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are willing to undergo. It was a frequent complaint of Cicero, that in his day that the republic was always attacked with more zeal than it was defended; and, with us, it is a common boast of our adversaries, that while the Whigs are talking they are working. But unless we make up our minds to undergo the necessary exertion, our political system will soon become the most corrupt, and, by consequence, the most despotic on earth. Such a government will, by its heavy taxation, wars, &c., impose on us burdens much more intolerable than would be the effort necessary to preserve our liberties. By a proper system of organization, we shall always triumph, because our principles are those upon which this great republic has heretofore been successfully and prosperously governed; and the great mass of our popu lation, being honest and patriotic, will, with proper lights, sustain them.
What, then, Mr. Chairman, is the prospect before us? Your party. having come into power, your situation is altogether different from what it was in the late contest. You must show your hand by your acts, not by mere words. Why, sir, we never could have beaten Mr. Van Buren in 1840 if we had had only his declaration of principles to contend against. Your situation is doubly embarrassing from the duplicity which, as a party, you practiced to obtain power. As far as measures alone are concerned, you might, I grant, unite. But there is to be a struggle for pre-eminence of place, and measures will be the pivots on which party evolutions will turn. Ostensibly, the contest may be about the annexation of Texas and the tariff, because certain prominent men are connected in public estimation with particular sides of these questions.
Inasmuch, therefore, as the action of the majority on these questions will be regarded as the index of the rising or sinking of the fortunes of particular cliques, great importance may be attached to the decision on these questions of a party whose members are known generally to have a decided partiality for the strongest side. The Northern portion of the party is the more numerous, the stronger in the country, and by far the most skilful in party tactics. But then it was solely owing to the exertions of the Southern section that Mr. Van Buren was set aside and Mr. Polk nominated; and can he be so ungrateful as to turn his back on those to whom he owes his elevation? If the Northern wing can get the offices, their consciences will be quieted as to the extension of slavery, and they will go for the annexation of Texas. But in that event, the tariff will become intolerable to the South, and Mr. Calhoun's going out of office will be the signal for another nullification agitation, for which Mr. Polk has very little appetite, not being considered remarkable for nerve in trying times.
As I have had occasion to allude to John C. Calhoun, I take it upon myself to say, that, looking at his course for more than twelve years, with the exception of a few years after 1837, when he hoped from his new connection with the Democratic party that he might become President of all the United States-I say, sir, that his course, whether considered with reference to the tariff and nullification, to agitation on the subject of abolition and slavery, or to his mode of
managing the Texas question, is precisely that which a man of ordinary sagacity would take who designed to effect a dissolution of the Union. And that such is his object can only be denied by those who hold him a monomaniac. As it was said that Julius Cæsar went forward soberly and steadily to the ruin of the Republic, so has John C. Calhoun gone on coolly and deliberately to break up the Union and substitute a Southern Confederacy. If his being kept in office by Mr. Polk should have the effect of inducing him to abandon those views, instead of using his official station and influence to promote them, then for the sake of the repose of the country, I should be pleased to see him retained. It is my opinion that he will be distinguished from his present colleagues in the Cabinet, and retained for a time, ostensibly to finish pending negotiations. He will then, by intrigue, or it may be by public opinion, be forced out, and will go into honorable exile at a foreign court; or retire, like Cincinnatus, to his plough, or possibly come back to the Senate to agitate. While he is in office, too, as many of his peculiar followers will be supplied with offices as may be needed to secure the support of the "chivalry" to the administration.
