Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

coarsest industry obtains for its natural reward; justice, which nothing but the very extent of its claims, and the nobleness of the associations to which they are akin, have prevented it from receiving from our laws.

[ocr errors]

125. THE LEGISLATIVE UNION, 1834.-Sir Robert Peel. Born, 1788; died, 1850.

I WANT no array of figures, I want no official documents, I want no speeches of six hours, to establish to my satisfaction the public policy of maintaining the Legislative Union. I feel and know that the repeal of it must lead to the dismemberment of this great empire, must make Great Britain a fourth-rate power of Europe, and Ireland a savage wilderness; and I will give, therefore, at once, and without hesitation, an emphatic negative to the motion for repeal. There are truths which lie too deep for argument, truths, to the establishment of which the evidence of the senses, or the feelings of the heart, have contributed more than the slow process of reasoning; which are graven in deeper characters than any that reason can either impress or efface. When Doctor Johnson was asked to refute the arguments for the non-existence of matter, he stamped his foot upon the ground, and exclaimed, "I refute them thus." When Mr. Canning heard the first whisper in this House of a repeal of the Union, this was all the answer he vouchsafed, the eloquent and indignant answer, the tones of which are still familiar to my ear, Repeal the Union? Restore the Heptarchy!"

―s

Thirty-three years have now elapsed since the passing of the act of Union; a short period, if you count by the lapse of time; but it is a period into which the events of centuries have been crowded. It includes the commencement and the close of the most tremendous conflict which ever desolated the world. Notwithstanding the then recent convulsions in Ireland, - notwithstanding the dissatisfaction expressed with the Union, the United Empire, that had been incorporated only three years before the commencement of the war, escaped the calamities to which other Nations were exposed. In our gallant armies no distinction of Englishmen and Irishmen was known; none of the vile jealousies, which this motion, if successful, would generate, impaired the energies which were exerted by all in defence of a common country. That country did not bestow its rewards with a partial hand. It did not, because they were Irishmen, pay a less sincere or less willing homage to the glorious memory of a Ponsonby and a Pakenham. Castlereagh and Canning fought in the same ranks with Pitt; and Grattan took his place, in the great contests of party, by the side of Fox. The majestic oak of the forest was transplanted, but it shot its roots deep in a richer and more congenial soil. Above all, to an Irishto that Arthur Wellesley, who, in the emphatic words of the learned gentleman (Mr. Shcil), "eclipsed his military victories by the splendor of his civil triumphs"-to him was committed, with the

man

[ocr errors]

unanimous assent and confidence of a generous country, the great and glorious task of effecting the deliverance of the world. Who is that Irishman, who, recollecting these things, has the spirit and the heart to propose that Ireland shall be defrauded for the future of her share of such high achievements; that to her the wide avenues to civil and military glory shall be hereafter closed; that the faculties and energies of her sons shall be forever stunted by being cramped within the paltry limits of a small island? Surely, Sir, we owe it to the memory of the illustrious brave, who died in defending this great Empire from dismemberment by the force and genius of Napoleon, at least to save it from dismemberment by the ignoble enemies that now assail it!

126. AMERICAN MERCHANT VESSELS, 1850. — Richard Cobden.

I SOMETIMES quote the United States of America; and, I think, in this matter of national defence, they set us a very good example. Does anybody dare to attack that Nation? There is not a more formidable Power, in every sense of the word, although you may talk of France and Russia, than the United States of America; and there is not a statesman with a head on his shoulders who does not know it; and yet the policy of the United States has been to keep a very small amount of armed force in existence. At the present moment, they have not a line-of-battle ship afloat, notwithstanding the vast extension of their commercial marine. Last year she recalled the last ship-of-war from the Pacific; and I shall be very much astonished if you see another. The People are well employed, and her taxation is light, which countries cannot have if they burden themselves with the expense of these

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

enormous armaments.

Now, many persons appeal to the English Nation under the impression that they are a very pugnacious People. I am not quite sure that we are not. I am not quite sure that my opponents do not sometimes have the advantage over me in appealing to the ready-primed pugnacity of our fellow-countrymen. I believe I am pugnacious myself; but what I want is, to persuade my countrymen to preserve their pugnaciousness until somebody comes to attack them. Be assured, if you want to be prepared for future war, you will be better prepared in the way that the United States is prepared, - by the enormous number of merchant ships of large tonnage constantly building; in the vast number of steamers turning out of the building-yards at New York, those enormous steamers, finer than any to be found in the royal navies of any country on the continent of Europe, commonly extending from fifteen hundred to sixteen hundred tons. If the spirit of America were once aroused, and her resentment excited, her mercantile marine alone, the growth of commerce, the result of a low taxation, and a prosperous People, - her mercantile marine alone would be more than a match for any war navy that exists on the continent of Europe.

