Page images

against executing the laws. He was as ready to defend the country as the warmest patriot; and we have seen it stated, what is no doubt true, that when Portsmouth, the town in which he then lived, was supposed to be in danger of an immediate attack by the enemy, he was placed, on the nomination of John Langdon, at the head of a committee raised for its defence.

In Mr. Webster's speech, 21st March, 1838, in reply to Mr. Calhoun, he challenged that gentleman to show that he ever gave an unpatriotic vote, during the war or at any other time. He admitted that, with Mr. Calhoun, he had preferred to carry on the war with England on the ocean, and had indicated that preference by his votes, as had Mr. Calhoun and others. It is well known that, on the occasion referred to, Mr. Calhoun, who has served with Mr. Webster for nearly thirty years in Congress, and who well knew what his votes were during the war, was perfectly silent when this challenge was made.

VII. "He also voted against a bill to provide additional revenue for the support of the Government and the public credit, and also against an appropriation for rebuilding the Capitol, which had been destroyed by the enemy."

The answer given to the fourth charge is the answer to the seventh, except that under the seventh head is contained, also, a very disingenuous charge-that Mr. Webster voted against a bill to provide for the rebuilding of the Capitol after it had been destroyed by the enemy.

The unfairness and falsity of this charge are shown by an examination of the record. The Journal shows the following legislation in respect to rebuilding the Capitol. It is to be remembered, however, that, in consequence of a domestic calamity, Mr. Webster did not take his seat in Congress, in 1814, until the 15th day of October. On the 26th of September, Mr. Fisk, of New York, a distinguished friend of the administration of Mr. Madison, moved for a committee "to inquire into the expediency of removing the seat of Government, during the session of Congress, to a place of better security and less inconvenience." The motion prevailed; ayes 72, noes 51. This was not a party vote, as the record shows.

On the 3d of October, the committee reported "that it was inexpedient, at this time, to remove the seat of Government;" but Mr. Fisk himself moved to amend the report by striking out the word "inexpedient," and substituting "expedient." On this motion the vote stood 68 to 68, and the Speaker (Mr. Cheves) declaring himself for the amendment, it was adopted, and the amended resolution was referred to a Committee of the Whole House.

October 4. The order of the day on this subject being called for, Mr. Newton moved its indefinite postponement. This was negatived; yeas 61, nays 77; and not a party vote, as the Journal shows.

October 6. The report of the committee, having been reported back to the House from the Committee of the Whole House, was taken up; and on the question to agree to it, the vote stood, ayes 72, and 71 noes. So the report recommending the removal of the seat of Government from Washington to some more convenient place was agreed to, and a committee was appointed to bring in a bill. October 13. Mr. Fisk reported a bill for the temporary removal of the seat of Government.

On the 15th of October, Mr. Webster took his seat for the first time for that session, and on this day the question was taken upon a motion to reject the bill, and it was negatived, ayes 76, noes 79, Mr. Webster voting in the negative; that is to say, he voted against the rejection of a bill, brought in by a leading friend of the Administration, and on which there had been in no stage of it a party vote, providing for the removal of the seat of Government from Washington.

[blocks in formation]

The bill, not being rejected, was read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House. Being reported back from the committee to the House, it was moved to amend the bill by inserting a section which provided that the President's House and the Capitol should be rebuilt on their former sites in the city of Washington, which was rejected without a division.

In the Committee of the Whole the bill had been amended, and one of the amendments was to name the place to which the Government should be removed. (The place does not appear upon the Journal, but is believed to have been Lancaster, Pennsylvania.) The question then being put upon the engrossment of the bill, it passed in the negative; ayes 74, noes 83. And so the bill was lost. Mr. Webster voted in the affirmative. This was not a party vote; the Northern men generally voted to remove the Government to Lancaster, and the Southern were against it.

The next proceeding that appears upon this subject took place on the 20th of October, when Mr. Lewis, of Virginia, (whom Mr. Jefferson called the residuary legatee of all the federalism of the State of Virginia,) moved for a committee to inquire into the expediency of rebuilding the President's House and the Capitol, and the necessary expense for that purpose. The resolution was adopted without objection, and a committee appointed, which reported on the 21st of November; and on that day Mr. Lewis obtained leave to bring in a bill making an appropriation for repairing or rebuilding in the city of Washington.

It does not appear that any further proceedings took place in the House in regard to the bill introduced by Mr. Lewis; but on the 8th of February, a bill from the Senate to provide for the rebuilding of the President's House and the Capitol being under consideration in the House of Representatives, it was moved that no part of the money should be expended until the President laid before Congress a report stating the principles upon which the Capitol, President's House, and the Post-Office should be rebuilt, with an estimate of the cost. This motion was rejected. Then Mr. Stanford, of North Carolina, an ardent supporter of the Administration, moved "that the bill be recommitted, with instructions to report such change and plan of construction of the public buildings as shall comport with the convenience of the Government." This motion was lost. Mr. Eppes, of Virginia, as appears by his vote, was of opinion that the money ought not to be voted without some kind of change in the old plan of construction, nor without some plan being laid before the House to show what the construction was to be, and the expense of it. Mr. Webster was of this opinion also; and on the third reading of the bill there were 67 yeas and 55 nays, and the bill passed. Mr. Webster voted in the negative, and this is the crime he is accused of. Mr. Eppes, the Democratic leader of the House, and chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, voted with him. Mr. Farrow, of South Carolina, voted with him. Mr. Kerr, of Virginia; Mr. Udree, of Pennsylvania; Mr. Taylor, of New York; Mr. Ingham, of Pennsylvania; Mr. Murfree, of North Carolina; Mr. Williams, of North Carolina; Mr. Conard, of Pennsylvania; Mr. Stanford, of North Carolina; and other stanch Democrats, voted with Mr. Webster; and many of Mr. Webster's political friends voted for the bill.

The truth is, it was no party proceeding, and there was no party vote on it; and all that can be made of it is, that Mr. Webster was not willing to vote away the money of the people until he knew how it was to be laid out and expended, any more than Mr. Eppes.

Every public man knows, all fair-minded men admit, that justice can be done to no man by picking out a vote here and a vote there, and publishing them without their proper connection, without accurately stating the occasion, and without giving the reason on which they were founded.

Persevering efforts of this kind have been made against Mr. Webster many times, and by different hands, but thus far without success. The way 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 I 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 merit - for 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. Sir, I 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


« PreviousContinue »