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American discussion; but let it embrace, nevertheless, every thing that fairly concerns America; let it comprehend, not merely her present advantage, but her permanent interest, her elevated character, as one of the free states of the world, and her duty towards those great principles, which have hitherto maintained the relative independence of nations, and which have, more especially, made her what she is.
At the commencement of the session, the President, in the discharge of the high duties of his office, called our attention to the subject, to which this resolution refers. " A strong hope," says that communication, “ has been long entertained, founded on the heroic struggle of the Greeks, that they would succeed in their contest, and resume their equal station among the nations of the earth. It is believed that the whole civilized world takes a deep interest in their welfare. Although no power has declared in their favour, yet none, according to our information, has taken part against them. Their cause and their name have protected them from dangers, which might, ere this, have overwhelmed any other people. The ordinary calculations of interest, and of acquisition with a view to aggrandizement, which mingle so much in the transactions of nations, seem to have had no effect in regard to them. From the facts which have come to our knowledge, there is good cause to believe that their enemy has lost, for ever, all dominion over them : that Greece will become again an independent nation."
If the sentiments of the message in respect to Greece be proper, it is equally proper that this House should reciprocate those sentiments. The present resolution is designed to have that extent, and no more. If it pass, it will leave any future proceeding where it now is, in the discretion of the executive government. It is but an expression, under those forms in which the House is accustomed to act, of the satisfaction of the House with the general sentiments expressed in regard to this subject in the message, and of its readiness to defray the expense incident to any inquiry for the purpose of further information, or any other agency which the President, in his discretion, shall see fit, in whatever manner, and at whatever time, to institute. The whole matter is still left in his judgment, and this resolution can in no way restrain its unlimited exercise.
I might well, Mr. Chairman, avoid the responsibility of this measure, if it had, in my judgment, any tendency to change the policy of the country. With the general course of that policy, I am quite satisfied. The nation is prosperous, peaceful, and happy; and I should very reluctantly put its peace, prosperity, or happiness, at risk. It appears to me, however, that this resolution is strictly conformable to our general policy, and not only consistent with our interests, but even demanded by a large and liberal view of those interests.
It is certainly true, that the just policy of this country, is, in the first place, a peaceful policy. No nation ever had less to expect from forcible aggrandizement. The mighty agents which are working out our greatness, are time, industry, and the arts. Our augmentation is by growth, not by acquisition ; by internal developement, not by external accession. No schemes can be suggested to us, so magnificent as the prospects which a sober contemplation of our own condition, unaided by projects, uninfluenced by ambition, fairly spreads before us. A country of such vast extent, with such varieties of soil and climate; with so much public spirit and private enterprise ; with a population increasing so much
beyond former examples, with capacities of improve. ment not only unapplied or unexhausted, but even, in a great measure, as yet unexplored; so free in its institutions, so mild in its laws, so secure in the title it confers on every man to his own acquisitions ; needs nothing but time and peace to carry it forward to almost any point of advancement.
In the next place, I take it for granted, that the policy of this country, springing from the nature of our government, and the spirit of all our institutions, is so far as it respects the interesting questions which agitate the present age, on the side of liberal and enlightened sentiments. The age is extraordinary; the spirit that actuates it, is peculiar and marked ; and our own relation to the times we live in, and to the questions which interest them, is equally marked and peculiar. We are placed, by our good fortune, and the wisdom and valour of our ancestors, in a condition in which we can act no obscure part. Be it for honour, or be it for dishonour, whatever we do, is not likely to escape the observation of the world. As one of the free states among the nations, as a great and rapidly rising Republic, it would be impossible for us, if we were so disposed, to prevent our principles, our sentiments, and our example, from producing some effect upon the opinions and hopes of society throughout the civilized world. It rests probably with ourselves to determine, whether the influence of these shall be salutary or pernicious.
It cannot be denied that the great political question of this age, is, that between absolute and regu. lated governments. The substance of the controversy is, whether society shall have any part in its own government. Whether the form of government shall be that of limited monarchy, with more or less mixture of hereditary power, or wholly elective or representative, may perhaps be considered as subordinate. The main controversy is between that absolute rule, which, while it promises to govern well, meams, nevertheless, to govern without control, and that regulated or constitutional system, which restrains sovereign discretion, and asserts that society may claim, as matter of right, some effective power in the establishment of the laws which are to regulate it. The spirit of the times sets with a most powerful current, in favour of these last mentioned opinions. It is opposed, however, whenever and wherever it shows itself, by certain of the great potentates of Europe ; and it is opposed on grounds as applicable in one civilized nation as in another, and which would justify such opposition in relation to the United States, as well as in relation to any other state, or nation, if time and circumstance should render such opposition expedient. '
What part it becomes this country to take on a question of this sort, so far as it is called upon to take any part, cannot be doubtful. Our side of this question is settled for us, even without our own volition. Our history, our situation, our character, necessarily decide our position and our course, before we have even time to ask whether we have an option. Our place is on the side of free institutions.
I will now, Mr. Chairman, advert to those pretensions, put forth by the allied Sovereigns of continental Europe, which seem to me calculated, if unresisted, to bring into disrepute the principles of our government, and indeed to be wholly incompatible with any degree of national independence. *
No matter what be the character of the government resisted; no matter with what weight the foot
* Holy Alliance.
of the oppressor bears on the neck of the oppressed ; if he struggle, or if he complain, he sets a dangerous example of resistance and from that moment he becomes an object of hostility to the most powerful potentates of the earth. I want words to express my abhorrence of this abominable principle. I trust every enlightened man throughout the world will oppose it, and that, especially, those who, like ourselves, are fortunately out of the reach of the bayonets that enforce it, will proclaim their detestation of it, in a tone both loud and decisive. The avowed object of such declarations is to preserve the peace of the world. But by what means is it proposed to preserve this peace? Simply, by bringing the power of all governments to bear against all subjects. Here is to be established a sort of double, or treble, or quadraple, or for ought I know, a quintuple allegiance. An offence against one king is to be an offence against all kings, and the power of all is to be put forth for the punishment of the offender. A right to interfere in extreme cases, in the case of contiguous states, and where imminent danger is threatened to one by what is transpiring in another, is not without precedent in modern times, upon what has been called the law of vicinage ; and when contined to extreme cases, and limited to a certain extent, it may perhaps be defended upon principles of necessity and self-defence. But to maintain that sovereigns may go to war upon the subjects of another state to repress an example, is monstrous indeed. What is to be the limit to such a principles or to the practice growing out of it? What, in any case, but sovereign pleasure is to decide whether the example be good or bad? And what, under the operation of such rule, may be thought of our example? Why are we not as fair objects for the operation of the new principle, as any of those who may attempt to reform the condition of their government on the other side of the Atlantic ?