Biographical Sketches of Eminent American Statesmen, with Speeches, Addresses and Letters

By B. F. Perry | Go to book overview
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FISHER AMES.

There were few eminent statesmen of his day and time more distinguished as an orator than Fisher Ames, of Massachusetts. In olden times there were brilliant extracts from his speeches published, which were memorized and spoken by schoolboys at their exhibitions throughout the country. He was a fine logician, as well as a wise statesman and eloquent rhetorician. In American Eloquence, by Frank Moore, published in 1858, there are two of Mr. Ames's speeches in Congress, given as models of eloquence and statesmanship. The one on the "Commercial Relations of the United States with Foreign Nations," and the other on "Jay's celebrated Treaty with Great Britain in 1796." In the first he avows himself as the advocate of free trade and opposed to all restrictions on commerce. We ought to be allowed to purchase in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest. He says: "Were I invested with the trust to legislate for mankind, it is very probable the first act of my authority would be to throw all the restrictive and prohibitory laws into the fire; the resolutions on the table would not be spared. But, if I were to do so, it is probable I should have a quarrel on my hands with every civilized nation." These resolutions were introduced by Mr. Madison and advocated by him with great zeal and ability.

The speech on Jay's treaty is indeed a model speech for an American statesman, patriot and orator. It contains thrilling bursts of eloquence, with sentiments of the highest honor and principles of the profoundest wisdom. He says: "The consequences of refusing to make provision for the treaty are not all to be foreseen. By rejecting, vast interests are committed to the sport of

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