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of Plymouth, shall be transmitted through millions of the sons of the Pilgrims, till it lose itself in the murmurs of the Pacific seas. We would leave for the consideration of those who shall then occupy our places, some proof that we hold the blessings transmitted from our fathers in just estimation; some proof of our attachment to the cause of good government, and of civil and religious liberty; some proof of a sincere and ardent desire to promote every thing which may enlarge the understandings and improve the hearts of men. And when, from the long distance of a hundred years, they shall look back upon us, they shall know, at least, that we possessed affections, which, running backward and warming with gratitude for what our ancestors have done for our happiness, run forward also to our posterity, and meet them with cordial salutation, ere yet they have arrived on the shore of being.
Advance, then, ye future generations! We would hail you, as you rise in your long succession, to fill the places which we now fill, and to taste the blessings of existence where we are passing, and soon shall have passed, our own human duration. We bid you welcome to this pleasant land of the fathers. We bid you welcome to the healthful skies and the verdant fields of New England. We greet your accession to the great inheritance which we have enjoyed. We welcome you to the blessings of good government and religious liberty. We welcome you to the treasures of science and the delights of learning. We welcome you to the transcendent sweets of domestic life, to the happiness of kindred, and parents, and children. We welcome you to the immeasurable blessings of rational existence, the immortal hope of Christianity, and the light of everlasting truth!
Note A.— PAGE 27.
THE allusion in the Discourse is to the large historical painting of the Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, executed by Henry Sargent, Esq., of Boston, and, with great liberality, presented by him to the Pilgrim Society. It appeared in their hall (of which it forms the chief ornament) for the first time at the celebration of 1824. It represents the principal personages of the company at the moment of landing, with the indian Samoset, who approaches them with a friendly welcome. A very competent judge, himself a distinguished artist, the late venerable Colonel Trumbull, has pronounced that this painting has great merit. An interesting account of it will be found in Dr. Thacher's History of Plymouth, pp. 249 and 257.
An historical painting, by Robert N. Weir, Esq., of the largest size, representing the embarkation of the Pilgrims from DelftHaven, in Holland, and executed by order of Congress, fills one of the panels of the Rotunda of the Capitol at Washington. The moment chosen by the artist for the action of the picture is that in which the venerable
pastor Robinson, with tears, and benedictions, and prayers to Heaven, dismisses the beloved members of his little flock to the perils and the hopes of their great enterprise. The characters of the personages introduced are indicated with discrimination and power, and the accessories of the work marked with much taste and skill. It is a painting of distinguished historical interest and of great artistic merit.
The “Landing of the Pilgrims” has also been made the subject of a very interesting painting by Mr. Flagg, intended to represent the deep religious feeling which so strikingly characterized the first settlers of New England. With this object in view, the central figure is that of Elder Brewster. It is a picture of cabinet size, and is in possession of a gentleman of New Haven, descended from Elder Brewster, and of that naille.
Note B. — PAGE 45.
As the opinion of contemporaneous thinkers on this important subject cannot fail to interest the general reader, it is deemed proper to insert here the following extract from a letter, written in 1849, to show how powerfully the truths uttered in 1820, in the spirit of prophecy, as it were, impressed themselves upon certain minds, and how closely the verification of the prediction has been watched.
“I do not remember any political prophecy, founded on the spirit of a wide and far-reaching statesmanship, that has been so remarkably fulfilled as the one made by Mr. Webster, in his Discourse delivered at Plymouth in 1820, on the effect which the laws of succession to property in France, then in operation, would be likely to produce on the forms and working of the French government. But to understand what he said, and what he foresaw, I must explain a little what had been the course of legislation in France on which his predictions were founded. “Before the Revolution of 1789, there had been a great accumulation of the landed property of the country, and, indeed, of all its property, — by means of laws of entail, majorats, and other legal contrivances, – in the hands of the privileged classes; chiefly in those of the nobility and the clergy. The injury and injustice done by long continued legislation in this direction were obviously great; and it was not, perhaps, unnatural, that the opposite course to that which had brought on the mischief should be deemed the best one to cure it. At any rate, such was the course taken. “In 1791 a law was passed, preventing any man from having any interest beyond the period of his own life in any of his property, real, personal, or mixed, and distributing all his possessions for him, immediately after his death, among his children, in equal shares, or if he left no children, then among his next of kin, on the same principle. This law, with a slight modification, made under the influence of Robespierre, was in force till 1800. But the period was entirely revolutionary, and probably quite as much property changed hands from violence and the consequences of violence, during the nine years it continued, as was transmitted by the laws that directly controlled its succession. “With the coming in of Bonaparte, however, there was established a new order of things, which has continued, with little modification, ever since, and has had its full share in working out the great changes in French society which we now witness. A few experiments were first made, and then the great Civil Code, often called the Code Napoleon, was adopted. This was in 1804. By this remarkable code, which is still in force, a man, if he has but one child, can give away by his last will, as he pleases, half of his property, - the law insuring the other half to the child; if he has two children, then he can so give away only one third, – the law requiring the other two thirds to be given equally to the two children; if three, then only one fourth under similar conditions; but if he has a greater number, it restricts the rights of the parent more and more, and makes it more and more difficult for him to distribute his property according to his own judgment; the restrictions embarrassing him even in his lifetime. “The consequences of such laws are, from their nature, very slowly developed. When Mr. Webster spoke in 1820, the French code had been in operation sixteen years, and similar principles had prevailed for nearly a generaunsettled; and Mr. Webster's prophecy seems still to be in the course of a portentous tuitilment.”
