« ZurückWeiter »
rent rights, could be negotiated with cach of them at its separate seat of government, there is no doubt that much greater facilities for the conclusion of such treaties present themselves at a point where, all being represented, the way may be smoothed and all obstacles removed by a disclosure of the views and wishes of all, and by mutual and friendly explanations. There was one consideration which had much weight with the executive, in the decision to accept the mission; and that was the interest which this country has, and especially the southern states, in the fate and fortunes of the island of Cuba. No subject of our foreign relations has created with the executive government more anxious concern, than that of the condition of that island and the possibility of prejudice to the southern states, from the convulsions to which it might be exposed. It was believed, and is yet believed, that the dangers which, in certain contingencies, might threaten our quiet and safety, may be more successfully averted at a place at which all the American powers should be represented than any where else. And I have no hesitation in expressing the firm conviction, that, if there be one section of this union more than all others interested in the Panama mission, and the benefits which may flow from it, that section is the south. It was, therefore, with great and unaffected surprise, that I witnessed the obliquity of those political views which led some gentlemen from that quarter to regard the measure, as it might operate on the southern states, in an unfavorable light. Whatever may be the result of the mission, its moral effect in Europe will be considerable, and it cannot fail to make the most friendly impressions upon our southern neighbors. It is one of which it is difficult, in sober imagination, to conceive any possible mischievous consequences, and which the executive could not have declined, in my opinion, without culpable neglect of the interests of this country, and without giving dissatisfaction to nations whose friendship we are called upon by every dictate of policy to conciliate.
There are persons who would impress on the southern states the belief that they have just cause of apprehending danger to a certain portion of their property from the present administration. It is not difficult to comprehend the object and the motive of these idle alarms. What measure of the present administration gives any just occasion for the smallest apprehension to the tenure by which that species of property is held? However much the president and the members of his administration may deprecate the existence of slavery among us, as the greatest evil with which we are afflicted, there is not one of them that does not believe that the constitution of the general government confers no authority to interpose between the master and his slave, none to apply an adequate remedy, if indeed there be any remedy within the scope of human power.
Suppose an object of these alarmists were VOL. I.
accomplished, and the slave-holding states were united in the sentiment, that the policy of this government in all time to come, should be regulated on the basis of the fact of slavery, would not union on the one side lead to union on the other? And would not such a fatal division of the people and states of this confederacy, produce perpetual mutual irritation and exasperation, and ultimately disunion itself ? The slave-holding states cannot forget that they are now in a minority, which is in a constant relative diminution, and should certainly not be the first to put forth a principle of public action by which they would be the greatest losers.
I am but too sensible of the unreasonable trespass on your time which I have committed, and of the egotism of which my discourse has partaken. I must depend for my apology upon the character of the times, on the venom of the attacks which have been made upon my character and conduct, and upon the generous sympathy of the gentlemen here assembled. During this very journey a paper has been put into my hands, in which a membror of the house of representatives is represented to have said that the distinguished individual at the head of the government, and myself, have been indicted by the people. If that is the case, I presume
some defence is lawful. By the bye, if the honorable member is to have the sole conduct of the prosecution without the aid of other counsel, I think that it is not difficult to predict that his clients will be nonsuited, and that they will be driven out of court with the usual judgment pronounced in such cases.
In conclusion, I beg leave to offer a toast which, if you are as dry as I am, will, I hope, be acceptable for the sake of the wine, if not the sentiment.
• The continuation of the turnpike road which passes through Lewisburg, and success to the cause of internal improvement, under every auspice.?
He then took his seat amid the repeated cheers of the whole company.
ON AFRICAN COLONIZATION.
IN THE HALL OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE AMERICAN COLONIZATION
SOCIETY, AT WASHINGTON CITY, JANUARY 20, 1827.
(The subject of colonizing the free people of color and emancipated slaves, became one of deep and profound interest, at an early period, in the history of the United States. The question was agitated in Virginia in 1800, and a resolution passed in the legislature of that state, requesting the governor to correspond with the president of the United States, on the subject of purchasing land for a colony; and president Jefferson made efforts, which, however, were unsuccessful, to obtain by negotiation an establishment within the British colonies, in Africa, or the Portuguese colonies, in South America. The movement which finally led to a successful result, in estab. lishing an American colony on the coast of Africa, commenced in the legislature of Virginia, in December, 1816, by instructing the executive of that state, and their members of congress, to cooperate with the United States government in endeavoring to obtain a territory on the before-mentioned coast, for an asylum for free persons of color. Through the instrumentality of the Rev. Robert Finley, an early and zealous friend of the cause, a meeting of public men and private citizens was held at Washington city, on the twenty-first of December, 1816, over which Mr. Clay, then speaker of the house of representatives, was called to preside. A constitution of the American Colonization Society was adopted, at an adjourned meeting on the twenty-eighth of December, and on the first of January, 1817, the officers of the society were chosen, judge Bushrod Washington being elected president, and Henry Clay, William H. Crawford, Andrew Jackson, Robert Finley, and others, vice-presidents. Mr. Clay has always taken a warm and decided interest in the promotion of the objects of this society, and at the annual meeting thereof, in 1827 (being then secretary of state), he delivered the following address.]
