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 CONSTITUTION AND THE UNION.

A SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE 7TH OF MARCH, 1850.

[ON the 25th of January, 1850, Mr. Clay submitted a series of resolutions to the Senate, on the subject of slavery, in connection with the various questions which had arisen in consequence of the acquisition of Mexican territory. These resolutions furnished the occasion of a protracted debate. On Wednesday, the 6th of March, Mr. Walker of Wisconsin engaged in the discussion, but, owing to the length of time taken up by repeated interruptions, he was unable to finish his argument. In the mean time it had been generally understood that Mr. Webster would, at an early day, take an opportunity of addressing the Senate on the present aspect of the slavery question, on the dangers to the Union of the existing agitation, and on the terms of honorable adjustment. In the expectation of hearing a speech from him on these all-important topics, an immense audience assembled in the Senate-Chamber at an early hour of Thursday, the 7th of March. The floor, the galleries, and the antechambers of the Senate were crowded, and it was with difficulty that the members themselves were able to force their way to their seats.

At twelve o'clock the special order of the day was announced, and the Vice-President stated that Mr. Walker of Wisconsin was entitled to the floor. That gentleman, however, rose and said:--

"Mr. President, this vast audience has not come together to hear me, and there is bat one man, in my opinion, who can assemble such an audience. They expect to hear him, and I feel it to be my duty, therefore, as it is my pleasure, to give the floor to the Senator from Massachusetts. I understand it is immaterial to him upon which of these questions he speaks, and therefore I will not move to postpone the special order."

Mr. Webster then rose, and, after making his acknowledgments to the Senators from Wisconsin (Mr. Walker) and New York (Mr. Seward) for their courtesy in yielding the floor to him, delivered the following speech, which, in consideration of its character and of the manner in which it was received throughout the country, has been entitled a speech for "the Constitution and the Union." In the pamphlet edition it was dedicated in the following terms to the peopie of Massachusetts:--

WITH THE HIGHEST RESPECT, AND THE DEEPEST SENSE OF OBLIGATION, I DEDICATE THIS SPEECH TO THE PEOPLE OF MASSACHUSETTS.

"HIS EGO GRATIORA DICTU ALIA ESSE SCIO; SED ME VERA PRO GRATIS LOQUI, ETSI MEUM INGE- NIUM NON HONERET, NECESSITAS COGIT. VELLEM, EQUIDEM, VOBIS PLACERE; SED MULTO MALO VOS SALVOS ESSE, QUALICUMQUE ERGA ME ANIMO VUTURI ESTlS."

DANIEL WEBSTER.]

MR. PRESIDENT,--I wish to speak to-day, not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American, and a member of the Senate of the United States. It is fortunate that there is a Senate of the United States; a body not yet moved from its propriety, not lost to a just sense of its own dignity and its own high responsibilities, and a body to which the country ooks, with confidence, for wise, moderate, patriotic, and healing counsels. It is not to be denied that we live in the midst of strong agitations, and are surrounded by very considerable dangers to our institutions and government. The imprisoned winds are let loose. The East, the North, and the stormy South combine to throw the whole sea into commotion, to toss its billows to the skies, and disclose its profoundest depths. I do not affect to regard myself, Mr. President,

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