Page images
PDF
EPUB

read it, merely because it is advocated by great names in whom they are accustomed to confide. Late events have convinced me that it were better in republican, representative governments, where the people are to judge and decide on every measure, if there were no great, overshadowing names, to give factitious force to their views, and lead the public mind captive. If the people were to put faith in no man's argument, they would examine every question for themselves, and decide according to their intrinsic merit. The errors of the small do but little harm; those of the great are fatal. Had Lucifer been but a common angel, instead of the Chief of the morning stars, he had not taken with him to perdition the third of the heavenly hosts, and spread disunion and discord in celestial, and sin and misery in earthly, places. Sir, so long as man is vain and fallible, so long as great men have like passions with others, and, as in republics, are surrounded with stronger temptations, it were better for themselves if their fame acquired no inordinate height, until the grave had precluded error. The errors of obscure men die with them, and cast no shame on their posterity. How different with the Great! How much better had it been for Lord Bacon, that greatest of human intellects, had he never, during his life, acquired glory, and risen to high honors in the State, than to be degraded from them by the judgment of his peers. How much better for him and his, had he lived and died unknown, than to be branded through all future time as the

“Wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind.”

So now, in this crisis of the fate of liberty, if any of the renowned men of this nation should betray her cause, it were better that they had been unknown to fame. It need not be hoped that the brightness of their past glory will dazzle the eyes of posterity, or illumine the pages of impartial history. A few of its rays may still linger on a fading sky; but they will soon be whelmed in the blackness of darkness. For, unless progressive civilization, and the increasing love of freedom throughout the Christian and civilized world, are fallacious, the Sun of Liberty, of universal Liberty, is already above the horizon, and fast coursing to his meridian splendor, when no advocate of slavery, no apologist of slavery, can look upon his face and live.

THE ISSUE AGAINST ANDREW JOHNSON

ON THE FIRST RECONSTRUCTION BILL; DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, JANUARY 3, 1867 Mr. Speaker:

HAT are the great questions which now divide V V the nation? In the midst of the political Babel which has been produced by the intermingling of secessionists, rebels, pardoned traitors, hissing Copperheads, and apostate Republicans, such a confusion of tongues is heard that it is difficult to understand either the questions that are asked or the answers that are given. Ask what is the “President's policy,” and it is difficult to define it. Ask what is the “policy of Congress,” and the answer is not always at hand. A few moments may be profitably spent in seeking the meaning of each of these terms. In this country the whole sovereignty rests with the people, and is exercised through their representatives in Congress assembled. The legislative power is the sole guardian of that sovereignty. No other branch of the government, no other department, no other officer of the government, possesses one single particle of the sovereignty of the nation. No government official, from the President and ChiefJustice down, can do any one act which is not prescribed and directed by the legislative power. . . . Since, then, the President cannot enact, alter, or modify a single law; cannot even create a petty office within his own sphere of operations; if, in short, he is the mere servant of the people, who issue their commands to him through Congress, whence does he derive the constitutional power to create new States, to remodel old ones, to dictate organic laws, to fix the qualifications of voters, to declare that States are republican and entitled to command Congress to admit their Representatives? To my mind it is either the most ignorant and shallow mistake of his duties, or the most brazen and impudent usurpation of power. It is claimed for him by some as Commander-inChief of the army and navy. How absurd that a mere executive officer should claim creative powers. Though Commander-in-Chief by the Constitution, he would have nothing to command, either by land or water, until Congress raised both army and navy. Congress also prescribes the rules and regulations to govern the army; even that is not left to the Commander-in-Chief. Though the President is Commander-in-Chief, Congress is his commander; and, God willing, he shall obey. There are several good reasons for the passage of this bill. In the first place, it is just. I am now confining my argument to negro suffrage in the rebel States. Have not loyal blacks quite as good a right to choose rulers and make laws as rebel whites? In the second place, it is a necessity in order to protect the loyal white men in the seceded States. With them the blacks would act in a body; and it is believed then, in each of said States, except one, the two united would form a majority, control the States, and protect themselves. Now they are the victims of daily murder. They must suffer constant persecution, or be exiled.

Another good reason is that it would insure the ascendency of the Union party. “Do you avow the party purpose?” exclaims some horror-stricken demagogue. I do. For I believe, on my conscience, that on the continued ascendency of that party depends the safety of this great nation. If impartial suffrage is excluded in the rebel States, then every one of them is sure to send a solid rebel representation to Congress, and cast a solid rebel electoral vote. They, with their kindred Copperheads of the North, would always elect the President and control Congress. While Slavery sat upon her defiant throne, and insulted and intimidated the trembling North, the South frequently divided on questions of policy between Whigs and Democrats, and gave victory alternately to the sections. Now, you must divide them between loyalists, without regard to color, and disloyalists, or you will be the perpetual vassals of the free trade, irritated, revengeful South. For these, among other reasons, I am for negro suffrage in every rebel State. If it be just, it should not be denied; if it be necessary, it should be adopted; if it be a punishment to traitors, they deserve it.

EVE RETT

DWARD EVERETT was born in Dorchester near Boston in 1794. He took a degree of Bachelor of Arts at Harvard College at the age of seventeen. His earlier predilection was for the law, but the advice of Joseph Buckminster, a distinguished preacher in Boston, led young Everett to prepare for the pulpit, and in this vocation he at once distinguished himself. Before he was twenty years old, he was called to the ministry of one of the largest Boston churches. In 1814, after a service of little more than a year in the pulpit, he resigned his charge to become a Professor of Greek Literature in Harvard College. After nearly five years spent in Europe in preparation for that post, he entered upon its duties, and for five years more gave a vigorous impulse not only to the study of Greek, but to all the work of the college. About the same time he assumed charge of the “North American Review.” In 1824 he was chosen a member of Congress and for ten years held a seat in the House of Representatives. In 1835 he was chosen Governor of Massachusetts, and filled the office for four years. In 1841 he was appointed United States Minister to England. In 1846 he became President of Harvard College, and filled that office for three years. In 1852, on the death of Daniel Webster, he was made by President Fillmore Secretary of State, and when he left that post, he was sent from Massachusetts to the United States Senate. During the last years of his life he delivered an oration on Washington throughout the country, and thus contributed more than a hundred thousand dollars for the purchase of Washington’s old home at Mount Vernon. In 1860 he was nominated for the Vice-Presidency on the Whig ticket. The last of his great orations was pronounced at Gettysburg, after the battle, on the consecration of the national cemetery in that place. He died on January 15, 1865.

THE HISTORY OF LIBERTY

DELIVERED AT CHARLESTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS, JULY 4, 1828

HE event which we commemorate is all-important, not merely in our own annals, but in those of the world. The sententious English poet has declared that “the proper study of mankind is man,” and of all inquiries of a temporal nature, the history of our fellow-beings is un

questionably among the most interesting. But not all the

« PreviousContinue »