Imágenes de páginas

Mr. Clay would have been elected. The States at that time voted on various days as each one chose to do, and it so happened that several of those adverse to Mr. Clay voted early and thus tended to weaken him. The great shout raised by the anxious multitude assembled at the wharf in New York, when it was announced by the passengers on the deck of the Philadelphia boat just arriving, that Pennsylvania had gone for Polk, was believed to have had a decided effect on the election which soon occurred in New York. After having been so terribly wounded, the Whigs, as men usually do after being seriously hurt, acquiesced in the proposition to establish an uniform day for the Presidential election throughout the United States.



MR. CHAIRMAN: I shall leave it to those who desire it to discuss the constitutionality or expediency of the proposed annexation of Texas. It is not expected by anybody that any practical result, in the way of legislation, is to grow out of these proceedings. Doubtless you may be able, as was suggested the other day by the gentleman from South Carolina, to pass an abstract resolution, after the fashion of your Baltimore Convention, declaring that Texas ought to be annexed as soon as practicable. Your agitation of the matter is intended solely to produce capital to operate on our elections at the South during the present year, and I shall, therefore, meet the question on its real and not its ostensible merits. The chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, (Mr. C. J. Ingersoll,) who opened the debate, stated that there had been a very decided manifestation of popular opinion in favor of the annexation, and was pleased to refer to the late Presidential election as furnishing evidence of it. The gentleman from Illinois, (Mr. Douglass,) who immediately preceded me in the debate, declared, with great vehemence, that the popular verdict had been recorded in favor of the measure, and that if those who were now on this floor failed to carry out the wishes of the people, they would be swept away by a torrent of public indignation, and men be sent in their places who were more faithful. If all this were true, sir, it would furnish a strong argument in favor of the measure, because, in a representative Republic, like ours, popular opinion is of the greatest consequence. I shall endeavor to show, however, that these gentlemen are totally mistaken in these views; but to do so will oblige. me to examine a good deal in detail the causes which contributed to produce the result exhibited in that election.

I must, in the first place, however, ask the indulgence of the House for a few minutes, while I advert to a matter not directly connected with this subject.

At the last session, when a proposition to repeal the twenty-fifth rule was under consideration, it will be remembered that the debate was pro

longed for nearly three months, and as each speech was concluded, more than twenty chivalric gentlemen sprang to their feet and struggled for an opportunity to manifest their ardor in behalf of Southern rights. And it was only, sir, by resorting to the previous question that we were able to terminate the debate before the close of the session.

On the first day of the present session, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Adams) gave notice that he would on to-morrow introduce a proposition to abolish the rule. Thereupon the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Dromgoole) likewise gave notice that he would object to the reception of the resolution, because it would be out of order. On the succeeding day, the gentleman from Massachusetts, in accordance with his promise, offered his resolution to rescind the rule, but the gentleman from Virginia, though in his place, greatly to the surprise of everybody, made no objection to its introduction. If that gentleman, or any other member, had objected to its reception, it could only have been gotten in by a suspension of the rules, and it was well known that a vote of twothirds could not have been obtained for that purpose. The proposition came in without a word of objection from any quarter. Thereupon, a gentleman from Mississippi, acting under the old dispensation of Democracy, not having, I presume, from his location in the far Southwest, seen the new revelation of light in the Northeast, moved to lay the resolution on the table. A vote was taken by yeas and nays, and his motion was lost by a decided majority, making it evident that the rule would be repealed. The Speaker stated the question to be on the adoption of the resolution to rescind the rule. The previous question had not been ordered, and the matter was, therefore, open for debate. I looked around to see what bold champion of the South would first sound the tocsin of alarm. There was a full array of the chivalry around. There in his seat on my right was the gentleman from South Carolina, (Mr. Rhett,) who at the last session declared, with so much eloquence and zeal, that a repeal of the rule would be a virtual dissolution of the Union.

