Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Marshal, Collector, and Postmaster, was erected into a tribunal without appeal for the decision of questions of personal liberty. An affidavit of the claimant or his agent was all the evidence required for the identification of the party sought, while his counter affidavit was expressly excluded, and a special provision was made for the protection of the Slave-catcher from forcible interference, at the expense of the United States. And any obstruction to the carrying out of the law, or concealment or assistance of a Fugitive Slave, made the culprit liable to a penalty of one thousand dollars to the injured party, over and above his damages by action, an equal sum to the United States (one half to the informer) and to imprisonment for twelve months. This bill, with these amendments, Mr. WEBSTER declared his intention of supporting “ with all its provisions, to the fullest extent.” It is true that, at a subsequent period, after three or four editions had passed under his revising eye, Mr. WEBSTER was compelled, by the general voice of indignation which was upraised at this wickedness, to pretend that he meant to

say that he would support the bill with certain amendments of his own, among them a provision of a trial by jury, but this was justly regarded with contempt as a mean and lying subterfuge for a base and wicked action. So was also Mr. WEBSTER's pitiful attempt to evade the censure brought upon him by his omission of any allusion to the imprisonment and enslavement of northern seafaring citizens, while dilating on the injustice of the North to the South in the matter of their Fugitives, in his printed speech, by a weak and flat allusion to it in its printed form.

This demonstration, on the part of Mr. WEBSTER, caused a profound sensation throughout the country. The general feeling we believe to have been disgust and indignation at treachery and baseness of so flagrant a type. The servile prints and politicians that acknowledge Slavery as the breath of their nostrils, at the North as well as at the South, of course rejoiced in this new accession to their ranks. Even intimations, intended to lure him on to still lower deeps of infamy, were thrown out that the path thus happily entered upon might yet lead to the Presidency. But the sense of the intelligent, humane, and religious portion of the country was all but unanimous in denunciation and abhorrence of his course. In Boston, on Monday, March 25, a great meeting was held in Faneuil Hall, of citizens, without regard to party, “who had read with surprise, alarm, and deep regret, Mr. WEBSTER's late speech on the subject of Slavery.But one feeling seemed to pervade the vast assemblage, and every just sarcasm or denunciation

was received with unanimous approbation. Mr. SEWALL, the President of the meeting, Mr. THEODORE PARKER, Mr. WENDELL PHILLIPS, and Mr. S. R. Ward, addressed it with powerful effect. The two following resolutions selected from those passed will give an idea of the spirit of the meeting :

Resolved, That we consider the question of Slavery in the Territories of the United States, now before the Congress of the Nation, as paramount to all merely commercial or political questions now before us; that it deserves and demands the serious attention of the people themselves, for the welfare of millions of men depends on the decision that shall be made.

Resolved, That the recent speech of Hon. Daniel Webster, in the Senate of the United States, on the subject of Slavery, is alike unworthy of a wise statesman and a good man, and is a speech · NOT FIT TO BE MADE.'

Resolved, That it is unworthy of a Senator from Massachusetts, after dwelling on the alleged grievances which the South has suffered from the North, to omit in his spoken speech, all allusion to the oppressive laws of some Southern States, by which free colored citizens of the North, when going to the South on board ships, are taken and shut up in jail, and in his printed speech to treat the matter with most slender and delicate reproof.

A Mass meeting was also held at Plymouth, on the next Saturday, called by a great number of the most prominent members of all political parties and religious sects, which gave emphatic evidence that the spirit of the Pilgrims has not been entirely quenched by the Magician of Marshfield. Meetings of a similar character were held in Upton, and various other towns throughout Massachusetts and New England.

But, though the voice of the mass of the well-educated and the wellintentioned was thus loud and distinct, there was not wanting that of assent and adulation. A letter was addressed to Mr. WEBSTER, by seven or eight hundred of the inhabitants of Boston and its vicinity, thanking him for his timely interference to prevent disunion and revolution, and for having recalled themselves to a sense of their constitutional obligations. This letter received the signature of some of the most influential and wealthy of the citizens of this neighborhood, but the names of many more were withheld, and those of the great majority were obscure and inconsequential. The object of Mr. Webster's friends was, undoubtedly, to give him an opportunity of extricating himself in some measure from the predicament in which he had placed

- and

himself. This he briefly did, but recapitulating his positions as to the impossibility of Slavery entering the Mexican Territories, and the duty of putting the questions of Slavery in the District and of the rendition of Fugitives on a more conciliatory basis,

so to administer the government that all men may be made more and more sensible of its beneficent operations and its inestimable value." Letters of a similar character were addressed to him from Newburyport, Mass., Augusta, Me., Salisbury, N. H., and perhaps other places. In his reply to all these adulatory effusions, his main object seemed to be to arouse the fears of the northern people by a strong expression of his own apprehensions of a disruption of the Union, in case these measures of conciliction were not adopted. The necessity of these letters is a conclusive proof of the extent of the dissatisfaction which Mr. WEBSTER's speech had excited. His political friends felt that these sacrifices of their own consistency and of the character of New England, as far as they were able to affect it, were needed. We are happy to say that there was a large remnant left, even of the Whig party itself, which refused to be absorbed in this gulf of disgrace which their lost leader had opened under their feet. The positions of Mr. WEBSTER were ably attacked in the Boston Atlas, by the Hon. FRANKLIN DEXTER, and satisfactorily refuted. Other papers

refused to endorse the endorsement of his course, and the effect has unquestionably been to split in two the Whig party and to paralyze its energies. To this cause, to Mr. WEBSTER chiefly, we apprehend the defeat which has placed the command of this State in the power of the two other parties, to which we shall again allude, is to be attributed.

