Slike strani
PDF
ePub

members? Would any thing, with such a prin- collector that he must collect no more duties ciple in it, or rather with such a destitution of under any of the tariff'laws. This, he will be all principle, be fit to be called a government? somewhat puzzled to say, by the way, with a No, sir. It should not be denominated a con- grave countenance, considering what hand South stitution. It should be called, rather, a collec- Carolina, herself, had in that of 1816. But, sir, tion of topics, for everlasting controversy; the collector would, probably, not desist at his heads of debate for a disputatious people. It bidding. He would show him the law of Conwould not be a government. It would not be gress, the treasury instruction, and his own oath adequate to any practical good, nor fit for any of office. He would say, he should perform his country to live under. To avoid all possibility duty, come what might. Here would ensue of being misunderstood, allow me to repeat a pause: for they say that a certain stillness again, in the fullest manner, that I claim no precedes the tempest. The trumpeter would powers for the government by forced or unfair hold his breath awhile, and before all this miliconstruction. I admit that it is a government tary array should fall on the custom-house, colof strictly limited powers; of enumerated, speci- lector, clerks, and all, it is very probable some fied, and particularized powers; and that what of those composing it, would request of their soever is not granted, is withheld. But not- gallant commander-in-chief, to be informed a withstanding all this, and however the grant little upon the point of law; for they have, of powers may be expressed, its limit and extent doubtless, a just respect for his opinions as a may yet, in some cases, admit of doubt; and lawyer, as well as for his bravery as a soldier. the general government would be good for They know he has read Blackstone and the nothing, it would be incapable of long existing, constitution, as well as Turrene and Vauban. if some mode had not been provided, in which They would ask him, therefore, something conthose doubts, as they should arise, might be cerning their rights in this matter. They would peaceably, but authoritatively, solved.

inquire, whether it was not somewhat dangerAnd now, Mr. President, let me run the hon ous to resist a law of the United States. What orable gentleman's doctrine a little into its would be the nature of their offence, they would practical application. Let us look at his proba- wish to learn, if they, by military force and ble“ modus operandi.” If a thing can be done, array, resisted the execution in Carolina of a an ingenious man can tell how it is to be done. law of the United States, and it should turn out, Now, I wish to be informed, how this State after all, that the law was constitutional? Hé interference is to be put in practice without would answer, of course, treason. No lawyer violence, bloodshed, and rebellion. We will could give any other answer. John Fries, he take the existing case of the tariff law., South would tell them, had learned that some years Carolina is said to have made up her opinion ago. How, then, they would ask, do you proupon it. If we do not repeal it, (as we probably pose to defend us? We are not afraid of bullets, shall not,) she will then apply to the case the but treason has a way of taking people off, that remedy of her doctrine. She will, we must we do not much relish. How do you propose to suppose, pass a law of her legislature, declaring defend us? “Look at my floating banner,” he the several acts of Congress, usually called would reply; see there the nullirying law !” the tariff laws, null and void, so far as they Is it your opinion, gallant commander, they respect South Carolina, or the citizens thereof. would then say, that if we should be indicted So far, all is a paper transaction, and easy for treason, that same floating banner of yours enongh. But the collector at Charleston is col- would make a good plea in bar? “ South lecting the duties imposed by these tariff laws Carolina is a sovereign State,” he would reply. -he therefore must be stopped. The collector That is true—but would the judge admit our will seize the goods if the tariff duties are not plea? “ These tariff laws," he would repeat, paid. The State authorities will undertake their are unconstitutional, palpably, deliberately, rescue; the marshal, with his posse, will come dangerously.” That all may be so; but if the to the collector's aid, and here the contest be-tribunal should not happen to be of that opinion, gins. The militia of the State will be called shall we swing for it? We are ready to die for out to sustain the nullifying act. They will our country, but it is rather an awkward busimarch, sir, under a very gallant leader: for Iness, this dying without touching the ground ! believe the honorable member himself com- After all, that is a sort of hemp tax, worse than mands the militia of that part of the State. He any part of the tariff. will raise the nullifying act on his standard, and

