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the first step towards bankruptcy 2 Has he conversed with our mechanics? That mechanic, who, the day before this embargo passed, the very day that you took this bit, and rolled it like a sweet morsel under your tongue, had more business than he had hands, or time, or thought to employ in it, now soliciting, at reduced prices, that employment which the rich, owing to the uncertainty in which your laws have involved their capital, cannot afford 2 I could heighten this picture. I could show you laboring poor in the almshouse, and willing industry dependent upon charity. But I confine myself to particulars which have fallen under my own observation, and of which ten thousand suffering individuals on the seaboard of New England are living witnesses that here is nothing fictitious. . It is in vain to say that if the embargo was raised there would be no market. The merchants understand that subject better than you ; and the eagerness with which preparations to load were carried on previous to the commencement of this session, speaks, in a language not to be mistaken, their opinion of the foreign markets. But it has been asked in debate, “Will not Massachusetts, the cradle of liberty, submit to such privations 2 ” An embargo liberty was never cradled in Massachusetts. Our liberty was not so much a mountain as a sea-nymph. She was free as air. She could swim, or she could run. The ocean was her cradle. Our fathers met her as she came, like the goddess of beauty, from the waves. They caught her as she was sporting on the beach. They courted her whilst she was spreading her nets upon the rocks. But an embargo liberty; a hand-cuffed liberty; a liberty in fetters; a liberty traversing between the four sides of a prison and beating her head against the walls, is none of our offspring. We abjure the monster. Its parentage is all inland . .
However, suppose that the payment of this duty is inevitable, which it certainly is not, let me ask—Is embargo independence 2 Deceive not yourselves. It is palpable submission. Gentlemen exclaim, Great Britain “smites us on one cheek.” And what does administration ? “It turns the other also.” Gentlemen say “Great Britain is a robber; she takes our cloak.” And what say administration ? “Let her take our coat also.” France and Great Britain require you to relinquish a part of your commerce, and you yield it entirely. Sir, this conduct may be the way to dignity and honor in another world, but it will never secure safety and independence in this.
JOHN RANDOLPH (1773-1833)
ROANOKE'S FIERY SON
a firebrand upon the floor of Congress, which few could handle without being burned. “He was like an Ishmaelite,” says Garland, “his hand against every man, and every man's hand against him.” His native skill in oratory, his ready and often stinging wit, his mastery of the weapons of sarcasm and invective, rendered him ever a formidable opponent in debate. He voted against the Missouri Compromise bill of 1820, because it placed a northern limit to the extension of slavery, and he stigmatized the Northern members who voted for it as “doughfaces,” a term of contumely which came afterward into general use. In 1826 he grossly insulted Henry Clay, speaking of him as a “combination of the Puritan with the blackleg,” and using other insulting language. Clay challenged him, a duel was fought. Clay fired without effect, and Randolph then fired into the air. Born before the Revolution, he entered Congress in 1799, and continued a member for nearly thirty years. Jackson appointed him minister to Russia in 1830, but in 1832 we find him a bitter opponent of Jackson, on account of his proclamation against the South Carolina nullifiers. He called this “the ferocious and bloodthirsty proclamation of our Djezzar Pacha.” He died the following year. His will gave freedom to his three hundred slaves.
THE TARIFF AND THE CONSTITUTION [The tariff of 1816 was supported by many Southerners and opposed by many of the merchants of New England. But by 1824 manufacture had grown greatly in New England and protection was demanded, while the South wished for free trade as best suited to its cotton and farming industries. Randolph was, in consequence, bitterly opposed to the advance in rates in the new tariff bill, and handled the subject in his most strenuous fashion. In a letter in 1818 he had said, “When I speak of
A VERITABLE “Son of Satan’’ was John Randolph of Roanoke,
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my country I mean the Commonwealth of Virginia,” and his sentiments about the Union accorded with this remark, as may be seen in the intemperate language of our extract from his speech of April 15, 1824.]
