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however numerous, to be allowed to establish a doubtful
the message agrees with him who thinks not. 4. I cannot read this singular document without thinking of Talleyrand. That remarkable person was one of the most eminent and fortunate men of the French revolution. Prior to its commencement, he held a bishopric under the ill-fated Louis the Sixteenth. When that great political storm showed itself above the horizon, he saw which way the wind was going to blow, and trimmed his sails accordingly.
5. He was in the majority of the Convention, of the National Assembly, and of the party that sustained the bloody Robespierre and his cut-throat successor. He belonged to the party of the consuls, the consul for life, and finally the emperor. Whatever party was uppermost, you would see the head of Talleyrand always high among them, — never down. Like a certain dextrous animal, throw him as you please, head or tail, back or face, uppermost, — he is always sure to light upon his feet.
6. During a great part of the period described, he was minister of foreign affairs; and although totally devoid of all principle, no man ever surpassed him in adroitness of his diplomatic notes. He is now, at an advanced age, I believe, grand chamberlain of his majesty Charles the Tenth.
7. I have lately seen an amusing anecdote of this celebrated man, which forces itself upon me whenever I look at the cabinet message.
The King of France, like our president, towards the close of the last session of Congress, found himself in a minority.
8. A question arose, whether, in consequence, he should dissolve the Chamber of Deputies, which resembles our house of representatives. All France was agitated with the question. No one could solve it. At length, they concluded to go to that sagacious, cunning old fox, Talleyrand, to let them know what should be done. I tell you what, gentlemen, said he (looking very gravely, and taking a pinch of snuff), in the morning I think his majesty will dissolve the deputies; at noon I have changed that opinion; and at night I have no opinion at all.
9. Now, on reading the first column of this message, one thinks that the cabinet have a sort of an opinion in favor of internal improvements, with some limitations. By the time he has read to the middle of it, he concludes they have adopted the opposite opinion ; and when he gets to the end of it, he is perfectly persuaded they have no opinion of their own whatever!
- WEBSTER. 1. Your sentiment, Mr. President, calling me up before this meeting, speaks of the constitution under which we live, — of the union which for sixty years has been over us and made us associates with those who settled at the mouth of the Mississippi and their descendants, and now, at last, fellowcitizens with those who have come from all corners of the earth, and settled in California.
2. I confess I have had my doubts whether the republican system under which we live could be so vastly extended without danger of dissolution. Thus far, I willingly admit, my apprehensions have not been realized. The distance is vast — the intervening country is vast.
But the representative system on which our government is established seems to be indefinitely expansive, and wherever it does extend, it draws after it a love of the union under which we exist.
3. I believe California and New Mexico have had new life inspired into the people. They consider_themselves new beings, a new creation, a new existence. They are not the men they thought themselves to be, now that they find they are members of this great government, and hailed as citizens of the United States of America. I hope, in the providence of God, as this system of states and representative governments shall extend, that it will be strengthened.
4. Social agitations disturb it less. If there has been on the Atlantic coast, somewhere south of the Potomac (and I will not define further where it is), if there has been dissatisfaction, that dissatisfaction has not been felt in California it has not been felt on that side of the Rocky Mountains.
5. It is a localism; and I am one of those who believe that our system of government is not to be destroyed by localisms, North or South. No; we have our private opinions, state prej.. udices, local ideas; but, above all, submerging all, drowning all, is that great sentiment, that, always and nevertheless, we are Americans. It is as Americans that we are known the whole world over.
6. Who asks what state you are from, in Europe, or in Africa, or in Asia ? Is he an American ? is he of us? Does he belong to the flag of the country? Does that flag protect him? Does he honor and support it? Does he rest under the eagle and the stars and stripes? If he does, if he is, all else is subordinate, and worthy of but little concern.
* Extract from a speech delivered in New York, December 22, 1850, at the anniversary celebration of the New England Society.
7. Now, it is our duty, while we live on the earth, to cherish this sentiment, to make it prevail, even if it should spread over the whole continent. It is our duty to carry out English principles, —1 mean, sir,* Anglo-Saxon American-English principles, - over the whole continent; the great principles of Magna Charta, of the English revolution, and of the English language. Our children will hear Shakspeare and Milton recited on the shores of the Pacific.
8. Nay, before that, American ideas, which are essentially English ideas, will penetrate the Mexican, the Spanish mind; and they will thank God that they have been brought to know something of civil liberty, of the trial by jury, and of security for personal rights. As for the rest, let us take courage. The day-spring from on high has visited us. Light has broken in upon us. There is no longer imminent danger of dissolution in these United States.
