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Extracts from the Speeches of Aaron V. Brown, at Gallatın,
Clarksville, and Jackson, June, 1847.
When Gov. Brown rose to reply, he said, that he addressed the large assembly present as the democratic candidate for Governor. For nearly two years he had enjoyed the honors of that exalted station, and he wished now to return to his fellowcitizens at large who contributed to that event the homage of his sincere and profound gratitude. To preside over such a noble and gallant State, to contribute any thing valuable to her prosperity in peace, or to her glory in war, ought to fill up the measure of any man's ambition. To me (said Gov. B.) such an honor ought to be, as it has been, peculiarly gratifying. She is the land of my youth and the home of my manhood. Within her verdant bosom lie buried nearly all of my kindred. No wonder, then, that I should honor a State consecrated by so many sad and tender remembrances. No wonder that I should love her lofty mountains, her deep, majestic rivers, her wide luxuriant valleys, and more than all, her brave, hardy, and industrious people. Before such a people I again appear, and will hold their approbation of my past conduct as my highest reward, and the richest inheritance to be transmitted to my children.
How I have performed my civil duties, (continued Governor Brown,) may be judged of by the great fact that neither my competitor, the convention which nominated him, nor the public press of the country, has complained of any failure on my part. How I have performed my military duties may be found in that page of our country's history, where it stands recorded that our brave and gallant volunteers—drawn equally and fairly from every portion of the State—were earliest in the field, foremost in the fight, covering themselves, their kindred, and their country with unfading laurels and undying honors.
But, (says Gov. BROWN,) I must leave whatever relates to myself and to the humble part which I have borne in the great events connected with my official action, in order to reply to the extraordinary speech of my competitor, to which you have just listened: the most extraordinary one, I will venture to repeat, that any one in this large assembly ever did hear. He himself has told you that we are in the midst of war, that a bloody flag is waving over us; that the Goddess of Peace, in her white robes, has departed from our land, and that, in her stead, the grim-visaged God of War is now scowling over our country. And yet, in all that hour and a half which he occupied, he breathed not one word of censure against our Mexican enemy. He spoke loud and eloquently against his own countrymen, but could not find it in his heart to say one solitary word against the Mexicans. He has charged that Congress has done wrong, that the democrats have done wrong, that the President has done wrong; but the Mexicans, our enemies who came over in the night time and first commenced this war, by killing and murdering our citizens, my competitor does not blame for a single act, so far as we can learn from him. When Demosthenes rose to address his countrymen of Greece it was to denounce, in tones of thunder, the Macedonian enemies of his country. When Patrick Henry rose to address his countrymen, in the dark and trying years of the revolution, it was to nerve the arms and embolden the heart of the people to resist the despotism of England. When Clay, and Grundy, and Lowndes, rose to speak in the second war of independence, it was to pour forth the full tide of their eloquence against the proud mistress of the seas, for the impressment of our gallant seamen. But now, how changed the scene! Now, in time of war, when our gallant countrymen are bleeding on every battle-field of Mexico, an American orator can rise up and talk for hours against his own countrymen, and utter not one word against the wanton and wicked invaders of his own
country! Look, (said Gov. Brown,) even to that anecdote with which my competitor sought to amuse you. He has told it all round the State. It is the story of the two gamblers, playing at cards; the one an old gambler, the other young and inexperienced. In the same town, he tells you, there was an infirm, harmless old man, whose name was Harsey, not present with the gamblers, nor in any way concerned in their dissipation. Presently, says his story, the old gambler began to cheat the young one, who resented it by saying, “if you do that again I'll knock your teeth down your throat.”
