Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Let our State always be as uncomfortable as possible to the vicious and the criminal. It will then continue, as it has heretofore been, a region wherein there is as small a portion of crime to its population as any on earth. As evidence of the confidence reposed in the integrity of North Carolina abroad, we may refer with satisfaction to the high prices at which her bonds are sold even in periods of the greatest depression in financial matters.

That our people are not as generally educated as some others, has been the subject of comment, but at present North Carolina is expending for the purposes of education within her limits, more, I think, in proportion to her population, than any one of the Southern States, and than most of the Northern ones.

It cannot be fairly argued, either, that we are behind our neighbors in native intellect. Those who have represented us in the national councils have usually, at least, maintained an average position with the representatives of other parts of the Union. Some who were born and educated among us have, while citizens of other States, attained the highest positions known to the Republic. It is, nevertheless, undoubtedly true that our sons have not, while residing among us, been the recipients of a fair share of public honors. This is, I think, to be attributed to two causes. During my time in public life those whom we have sent to represent us at Washington have been in a political sense, reliable men. In other words, no matter to what party association they might belong, it was known that they would stand firmly by the principles they professed. Representatives from some of the the States by threatening to assail their own parties, find favor, and have honorable appointments bestowed on their immediate constituents, because politicians are often meanly selfish enough to quiet opposition and buy support by bestowal of the offices in their gift. It has thus sometimes happened that our State has been punished for the fidelity of its representatives. I am far from thinking, however, that it is a misfortune to our citizens generally, that they are not holders of federal offices. I happened to mention last winter to a prominent statesman, that during the whole of General Pierce's administration, and of Mr. Buchanan's up to that time, there had not been a single application for an office under the Federal Government from any citizen of my district. He at once declared that the fact was so honorable to the district, that it ought to be universally known. And I do hold that nothing can be more honorable to our people than the fact that they should be willing to rely on their own honest industry, at home, instead of hanging about Washington for a livelihood. Still our State has not, I am sorry to say, abroad, at all times, the consideration and weight she would have if her sons were oftener the recipients of the higher honors of the Republic.

In the second place, it has been sometimes said that we have not always been so ready as some of our neighbors, to promote and sustain our ablest men. This, if true, I have thought was, in a great measure, due to a condition of things which it is in our power to remove. Owing to the form of the territory of our State, there has been heretofore little community of feeling between the different parts of it.

The eastern counties have, from their position been isolated from the rest of the State, the northern ones connected with Virginia, and those on the southeru border with South Carolina, while the extreme west has stood, as it were, alone. The State has, therefore, been very much broken up into sectional divisions. In filling the prominent political positions to which we were entitled, combinations of some of these sectional parties have been formed for temporary purposes. It may have happened that on account of these sectional rivalries, strong men have sometimes been set aside. Envy is said to love a shining mark, and she acts after the fashion of Tarquin, when he cut the tallest poppies. Our people have been accustomed to lament the fact, that we have no large city in which the opinion of the State could be concentrated and a proper tone given to its feelings. But large cities are attended with so many evils, that by some they are regarded as sores in the body politic. They are less favorable, perhaps, to the increase of wealth and population than the rural districts, and are attended with far more pauperism, vice and crime. The general extension of railroads and telegraphs seems about to give to the country many of the advantages of the city without its drawbacks. With their aid one may now pass through a State in but little more time than he would formerly have traversed a large city. By these means our North Carolina citizens can have the benefits which arise from a rápid interchange of views with each other, without the evils that attend the crowding of population into large cities. We can thus have the strength of concentration without its weakness, and knowledge and refinement without vice. Already the progress made in our works seems in this respect to have produced a favorable change. But when they shall have been completed, when one may to-day lave in the breakers of the Atlantic, and to-morrow stand among the clouds, on the mountain tops of the distant west, when the whole State is thus brought together, you will then have a North Carolina opinion so concentrated and energetic, that it will become efficient, and give us that consideration abroad to which we shall be entitled.

