Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

THE GREEK REVOLUTION.

A SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, JANUARY

19th, 1824.

I am afraid, Mr. Chairman, that, so far as my part in this discussion is concerned, those expectations which the public excitement existing on the subject, and certain associations easily connected with it, have conspired to raise, may be disappointed. An occasion which calls the attention to a spot so distinguished, so connected with interesting recollections, as Greece, may naturally excite something of warmth and enthusiasm. In a grave political discussion, however, it is necessary that such feelings should be chastised. I shall endeavor properly to repress them, although it is impossible that they should be altogether extinguished. We must, indeed, fly beyond the civilized world; we must

the dominion of law and the boundaries of knowledge; we must, more especially, withdraw ourselves from this place, and the scenes which here surround us—if we would separate ourselves altogether from the influence of all those memorials of herself which ancient Greece has transmitted for the admiration and the benefit of mankind. This free form of gov. ernment, this popular assembly, the common council held for the common good, where have we contemplated its earliest models? This practice of free debate and public discussion, the contest of mind with mind, and that popular eloquence, which, if it were now here, on a subject like this, would move the stones of the capitol, whose was the language in which all these were first exhibited ? Even the edifice in which we assemble, these proportioned columns, this ornamental architeoture, all remind us that Greece has existed, and that

pass

we,

like the rest of mankind, are greatly her debtors. But I have not introduced this motion in the vain hope of discharging anything of this accumulated debt of centuries. I have not acted upon the expectation, that we, who have inherited this obligation from our ancestors, should now attempt to pay it to those who may seem to have inherited from their ancestors a right to receive payment. My object is nearer and more immediate. I wish to take occasion of the struggle of an interesting and gal. lant people, in the cause of liberty and christianity, to draw the attention of the house to the circumstances which have accompanied that struggle, and to the principles which appear to have governed the conduct of the great states of Europe in regard to it; and to the effects and consequences of these principles upon the independence of nations, and especially upon the institutions of free governments.

What I have to say of Greece, therefore, concerns the modern, not the ancient; the living, and not the dead. It regards her, not as she exists in history, triumphant over time, and tyranny, and ignorance; but as she now is, contending against fearful odds, for being, and for the common privilege of human nature.

As it is never difficult to recite commonplace remarks and trite aphorisms, so it may be easy, I am aware, on this occasion, to remind me of the wisdom which dictates to men a care of their own affairs, and admonishes them, instead of searching for adventures abroad, to leave other men's concerns in their own hands. It may be

to call this resolution Quixotic, the emanation of a crusading or propagandist spirit. All this, and more, may be readily said; but all this, and more, will not be allowed to fix a character upon this proceeding, until that is proved which it takes for granted. Let it first be shown, that in this question there is nothing which can affect the interest, the character, or the duty of this country. Let it be proved, shat we are not called upon, by either of these considerations, to express an opinion on the subject to which the resolution ro lates.* Let this be proved, and then it will indeed be made out, that neither ought this resolution to pass, nor ought the subject of it to have been mentioned in the communication of the president to us. But, in my opinion, this cannot be shown. In my judgment, the subject is interesting to the people and the government of this country, and we are called upon, by considerations of great weight and moment, to express our opinions upon it. These considerations, I think, spring from a sense of our own duty, our character, and our own interest. I wish to treat the subject on such grounds, exclusively, as are truly American; but then, in considering it as an American question, I cannot forget the age in which we live, the prevailing spirit of the age, the interesting questions which agitate it, and our own peculiar relation in regard to these interesting questions. Let this be, then, and as far as I am concerned I hope it will be, purely an American discussion ; let it embrace, nevertheless, everything that fairly concerns America. Let it comprehend, not merely her present advantage, but her permanent interest, her elevated character as one of the free states of the world, and her duty toward those great principles which have hitherto maintained the relative independence of nations, and which have, more especially, made her what she is.

easy

At the commencement of the session, the president, in the discharge of the high duties of his office, called our attention to the subject to which this resolution refers. “ A strong hope," says that communication, “ has been long entertained, founded on the heroic struggle of the Greeks, that they would succeed in their contest, and resume their equal station among the nations of the earth. It is believed that the whole civilized world

The following is the resolution referred to: * Resvived, That provision ought to be made, by law, for defraying the expense Incident to the appointment of an agent or commissioner to Greece, whenever the president shall deem it expedient to make such appointment."

takes a deep interest in their welfare. Although no power has declared in their favor, yet none, according to our information, has taken part against them. Their cause and their name have protected them from dangers which might ere this have over whelmed any other people. The ordinary calculations of interest, and of acquisition with a view to aggrandizement, which mingle so much in the transactions of nations, seem to have had no effect in regard to them. From the facts which have come to our knowledge, there is good cause to believe that their enemy has lost forever all dominion over them; that Greece will become again an independent nation.”

It has appeared to me that the house should adopt some resolution reciprocating these sentiments, so far as it shall approvė them. More than twenty years have elapsed since congress first ceased to receive such a communication from the president as could properly be made the subject of a general answer. I do not mean to find fault with this relinquishment of a former and an ancient practice. It may have been attended with inconveniences which justified its abolition. But, certainly, there was one advantage belonging to it; and that is, that it furnished a fit opportunity for the expression of the opinion of the houses of congress upon those topics in the executive communication which were not expected to be made the immediate subjects of direct legislation. Since, therefore, the president's message does not now receive a general answer, it has seemed to me to be proper that, in some mode, agreeable to our own usual form of proceeding, we should express our sentiments upon the important and interesting topics on which it treats.

If the sentiments of the message in respect to Greece be proper, it is equally proper that this house should reciprocate those sentiments. The present resolution is designed to have that extent, and no more. If it pass, it will leave any future proceeding where it now is, in the discretion of the executive government. It is but an expression, under those forms in

which the house is accustomed to act, of the satisfaction of the house with the general sentiments expressed in regard to this subject in the message, and of its readiness to defray the expense incident to any inquiry for the purpose of further information, or any other agency which the president, in his discretion, shall see fit, in whatever manner and at whatever time, to institute. The whole matter is still left in his judgment, and this resolution can in no way restrain its unlimited exercise.

I might well, Mr. Chairman, avoid the responsibility of this measure, if it had, in my judgment, any tendency to change the policy of the country. With the general course of that policy I am quite satisfied. The nation is properous, peaceful, and happy; and I should very reluctantly put its peace, prosperity, or happiness at risk. It appears to me, however, that this resolution is strictly conformable to our general policy, and not only consistent with our interests, but even demanded by a large and liberal view of those interests.

It is certainly true that the just policy of this country is, in the first place, a peaceful policy. No nation ever had less to expect from forcible aggrandizement. The mighty agents which are working out our greatness are time, industry, and the arts. Our augmentation is by growth, not by acquisition; by internal development, not by external accession. No schemes can be suggested to us so magnificent as the prospect which a sober contemplation of our own condition, unaided by projects, uninfluenced by ambition, fairly spreads before us. A country of such vast extent, with such varieties of soil and climate, with so much public spirit and private enterprise, with a population increasing so much beyond former example, with capacities of improvement not only unapplied or unexhausted, but even, in a great measure, as yet unexplored; so free in its institutions, so mild in its laws, so secure in the title it confers on every man to his own acquisitions ; needs nothing but

« AnteriorContinuar »