Mr. President, the honorable gentleman spread it out as his banner! It will have a pre- would be in a dilemma, like that of another amble, bearing, That the tariff laws are palpaple, great general. He would have a knot before deliberate, and dangerous violations of the con- him which he could not untie. He must cut it stitution! He will proceed, with this banner with his sword. He must say to his followers, flying, to the custom-house in Charleston : defend yourselves with your bayonets; and this

is war-civil war. “ All the while,

Direct collision, therefore, between force and Sonorous metal, blowing martial sounds.” force, is the unavoidable result of that remedy for

the revision of unconstitutional laws which the Arrived at the custom-house, he will tell the gentleman contends for. It must happen in tho

very first case to which it is applied. Is not trusted their safety, in regard to the general this the plain result? To resist, by force, the constitution, to these hands. They have reexecution of a law, generally, is treason. Can quired other security, and taken other bonds. the courts of the United States take notice of They have chosen to trust themselves, first, to the indulgence of a State to commit treason ? the plain words of the instrument, and to such The common saying, that a State cannot com-construction as the government itself, in doubtmit treason herself, is nothing to the purpose. ful cases, should put on its own powers, under Can she authorize others to do it? If John their oaths of office, and subject to their reFries had produced an act of Pennsylvania, an- sponsibility to them: just as the people of a nulling the law of Congress, would it have State trust their own State governments with a helped his case? Talk about it as we will, similar power. Secondly, they have reposed these doctrines go the length of revolution. their trust in the efficacy of frequent elections, They are incompatible with any peaceable ad- and in their own power to remove their own ministration of the government. They lead servants and agents, whenever they see cause. directly to disunion and civil commotion; and, Thirdly, they have reposed trust in the judicial therefore, it is, that at their commencement, power, which, in order that it might be trustwhen they are first found to be maintained by re- worthy, they have made as respectable, as disspectable men, and in a tangible form, I enter interested, and as independent as was practimy public protest against them all.

cable. Fourthly, they have seen fit to rely, in The honorable gentleman argues, that if this case of necessity, or high expediency, on their government be the sole judge of the extent of known and admitted power, to alter or amend its own powers, whether that right of judging the constitution, peaceably and quietly, whenbe in Congress, or the Supreme Court, it equally ever experience shall point out defects or imsubverts State sovereignty. This the gentle- perfections. And, finally, the people of the man sees, or thinks he sees, although he cannot United States have, at no time, in no way, diperceive how the right of judging, in this mat- rectly or indirectly, authorized any State legister, if left to the exercise of State legislatures, lature to construe or interpret their high inhas any tendency to subvert the government of strument of government; much less to inthe Union. The gentleman's opinion may be, terfere, by their own power, to arrest its course that the right ought not to have been lodged and operation. with the general government; he may like If, sir, the people, in these respects, had done better such a constitution, as we should have otherwise than they have done, their constituunder the right of State interference; but I ask tion could neither have been preserved, nor him to meet me on the plain matter of fact; I would it have been worth preserving. And, if ask him to meet me on the constitution itself; its plain provisions shall now be disregarded, I ask him if the power is not found there, and these new doctrines interpolated in it, it clearly and visibly found there?

will become as feeble and helpless a being, as But, sir, what is this danger, and what the its enemies, whether early or more recent, could grounds of it? Let it be remembered, that the possibly desire. It will exist in every State, Constitution of the United States is not unal- but as a poor dependent on State permission. terable. It is to continue in its present form It must borrow leave to be; and will be, no no longer than the people who established it longer than State pleasure, or State discretion, shall choose to continue it. If they shall be- sees fit to grant the indulgence, and to prolong come convinced that they have made an injudi- its poor existence. cious or inexpedient partition and distribution But, sir, although there are fears, there are of power, between the State governments and hopes also. The people have preserved this, the general government, they can alter that dis- their own chosen constitution, for forty years, tribution at will.

and have seen their happiness, prosperity, and If any thing be found in the national consti- renown, grow with its growth, and strengthen tution, either by original provision, or subse- with its strength. They are now, generally, quent interpretation, which ought not to be in strongly attached to it. Overthrown by direct it, the people know how to get rid of it. If assault, it cannot be; evaded, undermined, nulliany construction be established, unacceptable fied, it will not be, if we, and those who shall to them, so as to become, practically, a part of succeed us here, as agents and representatives the constitution, they will amend it, at their of the people, shall conscientiously and vigiown sovereign pleasure: but while the people Jantly discharge the two great branches of our choose to maintain it, as it is; while they are public trust-faithfully to preserve, and wisely satisfied with it, and refuse to change it, who to administer it. has given, or who can give, to the State legisla- Mr. President, I have thus stated the reasons tures a right to alter it, either by interference, of my dissent to the doctrines which have been construction, or otherwise? Gentlemen do not advanced and maintained. I am conscious of seem to recollect that the people bave any having detained you and the Senate much too power to do any thing for themselves; they long. I was drawn into the debate, with no imagine there is no safety for them, any longer previous deliberation such as is suited to the than they are under the close guardianship of discussion of so grave and important a subject. the State legislatures. Sir, the people have not But it is a subject of which my heart is full, and

I have not been willing to suppress the utter- | sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss beance of its spontaneous sentiments. I cannot, low; nor could I regard him as a safe counsellor even now, persuade myself to relinquish it, in the affairs of this government, whose thoughts without expressing, once more, my deep con- should be mainly bent on considering, not how viction, that, since it respects nothing less than the Union should be best preserved, but how the union of the States, it is of most vital and tolerable might be the condition of the people essential importance to the public happiness. when it shall be broken up and destroyed.

