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of them. We would remark, however, that, in the speech of 1824, two subjects are discussed with great ability ;-the doctrine of exchange, and the balance of trade. Both of them had been drawn into controversy in Congress, on previous occasions, quite frequently, calling forth alternately “an infinite deal of nothing," and the crudest absurdities; but, from the period of this thorough and statesmanlike examination of them, they have, we believe, hardly been heard of in either house. The great points involved in both of them, have been considered as settled.
We have thus far spoken of Mr. Webster almost entirely as a public orator and debater, or as a jurist. But there is another point of view, in which he is less known to the nation, but no less valued at Washington. He has few equals in the diligence of the committee-rooms. Reputation in and out of Congress, is, in this respect, very differently measured. Nothing is more common in either House than moderately good speakers, prompt in common debate, and sufficiently well instructed not to betray themselves into contempt with the public. Because they can speak and do speak; and especially because they speak often and vehemently, they obtain a transient credit abroad for far more than they are. worth, and far more than they are, at last, able to maintain. It may, indeed, be said, as a general truth, that those who speak most frequently in Congress are least heeded, and least entitled to distinction. Members of real ability speak rarely; and, when they do speak, it is from the fullness of their minds, after a careful consideration of the subject, and with a deference for the body they address, and a regard to the public service, which does not permit them to occupy more time than the development of their subject absolutely requires. They are, therefore, always heard with attention and respect; and often with the conviction, that they may be safely followed.
But there is another class in Congress, less known to the public at large, and yet whose services are beyond price. We speak now of those excellent men, who, as chairmen and members of the committees, in the retired corners of the capitol, are doing the real business of legislation, and giving their days and nights to maturing schemes of wild policy and just relief; men who are content, week after week, and month after month, to sacrifice themselves to the negative toil of saving us from the follies of indiscreet, meddlesome, and ignorant innovators, or from the more presumptuous purposes of those who would make legislation the means of furthering and gratifying their own private, unprincipled ambition. Such business-men,
who should be the heads of the working party, if such a party should ever be formed,—a well understood within the walls of Congress. They are marked by the general confidence that follows them; and when they speak, to propose a measure, they are listened to; nay, it may almost be said, they are obeyed.
Mr. Webster has long been known as an efficient laborer in these noiseless toils of the committee-rooms and of practical leg
islation; and we owe to his hand not a few important improvements in our laws. The most remarkable is, probably, the Crimes-Act of 1825, which, in twenty-six sections, did so much for the criminal code of the country. The whole subject, when he approached it, was full of difficulties and deficiencies. The law in relation to it remained substantially on the foundation of the first great Act of 1790, ch. 36. That act, however, though deserving praise as a first attempt to meet the wants of the country, was entirely unsuited to its condition, and deficient in most important particulars. Its defects, indeed, were so numerous, that half the most notorious crimes, when committed where the eral government alone could have cognizance of them, were left beyond the reach of human law and punishment ;--rape, burglary, arson and other malicious burnings in forts, arsenals, and lighthouse establishments, together with many other offences, being wholly unprovided for. Mr. Webster's Act, which, as a just tribute to his exertions, already bears his name, cures these
gross defects, besides a multitude of others; and it was well known at the time, that he wished to go much further, and give a competent system to the country on the whole criminal code, but was deterred by the danger of failure, if he attempted too much at once. Indeed, the difficulty of obtaining a patient hearing for any bill of such complexity and extent, is well understood in Congress; and it is not, perhaps, an unjust reproach upon our national legislature to confess, that even the most experienced statesmen are rarely able to carry through any great measure of purely practical improvement. Temporary projects, and party strifes, and private claims, and individual jealousies, and, above all, the passion for personal display in everlasting debate, offer obstacles to the success of mere patriotism and statesmanship, which are all but insurmountable. Probably no man, at that time, but Mr. Webster, who, in addition to his patient habits of labor in the committee-room, possessed the general confidence of the House, and had a persevering address and promptitude in answering objections, could have succeeded in so signal an undertaking. Sir Samuel Romilly and Mr. Peel have acquired lasting and merited reputations in England for meliorations of their criminal code. But they had a willing audience, and an eager support. Mr. Webster, without either, effected as much in his Crimes-Act of 1825, as has been effected by any single effort of these statesmen, and is fairly to be ranked with them among those benefactors of mankind, who have enlightened the jurisprudence of their country, and made it at once more efficient and more humane.
