« AnteriorContinuar »
and make no objection to its passage. So far is it from being true that the people, by their late vote, have decided in its favor, I venture to affirm that if the party had dared to pass it last spring, and thus directly made an issue on it, the result of the election would have been different. The country understands this matter too well. It is known to be a measure which will place in the hands of the President the money power of the country, and which would, in the progress of a few years, convert the government into a practical despotism.
I propose now, Mr. Chairman, to follow the example of some of the debaters who have discussed the issues involved in the late election, and the effect of the popular verdict. At the termination of the late session of Congress, when I left this city, though I was sanguine as to the general result, I knew that we were to be hardly pressed at the South. James K. Polk, the nominee of our opponents, was understood to be, and had always been, opposed to any other than a mere revenue tariff, and was avowedly in favor of the immediate annexation of Texas. Though I knew that the position of the Whig party was right on both these questions yet, inasmuch as it had formerly been the custom of Southern politicians in the main to denounce all tariffs, and the policy even of incidental protection had rarely been advocated, I feared that the time intervening before the election was too short to enable us fully to enlighten the public mind with respect to the character of the act of 1842, and our position in relation to its policy.
There was also in many quarters of the Southern part of the Union, a strong feeling in favor of the annexation of Texas, and I also apprehended that there would hardly be time enough for the people to become fully acquainted with the terms of the proposed annexation, and to understand clearly the position of the Presidential candidates with respect to the question. Though we Whigs of the South knew that it had fallen to our lot to defend the point of greatest pressure, yet we went into the contest with a determination and a spirit worthy of the noble cause in which we were engaged, and which, but for causes that we had no reason to anticipate would have afforded a success fully equal to all our hopes. At the North this state of things was reversed. Our candidate occupied the side of these questions that was most popular with both parties in that region, and we had a right to anticipate a gain in that quarter, equal at least to any loss that might be sustained with us. Nor did Í I feel any serious doubts as to the result until we saw the developments of the month of September. Then it was that the extraordinary spectacle was presented to the world of a convention of the so-called Democratic party in the State of New York, which openly, and with a degree of impudence till then unseen, in solemn form repudiated the leading principles avowed in their National Convention, and at the same time declared their determination to support its Presidential nominee. It likewise nominated for the office of Governor of that State, Silas Wright, whose views were, on both of these great questions, directly opposite to those of James K. Polk. Mr. Polk declared himself utterly opposed to the tariff of 1842, and in favor of the immediate annexation of Texas, while Silas Wright had voted for the tariff of 1842, and had likewise voted against the annexation of Texas; and these two individuals were voted for on the same ticket, in order that no man might be so silly in
future as to doubt but that the said Democratic party was held together solely by the love of office, or, in language that has now become classical, the cohesive power of public plunder.'
A similar state of things was exhibited in Pennsylvania; and I have heard Democratic members of this House speak laughingly, of seeing in that State, numberless banners with the inscription borne on them of "Polk, Dallas, and the Democratic Tariff of 1842." Yes, sir, and when the Whigs attempted to set this matter right, they were told by the honest but ignorant yeomanry of that State, that they could not believe that Mr. Polk was opposed to the tariff, because they had been assured by their leaders, the men in whom they had been accustomed to confide, that he was much more favorable to a protective tariff than was Mr. Clay. The political leaders of the party in these two States, as well as elsewhere at the North, humiliated themselves so far, as to come into the support of a man who had been forced upon them by a small, and till then, contemned minority of their own party, and whose opinions were directly the reverse of those which they themselves had publicly professed. But they did not stop here. Lest their prostitution should go unrewarded, and to secure as many accomplices in political crime as possible, they seem to have deliberately entered into a scheme of misrepresentation and fraud. To bring to the support of a man whose principles, if he had any, were hostile to the views of the great mass of their followers, they deliberately resolved to misstate the principles of that man, as if they could thus turn wrong into right, and make that true which was false. By false declarations, steadily persevered in, they deluded the ignorant, who trusted to their truth. To further their conspiracy, their candidate, worthy of his party, wrote in phrases indefinite, unmeaning, vague, ambiguous, double-faced as the responses of the old Delphic oracle. When inquiries from any quarter, whatever, were put to him which would have elicited a definite answer, he remained mute, and permitted the truth to be trampled under foot. Mr. Chairman, there are recorded many instances of individual misrepresentation, dishonor, and breaches of faith, by those who previously enjoyed the public