I profess, sir, in my career, hitherto, to have While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, kept steadily in view the prosperity and honor gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us of the whole country, and the preservation of and our children. Beyond that I seek not to our federal Union. It is to that Union we owe penetrate the veil. God grant that, in my day, our safety at home, and our consideration and at least, that curtain may not rise. God grant, dignity abroad. It is to that Union that we are that on my vision never may be opened what chiefly indebted for whatever makes us most lies behind. When my eyes shall be turned to proud of our country. That Union we reached behold, for the last time, the sun in heaven, only by the discipline of our virtues in the severe may I not see him shining on the broken and school of adversity. It had its origin in the dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; necessities of disordered finance, prostrate com- on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; merce, and ruined credit. Under its benign in on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it fluences, these great interests immediately may be, in fraternal blood ! Let their last awoke, as from the dead, and sprang forth with feeble and lingering glance, rather behold the newness of life. Every year of its duration has gorgeous ensign of the republic, now known teemed with fresh proofs of its utility and its and honored throughout the earth, still full blessings; and, although our territory has high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming stretched out wider and wider, and our popula- in their original lustre, not a stripe erased or tion spread farther and farther, they have not polluted, nor & single star obscured-bearing outrun its protection or its benefits. It has for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory, been to us all a copious fountain of national, as What is all this worth? Nor those other Bocial, and personal happiness. I have not words of delusion and folly, Liberty first, and allowed myself

, sir, to look beyond the Union, Union afterwards—but every where, spread all to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess over in characters of living light, blazing on all behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances its ample folds, as they float over the sea and of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite over the land, and in every wind under the us together shall be broken asunder. I have whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to not accustomed myself to hang over the preci- every true American heart-Liberty and Union, pice of disunion, to see whether, with my short now and for ever, one and inseparable!

ARGUMENT IN KNAPP'S TRIAL.

The following argument was delivered by which I am now attempting to perform. Mr. Webster, on the trial of John F. Knapp, Hardly more than once or twice, has it hapfor the murder of Joseph White, of Salem, in pened to me to be concerned, on the side of the

government, in any criminal prosecution whatthe county of Essex, Massachusetts; on the

never, until the present occasion, in night of the sixth of April, 1830. *

any case affecting life.

But I very much regret it should have been I am little accustomed, gentlemen, to the part thought necessary to suggest to you, that I am

ever; and

* Mr. White, a highly respectable and wealthy citizen of the Legislature, for the trial of the prisoners at Salem, in Salem, about eighty years of age, was found on the morning July. At that time, John F. Knapp was indicted as principal of the 7th of April, 1830, in his bed murdered, under such in the murder, and George Crowninshield, and Joseph J. circumstances as to create a strong sensation in that town, Knapp as accessories. and throughout the community.

On account of the death of Chief Justice Parker, which Richard Crowninshield, George Crowninshield, Joseph J. occurred on the 26th of July, the Court adjourned to Tues. Knapp, and John F. Knapp, were a few weeks after arrested day, the 3d day of August, when it proceeded in the trial of on a charge of having perpetrated the murder, and commit- John F. Knapp. Joseph J. Knapp, being called upon, re. ted for trial. Joseph J. Knapp, soon after, under the pro fused to testify, and the pledge of the government was withmise of favor from government, made a full confession of drawn. the crime, and the circumstances attending it. In a few At the request of the prosecuting officers of the govern. days after this disclosure was made, Richard Crowninshield, ment, Mr. Webster appeared as counsel and assisted in the who was supposed to have been the principal assassin, com trial. mitted suicide.

