The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster: With An Essay on Daniel Webster as a Master of English Style

By Edwin P. Whipple; Daniel Webster | Go to book overview

OUR RELATIONS TO THE SOUTH AMERICAN REPUBLICS.

EXTRACTS FROM THE SPEECH ON "THE PANAMA MISSION," DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE 14TH OF APRIL, 1826.

IT has been affirmed, that this measure, and the sentiments expressed by the Executive relative to its objects, are an acknowledged departure from the neutral policy of the United States. Sir, I deny that there is an acknowledged departure, or any departure at all, from the neutral policy of the country. What do we mean by our neutral policy? Not, I suppose, a blind and stupid indifference to whatever is passing around us; not a total disregard to approaching events, or approaching evils, till they meet us full in the face. Nor do we mean, by our neutral policy, that we intend never to assert our rights by force. No, Sir. We mean by our policy of neutrality, that the great objects of national pursuit with us are connected with peace. We covet no provinces; we desire no conquests; we entertain no ambitious projects of aggrandizement by war. This is our policy. But it does not follow from this, that we rely less than other nations on our own power to vindicate our own rights. We know that the last logic of kings is also our last logic; that our own interests must be defended and maintained by ore' own arm; and that peace or war may not always be of our own choosing. Our neutral policy, therefore, not only justifies, but requires, our anxious attention to the political events which take place in the world, a skilful perception of their relation to our own concerns, and an early anticipation of their consequences, and firm and timely assertion of what we hold to be our own rights and our own interests. Our neutrality is not a predetermined abstinence, either from remonstrances, or from force. Our neutral policy is a policy that protects neutrality, that defends neutrality, that takes up arms, if need be, for neutrality. When it is said, therefore, that this measure departs from our neutral policy, either that Policy, or the measure itself, is misunderstood. It implies either that the object or the tendency of the measure is to involve us in the war of other states, which I think cannot be shown, or that the assertion of our own sentiments, on Points affecting deeply our own interests, may place us in a hostile attitude toward other states, and that therefore we depart from neutrality; whereas the truth is, that the decisire assertion and the firm support of these sentiments may be most essential to the maintenance of neutrality.

An honorable member from Pennsylvania thinks this congress will bring a dark day over the United States. Doubtless, Sir, it is an interesting moment in our history; but I see no great proofs of thick-coming darkness. But the object of the remark seemed to be to show that the President himself saw difficulties on all sides, and, making a choice of evils, preferred rather to send ministers to this congress, than to run the risk of exciting the hostility of the states by refusing to send. In other words, the gentleman wished to prove that the President intended an alliance; although such intention is expressly disclaimed.

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