Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

of the United States for the fate of the imperious accuser– and to the issue of the Presidential election for the answer of the Union. All these are pregnant proofs of the public will, and the last pre-eminently so: because, both the question of the expurgation, and the form of the process, were directly put in issue upon it. . . . Assuming, then, that we have ascertained the will of the people on this great question, the inquiry presents itself, how far the expression of that will ought to be conclusive of our action here. I hold that it ought to be binding and obligatory upon us; and that, not only upon the principles of representative government, which require obedience to the known will of the people, but also in conformity to the principles upon which the proceeding against President Jackson was conducted when the sentence against him was adopted. Then everything was done with especial reference to the will of the people. Their impulsion was assumed to be the sole motive to action; and to them the ultimate verdict was expressly referred. The whole machinery of alarm and pressure—every engine of political and moneyed power—was put in motion, and worked for many months, to excite the people against the President; and to stir up meetings, memorials, petitions, travelling committees, and distress deputations against him; and each symptom of popular discontent was hailed as an evidence of public will, and quoted here as proof that the people demanded the condemnation of the President. Not only legislative assemblies, and memorials from large assemblies, were then produced here as evidence of public opinion, but the petitions of boys under age, the remonstrances of a few signers, and the results of the most inconsiderable elections were ostentatiously paraded and magnified, as the evidence of the sovereign will of our constituents. Thus, sir, the public voice was everything, while that voice, partially obtained through political and pecuniary machinations, was adverse to the President. Then the popular will was the shrine at which all worshipped. Now, when that will is regularly, soberly, repeatedly, and almost universally expressed through the ballot-boxes, at the various elections, and turns out to be in favor of the President, certainly no one can disregard it, nor otherwise look at it than as the solemn verdict of the competent and ultimate tribunal upon an issue fairly made up, fully argued, and duly submitted for decision. As such verdict, I receive it. As the deliberate verdict of the sovereign people, I bow to it. I am content. I do not mean to reopen the case nor to recommence the argument. I leave that work to others, if any others choose to perform it. For myself, I am content; and, dispensing with further argument, I shall call for judgment, and ask to have execution done, upon that unhappy journal, which the verdict of millions of freemen finds guilty of bearing on its face an untrue, illegal, and unconstitutional sentence of condemnation against the approved President of the Republic. But, while declining to reopen the argument of this question, and refusing to tread over again the ground already traversed, there is another and a different task to perform; one which the approaching termination of President Jackson's administration makes peculiarly proper at this time, and which it is my privilege, and perhaps my duty, to execute, as being the suitable conclusion to the arduous contest in which we have been so long engaged. I allude to the general tenor of his administration, and to its effect, for good or for evil, upon the condition of his country. This is the proper time for such a view to be taken. The political existence of this great man now draws to a close. In little more than forty days he ceases to be an object of political hope to any, and should cease to be an object of political hate, or envy, to all. Whatever of motive the servile and time-serving might have found in his exalted station for raising the altar of adulation, and burning the incense of praise before him, that motive can no longer exist. The dispenser of the patronage of an empire, the chief of this great confederacy of States, is soon to be a private individual, stripped of all power to reward, or to punish. His own thoughts, as he has shown us in the concluding paragraph of that message which is to be the last of its kind that we shall ever receive from him, are directed to that beloved retirement from which he was drawn by the voice of millions of freemen, and to which he now looks for that interval of repose which age and infirmities require. Under these circumstances, he ceases to be a subject for the ebullition of the passions, and passes into a character for the contemplation of history. Historically, then, shall I view him; and limiting this view to his civil administration, I demand, where is there a Chief Magistrate of whom so much evil has been predicted, and from whom so much good has come? Never has any man entered upon the Chief Magistracy of a country under such appalling predictions of ruin and woel never has any one been so pursued with direful prognostications! never has any one been so beset and impeded by a powerful combination of political and moneyed confederates! never has any one in any country where the administration of justice has risen above the knife or the bowstring, been so lawlessly and shamelessly tried and condemned by rivals and enemies, without hearing, without defence, without the forms of law and justice! History has been ransacked to find examples of tyrants sufficiently odious to illustrate him by comparison. Language has been tortured to find epithets sufficiently strong to paint him in description. Imagination has been exhausted in her efforts to deck him with revolting and inhuman attributes. Tyrant, despot, usurper; destroyer of the liberties of his country; rash, ignorant, imbecile; endangering the public peace with all foreign nations; destroying domestic prosperity at home; ruining all industry, all commerce, all manufactures; annihilating confidence between man and man; delivering up the streets of populous cities to grass and weeds, and the wharves of commercial towns to the encumbrance of decaying vessels; depriving labor of all reward; depriving industry of all employment; destroying the currency; plunging an innocent and happy people from the summit of felicity to the depths of misery, want, and despair. Such is the faint outline, followed up by actual condemnation, of the appalling denunciations daily uttered against this one MAN, from the moment he became an object of political competition, down to the concluding moment of his political existence. The sacred voice of inspiration has told us that there is a time for all things. There certainly has been a time for every evil that human nature admits of to be vaticinated of President Jackson's administration; equally certain the time has now come for all rational and well-disposed people to compare the predictions with the facts, and to ask themselves if these calamitous prognostications have been verified by events? Have we peace, or war, with foreign nations? Certainly, we have peace with all the world! peace with all its benign, and felicitous, and beneficent influences! Are we respected, or despised abroad? Certainly the American name never was more honored throughout the four quarters of the globe than in this very moment. Do we hear of indignity or outrage in any quarter? of merchants robbed in foreign ports? of vessels searched on the high seas? of American citizens impressed into foreign service? of the national flag insulted anywhere? On the contrary, we see former wrongs repaired; no new ones inflicted. France pays twenty-five millions of francs for spoliations committed thirty years ago; Naples pays two millions one hundred thousand ducats for wrongs of the same date; Denmark pays six hundred and fifty thousand rix-dollars for wrongs done a quarter of a century ago; Spain engages to pay twelve millions of reals wellon for injuries of fifteen years' date; and Portugal, the last in the list of former aggressors, admits her liability and only waits the adjustment of details to close her account by adequate indemnity. So far from war, insult, contempt, and spoliation from abroad, this denounced administration has been the season of peace and goodwill and the auspicious era of universal reparation. So far from suffering injury at the hands of foreign powers, our merchants have received indemnities for all former injuries. It has been the day of accounting, of settlement, and of retribution. The total list of arrearages, extending through four successive previous administrations, has been closed and settled up. The wrongs done to commerce for thirty years back, and under so many different Presidents, and indemnities withheld from all, have been repaired and paid over under the beneficent and glorious administration of President Jackson. But one single instance of outrage has occurred, and

« ZurückWeiter »