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of Virginia and return thanks for a complimentary vote, he got confused, and was unable to go on. “Sit down, Mr. Washington,' said the Speaker; ‘your modesty is equal to your valour; and that surpasses the power of any language that I possess. He afterwards, however, acquired the power of expressing himself without embarrassinent, and when Patrick Henry was asked in 1774 who was the first man in Congress, he replied : *If you speak of eloquence, Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina is by far the greatest orator ; but if you speak of solid information and sound judgment, Colonel Washington is unquestionably the greatest man on that floor.'
Even amongst those who take rank as orators, there may be some whose speeches possess few attractions in a rhetorical point of view, though grave, dignified, replete with thought and knowledge, and admirably adapted both to the subject-matter and the tinie. Those of Alexander Hamilton, the most consummate statesman ever “raised' in America, pre-eminently belong to this category. "There is not an element of order, strength, and durability in the constitution of the United States,' says M. Guizot, which he did not powerfully contribute to introduce into the scheme, and cause to be adopted.'*
What the reader naturally looks for in specimens is the striking metaphor, the happy illustration, the biting sarcasm, the graceful irony, the bold invective, the vehement apostrophe—something, in short, of the stimulating or exciting kind, and these are not always to be found in the models of clear statement or the correctest trains of reasoning. At the same time, it would be unfair in the extreme to infer the absence of statesmanship from the presence or even abundance of these qualities. Fire and fancy are not incompatible with truth and wisdom ; or, as Lord Chatham once said in answer to Mr. Pelham
• What the gentlemen on the other side mean by long harangues or flowers of rhetoric, I shall not pretend to determine; but if they make use of nothing of the kind, it is no very good argument of their sincerity, because a man who speaks from his heart and is sincerely affected with the subject upon which he speaks, as every honest man must be when he speaks in the cause of his country, such a man, I say, falls naturally into expressions which may be called flowers of rhetoric, and therefore deserves as little to be charged with affectation as the most stupid serjeant-at-law that ever spoke for a half-guinea fee.'
We have now, it is to be hoped, said enough to escape the risk of wounding the self-love of any irritable individual of the most irritable nation in the world. To save the trouble of frequent
* Washington. By M. Guizot. Translated by Henry Reeve, Esq. 1810.
repetition, repetition, we will next briefly explain the nature of the great party-topics on which the larger, if not the better, half of American eloquence has been expended.
No sooner were the United States recognised as a nation than the powers vested in congress during the war were found utterly insufficient for the purposes of peace. The British government, perhaps not sorry to mortify the new state, refused to sign a treaty till they were increased. A project of a constitution was accordingly submitted to a convention of delegates in 1787, and, after a warm discussion, adopted by the majority. The most enlightened and (with two or three exceptions) most distinguished statesmen strongly advocated the expediency of giving the largest amount of power to the supreme central authorities. The men of local influence, backed by the lower class, struggled hard to maintain the supremacy of the provincial legislatures, on which the popular voice could be brought to bear with full effect. The views of the former were explained in a series of letters called The Federalist. This gave a name to the party; and Federalist and Anti-Federalist were thenceforward the designations of the two grand divisions into which the entire country was split. Jay, Madison, and Hamilton were the chief leaders of the Federalists, who had also the support of Washington. The principal speaker on the other side was Patrick Henry, but their real leader was Jefferson, then absent on a diplomatic mission. The Federalists leaned towards aristocracy and England, the Anti-Federalists towards democracy and France. Thus,' says M. Guizot, in the little tract already quoted-in our humble opinion the best thing he ever wrote -- the controversy between them involved the social as well as the political order of things,—the very constitution of society as well as its government. Thus the supreme, eternal questions, which have agitated and will ever agitate the world, and which are connected with the far higher problem of the nature and the destiny of man, all lay at stake between the parties into which the American community was divided, and were all concealed under their designations.'
When the constitution was discussed, the parties were so equally divided, that the decision often hung upon a vote. But after the death of Washington the popular party rapidly gained ground, and the election of Jefferson to the Presidency in 1801 was the crowning triumph of democracy. His friends then took the name of Democrats or Republicans. The name of Federalist continued till a much later period; but in 1824, when John Quincy Adams was elected President, it was changed for that of National-Republicans, and about the same period the democrats who opposed him began to be called Jackson-men. In 1834 both parties were baptised anew. The old federalists, or aris
tocrats, were christened Whigs; and the democrats (who supported Van Buren) Tories, which had been regarded as a term of opprobrium ever since the revolution, when the adherents of the mother-country were so called. Some of these new Tories had a meeting at Tammany Hall, New York: the lamps being accidentally extinguished, the hall was re-lighted by Locofoco (Lucifer) matches, and thus arose the term Locofocos, by which the ultra-Radicals of the United States are designated. We need hardly add that these lines have been occasionally crossed by both parties: thus Jackson's proclamation against South Carolina in 1833 was, to all intents and purposes, a strong Federalist manifesto. Of late years, too, other questions, not strictly referable to either set of principles, have been chosen for rallying points, as the bank, the tariff, the abolition of slavery; and at the present moment topics of a purely personal nature are most in fashion. The suffrages of an enlightened public have been demanded for General Harrison (the Whig, i.e. Conservative, candidate for the Presidency) on the ground of his dwelling in a log-house and drinking hard cider of his own making ; and it is deemed patriotic to use letter-paper headed by a vignette representing him seated in front of such a residence with a cup in his hand and a hogshead by his side.
The speakers whom (with reference to the foregoing considerations, and with reference also to the materials within our reach) we have selected for particular illustration are: Fisher Ames, John Quincy Adams, Josiah Quincy, Wirt, Story, Randolph, Calhoun, Clay, Everett, and Webster.
