« PreviousContinue »
the time when the right itself is called in question, and that the men of all others to assert it are the men to whom the right has been denied ?
It would be no vindication of the right of speech to prove that certain gentlemen of great distinction, eminent for their learning and ability, are allowed to freely express their opinions on all subjects—including the subject of slavery. Such a vindication would need, itself, to be vindicated. It would add insult to injury. Not even an old-fashioned abolition meeting could vindicate that right in Boston just now. There can be no right of speech where any man, however lifted up, or however humble, however young, or however old, is overawed by force, and compelled to suppress his honest sentiments.
Equally clear is the right to hear. To suppress free speech is a double vrong It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. It is just as criminal to rob a man of his right to speak and hear as it would be to rob him of his money. I have no doubt that Boston will vindicate this right. But in order to do so there must be no concessions to the enemy When a man is allowed to speak because he is rich and powerful, it aggravates the crime of denying the right to the poor and humble.
The principle must rest upon its own proper basis. And until the right is accorded to the humblest as freely as to the most exalted citizen, the government of Boston is but an empty name, and its freedom is a mockery. A man's right to speak does not depend upon where he was born or upon his color. The simple quality of manhood is the solid basis of the right-and there let it rest forever.
HENRY WINTER DAVIS (1817-1865)
A SERVANT OF THE PEOPLE
N 1859, when Henry Winter Davis, a Baltimore Representative
in Congress, voted for the Republican candidate for Speaker,
he gave high offence to the Maryland legislators, who passed resolutions declaring that he had forfeited the confidence of the people. Their wrathful action failed to rouse alarm in the breast of its subject. In a speech before the House Davis disdainfully bade them to take their message back to their masters, the people, to whom alone he was responsible. The people justified his trust in them by re-electing him as their servant in Congress.
Davis was a man of much eloquence; of an intellect keen, inventive and capable of sustained effort. A Whig in politics, he joined the American Party after the demise of the Whigs, and in 1861 became an ardent Republican, earnestly loyal to the Union. In a speech in February of that year he denounced the supineness of the Buchanan administration. This stand he firmly and zealously maintained throughout the war, and after its end, in 1865, made an important and eloquent speech in Chicago in favor of Negro suffrage. He died in December of the same year.
THE PERIL OF THE REPUBLIC [It needed no small courage for a native of a slave State, in which sympathy with the doctrine of secession was at that time strongly declared, to come out in such ardent advocacy of the preservation of the Union as Henry Winter Davis did in his notable speech of February 2, 1861. He had been opposed to forcing the issue between North and South, but no sooner was secession decreed than he took as firm a stand for the supremacy of the National Government as any member from the most extreme anti-slavery district could have done, and criticised the senile weakness of the Buchanan administration in words that must have stung like adders. We give the pith of this vigorous address.]
HENRY WINTER DAVIS
We are at the end of the insane revel of partisan license, which, for thirty years, has in the United States worn the mask of government. We are about to close the masquerade by the dance of death. . .
Within two months after a formal, peaceful, regular election of the Chief Magistrate of the United States, in which the whole body of the people of every State competed with zeal for the prize, without any new event intervening, without any new grievances alleged, without any new menaces having been made, we have seen, in the short course of one month, a small portion of the population of six States transcend the bounds at a single leap at once of the State and the National Constitutions; usurp the land; usurp the extraordinary prerogative of repealing the supreme law of the land ; exclude the great mass of their fellow-citizens from the otection of the Constitution ; declare themselves emancipated from the obligations which the Constitution pronounces to be supreme over them and over their laws; arrogate to themselves all the prerogatives of independent power ; rescind the acts of cession of the public property; occupy the public offices; seize the fortresses of the United States confided to the faith of the people among whom they were placed ; embezzle the public arms concentrated there for the defence of the United States; array thousands of men in arms against the United States; and actually wage war on the Union by besieging two of their fortresses and firing on a vessel bearing, under the flag of the United States, reinforcements and provisions to one of them.