I am here reminded, sir, that some of those gentlemen have expressed strong hopes that they will be able to overrun and carry off with them the old North State; and I learn that a great effort is to be made by the combined energies of the party for that purpose. But I can tell those gentlemen that J. C. Callioun and his clique have never had the ear of North Carolina. In 1832, with great unanimity, she took ground against them for the Union, and she is still for it. She is also a genuine Whig State. She was Whig in 1775, when she made the first declaration of independence, and her sons still in their hearts cherish and will maintain the principles of their fathers. Tennessee, too, is Whig. I saw something of the canvass there during the summer. There were directed against her the combined influences of Texas, the Tariff, Jackson and Polk, backed by the powerful organization which I have described, and under it she has borne up all nobly. There is a State to be depended on in times of trial. On her a timid man might risk his life, or a brave one trust his honor. Louisiana is Whig to-day, fairly tried. So, too, is Georgia; or, if bent a moment by the blast, unbroken, her banner will resume its place in the Whig line. The Whigs are firm everywhere. The means used to defeat will strengthen us. The fall, like that of Antæus, will give redoubled vigor and energy. The terrible calamity sustained will rouse the nation to avert its consequences. But we must endeavor so to triumph that the fruits of victory will not be lost. Our adversaries have set a most lamentable example. Instead of selecting a man high in the confidence of the country, and rewarding him for past services, they have chosen a mere man of straw, one so unknown that he might be run on opposite principles in different sections. In thus demonstrating the availability of such a man, they have done all in their power to discourage statesmanlike eminence and patriotism. Our candidate was defeated because he was too honest, too open, and too manly to conceal his opinions. Gentlemen on the other side of the House may exult in the event, but they know that he was overthrown in no fair
or manly contest. It was the Hector of Shakspeare, surrounded and impaled by myrmidons,
"The earth that bears him dead, bears not alive so stout a gentleman."
Many a bright eye and manly heart mourns over him, but he needs it not:
Woe! unto us, not him, for he rests well."
Instead of the dark cypress, there will wave over him the bright green laurels of glory, and they will become greener and brighter as the centuries roll on. But we shall often want his sagacious head, his eloquent tongue, and heart of fire. Since he came on the stage of action, in every crisis,
"One blast upon his bugle horn
Sir, it is not talent alone that makes the great statesman. There must be added to high intellect a paramount devotion to ones country, a determination to sacrifice everything of self to promote its advancement. No statesman, no man ever felt this principle in a greater degree than Henry Clay. And, till life shall fade, he will stand erect with a spirit unbroken, in the front rank of those who rally around the Constitution and the Union.
If he bears himself well, so does his party. I declare, sir, I have seen nothing, I have heard of nothing, I have read of nothing like it. Whether it be a voice from the mountains of my own district, or from the densely populated cities of the North, it breathes the same spirit. I have seen no one Whig who regretted his course; no one who would not rather be in exile with Brutus than triumphing with Antony; no one who will not go into battle again with more ardor than he went into the former action. Considering its numbers, so help me God, I believe there has existed not upon earth a party so noble. If it cannot preserve this great country, then, sir, you may burn the Constitution, for it is worthless.
Persons will observe as much difference in the tone of these two speeches as in their substance. The first seems to be the effort of a man hunting for reasons to support a conclusion already arrived at. The second is the result of deep sorrow for what was regarded as a great public calamity, and intense indignation against the authors of the wrong.
To those unacquainted with the state of political excitement then prevailing, this speech will seem excessively violent; but in giving expression to my own earnest feelings, I did not exceed the bounds which party friends justified. The Rev. Mr. Hammett, a Democratic Representative from Mississippi, but a personal friend, afterwards told me that I had said the bitterest things ever uttered on the floor of the House. Mr. Mosely, of New York, a political friend, said that the Democrats, while I was speaking reminded him of a flock of geese on hot iron. During the first part of the speech, Dromgoole, of Virginia, who sat just by me, seemed to enjoy quietly
my hits at the Calhoun wing of the party, between which and the Van Buren or Hunker Democrats there was much jealousy and ill feeling; but after I directed my attack on the northern wing of his party, his manner changed and his countenance indicated much subdued anger. I was subsequently told that many members of the party insisted that unless Mr. Yancey, who obtained the floor to speak next day, would assail me violently, that he should give way to some other member of the party. Hence his remarks, which led to a personal difficulty, were perhaps influenced to some extent by the wishes of his political friends.
In fact, till the end of the session I was in the almost daily receipt of threatening letters, purporting to come from members of the Empire Club and other discontented individuals.
