglier than “Lapland witches."
that it is for you to stay the course of this dark Perhaps, sir, you will permit me to remind torrent, by opposing to it a mound raised up you, that it is almost always in company with by the labors of this portentous discretion on those considerations that interest the heart in the domain of others—a mound which you some way or other, that encroachment steals cannot erect but through the instrumentality of into the world. A bad purpose throws no veil a trespass of no ordinary kind—not the comover the licenses of power. It leaves them to paratively innocent trespass that beats down a be seen as they are. It affords them no protec- few blades of grass which the first kind sun or tion from the inquiring eye of jealousy. The the next refreshing shower may cause to spring danger is when a tremendous discretion like the again—but that which levels with the ground present is attempted to be assumed, as on this the lordliest trees of the forest, and claims imoccasion, in the names of pity, of religion, of mortality for the destruction which it inflicts. national honor and national prosperity; when I shall not, I am sure, be told that I exagencroachment tricks itself out in the robes of gerate this power. It has been admitted here piety, or humanity, or addresses itself to pride and elsewhere that I do not. But I want no of country, with all its kindred passions and such concession. It is manifest that as a dismotives. It is then that the guardians of the cretionary power it is every thing or nothingconstitution are apt to slumber on their watch, that its head is in the clouds, or that it is a or, if awake, to mistake for lawful rule some mere figment of enthusiastic speculation—that pernicious arrogation of power.
it has no existence, or that it is an alarming I would not discourage authorized legislation vortex ready to swallow up all such portions upon those kindly, generous, and noble feelings of the sovereignty of an infant State as you which Providence has given to us for the best may think fit to cast into it as preparatory to of purposes: but when power to act is under the introduction into the union of the miserable discussion, I will not look to the end in view, residue. No man can contradict me when I lest I should become indifferent to the lawful- say, that if you have this power, you may ness of the means. Let us discard from this squeeze down a new-born sovereign State to high constitutional question, all those extrinsic the size of a pigmy, and then taking it between considerations which have been forced into its finger and thumb, stick it into some nitch of discussion. Let us endeavor to approach it the Union, and still continue by way of mockery with a philosophic impartiality of temper- to call it a State in the sense of the constituwith a sincere desire to ascertain the boundaries tion. You may waste it to a shadow, and then of our authority, and a determination to keep introduce it into the society of flesh and blood our wishes in subjection to our allegiance to the an object of scorn and derision. You may constitution.
sweat and reduce it to a thing of skin and bone, Slavery, we are told in many a pamphlet, and then place the ominous skeleton beside the
ruddy and healthful members of the Union, | perience is a cheat, and fact a liar." The power that it may have leisure to mourn the lament- which England claimed over the colonies was able difference between itself and its com- such a power, and it was abused—and hence panions, to brood over its disastrous promotion, the Revolution. Such a power is always periland to seek in justifiable discontent an oppor- ous to those who wield it, as well as to those tunity for separation, and insurrection, and re- on whom it is exerted. Oppression is but bellion. What may you not do by dexterity another name for irresponsible power, if history and perseverance with this terrific power? is to be trusted. You may give to a new State, in the form of The free spirit of our constitution and of our terms which it cannot refuse, (as I shall show people, is no assurance against the propension you hereafter,) a statute book of a thousand of unbridled power to abuse, when it acts upon volumes-providing not for ordinary cases only, colonial dependants rather than upon ourselves. but even for possibilities; you may lay the Free States, as well as despots, have oppressed yoke, no matter whether light or heavy, upon those whom they were bound to foster-and it the necks of the latest posterity; you may is the nature of man that it should be so. The send this searching power into every hamlet love of power, and the desire to display it when for centuries to come, by laws enacted in the it can be done with impunity, is inherent in the spirit of prophecy, and regulating all those human heart. Turn it out at the door, and it dear relations of domestic concern which belong will in again at the window. Power is disto local legislation, and which even local legis- played in its fullest measure, and with a caplation touches with a delicate and sparing hand. tivating dignity, by restraints and conditions. This is the first inroad. But will it be the last? The "pruritas leges ferendi” is an universal This provision is but a pioneer for others of a disease; and conditions are laws as far as they more desolating aspect. It is that fatal bridge go. The vanity of human wisdom, and the of which Milton speaks, and when once firmly presumption of human reason, are proverbial. built, what shall hinder you to pass it when you This vanity and this presumption are often please for the purpose of plundering power neither reasonable nor wise. Humanity, too, after power at the expense of new States, as you sometimes plays fantastic tricks with power. will still continue to call them, and raising up Time, moreover, is fruitful in temptations to prospective codes irrevocable and immortal, convert discretionary power to all sorts of purwhich shall leave to those States the empty poses. shadows of domestic sovereignty, and convert Time, that withers the strength of man and them into petty pageants, in themselves con- "strews around him like autumnal leaves the temptible, but rendered infinitely more so by rnins of his proudest monuments," produces the contrast of their humble faculties with the great vicissitudes in modes of thinking and feelproud and admitted pretensions of those who ing. It brings along with it, in its progress, having doomed them to the inferiority of vas- new circumstances — new combinations and sals, have condescended to take them into their modifications of the old-generating new views, society and under their protection?
motives, and caprices-new fanaticisms of endI shall be told, perhaps, that you can have less variety—in short, new every thing. We no temptation to do all or any part of this, ourselves are always changing—and what toand, moreover, that you can do nothing of day we have but a small desire to attempt, toyourselves, or, in other words, without the con- morrow becomes the object of our passionate currence of the new State. The last of these aspirations. suggestions I shall examine by and by. To the There is such a thing as enthusiasm, moral, first I answer, that it is not incumbent upon me religious, or political, or a compound of all to prove that this discretion will be abused. It three;-and it is wonderful what it will atis enough for me to prove the vastness of the tempt, and from what imperceptible beginnings power as an inducement to make us pause upon it sometimes rises into a mighty agent. Rising it, and to inquire with attention whether there from some obscure or unknown source, it first is any apartment in the constitution large shows itself a petty rivulet, which scarcely enough to give it entertainment. It is more murmurs over the pebbles that obstruct its than enough for me to show that vast as is this way—then it swells into a fierce torrent bearing power, it is with reference to mere territories all before it—and then again, like some mounan irresponsible power. Power is irresponsible tain stream, which occasional rains have prewhen it acts upon those who are defenceless cipitated upon the valley, it sinks once more against it-who cannot check it, or contribute into a rivulet, and finally leaves its channel to check it, in its exercise--who can resist it dry. Such a thing has happened. I do not say only by force. The territory of Missouri has that it is now happening. It would not become no check upon its power. It has no share in me to say so. But if it should occur, woe to the government of the Union. In this body it the unlucky territory that should be strnggling has no representative. In the other House it to make its way into the Union at the moment has, by courtesy, an agent, who may remon- when the opposing inundation was at its height, strate, but cannot vote. That such an irre- and at the same instant this wide Mediterranean sponsible power is not likely to be abused, who of discretionary powers, which it seems is ours, will undertake to assert? If it is not,'"ex- I should open up all its sluices, and with a con