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REPUBLICAN CONVENTION AT
MR. PRESIDENT, - I offer no apology for addressing the meeting. Holding, by the favor of the people of this Commonwealth, an important public situation, I deem it no less than a part of my duty, at this interesting moment, to make known my opinions on the state of public affairs, and, however I may
have performed other duties, this, at least, it is my purpose, on · the present occasion, fully to discharge. Not intending to comment at length on all the subjects which now attract public attention, nor to discuss any thing in detail, I wish, nevertheless, before an assembly so large and respectable as the present, and through them before the whole people of the State, to lay open, without reserve, my own sentiments, hopes, and fears respecting the state and the prospects of our common country.
The resolutions which have been read from the chair express the opinion, that the public good requires an effectual change, in the administration of the general government, both of measures and of men. In this opinion I heartily concur.
Mr. President, there is no citizen of the State, who, in prin. ciple and by habitual sentiment, is less disposed than myself to general opposition to government, or less desirous of frequent changes in its administration. I entertain this feeling strongly, and at all times, towards the government of the United States; because I have ever regarded the Federal Constitution as frame of government so peculiar, and so delicate in its relations to the State governments, that it might be in danger of overthrow, as well from an indiscriminate and wanton oppositiori, as
A Speech delivered at the National Republican Convention held at Worcester, Mass., on the 12th of October, 1832, preparatory to the Annual Elections.
from a weak or a wicked administration. But a case may arise in which the government is no longer safe in the hands to which it has been intrusted. It may come to be a question, not so much in what particular manner, or according to what particular political opinions, the government shall be administered, as whether the Constitution itself shall be preserved and maintained. Now, Sir, in my judgment, just such a case and just such a question are at this moment before the American people. Entertaining this sentiment, and thoroughly and entirely convinced of its truth, I wish, as far as my humble power extends, to produce in the people a more earnest attention to their public concerns. With the people, and the people alone, lies any remedy for the past or any security for the future. No delegated power is equal to the exigency of the present crisis. No public servants, however able or faithful, have ability to check or to stop the fearful tendency of things. It is a case for sovereign interposition. The rescue, if it come at all, must come from that power which no other on earth can resist. I earnestly wish, therefore, unimportant as my own opinions may be, and entitled, as I know they are, to no considerable regard, yet, since they are honest and sincere, and since they respect nothing less than dangers which appear to me to threaten the government and Constitution of the country, I fervently wish that I could now make them known, not only to this meeting and to this State, but to every man in the Union. I take the hazard of the reputation of an alarmist; I cheerfully submit to the imputation of over-excited
Ι apprehension; I discard all fear of the cry of false prophecy, and I declare, that, in my judgment, not only the great interests of the country, but the Constitution itself, are in imminent peril, and that nothing can save either the one or the other but that voice which has authority to say to the evils of misrule and misgovernment, “ Hitherto shall ye come, but no further.”
It is true, Sir, that it is the natural effect of a good constitution to protect the people. But who shall protect the constitution? Who shall guard the guardian? What arm but the mighty arm of the people itself is able, in a popular government, to uphold public institutions ? The constitution itself is but the creature of the public will; and in every crisis which threatens it, it must owe its security to the same power to which it owes its origin.
The appeal, therefore, is to the people; not to party nor to partisans, not to professed politicians, not to those who have an interest in office and place greater than their stake in the country, but to the people, and the whole people; to those who, in regard to political affairs, have no wish but for a good government, and who have power to accomplish their own wishes.
Mr. President, are the principles and leading measures of the administration hostile to the great interests of the country?
Are they dangerous to the Constitution, and to the union of the States?
Is there any prospect of a beneficial change of principles and measures, without a change of men ?
Is there reasonable ground to hope for such a change of men ?
On these several questions, I desire to state my own convictions fully, though as briefly as possible.
As government is intended to be a practical institution, if it be wisely formed, the first and most natural test of its administration is the effect produced by it. Let us look, then, to the actual state of our affairs. Is it such as should follow a good administration of a good constitution ?
Sir, we see one State openly threatening to arrest the execution of the revenue laws of the Union, by acts of her own. This proceeding is threatened, not by irresponsible persons, but by those who fill her chief places of power and trust.
In another State, free citizens of the country are imprisoned, and held in prison, in defiance of a judgment of the Supreme Court, pronounced for their deliverance. Immured in a dungeon, marked and patched as subjects of penitentiary punishment, these free citizens pass their days in counting the slow-revolving hours of their miserable captivity, and their nights in feverish and delusive dreams of their own homes and their own families; while the Constitution stands adjudged to be violated, a law of Congress is effectually repealed by the act of a State, and a judgment of deliverance by the Supreme Court is set at naught and contemned.*
Treaties, importing the most solemn and sacred obligations, are deņied to have binding force.
See page 269, infra.