At the same session of Congress, the great question of internal improvements came up, and was vehemently discussed in January, on the appropriation made for the western national road. Mr. Webster defended the principle, as he had already defended it in 1816; and as he has defended it constantly since, down to the last year and the last session, without, so far as we have seen, receiving any sufficient answer to the positions he took in debate
on these memorable occasions. Perhaps the doctrine he has so uniformly maintained on this subject, is less directly favorable to the interests of the northern than of the western states; but it was high-toned and national throughout, and seems in no degree to have impaired the favor with which he was regarded in NewEngland. At any rate, he was re-elected, with singular unanimity, to represent the city of Boston in the nineteenth Congress, and took his seat there anew in December, 1825.
In both sessions of this Congress, important subjects were discussed, and Mr. Webster bore an important part in them; but we can now only suggest one or two of them. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he introduced the bill for enlarging the number of judges of the Supreme Court of the United States. His views in relation to it are contained in the remarks he made on the occasion, and had great weight with the House; but the bill was afterwards lost through an amendment of the Senate. So, too, on the question of the Panama mission, involving the points that were first moved in 1796 in the House of Representatives, on occasion of the British Treaty, Mr. Webster has left on record his opinions, doctrines, and feelings, in a speech of great beauty and power, which will always be recurred to, whenever the right of the House of Representatives to advise the executive in relation to the management of foreign missions may come under discussion. But we are compelled to abstain from any further notice of them both, by want of room.
In 1826, he had been elected, we believe, all but unanimously, to represent the city of Boston, in the House of Representatives; but, before he took his seat, a vacancy having occurred in the Senate, he was chosen to fill it by the Legislature of Massachusetts, of which, a great majority in both its branches, besides the council and the governor, belonged to the old republican party of the country. He was chosen, too, under circumstances which showed how completely his talents and lofty national bearing had disarmed all political animosities, and how thoroughly that commonwealth claimed him as her own, and cherished his reputation and influence as a part of her treasures. There was no regular nomination of him from any quarter, nor any regular opposition; and he received the appointment by a sort of general.consent and acclamation, as if it were given with pride and pleasure, as well as with unhesitating confidence and respect.
How he has borne himself in the Senate during the four sessions he has sat there, is known to the whole country. No man has been found tall enough to overshadow him; no man has been able to attract from him, or to intercept from him, the constant regard of the nation. He has been so conspicuous, so prominent, that whatever he has done, and whatever he has said, has been watched and understood throughout the borders of the land, almost as familiarly and thoroughly as it has been at Washington. But though the eyes of all have thus been fastened on him in
such a way, that nothing relating to him can have escaped their notice, there is yet one occasion, where he attracted a kind and degree of attention, which, as it is rarely given, is so much the more honorable when it is obtained. We refer now, of course, to the occasion, when, in 1830, he overthrew the doctrines of nullification. Undoubtedly, in one sense of the word, Mr. Webster was taken completely by surprise, when these doctrines, for the first time in the history of the country, were announced in the Senate; since he was so far from any particular preparation to meet or answer them, that it was almost by accident he was in his place, when they were so unexpectedly, at least to him and all his friends, brought forth. In another and better sense of the phrase, he was not taken by surprise at all; for the time was already long gone by, when, on any great question of national interest or constitutional principle, he could be taken unprepared or unarmed. We mean by this, that the discussion of the most important points in the memorable debate alluded to, came on incidentally; or rather that these points were thrust forward by a few individuals, who seemed predetermined to proceed, under cover of them, to the ultimate limits of personal and party violence.
