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or nation, if time and circumstance should render such opposition expedient.
What part it becomes this country to take on a question of this sort, so far as it is called upon to take any part, cannot be doubtful Our side of this question is settled for us, even without our own volition. Our history, our situation, our character, necessarily decide our position and our course, before we have even time to ask whether we have an option. Our place is on the side of free institutions. From the earliest settlement of these states, their inhabitants were accustomed, in a greater or less degree, to the enjoyment of the powers of self-government; and for the last half century, they have sustained systems of government entirely representative, yielding to themselves the greatest possible prosperity, and not leaving them without distinction and respect among the nations of the earth. This system we are not likely to abandon; and while we shall no farther recommend its adoption to other nations, in whole or in part, than it may recommend itself by its visible influence on our own growth and prosperity, we are, nevertheless, interested, to resist the establishment of doctrines which deny the legality of its foundations. We stand as an equal among nations, claiming the full benefit of the established international law; and it is our duty to oppose, from the earliest to the latest moment, any innovations upon that code, which shall bring into doubt or question our own equal and independent rights.
I will now, Mr. Chairman, advert to those pretensions, put forth by the Allied Sovereigns of continental Europe, which seem to me calculated, if unresisted, to bring into disrepute the principles of our government, and indeed to be wholly incompatible with any degree of national independence. I do not introduce these considerations for the sake of topics. I am not about to declaim against crowned heads, nor to quarrel with any country for preferring a form of government different from our own. The choice that we exercise for ourselves, I am quite willing to leave also to others. But it appears to me that the pretensions of which I have spoken, are wholly inconsistent with the independence of nations generally, without regard to the question, whether their governments be absolute, monarchical and limited, or purely popular and representative. I have a most deep and thorough conviction, that a new era has arisen in the world, that new and dangerous combinations are taking place, promulgating doctrines, and fraught with consequences, wholly subversive, in their tendency, of the public law of nations, and of the general liberties of mankind. Whether this be so, or not, is the question which I now propose to examine, upon such grounds of information, as the common and public means of knowledge disclose.
Everybody knows that, since the final restoration of the Bourbons to the throne of France, the continental powers have entered into sundry alliances, which have been made public, and have held several meetings or Congresses, at which the principles of their political conduct have been declared. These things must necessarily have an effect upon the international law of the states of the world. If that effect be good, and according to the principles of that law, they deserve to be applauded. If, on the contrary, their effect and tendency be most dangerous, their principles wholly inadmissible, their pretensions such as would abolish every degree of national independence, then they are to be resisted.
I begin, Mr. Chairman, by drawing your attention to the treaty, concluded at Paris in September, 1815, between Russia, Prussia, and Austria, commonly called the Holy Alliance. This singular alliance appears to have originated with the Emperor of Russia; for we are informed that a draught of it was exhibited by him, personally, to a plenipotentiary of one of the great powers of Europe, before it was presented to the other sovereigns who ultimately signed it.* This instrument professes nothing, certainly, which is not extremely commendable and praiseworthy. It promises only that the contracting parties, both in relation to other states, and in regard to their own ubjects, will observe the rules of justice and Christianity. In confirmation of these promises, it makes the most solemn and devout religious invocations. Now, although such an alliance is a novelty in European history, the world seems to have received this treaty, upon its first promulgation, with general charity. It was commonly understood as little or nothing more than an expression of thanks for the successful termination of the momentous contest, in which those sovereigns had been engaged. It still seems somewhat unaccountable, however, that these good resolutions should require to be confirmed by treaty. Who doubted, that these august sovereigns would treat each other with justice, and rule their own subjects in mercy? And what necessity was there, for a solemn stipulation by treaty, to ensure the performance of that, which is no more than the ordinary duty of every government? It would hardly be admitted by these sovereigns, that, by this compact, they suppose themselves bound to introduce an entire change, or any change, in the course of their own conduct. Nothing substantially new, certainly, can be supposed to have been intended. What principle, or what practice, therefore, called for this solemn declaration of the intention of the parties to observe the rules of religion and justice?
