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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 spirit 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.
IT 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
sult at once their services, their years, their necessities, and the delicacy of their sentiments. I would gladly give, with promptitude and grace, with gratitude and delicacy, that which merit has earned, and necessity demands.
Sir, what are the objections urged against this bill? Let us look at them, and see if they be real; let us weigh them, to know if they be solid. For, sir, we are not acting on a slight matter. Nor is what we do likely to pass unobserved now, or to be forgotten hereafter. I regard the occasion as one full of interest and full of responsibility. Those individuals, the little remnant of a gallant band, whose days of youth and manhood were spent for their country in the toils and dangers of the field, are now before us, poor and old, intimating their wants with reluctant delicacy, and asking succour from their country with decorous solicitude. How we shall treat them, it behooves us well to consider, not only for their sake, but for our own sake, also, and for the sake of the honor of the country. Whatever we do, will not be done in a corner. Our constituents will see it; the people will see it; the world will see it.
Let us candidly examine, then, the objections which have been raised to this bill; with a disposition to yield to them, if from necessity we must; but, to overcome them, if in fairness we can.
In the first place, it is said, that we ought not to pass the bill, because it will involve us in a charge of unknown extent. We are reminded, that when the general pension law for revolutionary soldiers passed, an expense was incurred far beyond what had been contemplated; that the estimate, of the number of surviving revolutionary soldiers, proved altogether fallacious; and that, for aught we know, the same mistake may be committed now.
Is this objection well-founded? Let me say, in the first place, that if one measure, right in itself, has gone farther than it was intended to be carried, for want of accurate provisions, and adequate guards, this may furnish a very good reason for supplying such guards and provisions in another measure, but can afford no ground at all for rejecting such other measure, altogether, if it be in itself just and necessary. We should avail ourselves of our experience, it seems to me, to correct what has been found amiss; and not draw from it an undistinguishing resolution to do nothing, merely because it has taught us, that, in something we have already done, we have acted with too little care. In the next place, does the fact bear out this objection? Is there any difficulty in ascertaining the number of the officers who will be benefited by this bill, and in estimating the expense, therefore, which it will create? I think there is none. The records in the department of war, and the treasury, furnish such evidence as that there is no danger of material mistake. The diligence of the chairman of the committee has enabled him to lay the facts, connected with this part of the case, so fully and minutely before the Senate, that I think no one can feel serious doubt. Indeed, it is admitted by the adversaries of the bill, that this objection does not apply here with the same force as in the former pension-law. It is admitted that there is a greater facility in this case than in that, in ascertaining the number and names of those who will be entitled to receive that bounty.
This objection, then, is not founded in true principle; and if it were, it is not sustained by the facts. I think we ought not to yield to it, unless, (which I know is not the sentiment which pervades the Senate,) feeling that the measure ought not to pass, we still prefer not to place our opposition to it on a distinct and visible ground, but to veil it under vague and general objections.
In the second place, it has been objected, that the operation of the bill will be unequal, because all officers of the same rank will receive equal benefit from it, although they entered the army at different times, and were of different ages. Sir, is not this that sort of inequality which must always exist in every general provision? Is it possible that any law can descend into such particulars? Would there be any reason why it should do so, if it could? The bill is intended for those, who, being in the Army in October, 1780, then received a solemn promise of half-pay for life, on condition that they would continue to serve through the war. Their ground of merit, is, that whensoever they had joined the army, being thus solicited by their country to remain in it, they at once went for the whole; they fastened their fortunes to the standards which they bore, and resolved to continue their military service till it should terminate either in their country's success or in their own deaths. This is their merit and their ground of claim. How long they had been already in service, is immaterial and unimportant. They were then in service; the salvation of their country depended on their continuing in that service. Congress saw this imperative necessity, and earnestly solicited them to remain, and promised the compensation. They saw the necessity, also, and they yielded to it.
But, again, it is said that the present time is not auspicious. The bill, it is urged, should not pass now. The venerable member from North Carolina says, as I understood him, that he would be almost as willing that the bill should pass at some other session, as be discussed at this. He speaks of the distresses of the country at the present moment, and of another bill, now in the Senate, having, as he thinks, the effect of laying new taxes upon the people. He is for postponement. But it appears to me, with entire respect for the honourable member, that this is one of the cases least of all fit for postponement. It is not a measure, that, if omitted this year, may as well be done next. Before next year comes, those who need the relief may be beyond its reach. To postpone for another year, an annuity to persons already so aged; an annuity, founded on the merit of services which were rendered half a century ago; to postpone, for another whole year, a bill for the relief of deserving men,-proposing not aggrandizement but support; not emolument but bread; is a mode of disposing of it, in which I cannot concur.
But it is argued, in the next place, that the bill ought not to pass, because those who have spoken in its favor have placed it on different grounds. They have not agreed, it is said, whether be regarded as a matter of right, or matter of gratuity, or bounty. Is there weight in this objection? If some think the grant ought to be made, as an exercise of judicious and well deserved bounty, does it weaken that ground that others think it founded in strict right, and that we cannot refuse it without manifest and palpable injustice?