tion. But still its wide results were not even suspected. Those who had treated the subject at all supposed that the tendency was to break up the great estates in France, and make the larger number of the holders of small estates more accessible to the influence of the government, then a limited monarchy, and so render it stronger and more despotic. “Mr. Webster held a different opinion. He said, “In respect, however, to the recent law of succession in France, to which I have alluded, I would, presumptuously perhaps, hazard a conjecture, that, y; government do not change the law, the law in half a century will change the government; and that this change will }. not in favor of the power of the crown, as some European writers have supposed, but against it. Those writers only reason upon what they think correct general principles, in relation to this subject. They acknowledge a want of experience. Here we have had that experience; and we know that a multitude of small proprietors, acting with intelligence, and that enthusiasm which a common cause inspires, constitute not only a formidable, but an invincible power.’ “In less than six years after Mr. Webster uttered this remarkable prediction, the king of France himself, at the opening of the Legislative Chambers, thus strangely echoed it: – ' Legislation ought to provide, by successive improvements, for all the wants of society. The progressive partitioning of landed estates, essentially contrary to the spirit of a monarchical government, would enfeeble the guaranties which the charter has given to my throne and to my subjects. Measures will be proposed to you, gentlemen, to establish the consistency which ought to exist between the political law and the civil law, and to preserve the patrimony of families, without restricting the liberty of disposing of one's property. The preservation of families is connected with, and affords a guaranty to, political stability, which is the first want of states, and which is especially that of France, after so many vicissitudes.” “Still, the results to which such subdivision and comminution of property tended were not foreseen even in France. The Revolution of 1830 came, and revealed a part of them; for that revolution was made by the influence of men possessing very moderate estates, who believed that the guaranties of a government like that of the elder branch of the Bourbons were not sufficient for their safety. But when the revolution was made, and the younger branch of the Bourbons reigned instead of the elder, the laws for the descent of property continued to be the same, and the subdivision went on as if it were an admitted benefit to society. “In consequence of this, in 1844 it was found that there were in France at least five millions and a half of families, or about twenty-seven millions of souls, who were proprietary families, and that of these about four millions of families had each less than nine English acres to the family on the average. Of course, a vast majority of these twenty-seven millions of persons, though they might be interested in some small portion of the soil, were really poor, and multitudes of them were dependent. “Now, therefore, the results began to appear in a practical form. One third of all the rental of France was discovered to be absolutely mortgaged, and another third was swallowed up by
other encumbrances, leaving but one third free for the use and benefit of its owners. In other words, a great proportion of the people of France were embarrassed and poor, and a great proportion of the remainder were fast becoming so. “Such a state of things produced, of course, a wide-spread social uneasiness. Part of this uneasiness was directed against the existing government; another and more formidable portion was directed against all government, and against the very institution of property. The convulsion of 1848 followed; France is still
In the London Quarterly Review for 1846 there is an interesting discussion on so much of the matter as relates to the subdivision of real estate for agricultural purposes in France, as far as it had then advanced, and from which many of the facts here alluded to are taken.