But the discussion of these doctrines, though new and strange in Congress, and brought on unexpectedly to their adversaries, was nothing new elsewhere. In some portions of the southern country, and especially in South Carolina, the doctrines of nullification, connected, of course, more or less with the thought of a separation from the Union, had been, for nearly two years, familiar to the people. As far as this movement can be traced by any authentic documents, it may be found to have originated in two meetings holden by the South Carolina delegation in Congrešs, at General Hayne's lodgings in Washington, in May, 1828. From the correspondence and statements published in relation to these meetings, by Mr. Mitchell
, General Hayne himself, Mr. Martin, Col. Drayton, Major Hamilton, and Mr. Carter, all of whom were present, it appears.certain, that they, or most of them, had already endeavored in vain to unite the different delegations of the southern states in such a protest against the tariff, then recently passed, as was deemed desirable; and that they now met by themselves to devise some other effectual means of opposition;—that Major Hamilton was with difficulty prevented by his colleagues from the rash step of vacating his seat in Congress,
and maintained that South Carolina could defend herself successfully against the Union ;-that Mr. McDuffie believed a dissolution of the Union inevitable, if the prohibitory system were the settled policy of the country; and that he did not doubt the ability of South Carolina to sustain herself;—and that there was a conversation as to the effects which would be produced by a dissolution of the Union ;-to all which Col. Drayton opposed himself, and the meetings broke up re infectà. Mr. Mitchell charges these dangerous doctrines more distinctly to individuals, and says, that Mr. McDuffie declared there was no other remedy
for the evil than a separation of South Carolina from the Union, and that he himself (Mr. McDuffie) was prepared to go all lengths. This is denied, but the proceeding was admitted ; and the difference between the two statements is more a difference in the phraseology than in the substance. The tendency of the general opinion of the meeting is not to be mistaken.
This was in May. In June, the effects of such a state of excitement among their representatives, and of the causes that produced it, were already apparent among the people of South Carolina. On the 12th of that month, a popular meeting was holden in the Colleton District, which sent forth an address to the whole state, unanimously “advising," to use their own words,
an attitude of open resistance to the laws of the Union.” On the 26th of July, a meeting of 3000 persons was holden at Edgefield Court-house, which passed resolutions of the same tone; and where, at a public dinner on the same day, Mr. McDuffie gave for a toast, “The Stamp Act of 1765 and the Tariff of 1828, “ kindred acts of despotism ;-when our oppressors trace the “parallel, let them remember, that we are descendants of a noble “ ancestry, and profit by the admonitions of history:"-a sentiment and threat fully equal to the “whole length's doctrine” imputed to him by his colleague, Mr. Mitchell. Other meetings were held, and the same tone of excitement was kept up by the same means of addresses and speeches, dinners and toasts.
At last, in the autumn, the Legislature of South Carolina was assembled. The subject was brought before them by the Governor; a committee, consisting of able and leading men, was appointed to report on it ;* and on the 19th of December, they produced what they termed an Exposition to the Legislature of the State, and a Protest to Congress. This EXPOSITION AND PROTEST constitute an important and memorable document. The doctrines of nullification, which it was then thought could be established and enforced, and to strengthen which the whole summer had been a campaign of preparation, are here produced by the Legislature of South Carolina in bold relief, and in their most imposing form. Whatever may be thought of their reasoning, their conclusions and results are, at least, clearly stated, and not at all disguised. The general importance, too, of the whole is not a little increased by the circumstance, often stated and generally believed, that we owe this document, not to the committee by which it was reported, but to a distinguished citizen of South Carolina, holding one of the highest places in the gift of the people of the United
* The resolution of the House of Representatives of South Carolina, under which the above committee acted, should not be forgotten :
Resolved, That it is expedient to protest against the unconstitutionality and op pressive operation of the system of protecting duties, and to have such protest entered on the journal of the Senate of the United States. Also to make a public exposition of our wrongs and of the remedies within our power, to be communicated to our sister states, with a request that they will co-operate with this state in procuring a repeal of the Tariff for protection ; and, if the repeal be not procured, that they will co-operate in such measures as may be necessary for arresting the evil.”