9. We shall live, and not die we shall live as united Americans; and those who have supposed that they could sever us, could rend one American heart from another, and that secession and metaphysics could tear us asunder, will find themselves egregiously mistaken.
10. Let the mind of the sober American people remain sober ; let it not inflame itself; let it do justice to all. The truest course, and the surest course, is to leave those who meditate disunion to themselves, and see what they can make of it. No, gentlemen, the time is past; Americans, North and South, will hereafter be more and more united.
11. There has been lately aroused a sternness and severity in the public mind. I believe that, North and South, there has been, in the last year, a renovation of public sentiment, of the spirit of union, and, more than all, of attachment to the constitution as indispensably necessary; and if we would preserve our nationality, this spirit of devotion should be largely increased. And who doubts it ?
12. If we give up that constitution, what are we? You are a Manhattan man-I am a Boston man. Another is a Connecticut, and another a Rhode Island man. Is it not a great deal better, standing hand to hand, and clasping hands, that we should stand as we have for sixty years, citizens of
* This expression was made particularly to Sir Henry Bulwer, the English ambassador, who was present on the occasion.
the same country, members of the same government, united all — united now, and united forever? That we shall be, gentlemen. There have been difficulties, contentions, controversies angry controversies. But I tell you that, in my judgment,
those opposed eyes,
LESSON CLX. Valedictory Address to the Senate of the United States, 1842.1
- HENRY CLAY. 1. And now, allow me to announce, formally and officially, my retirement from the Senate of the United States, and to present the last motion I shall ever make in this body. But, before I make that motion, I trust I shall be pardoned if I avail myself, with the permission and indulgence of the senate, of this last occasion of addressing to it a few more observations.
2. I entered the Senate of the United States in December, 1806. I regarded that body then, and still consider it, as one which may compare, without disadvantage, with any legislative assembly, either in ancient or modern times, - whether I look to its dignity, the extent and importance of its powers, the ability by which its individual members have been distinguished, or its organic constitution. If compared in any of these respects with the senates either of France or of England, that of the United States will sustain no derogation.
3. With respect to the mode of constituting_those bodies, I
may observe, that, in the House of Peers in England, with the exceptions of Ireland and of Scotland, and in that of France with no exception whatever, — the members hold their places in their individual rights, under no delegated authority,
not even from the order to which they belong, — but derive them from the grant of the crown, transmitted by descent, or created in new patents of nobility; while here we have the proud and more noble title of representatives of sovereign states, of distinct and independent commonwealths.
* This peculiarly apposite quotation is from Shakspeare's Henry IV., part first, scene first, ninth line.
† The retirement of this distinguished senator was only temporary, He again returned to the senate, of which he is now one of the most eminent members.
4. If we look again at the powers exercised by the senates of France and England, and by the senate of the United States, we shall find that the aggregate of power is much greater here. In all, the respective bodies possess the legislative power. In the foreign senates, as in this, the judicial power is invested, although there it exists in a larger degree than here.
5. But, on the other hand, that vast, undefined, and undefinable power, involved in the right to coöperate with the executive in the formation and ratification of treaties, is enjoyed in all its magnitude and consequence by this body, while it is possessed by neither of theirs : besides which, there is another function of very great practical importance that of sharing with the executive branch in distributing the immense patronage of this government. In both these latter respects we stand on grounds different from the House of Peers either of England or France.
6. And then, as to the dignity and decorum of its proceedings, and ordinarily as to the ability of its members, I may, with great truth, declare that, during the whole long period of my knowledge of this senate, it can, without arrogance or presumption, stand an advantageous comparison with any deliberative body that ever existed in ancient or modern times.
7. Full of attraction, however, as a seat in the senate is, sufficient as it is to satisfy the aspirations of the most ambitious heart, I have long determined to relinquish it, and to seek that repose which can be enjoyed only in the shades of private life, in the circle of one's own family, and in the tranquil enjoyments included in one enchanting word — Home.
8. It was my purpose to terminate my connection with this body in November, 1840, after the memorable and glorious political struggle which distinguished that year: but I learned, soon after, what indeed I had for some time anticipated from the result of my own reflections, that an extra session of Congress would be called ; and I felt desirous to cooperate with my political and personal friends in restoring, if it could be effected, the prosperity of the country, by the best measures which their united counsels might be able to devise ; and I therefore attended the extra session.