Fisher Ames was born at Dedham, Massachusetts, 1758. He graduated at Harward University, and, after going through a course of legal study at Boston, began the practice of his profession in his native village. In most parts of North America the functions of the barrister and attorney are combined, like those of surgeon and apothecary in an English country-town, and he probably discharged both. He made himself known by his political contributions to the newspapers, and was elected a member of the provincial assembly, where he so highly distinguished himself as to lead to his being soon transferred to a more conspicuous field,--the first congress that met after the constitution was declared.
Fisher Ames has received from the fond partiality of his countrymen the name of the American Burke, and though his political Essays form the chief and most lasting foundation of his fame, there are passages in his speeches which might go far towards accounting for, if they do not quite justify, the appellation. Thus, in his speech on Mr. Madison's motion in 1794 to
impose additional restrictions on foreign commerce in the hope of inducing other nations to repeal theirs :
'The extravagant despotism of this language accords very ill with our power to give it effect, or with the affectation of zeal for an unlimited freedom of commerce. Such a state of absolute freedom of commerce never did exist, and it is very much to be doubted whether it ever will. Were I invested with the trust to legislate for mankind, it is very probable the first act of my authority would be to throw all the restrictive and prohibitory laws of trade into the fire; the resolutions on the table would not be spared. But if I were to do so, it is probable I should have a quarrel on my hands with every civilised nation. The Dutch would claim the monopoly of the spice-trade, for which their ancestors passed their whole lives in warfare. The Spaniards and Portuguese would be no less obstinate. If we calculate what colony monopolies have cost in wealth, in suffering, and in crimes, we shall say they were dearly purchased. The English would plead for their navigation act, not as a source of gain, but as an essential means of securing their independence. So many interests would be disturbed, and so many lost, by a violent change from the existing to an unknown order of things; and the mutual relations of nations, in respect to their power and wealth, would suffer such a shock, that the idea must be allowed to be perfectly Utopian and wild. But for this country to form the project of changing the policy of nations, and to begin the abolition of restrictions by restrictions of its own, is equally ridiculous and inconsistent.'
We believe it to be equally Utopian for any country, in the present condition of the world, to form the project of changing the policy of nations, and begin the abolition of restrictions by abolishing its own. But the self-complacency with which our corn-law repealers annually bring forward their commonplaces as novelties, and think it the height of philosophy to have discovered the abstract evil of monopolies, is the principal topic of reflection suggested by this paragraph; though Sir Robert Peel's masterly exposure of their fallacious statements, which he tore to tatters without finding it necessary to go into the main question, has pretty well reduced them to their proper dimensions as economists.
Mr. Ames's countrymen may still learn something from the following:
'In open war, we are the weaker, and shall be brought into danger, if not to ruin. ..... By cherishing the arts of peace, we shall acquire, and we are actually acquiring, the strength and resources for a war. Instead of seeking treaties, we ought to shun them; for the later they shall be formed, the better will be the terms: we shall have more to give, and more to withhold. We have not yet taken our proper rank, nor acquired that consideration which will not be refused us, if we persist in prudent and pacific counsels; if we give time for our strength to mature itself. Though America is rising with a giant's strength, its bones are yet but cartilages. By delaying the beginning of a conflict, we insure the victory.'
Burke, in his speech on American affairs delivered in 1772, calls the Americans “a nation in the gristle;' and Talleyrand, on his return from the United States, described them as 'un géant sans os ni nerfs.'
Mr. Ames's great speech, however, is one delivered in 1796 in support of the Treaty with Great Britain, which, though ratified by the President, a considerable party in the House of Representatives were anxious to repudiate. He was so weak from severe illness when he rose, that it seemed doubtful whether he would be able to do more than enter his protest against the proposed infraction of public faith; but as he warmed in the argument, he acquired a factitious strength, and there is a kind of feverish force and wildness in the expressions he flings forth as his convictions deepen in the very act of uttering them :
Will any man affirm the American nation is engaged by good faith to the British nation, but that engagement is nothing to this House? Such a man is not to be reasoned with. Such a doctrine is a coat of mail that would turn the edge of all the weapons of argument, if they were sharper than a sword. Will it be imagined the King of Great Britain and the President are mutually bound by the treaty, but the two Nations are free?
• This, sir, is a cause that would be dishonoured and betrayed if I contented myself with appealing only to the understanding. It is too cold, and its processes are too slow, for the occasion. I desire to thank God, that, since he has given me an intellect so fallible, he has impressed upon me an instinct that is sure. On a question of shame and honour, reasoning is sometimes useless, and worse. I feel the decision in my pulse-if it throws no light upon the brain, it kindles a fire at the heart."
Under the treaty in question certain posts, supposed to be essential to the protection of the American frontier against the Indians, were to be surrendered by Great Britain. This afforded a fine topic of declamation :
By rejecting the posts, we light the savage fires, we bind the victims. This day we undertake to render account to the widows and orphans whom our decision will make, to the wretches that will be roasted at the stake, to our country, and I do not deem it too serious to say, to conscience and to God. We are answerable, and if duty be anything more than a word of imposture, if conscience be not a bugbear, we are preparing to make ourselves as wretched as our country.
There is no mistake in this case, there can be none. Experience has already been the prophet of events, and the cries of our future victims have already reached us. The western inhabitants are not a silent and uncoinplaining sacrifice. The voice of humanity issues from the shade of their wilderness. It exclaims, that while one hand is held up to reject this treaty, the other grasps a tomahawk. It summons our imagination to the scenes that will open. It is no great effort of the imagination to conceive that events so near are already begun. I can fancy that I listen to the yells of savage vengeance and the shrieks of