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and relieve the patience, now long and heavily taxed, of the Committee. But there is one part of the discussion, on which I must ask to be indulged with a few observations.
Pains, sir, have been taken by the honorable member from Virginia, to prove that the measure now in contemplation, and, indeed, the whole policy of the government respecting South America, is the unhappy result of the influence of a gentleman formerly filling the chair of this House. To make out this, he has referred to certain speeches of that gentleman delivered here. He charges him with having become himself affected at an early day with what he is pleased to call the South American fever; and with having infused its baneful influence into the whole councils of the country.
If, sir, it be true, that that gentleman, prompted by an ardent love of civil liberty, felt earlier than others, a proper sympathy for the struggling colonies of South America; or that, acting on the maxim, that revolutions do not go backward, he had the sagacity to foresee, earlier than others, the successful termination of those struggles; if, thus feeling, and thus perceiving, it fell to him to lead the willing or unwilling councils of his country, in her manifestations of kindness to the new governments, and in her seasonable recognition of their independence; if it be this which the honorable member imputes to him; if it be by this course of public conduct that he has identified his name with the cause of South American liberty, he ought to be esteemed one of the most fortunate men of the age. If all this be, as is now represented, he has acquired fame enough. It is enough for any man, thus to have connected himself with the greatest events of the age in which he lives, and to have been foremost in measures which reflect high honor on his country, in the judgment of mankind. Sir, it is always with great reluctance that I am drawn to speak, in my place here, of individuals; but I could not forbear what I have now said, when I hear, in the House of Representatives, and in this land of free spirits, that it is made matter of imputation and of reproach, to have been first to reach forth the hand of welcome and of succour to new-born nations, struggling to obtain, and to enjoy, the blessings of liberty.
We are told that the country is deluded and deceived by cabalistic words. Cabalistic words! If we express an emotion of pleasure at the results of this great action of the spirit of political liberty; if we rejoice at the birth of new Republican nations, and express our joy by the common terms of regard and sympathy; if we feel and signify high gratification that, throughout this whole continent, men are now likely to be blessed by free and popular institutions; and if, in the uttering of these sentiments, we happen to speak of sister Republics; of the great American family of nations; or of the political system and forms of government of this hemisphere, then indeed, it seems, we deal in senseless jargon, or impose on the judgment and feeling of the community by cabalistic words! Sir, what is meant by this? Is it intended that the People of the United States ought to be totally indifferent to the fortunes of these new neighbours? Is no change, in the lights in which we are to view them, to be wrought, by their having thrown off foreign dominion, establish
ed independence, and instituted, on our very borders, republican governments, essentially after our own example?
Sir, I do not wish to overrate, I do not overrate, the progress of these new States in the great work of establishing a well-secured popular liberty. I know that to be a great attainment, and I know they are but pupils in the school. But, thank God, they are in the school. They are called to meet difficulties, such as neither we nor our fathers encountered. For these, we ought to make large allowances. What have we ever known like the colonial vassalage of these States? When did we or our ancestors, feel, like them, the weight of a political despotism that presses men to the earth, or of that religious intolerance which would shut up heaven to all but the bigoted? Sir, we sprung from another stock. We belong to another race. We have known nothing-we have felt nothing of the political despotism of Spain, nor of the heat of her fires of intolerance. No rational man expects that the South can run the same rapid career as the North; or that an insurgent province of Spain is in the same condition as the English colonies, when they first asserted their independence. There is, doubtless, much more to be done, in the first than in the last case. But on that account the honor of the attempt is not less; and if all difficulties shall be in time surmounted, it will be greater. The work may be more arduous-it is not less noble, because there may be more of ignorance to enlighten; more of bigotry to subdue; more of prejudice to eradicate. If it be a weakness to feel a strong interest in the success of these great revolutions, I confess myself guilty of that weakness. If it be weak to feel that I am an American, to think that recent events have not only opened new modes of intercourse, but have created also new grounds of regard and sympathy between ourselves and our neighbours; if it be weak to feel that the South, in her present state, is somewhat more emphatically a part of America, than when she lay obscure, oppressed, and unknown, under the grinding bondage of a foreign power; if it be weak to rejoice, when, even in any corner of the earth, human beings are able to get up from beneath oppression, to erect themselves, and to enjoy the proper happiness of their intelligent nature; if this be weak, it is a weakness from which I claim no exemption.
A day of solemn retribution now visits the once proud monarchy of Spain. The prediction is fulfilled. The soirit of Montezuma and of the Incas might now well say,
"Art thou, too, fallen, Iberia? Do we see
Mr. Chairman: I will detain you only with one more reflection on this subject. We cannot be so blind-we cannot so shut up our senses, and smother our faculties, as not to see, that in the progress and the establishment of South American liberty, our own example has been among the most stimulating causes. In their emergen
cies, they have looked to our experience; in their political institutions, they have followed our models; in their deliberations, they have invoked the presiding spirit of our own liberty. They have looked steadily, in every adversity, to the GREAT NORTHERN LIGHT. In the hour of bloody conflict, they have remembered the fields which have been consecrated by the blood of our own fathers; and when they have fallen, they have wished only to be remembered, with them, as men who had acted their parts bravely, for the cause of liberty in the Western World.