127. RESISTANCE TO BRITISH AGGRESSION. - Patrick Henry.

Patrick Henry was born, May 29th, 1736, in Hanover county, Virginia. His father was a native of Aberdeen, in Scotland. Patrick's education was scanty, and he entered upon the practice of the law after only six weeks of preparation. But his powers of eloquence were remarkable. He was elected repeatedly to the most important offices in the gift of the People of Virginia. In 1788, he was a member of the Convention which met there to consider the Constitution of the United States, and exerted himself strenuously against its adoption. He died in 1799.

The Virginia Convention having before them resolutions of a temporizing character towards Great Britain, March 23d, 1775, Mr. Henry introduced others, manly and decided in their tone, and providing that the Colony should be immediately put in a state of defence. These counter resolutions he supported in the following memorable speech, the result of which was their adoption. Of the effect of this speech, Mr. Wirt says, that, when Henry took his seat, at its close, "No murmur of applause was heard. The effect was too deep. After the trance of a moment, several members started from their seats. The cry to arms! seemed to quiver on every lip, and gleam from every eye. They became impatient of speech. Their souls were on fire for action."

MR. PRESIDENT it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of Hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hea not, the things which so nearly concern our temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth, to know the worst, and to provide for it!

I have but one lamp, by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And, judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry, for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, Sir; it will prove a snare to your feet! Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss! Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love?

Let us not deceive ourselves, Sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation, the last arguments to which Kings resort. I ask Gentlemen, Sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can Gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, Sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? - Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that, for the lest ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain.

Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms

shall we find which have not already been exhausted? Let us not, I Deseech you, Sir, deceive ourselves longer. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned, we have remonstrated, we have supplicated, we have prostrated ourselves before the Throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the Ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted, our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult, our supplications have been disregarded, and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the Throne.

In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, — if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, — we must fight; I repeat it, Sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms, and to the God of Hosts, is all that is left us!

128. THE WAR INEVITABLE, MARCH, 1775.- Patrick Henry.

-

THEY tell us, Sir, that we are weak, — unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in

our power.

Three millions of People, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, Sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of Nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for The battle, Sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, Sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable; and let it come! I repeat it, Sir, let it come!

us.

It is in vain, Sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace! — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the North will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that Gentlemen wish? What would

they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!

129. RETURN OF BRITISH FUGITIVES, 1782.

Patrick Henry.

I VENTURE to prophesy, there are those now living who will see this favored land amongst the most powerful on earth, able, Sir, to take care of herself, without resorting to that policy, which is always so dangerous, though sometimes unavoidable, of calling in foreign aid. Yes, Sir, they will see her great in arts and in arms, - her golden harvests waving over fields of immeasurable extent, her commerce penetrating the most distant seas, and her cannon silencing the vain boasts of those who now proudly affect to rule the waves. But, Sir, you must have men,· you cannot get along without them. Those heavy forests of valuable timber, under which your lands are groaning, must cleared away. Those vast riches which cover the face of your soil, as well as those which lie hid in its bosom, are to be developed and gathered only by the skill and enterprise of men. Your timber, Sir, must be worked up into ships, to transport the productions of the soil from which it has been cleared. Then, you must have commercial men and commercial capital, to take off your productions, and find the best markets for them abroad. Your great want, Sir, is the want of men; and these you must have, and will have speedily, if you are wise.

Do you ask how you are to get them? Open your doors, Sir, and they will come in! The population of the Old World is full to overflowing. That population is ground, too, by the oppressions of the Governments under which they live. Sir, they are already standing on tiptoe upon their native shores, and looking to your coasts with a wistful and longing eye. They see here a land blessed with natural and political advantages, which are not equalled by those of any other country upon earth; -a land on which a gracious Providence hath emptied the horn of abundance, a land over which Peace hath now stretched forth her white wings, and where Content and Plenty lie down at every door!

Sir, they see something still more attractive than all this. They see a land in which Liberty hath taken up her abode, - that Liberty whom they had considered as a fabled goddess, existing only in the fancies of poets. They see her here a real divinity, - her altars rising on every hand, throughout these happy States; her glories chanted by three millions of tongues, and the whole region smiling under her blessed influence. Sir, let but this, our celestial goddess, Liberty, stretch forth her fair hand toward the People of the Old World, tell them to come, and bid them welcome, and you will see them pouring in from the North, from the South, from the East, and from the West. Your wildernesses will be cleared and settled, your deserts

« AnteriorContinuar »