« Don't do that !” says the old gambler," for if you do I'll go down in town and beat old Harsey to death. I offer you no opology, said Gov. Brown, for introducing my competitor's anecdote into so serious a part of this debate. I do it to show you the great fact, that every thing is to be said in disparagement of our own countrymen, and nothing prejudicial to our enemies. Here our Government is compared to an old bloated, cheating gambler, while Mexico is compared to a poor, harmless, innocent old man ! The idea is, that our Government was too cowardly to return the threatened blows of England about Oregon, but meanly turned to get satisfaction out of poor, harmless, innocent Mexico ! Would the immortal orators and patriots of the revolution, or of the second war of independence, ever have consented thus to disparage their own countrymen ? Mexico innocent! Gracious God! Only remember our countrymen who have been “plundered, and maimed, and imprisoned, and, without cause and reparation," in the emphatic language of Gen. Taylor, and repeated substantially by Mr. Alen A. Hall, the ablest whig editor of the State. Mexico innocent! Look at this very invasion, (for your whole party in the Senate declared that it was an invasion,)—for what was it made ? Not to burn a few towns and to slaughter a few thousand of our people: no, not for that, bad as it would be, but to tear the whole State of Texas out of this Union-to tear down her whole constitution and laws, to overturn the altars of her religion, and to carry her once more under the yoke of Mexican anarchy, worse than despotism itself. Yet in the face of such an outrage as this invasive war-in the face of all the “plundering, and maiming and imprisoning” of our people in the face of all this injustice, and outrage, and crime, and murder, my competitor every day compares Mexico to a “poor, innocent, harmless old man,” whilst his own country is compared to a dissipated, bloated, cheating old gambler !
And now, said Gov. B., I am ready to answer the question of my competitor—"why James K. Polk has not gone to the war ?" He could not leave the government at Washington without evil consequences. Did Mr. Madison go to the war of 1812! But my aim is mainly to answer his question, why I have not gone to the war. It might be answer enough to say to him you have set me no example, and until that is done you have no right to complain. But more seriously; I have not gone to the Mexican war because my countrymen have assigned to me duties as Governor of the State for two years in preference to all others; and I so performed them that neither he nor the Convention that nominated him have complained of any failure on my part. I have so performed them, too, in reference to this war, that her gallant volunteers were among the earliest in the field, foremost in the fight-covering themselves, their kindred and country with undying honors. I have another reason for my competitor. My countrymen have lately assigned me my present position of meeting you in this canvass, to fight against you, and Corwin and Webster, and all your coadjutors, in all your varieties of opinion about this war. We need soldiers at home as well as in Mexico. I have been more than two months engaged in this warfare, and with the blessing of God I will fight it out to the last. When the 5th of August shall come, it shall find me bravely battling under that noble banner, on which is inscribed “FOR MY COUNTRY IN PEACE, FOR MY COUNTRY IN WAR." When this warfare is ended, that banner shall be the proud emblem of my victory. But if I fall from sickness, if some pestilential disease of the West shall strike me down I will fall nobly, with that glorious banner waving over me.
Let us now for a moment examine this favorite position of my competitor. What is it? However this war may have come, rightfully or wrongfully, justly or unjustly, he is for prosecuting it to a successful and honorable peace! What ! prosecute an unjust war? How can you prosecute an unjust war
to an honorable peace? It is an absurdity in morals. You may discontinue an unjust war by making a treaty of peace, which might be honorable according to circumstances, but you can never make an honorable peace by the prosecution of an unjust war. But my competitor relieves himself from this dilemma by adopting the maxim that he is for his country right or wrong. That is the maxim of the regular soldier and sailor acting under the command of his superior officer. Not so with the statesman or the private citizen, who may or may not, at his own vocation, engage in the campaign. With him ,the inquiry rises up high above all others : Is this war just or unjust ? Justice is the highest and noblest attribute of God-injustice, whether of individuals or of nations, is the unhallowed work of evil and demoniac spirits; and I this day declare, that if I believed this war was unjust in its origin, I would not vote another dollar to the debt, nor send another man to swell the tide of blood already shed in its prosecution. No. I would say to Taylor and Scott, come home, come home with your armies—your cause is unjust, Mexico is an innocent and injured nation-come home—the lightnings of heaven will blast your eagles, or the earth open her mighty bosom and swallow you up with an earthquake. My competitor tells you that the land is burdened by the debt of this war! Will he swell and increase that debt, or will he call on you to swell and increase it, until he has first shown you that the war is just ? He tells you the land is filled with mourning and sorrow—with the lamentations of widows and orphans, and yet proclaims it, that he would deepen the mourning and swell the tide of lamentation and woe, whether the war be right or wrong-just or unjust.
This is the great question which my competitor declines discussing with me—the justice of the war. For more than fifty days have I invited him to it, but up to this good hour he stands mute and silent as the grave.
Gov. Brown said that he maintained the affirmative of this proposition and would now proceed to prove
My first witness (said Gov. Brown) shall be Mr. Clay himself. In a speech at New Orleans after the war had commenced, be said, “and when I see around me to-night Gen.