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of the case, from the contemporaneous expositions of the Con-
To some portions of this speech Mr. Calhoun replied a few weeks afterwards, and sought to ward off the comments upon his own course in reference to this class of questions, by some severe strictures on that of Mr. Webster. This drew from him a prompt and spirited rejoinder. The following passage may be extracted as a specimen :
“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 to answer; I am here, this day, to answer. Now is the time, and now 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 to 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 we call 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, keeping company with judges 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 aught 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 to 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 member. 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 cer. tainly did not think well of these measures. It appeared to me that the embargo annoyed ourselves 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 on 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, state 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 has 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, fraudulently put together, 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 confi. dence of private friendship, I had ever 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 let alone. Sir, I hope to make every body of that opinion who brings against me a charge of 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.”
This is the only occasion during the long political lives of these distinguished statesmen, begun nearly at the same time, and continued through a Congressional career which brought them of necessity much in contact with each other, in which there was any approach to personality in their keen encounters. In fact, of all the highly eminent public men of the day, they are the individuals who have made the least use of the favorite weapon of ordinary politicians, personality toward opponents. On the decease of Mr. Calhoun at Washington, in the spring of 1850, their uninterrupted friendly relations were alluded to by Mr. Webster in cordial and affecting terms. He regarded Mr. Calhoun as decidedly the ablest of the public men to whom he had been opposed in the course of his political life.
These kindly feelings on Mr. Webster's part were fully reciprocated by Mr. Calhoun. He is known to have declared on his death-bed, that, of all the public men of the day, there was no one whose political course had been more strongly marked by a strict regard to truth and honor than Mr. Webster's.
In the spring of 1839, Mr. Webster crossed the Atlantic for the first time in his life, making a hasty tour through England, Scotland, and France. His attention was particularly drawn to the agriculture of England and Scotland; to the great subjects of currency and exchange; to the condition of the laboring classes; and to the practical effect on the politics of Europe of the system of the Continental alliance. No traveller from this country has probably ever been received with equal attention in the highest quarters in England. Courtesies usually paid only to ambassadors and foreign ministers were extended to him. His table was covered with invitations to the seats of the nobility and gentry; and his company was eagerly sought at the public entertainments which took place while he was in the country. Among the distinguished individuals with whom he contracted intimate relations of friendship, the late Lord Ashburton may be particularly mentioned. A mutual regard of more than usual warmth arose between them. This circumstance was well understood in the higher circles of English society, and when, two years later, a change of administration in both countries brought the parties to which they were respectively attached into power, the friendly relations well known to exist between them were no doubt among the motives which led to the appointment of Lord Ashburton as special minister to the United States.
Toward that great political change which was consummated in 1840, by which General Harrison was raised to the Presidency, no individual probably in the country had contributed more largely than Mr. Webster; and this by powersul appeals to the reason of the people. His speeches had been for years a public armory, from which weapons both of attack and defence were furnished to his political friends throughout the Union. The financial policy of the two preceding administrations was the chief cause of the general discontent which prevailed; and it is doing no injustice to the other eminent leaders of opposition in the several States to say, that by none of them had the vices of this system from the first been so laboriously and effectively exposed as by Mr. Webster. During the canvass of 1840, the most strenuous ever witnessed in the United States, he gave himself up for months to what may literally be called the arduous labor of the field. These volumes exhibit the proof, that not only in Massachusetts, but in distant places, from Albany to Richmond, his voice of encouragement and ex. hortation was heard.
The event corresponded to the effort, and General Harrison was triumphantly elected.
Critical State of Foreign Affairs on the Accession of General Harrison. - Mr. Web.
ster appointed to the State Department. — Death of General Harrison. — Embarrassed Relations with England. - Formation of Sir Robert Peel's Ministry, and Appointment of Lord Ashburton as Special Minister to the United States. Course pursued by Mr. Webster in the Negotiations. — The Northeastern Boundary. — Peculiar Difficulties in its Settlement happily overcome. - Other Subjects of Negotiation. — Extradition of Fugitives from Justice. - Suppression of the Slave-Trade on the Coast of Africa. — History of that Question. — Affair of the Caroline. — Impressment. — Other Subjects connected with the Foreign Relations of the Government. — Intercourse with China. — Independence of the Sandwich Islands. — Correspondence with Mexico. — Sound Duties and the Zoll-Verein. Importance of Mr. Webster's Services as Secretary of State.
The condition of affairs in the United States, on the accession of President Harrison to office, in the spring of 1841, was difficult and critical, especially as far as the foreign relations of the country were concerned. Ancient and modern controversies existed with England, which seemed to defy adjustment. The great question of the northeastern boundary had been the subject of negotiation almost ever since the peace of 1783. Every effort to settle it had but increased the difficulties with which it was beset, by exhausting the expedients of diplomacy. The Oregon question was rapidly assuming a formidable aspect, as emigrants began to move into the country in dispute. Not less serious was the state of affairs on the southwestern frontier, where, although a collision with Mexico might not in itself be an event to be viewed with great anxiety, it was probable, as things then stood, that it would have brought a war with Great Britain in its train.
To the uneasiness necessarily growing out of these boundary questions, no little bitterness was added by more recent occurrences. The interruption of our vessels on the coast of Africa was a frequently recurring source of irritation. Great cause of complaint was sometimes given by boarding officers, acting on frivolous pretences or in a vexatious manner. At other times
* This chapter is republished, with but slight modifications, from the volume of Mr. Webster's Diplomatic and Official Papers which appeared in 1848, to which it served as the Introduction.