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“ Political men,” he says, “ believed nothing could be done at soa but to lose the few vessels which we had; that even cruising was out of the question. Of our seventeen vessels, the whole were in port but one; and it was determined to keep them there, and the one at sea with them, if it had the luck to get in. I am under no obligation to make the admission, but I am free to acknowledge that I was one of those who supposed that there was no salvation for our seventeen men. of-war but to run them as far up the creek as possible, place them under the guns of batteries, and collect camps of militia about them to keep off the British. This was the policy at the day of the declaration of the war; and I have the less concern to admit myself to have been participator in the delusion, because I claim the merit of having profited from experience, — happy if I could transmit the lesson to posterity. Two officers came to Washington, - Bainbridge and Stew art. They spoke with Mr. Madison, and urged the feasibility of cruising. One half of the whole number of the British men-of-war were under the class of frigates, consequently no more than matches for some of our seventeen ; the whole of her merchant marine (many thousands) were subject to capture. Here was a rich field for cruising; and the two officers, for themselves and brothers, boldly proposed to enter it.
“ Mr. Madison had seen the efficiency of cruising and privateering, even against Great Britain, and in our then infantile condition, during the war of the Revolution ; and besides was a man of sense, and amenable to judgment and reason. He listened to the two experienced and valiant officers; and without consulting Congress, which perhaps would have been a fatal consultation (for multitude of counsellors is not the counsel for bold decision), reversed the policy which had been resolved upon; and, in his supreme character of constitutional commander of the army and navy, ordered every ship that could cruise to get to sea as soon as possible. This I had from Mr. Monroe.”
This is a curious example of the blinding effect of partisan strife, and of the absolute need of an Opposition. It was the hereditary prejudice of the Republicans against the navy, as an * aristocratic” institution, and the hereditary love of the navy cherished by the Federalists as being something stable and Britsh; that enlivened the debates of the war. The Federalists had their way, but failed to win a partisan advantage from the fact, through their factious opposition to the military measures of the administration. Because the first attempt at the seizure of Can
ada had failed through the incompetency of General Hull, which no wisdom of man could have foreseen, Daniel Webster called upon the government to discontinue all further attempts on the land, and fight the war out on the sea. “ Give up your futile projects of invasion,” said he in 1814. “Extinguish the fires that blaze on your inland borders.” 6 Unclench the iron grasp of your embargo."
66 With all the war of the enemy on your commerce,
would cease to make war upon it yourselves, you would still have some commerce. That commerce would give you some revenue. Apply that revenue to the augmentation of your navy
navy, in turn, will protect your commerce.” In war time, however, there are two powers that have to do with the course of events; and very soon the enemy, by his own great scheme of invasion, decided the policy of the United States. Every port was blockaded so effectively that a pilot-boat could not safely go out of sight of land, and a frigate was captured within sight of it. These vigilant blockaders, together with the threatening armament which finally attacked New Orleans, compelled every harbor to prepare for defence, and most effectually refuted Mr. Webster's speech. The “ blaze of glory” with which the war ended at New Orleans consumed all the remaining pres tige of the Federalist party, once so powerful, so respectable, and 80 arrogant.
A member of the anti-war party during the existence of a war occupies a position which can only cease to be insignificant by the misfortunes of his country. But when we turn from the partisan to the man, we perceive that Daniel Webster was a great presence in the House, and took rank immediately with the halfdozen ablest debaters. His self-possession was perfect at all times, and at thirty-three he was still in the spring and first lustre of his powers. His weighty and deliberate manner, the brevity, force, and point of his sentences, and the moderation of his gestures, were all in strong contrast vo the flowing, loose, impassioned manner of the Southern orators, who ruled the House. something like coming upon a stray number of the old Edinburgh Review in a heap of novels and Ladies' Magazines. Chief-Jusdice Marshall, who heard his first speech, being himself a Feder
alist, was so much delighted to hear his own opinions expressed with such power and dignity, that he left the House, believing that this stranger from far-off New Hampshire was destined to become, as he said, “one of the very first statesmen of American and perhaps the very first.” His Washington fame gave him new éclat at home. He was re-elected, and came back to Congress in 1815, to aid the Federalists in preventing the young Republicans from being too Federal.
This last sentence slipped from the pen unawares; but, ridiculous as it looks, it does actually express the position and vocation of the Federalists after the peace of 1815. Clay, Calhoun, Story, Adams, and the Republican majority in Congress, taught by the disasters of the war, as they supposed, had embraced the ideas of the old Federalist party, and were preparing to carry some of them to an extreme. The navy had no longer an enemy. The strict constructionists had dwindled to a few impracticables, headed by John Randolph. The younger Republicans were disposed to a liberal, if not to a latitudinarian construction of the Constitution. In short, they were Federalists and Hamiltonians, bank men, tariff men, internal-improvement men.