There sat my colleague, (Mr. Saunders,) who went off on this matter with a force that sent him during the past summer over the entire State of North Carolina, declaiming against the reception of abolition petitions. There, too, were the gentlemen from Georgia and other States, who vied with each other in their denunciation of all those who did not sustain the rule. There all of these gentlemen sat, quiet and mute, as though nothing unusual was taking place, and saw, with much seeming unconcern, their favorite rule killed off by a large majority. There was no burst of indignation; no exclamation to the South, "Samson, the Philistines be upon thee!" Not even the note of a goose, to give warning of the irruption of the Gauls. Were they asleep, like the Roman sentinels of the olden time? No, no, sir; they were awake, but they were false watchmen of the South-traitor sentinels! I have a right so to call them; for, in denouncing me at the last session, some of them declared that any man who did not sustain the rule by all proper means was a renegade and a traitor to the Southern States. According to the form of the logicians, the proposition would be as follows: any Southern man who does not use his efforts to preserve the rule is a renegade traitor. They were Southern men, and might have preserved the rule by objec

tion at the proper time, but would not do it. Therefore, they are renegade traitors. Quod erat demonstrandum, as the sophomores say.

How are we, Mr. Chairman, to account for the extraordinary change in the conduct of gentlemen since the Presidential election? And I may also ask, why is it that Leavitt, the Abolition editor, who was refused at the last session a seat among the reporters of the House, is now the occupant of one of the best positions in the Hall?* I told you all at the last session that this twenty-fifth rule was a humbug, getting to be so well understood that it would deceive nobody much longer, and must soon be abandoned by its authors. Will gentlemen come out frankly and admit that all their parade at the last session was a mere humbugone of the most barefaced political frauds ever attempted to be played off for party purposes? If they will not admit this-if they still insist that the rule is of any value, why did they give it up without a struggle? Was it done as compensation to their abolition allies in the North, by whose aid they carried the great States of New York and Pennsylvania, and thereby elected Mr. Polk? I do not wish gentlemen to evade this matter by their silence. If the rule was worthless, why the "sound and fury" of last session? If valuable, for what consideration did they surrender it, except that just stated? They must take one horn of the dilemma. They cannot escape from it.

Ah! I beg pardon, Mr. Chairman; there is still a third mode by which a part of these gentlemen may get out of this difficulty. Some of them may perhaps excuse themselves by saying, if they had grumbled about this matter they might have been expelled from the Democratic party, and thus lost all share of the spoils to be distributed from and after the fourth of March next. Taking this view of the case, sir, I frankly admit that these gentlemen deserve the sympathy of this House and of the country. Their fate, in being compelled to make such a submission, is peculiarly hard, when it is remembered from what quarter the principle of this rule was originally derived. Mr. Senator Benton did great injustice to John C. Calhoun, when he said, if common rumor be true, that the same John C. Calhoun, so far from being a statesman, had "never invented even a humbug." The fact cannot be disputed that John C. Calhoun was the first to take "the very highest ground for the South;" the prime origin

*It is due to the Speaker to state that he declared subsequently that he had not assigned to Mr. Leavitt, the Abolition reporter, any seat in the Hall, but inasmuch as there were a great number of applicants for reporter's seats, he had not yet com pleted the arrangements and allotted the seats among them; and, until his assignment had been completed, his orders had been not to prevent any reporter from entering the Hall, and occupying temporarily one of the seats. The rule of the House, No. 19, is in the following words: "No person shall be allowed the privilege of the Hall under the character of stenographer without a written permission from the Speaker, specifying the part of the Hall assigned to him, and no reporter or stenographer shall be admitted under the rules of the House, unless such reporter or stenographer shall state in writing for what paper or papers he is employed to report." As this rule can only be changed by the House itself, and as the reporter in question occupied the seat for some weeks, I presumed, in common with other members who remarked on the transaction, that he remained by express permission of the Speaker, and not that there had been a suspension of a standing rule of the House by the Speaker for so long a period.

ator of the policy of objecting to the reception of petitions, of which the twenty-fifth rule is parcel. Hard, then, is the necessity which compels the peculiar followers of that gentleman to make a burnt offering of the first and only offspring of their idol. Considering, however, the object for which the sacrifice was made, it is to be hoped that they will derive as much consolation as did Capt. Dalgetty, who, when mourning the loss of his old war-horse on a battle-field, remembered that he could convert the hide of the dead animal into a pair of breeches. John C. Calhoun's only humbug converted into breeches for his followers!*

Judging from the action of the House on this subject, what is to become of the repeal of the tariff? I can tell you, sir. If James K. Polk will give to a few individuals that I could name such offices as they desire, he will thereby effect such a modification of the tariff as to render it acceptable in the main to the chivalric majority of the State of South Carolina. Should these persons, however, fail to get such a portion of the spoils as they consider their due, viz: the lion's share, then the tariff will be found so intolerably oppressive that human nature cannot bear it, and must be nullified. Be not deceived, sir, by all the declamation which we hear from time to time; for all this is merely thrown out to frighten Mr. Polk and his Northern friends into a good compromise with respect to the distribution of the offices. Can this be accomplished without beggaring the other sections of the party? There are not places enough in the gift of the Executive to satisfy the countless thousands of greedy office seekers. This consideration forces upon my mind the great danger which awaits your party, and, as a frank benevolent Whig, I warn you of it.