But to return to the Senate Chamber. The flame of excitement which this firebrand of Slavery had kindled, continued to burn with intenser fury during the remainder of the session. Our limits forbid any attempt at a detailed account of the debates, or of the various devices which were resorted to for immediate or remote effect. In April, Mr. Calhoun passed from this world to render an account of his diabolical public life at the bar of that God, before whom all his children stand as equals and brethren. We do not presume to follow him to the judgment, nor to decide what palliations of perverted education, of fatal circumstances, may be discerned for him by those eyes that look upon the heart. But, looking at his public life with the eyes of humanity, at his cold hearted, deliberate, unflagging advocacy of the interests of the vilest Slavery “that ever saw the sun,” from the first moment that it was in anywise in question till the dying

benediction he bestowed upon it and the new champion it had found in the Massachusetts Senator, we are safe in saying that a more dangerous politician, Statesman perhaps he deserves to be called, to the best interests of liberty never appeared in any legislative hall. We will not

say the worst, for we must regard the northern man who emulates or transcends the patriarch of Slavery in allegiance to it and devotion to its interests as much more criminal, as he is more despicable than one who is to the manner born. The very purity of Mr. Calhoun's private life, his lofty subordination of all meaner ambitions and less vital interests to the great idea of the everlasting degradation of the African race and the eternal supremacy of the Slave-masters in the nation as well as on the plantation, his singleness of purpose and devotion of heart to his fiendish policy, made his eminence the more dangerous as well as the more marked. Of all the men of this period in public life, if Statesmanship is to be counted by the ability and singleness of purpose with which a great end is proposed and pursued, however abominable and cruel, Mr. Calhoun deserves the fame of being a Statesman rather than a politician. He has made his mark upon his age, and it is one that will be long felt and seen. Though his name will in due time be regarded with the execration which a just posterity is sure to bestow upon the enemies of mankind, it will still be remembered, and remembered without that element of contempt and loathing which must mingle with the memory of his northern imitators and tools.

As the debate went on, one portion of Mr. Clay's Compromise after another was put aside. Not even the Committee of Thirteen which Mr. FootE at last succeeded in creating as the saving power of the nation, could save it from the contempt which such an ill-assorted mass of incongruities naturally excited, nor yet substitute anything more deserving of respect. The death of President TAYLOR, which occurred July ninth, had its effect on this political dilemma. It was no secret that he was opposed to the Omnibus bill, in favor of the admission of California, and the leaving of the other two Territories to themselves. He had also shown himself ready to chastise the insolence of Texas in proposing to exercise sovereignty over the part of New Mexico which she claimed in spite of the United States. No other man in the country seemed equal to encounter this handful of land pirates, - who are dependent on the arms of the United States for their protection against the Indians in their neighborhood, — in this attempt to bully the whole nation. Of course, all this show of valor on their part was only to put them in a position to drive a better bargain for the lands to which

they had no shadow of a claim, except their own lying assertion. Whether President Taylor would have been able to stand his ground is very uncertain. We incline to the opinion that he was happy in the time of his death. He died at exactly the moment when he stood in a manly attitude, apparently resolved to do what seemed to him his duty at all hazards. Whether the native hue of his resolution would have blenched before the vindictive opposition he would have had to encounter, or whether the influence of his own class interests would not have been too strong for him, can never now be known. A very

few days, or weeks, would have made it all materials for History. As it is, it can always be said of him that he was ready to protect New Mexico in her rights as a Free State, and to drive away the Texan harpies from her borders. If he had lived, and were blessed with a good share of that obstinacy of purpose which was the crowning virtue of ANDREW Jackson, he might have made a more respectable figure in history than he can now do. By the weight of his personal character, and the influence of his office, assisted by the circumstance of his being a Slaveholder, he might have been able to keep up an unequal fight for awhile. But so anomalous a position could not have been successfully maintained to the end. A Slaveholder daring to vindicate the rights of a State repudiating Slavery against a Slave State, and presuming to construe the Constitution otherwise than as the Magna Charta of man-ownership, could never have held his ground. He was put in the Chair neither by the South nor by the North for such purpose. He would have been assailed virulently by the one, and not sustained by the other. It is well for him that his fame is relegated to the Media Scientia, as the schoolmen called the philosophy of events that never happened.

This event was doubly favorable to the designs of the Slaveocracy inasmuch as it not only removed such opposition as President TAYLOR might present, but it substituted in his place MILLARD FILLMORE, who has proved himself one of the most pliant and serviceable tools that it has ever had the fortune to employ. It also gave Mr. WEBSTER an opportunity of escaping from the atmosphere of the Senate, now made hot by the dwindling number of days which separated him from the presence of his constituents, at whose hands it was almost certain he would meet with the rebuke of a rejection. He was glad of the opportunity, as it took him from a scene of active participation in the villainy of the day to a post whence he could quietly contemplate its progress. Before, however, he sunk from the Senate into the Depart

any

« AnteriorContinuar »