Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

sition of Texas. More than the one half of its territory is wholly unfit for slave labour, and therefore, in the nature of things, must be free.

The Treaty itself ought to determine how many free and how many slave States should be made out of this Territory; or it ought, in express terms, to leave the question of slavery to be decided by those States in their constitutions, as they severally apply for admission into the Union.

In the course of human events, Texas has again been presented to us for our acceptance. When we ceded it to Spain, it was almost a wilderness; but it is now peopled by our sons, our brothers, and our kindred, who have convinced the world, by their bravery, that they are worthy of their breeding. They offer to return to our bosom themselves, and to restore to us this fine and fertile country which we had lost, a country more extensive than France, and naturally as beautiful, and blessed with almost every variety of soil and climate. And shall we reject this munificent donation? They justly appreciate a union with us as the highest privilege which any political community on earth can enjoy, and are willing to surrender themselves and their all to become free and sovereign States of our confederacy.

A proper regard for the opinion of mankind has hitherto wisely prevented our government from treating for the annexation of Texas to this country. That we might, years ago, have concluded such a treaty, without any violation of national faith or national honour, I entertain not a doubt; but still we owed it to our own character before the nations of the earth not to act with precipitation on a question of such peculiar delicacy. Throughout the war we have maintained a strict neutrality between the belligerent powers. The Independence of Texas has now been acknowledged by the principal commercial nations of the earth. She has entered into treaties with them and with us. No foot of an invading enemy rests, or has ever rested, upon her soil since the battle of San Jacinto. She still regards her restoration to the bosom of our republic with an eye of intense desire. She has never faltered in this purpose, since the Declaration of her Independence in 1836, when she determined, with enthusiastic unanimity, in favour of re-annexation. The time has at length arrived when we may receive her without any imputation upon our honour.

31

EX-GOVERNOR WILLIAM H. SEWARD, OF NEW YORK,

I shall again allude, in the succeeding portion of this work, to Governor Seward; but he is a remarkable personage,

and deserves peculiar notice. Many men possess superior talents, in particular and individual matters ; but it is rare to meet with a mind so generally comprehensive, and a heart so full of various feeling. The law is his profession; but politics are a profession in the United States; and the influences of these two mighty powers, so universal throughout the Republic, are constantly to be distinguished reciprocating upon each other in the motives and actions of this devoted lover of his country and of her institutions. Sympathy with his race, both with the mass and the individual, with the virtuous and for the degraded, with the happy and the unhappy, with the white man and the black; sympathy intense, unresting and universal, is the secret of Seward's character. Where weeps the destitute, there his voice is heard ; where pines the oppressed, there his spirit lingers near; where groans the outcast, perchance the murderer, there also is he present, seeking to palliate, if not to save. I regard his perception of the springs of action as intuitive, and have, on more than one occasion, listened to his delineation of the criminal's progressive course in vice, with gratified and curious interest; he has sometimes shown me that even in the perpetration of the most hideous crimes, the offender may yet be human. Like most men of fervent character, it is in criminal causes that Seward is pre-eminent; in these his legal research, his acute perception, and his just and merciful nature shine forth in unrivalled lustre. In various civil causes he has proved himself an able and effective lawyer, and several distinguished members of the bar have expressed much commendation of his argument in the highly important Patent Case, in which he was eminently successful. Judge M’Lean, of the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Honorable John Y. Mason, United States' Attorney General, both gave most honorable testimony to his zeal and ability. His first appearance in public life was as the opposer of Masonic tyranny.

He has been twice governor of his native state, and was the man who withstood the Administration in the affair of M'Cleod. The politics of Governor

*

Seward perplex me; he is a staunch supporter of the high Tariff ; sided with the Whigs who gave the notice on the Oregon question ; is the political adherent and devoted friend of John Quincy Adams,* and is a supporter of the Federal Government as opposed to the division of interests by state rights. On the other hand, he is an ultra democrat, active in obtaining the immediate right of suffrage for emigrants, and the privilege of an individual vote for negroes; he is besides pledged, as the first principle of his political exertions, to the abolition of slavery. In each of these opinions, save one, I differ from him ; but such are his candour and ingenuity, that while I listen to his arguments, I both esteem the man and admire the politician the more heartily. This eminent person is intimately versed in the history of his country, and he expounds, in the most lucid manner, the intricacies both of her past and present relations, whether party or political.

The address and manners of Governor Seward are very agreeable, though his voice is guttural and uncultivated, which possibly arises from an absence of all pleasure in music; confessedly he cannot distinguish a chant from a jig. His appearance is very youthful for forty-four; he is of fair complexion, and possesses one peculiarity of feature which is to me of singular interest. In speaking or smiling the upper lip has a slight nervous and tremulous motion, independent of its action in articulation. This peculiarity I have seen but twice before; it is, of course, involuntary, is observed only in men, and is always accompanied by the most acute sensibilities.

