How can this full, perfect, just and supreme voice of the people, embodied in the Constitution, be brought to bear, habitually and steadily, in counteracting the fatal tendency of the government to the absolute and despotic control of the numerical majority?
There is not an example on record of any free state holding a province of the same extent and population without disastrous consequences. The nations conquered and held as a province have, in time, retaliated by destroying the liberty of their conquerors through the corrupting effect of extended patronage and irresponsible power.
To make a division of power effectual, a veto in one form or another is indispensable. The right of each to judge for itself of the extent of the power allotted to its share, and to protect itself in its exercise, is what, in reality, is meant by a division of power.
If not met promptly and decidedly, the two portions of the Union will gradually become thoroughly alienated, when no alternative will be left to us, as the weaker of the two, but to sever all political ties or sink down into abject submission.
So long as the Oregon question is left open, Mexico will calculate the chances of a rupture between us and Great Britain, in the event of which she would be prepared to make common cause against us. But when an end is put to any such hope, she will speedily settle her difference with us.
In its exterior relations - abroad - this government is the sole and exclusive representative of the united majesty, sovereignty, and power of the States, constituting this great and glorious Union. To the rest of the world, we are one. Neither State nor State government is known beyond our borders. Within, it is different.
Every dollar of tax imposed on our exchanges in the shape of duties impairs, to that extent, our capacity to meet the severe competition to which we are exposed; and nothing but a system of high protective duties, long continued, can prevent us from meeting it successfully. It is that which we have to fear.
I know that there is a great diversity of opinion as to who, in fact, pays the duties on imports. I do not intend to discuss that point. We of the staple and exporting States have long settled the question for ourselves, almost unanimously, from sad experience.
We ought not to forget that the government, through all its departments, judicial as well as others, is administered by delegated and responsible agents; and that the power which really controls, ultimately, all the movements, is not in the agents, but those who elect or appoint them.
It is a fundamental rule with me not to vote for a loan or tax bill till I am satisfied it is necessary for the public service, and then not if the deficiency can be avoided by lopping off unnecessary objects of expenditure or the enforcement of an exact and judicious economy in the public disbursements.
I will not undertake to offer an opinion on the capacity of Hindustan to produce cotton. The region is large, and the soil and climate various, the population great and wages low; but I must be permitted to doubt the success of the experiment of driving us out of the market, though backed and patronized by English capital and energy.
England has not wholly escaped the curse which must ever befall a free government which holds extensive provinces in subjection; for, although she has not lost her liberty or fallen into anarchy, yet we behold the population of England crushed to the earth by the superincumbent weight of debt and taxation, which may one day terminate in revolution.
The day that the balance between the two sections of the country - the slaveholding States and the non-slaveholding States - is destroyed is a day that will not be far removed from political revolution, anarchy, civil war, and widespread disaster.
Our government is deeply disordered; its credit is impaired; its debt increasing; its expenditures extravagant and wasteful; its disbursements without efficient accountability; and its taxes (for duties are but taxes) enormous, unequal, and oppressive to the great producing classes of the country.
The Union next to our liberties the most dear. May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the States, and distributing equally the benefits and burdens of the Union.
Without thinking or reflecting, we plunge into war, contract heavy debts, increase vastly the patronage of the Executive, and indulge in every species of extravagance, without thinking that we expose our liberty to hazard. It is a great and fatal mistake.
It is but too common, of late, to condemn the acts of our predecessors and to pronounce them unjust, unwise, or unpatriotic from not adverting to the circumstances under which they acted. Thus, to judge is to do great injustice to the wise and patriotic men who preceded us.
Peace is, indeed, our policy. A kind Providence has cast our lot on a portion of the globe sufficiently vast to satisfy the most grasping ambition, and abounding in resources beyond all others, which only require to be fully developed to make us the greatest and most prosperous people on earth.
I am in favor of high wages and agree that the higher the wages, the stronger the evidence of prosperity, provided (and that is the important point) they are so naturally, by the effectiveness of industry, and not in consequence of an inflated currency or any artificial regulation.
I will not attempt to show that it would be a great evil to increase the patronage of the Executive. It is already enormously great, as every man of every party must acknowledge, if he would candidly express his sentiments.
It has been lately urged in a very respectable quarter that it is the mission of this country to spread civil and religious liberty all over the globe, and especially over this continent - even by force, if necessary. It is a sad delusion.
I am impressed with the belief that our naval force ought not to cost more in proportion than the British. In some things they may have the advantage, but we will be found to have equally great in others.
Let a durable and firm peace be established and this government be confined rigidly to the few great objects for which it was instituted, leaving the States to contend in generous rivalry to develop, by the arts of peace, their respective resources, and a scene of prosperity and happiness would follow, heretofore unequaled on the globe.
None but a people advanced to a high state of moral and intellectual excellence are capable in a civilized condition of forming and maintaining free governments, and among those who are so far advanced, very few indeed have had the good fortune to form constitutions capable of endurance.
Where wages command labor, as in the non-slaveholding States, there necessarily takes place between labor and capital a conflict, which leads, in process of time, to disorder, anarchy, and revolution if not counteracted by some appropriate and strong constitutional provision. Such is not the case in the slaveholding States.
I am utterly opposed to all equivocation or obscure expressions in our public acts. We are bound to say plainly what we mean to say. If we mean negotiation and compromise, let us say it distinctly and plainly instead of sending to the President a resolution on which he may put whatever interpretation he pleases.
Remember, it is a deep principle of our nature not to regard the safety of those who do not regard their own. If you are indifferent to your own safety, you must not be surprised if those less interested should become more so.
I saw that the incorporation of Texas into this Union would be indispensable both to her safety and ours. I saw that it was impossible she could stand as an independent power between us and Mexico without becoming the scene of intrigue of foreign powers, alike destructive of the peace and security of both Texas and ourselves.
I hold it to be the most monstrous proposition ever uttered within the Senate that conquering a country like Mexico, the President can constitute himself a despotic ruler without the slightest limitation on his power. If all this be true, war is indeed dangerous!
The interval between the decay of the old and the formation and establishment of the new constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism.
It is a universal and fundamental political principle that the power to protect can safely be confided only to those interested in protecting, or their responsible agents - a maxim not less true in private than in public affairs.
What is it but a cunningly devised scheme to take from one State and to give to another - to replenish the treasury of some of the States from the pockets of the people of the others; in reality, to make them support the governments and pay the debts of other States as well as their own?
Every increase of protective duties is necessarily followed, in the present condition of our country, by an expansion of the currency, which must continue to increase till the increased price of production, caused by the expansion, shall be equal to the duty imposed, when a new tariff will be required.
I want no presidency; I want to do my duty. No denunciations here, or out of this House, can deflect me a single inch from going directly at what I aim, and that is, the good of the country. I have always acted upon it, and I will always act upon it.