Then was afforded to the country the curious spectacle of Federalists opposing the measures which had been among the rallying-cries of their party for twenty years. It was not in Daniel Webster's nature to be a leader; it was morally impossible for him to disengage himself from party ties. This exquisite and consummate artist in oratory, who could give such weighty and brilliant expression to the feelings of his hearers and the doctrines of his party, had less originating power, whether of intellect or of will, than any other man of equal eminence that ever lived. He adhered to the fag end of the old party, until it was absorbed, unavoidably, with scarcely an effort of its own, in Adams and Clay. From 1815 to 1825 he was in opposition, and in opposition to old Federalism revived ; and, consequently, we believe that posterity will decide that his speeches of this period are the only ones relating to details of policy which have the slightest permanent value. In fact, his position in Congress, as a membe: of a very small band of Federalists who had no hope of regain
ing power, was the next thing to being independent, and he made an excellent use of his advantage.
That Bank of the United States, for example, of which, in 1832, he was the ablest defender, and for a renewal of which he strove for ten years, he voted against in 1816; and for reasons which neither he nor any other man ever refuted. His speeches criticising the various bank schemes of 1815 and 1816 were serviceable to the public, and made the bank, as finally established, less harmful than it might have been.
So of the tariff. On this subject, too, he always followed, never led. So long as there was a Federal party, he, as a member of it, opposed Mr. Clay's protective, or (as Mr. Clay delighted to term it) “ American system.” When, in 1825, the few Federalists in the House voted for Mr. Adams, and were merged in the “conservative wing” of the Republican party, which became, in time, the Whig party, then, and from that time forward to the end of his life, he was a protectionist. His anti-protection speech of 1824 is wholly in the modern spirit, and takes precisely the ground since taken by Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, and others of the new school. It is so excellent a statement of the true policy of the United States with regard to protection, that we have often wondered it has been allowed to sleep so long in the tomb of his works. And, oh! from what evils might we have been spared, — nullification, surplus-revenue embarrassments, hot-bed manufactures, clothing three times its natural price, - if the protective legislation of Congress had been inspired by the Webster of 1824, instead of the Clay! Unimportant as this great speech may now seem, as it lies uncut in the third volume of its author's speeches, its unturned leaves sticking together, yet we can say of it, that the whole course of American history had been different if its counsels had been followed. The essence of the speech is contained in two of its phrases: “Freedom of trade, the general principle ; restriction, the exception.” Free trade, the object to be aimed at; protection, a temporary expedient. Free trade, the interest of all nations; protection, the occasionai necessity of one. Free trade, the final and universal good; protection, the sometimes necessary evil. Free trade, as soon as possible and as complete as possi ble ; protection, as little as possible and as short as possible.
The speech was delivered in reply to Mr. Clay; and, viewed merely as a reply, it is difficult to conceive of one more triumphant. Mr. Webster was particularly happy in turning Mr. Clay's historical illustrations against him, especially those drawn from the history of the English silk manufacture, and the Spanish system of restriction and prohibition. Admitting fully that manufactures the most unsuited to the climate, soil, and genius of a country could be created by protection, he showed that such manufactures were not, upon the whole, and in the long run, a benefit to a country; and adduced, for an illustration, the very instance cited by Mr. Clay, — the silk manufacture of England, — which kept fifty thousand persons in misery, and necessitated the continuance of a kind of legislation which the intelligence of Great Britain had outgrown. Is not the following brief passage an almost exhaustive statement of the true American policy ?
“ I know it would be very easy to promote manufactures, at least for a time, but probably for a short time only, if we might act in disregard of other interests. We could cause a sudden transfer of capital and a violent change in the pursuits of men. We could exceedingly benefit some classes by these means. But what then becomes of the interests of others? The power of collecting revenue by duties on imports, and the habit of the government of collecting almost its whole revenue in that mode, will enable us, without exceeding the bounds of moderation, to give great advantages to those classes of manufactures which we may think most useful to promote at home.”
One of his happy retorts upon Mr. Clay was the following:
“I will be so presumptuous as to take up a challenge which Mr. Speaker has thrown down. He has asked us, in a tone of interrogatory indicative of the feeling of anticipated triumph, to mention any coun. try in which manufactures have flourished without the aid of prohibitory laws.
Sir, I am ready to answer this inquiry. “There is a country, not undistinguished among the nations, in which the progress of manufactures has been more rapid than in any other, and yet unaided by prohibitions or unnatural restrictions. That country, the happiest which the sun shines on, is our own.”
Again, Mr. Clay had made the rash remark that it would cost