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

THE PRESIDENTIAL PROTEST.

A SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE 7TH OF MAY, 1834, ON THE SUBJECT OF THE PRESIDENT'S PROTEST AGAINST THE RESOLUTION OF THE SENATE OF THE 28TH OF MARCH.

MR. PRESIDENT,--I feel the magnitude of this question. We are coming to a vote which cannot fail to produce important effects on the character of the Senate, and the character of the government.

Unhappily, Sir, the Senate finds itself involved in a controversy with the President of the United States; a man who has rendered most distinguished services to his country, who has hitherto possessed a degree of popular favor perhaps never exceeded, and whose honesty of motive and integrity of purpose are still admitted by those who maintain that his administration has fallen into lamentable errors.

On some of the interesting questions in regard to which the President and Senate hold opposite opinions, the more popular branch of the legislature concurs with the executive. It is not to be concealed that the Senate is engaged against imposing odds. It can sustain itself only by its own prudence and the justice of its cause. It has no patronage by which to secure friends; it can raise up no advocates through the dispensation of favors, for it has no favors to dispense. Its very constitution, as a body whose members are elected for a long term, is capable of being rendered obnoxious, and is daily made the subject of opprobrious remark. It is already denounced as independent of the people, and aristocratic. Nor is it, like the other house, powerful in its numbers; not being, like that, so large as that its members come constantly in direct and extensive contact with the whole people. Under these disadvantages, Sir, which, we may be assured, will be pressed and urged to the utmost length, there is but one course for us. The Senate must stand on its rendered reasons. It must put forth the grounds of its proceedings, and it must then rely on the intelligence and patriotism of the people to carry it through the contest.

As an individual member of the Senate, it gives me great pain to be engaged in such a conflict with the executive government. The occurrences of the last session are fresh in the recollection of all of us; and having felt it to be my duty, at that time, to give my cordial support to highly important measures of the administration, I ardently hoped that nothing might occur to place me afterwards in an attitude of opposition. In all respects, and in every way, it would have been far more agreeable to me to find nothing in the measures of the executive government which I could not cheerfully support. The present occasion of difference has not been sought or made by me. It is thrust upon me, in opposition to strong opinions and wishes, on my part not concealed. The interference with the public deposits dispelled all hope of continued concurrence with the administration, and was a measure so uncalled for, so unnecessary, and, in my judgment, so illegal and indefensible, that, with whatever reluctance it might be opposed by me, opposition was unavoidable.

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