It is not a little remarkable, that a writer of reputation upon the Public Law, described, many years ago, not inaccurately, the character of this alliance: I allude to Puffendorff. “It seems useless," says he, "to frame any pacts or leagues, barely for the defence and support of universal peace; for, by such a league, nothing is superadded to the obligation of natural law, and no agreement is made for the performance of anything, which the parties were not previously bound to perform; nor is the original obligation rendered firmer or stronger by such an addition. Men of
tolerable culture and civilisation, might well be ashamed of entering into any such compact, the conditions of which imply only that the parties concerned shall not offend in any clear point of duty. Besides, we should be guilty of great irreverence towards God, should we suppose that his injunctions had not already laid a sufficient obligation upon us to act justly, unless we ourselves voluntarily consented to the same engagement: as if our obligation to obey his will, depended upon our own pleasure.
* Vide Lord Castlereaglı's Speech in the House of Commons, February 3, 1816. Debates in Parliament, vol. 36, page 355; where also the Treaty may be found at length.
“If one engage to serve another, he does not set it down expressly and particularly among the terms and conditions of the bargain, that he will not betray nor murder him, nor pillage nor burn his house. For the same reason, that would be a dishonorable engagement, in which men should bind themselves to act properly and de.. cently, and not break the peace. Such were the sentiments of that eminent writer.
How nearly he had anticipated the case of the Holy Alliance, will appear from comparing his observations with the preamble to that alliance, which is as follows:
“In the name of the most Holy and Indivisible Trinity, their Majesties the Emperor of Austria, the King of Prussia, and the Emperor of Russia,”—“solemnly declare, that the present act has no other object than to publish, in the face of the whole world, their fixed resolution, both in the administration of their respective states, and in their political relations with every other government, to take for their sole guide the precepts of that holy religion, namely, the precepts of justice, Christian charity, and peace, which, far from being applicable only to private concerns, must have an immediate influence on the councils of princes, and guide all their steps, as being the only means of consolidating human institutions, and remedying their imperfections."
This measure, however, appears principally important, as it was the first of a series, and was followed afterwards by others of a more marked and practical nature. These measures, taken together, profess to establish two principles, which the Allied Powers would enforce, as a part of the law of the civilized world; and the establishment of which is menaced by a million and a half of bayonets.
The first of these principles is, that all popular, or constitutional rights, are holden no otherwise than as grants from the crown. Society, upon this principle, has no rights of its own; it takes good government, when it gets it, as a boon and a concession, but can demand nothing. It is to live in that favor which emanates from royal authority, and if it have the misfortune to lose that favor, there is nothing to protect it against any degree of injustice and oppres sion. It can rightfully make no endeavour for a change, by itself; its whole privilege is to receive the favors that may be dispensed by the sovereign power, and all its duty is described in the single word, submission. This is the plain result of the principal continental state papers; indeed it is nearly the identical text of some of them.
The Laybach circular of May, 1821, alleges, “ that useful and necessary changes in legislation and administration, ought only to emanate from the free will and intelligent conviction of those whom God has rendered responsible for power; all that deviates from this line necessarily leads to disorder, commotions, and evils, far more insufferable than those which they pretend to remedy."† Now, sir, this principle would carry Europe back again, at once, into the middle of the dark ages. It is the old doctrine of the divine right of kings, advanced now, by new advocates, and sustained by a formidable array of power.
That the people hold their fundamental privileges, as matter of concession or indulgence, from the sovereign * Book 2, cap. 2.
† Annual Register, for 1821.
power, is a sentiment not easy to be diffused in this age, any farther than it is enforced by the direct operation of military means. It is true, certainly, that some six centuries ago, the early founders of English liberty called the instrument which secured their rights a Charter; it was, indeed, a concession; they had obtained it, sword in hand, from the king; and, in
other cases, whatever was obtained, favorable to human rights, from the tyranny and despotism of the feudal sovereigns, was called by the names of privileges and liberties, as being matter of special favor. And, though we retain this language at the present time, the principle itself belongs to ages that have long passed by us. The civilized world has done with the enormous faith, of many made for one. Society asserts its own rights, and alleges them to be original, sacred, and unalienable. It is not satisfied with having kind masters; it demands a participation in its own government: and, in states much advanced in civilisation, it urges this demand with a constancy and an energy, that cannot well, nor long, be resisted. There are, happily, enough of regulated governments in the world, and those among the most distinguished, to operate as constant examples, and to keep alive an unceasing panting in the bosoms of men, for the enjoyment of similar free institutions.