The Governor is the constant and ardent advocate of universal education, and he is ever true to the republican principle that all men are equal : indifferent to the accidental advantages of life, he mingles with all who make virtue their inward guide, and propriety their outward garb.

Such is my view of this interesting man; and few have shared his confidence so intimately as I have done ; to his keeping I would confide my most important interests, and to his friendship I would entrust my life. Hereafter I hope to see a darling son trained up by his guidance in the principles and practice of that noble profession which he himself so much adorns. As a brother to a sister is dear, so to me is William H. Seward,

* Nor is his friendship unreturned by the venerable Ex-President, to whom I have often mentioned his name, for the pleasure of observing the smile of affection which came over his countenance whenever the Governor was presented to his recollection.

Since writing the above I have been present at Auburn, during the trial of William Freeman, the black boy, for the murder of the Van Nest family, and have heard the wonderful pleading of Governor Seward for the wretched and demented criminal. In my humble judgment, no being so evidently, so palpably destitute of reasoning powers as Freeman, should have been considered as responsible; and according to this conviction the legal, constitutional and righteous course would have been, after proving that he had committed the crime, to place him in close confinement for life. William Seward was, perhaps, the only man who would have undertaken the defence of this miscreant, and he was induced to assume the task partly because it had been alleged that, in consequence of the defence made for a criminal by him on a previous occasion, the boy Freeman was led to suppose that he might commit murders with impunity. Seward defended his abject client on the best established grounds of mental derangement, with all the zeal and ability which I expected from him ; but when he entered upon his own justification he displayed an eloquence, independence and elevation of character rarely equalled. After commenting upon the insinuations against him, he solemnly averred, "before God and man, that there was no single word which he had ever uttered in any court of justice which he would wish recalled.” This asseveration was uttered in a manner noble and touching in the extreme.

The eloquence of Governor Seward is of a kind per se ; it faithfully conveys those ardent sympathies to which I have alluded in my feeble attempt to pourtray a character so rare and so peculiar. His is an eloquent nature, and invokes an eloquent interpreter; his words are flung forth, simple, impassioned and searching; fresh and free as the impulses of his breast. I do not seek to analyse his powers; the following extract will justify my comment.

EXTRACTS
FROM THE ARGUMENT OF WILLIAM H. SEWARD,

IN DEFENCE OF WM. FREEMAN,
Os his TRIAL FOR MURDER, AT AUBURN, ON THE 21ST AND 22D

JULY, 1846.

May IT PLEASE THE COURT, Gentlemen of the Jury,

THOU SHALT NOT KILL," and “ WhoSO SHEDDETH MAN'S

BLOOD BY MAN SHALL HIS BLOOD BE SHED," are laws found in the code of that people who, although dispersed and distracted, trace their history to the creation; a history which records that murder was the first of human crimes.

The first of these precepts constitutes a tenth part of the jurisprudence which Go saw fit to establish, at an early period, for the government of all mankind, throughout all generations. The latter, of less universal obligation, is still retained in our system, although other States, as intelligent and refined, as secure and peaceful, have substituted for it the more benign principle that good shall be returned for evil. I yield implicit submission to this law, and acknowledge the justice of its penalty, and the duty of courts and juries to give it effect.

In this case, if the prisoner be guilty of Murder, I do not ask remission of punishment. If he be guilty, never was murderer more guilty. He has murdered not only John G. Van Nest, but his hands are reeking with the blood of other and numerous, and even more pitiable victims. The slaying of Van Nest, if a crime at all, was the cowardly crime of assassination. John G. Van Nest was a just, upright, virtuous man, of middle age, of grave and modest demeanor, distinguished by especial marks of the respect and esteem of his fellow-citizens. On his arm leaned a confiding wife, and they supported, on the one side, children to whom they had given being, and, on the other, aged and venerable parents, from whom they had derived existence. The assassination of such a man was an atrocious crime, but the murderer, with more than savage refinement, immolated on the same altar, in the same hour, a venerable and virtuous matron of more than threescore years, and her daughter, the wife of Van Nest, mother of an unborn infant. Nor was this all. Providence, which, for its own mysterious purposes, permitted these dreadful crimes, in mercy suffered the same arm to be raised against the sleeping orphan child of the butchered parents, and received it into heaven. A whole family, just, gentle, and pure, were thus, in their own house, in the night time, without any provocation, without one moment's warning, sent by the murderer to join the assembly of the Just; and even the laboring man, sojourning within their gates, received the fatal blade into his breast, and survives through the mercy, not of the murderer, but of God.

For William Freeman, as a murderer, I have no commission to speak. If he had silver and gold accumulated with

« ZurückWeiter »