I am very glad, Mr. Speaker, that old Massachusetts Bay and the province of Maine and Sagadahock, by whom we stood in the days of the Revolution, now stand by the South, and will not aid in fixing on us this system of taxation, compared with which the taxation of Mr. Grenville and Lord North was as nothing. I speak with knowledge of what I say, when I declare that this bill is an attempt to reduce the country south of Mason and Dixon's line, and east of the Alleghany mountains, to a state of worse than colonial bondage; a state to which the domination of Great Britain was, in my judgment, far preferable; and I trust I shall always have the fearless integrity to utter any political sentiment which the head sanctions and the heart ratifies ; for the British Parliament never would have dared to lay such duties on our imports, or their exports to to us, either “at home” or here, as is now proposed to be laid upon the imports from abroad. At that time we had the command of the market of the vast dominions then subject, and we should have had those which have since been subjected to the British empire; we enjoyed a free trade eminently superior to anything we can enjoy if this bill shall go into operation. It is a sacrifice of the interests of a part of this nation to the ideal benefit of the rest. It marks us out as the victims of a worse than Egyptian bondage. It is a barter of so much of our rights, of so much of the fruits of our labor, for political power to be transferred to other hands. It ought to be met, and I trust it will be met, in the southern country as was the Stamp Act, and all those measures which I will not detain the House by recapitulating, which succeeded the Stamp Act, and produced the final breach with the mother country, which it took about ten years to bring about; as I trust, in my conscience, it will not take as long to bring about similar results from this measure, should it become a law.
All policy is very suspicious, says an eminent statesman, that sacrifices the interest of any part of a community to the ideal good of the whole; and those governments only are tolerable where, by the necessary construction of the political machine, the interests of all the parts are obliged to be protected by it. Here is a district of country extending from the Patapsco to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Alleghany to the Atlantic; a district which, taking in all that part of Maryland lying south of the Patapsco and east of Elk river, raises five sixths of all the exports of this country that are of home growth. I have in my hand the official statements which prove it—but which I will not weary the Houes by reading—in all this country, yes, sir, and I bless God for it; for with all
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the fantastical and preposterous theories about the rights of man (the theories, not the rights themselves, I speak of), there is nothing but power that can restrain power. I bless God that, in this insulted, oppressed, and outraged region, we are, as to our counsels in regard to this measure, but as one man; that there exists on the subject but one feeling and one interest. We are proscribed and put to the bar; and if we do not feel, and, feeling, do not act, we are bastards to those fathers who achieved the revolution ; then shall we deserve to make our bricks without straw. There is no case on record in which a proposition like this, suddenly changing the whole frame of a country's polity, tearing asunder every ligature of the body politic, was ever carried by a lean majority of two or three votes, unless it be the usurpation of the septennial act, which passed the British Parliament by, I think, the majority of one vote, the same that laid the tax on cotton bagging. I do not stop here, sir, to argue about the constitutionality of this bill; I consider the Constitution a dead letter. I consider it to consist at this time of the power of the General Government and the power of the States; that is the Constitution. You may entrench yourself in parchment to the teeth, says Lord Chatham, the sword will find its way to the vitals of the Constitution. I have no faith in parchment, sir; I have no faith in the “abracadabra" of the Constitution ; I have faith in the power of that commonwealth of which I am an unworthy son ; in the power of those Carolinas, and of that Georgia, in her ancient and utmost extent, to the Mississippi, which went with us through the valley of the shadow of death in the war of our independence.
I have said that I shall not stop to discuss the constitutionality of this question, for that reason and for a better; that there never was a constitution under the sun in which, by an unwise exercise of the powers of the government, the people may not be driven to the extremity of resistance by force. “For it is not, perhaps, so much by the assumption of unlawful powers as by the unwise or unwarrantable use of those which are most legal, that governments oppose their true end and object; for there is such a thing as tyranny as well as usurpation.” If under a power to regulate trade you prevent exportation ; if, with the most approved spring lancets, you draw the last drop of blood from our veins; if, secundum artem, you draw the last shilling from our pockets, what are the checks of the Constitution to us? A fig for the Constitution | When the scorpion's sting is probing us to the quick, shall we stop to chop logic 2 Shall we get some learned and cunning clerk to say whether the power to do this is to be found in the Constitution, and then if he, from whatever motive, shall maintain the affirmative, like the animal whose fleece forms so material a portion of this bill, quietly lie down and be shorn ? . . . .