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the Union by force have to march toward that object through thick ranks of as brave and good men as the country can show; men strong in character, strong in intelligence, strong in the purity of their own motives, and ready, always ready, to sacrifice their fortunes and their lives to the preservation of the constitutional union of the States. If we can relieve the country from an administration which denies to the Constitution those powers which are the breath of its life; if we can place the government in the hands of its friends; if we can secure it against the dangers of irregular and unlawful military force; if it can be under the lead of an administration whose moderation, firmness, and wisdom shall inspire confidence and command respect, we may yet surmount the dangers, numerous and formidable as they are, which surround us.
Sir, I see little prospect of overcoming these dangers without a change of men. After all that has passed, the reëlection of the present executive will give the national sanction to sentiments and to measures which will effectually change the government; which, in short, must destroy the government. If the President be reëlected, with concurrent and coöperating majorities in both houses of Congress, I do not see, that, in four years more, all the power which is suffered to remain in the government will not be held by the executive hand. Nullification will proceed, or will be put down by a power as unconstitutional as itself. The revenues will be managed by a treasury bank. The use of the veto will be considered as sanctioned by the public voice. The Senate, if not "cut down," will be bound down, and, the President commanding the army and the navy, and holding all places of trust to be party property, what will then be left, Sir, for constitutional reliance ?
Sir, we have been accustomed to venerate the judiciary, and to repose hopes of safety on that branch of the government. But let us not deceive ourselves. The judicial power cannot stand for a long time against the executive power. The judges, it is true, hold their places by an independent tenure; but they are mortal. That which is the common lot of humanity must make it necessary to renew the benches of justice. And how will they be filled ? Doubtless, Sir, they will be filled by judges agreeing with the President in his constitutional opinions. If the court is felt as an obstacle, the first opportunity and ev
ery opportunity will certainly be embraced to give it less and less the character of an obstacle. Sir, without pursuing these suggestions, I only say that the country must prepare itself for any change in the judicial department such as it shall deliberately sanction in other departments.
But, Sir, what is the prospect of change? Is there any hope that the national sentiment will recover its accustomed tone, and restore to the government a just and efficient administration ?
Sir, if there be something of doubt on this point, there is also something, perhaps much, of hope. The popularity of the present chief magistrate, springing from causes not connected with his administration of the government, has been great. Public gratitude for military service has remained fast to him, in defiance of many things in his civil administration calculated to weaken its hold. At length there are indications, not to be mis. taken, of new sentiments and new impressions. At length, a conviction of danger to important interests, and to the security of the government, has made its lodgement in the public mind. At length, public sentiment begins to have its free course and to produce its just effects. I fully believe, Sir, that a great majority of the nation desire a change in the administration; and that it will be difficult for party organization or party denunciation to suppress the effective utterance of that general wish. There are unhappy differences, it is true, about the fit person to be successor to the present incumbent in the chief magistracy; and it is possible that this disunion may, in the end, defeat the will of the majority. But so far as we agree together, let us act together. Wherever our sentiments concur, let our hands coöperate. If we cannot at present agree who should be President, we are at least agreed who ought not to be. I fully believe, Sir, that gratifying intelligence is already on the wing. While we are yet deliberating in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania is voting. This week, she elects her members to the next Congress. I doubt not the result of that election will show an important change in public sentiment in that State; nor can I doubt that the great States adjoining her, holding similar constitutional principles and having similar interests, will feel the impulse of the same causes which affect her. The people of the United States, by a countless majority,
are attached to the Constitution. If they shall be convinced that it is in danger, they will come to its rescue, and will save it. It cannot be destroyed, even now, if they will undertake its guardianship and protection.
But suppose, Sir, there was less hope than there is, would that consideration weaken the force of our obligations ? Are we at a post which we are at liberty to desert when it becomes difficult to hold it? May we fly at the approach of danger? Does our fidelity to the Constitution require no more of us than to enjoy its blessings, to bask in the prosperity which it has shed around us and our fathers ? and are we at liberty to abandon it in the hour of its peril, or to make for it but a faint and heartless struggle, for the want of encouragement and the want of hope? Sir, if no State come to our succor, if everywhere else the contest should be given up, here let it be protracted to the last moment. Here, where the first blood of the Revolution was shed, let the last effort be made for that which is the greatest blessing obtained by the Revolution, a free and united government. Sir, in our endeavors to maintain our existing forms of government, we are acting not for ourselves alone, but for the great cause of constitutional liberty all over the globe. We are trustees holding a sacred treasure, in which all the lovers of freedom have a stake. Not only in revolutionized France, where there are no longer subjects, where the monarch can no longer say, I am the state; not only in reformed England, where our principles, our institutions, our practice of free government, are now daily quoted and commended; but in the depths of Germany, also, and among the desolated fields and the still smoking ashes of Poland, prayers are uttered for the preservation of our union and happiness. We are surrounded, Sir, by a cloud of witnesses. The gaze of the sons of liberty, everywhere, is upon us, anxiously, intently, upon us. They may see us fall in the struggle for our Constitution and government, but Heaven forbid that they should see us recreant.
At least, Sir, let the star of Massachusetts be the last which shall be seen to fall from heaven, and to plunge into the utter darkness of disunion. Let her shrink back, let her hold others back if she can, at any rate, let her keep herself back, from this gulf, full at once of fire and of blackness; yes, Sir, as far as human foresight can scan, or human imagination fathom, full
of the fire and the blood of civil war, and of the thick darkness of general political disgrace, ignominy, and ruin. Though the worst may happen that can happen, and though she may not be able to prevent the catastrophe, yet let her maintain her own integrity, her own high honor, her own unwavering fidelity, so that with respect and decency, though with a broken and a bleeding heart, she may pay the last tribute to a glorious, departed, free Constitution.
A Specch delivered at a Public Dinner in Honor of the Centennial Birthday of Washington, on the 22d of February, 1832.
Extract of a letter written by John Adams to Nathan Webb, dated at Worcester, Massachusetts, October 12, 1755.
“ Soon after the Reformation, a few people came over into this New World, for conscience sake. Perhaps this apparently trivial incident may transfer the great seat of empire into America. It looks likely to me ; for, if we can remove the turbulent Gallics, our people, according to the exactest computations, will, in another century, become more numerous than England itself. Should this be the case, since we have, I may say, all the naval stores of the nation in our hands, it will be easy to obtain a mastery of the seas ; and then the united force of all Europe will not be able to subdue us. The only way to keep us from setting up for ourselves is to disunite us.