When the English revolution of 1688 took place, the English people did not content themselves with the example of Runnymede; they did not build their hopes upon royal charters; they did not, like the Laybach circular, suppose that all useful changes in constitutions and laws must proceed from those only whom God has rendered responsible for power. They were somewhat better instructed in the principles of civil liberty, or at least they were better lovers of those principles, than the sovereigns of Laybach. Instead of petitioning for charters, they declared their rights, and, while they offered to the family of Orange the crown with one hand, they held in the other an enumeration of those privileges which they did not profess to hold as favors, but which they demanded and insisted upon, as their undoubted rights.
I need not stop to observe, Mr. Chairman, how totally hostile are these doctrines of Laybach, to the fundamental principles of our government. They are in direct contradiction: the principles of good and evil are hardly more opposite. If these principles of the sovereigns be true, we are but in a state of rebellion, or of anarchy, and are only tolerated among civilized states, because it has not yet been convenient to conform us to the true standard.
But the second, and, if possible, the still more objectionable principle, avowed in these papers, is the right of forcible interference in the affairs of other states. A right to control nations in their desire to change their own government, wherever it may be conjectured, or pretended that such change might furnish an example to the subjects of other states, is plainly and distinctly asserted. The same Congress that made the declaration at Laybach, had declared, before its removal from Troppau, “that the powers have an undoubted right to take a hostile attitude in regard to those states in which the overthrow of the government may operate as an example."
There cannot, as I think, be conceived a more flagrant violation of public law, or national independence, than is contained in this short declaration.
No matter what be the character of the government resisted; no matter with what weight the foot of the oppressor bears on the neck of the oppressed; if he struggle, or if he complain, he sets a dangerous example of resistance,—and from that moment he becomes an object of hostility to the most powerful potentates of the earth. I want words to express my abhorrence of this abominable principle. I trust every enlightened man throughout the world will oppose it, and that, especially, those who, like ourselves, are fortunately out of the reach of the bayonets that enforce it, will proclaim their detestation of it, in a tone both loud and decisive. The avowed object of such declarations is to preserve the peace of the world. what means is it proposed to preserve this peace? Simply, by bringing the power of all governments to bear against all subjects. Here is to be established a sort of double, or treble, or quadruple,
for aught I know, a quintuple allegiance. An offence against one king is to be an offence against all kings, and the power of all is to be put forth for the punishment of the offender. "A right to interfere in extreme cases, in the case of contiguous states, and where imminent danger is threatened to one by what is transpiring in another, is not without precedent in modern times, upon what has been called the law of vicinage; and when confined to extreme cases, and limited to a certain extent, it may perhaps be defended upon principles of necessity and self-defence. But to maintain that sovereigns may go to war upon the subjects of another state to repress an example, is monstrous indeed. What is to be the limit to such a principle, or to the practice growing out of it? What, in any case, but sovereign pleasure is to decide whether the example be good or bad?
And what, under the operation of such rule, may be thought of our example? Why are we not as fair objects for the operation of the new principle, as any of those who may attempt to reform the condition of their government, on the other side of the Atlantic?
The ultimate effect of this alliance of sovereigns, for objects personal to themselves, or respecting only the permanence of their own power, must be the destruction of all just feeling, and all natural sympathy, between those who exercise the power of government and those who are subject to it. The old channels of mutual regard and confidence are to be dried up, or cut off. Obedience can now be expected no longer than it is enforced. Instead of relying on the affections of the governed, sovereigns are to rely on the affections and friendship of other sovereigns. There are, in short, no longer to be nations. Princes and people no longer are to unite for interests common to them both. There is to be an end of all patriotism, as a distinct national feeling. Society is to be divided horizontally; all sovereigns above, and all subjects below; the former coalescing for their own security, and for the more certain subjection of the undistinguished multitude beneath. This, sir, is no picture, drawn by imagination. I have hardly used language stronger than that in which the authors of this new system have commented on their own