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CLXX.—THE SPIRIT OF SEVENTEEN HUNDRED AND SEVENTY.
Extract from the Speech of Josiah Quincy, upon Foreign Relations, delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States, No. vember 28, 1808.
Mr. Chairman.–Tue gentleman from North Carolina has exclaimed “ Where is the spirit of "76?” Ay, sir, where is it? Would to heaven, that at our invocation it would con. descend to alight on this floor. But let gentlemen remember, that the spirit of '76 was not a spirit of empty declaration, or of abstract propositions. It did not content itself with non. importation acts, or non-intercourse laws. It was a spirit of active preparation, of dignified energy. It studied both to know our rights, and to devise the effectual means of main. taining them. It never presented to the people of the United States the alternative of war, or a suspension of our rights, and recommended the latter rather than to incur the risk of the former. What was the language of that period, in one of the addresses of Congress to Great Britain ? “You attempt to reduce us by the sword to base and abject submission : on the sword, therefore, we rely for protection.” In that day there were no alternatives presented to dishearten; no aban. donment of our rights, under the pretence of maintaining them; no gaining the battle by running away. At that time we had a navy : that name so odious to the influences of the present day. Yes, sir, in 1776, though but in our infancy, we had a navy scouring our coasts, and defending our com. merce, which was never for one moment wholly suspended. In 1776, we had an army also ; and a glorious army it was ! Not composed of men halting from the stews, or swept from the jails ; but of the best blood, the real yeomanry of the country-noble cavaliers-men without fear and without reproach. Yes, sir, we had such an army in 1776, and Wash. ington at its head.
At every corner of this great city, Mr. Chairman, we meet some gentlemen of the majority, wringing their hands, and exclaimingą“ What shall we do? Nothing but embargo will save us. Remove it, and what shall we do ?” Sir, it is not for me, an humble and uninfluential individual, at an awful distance from the predominant influences, to suggest plans of government. But to my eye, the path of our duty is as dis. tinct as the milky way; all studded with living sapphires; glowing with cumulating light. It is the path of active preparation; of dignified energy. It is the path of 1776. It consists not in abandoning, our rights, but in supporting them, as they exist, and where they exist-on the ocean, as well as on the land. It consists in taking the nature of things as the measure of the rights of your citizens ; not the orders and de. crees of imperious foreigners. Give what protection you can. Take no counsel of fear. Your strength will increase with the trial, and prove greater than you are now aware.
But I shall be told, “this may lead to war.” I ask, sir, “are we now at peace ?" Certainly not, unless retiring from insult be peace ; unless shrinking under the lash be peace. The surest way to prevent war is not to fear it. The idea that nothing on earth is so dreadful as war, is inculcated, sir, too studiously among us. Disgrace is worse. Abandonment of essential rights is worse.
CLXXI.—THE HORRORS OF A GUILTY CONSCIENCE.
Extract from the Argument of Daniel Webster, on the trial of John F.
Knapp, for the murder of Joseph White.
Gentlemen of the Jury,—THE present is a most extraor. dinary case. In some respects, it has hardly a precedent any where, certainly none in New England history. An aged man, without an enemy in the world, in his own house, and in his own bed, is made the victim of a butcherly murder, for mere pay.
The deed was executed with a degree of self-possession and steadiness, equal to the wickedness with which it was planned. The circumstances, now clearly in evidence, spread out the whole scene before us. Deep sleep had fall. en on the destined victim, and on all beneath his roof. A healthful old man, to whom sleep was sweet, the first sound slumbers of the night held him in their soft but strong em. brace. The assassin enters, through the window already prepared, into an unoccupied apartment. With noiseless foot he paces the lonely hall, half lighted by the moon; he winds up the ascent of the stairs, and reaches the door of the chamber. Of this he moves the lock, by soft and continued pressure, till it turns on its hinges; and he enters and be. holds his victim before him. The room was uncommonly open to the admission of light. The face of the innocent
sleeper was turned from the murderer, and the beams of the · moon, resting on the gray locks of his aged temple, showed him where to strike. The fatal blow is given! and the vic. tim passes, without a struggle or a motion, from the repose of sleep to the repose of death. It is the assassin's purpose to make sure work, and he yet plies the dagger, though it was obvious that life had been destroyed by the blow of the bludgeon. He even raises the aged arm, that he may not fail in his aim at the heart, and replaces it again over the wounds of the poniard ! To finish the picture, he explores the wrist for the pulse! he feels it, and ascertains that it beats no longer! It is accomplished. The deed is done. He re. treats, retraces his steps to the window, passes out through it as he came in, and escapes. He has done the murderno eye has seen him, no ear has heard him. The secret is his own, and it is safe!
