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ised to adhere to him, in every extremity, with our fortunes and our lives?
I know there is not a man here who would not rather see a general conflagration sweep over the land, or an earthquake sink it, than one jot or tittle of that plighted faith fall to the ground. For myself, having, twelve months ago, in this place, moved you that George Washington be appointed commander of the forces raised, or to be raised, for defence of American liberty, may my right hand forget its cunning, and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I hesitate or waver in the support I give him! The war, then, must go on. We must fight it through.
And. if the war must go on, why put off longer the Declaration of Independence? That measure will strengthen us. It will give us character abroad. The Nations will then treat with us, which they never can do while we acknowledge ourselves subjects in arms against our sovereign. Nay, I maintain that England herself will sooner treat for peace with us on the footing of independence, than consent, by repealing her acts, to acknowledge that her whole conduct towards us has been a course of injustice and oppression. Her pride will be less wounded by submitting to that course of things which now predestinates our independence, than by yielding the points in controversy to her rebellious subjects. The former she would regard as the result of fortune; the latter, she would feel as her own deep disgrace. Why, then, Sir, do we not, as soon as possible, change this from a civil to a national war? And, since we must fight it through, why not put ourselves in a state to enjoy all the benefits of victory, if we gain the victory? If we fail, it can be no worse for us. But we shall not fail!
135. CONCLUSION OF THE PRECEDING.
THE cause will raise up armies; the cause will create navies. The people, the people, if we are true to them, will carry us, and will carry themselves, gloriously through this struggle. I care not how fickle other people have been found. I know the people of these colonies; and I know that resistance to British aggression is deep and settled in their hearts, and cannot be eradicated. Every colony, indeed, has expressed its willingness to follow, if we but take the lead. Sir, the Declaration will inspire the people with increased courage. Instead of a long and bloody war for restoration of privileges, for redress of grievances, for chartered immunities, held under a British king, set before them the glorious object of entire independence, and it will breathe into them anew the breath of life. Read this Declaration at the head of the army; - every sword will be drawn from its scabbard, and the solemn vow uttered, to maintain it, or to perish on the bed of honor. Publish it from the Pulpit; - religion will approve it, and the love of religious liberty will cling round it, resolved to stand with it, or fall with it. Send it to the public halls; proclaim it there; let them hear it who heard the first roar of the enemy's cannon, let
them see it who saw their brothers and their sons fall on the field of Bunker Hill, and in the streets of Lexington and Concord, and the very walls will cry out in its support!
Sir, I know the uncertainty of human affairs; but I see clearly through this day's business. You and I, indeed, may rue it. We may not live to see the time when this Declaration shall be made good. We may die, die colonists; die slaves; die, it may be, ignominiously, and on the scaffold! Be it so! be it so! If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. But, while I do live, let me have a country, least, the hope of a country, and that a free country.
But, whatever may be our fate, be assured that this Declaration will stand. It may cost treasure, and it may cost blood; but it will stand, and it will richly compensate for both. Through the thick gloom of the present, I see the brightness of the future, as the sun in Heaven. We shall make this a glorious, an immortal day. When we are in our graves, our children will onor it. They will celebrate it with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires, and illuminations. On its annual return, they will shed tears, copious, gushing tears, not of subjection and slavery, not of agony and distress, but of exultation, of gratitude, and of joy. Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come! My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off, as I began, that, live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration! It is my living sentiment, and, by the blessing of God, it shall be my dying sentiment, — INDEPENDENCE now, and INDEPENDENCE FOREVER!
136. THE GENERAL GOVERNMENT AND THE STATES. - Alexander Hamilton.
Alexander Hamilton was born in Nevis, one of the West India Islands, in 1757. After some military experience, he entered upon the study of the law, and rose to great eminence in the councils of the Nation. With Madison and Jay, he wrote the "Federalist," and labored strenuously in behalf of the Constitution. He was the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. He was shot by Aaron Burr, in a duel, in 1804. The two following speeches were delivered in the Convention of New York, on the adoption of the Constitution, 1788.
MR. CHAIRMAN, it has been advanced as a principle, that no Government but a Despotism can exist in a very extensive country. This is a melancholy consideration, indeed. If it were founded on truth, we ought to dismiss the idea of a Republican Government, even for the State of New York. But the position has been misapprehended. Its application relates only to democracies, where the body of the People meet to transact business, and where representation is unknown. The application is wrong in respect to all representative Governments: but especially in relation to a Confederacy of States, in which the Supreme Legislature has only general powers, and the civil and domestic concerns of the People are regulated by the laws of the several States. I insist that it never can be the interest or desire of the national Legislature to destroy the State Governments. The blow
aimed at the members must give a fatal wound to the head; and the destruction of the States must be at once a political suicide. imagine, for a moment, that a political frenzy should seize the Governmant; suppose they should make the attempt. Certainly, Sir, it would be forever impracticable. This has been sufficiently demonstrated by reason and experience. It has been proved that the members of Republics have been, and ever will be, stronger than the head. Let us attend to one general historical example.
In the ancient feudal Governments of Europe, there were, in the first place, a Monarch; subordinate to him, a body of Nobles; and subject to these, the vassals, or the whole body of the People. The authority of the Kings was limited, and that of the Barons considerably independent. The histories of the feudal wars exhibit little more than a series of successful encroachments on the prerogatives of Monarchy.