Mr. Dexter addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner, A special session of the Supreme Court was ordered by | and was succeeded by Mr. Webster.

brought here to "hurry you against the law, stances, now clearly in evidence, spread out the and beyond the evidence.” I hope I have too whole scene before us. Deep sleep had fallen much regard for justice, and too much respect on the destined victim, and on all beneath his for my own character, to attempt either; and roof. A healthful old man, to whom sleep were I to make such attempt, I am sure, that was sweet, the first sound slumbers of the night in this court, nothing can be carried against the held him in their soft but strong embrace. The law, and that gentlemen, intelligent and just as assassin enters, through the window already you are, are not, by any power, to be hurried prepared, into an unoccupied apartment. With beyond the evidence. Though I could well noiseless foot he paces the lonely ball, half have wished to shun this occasion, I have not lighted by the moon; he winds up the ascent felt at liberty to withhold my professional of the stairs, and reaches the door of the chamassistance, when it is supposed that I might be ber. Of this, he moves the lock, by soft and in some degree useful, in investigating and dis- continued pressure, till it turns on its hinges covering the truth, respecting this most extra- without noise; and he enters, and beholds his ordinary murder. It has seemed to be a duty, victim before him. The room was uncommonly incumbent on me, as on every other citizen, to open to the admission of light. The face of the do my best, and my utmost, to bring to light innocent sleeper was turned from the murderer, the perpetrators of this crime. Against the and the beams of the moon, resting on the gray prisoner at the bar, as an individual, I cannot locks of his aged temple, showed him where to have the slightest prejudice. I would not do strike. The fatal blow is given! and the victim him the smallest injury or injustice. But I do passes, without a struggle or a motion, from the not affect to be indifferent to the discovery, and repose of sleep to the repose of deaih! It is the punishment of this deep guilt. I cheerfully the assassin's purpose to make sure work; and share in the opprobrium, how much soever it he yet plies the dagger, though it was obvious may be, which is cast on those who feel and that life had been destroyed by the blow of the manifest an anxious concern that all who had a bludgeon. He even raises the aged arm, that part in planning, or a hand in executing this he may not fail in his aim at the heart, and redeed of midnight assassination, may be brought places it again over the wounds of the poniard ! to answer for their enormous crime, at the bar To finish the picture, he explores the wrist for of public justice. Gentlemen, it is a most extra- the pulse! He feels for it, and ascertains that ordinary case. In some respects, it has hardly it beats no longer! It is accomplished. The a precedent any where; certainly none in our deed is done. He retreats, retraces his steps to New England history. This bloody drama ex- the window, passes out through it as he came hibited no suddenly excited ungovernable rage. in, and escapes. He has done the murder-no The actors in it were not surprised by any lion-eye has seen him, no ear has heard him. The 1 like temptation springing upon their virtue, and secret is his own, and it is safe! overcoming it, before resistance could begin. Ah! gentlemen, that was a dreadful mistake. Nor did they do the deed to glut savage ven- Such a secret can be safe nowhere. The whole geance, or satiate long settled and deadly hate. creation of God has neither nook nor corner, It was a cool, calculating, money-making mur- where the guilty can bestow it, and say it is der. It was all “hire and salary, not revenge." safe. Not to speak of that eye which glances It was the weighing of money against life; the through all disguises, and beholds every thing, counting out of so many pieces of silver, against as in the splendor of noon,-such secrets of so many ounces of blood.

guilt are never safe from detection, even by An aged man, without an enemy in the world, men. True it is, generally speaking, that "murin his own house, and in his own bed, is made der will out.” True it is, that Providence hath the victim of a butcherly murder, for mere pay, so ordained, and doth so govern things, that Truly, here is a new lesson for painters and those who break the great law of heaven, by poets. Whoever shall hereafter draw the por- shedding man's blood, seldom succeed in avoidtrait of murder, if he will show it as it has been ing discovery. Especially, in a case exciting so exhibited in an example, where such example much attention as this, discovery must come, was last to have been looked for, in the very and will come, sooner or later. A thousand eyes bosom of our New England society, let him not turn at once to explore every man, every thing, give it tlie grim visage of Moloch, the brow every circumstance, connected with the time knitted by revenge, the face black with settled and place; a thousand ears catch every whishate, and the blood-shot eye emitting livid fires per; a thousand excited minds intensely dwell of malice. Let him draw, rather, a decorous, on the scene, shedding all their light, and ready smoothfaced, bloodless demon; á picture in to kindle the slightest circumstance into a blaze repose, rather than in action; not so much an of discovery. Meantime, the guilty soul cannot example of human nature, in its depravity, and keep its own secret. It is false to itself'; or in its paroxysms of crime, as an infernal nature, rather it feels an irresistible impulse of cona fiend, in the ordinary display and develop- science to be true to itself. It labors under its ment of his character.