DEFENCE OF JUDGE JAMES
THE CLosing APPEAL TO THE SENATE OF MASSACHUSETTS, IN MR. WEBSTER’s “ARGUMENT ON THE IMPEACHMENT OF JAMES PRESCOTT,” APRIL
MR. PRESIDENT, the case is closed The fate of the respondent is in your hands. It is for you now to say, whether, from the law and the facts as they have appeared before you, you will proceed to disgrace and disfranchise him. If your duty calls on you to convict him, let justice be done, and convict him; but, I adjure you, let it be a clear, undoubted case. Let it be so for his sake, for you are robbing him of that for which, with all your high powers, you can yield him no compensation; let it be so for your own sakes, for the responsibility of this day's judgment is one which you must carry with you through life. For myself, I am willing here to relinquish the character of an advocate, and to express opinions by which I am prepared to be bound as a citizen and a man. And I say upon my honor and conscience, that I see not how, with the law and constitution for your guides, you can pronounce the respondent guilty. I declare that I have seen no case of wilful and corrupt official misconduct, set forth according to the requisitions of the constitution, and proved according to the common rules of evidence. I see many things imprudent and ill-judged; many things that I could wish had been otherwise; but corruption and crime I do not see.
Sir, the prejudices of the day will soon be forgotten; the passions, if any there be, which have excited or favored this prosecution will subside; but the consequence of the judgment you are about to render will outlive both them and
you. The respondent is now brought, a single, unprotected individual, to this formidable bar of judgment, to stand against the power and authority of the State. I know you can crush him, as he stands before you, and clothed as you are with the sovereignty of the State. You have the power “to change his countenance and to send him away.” Nor do I remind you, that your judgment is to be rejudged by the community; and, as you have summoned him for trial to this high tribunal, that you are soon to descend yourselves from these seats of justice, and stand before the higher tribunal of the world. I would not fail so much in respect to this honorable court as to hint that it could pronounce a sentence which the community will reverse. No, Sir, it is not the world's revision which I would call on you to regard; but that of your own consciences, when years have gone by and you shall look back on the sentence you are about to render. If you send away the respondent, condemned and sentenced, from your bar, you are yet to meet him in the world on which you cast him out. You will be called to behold him a disgrace to his family, a sorrow and a shame to his children, a living fountain of grief and agony to himself. If you shall then be able to behold him only as an unjust judge, whom vengeance has overtaken and justice has blasted, you will be able to look upon him, not without pity, but yet without remorse. But if, on the other hand, you shall see, whenever and wherever you meet him, a victim of prejudice or of passion, a sacrifice to a transient excitement; if you shall see in him a man for whose condemnation any provision of the constitution has been violated or any principle of law broken down, then will he be able, humble and low as may be his condition, then will he be able to turn the current of compassion backward, and to look with pity on those who have been his judges. If you are about to visit this respondent with a judgment which shall blast his house; if the bosoms of the innocent and the amiable are to be made to bleed under your infliction, I beseech you to be able to state clear and strong grounds for your proceeding. Prejudice and excitement are transitory, and will pass away. Political expediency, in matters of judicature, is a false and hollow principle, and will never satisfy the conscience of him who is fearful that he may have given a hasty judgment. I earnestly entreat you, for your own sakes, to possess yourselves of solid reasons, founded in truth and justice, for the judgment you pronounce, which you can carry with you till you go down into your graves; reasons which it will require no argument to revive, no sophistry, no excitement, no regard to popular favor, to render satisfactory to your consciences; reasons which you can appeal to in every crisis of your lives, and which shall be able to assure you, in your own great extremity, that you have not judged a fellow-creature without mercy. Sir, I have done with the case of this individual, and now leave it in your hands. But I would yet once more appeal to you as public men; as statesmen; as men of enlightened minds, capable of a large view of things, and of foreseeing
the remote consequences of important transactions; and, as such, I would most earnestly implore you to consider fully of the judgment you may pronounce. `You are about to give a construction to constitutional provisions which may adhere to that instrument for ages, either for good or evil. I may perhaps overrate the importance of this occasion to the public welfare; but I confess it does appear to me that, if this body give its sanction to some of the principles which have been advanced on this occasion, then there is a power in the State above the constitution and the law; a power essentially arbitrary and despotic, the exercise of which may be most dangerous. If impeachment be not under the rule of the constitution and the laws, then may we tremble, not only for those who may be impeached, but for all others. If the full benefit of every constitutional provision be not extended to the respondent, his case becomes the case of all the people of the Commonwealth. The constitution is their constitution. They have made it for their own protection, and for his among the rest. They are not eager for his conviction. They desire not his ruin. If he be condemned, without having his offences set forth in the manner which they, by their constitution, have prescribed, and in the manner which they, by their laws, have ordained, then not only is he condemned unjustly, but the rights of the whole people are disregarded. For the sake of the people themselves, therefore, I would resist all attempts to convict by straining the laws or getting over their prohibitions. I hold up before him the broad shield of the constitution; if through that he be pierced and fall, he will be but one sufferer in a common catastrophe.