Ah! gentlemen, that was a dreadful mistake. Such a se. cret can be safe no where. The whole creation of God has neither nook nor corner, where the guilty can bestow it, and say it is safe. Not to speak of THAT EYE which glances through all disguises, and beholds every thing, as in the splendor of noon,-such secrets of guilt are never safe from detection, even by men. True it is, generally speaking, that “murder will out.” True it is, that Providence hath so or. dained, and doth so govern things, that those who break the great law of heaven, by shedding man's blood, seldom suc. ceed in avoiding discovery. Especially in a case exciting so much attention as this, discovery must come, and will come, sooner or later. A thousand eyes turn at once to explore every man, every thing, every circumstance, connected with the time and place, a thousand ears catch every whisper; a thousand excited minds intensely dwell on the scene, shed. ding all their light, and ready to kindle the slightest circumstance into a blaze of discovery. Mean time, the guilty soul cannot keep its own secret. It is false to itself, or rather it feels an irresistible impulse of conscience to be true to itself. It labors under its guilty possession, and knows not what to do with it. The human heart was not made for the residence of such an inhabitant. It finds itself preyed on by a torment, which it does not acknowledge to God nor man. A vulture is devouring it, and it can ask no sympathy or assistance either from heaven or earth. The secret which the mur. derer possesses soon comes to possess him; and, like the evil spirits of which we read, it overcomes him, and leads him withersoever it will. He feels it beating at his heart, rising to his throat, and demanding disclosure. He thinks the whole world sees it in his face, reads it in his eyes, and al. most hears its workings in the very silence of his thoughts. It has become his master. It betrays his discretion, it breaks down his courage, it conquers his prudence. When suspi. cions, from without, begin to embarrass him, and the net of circumstance to entangle him, the fatal secret struggles with still greater violence to burst forth. It must be confessed, it will be confessed, there is no refuge from confession but suicide, and suicide is confession.
CLXXII.-A SENSE OF DUTY EVER WITH US.
Extract from the same Argument.
Gentlemen of the Jury,—Your whole concern, in this case, should be to do your duty, and leave consequences to take care of themselves. You will receive the law from the court. Your verdict, it is true, may endanger the prisoner's life ; but then it is to save other lives. If the prisoner's guilt has been shown and proved, beyond all reasonable doubt, you will convict him. If such reasonable doubts of guilt still re. main, you will acquit him. You are the judges of the whole case. You owe a duty to the public, as well as to the prison. er at the bar. You cannot presume to be wiser than the law. Your duty is a plain, straight forward one. Doubtless, we would all judge him in mercy. Towards him, as an indi. vidual, the law inculcates no hostility; but towards him, if proved to be a murderer, the law, and the oaths you have taken, and public justice, demand that you do your duty.
With consciences satisfied with the discharge of duty, no consequences can harm you. There is no evil that we can. not either face or fly from, but the consciousness of duty disregarded.
A sense of duty pursues us ever. It is omnipresent, like the Deity. If we take to ourselves the 'wings of the morning and dwell in the utmost parts of the seas, duty performed, or duty violated, is still with us, for our happiness, or our misery. If we say the darkness shall cover us, in the darkness as in the light, our obligations are yet with us. We cannot escape their power, nor fly from their presence. They are with us in this life, will be with us at its close ; and in that scene of inconceivable solemnity, which lies yet farther onward-we shall still find ourselves surrounded by the consciousness of duty, to pain us wherever it has been violated, and to console us so far as God may have given us grace to perform it.
CLXXIII.—THE INFLUENCE, UPON AMERICA, OF THE INSTITU.
TIONS AND THE LITERATURE OF ENGLAND.
Extract from the Speech of John Randolph, delivered in the House of
Representatives of the United States, December 10, 1811, upon the Bill for increasing the Army.
: Mr. Chairman,--I would ask against whom are the unjust charges of British attachments brought ? Against men, who, in the war of the revolution, were in the councils of the nation, or fighting the battles of your country. And by whom are they made? By runaways chiefly from the British do. minions, since the breaking out of the French troubles. It is insufferable. It cannot be borne. It must and ought, with severity, to be put down in this House, and out of it, to meet the lie direct. We have no fellow-feeling for the suffering and oppressed Spaniards! Yet even them we do not repro. bate! Strange! that we should have no objection to any other people or government, civilized or savage, in the whole