I have already intimated that there is a danger which threatens us in the distance. Such is now the strength of the United States, that they have nothing to fear from foreign violence. The evil which menaces us is wholly from within. I do not now merely allude to an organization which has sprung up lately in the Northern States, and which threatens our section. Its governing principle is hostility to the South. No matter what might be the opinions of a man on any political, social, or moral question, if he was only known to be intensely hostile to us, if he was anxious that all the powers of the Federal government should be exercised against us, and for our destruction, such a man was regarded as a worthy member of the organization. To suppose that the South would willingly submit to be governed by such a party, would be an implication that she wanted the common instincts of humanity. No man is to be expected to submit himself, if he can by any possibility avoid it, to the control of one whose only principle is enmity to him. Waving for the present, however, all thought of this danger, there is in the future, ground for

apprehending evil to all the members of the confederacy. We have seen that great nations have, in the end, suffered most from the exactions of their governments. Were this a consolidated republic it could not hope to escape, for a long period, the fate of those which have preceded it. In the organization of our system, however, it has been most wisely arranged, that the powers of the central government should be limited and well defined. Two main reasons led to its formation: The first object was to enable it to manage the foreign relations of the States, and hence it was invested with the power to make war against and treaties with foreign nations, and to regulate commerce with them. A second prominent object was to prevent collisions and misunderstandings between the States themselves, and it was authorized to regulate commerce between them, coin money, etc. Most of the leading powers belonging to it fall within these classes. It was, however, invested with certain other attributes, not of the first magnitude, but which it could conveniently and advantageously exercise. In order, too, that it might have the means of sustaining itself, and perform the functions assigned to it, it was invested with full power to raise revenue by taxation, and with no limit, except what its legitimate wants might fairly require. All other powers were retained by the States.

Notwithstanding the care and foresight manifested by its founders, it has, nevertheless, greatly increased its strength since its formation. This is due, not so much to its having assumed new powers, (for the attempts made in that direction have been on the whole pretty suc eessfully resisted,) as to the practices which have grown up under it. Combinations have been forined by certain classes to make use of its powers for their own advantage. I will refer to a few examples to make it manifest that it is treading, to some extent, in the foot-prints of its predecessors in the world. Bounties are given to those engaged in certain kinds of fisheries, and these by no means the most difficult and dangerous. It cannot be shown that those thus employed are more meritorious than are the classes taxed for their benefit. The original excuse given for this measure, that it was necessary to create a navy, no longer exists, because we have a commercial marine equal to that of the first nation in the world; and it is a singular fact that other branches even of the fisheries have increased much faster than those favored ones. In the second place, our navigation laws are unjust to all, except those engaged in commerce. If the agriculturist wishes to transport his grain, cotton, or tobacco from one part of the Union to another, why should he not send it in the ship which will carry it cheapest? Or if one of our merchants should wish to have goods, purchased by him, brought from New York to Wilmington, and a foreign ship is willing to bring them for one-half the price that American vessels charge, why should not he be permitted to employ it? If one of our citizens wishes to buy a ship, why not allow him to purchase where he can do it the cheapest? These restrictions are all intended for the benefit of northeastern ship-owners and builders, and oppress the agriculturist.

The most injurious of all measures of the government, however, to the planters and farmers, is that arising from the manner in which the tariff taxes have been imposed. Any just system of taxation ought to be made as equal as possible, whereas, in fact, this has generally been made the reverse. Certain classes wishing to escape all the burdens of supporting the government, and to derive profit from the system, have, by their activity and industry, succeeded in rendering it in the highest degree unequal. It thus happens that when the American people are made to pay more that sixty millions to the federal government annually, they likewise pay a still larger sum to the manufac turers. The excuse for this is, that American labor must be protected. But are not the agriculturalists, who toil in the sun, laborers? If so, why should they be taxed for the benefit of the manufacturers?