Sir, it is a common remark that the members of this so-called Democratic party, however they may take opposite sides on measures of policy, never split in their votes, but always make a common struggle on election day. This is owing to the fact which I had occasion to state at the last session, that this party is "held together solely by the cohesive power of public plunder;" and, therefore, whenever they are making a struggle to get into power, it is a part of their general system of tactics that each segment of the party should adopt that side of any question that is strongest at home, and thereby increase their chance of carrying the election. Though not yet generally known throughout the country, yet the matter is so well understood here that it seldom excites a remark, though every week furnishes conclusive evidence on the point. For example: A gentleman from Pennsylvania some time since charged the Whigs with being less friendly to protective tariff than the Democrats. Immediately after him rose a gentleman from Alabama, who declaimed furiously against the oppression of the tariff of 1842, taking no notice of the gentleman who was up just before him, but assailing

* A story is told, by Paulding, I think, of an individual who applied to Mr. Van Buren for the office of Secretary of State, but was told that it had already been promised to another. He then continued asking for various offices, in a descending scale, until he came to the lowest, and was told that the office in each instance had been already promised to some one else. "Then, sir," said he to the President, "as I am in a very needy condition, could you not give me a pair of old breeches ?"

furiously some unlucky Whig who may have taken part in the debate. Says the gentleman from Pennsylvania: "Mr. Clay and the Whigs are for reducing the present duties on iron and coal, and prostrating the great interests of Pennsylvania." The gentleman from Alabama shouts aloud: "The duties on iron and coal, imposed by the present Whig tariff, are so oppressive that they cannot be borne, but shall be resisted." So far, however, are these gentlemen from finding fault with each other, that each of them, by his manner at least, seems to say to the other: "God speed you, brother; you are working bravely for Democracy." As the speech of each of them is intended for home consumption, it contains no allusion to the remarks of the other; and, by consequence, the constituent at the North sees from the speech of his representative that the Whig party is opposed to the protection of home industry, and to the existing tariff; while the planter of the South is driven to madness by learning, in a similar manner, how much he is oppressed by the present Whig tariff. However, therefore, the members of this party may differ about measures, they do not split in their votes on election day, and of course they act together as long as they are out of power. But, sir, very different is their condition when in power. I have already indicated that they are held together solely by the desire of office, and as there are not in the Government places enough for all, there will soon be a real quarrel, and the disappointed will vote against you. The only connecting tie being dissolved, the party will go to pieces. This, sir, is the rock on which you are destined to split. Though a political adversary, I warn you of the danger; but I frankly admit, sir, that I do not believe you will be able to profit by my advice.

When the sub-Treasury bill was under consideration some time since, it will be remembered that in the very short debate which was allowed on it, a very wide range was taken by some of the speakers. As I was not on that occasion permitted to occupy the floor, I may, I trust without impropriety, advert to some things that were said then. I do not propose, however, to discuss the merits of that measure. It was brought in by the committee at the last session and laid upon our tables, and though I in common with other Whigs called upon the majority to take it up at once, and charged them with holding it back until after the Presidential election, in order to deceive the country as to their real intentions, yet it all availed nothing, and it was permitted to sleep quietly on our tables till the close of that session. And when, during the past summer, we charged the party with designing to pass this measure again as soon as they had the power to effect it, yet it was, as if by common consent, stoutly denied by their partisans all over the country. They affirmed that this measure, having been condemned by the American people in 1840, had been abandoned, and, as a proof if it, referred to the fact that, with an immense majority in the House, the party refused to pass it. Now, however, the election being over, just as I had occasion to predict perhaps fifty times in the political debates of the past year, this very bill is taken up before any other matter of importance, and in a few hours forced through the House, and passed under the gag of the previous question. It is proclaimed that the people have decided in its favor at the late election; and we are told, with that insolence which the large majority here has inspired, that we Whigs ought to sit mute

« AnteriorContinuar »