Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Mo wonder that dyspepsia prevails. But this is not all. If at all inclined to dissipation, an easy and pleasant road is opened to him ; and not a few yield to the temptation. Every one who has lived in Washington during the last few years, and paid much attention to these matters, will remember many most glaring cases of this kind, for which the climate has been blamed by friends at a distance. On the other hand the place has become a favorite residence to many on account of its being favorable to health.

We have endeavored in the preceding pages to set forth the reasons which led to the selection of Washington as the Seat of Government of the United States, and to show that the force of this reasoning has been illustrated, and the expectation of the founders fully realized in the progress of the city, notwithstanding the defects of the plan, and the absence of any systematic legislation for its benefit.

It never can become a great city in the ordinary sense of the term that is to say, it can never be the seat of a very heavy commerce, and consequently of long rows of warehouses and striking contrasts between the extremes of wealth and poverty ; but it may become a place for the cultivation of that political union and that social intercourse which more than anything else unbends the sterner feelings of our nature, and dispels all sectional prejudices. Its prosperity will be no unfit emblem of the progress of our republic, for it is now occupied in about the same proportion with our extended territory; and every sensible increase to the population of the Union, adds a mite to that of this city, since it augments the machinery of Government.

The history of all nations shows that the political capital, even when unaccompanied with great power or splendor, has exercised an important influence over the country. As the seat of all the great events in in its political history, the place where all its discordant spirits meet on common ground, and where all differences are healed; and as the site of most of its monuments to the illustrious dead, new interest is constantly added to the spot, and new ardor awakened for imitating the example of the great and good men whose memory is there preserved; and for the support of those institutions which they handed down. What Englishman does not feel a double attachment to London for its Westminister Abbey and Hall, and their thousand poetical and historical associations? And so of Notre Dame, St. Dennis, and the hundred other edifices rich in the memory of the past at Paris. As the continued contemplation of painting and sculpture cultivates a taste for what is refined, so the silent lesson taught by the presence of such monuments in our midst, conduce in no small degree to temper our reflections, and moderate our actions.

Now to apply these remarks to our own capital. Founded by the illustrious man whose name it bears, it will form his appropriate monument, for here will be presented at one view the operation of those institutions, the establishment of which was in so great a degree his work. Here will be congregated for the greater part of every year many of the ruling minds of the nation, who may be in constant intercourse with the representatives of other lands; and, from this continued mingling of intellects, as well as from official sources, will be collected the most accurate information relative to the commerce, manufactures, agriculture, and mechanical ingenuity of the country. Already do the Patent Office, and the collections of the Exploring Expedition, and other agencies, form a museum far exceeding in interest any other in the country. And does not every year add new interest to that Capitol where already the voice of the sire is re-echoed in the seats of honor occupied by the son; where, with the present facilities of access, every hall, every picture, every statue becomes daily more familiar to the cit izens of the most distant State, ministering to a laudable pride in the embellished appearance in this the only Westminister which we can boast, and inspiring a wish to make a goodly building of that framework which our fathers planned.

Some persons entertain a conscientious repugnance to the continuance of slavery on a national territory. One word on that much-vexed question. The last census shows a very considerable decrease in the number of slaves in Maryland and Virginia; and any one who has ever lived in that section for the last few years, must have discovered causes at work, such as the introduction of white labor by New Englanders and Germans, the deterioration of slaves by intercourse with free blacks, etc., which will make it the interest of the inhabitants to get rid of the evil by gradual means.