confidence; but, sir, the history of the world affords no other instance of a total destitution of a moral sense, exhibited by so large a number of individuals, no example of fraud and falsehood on a scale so extensive. To furnish materials to the active agents, there was established in this city a mint managed by, it is not necessary for me here to say whom, for it is too well known to all around. That establishment worked with amazing rapidity, and threw off every variety of falsehoods. To the North, for example, it sent infamous libels on the Whig candidates, such as were supposed best calculated to array against them all the profligate factions there, especially the principled Abolitionists; while to the South were directed handbills, warning the people of that section, that imminent danger was impending, and that, if the Whigs came into power, slavery would be abolished, and all the interests of the South utterly prostrated. These publications were thrown out purposely on the eve of the election, in order that they might not be contradicted. They were signed by no name, or the name of an unknown irresponsible person. If, therefore, one of them found its way to a region for which it had not been intended, its parentage was stiffly denied, and it was
affirmed and certified to be a Whig forgery. For some weeks before the election, these handbills were scattered far and wide. I wondered at their numbers, for they covered the land like the locusts of Egypt. I have since been informed that several and perhaps all of the departments of the government were constantly employed to aid the party in their distribution. One of the heads of department, I am credibly informed, franked them in packages weighing, in some instances, as much as a thousand pounds. As far as I know, however, the circulation of these things produced little impression in my own State, or in the Southern country generally. It is the custom there for men of opposite parties to debate political questions face to face before the people, and the voters thus have a better chance to ascertain the views of parties and of their candidates. It is true, that our adversaries sometimes attempted to deny Mr. Polk's views as to the sub-treasury, and other questions, but these denials were seldom successful. Sir, I never yet have met a man that I could not, in a day or two's debate, by continued question, cross-examination, and denunciation, compel to admit the truth, when I had documentary or other plain evidence to establish it. Providence seems to have denied to man the power to persist in falsehood with the same steadiness of eye and countenance, with which truth can be maintained. I doubt if Talleyrand, himself, who used to say that language was given to men to enable them to conceal their thoughts, could persevere successfully in falsehood during the whole of one of our Southern campaigns.
At the North, the mode of conducting a canvass is different. The speakers on opposite sides seldom if ever meet each other in debate. The meetings being composed of one party only, the matter thrown out goes uncontradicted alike, whether it be truth or falsehood, and the members of either party adopt the views of their own speakers. To the uninformed, however honest they may be, the best authenticated document carries no more evidence of its truth, than the libel representing both by pictures and writing, Mr. Clay hanging the three Dutchmen, which was so extensively circulated in Pennsylvania.
If this state of things continues, our constitution of government is virtually at an end. Our republican system is based upon the principle that those who exercise power here represent and carry out, under the constitution, the views of the people. But if the matter be so managed that the great mass of the voters do not and cannot ascertain the views of the candidates before them, the consequence follows, that those elected, do not in fact represent the people, and our republican form of government is virtually abolished. As a means of averting, to some extent at least, this great evil, let the practice of requiring the speakers on both sides to confront each other in debate, be generally adopted. To effect this, let there be a union of all those who desire truth to prevail, who wish to see our free constitution preserved in substance as well as in form, and who desire that the blessings of liberty should be transmitted to those who are to come after us. At any rate, I call upon every Whig to adopt this mode, publish your appointments, and challenge your opponents to meet you. If they fail to meet you, denounce them as being afraid of such investigation, because they know that the facts are against them. Persevere in this course, and they will be compelled by
public opinion, yes, by their own followers, to meet you; for there are in the hearts of our countrymen of all parties, a desire to know the truth, and a generous love of fair play.
I am now brought, Mr. Chairman, to the consideration of another most important matter in connection with the late presidential canvass. After the nominations in the spring, the Whig party held many large political meetings, at which there was much able and eloquent discussion. Our orators went through many parts of the country, and debated most successfully, the principles of the two parties. All this was well, for it secured to our standard a vast majority of the intelligent and reflecting portion of the Union. But this alone, as the event has shown, was not sufficient. Resting on the goodness of our cause, the soundness of the principles advocated by us, and the belief that the wisdom of our measures would bring a majority of the voters to the support of our candidate, we neglected that complete organization in detail which was necessary to prevent undue influence and imposition on the voters at the election.