I Cannot withhold the expression of my congratulations to the society, on account of the very valuable acquisition which we have obtained in the eloquent gentleman from Boston, (Mr. Knapp,) who has just before favored us with an address. He has told us of his original impressions, unfavorable to the object of the society, and of his subsequent conversion. If the same industry, investigation, and unbiased judgment, manifested by hiinself and another gentleman (Mr. Powell), who avowed at the last meeting of the society a similar change wrought in his mind, were carried, by the public at large, into the consideration of the plan of the society, the conviction of its utility would be universal.
I have risen to submit a resolution, in behalf of which I would bespeak the favor of the society. But before I offer any observa
tions in its support, I must say that, whatever part I shall take in the proceedings of this society, whatever opinions or sentiments I may utter, they are exclusively my own. Whether they are worth any thing or not, no one but myself is at all responsible for them. I have consulted with no person out of this society, and I have especially abstained from all communication or consultation with any one to whom I stand in any official relation. My judgment on the object of this society has been long since deliberately formed. The conclusions to which, after much and anxious consideration, my mind has been brought, have been neither produced nor refuted, by the official station the duties of which have been confided to me.
From the origin of this society, every member of it has, I believe, looked forward to the arrival of a period, when it would become necessary to invoke the public aid in the execution of the great scheme which it was instituted to promote. Considering itself as the mere pioneer in the cause which it had undertaken, it was well aware that it could do no more than remove preliminary difficulties, and point out a sure road to ultimate success; and that the public only could supply that regular, steady, and efficient support, to which the gratuitous means of benevolent individuals would be found incompetent. My surprise has been, that the society has been able so long to sustain itself, and to do so much upon
the charitable contributions of good, and pious, and enlightened men, whom it has happily found in all parts of our country. But our work has so prospered and grown under our hands, that the appeal to the power and resources of the public, should be no longer deferred. The resolution which I have risen to propose, contemplates this appeal. It is in the following words:
* Resolved, that the board of managers be empowered and directed, at such time or times as may seem to them expedient, to make respectful application to the congress of the United States, and to the legislatures of the different states, for such pecuniary aid, in furtherance of the object of this society, as they may respectively be pleased to grant.'
In soliciting the countenance and support of the legislatures of the union and the states, it is incumbent on the society, in making out its case, to show, first, that it offers to their consideration à scheme which is practicable, and secondly, that the execution of the practicable scheme, partial or entire, will be fraught with such beneficial consequences as to merit the support which is solicited. I believe both points to be maintainable. First, it is now a little upwards of ten years since a religious, amiable, and benevolent resident* of this city, first conceived the idea of planting a colony, from the United States, of free people of color, on the western shores of Africa. He no more, and the noblest eulogy which could be pronounced on him would be, to inscribe upon his tomb, the merited epitaph, here lies the projector of the American Colonization Society' Amongst others, to whom he communicated the project, was the person who now has the honor of addressing you. My first impressions, like those of all who have not fully investigated the subject, were against it
* It has been, since the delivery of the speech, suggested, that the reverend Robert Finley, of New Jersey, (who is also, unfortunately, dead,) contemplated the formation of a society, with a view to the establishment of a colony in Africa, and probably first commenced the project. It is quite likely that he did; and Mr. Clay recollects seeing Mr. Finley and consulting with him on the subject, about the period of the formation of the society. But the allusion to Mr. Caldwell was founded on the facts, well known to Mr. Clay, of his active agency in the organization of the society, and his unremitted subsequent labors, which were not confined to the District of Columbia, in promoting the cause.
. They yielded to his earnest persuasions and my own reflections, and I finally agreed with him that the experiment was worthy of a fair trial. A meeting of its friends was called, organized as a deliberative body, and a constitution was formed. T'he society went into operation. He lived to see the most encouraging progress in its exertions, and died in full confidence of its complete success. The society was scarcely formed before it was exposed to the derision of the unthinking; pronounced to be visionary and chimerical by those who were capable of adopting wiser opinions, and the most confi. dent predictions of its entire failure were put forth. It found itself equally assailed by the two extremes of public sentiment in regard to our African population. According to one, (that rash class which, without a due estimate of the fatal consequence, would forth with issue a decree of general, immediate, and indiscriminate emancipation,) it was a scheme of the slaveholder to perpetuate slavery. The other (that class which believes slavery a blessing, and which trembles with aspen sensibility at the appearance of the most distant and ideal danger to the tenure by which that description of property is held,) declared it a contrivance to let loose on society all the slaves of the country, ignorant, uneducated, and incapable of appreciating the value or enjoying the privileges of freedom.* The society saw itself surrounded by every sort of embarrassment. What great human enterprise was ever undertaken without difficulty ? What ever failed, within the
compass of human power, when pursued with perseverance and blessed by the smiles of Providence? The society prosecuted undismayed its great work, appealing for succor to the moderate, the reasonable, the virtuous, and religious portions of the public. It protested, from the commencement, and throughout all its progress, and it now protests, that it entertains no purpose, on its own authority or by its own means, to attempt emancipation, partial or general; that it knows the general government has no constitutional power to
* A society of a few individuals, without power, without other resources than those which are supplied by spontaneous benevolence, to emancipate all the slaves of the country!