Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the most cruel and debasing that the world has ever witnessed. If a dissolution of the Union must take place, let it be so. If civil war, which gentlemen so much threaten, must come, I can only say let it come. If blood is necessary to extinguish any fire which I have assisted to kindle, while I regret the necessity I shall not hesitate to contribute my own.”

.

Such is the tone of the debate. In the Senate the champions are Rufus King of New York, for the North, and William Pinckney of Maryland, for the South, both men of great eloquence and learning, but whose speeches, because reporters are not employed at this early date, are lost to us.

'We found here as great interest in the debates as in the House. It happened, on the occasion of our visit, that Vice-President Tompkins, a very gallant man, had invited a party of ladies, whom he met at Senator Brown's the night before, to take seats on the floor of the Senate, although this was a great innovation. The ladies in the gallery seeing a few of their sex comfortably seated on the Senate sofas with warm foot-stools and other luxuries, desert their seats and flock into the Senate, causing the courteous and dignified Vice-President such alarm that he fails to hear for the first time the opening remarks of the Senator who is addressing the Chair. Some of the Senators frown indignantly and are heard to mutter : 'Too many women here for the proper transaction of business,' but the ladies receive no such cutting reproof as has been visited on them in the House."

6

One of these ladies, in a letter to a friend, draws this parallel between the oratory of Mr. King and Mr. Pinckney, the champions in whom popular interest centres :

“I prefer Mr. King's oratory to any I have heard, his manner so grave and dignified, chaste language, disdaining flowers, ornamental tropes, or figures, or the studied grace of gesture. In this opinion I am singular, perhaps unique, as the palm is unanimously awarded to Pinckney. Indeed you may have seen comparisons made between this celebrated modern and the ancients, Demosthenes and Cicero, in which the latter are evidently in the background of the picture.”

The question was carried over to the succeeding Congress. Amendments and counter-amendments were offered without number, restrictive clauses inserted and withdrawn, dilatory motions made-every parliamentary device to secure an advantage or prevent the enemy from gaining one exhausted. At last, in February, 1820, the matter was temporarily settled by a compromise : the North consented that Missouri should enter the Union a slave State. The South agreed that the territory north of 36° 30'— the northern boundary of Arkansas-should thereafter remain free.

This arrangement-since known in history as the “Missouri Compromise" was the work of the moderate men of both parties, who saw no other way at that time of preserving the Union. But it only exasperated the extremists on both sides. John Randolph, rising in his seat in the House after the bill had passed, and pointing his forefinger at the Speaker, denounced it as a "dirty bargain," and stigmatized the eighteen Northern men who had voted for it as dough-faces,"-a term which be

' came a slogan in later campaigns of the Free-soilers.

Ten years passed before Congress witnessed another conflict of equal moment in the historic contest. In the interim many collisions had occurred over the vexed question ; the moral sentiment of the North against slavery had been greatly strengthened, and the South had become more and more apprehensive as to the stability of her pet institution, so much so that a new doctrine in defence of it—that of Nullification—was formulated by that great Southern leader and master in subtlety, John C. Calhoun.

This second great tournament occurred in the Capitol in January, 1830, but before considering it let us refer briefly to the circumstances which gave rise to it, and to the combatants who took part in it.

In 1830 Andrew Jackson was President, having, in 1829, succeeded John Quincy Adams, who, in 1824, at the close of Mr. Monroe's two terms, had been chosen President by the House, no choice having been made by the people. Two parties were now in the field—both formed from the once dominant Republican party : the Democrats, under the leadership of President Jackson, composed of the rank and file of the old Republican party; and the Whigs, who followed the leadership of Henry Clay, and who included in their ranks the fragments of the old Federalist party and the more progressive elements of the Republican.

Calhoun is Vice-President, and therefore presiding officer of the Senate. Henry Clay is living in retirement on his Kentucky farm, whither he had withdrawn in disgust on the accession to power of his great enemy, Jackson. Daniel Webster is in Congress, a Senator from Massachusetts. In the same body sits a slender young man of thirty-nine, from South Carolina, with a fine, intellectual face and speaking eyes, who, in the absence of Clay, is regarded as the most finished orator of the Senate. He is known as Robert Young Hayne, grand-nephew of that Isaac Hayne who, in 1781, had been executed by the British for his devotion to the interests of the colonies. The orator had entered public life in 1814 in South Carolina when barely of age, had filled the most responsible offices of the State in rapid succession, and in 1823 had been returned by South Carolina to the Senate, where he had distinguished himself as the special champion of his own State in particular and of Southern interests in general.

The minor issue between the two parties at this time (slavery being the greater) is the protective tariff of 1828, Henry Clay's “great American system,” the “tariff of abominations,” as it is called by the Southern planters. This tariff proposed to protect our infant industries by imposing a tax on all manufactured goods imported. The manufacturing North favored it; the agricultural South, which wished to buy in the cheapest market, bitterly opposed it, so bitterly that it made it the occasion of testing the efficacy of its new-born doctrine of Nullification.

Such were the accessories of the contest. The great debate began on Monday, January 18th, with the opposition of the Western members to Senator Foote's resolution calling for an inquiry into the sale of Western lands, Senator Benton making a strong speech in opposition to the resolution. Next dayTuesday, the 19th-Senator Holmes, of Maine, replied, and other members engaged in the debate. They were followed by Senator Hayne, who began hostilities by a bitter attack on New England, whose attitude toward slavery had greatly displeased the South. To this speech, Webster of Massachusetts, at the request of Northern Senators, made an effective reply. Heretofore the debate had been comparatively tame; from this time forward it engaged the attention of the whole country; the champions had been named and the arena defined. Mr. Hayne at once gave notice that he should reply to Mr. Webster. He insisted on his adversary's being present, and gave due notice of the day in the public prints, so that at the appointed hour galleries and Senate floor were crowded with an audience largely in sympathy with the orator. He spoke, too, under the eye of his great leader, Calhoun, who occupied the curule chair as President of the Senate. Hayne's effort is said to have been a masterly one, far exceeding any thing that had preceded it.

Its exordium was devoted to an arraignment and excoriation of Massachusetts, and of the Senator who so ably represented her in Washington. All that fiery eloquence, biting sarcasm, and fierce invective could do was done to cast contempt and opprobrium upon that State, her Senator, and the principles for which he stood. Then changing his

a

« ZurückWeiter »