Sir, I have done. If it be weakness to feel the sympathy of one's nature excited for such men, in such a cause, I am guilty of that weakness. If it be prudence to meet their proffered civility, not with reciprocal kindness, but with coldness or with insult, I choose still to follow where natural impulse leads, and to give up that false and mistaken prudence, for the voluntary sentiments of my heart.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE BILL FOR THE RELIEF OF THE SURVIVING OFFICERS OF THE REVOLUTION. APRIL 25, 1828.
Ir has not been my purpose to take any part in the discussion of this bill. My opinions in regard to its general object, I hope are well known; and I had intended to content myself with a steady and persevering vote in its favor. But, when the moment of final decision has come, and the division is so likely to be nearly equal, I feel it to be a duty to put not only my own vote, but my own earnest wishes, also, and my fervent entreaties to others, into the doubtful scale.
It must be admitted, sir, that the persons for whose benefit this bill is designed, are, in some respects, peculiarly unfortunate. They are compelled to meet not only objections to the principle, but, whichever way they turn themselves, embarrassing objections also to details. One friend hesitates at this provision, and another at that; while those who are not friends at all, of course oppose everything, and propose nothing. When it was contemplated, heretofore, to give the petitioners an outright sum, in satisfaction of their claim, then the argument was, among other things, that the treasury could not bear so heavy a draught on its means, at the present moment.
The plan is accordingly changed: an annuity is proposed; and then the objection changes also; and it is now said, that this is but granting pensions, and that the pension system has already been carried too far. I confess, sir, I felt wounded-deeply hurt-at the observations of the gentleman from Georgia. "So then," said he," these modest and high-minded gentlemen take a pension at last!" How is it possible, that a gentleman of his generosity of character, and general kindness of feeling, can indulge in such a tone of triumphant irony towards a few old, gray headed, poor, and broken warriors of the revolution! There is, I know, something repulsive and opprobrious in the name of pension. But, God forbid that I should taunt them with it! With grief, heart-full grief, do I behold the necessity which leads these veterans to accept the bounty of their country, in a manner not the most agreeable to their feelings. Worn out and decrepit, represented before us by those, their former brothers in arms, who totter along our lobbies, or stand leaning on their crutches. I, for one, would most gladly support such a measure as should con
Or, is it strange, that those who feel the legal justice of the claim, should address to those who do not feel it, considerations of a different character, but fit to have weight, and which they hope may have weight? Nothing is more plain and natural than the course which this application has taken. The applicants, themselves, have placed it on the ground of equity and law. They advert to the resolve of 1780, to the commutation of 1783, and to the mode of funding the certificates. They stand on their contract. This is perfectly natural. On that basis, they can wield the argument themselves. Of what is required by justice and equity, they may reason even in their own case. But when the application is placed on different grounds; when personal merit is to be urged, as the foundation of a just and economical bounty; when services are to be mentioned; privations recounted; pains enumerated; and wounds and scars counted; the discussion necessarily devolves to other hands. In all that we have seen from these officers in the various papers presented by them, it cannot but be obvious to every one, how little is said of personal merit, and how exclusively they confine themselves to what they think their rights under the contract.
I must confess, sir, that principles of equity, which appear to me as plain as the sun, are urged by the memorialists themselves with great caution, and much qualification. They advance their claim of right, without extravagance or overstraining; and they submit to it the unimpassioned sense of justice of the Senate.
For myself, I am free to say, that if it were a case between individual and individual, I think the officers would be entitled to relief in a court of equity. I may be mistaken, but such is my opinion. My reasons are, that I do not think they had a fair option, in regard to the commutation of half-pay. I do not think it was fairly in their power to accept or reject that offer. The condition they were in, and the situation of the country, compelled them to submit to whatever was proposed. In the next place it seems to me too evident to be denied, that the five years' full pay was never really and fully made to them. A formal compliance with the terms of the contract, not a real compliance, is at most all that was ever done. For these reasons, I think, in an individual case, law and equity would reform the settlement. The conscience of chancery would deal with this case as with other cases of hard bargains; of advantages obtained by means of inequality of situation; of acknowledged debts, compounded from necessity, or compromised without satisfaction. But, although such would be my views of this claim, as between man and man, I do not place my vote for this bill on that ground. I see the consequence of admitting the claim, on the foundation of strict right. I see at once, that, on that ground, the heirs of the dead would claim, as well as the living; and that other public creditors, as well as these holders of commutation certificates, would also have whereof to complain. I know it is altogether impossible to open the accounts of the revolution, and to think of doing justice to everybody. Much of suffering there necessarily was, that can never be paid for; much of loss that can never be repaired. I do not, therefore, for myself, rest my vote on grounds leading to any such consequences. I feel constrained to say, that we cannot do, and