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Persevering efforts of this kind have been made against Mr. Webster many times, and by different hands, but thus far without success. in which Mr. Webster has himself met them may be learned by the following extracts from his speech in reply to Mr. Calhoun, on the 22d March, 1838:
"But, sir, before attempting that, he [Mr. Calhoun] has something else to say. He had prepared, it seems, to draw comparisons himself. He had intended to say something, if time had allowed, upon our respective opinions and conduct in regard to the war. If time had allowed! Sir, time does allow-time must allow. A general remark of that kind ought not to be, cannot be, left to produce its effect, when that effect is obviously intended to be unfavorable. Why did the gentleman allude to my votes, or my opinions, respecting the war, at all, unless he had something to say? Does he wish to leave an undefined impression that something was done, or something said by me, not now capable of defence or justification? something not reconcilable with true patriotism? He means that, or nothing. And now, sir, let him bring the matter forth; let him take the responsibility of the accusation; let him state his facts. I am here, this day, to answer. Now is the time, and now is the hour. I think we read, sir, that one of the good spirits would not bring against the arch-enemy of mankind a railing accusation; and what is railing but general reproach—an imputation without fact, time, or circumstance? Sir, I call for particulars. The gentleman knows my whole conduct well: indeed, the Journals show it all, from the moment I came into Congress till the peace. If I have done, then, sir, any thing unpatriotic, any thing which, as far as love of country goes, will not bear comparison with his or any man's conduct, let it now be stated. Give me the fact, the time, the manner. He speaks of the war; that which is called the late war, though it is now twenty-five years since it terminated. He would leave an impression that I opposed it. How? I was not in Congress when war was declared, nor in public life, any where. I was pursuing my profession, and keeping company with judges, sheriffs, and jurors, and plaintiffs and defendants. If I had been in Congress, and had enjoyed the benefit of hearing the honorable gentleman's speeches, for all I can say, I might have concurred with him. But I was not in public life. I never had been for a single hour, and was in no situation, therefore, to oppose or support the declaration of war. I am speaking to the fact, sir; and if the gentleman has any fact, let us know it.
"Well, sir, I came into Congress during the war. I found it waged and raging. And what did I do here to oppose it? Look to the Journals. Let the honorable gentleman tax his memory. Bring up any thing, if there be any thing to bring up- not showing error of opinion, but showing want of loyalty or fidelity to the country. I did not agree to all that was proposed, nor did the honorable gentleman. I did not approve of every measure, nor did he.
"The war had been preceded by the restrictive system and the embargo. As a private individual, I certainly did not think well of these measures. It appeared to me the embargo annoyed us as much as our enemies, while it destroyed the business and cramped the spirits of the people.
"In this opinion, I may have been right or wrong, but the gentleman was himself of the same opinion. He told us the other day, as a proof of his independence of party on great questions, that he differed with his friends on the subject of the embargo. He was decidedly and unalterably opposed to it. It furnishes, in his judgment, therefore, no imputation, either on my patriotism or the soundness of my political opinions, that I was opposed to it also. I mean opposed
in opinion; for I was not in Congress, and had nothing to do with the act creating the embargo. And as to opposition to measures for carrying on the war, after I came into Congress, I again say, let the gentleman specify - let him lay his finger on any thing, calling for an answer, and he shall have an answer.
"Mr. President, you were yourself in the House during a considerable part of this time. The honorable gentleman may make a witness of you. He may make a witness of any body else. He may be his own witness. Give us but some fact, some charge, something capable in itself either of being proved or disproved. Prove any thing not consistent with honorable and patriotic conduct, and 1 am ready to answer it. Sir, I am glad this subject has been alluded to in a manner which justifies me in taking public notice of it; because I am well aware that, for ten years past, infinite pains have been taken to find something, in the range of these topics, which might create prejudice against me in the country. The Journals have all been pored over, and the reports ransacked, and scraps of paragraphs and half sentences have been collected, put together in the falsest manner, and then made to flare out as if there had been some discovery. But all this failed. The next resort was to supposed correspondence. My letters were sought for, to learn if, in the confidence of private friendship, I had never said any thing which an enemy could make use of. With this view, the vicinity of my former residence has been searched, as with a lighted candle. New Hampshire has been explored, from the mouth of the Merrimack to the White Hills. In one instance, a gentleman had left the State, gone five hundred miles off, and died. His papers were examined, a letter was found, and, I have understood, it was brought to Washington; a conclave was held to consider it; and the result was, that if there was nothing else against Mr. Webster, the matter had better be left alone. Sir, I hope to make every body of that opinion who brings against me a charge of a want of patriotism. Errors of opinion can be found, doubtless, on many subjects; but as conduct flows from the feelings which animate the heart, I know that no act of my life has had its origin in the want of ardent love of country.
