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first place, for the election of political agents by the people themselves, at short intervals, and, in the next place, by prescribing constitutional restraints on all branches of this delegated authority. It is not among the circumstances of the times, most ominous for good, that a diminished estimate appears to be placed on those constitutional securities. A disposition is but too prevalent to substitute personal confidence for legal restraint; to put trust in men rather than in principles; and this disposition being strongest, as it most obviously is, whenever party spirit prevails to the greatest excess, it is not without reason that fears are entertained of the existence of a spirit tending strongly to an unlimited, if it be but an elective, Government.
Surely, Gentlemen, surely this Government can go through no such change. Long before that change could take place, the Constitution would be shattered to pieces, and the Union of the States become matter of past history. To the Union, therefore, as well as to civil liberty, to every interest which we enjoy and value, to all that makes us proud of our country, or our country lovely in our own eyes, or dear to our own hearts, nothing can be more repugnant, nothing more hostile, nothing more directly destructive than excessive, unlimited, unconstitutional confidence in men; nothing worse than the doctrine that official agents may interpret the public will in their own way, in defiance of the Constitution and the laws; or that they may set up any thing for the declaration of that will except the Constitution and the laws themselves; or that any public officer, high or low, should undertake to constitute himself, or to call himself the Representative of the people, except so far as the Constitution and the laws create and denominate him such representative. There is no usurpation so dangerous as that which comes in the borrowed name of the people. If, from some other authority, or other source, prerogatives be attempted to be enforced upon the people, they naturally oppose and resist it. It is an open enemy, and they can easily subdue it. But that which professes to act, in their own name, and by their own authority, that which calls itself their servant, although it exercises their power without legal right or constitutional sanction, requires something more of vigilance to detect, and something more of stern patriotism to repress; and if it be not, seasonably, both detected and repressed, then the Republic is already in the downward path of those which have gone before it.
I hold, therefore, Gentlemen, that a strict submission, by every branch of the Government, to the limitations and restraints of the Constitution, is of the very essence of all security for the preservation of liberty; and that no one can be a true and intelligent friend of that liberty, who will consent that any man in public station, whatever he may think of the honesty of his motives, shall exercise or enact an authority above the Constitution and the laws. Whatever Government is not a Government of Laws, is a despotism, let it be called what it may.
Gentlemen, in the circumstances which surround us, I ought not to detain you longer. Let us hope for the best, in behalf of this great and happy country, and of our glorious Constitution. Indeed, Gentlemen, we may well congratulate ourselves that the country is so young, so fresh, so strong and vigorous, that it can bear a great deal of bad government. It can take an enormous load of official mismanagement on its shoulders, and yet go ahead. Like the vessel impelled by steam, it can move forward, not only without other than the ordinary means, but even when those means oppose it, it can make its way in defiance of the elements, and —
“ Against the wind, against the tide,
Still steady, with an upright keel.” There are some things, however, which the country cannot stand. It cannot stand any shock of civil liberty, or any disruption of the Union. Should either of these happen, the vessel of the State will have no longer either steerage or motion. She will lie on the billows helpless and hopeless; the scorn and contempt of all the enemies of free institutions, and an object of indescribable grief to all their friends.
Gentlemen, I offer as a sentiment for the occasion Civil Liberty: Its only security is in Constitutional restraint on political power.
ON RECEIVING A VASE FROM CITIZENS OF BOSTON,
OCTOBER 12, 1835.
A Large number of the Citizens of Boston being desirous to offer Mr. Webster some enduring testimony of their gratitude for his services in Congress, and more especially for his defence of the Constitution during the crisis of Nullification, a Committee was raised, in the spring of 1835, to procure a piece of plate which should be worthy of such an object. By their direction, and more particularly under the superintendence of one of their number — the late GEORGE W. BRIMMÈR, to whose taste and skill the Committee were deeply indebted for the selection of the model and the arrangement of the devices — the beautiful Vase, now.well known throughout the country as the WEBSTER, Vase was prepared at the manufactory of Messrs. Jones, Lows, & Ball, in Boston. After it was finished, the Committee found it impossible to withstand the wish both of the numerous subscribers, and of the public generally, to witness the ceremonies and hear the remarks by which its presentation might be accompanied. It was accordingly presented to Mr. Webster in the presence of three or four thousand spectators assembled at the Odeon on the evening of the 12th of October. The Vase was placed on a pedestal covered with an American Flag, and contained on its front the following inscription :
Oct. 12, 1835.
Mr. ZACHARIAH JEllison, the Chairman of the Committee, opened the Meeting with the following remarks:
Fellow CITIZENS: The friends of the Hon. Daniel Webster in this city, conceiving the propriety of giving that gentleman an expression of the high estimation in which they hold his public services, and wishing also to tender him a testimonial of their regard for his moral worth and social virtues, called a meeting of consultation on the subject, some months since, at which a committee was appointed, with instructions to procure a suitable piece of plate, to be presented to him in their behalf, before his official duty should again require his departure hence for the seat of government. In obedience to their instructions, that committee have procured, from the hands of the most skilful artists in this country, the piece of plate I now have the honor to exhibit to you.
They have now called their constituents together, for the purpose of presenting this Vase in their presence. Had the Committee consulted the wishes only of the gentleman for whom it is intended, this presentation might, perhaps, have taken place in a more private or less imposing manner; but, in the course they have adopted, they have been governed by the wishes of the citizens at large. They now respectfully ask your kind indulgence while they proceed in the discharge of this part of their duty.