The very boundaries of right and wrong seem obliterated when we see a cabinet minister engaged for months in deliberately changing the distribution of public arms to places in the hands of those about to resist the public authority, so as to place within their grasp means of waging war against the United States greater than they ever used against a foreign foe; and another cabinet minister-still holding his commission under the authority of the United States, still a confidential adviser of the President, still bound by his oath to support the Constitution of the United Stateshimself a commissioner from his own State to another of the United States for the purpose of organizing and extending another part of the same great scheme of rebellion; and the doom of the Republic seems sealed when the President, surrounded by such ministers, permits, without rebuke, the Government to be betrayed, neglects the solemn warning of the first soldier of the age till almost every fort is a prey to domestic treason, and accepts assurances of peace in his time at the expense of leaving the national honor unguarded. His message gives aid and comfort to the enemies of the Union, by avowing his inability to maintain its integrity; and, paralyzed and stupefied, he stands amid the crash of the falling
HENRY WINTER DAVIS
Republic, still muttering, “Not in my time, not in my time; after me the deluge!”..
Mr. Speaker, we are driven to one of two alternatives ; we must recognize what we have been told more than once upon this floor is an accomplished fact-the independence of the rebellious States-or we must refuse to acknowledge it, and accept all the responsibilities that attach to that refusal. Recognize them! Abandon the Gulf and coast of Mexico; surrender the forts of the United States ; yield the privilege of free commerce and free intercourse; strike down the guarantees of the Constitution for our fellow-citizens in all that wide region ; create a thousand miles of interior frontier to be furnished with internal custom-houses, and armed with internal forts, themselves to be a prey to the next caprice of State sovereignty ; organize a vast standing army, ready at a moment's warning to resist aggression; create upon our southern boundary a perpetual foothold for foreign powers, whenever caprice, ambition, or hostility may see fit to invite the despot of France or the aggressive power of England to attack us upon our undefended frontier ; sever that unity of territory which we have spent millions and labored through three generations to create and establish ; pull down the flag of the United States and take a lower station among the nations of the earth ; abandon the high prerogative of leading the march of freedom, the hope of struggling nationalities, the terror of frowning tyrants, the boast of the world, the light of liberty ; to become the sport and prey of despots whose thrones we consolidate by our fall; to be greeted by Mexico with the salutation: " Art thou also to become weak as we ? art thou become like unto us?” This is recognition !
Refuse to recognize! We must not coerce a State engaged in the peaceful process of firing into a United States vessel to prevent the reinforcement of a United States fort. We must not coerce States which, without any declaration of war, or any act of hostility of any kind, have united, as have Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana, their joint forces to seize a public fortress. We must not ccerce a State which has planted cannon upon its shores to prevent the free navigation of the Mississippi. We must not coerce a State which has robbed the United States Treasury.—This is peaceful secession !
Mr. Speaker, I do not design to quarrel with gentlemen about words. I do not wish to say one word which will exasperate the already too much inflamed state of the public mind; but I say that the Constitution of the United States and the laws made in pursuance thereof, must be enforced ; and they who stand across the path of that enforcement must either destroy the power of the United States or it will destroy them.
WILLIAM M. EVARTS (1818–1901)
MANHATTAN'S MOST FAMOUS ADVOCATE.
N the judicial history of the United States, the most imposing
spectacle was that which took place in 1868, when President
Johnson was put on trial, impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the Senate of the United States sitting as the Court, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding. Prominent among those who took part and chief counsel for the President, was William Maxwell Evarts, the most brilliant legal light of the New York bar, and a man of national reputation in the field of forensic eloquence. We need scarcely repeat the well-known fact that the President was acquitted, and that his advocate aided in the result through his legal acumen and deep knowledge of Constitutional law. The services of Evarts were rewarded by his appointment as AttorneyGeneral of the United States, which he filled during the brief remainder of President Johnson's term. He subsequently severed as Secretary of State under President Hayes.
A WEAK SPOT IN THE AMERICAN SYSTEM [As a legal orator Mr. Evarts had great ability. An excellent example of his powers in this respect was his able argument for the defendant in the great impeachment trial. As evidence, we give an extract from this very fine forensic effort.]
There are in the Constitution but three barriers against the will of a majority of Congress within the terms of their authority. One is, that it requires a two-thirds vote to expel a member of either House; another, that a two-thirds vote is necessary to pass a law over the objections of the President; and another, that a two-thirds vote of the Senate, sitting as a court for the trial of impeachment, is requisite to a sentence. And now how have these two last protections of the Executive office disappeared from the Constitution in its practical working by the condition of parties that has