guilty possession, and knows not what to do The deed was executed with a degree of self- with it. The human heart was not mad for possession and steadiness, equal to the wicked the residence of such an inhabitant. It finds ness with which it was planned. The circum- | itself preyed on by a torment, which it dares

not acknowledge to God nor man. A vulture | lose ourselves in wonder at its origin, or in gazis devouring it, and it can ask no sympathy or ing on its cool and skilful execution. We are Assistance, either from heaven or earth. The to detect and to punish it; and, while we prosecret which the murderer possesses soon comes ceed with caution against the prisoner, and are to possess him; and, like the evil spirits of to be sure that we do not visit on his head the which we read, it overcomes him, and leads him offences of others, we are yet to consider that whithersoever it will. He feels it beating at his we are dealing with a case of most atrocious heart, rising to his throat, and demanding dis- crime, which has not the slightest circumstance closure. He thinks the whole world sees it in about it to soften its enormity. It is murder, his face, reads it in his eyes, and almost hears deliberate, concerted, malicious murder. its workings in the very silence of his thoughts. Although the interest in this case may have It has become his master. It betrays his dis- diminished by the repeated investigation of the cretion, it breaks down his courage, it conquers facts, still, the additional labor which it imposes his prudence. When suspicions, from without, upon all concerned is not to be regretted, if it begin to embarrass him, and the net of cir- should result in removing all doubts of the guilt cumstance to entangle him, the fatal secret of the prisoner. struggles with still greater violence to burst The learned counsel for the prisoner has said forth. It must be confessed, it will be confess- truly that it is your individual duty to judge ed, there is no refuge from confession but sui- the prisoner,-that it is your individual duty to cide, and suicide is confession.

determine his guilt or innocence--and that you Much has been said, on this occasion, of the are to weigh the testimony with candor and excitement which has existed, and still exists, fairness. But much at the same time has been and of the extraordinary measures taken to dis- said, which, although it would seem to have no cover and punish the guilty. No doubt there distinct bearing on the trial, cannot be passed has been, and is, much excitement, and strange over without some notice. indeed were it, had it been otherwise. Should A tone of complaint so peculiar has been innot all the peaceable and well disposed naturally dulged, as would almost lead us to doubt whether feel concerned, and naturally exert themselves the prisoner at the bar or the managers of this to bring to punishment the authors of this prosecution are now on trial. Great pains have secret assassination? Was it a thing to be slept been taken to complain of the manner of the upon or forgotten? Did you, gentlemen, sleep prosecution. We hear of getting up a case ;quite as quietly in your beds after this murder of setting in motion trains of machinery ;-of as before? Was it not a case for rewards, for foul testimony;—of combinations to overwhelm meetings, for committees, for the united efforts the prisoner ;-of private prosecutors ;—that of all the good, to find out a band of murderous the prisoner is hunted, persecuted, driven to his conspirators, of midnight ruffians, and to bring trial ;—that every body is against him ;-and them to the bar of justice and law? If this be various other complaints, as if those who would excitement, is it an unnatural, or an improper bring to punishment the authors of this murder excitement ?

were almost as bad as they who committed it. It seems to me, gentlemen, that there are In the course of my whole life, I have never appearances of another feeling, of a very differ- heard before so much said about the particular ent nature and character, not very extensive I counsel who happen to be employed; as if it would hope, but still there is too much evi- were extraordinary that other counsel than the dence of its existence. Such is human nature, usual officers of the government should be asthat some persons lose their abhorrence of crime, sisting in the conducting of a case on the part in their admiration of its magnificent exhibi- of the governmentIn one of the last capital tions. Ordinary vice is reprobated by them, trials in this county, that of Jackman for the but extraordinary guilt, exquisite wickedness, Goodridge robbery” (so called), I remember the high flights and poetry of crime, seize on that the learned head of the Suffolk bar, Mr. the imagination, and lead them to forget the Prescott, came down in aid of the officers of the depths of the guilt, in admiration of the excel- government. This was regarded as neither lence of the performance, or the unequalled strange nor improper. The counsel for the atrocity of the purpose. There are those in prisoner in that case contented themselves with our day, who have made great use of this in- answering his arguments, as far as they were firmity of our nature; and by means of it done able, instead of carping at his presence. infinite injury to the cause of good morals. Complaint is made that rewards were offered They have affected not only the taste, but I in this case, and temptations held out to obtain fear also the principles, of the young, the heed-testimony. Are not rewards always offered less, and the imaginative, by the exhibition of when great and secret offences are committed ? interesting and beautiful monsters. They ren- Rewards were offered in the case to which I der depravity attractive, sometimes by the have alluded, and every other means taken to polish of its manners, and sometimes by its very discover the offenders, that ingenuity or the extravagance; and study to show off crime un most persevering vigilance could suggest. The der all the advantages of cleverness and dexter- learned counsel have suffered their zeal to lead ity. Gentlemen, this is an extraordinary mur- them into a strain of complaint at the manner der-but it is still a murder. We are not to / in which the perpetrators of this crimne were

VOL. II.-26

« PrejšnjaNaprej »