Here, Sir, is one great proof of the superiority which the members in limited Governments possess over their head. As long as the Barons enjoyed the confidence and attachment of the People, they had the strength of the country on their side, and were irresistible. I may be told in some instances the Barons were overcome; but how did this happen? Sir, they took advantage of the depression of the royal authority, and the establishment of their own power, to oppress and tyrannize over their vassals. As commerce enlarged, and wealth and civilization increased, the People began to feel their own weight and consequence; they grew tired of their oppressions; united their strength with that of their Prince, and threw off the yoke of Aristocracy. These very instances prove what I contend for. They prove that in whatever direction the popular weight leans, the current of power will flow; whatever the popular attachments be, there will rest the political superiority. Sir, can it be supposed that the State Governments will become the oppressors of the People? Will they forfeit their affections? Will they combine to destroy the liberties and happiness of their fellow-citizens, for the sole purpose of involving themselves in ruin? God forbid! The idea, Sir, is shocking! It outrages every feeling of humanity, and every dictate of common sense!
137. CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES. -Alexander Hamilton.
AFTER all our doubts, our suspicions and speculations, on the subject of Government, we must return, at last, to this important truth,
that, when we have formed a Constitution upon free principles, when we have given a proper balance to the different branches of Administration, and fixed Representation upon pure and equal principles, we may, with safety, furnish it with all the powers necessary to answer, in the most ample manner, the purposes of Government. The great desiderata are a free Representation, and mutual checks. When these are obtained, all our apprehensions of the extent of powers are unjust and imaginary. What, then, is the structure of this Constitu
tion? One branch of the Legislature is to be elected by the People, -by the same People who choose your State Representatives. Its members are to hold their office two years, and then return to their constituents. Here, Sir, the People govern. Here they act by their immediate Representatives. You have also a Senate, constituted by your State Legislatures, by men in whom you place the highest confidence, and forming another Representative branch. Then, again, you have an Executive Magistrate, created by a form of election which merits universal admiration.
In the form of this Government, and in the mode of Legislation, you find all the checks which the greatest politicians and the best writers have ever conceived. What more can reasonable men desire? Is there any one branch in which the whole Legislative and Executive powers are lodged? No! The Legislative authority is lodged in three distinct branches, properly balanced; the Executive authority is divided between two branches; and the Judicial is still reserved for an independent body, who hold their office during good behavior. This organization is so complex, so skilfully contrived, that it is next to impossible that an impolitic or wicked measure should pass the great scrutiny with success. Now, what do Gentlemen mean, by coming forward and declaiming against this Government? Why do they say we ought to limit its powers, to disable it, and to destroy its capacity of blessing the People? Has philosophy suggested, has experience taught, that such a Government ought not to be trusted with everything necessary for the good of society? Sir, when you have divided and nicely balanced the departments of Government; when you have strongly connected the virtue of your rulers with their interests; when, in short, you have rendered your system as perfect as human forms can be, you must place confidence; you must give power.
138. ARISTOCRACY, 1788. —Robert R. Livingston. Born, 1748; died, 1813.
THE gentleman, who has so copiously declaimed against all declamation, has pointed his artillery against the rich and great. We are told that, in every country, there is a natural Aristocracy, and that this Aristocracy consists of the rich and the great. Nay, the gentleman goes further, and ranks in this class of men the wise, the learned, and those eminent for their talents or great virtues. Does a man possess the confidence of his fellow-citizens, for having done them important services? He is an Aristocrat! Has he great integrity? He is an Aristocrat! Indeed, to determine that one is an Aristocrat, we need only to be assured that he is a man of merit. But I hope we have many such. So sensible am I of that gentleman's talents, integrity, and virtue, that we might at once hail him the first of the Nobles, the very Prince of the Senate !
But whom, in the name of common sense, would the gentleman have to represent us? Not the rich, for they are sheer Aristocrats.
Not the learned, the wise, the virtuous; for they are all Aristocrats. Whom then? Why, those who are not virtuous; those who are not wise; those who are not learned; - these are the men to whom alone we can trust our liberties! He says, further, we ought not to choose Aristocrats, because the People will not have confidence in them! That is to say, the People will not have confidence in those who best deserve and most possess their confidence! He would have his Government composed of other classes of men. Where will he find them? Why, he must go forth into the highways, and pick up the rogue and the robber. He must go to the hedges and the ditches, and bring in the poor, the blind, and the lame. As the gentleman has thus settled the definition of Aristocracy, I trust that no man will think it a term of reproach; for who, among us, would not be wise? who would not be virtuous? who would not be above want? The truth is, in these Republican Governments, we know no such ideal distinctions. We are all equally Aristocrats. Offices, emoluments, honors, the roads to preferment and to wealth, are alike open to all.
139. EXTENT OF COUNTRY NO BAR TO UNION.-Edmund Randolph. Died, 1813. In the Virginia Convention on the Federal Constitution, 1788.
EXTENT of country, in my conception, ought to be no bar to the adoption of a good Government. No extent on earth seems to me too great, provided the laws be wisely made and executed. The principles of representation and responsibility may pervade a large, as well as a small territory; and tyranny is as easily introduced into a small as into a large district. Union, Mr. Chairman, is the rock of our salvation. Our safety, our political happiness, our existence, depend on the Union of these States. Without Union, the People of this and the other States will undergo the unspeakable calamities which discord, faction, turbulence, war and bloodshed, have continually produced in other countries. Without Union, we throw away all those blessings for which we have so earnestly fought. Without Union, there is no peace, Sir, in the land.
The American spirit ought to be mixed with American pride, pride to see the Union magnificently triumph. Let that glorious pride which once defied the British thunder reänimate you again. Let it not be recorded of Americans, that, after having performed the most gallant exploits, after having overcome the most astonishing difficulties, and after having gained the admiration of the world by their incomparable valor and policy, they lost their acquired repu tation, lost their national consequence and happiness, by their own indiscretion. Let no future historian inform posterity that Americans wanted wisdom and virtue to concur in any regular, efficient Government. Catch the present moment. Seize it with avidity. It may be lost, never to be regained; and, if the Union be lost now, I fear it will remain so forever!