Among Whigs the feeling was as strong on the other side. Mr. Mangum, my Senatorial colleague, said that the public mind had been in such a plastic state from its high excitement, that my speech had moulded it into a fixed shape, in accordance with the views presented. Senator Davis, of Massachusetts (honest John) told me one evening at his house, that he had received so many letters asking for the speech that he had sent seven thousand copies in phamphlet form to his constituents. The Whig party was then so indignant, united and resolute that it could have carried the country. Before the next Presidential election, by reason of the issues raised through the acquisition of the territory taken from Mexico, the political condition of the country was so changed that the Whig party had scarcely the form, and little of the substance, of a compact political organization.
[It being regarded as certain that the Mexican war would, at its close, bring an acquisition of territory to the United States, an excited controversy had arisen in the country as to whether that territory should become free or slaveholding. The Wilmot proviso, declaring that the territory should forever be free, had been pressed, and all the Whigs from the North, with part of the Democrats, had regularly voted for it. On the other hand, most of the Southern States had taken the position that if slaveholders were by Congress excluded from all the territory, such an action would justify resistance.
It was also claimed that as Mexico, in all her territory, had abolished slavery, the institution could not exist there without positive legislation to establish it. Mr. Clay subsequently maintained this view, and insisted on the declaration of his two great principles; first, that slavery could not exist without a positive law to support it; and secondly, that as it had been abolished there, it could not legally exist.
General Cass had in his Nicholson letter taken ground for "non-intervention by Congress" on the subject, and Judge McLean, also a Presidential aspirant, in an article published in the Intelligencer occupied similar ground, and even went to the length of denying the right of Congress to legislate on the subject.
At the time when Congress assembled, it seemed probable that not only would the Whig party be destroyed as a national organization, but that a separation of the States might be caused, or, at least, war might result. At an early day of the session the following speech was made. Because the principle of division had been adopted in the instance of the Missouri line, and also to meet the allegation that slavery having been excluded could not
exist without further legislation, I sought to maintain the right in Congress so to act, as to provide that the territory might be enjoyed by both sections of the Union.
Again, in the hope that the Whigs in the North might be induced to meet us on middle ground, and thus save the party from destruction, I, while attacking the abolitionists, also condemned the former action of certain men at the South. Unless some middle ground could be found, I felt confident that not only would the Whig party be destroyed, but that also the union of the States would be endangered.]
ON THE POLITICAL ASPECT OF THE SLAVE QUESTION, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DECEMBER 22, 1847.
The House being in mittee of the Whole, Mr. CLINGMAN obtained the floor, and said:
MR. CHAIRMAN: When, the other day, in debate, gentlemen of the other side of the house spoke of a black cloud overhanging the country, and of there being danger from abolitionism to the South, it was impossible to mistake their meaning. As I did not then regard such remarks as in order, I allowed them to pass without reply. We have now, however, the subject fairly before us. The President says in his message now under consideration, that we must have territory from Mexico; and his friends on this floor, from the North, insist that this territory shall be appropriated to the use of the free States exclusively. This presents a great question-a question which has been discussed for twelve months over the whole country, and which must be met by. this House. If that question be debated in good temper, no evil can result to the country from the discussion. I, therefore, avail myself of this, the first fair opportunity for the expression of my views in relation to the whole subject.
It is known, sir, that on a former occasion I differed with a majority of the Southern members of this House, upon a question indirectly having some relation to the subject of slavery. I voted against the rule excluding abolition petitions, not only because I regarded that rule as an infringement of the right of petition, but because I was well aware that most of the citizens of the Northern States viewed it in that light; and I was not willing to do violence to the feelings of a large portion of the Union, for the mere purpose of preserving a rule that was of no practical advantage in itself. I voted against the rule, because I saw that by its continuance, we obliged the friends of the Constitution and of the South, to fight the Abolitionists at home, upon the weakest of all the issues that could be presented, so that we were losing ground, and the Abolitionists gaining thereby. I saw clearly, that by these means, these disorganizers had acquired a great show of strength, by blending with themselves the friends of the right of petition. They were thus, too, promoting the object they had in view, of getting up excitement, and producing ill-feeling between the North