The Committee have appointed, as their organ of communication, the Hon. Francis C. Gray, with whom I now have the pleasure to leave the subject.
Mr. Gray then rose, and spoke as follows:
MR. WEBSTER: By direction of the Committee, and in behalf of your fellow-citizens, who have caused this Vase to be made, I now request your acceptance of it. They offer it in token of their high sense of your public character and services. But on these it were not becoming to dwell in addressing yourself. Nor is a regard for these the only, or the principal motive of those, for whom I speak. They offer it mainly to evince the high estimation in which they hold the political sentiments and principles, which you have professed and maintained. There may undoubtedly be differences of opinion among them with regard to this or that particular measure ; and a blind, indiscriminate, wholesale adhesion to the life and opinions of any one, would not be worth offering, nor worth accepting among freemen. We are not man-worshippers here in Massachusetts. But the great political principles, the leading views of policy, which you have been forward to assert and vindicate, these they all unite to honor; and in rendering public homage to these, they feel, that they are not so much paying a compliment to you, as performing a duty to their country.
In a free republic, where all men exercise political power, the prevalence of correct views and principles, on political subjects, is essential to the safety of the State. It is not enough that their truth should be recognized. Their operation and tendency must be understood and appreciated; they must be made familiar to the mass of the people, become closely interwoven with their whole habits of thought and feeling, objects of attachment, to which they may cling instantly and instinctively in all time of doubt or peril, so as not to be swept away by any sudden flood of prejudice or passion. Hence it is the duty of every man, to embrace all fit occasions, nay, to seek fit occasions, for declaring his adherence to such principles, and giving them the support of his influence, however high, or however humble that influence may be. There is no justice, therefore, in the complaint often made, against the members of our legislative assemblies, that they sometimes speak not for their audience merely, but for their constituents ; seeking not simply to affect the decision of the question then pending, but to influence the public, sentiment with regard to the principles involved in it. This affords no ground of censure against them, so they speak well and wisely. The practice may be abused, no doubt; but, in itself, it is a natural, inevitable right. So it should be in relation to all important principles in a free country. Nothing else but the excitement, kindled by the conflict of debate, will ever make those great principles subjects of general attention and interest. Nothing else but the observation of their application in practice can make them generally understood and appreciated. We all recollect questions, (and among them that on Mr. Foot's resolutions, not likely soon to be forgotten,) the vote on which was as certainly known before the discussion as after it, and known to be unalterable by any argument or persuasion ; and
yet, the discussion of which was so free from being uninteresting and unprofitable, that it was echoed and re-echoed through the land, making a deep and lasting impression on the public mind, establishing incontrovertibly vital principles before disputed, and thus giving new strength and stability to our free institutions, and forming, I may almost say, an epoch in our political history.
On this and similar occasions, not to dwell on your steadfast adherence to those more general principles of civil liberty, which are equally important in every age and country : on such occasions the fundamental principles peculiar to our system of government have always had in you a decided advocate, ever ready to develop and illustrate their nature and operation, and to enforce the obligations which they impose. Among the most prominent peculiarities of our system is the fact that the United States are not a confederacy of independent sovereigns, the subjects of each of whom is responsible to him alone for their compliance with the obligations of his compact; but that, for certain specified purposes, they form one nation, every citizen of which is responsible, directly, immediately, exclusively to the whole nation for the performance of his duties to the whole; that the Constitution is not a Treaty, nor any thing like a Treaty; but a frame of government, resting on the same foundations, and supported by the same sanctions, as any other government, — to be subverted only by the same means – by revolution ;- revolution to be brought about by the same authority which would warrant a revolution in any government, and by none other, — to be justified, when justifiable, by the same paramount necessity, and by nothing less. This government is not the government of the States, but that of the people; and it behoves the people, every one of the people, to do his utmost to preserve it; not in form merely, but in its full efficiency, as a practical system; to maintain the Union as it is, in all its integrity; the Constitution as it is, in all its purity, and in all its strength;— and when they are in danger, to hasten to their support promptly, frankly, fearlessly, undeterred, and unencumbered by any political combination ; let who will be his companions in the good cause, and let who will hang back from it.
The other great peculiarity of our political system, — and on these two hang all the liberty and hopes of America,
is this — That the supreme power or sovereignty is divided between the State and National governments, and the portion allotted to each, distributed among several independent departments; and this, notwithstanding the maxim of European politicians, too hastily adopted by some of our own statesmen, that sovereignty is, in its nature, indivisible By sovereignty, I do not mean, and they do not mean, the ultimate right of the people to establish and subvert governments, the right of revolution, as it has been called ; for, thus understood, it would be absurd to inquire, as they constantly do, where the sovereignty resides in any particular government, since this ultimate sovereignty never can reside any where but in the people themselves. It is inherent in them and inalienable, existing equally as a right, however its exercise may be impeded, in free and despotic governments. But by sovereignty must be understood the supreme power of the government, the highest power which can lawfully be exercised by any constituted authority. Now, let the politicians of Europe say what they will of the indivisibility of this power, we know that, among us, it is in point of fact divided; that in relation to some objects, the supreme power is in the National government, subject to no earthịy control, but that of the people, exercising their right of revolution; and that in relation to others, it is in the State governments, subject to the same and to no other control; and that in each of these governments the power conferred is divided among the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial departments, each of which is entirely independent in the performance of its appropriate duties. This system of practical checks and balances, altogether peculiar to us,
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