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Here, in view of all this, we propose to let the President make war as he pleases. The Constitution says the Congress of the United States shall have the power to make war. Has anybody else the power to make war but we and the House of Representatives? Is it a little inferior jurisdiction that we can transfer and delegate to others ? Did the Constitution intend that the President should exercise it? No; it gave it to us, and in the balance of powers just as much denied it to the President as it gave it to us. We subvert the whole system of our Government; the whole constitutional framework of it is a wreck if you take this most dangerous and most important of all powers and put it in the hands of the President of the United States. Can you abdicate this power which the people have given you as their trustees! You cannot do it. Does this bill do it?
To be sure, it will be observed that the right of summary redress is limited to weak States. There seems to be some saving understanding upon the part of the framers of this policy that it would not be applicable to large States. Some trouble, some resistance, might be anticipated from them ; but you can safely thunder it over the heads of these poor little South American states ; you can make them tremble; you can settle the accounts, and make them pay your own balances. Sir, what sort of heroism is that for your country and my country, to triumph over the small and the weak? The bill on which I am commenting does not suppose that war is to require formal debate, but proposes, whenever it shall be made to appear to the President that an American citizen, in any of these countries, has been the subject of violence or depredation in his property, to allow the President, at his ipse dixit, to make war. Unheard, unquestioned, at once the will of a single man is to let loose the dogs of war against these small, weak nations. It is a violation of the spirit of the Constitution; and, besides, there is a pettiness about it that does not belong to our country. Surely it was in a thoughtless moment that the President intimated the necessity of such a measure, or that it was introduced into the Senate. There is nothing in it that can stand investigation. It is not more uncongenial to the Constitution of the United States than it is, I trust, to the magnanimous character of my countrymen, that they should be willing to hunt out the little and the weak and chastise them, and let the great go free, or leave them to ordinary solemn course of proceeding, by treaty or by congressional legislation. No, sir ; far better is the maxim of the old Roman-debellare superbos, to put down the proud.
THOMAS F. MARSHALL (1800-1864)
A KENTUCKY WIT AND ORATOR
LD KAINTUCK," to give the blue-grass State its vernacular
appellation, can boast at least three orators of national fame
belonging to the period under consideration - Henry Clay, Thomas F. Marshall, and John J. Crittenden, the last two native sons of the soil. Marshall, the one of this trio with whom we are at present concerned, was gifted with unusual fluency and command of language, equalling in this respect, in his best efforts, Henry Clay himself. He was distinguished alike for wit and oratory, and though his Congressional career was very brief—from 1841 to 1843—it was embellished by numerous speeches of remarkable brilliancy. His power of oratory made him very successful at the bar and in the political campaign field, and on his efforts in the latter his reputation as an orator largely rests. In his days the method of Congressional reporting was not of the best, and be in particular was so aggrieved by the way in which his remarks were mangled, that he rose in the House and indignantly demanded that his speeches should not be reported at all. His legal career was passed at Louisville, where for a time he served as judge of the Circuit Court, and where he died, September 22, 1864.
THE STATES AND THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT [Of Marshall's Congressional speeches, the only one that seems to have been adequately reported was that of July 6, 1841, on a Bill to dispose of the Proceeds of Sales of Public Lands. His remarks on the relations of the States to the Central Government, and their mutual stability, are of deep interest, and stamp Marshall as an equally strong Unionist with Clay and Crittenden.]
Whence, Mr. Chairman, springs this jealousy of the Federal Government, and whither does it tend? One would imagine that it was created but to be feared and watched. It is treated as something naturally and
THOMAS F. MARSHALL
necessarily hostile and dangerous to the States and the people. The powers with which it is armed are considered but as so many instruments of destruction. It is represented as a great central mass, charged with poison and death, attracting everything within its sphere, and polluting or destroying everything which it attracts. It is represented as something foreign and inimical, whose constant and necessary policy it is to bow the sovereign crests of these States at the footstool of its own power by force, or to conquer and debase them into stipendiaries and vassals by bribes and corruption. Sir, while I listened to the impassioned invective of the gentleman from Virginia, I felt my mind inflaming against this mortal and monstrous foe, meditating such foul designs against public virtue and public liberty.
But the question recurred : What is this government, and who are we? Is Kentucky to be bought and sold, that she may be corrupted and enslaved ? Are New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia-all-all—to be brought under the hammer and struck off--honor, independence, freedom -all at a stroke? And who the auctioneer? Who the purchaser ? Their own representatives, freely chosen and entirely responsible ? Nay, sir, they are doubly represented in this government, so bent upon their destruction. We come fresh from the hands of the people themselves, soon to return our account for our conduct. Those in the other end of the Capitol represent the States as sovereign. Strange violation of all natural order, that we should plot the ruin of those whose breath is our life, whose independence and safety are our glory. Whither does this jealousy tend? Are the States only safe in alienation from, and enmity to, their common head? Are we most to dread the national authority when exerted most beneficially upon State interests ? Sir, what can this mean, and to what does it tend, save dismemberment? Why continue a government whose only power is for mischief; which, to be innocent, must be inert; and which, where most it seems to favor and to bless, means the more insidiously, but the more surely, to corrupt and to destroy ?
I can understand why a Consolidationist, if there be such a foe to reason and to liberty, or an early Federalist, feeling an overwrought jealousy of the State sovereignties, and dreading the uniform tendency of confederated republics to dismemberment and separation, should feel unwilling to part with the power of internal improvement, and grant the revenue necessary to its exertion along with the power. I can understand why such an one, stretching his vision forward to that period when a sum approximating to the national debt of England shall have been expended in State authority, and the State governments, surrounded with
FREDERICK DOUGLASS AND BOOKER T. WASHINGTON