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SPEECH

On the Progress of the United States and on the Slavery Question.

Delivered at Odd Fellows' Hall, (Nashville, Tenn.,) for the benefit of the Orphan Asylum, by Ex-Gov. A. V. Brown, in 1850.

It is now just three quarters of a century since the United States proclaimed her determination to take her place amongst the independent nations of the earth. It was a high and bold resolve, so full of peril that it drew tears from the interpid patriots who signed the ever memorable declaration. It startled the mother country and astonished the other nations of the old world. It was a contest of youth against matured and hardened manhood; of a weak and scattered people against the most formidable and powerful nation on the globe. Without money, without an army, with scarcely a single ship of war on the ocean, without even entire unanimity of sentiment amongst her own people, she fearlessly engaged in the struggle, resolved to be free, or to perish in the attempt.

A cause sojust and an example so heroic, could not fail soon to attract the favor and sympathy of mankind. France, partly from hereditary hatred to England, but mainly from the germinating seeds of her own subsequent revolution, tendered to the young Republic her auspicious and powerful assistance. For seven years she maintained the long and dubious contest. History has faithfully recorded the consummate skill of her

came.

generals, the heroic valor of her soldiery, and the patriotic sacrifices of her gallant people.

At last, crowned with success, with her liberties firmly established and their acknowledgment extorted from her oppressor, she stood forth the wonder of the age, the admiration of the world!

But whatever of skill or of valor she had exhibited in the war, was far outshone by the wisdom she displayed in the form of government which she subsequently devised and adopted. She summoned her wise men throughout all her borders to come up to the great work of devising a system which should be worthy of the mighty struggle through which she had passed, and of the gallant people who had nobly sustained it. They

Washington came ; Benjamin Franklin came; old Roger Sherman came; James Madison came; Rutledge and the Pinckneys came; and many others whose names and fame have long been identified with her highest glory and renown. When the great work of forming her Constitution was completed, it was transmitted to Congress by George Washington, who had presided over its formation, accompanied by a letter, which, like his farewell address, ought to be forever preserved, and as often referred to for lessons of wisdom and patriotic devotion to the Constitution and the Union. I will not withhold on the present occasion the following impressive extract: "In all our deliberations we kept steadily in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each State in convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude than might have been otherwise expected ; and thus the Constitution which we now present is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable. * That it may promote the lasting welfare of that country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish.”

This noble monument of human wisdom was subsequently adopted by the States, It became our Constitution, our Union, our system of federal government. They are not separate and distinct things. They are one, indivisible and identical. Whoever has read the one has read the other. Whoever obey's one, obeys the other. Whoever dissolves the one, dissolves the other. As the old articles of confederation formed and were the Union, so the new Constitution became and is a more perfect Union. Underit, our country has thus far run a career of prosperity unparalleled in the history of nations. Triumphant in two wars since its adoption, especially brilliant and invincible in the last one, she has placed her military renown above all cavil and beyond the reach of all competition. In peace, in all the arts and sciences, which bless and adorn such a condition, she has been no less an object of admiration and praise. From three millions, her population has grown up to more than twenty millions. From thirteen original States we have become a confederacy of thirty republics, and can scarcely announce the number until another and another are added to the glittering and gorgeous galaxy. They come from every part of this wide spread continent; from the lakes of the north; from the shores of the Gulf or the distant regions of California, glittering with her gold and sparkling with her diamonds. Her wide spread commerce is seen floating on every sea, penetrating every climate and country, and protected by a navy which has carried her name and her fame to every part of the habitable globe. Success in agricultural pursuits has crowned with plenty the labors of her own people, and carried abundance and joy to the famishing population of the old world. In her internal improvements; her canals; her railroads; her telegraphic lines; the removal of obstructions from her majestic rivers, she has exhibited the elements of a great and prosperous people. But above all, she has become “the desire of all nations," in the freedom of her institutions, the justice and equality of her laws, and the wisdom and impartiality with which they are administered. In fine, her past history and progress is a bright and almost magic picture on which the civilized nations are now gazing with intense admiration and delight. Most willingly would I hold that picture up to your gaze; to your admiration ; to your own patriotic pride and just exultation ; but a sterner and far less agreeable duty lies before me.