“You cannot divest slavery, from the influence of certain causes which have heretofore and will continue to operate upon it, producing results beyond the control of human legislation. These have been most ably presented by a citizen of Kentucky of great attainments, John A. McClung, Esq., in a speech delivered before the Kentucky Colonization Society in January last. Our decennial tables of population prove that, in reference to many States in our Union, slavery has been marked by three distinct stages: the first is when the slave population increases at a greater ratio than the white; the second, when the white population increases at a greater ratio than the slave; and the third when the slave population actually decreases. It is remarkable too that these changes have progressed with great regularity, establishing beyond controversy that, when the slave population begins to decrease, it must go on until the causes which produced its decline will ultimately exterminate it. New York and New Jersey together had, in 1790, 32,747 slaves. By the census of 1800 the number of slaves in these two States had increased only eighteen; but there was a decrease in New York of 981, and an increase in New Jersey of 999. After 1800 the slaves in both States rapidly declined, until in 1840 there were but 678 left, and now in both States the institution has been abolished. In Delaware the number of slaves has decreased from 8,887 in 1790 to 2,605 in 1840. In Maryland the number of slaves increased until 1810. In 1820 they had decreased from 111,502 to 107,398. Thus the number for a period of ten years fell about 4,000. In the next period of ten years the fall was a little more than 5,000, and by the census of 1840 the number had come down to 89,737, exhibiting a diminution in number of 12,457 in the last ten years. In the District of Columbia the number of slaves was 6,377 in 1820, had slightly declined in 1830, and came down to 4,694 in 1840. In Virginia the number of slaves continued to increase until 1830, when they reached 469,757. The census of 1840 exhibits a decline of 20,770. Thus we see that slavery has reached its height in the States on the Atlantic, including Virginia and all north and east, and commenced declining, making such progress that those farthest north and east have abolished the institution.” In 1850 the number of slaves in the District, had decreased to 3,687. In relation to the proposition for abolishing slavery here there are two considerations not usually regarded sufficiently in discussing the subject: First. Under any circumstances so long as slavery exists in any part of the country there will always be some slaves at the Seat of Government, wherever it may be. It is, under the Constitution, a kind of neutral ground, where all sections and parties have a right to meet on equal terms, and those who come from the South, whether as members of Congress or as public functionaries, may claim, with much reason, a right to hold slaves during their sojourn. Secondly. Were slavery abolished, the present Seat of Government, surrounded as it is by slave States, would become at once a place of refuge for fugitive slaves from the adjoining States. It would become a perfect negro hunting ground for slave owners and those who are tempted by rewards offered for the re-capture of fugitives. There would be constant demands on the United States Executive for the surrender of these fugitives. Those at the North who have had occasion to observe the difficulties and embarrassment which have attended the execution of the fugitive law, can appreciate the difficulties in which a Northern President would be placed when daily and almost hourly called upon to deliver up these poor captives. The sight of them, returning to a bondage, perhaps more severe, or sold, for their offence, to the Georgia plantations, would be perhaps a more humiliating spectacle from the Capitol than that which was presented before the abolition of the slave trade. To the citizens of the District it would be a serious evil to have these poor creatures concealed in great numbers in the city, only venturing out in the night time, and driven by destitution and suffering to the most desperate undertakings. We have seen that some of the slave States, in their conventions for ratifying the Federal Constitution, expressed serious apprehensions lest the article about the “ten miles square” should open the way at some future time, for an asylmm for fugitives from the States, and the fear seems to have been allayed, and the article acceded to, by reason of the assurances given by those who had been members of the National Comvention, and by the articles in the Federalist, that there would be a local government, invested with the control of all matters in which the security and protection of Congress was not involved. This fact furnishes a reason why Congress should not act in this matter without some little deference to the effect which their legislation might have on the adjoining States. Indeed, since the abolition of the slave trade under the Compromise measures, no very strong demonstration in favor of such a movement has been made, and all reflecting persons will see the propriety of letting the question alone. As we have given an account of the ceremony of laying the first corner-stone of the Capitol by Washington, we cannot better close our history, than by giving an extract from Mr. Webster's address, on the occasion of the laying of the corner-stone of the Capitol extension, by President Fillmore, on the 4th of July, 1851.* “FELLow CITIZENs: By the act of Congress of 30th September, 1850, provision was made for the extension of the Capitol, according to such plan as might be approved by the President of the United States. This measure was imperatively demanded for the use of the Legislative and Judiciary departments, the public libraries, the occasional accommodation of the Chief Executive Magistrate, and for other objects. No act of Congress incurring a large expenditure has received more gemeral approbation from the people. The President has proceeded to execute this law. He has approved a plan; he has appointed an architect; and all things are now ready for the commencement of the work.

*From a Speech of Mr. Senator Underwood, of Kentucky, 5

*The area of the Capitol of 1793 was one-half acre; with the extension it will cover four and one-third acres.

“The anniversary of National Independence appeared to afford an auspicious occasion for laying the foundation-stone of the additional building. That ceremony has now been performed, by the President himself, in the presence and view of this multitude. He has thought that the day and the occasion made a united and imperative call for some short address to the people here assembled; and it is at his request that I have appeared before you to perform that part of the duty which was deemed incumbent on us.

“Beneath the stone is deposited, among other things, the following brief account of the proceedings of this day, in my handwriting:

‘On the morning of the first day of the seventy-sixth year of the Independence of the United States of America, in the City of Washington, being the 4th day of July, 1851, this stone, designed as the cornerstone of the extension of the Capitol, according to a plan approved by the President, in pursuance of an act of Congress, was laid by

MILL ARD FILLMORE,
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE s,

assisted by the Grand Master of the Masonic Lodges, in the presence of many members of Congress, of officers of the Executive aud Judiciary Departments, National, State, and District, of officers of the Army and Navy, the Corporate authorities of this and neighboring cities, many associations, civil and military and masonic, officers of the Smithsonian Institution and National Institute, professors of colleges and teachers of schools of the District, with their students and pupils, and a vast concourse of people from places near and remote, including a few surviving gentlemen who witnessed the laying of the corner-stone of the Capitol by President Washington, on the eighteenth day of September, seventeen hundred and ninety-three. “If therefore, it shall be hereafter the will of God that this structure shall fall from its base, that its foundation be upturned, and this deposit brought to the eyes of men, be it then known, that, on this day, the Union of the United States of America stands firm, that their Constiution still exists unimpaired, and with all its original usefulness and glory; growing every day stronger and stronger in the affections of the great body of the American people, and attracting more and more the admiration of the world. And all here assembled, whether belonging to public life or to private life, with hearts devoutly thankful to Almighty God for the preservation of the liberty and happiness of the country, unite in sincere and fervent prayers that this deposit, and the walls and arches, the domes and towers, the columns and entablatures now to be erected over it may endure forever !

‘GoD SAVE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. ‘DANIEL WEBSTER, ‘Secretary of State of the United States.’ “Fellow-citizens: Fifty-eight years ago Washington stood on this spot to execute a duty like that which has now been performed. He then laid the corner-stone of the original Capitol. He was at the head

« AnteriorContinuar »