Page images
PDF
EPUB

60 JOHN MARSHALL

have never heard the opinions of that department; but I feel the most perfect conviction, founded on the general conduct of the government, that it could never surrender an impressed American to the nation which, in making an impressment, had committed a national injury. The belief is, in no degree, shaken by the conduct of the executive in this particular case. In my own mind it is a sufficient defence of the President from an imputation of this kind, that the fact of Thomas Nash being an impressed American was obviously not contemplated by him in the decision he made on the principles of the case. Consequently, if a new circumstance occurred which would essentially change the case decided by the President, the judge ought not to have acted under that decision, but the new circumstance ought to have been stated. Satisfactory as this defence might appear, I shall not resort to it, because to some it might seem a subterfuge. I defend the conduct of the President on other and still stronger ground. The President had decided that a murder committed on board a British frigate on the high seas was within the jurisdiction of that nation, and consequently within the twenty-seventh article of its treaty with the United States. He therefore directed Thomas Nash to be delivered to the British minister, if satisfactory evidence of the murder should be adduced. The sufficiency of the evidence was submitted entirely to the judge. If Thomas Nash had committed a murder, the decision was that he should be surrendered to the British minister; but if he had not committed a murder, he was not to be surrendered. Had Thomas Nash been an impressed American, the homicide on board the Hermione would, most certainly, not have been a murder. The act of impressing an American is an act of lawless violence. The confinement on board a vessel is a continuation of that violence, and an additional outrage. Death committed within the United States, in resisting such violence, would not have been murder, and the person giving the wound could not have been treated as a murderer. Thomas Nash was only to have been delivered up to justice on such evidence as, had the fact been committed within the United States, would have been sufficient to have induced his commitment and trial for murder. Of consequence, the decision of the President was so expressed as to exclude the case of an impressed American liberating himself by homicide.

BOOK II. The Golden Age of American Oratory

F what may be called the critical periods in the history of the United States, there have been two which stand pre-eminent in the development of oratory as in other respects. The first of these was the period of unrest and social and political turmoil which led to the war of the Revolution and to the formation of the Constitution. The second was the period of equal disturbance which had its outcome in the Civil War. In both cases a conflict of words preceded that of arms. The voice of the orator was the weapon employed, and a long contest on the rostrum preceded the appeal to arms. With the first of these periods we have already dealt. The second was dominated by two exciting political problems, the tariff question and the slavery controversy. The first of these led to the attempted secession from the Union of South Carolina. Its most notable result, so far as oratory is concerned, was the famous Congressional debate between Daniel Webster and Robert Y. Hayne, the grandest verbal passage-at-arms in American history. The other subject of controversy was more extended; continuing for forty years, during which the halls of Congress rang with arguments of fiery contestants; and ending in actual war when logic and argument had failed to smooth the waves of hostile feeling. This period has been well denominated “The Golden Age of American Oratory.” It gave rise to such giants in debate as Clay, Webster, Calhoun, and added to the literature of oratory many brilliant examples of the speaker's art,

[ocr errors]

JOSIAH QUINCY (1772-1864)

A FAMOUS FATHER AND SON

HE name of Josiah Quincy appertains to two orators, father T and son ; one belonging to the eighteenth and the other to the nineteenth century; the father distinguished before the first war with Great Britain, the son before the second war. A man of fervid and powerful eloquence, of warm patriotism yet of high sense of justice, was Josiah Quincy, the elder. While ardent for independence, he was as earnest in defence of human rights, as is shown in his defence of the soldiers who took part in the so-called “Boston Massacre,” and against whom the people of Massachusetts were incensed beyond the bounds of reason. In this work of charity he was aided by John Adams, another patriot who set justice above expediency.

The son became as able and famous an orator as the father. He represented Boston in Congress from 1804 to 1813 as a Federalist, and opposed the party in power with great energy and ability. “He was equal to the emergency,” says Griswold, “and sustained himself on all occasions with manly independence, sound argument, and fervid declamation.” While the orations of the father are traditional, those of the son are on record, some of his ablest speeches being in opposition to the Embargo Act of 1807, the admission of Louisiana in 1811, and the war of 1812. After leaving Congress, Mr. Quincy served as a senator and a judge in Massachusetts, Mayor of Boston from 1823 to 1829 and president of Harvard College from 1829 to 1845. He died in 1864 at ninety-two years of age, having lived through both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

