« AnteriorContinuar »
am of the same opinion. But if it be true that there is hereafter to be neither a Russian policy, nor a Prussian policy, nor an Austrian policy, nor a French policy, nor even, which yet I will not believe, an English policy, there will be, I trust in God, an American policy. If the authority of all these governments be hereafter to be mixed and blended, and to flow, in one augmented current of prerogative, over the face of Europe, sweep ing away all resistance in its course, it will yet remain for us to secure our own happiness by the preservation of our own principles; which I hope we shall have the manliness to express on all proper occasions, and the spirit to defend in every extremity. The end and scope of this amalgamated policy are neither more nor less than this, to interfere, by force, for any government, against any people who may resist it. Be the state of the people what it may, they shall not rise; be the government what it will, it shall not be opposed. The practical commentary has corresponded with the plain language of the text. Look at Spain, and at Greece. If men may not resist the Spanish inquisition, and the Turkish cimeter, what is there to which humanity must not submit? Stronger cases can never arise. Is it not proper for us, at all times, is it not our duty, at this time, to come forth, and deny, and condemn, these monstrous principles ? Where, but here, and in one other place, are they likely to be resisted ? They are advanced with equal coolness and boldness; and they are supported by immense power. The timid will shrink and give way, and many of the brave may be compelled to yield to force. Human liberty may yet, perhaps, be obliged to repose its principal hopes on the intelligence and the vigor of the Saxon race.
As far as depends on us, at least, I trust those hopes will not be disappointed ; and that, to the extent which may consist with our own settled, pacific policy, our opinions and sentiments may be brought to act on the right side, and to the right end, on an occasion which is, in truth, nothing less than a momentous question between an
intelligent age, full of knowledge, thirsting for improvement, and quickened by a thousand impulses, on the one hand, and the most arbitrary pretensions, sustained by unprecedented power.
This asserted right of forcible intervention in the affairs of other nations is in open violation of the public law of the world. Who has authorized these learned doctors of Troppau to establish new articles in this code ? Whence are their diplomas ? Is the whole world expected to acquiesce in principles which entirely subvert the independence of nations? On the basis of this independence has been reared the beautiful fabric of international law. On the principle of this independence, Europe has seen a family of nations flourishing within its limits, the small among the large, protected not always by power, but by a principle above power, by a sense of propriety and justice. On this principle, the great commonwealth of civilized states has been hitherto upheld. There have been occasional departures or violations, and always disastrous, as in the case of Poland; but, in general, the harmony of the system has been wonderfully preserved. In the production and preservation of this sense of justice, this predominating principle, the christian religion has acted a main part. Christianity and civilization have labored together; it seems, indeed, to be a law of our human condition, that they can live and flourish only together. From their blended influence has arisen that delightful spectacle of the prevalence of reason and principle over power and interest, so well described by one who was an honor to the age :
“ And sovereign Law, the world's collected will,
O'er thrones and globes elate,
Smit by her sacred frown,
And e'en the all-dazzling crown
But this vision is past. While the teachers of Laybach give the rule, there will be no law but the law of the strongest. '
It may now be required of me to show what interest we have in resisting this new system.. What is it to us, it may be asked, upon what principles, or what pretenses, the European governments assert a right of interfering in the affairs of their neighbors? The thunder, it may be said, rolls at a distance. The wide Atlantic is between us and danger; and, however others may suffer, we shall remain safe.
I think it is a sufficient answer to this to say, that we are one of the nations ; that we have an interest, therefore, in the preservation of that system of national law and national intercourse which has heretofore subsisted, so beneficially for all. Our system of government, it should also be remembered, is, throughout, founded on principles utterly hostile to the new
and if we remain undisturbed by its operation, we shall cwe our security either to our situation or our spirit. The enterprising character of the age, our own active, commercial spirit, the great increase which has taken place in the intercourse between civilized and commercial states, have necessarily connected us with the nations of the earth, and given us a high concern in the preservation of those salutary principles upon which that intercourse is founded. We have as clear an interest in international law, as individuals have in the laws of society.
But apart from the soundness of the policy, on the ground of direct interest, we have, sir, a duty connected with this subject, which I trust we are willing to perform. What do we not owe to the cause of civil and religious liberty ? to the principle of lawful resistance ? to the principle that society has a right to partake in its own government? As the leading republic of the world, living and breathing in these principles, and advanced, by their operation, with unequaled rapidity in our career, shall we give our consent to bring them into disreputa
and disgrace? It is neither ostentation nor boasting to say, that there lie before this country, in immediate prospect, a great extent and height of power. We are borne along toward this, without effort, and not always even with a full knowledge of the rapidity of our own motion. Circumstances which never combined before have here united in our favor, and a mighty current is setting us forward which we could not resist even if we would, and which, while we would stop to make an observation, and take the sun, has set us, at the end of the operation, far in advance of the place where we commenced it. Does it not become us, then, is it not a duty imposed on us, to give our weight to the side of liberty and justice; to let mankind know that we are not tired of own institutions, and to protest against the asserted power of altering at pleasure the law of the civilized world?
But whatever we do in this respect, it becomes us to do upon clear and consistent principles. There is an important topic in the message to which I have yet hardly alluded. I mean the rumored combination of the European continental sovereigns against the newly established free states of South America. Whatever position this government may take on that subject, I trust it will be one which can be defended on known and acknowledged grounds of right. The near approach or the remote distance of danger may affect policy, but cannot change principle. The same reason that would authorize us to protest against unwarrantable combinations to interfere between Spain and her former colonies, would authorize us equally to protest, if the same combination were directed against the smallest state in Europe, although our duty to ourselves, our policy, and wisdom, might indicate very different courses as fit to be pursued by us in the two cases. We shall not, I trust, act upon the notion of dividing the world with the Holy Alliance, and complain of nothing done by them in their hemisphere if they will not interfere with ours. At least this would not be such a
course of policy as I could recommend or support. We have not offended, and I hope we do not intend to offend, in regard to South America, against any principle of national independence or of public law. We have done nothing, we shall do nothing, that we need to hush up or to compromise by forbearing to express our sympathy for the cause of the Greeks, or our opinion of the course which other governments have adopted in regard to them.
It may, in the next place, be asked, perhaps, supposing all this to be true, what can we do? Are we to go to war? Are we to interfere in the Greek cause, or any other European cause ? Are we to endanger our pacific relations ? No, certainly not. What, then, the question recurs, remains for us? If we will not endanger our own peace, if we will neither furnish armies nor navies to the cause which we think the just one, what is there within our power ?
Sir, this reasoning mistakes the age. The time has been, indeed, when fleets, and armies, and subsidies, were the principal reliances even in the best cause. But, happily for mankind, there has come a great change in this respect. Moral causes come into consideration, in proportion as the progress of knowledge is advanced; and the public opinion of the civilized world is rapidly gaining an ascendency over mere brutal force. It is already able to oppose the most formidable obstruction to the progress of injustice and oppression; and as it grows more intelligent and more intense, it will be more and more formidable. It
may be silenced by military power, but it cannot be conquered. It is elastic, irrepressible, and invulnerable to the weapons of ordinary warfare. It is that impassible, unextinguishable enemy of mere violence and arbitrary rule, which, like Milton's angels,
“ Vital in every part, Cannot, but by annibilating, die."