Again, a powerful combination has been formed to carry out a system of internal improvement by the federal government. When, at the formation of the Constitution, power was given to regulate commerce, this was well understood to mean only the right to pass laws for the regulation of trading vessels, &c., and it was never dreamed that under it the government was to have the authority to make harbors where nature had not provided them, open rivers, and build roads. As managed, in fact, it has been a mere combination to plunder the treasury for the private advantage of the parties. Appropriations, too, are made to build expensive custom-houses in the interior of the country, a thousand miles from the frontier, where the imports are in fact made. As the goods have to be carried by the custom-houses on the frontier, it is a mere mockery to pretend that any just reason exists for such expenditures. They are known to be made solely to gratify the pride of certain cities, to give jobs to contractors, and employment to workmen. For a like reason government post offices are required to be built. After most of those who have fought through the wars are dead, strong efforts are made to get pensions for them. It is notorious, that the main pressure on Congress to enlarge the system enormously comes from the speculators who are employed as pension agents, and who make large profits by their operations. In some years, the printing of comparatively worthless books exceeds the expenses of the entire government in its earlier days. Every pretence, too, is sought to create new offices and enlarge salaries. There are already powerful combinations of those who expect to make a living out of the government. A large portion of this mischief, undoubtedly, arises from the action of those who represent the manufacturing interest, and who labor to cause the government to waste as much money as possible, so as to afford an excuse to raise or keep up the tariff taxes. I refer to these things to make it appear that our government is traveling the path of those which have gone before it. But it is sometimes said that the diffusion of education, newspapers and universal suffrage will protect us. If any one thinks so, let him look to the city of New York. There are in abundance newspapers, intelligence and universal suffrage, and yet that community, in spite of its efforts, is oppressed by an enormous system of taxation, the proceeds of which are mainly wasted. If a small locality like this cannot pro

tect itself, what might we expect in this extended Union, if the powers of its government were all consolidated at Washington.

Seeing the progress already made under our system, I should despair of its being arrested, but for one consideration. There is a limit to the sum that can be raised by the tariff taxes, as it depends on the amount of the imports, and I doubt if the people would bear a heavy system of direct taxation. It is this thought that gives the most hope. Let things go on as they may, however, it is our duty to use all the means in our power to arrest the evil by restraining the action of the central government within proper limits. From the past conduct of North Carolina and the present feeling of her people, I look upon her as among the most reliable of the States in this cause.

There are, too, fellow-citizens, incidents in our history which may well be brought to mind on an occasion like this. The first explorations and settlement of our territory were made under the auspices of one with whom any community might feel proud to be associated. When you consider his great abilities, both as a military and a naval commander, his talent and sagacity as a statesman, his varied learning and knowledge, so much in advance of his times, his accomplishments as a courtier, his lofty spirit fully imbued with the tone of that departing chivalry which could lend even to error itself a halo of glory, his high courage and daring, and generous and noble traits in private life, Sir Walter Raleigh was, by all odds, the first man of his day in England, bright as that day was. After the settlement of the colony of North Carolina, its inhabitants were remarkable for their love of independence and their capacity to govern themselves. As our character as a frank and candid, quiet and well ordered and industrious community is so fully established, we can, without any feelings of uneasiness or sensitiveness, recur to such statements as these. In the year 1731 the Colonial Governor, Burrington, in an official dispath to his home government says: "The people of North Carolina are neither to be cajoled nor outwitted. Whenever a governor attempts to effect anything by this means, he will lose his labor and show his ignorance."

"The inhabitants of North Carolina are not industrious, but subtle and crafty; always behaved insolently to their governors; some they have imprisoned, others they have drove out of the country, and at other times set up a governor of their own choice, supported by men and arms."

When the dividing line was run between Virginia and North Carolina, one of the commissioners appointed by the former State, William Byrd, in his "History of the Dividing Line," says: "The borderers laid it to heart if their land was taken in Virginia; they chose much rather to belong to Carolina, where they pay no tribute to God or to Cæsar."

As he may have felt a pique against the borderers, and jealousy towards a State preferred to his own, his words ought probably to be accepted with grains of allowance. We will therefore take only half the statement to be true-the latter half-for those who are readiest to resist the demand of an usurping despot, are the most likely to render the homage due to the Creator and Governor of the Universe. We should naturally expect such a people to be among the first and boldest to resist those aggressions of Great Britian which led to the Revolution. Accordingly, in the year 1765, on the passage of the Stamp Act, Colonel John Ashe,

« AnteriorContinuar »