"Sir, when I came to Congress, I found the honorable gentleman a leading member of the House of Representatives. Well, sir, in what did we differ? One of the first measures of magnitude, after I came here, was Mr. Dallas's proposition for a bank. It was a war measure. It was urged as being absolutely necessary to enable Government to carry on the war. Government wanted revenue; such a bank, it was hoped, would furnish it, and on that account it was warmly pressed and urged on Congress. You remember all this, Mr. President. You remember how much some persons supposed the success of the war and salvation of the country depended on carrying that measure. Yet the honorable member from South Carolina opposed that bill. He now takes to himself a good deal of merit none too much, but still a good deal of meritfor having defeated it. Well, sir, I agreed with him. It was a mere paper bank-a mere machine for fabricating irredeemable paper. It was a new form for paper money; and, instead of benefiting the country, I thought it would plunge it deeper and deeper in difficulty. I made a speech on the subject,; it has often been quoted. There it is; let whoever pleases read and examine it. I am not proud of it for any ability it exhibits; on the other hand, I am not ashamed of it for the spirit which it manifests. But, sir, I say again, the gentleman himself took the lead against this measure this darling measure of the Administration. I followed him; if I was seduced into error, or into unjustifiable opposition, there sits my seducer.
"What, sir, were other leading sentiments, or leading measures, of that day? On what other subjects did men differ? The gentleman has adverted to one,
and that a most important one-I mean the navy. He says, and says truly, that, at the commencement of the war, the navy was unpopular. It was unpopular with his friends, who then controlled the politics of the country. But he says he differed with his friends; in this respect he resisted party influence and party connection, and was the friend and advocate of the navy. commend him for it. He showed his wisdom. That gallant little navy soon fought itself into favor, and showed that a man who had placed reliance on it had not been disappointed.
"Well, sir, in all this, I was exactly of the same opinion as the honorable gentleman.
"Sir, I do not know when my opinion of the importance of a naval force to the United States had its origin. I can give no date to my sentiments on this subject, because I never entertained different sentiments. I remember, sir, that immediately after coming into my profession, at a period when the navy was most unpopular, when it was called by all sorts of hard names, and designated by many coarse epithets, - -on one of those occasions on which young men address their neighbors, I ventured to put forth a boy's hand in defence of the navy. I insisted on its importance, its adaptation to our circumstances and to our national character, and its indispensable necessity, if we intended to maintain and extend our commerce. These opinions and sentiments I brought into Congress; and, so far as I remember, it was the first, or among the first, times in which I presumed to speak on the topics of the day, that I attempted to urge on the House a greater attention to the naval service. There were divers modes of prosecuting the war. On these modes, or on the degree of attention and expense which should be bestowed on each, different men held different opinions. I confess I looked with most hope to the results of naval warfare, and therefore I invoked Government to invigorate and strengthen that arm of the national defence. I invoked it to seek its enemies upon the seas-to go where every auspicious indication pointed, and where the whole heart and soul of the country would go with it.
"Sir, we were at war with the greatest maritime power on earth. England had gained an ascendency on the seas over the whole combined powers of Europe. She had been at war twenty years. She had tried her fortunes on the continent, but generally with no success. At one time, the whole continent had been closed against her. A long line of armed exterior, an unbroken hostile array, frowned upon her from the Gulf of Archangel, round the promontory of Spain and Portugal, to the foot of the boot of Italy. There was not a port which an English ship could enter. Every where on the land the genius of her great enemy had triumphed. He had defeated armies, crushed coalitions, and overturned thrones; but, like the fabled giant, he was unconquerable only while he touched the land. On the ocean he was powerless. That field of fame was his adversary's, and her meteor flag was streaming in triumph all over it. "To her maritime ascendency England owed every thing, and we were now at war with her. One of the most charming of her poets has said of her, that
Her march is o'er the mountain wave,
Her home is on the deep.'
Now, sir, since we were at war with her, I was for intercepting this march; I was for calling upon her, and paying our respects to her at home; I was for giving her to know that we, too, had a right of way over the seas, and that our marine officers and our sailors were not entire strangers on the bosom of the deep; I was for doing something more with our navy than to keep it on our
shores, for the protection of our own coasts and our own harbors; I was for giving play to its gallant and burning spirit; for allowing it to go forth upon the seas, and encounter, on an open and an equal field, whatever the proudest or the bravest of the enemy could bring against it. I knew the character of its officers, and the spirit of its seamen; and I knew that, in their hands, though the flag of the country might go down to the bottom, while they went with it, yet that it could never be dishonored or disgraced.
"Since she was our enemy—and a most powerful enemy-I was for touching her, if we could, in the very apple of her eye; for reaching the highest feather in her cap; for clutching at the very brightest jewel in her crown. There seemed to me to be a peculiar propriety in all this, as the war was undertaken for the redress of maritime injuries alone. It was a war declared for free trade and sailors' rights. The ocean, therefore, was the proper theatre for deciding this controversy with our enemy, and on that theatre my ardent wish was, that our own power should be concentrated to the utmost.
"So much, sir, for the war, and for my conduct and opinions as connected with it. And, as I do not mean to recur to this subject often, or ever, unless indispensably necessary, I repeat the demand for any charge, any accusation, any allegation whatever, that throws me behind the honorable gentleman, or behind any other man, in honor, in fidelity, in devoted love to that country in which I was born, which has honored me, and which I serve. I, who seldom deal in defiance, now, here, in my place, boldly defy the honorable member to put his insinuation in the form of a charge, and to support that charge by any proof whatever."