In the midst of this unparalleled progress, when we are but midway between the morning and high noon of our prosperity, the gloomy shadows of sectional discontent come stealing over and around us, deepening and darkening as they come. A dread eclipse seems to be approaching. Amid the gathering gloom, the cry is heard, that the Constitution, the Union, our confederate system is in danger. From the east and the west, from the north and the south, the messages of State Governors, the resolutions of State legislatures and the solemn deliberations of large popular assemblies, confirm the astounding and almost incredible annunciation. Panic stricken and amazed, we turn with patriotic instinct to the centre of our political system ; to the city which bears the name of the illustrious father of his country; we turn to it for light, and peace, and safety. But no light is to be seen gleaming from her council chambers. They have all been put out. For weeks and months, no speaker ; no clerks; no sergeant-at-arms; no chaplain; no organization for the public good, but perpetual readiness for agitation and mischief. Nearly all, but not all of those great and good men who used to be there from the north to perfect, adorn and perpetuate our system of government, have retired from the theatre of action or have been superseded by men whose sole delight seems to be, day after day, and night after night, amid the fire and smoke and suffocation of a wild fanaticism, to deal blow after blow upon the Constitution, until the Union shall crumble to ruins around them. Let us now pause and look at the proposed invasions of that heretofore consecrated instrument.

The first one is, that the clause allowing the representation of three-fifths of the slaves, shall be expunged, obliterated from the Constitution. It is a clause which had long been debated in the convention. At that period slavery existed in several of the northern as well as the southern States. But in the spirit of amity and of mutual forbearance and concession, the difficulty was compromised; and Massachusetts and Virginia, Connecticut and Georgia walked harmoniously into the Union, co-equals in every respect, having compromised this and all other points of difference, as the basis and principle of representation. Cannot Massachusetts now consent to do what Massachusetts was content to do then? Is the Connecticut of to-day unwilling to stand to the compact ratified by the Connecticut of 1787 ? If not, on whose head shall fall the blame of destroying that compact? The south cannot afford voluntarily to submit to a great change like this. She is already in a vast and increasing minority; her contemplated exclusion from the territories of the United States would soon reduce her so low in the scale of insignificance as to sink her on every invasion of her rights, far below the protection of even a Presidential veto. When that shall have been done, who can doubt that the feeble barriers, which are now admitted to forbid interference with slavery in the States, will all be broken down and the dark spirit of murder and insurrection stalk mad, riotous and bloody through the land. To ask her voluntarily to make this change is but an invitation to suicide; to force it upon her by numerical power is to break and dissolve the Constitution ; to break and dissolve the Union; to break and dissolve the federal government; no matter which of these forms of expression may be adopted. In such an act the south would stand passive, and faithful to the original compact; the north would be active and destructive of it. It may be said that the Constitution expressly provides for its own amendment, and therefore no alteration can be destructive of it. But let it be remembered that it was to be amended as it was formed, in the spirit of amity and mutual concession; not of hostile and degrading aggression. To amend by improving not by destroying those guarantees of life and property, without which we know it never would have been adopted.

Look next to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, in the forts, arsenals, navy-yards, and other public establishments of the United States. What adequate inducement can the north have to raise all this clamor for years, about a little district, tên miles square, (now much less,) and a few inconsiderable spots and places thinly scattered over the land, scarcely larger than a mustard seed when compared to the vast body of the slave-holding region ? Would a microscopic concession like this appease a conscience, wounded and lacerated by the sin of slavery? If abolished in these, it would be but the removal of one grain of sand from the beach

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