THE EVILS OF THE EMBARGO ACT

[The early years of the nineteenth century were signalized by the tremendous conflict between Europe and France, in which England was Napoleon's deadliest foe. The United States could not help being affected by this stupendous warfare. Sailors JOSIAH QUINCY 63

were taken from her merchant ships by British war vessels, and proclamations by England and France in 1806 and 1807 almost put an end to her ocean trade. England seized vessels sailing to ports under French influence. France seized those sailing to British ports. Between the two no commerce was safe. Congress retaliated by passing an Embargo Act, which forbade American merchant vessels to leave port for foreign lands at all, and prohibited foreign vessels from loading in American ports. It was thought this would seriously injure England and France; but it injured America more, practically putting an end to its commerce. The law was not repealed until there became danger of New England, the centre of commerce, seceding from the Union. This danger was strongly indicated by Josiah Quincy, November 28, 1808, in a speech on the following resolution : “A'esolved, that the United States cannot, without a sacrifice of their rights, honor and independence, submit to the late edicts of Great Britain and France.” We give some extracts from this fervidly eloquent speech.] When I enter on the subject of the embargo, I am struck with wonder at the very threshold. I know not with what words to express my astonishment. At the time I departed from Massachusetts, if there was an impression which I thought universal, it was that, at the commencement of this session, an end would be put to this measure. The opinion was not so much, that it would be terminated, as that it was then at an end. Sir, the prevailing sentiment, according to my apprehension, was stronger than this—even that the pressure was so great, that it could not possibly be endured; that it would soon be absolutely insupportable. And this opinion, as I then had reason to believe, was not confined to any one class, or description, or party; that even those who were friends of the existing administration, and unwilling to abandon it, were yet satisfied that a sufficient trial had been given to this measure. With these impressions I arrive in this city. I hear the incantations of the great enchanter. . I feel his spell. I see the legislative machinery begin to move. The scene opens. And I am commanded to forget all my recollections, to disbelieve the evidence of my senses, to contradict what I have seen, and heard, and felt. I hear, that all this discontent is mere party clamor—electioneering artifice; that the people of New England are able and willing to endure this embargo for an indefinite, unlimited period; some say for six months; some a year; some two years. The gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Macon) told us, that he preferred three years of embargo to a war. And the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Clopton) said expressly, that he hoped we should never allow our vessels to go upon the ocean again, until the orders and decrees of the belligerents were rescinded ; in plain English, until France and Great Britain should, in their great condescension, permit. Good heavens ! Mr. Chairman, are men mad 2 Is this House touched with that insanity which is the neverfailing precursor of the intention of Heaven to destroy 2 The people of

64 JosIAH QUINCY

New England, after eleven months' deprivation of the ocean, to be commanded still longer to abandon it, for an undefined period; to hold their unalienable rights at the tenure of the will of Britain or of Bonaparte A people, commercial in all aspects, in all their relations, in all their hopes, in all their recollections of the past, in all their prospects of the future; a people whose first love was the ocean, the choice of their childhood, the approbation of their manly years, the most precious inheritance of their fathers; in the midst of their success, in the moment of the most exquisite perception of commercial prosperity, to be commanded to abandon it, not for a time limited, but for a time unlimited ; not until they can be prepared to defend themselves there (for that is not pretended), but until their rivals recede from it; not until their necessities require, but until foreign nations permit ! I am lost in astonishment, Mr. Chairman. I have not words to express the matchless absurdity of this attempt. I have no tongue to express the swift and headlong destruction which a blind perseverance in such a system must bring upon this nation. But men from New England, representatives on this floor, equally with myself the constitutional guardians of her interests, differ from me in these opinions. My honorable colleague (Mr. Bacon) took occasion, in secret session, to deny that there did exist all that discontent and distress, which I had attempted, in an humble way, to describe. He told us he had traveled in Massachusetts, that the people were not thus dissatisfied, that the embargo had not produced any such tragical effects. Really, sir, my honorable colleague has traveled—all the way from Stockbridge to Hudson; from Berkshire to Boston ; from inn to inn ; from county court to county court; and doubtless he collected all that important information which an acute intelligence never fails to retain on such occasions. He found tea, sugar, salt, West India rum and molasses dearer; beef, pork, butter and cheese cheaper. Reflection enabled him to arrive at this difficult result, that in this way the evil and the good of the embargo equalize one another. But has my honorable colleague traveled on the seaboard 2 Has he witnessed the state of our cities 2 Has he seen our ships rotting at our wharves, our wharves deserted, our stores tenantless, our streets bereft of active business; industry forsaking her beloved haunts, and hope fled away from places where she had from earliest time been accustomed to make and fulfil her most precious promises 2 Has he conversed with the merchant, and heard the tale of his embarrassments— his capital arrested in his hands; forbidden by your laws to resort to a market; with property four times sufficient to discharge all his engagements, necessitated to hang on the precarious mercy of moneyed institutions for that indulgence which preserves him from stopping payment,

« PreviousContinue »