Since the beginning of the world, regularly trained soldiers have always been able to beat raw militia. Hence, when any one nation keeps up a well-disciplined standing army, the neighboring States must adopt a similar system or be overpowered. This truth, so universally admitted with respect to military affairs, has not been generally understood in its bearings on elections in a country like ours. In every part of the Union, there are some individuals whose opinions are not so firmly fixed but what they may be changed at or about the time of the election. This may be brought about in various ways. A man, naturally irresolute or unstable in his purposes, may be persuaded; one not informed as to the principles and conduct of the candidates, may be deceived by artful misrepresentation; the dishonest are liable to be biased by improper influences. These classes constitute what is sometimes denominated the floating vote, that is, a vote which is liable to be easily changed from one party to another. It is, doubtless, largest in the great cities, and varies considerably in different sections. But everywhere there are those who, by persuasion, misrepresentation, fraud, or other means, may be induced to vote differently from what they intended, a short time previous to the election. The number of these individuals is sufficiently large to decide the result in all closely contested elections. Take as an example the great State of New York in the late presidential election. Taking the whole State over, it will not be questioned by any one that there is a much larger proportion than the one hundred and seventy-fifth part of the voters there, whose views on political matters were not so fixed, as to prevent their being influenced at the time of the election. Though of course not unaware of this condition of things to some extent in all the States, yet the Whig party has in the main relied on the justness of its cause, and the voluntary exertions of its individual members to counteract improper influences. Our adversaries, however, have been practicing on a very different system. They have acquired a skill and dis cipline in party tactics unknown to any other faction that has existed in this country. Whether this system was perfected in the State of New York, and brought into the administration of the Federal government by Mr. Van Buren, as some suppose, I shall not now stop to inquire.
As at present organized, the so-called Democratic party, though it allows the individuals composing it to profess such opinions on all measures of legislative policy as they may think it most advantageous to adopt, yet it requires the utmost fidelity in all party manœuvres, especially in elections. To stimulate this feeling, the offices are promised to those, who may have rendered the party the most efficient service. Each member is required to stand by his party at all hazards, though in so doing he should act in opposition to the best interests of the country. In turn, the party will stand by him, and protect him from the consequences of any crime he may commit, provided it be done for the benefit of the party. A thousand instances might be given, to establish the truth of this conclusion. I will refer, however, only to a single one, of recent occurrence in my own State. When our Legislature, now in session, assembled, there was a tie between the parties in the Senate. Each party was of course desirous of electing a Speaker and other officers. According to the old and well-settled law of the State, each member elect was bound to produce, before his qualification, the certificate of the sheriff of his having been elected. But one who claimed to be a Democratic senator, was not provided with such a certificate, and the fact became known through the indiscretion of those friends, that he consulted in his dilemma. When the time came for the opening of the first day's session, this individual much to the surprise of his political adversaries at least, presented a forged certificate in the usual form, was qualified as a Senator, and took his seat. It was five days before the body was organized by the election of a Speaker, &c. A committee was raised to investigate the affair. They, upon evidence of the most conclusive character, reported that the certificate had been forged either by the Senator or by his procurement, and knowingly used by him to impose on the Senate, and recommended his expulsion. The vote of the Senate was unanimous on the first resolution, declaring the certificate a forgery; but upon the second, declaring that he ought to be expelled, every member of his party voted in the negative, thereby saying that, though he had committed forgery, he was not in their opinion unworthy to sit with them. After his expulsion by the casting vote of the Whig Speaker, his party, taking advantage of the accidental absence of two or three Whigs, within a few days moved and carried a proposition to strike from the journals the report, proceedings, &c., that had taken place, with a view of inserting in their stead the speech of his counsel made in his defence at the bar of the Senate. A stranger would perhaps be surprised to learn that many of these individuals, in the relations of private life, are esteemed honest and honorable men. Nothing could show more conclusively their devotion to their party, than that they should be thus able to overcome their natural aversion to crime, and thus endeavor to countenance and protect the criminal, because that crime had been committed for the benefit of the party. Sir, it gives me no pleasure to refer to this occurrence. We formerly flattered ourselves that however mischievous locofocoism might become in other sections, there was in North Carolina and other parts of the South a regard for public opinion, and a feeling of personal honor among its leading members, which would keep it somewhat in the bounds of decency. But it is a tree which bears. the same fruit in every climate. Its late exhibitions will arouse the