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“ That the course of opinion on the slave trade should be unsettled, ought to excite no surprise. The Christian and civilized nations of the world, with whom we have most intercourse, have all been engaged in it. However abhorrent this traffic may be to a mind whose original feelings are not blunted by familiarity with the practice, it has been sanctioned in modern times by the laws of all nations who possess distant colonies, each of whom has engaged in it as a common commercial business which no other could righifully interrupt. It has claimed all the sanction which could be derived from long usage, and general asquiescence. That trade could not be considered as contrary to the law of nations which was authorized and protected by the laws of all commercial pations; the right to carry on which was claimed by each, and allowed by each.
“ The course of unexamined opinion, which was founded on this inveterate usage, received its first check in America ; and, as soon as these states acquired the right of self-government, the traffic was forbidden by most of them. In the beginning of this century, several humane and enlightened individuals of Great Britain devoted themselves to the cause of the Africans; and, by frequent appeals to the nation, in which the enormity of this commerce was unveiled, and exposed to the public eye, the general sentiment was at length roused against it, and the feelings of justice and humanity, regaining their long lost ascendency, prevailed so far in the British parliament as to obtain an act for its abolition. The utmost efforts of the British government, as well as of that of the United States, have since been assiduously employed in its suppression. It has been denounced by both in terms of great severity, and those concerned in it are subjected to the heaviest penalties which law can inflict. In addition to these ineasures operating on their own people, they have used all their influence to bring other nations into the same system, and to interdict this trade by the consent of all.
“ Public sentiment has, in both countries, kept pace with the measures of government; and the opinion is extensively, if not universally entertained, that this unnatural traffic ought to be suppressed. While its illegality is asserted by some governments, but not admitted by all; while the detestation in which it is held is growing daily, and even those nations who tolerate it in fact, almost disavow their own conduct, and rather connive at, than legalize, the acts of their subjects; it is not wonderful that public feeling should march somewhat in advance of strict law, and that opposite opinions should be entertained on the precise cases in which our own laws may control and limit the practice of others. Indeed, we ought not to be surprised, if, on this novel series of cases, even courts of justice should, in some instances, have carried the principle of suppression farther than a more deliberate consideration of the subject would justify.”
“ The question, whether the slave trade is prohibited by the law of nations, has been seriously propounded, and both the affirmative and negative of the proposition have been maintained with equal earnestness.
“ That it is contrary to the law of nature will scarcely be denied. That every man has a natural right to the fruits of his own labour, is generally admitted ; and that no other person can rightfully deprive him of those fruits, and appropriate them against his will, seems to be the necessary result of this admission. But from the earliest times war has existed, and war confers rights in which all have acquiesced. Among the most enlightened dations of antiquity, one of these was, that the victor
might enslave the vanquished. This, which was the usage of all, could not be pronounced repugnant to the law of nations, which is certainly to be tried by the test of general usage. That which has received the assent of all, must be the law of all.
“ Slavery, then, has its origin in force ; but as the world has agreed that it is a legitimate result of force, the state of things which is thus produced by general consent, cannot be pronounced unlawful.
“ Throughout Christendom, this harsh rule has been exploded, and war is no longer considered as giving a right to enslave captives. But this triumph of humanity has not been universal. The parties to the modern law of nations do not propagate their principles by force; and Africa has not yet adopted them Throughout the whole extent of that immense continent, so far as we know its history, it is still the law of nations that prisoners are slaves. Can those who have themselves renounced this law, be permitted to participate in its effects by purchasing the beings who are its victims?
“ Whatever might be the answer of a moralist to this question, a jurist must search for its legal solution, in those principles of action which aro sanctioned by the usages, the national acts, and the general assent, of that portion of the world of which he considers himself as a part, and to whose law the appeal is made. If we resort to this standard as the test of international law, the question, as has already been observed, is decided in favour of the legality of the trade. Both Europe and America einbarked in it; and for nearly two centuries, it was carried on without opposition, and without censure. A jurist could not say, that a practice thus supported was illegal, and that those engaged in it inight be punished, either personally, or by deprivation of property.
“ In this commerce, thus sanctioned by universal assent, every nation had an equal right to engage. How is this right to be lost? Each may renounce it for its own people ; but can this renunciation affect others ?
“ No principle of general law is more universally acknowledged, than the perfect equality of nations. Russia and Geneva have equal rights. It results from this equality, that no one can rightfully impose a rule on another. Each legislates for itself, but its legislation can operate on itself alone. A right, then, which is vested in all by the consent of all, can be devested only by consent; and this trade, in which all have participated, must remain lawful to those who cannot be induced to relinquish it. As no nation can prescribe a rule for others, none can make a law of nations ; and this traffic remains lawful to those whose governments have not forbidden it.
“ If it is consistent with the law of nations, it cannot in itself be piracy. It can be made so only by statute ; and the obligation of the statute cannot transcend the legislative power of the state which inay enact it.
“If it be neither repugnant to the law of nations, nor piracy, it is almost superfluous to say in this court, that the right of bringing in for adjudication in time of peace, even where the vessel belongs to a nation which has prohibited the trade, cannot exist. The courts of no country execute the penal laws of another; and the course of the American government on the subject of visitation and search, would decide any case in which that right had been exercised by an American cruiser, on the Vol. I.
vessel of a foreign nation, not violating our municipal laws, against the captors.
" It follows, that a foreign vessel engaged in the African slave trade, captured on the high seas in time of peace, by an American cruiser, and brought in for adjudication, would be restored.”
Art. XX.-Address delivered at the Laying of the Corner Stone of the Bunker Hill Monument. By DANIEL WEBSTER. Fifth edition. Boston, Cummings, Hilliard & Co. 1825.
124 mb. Pryant Our opinion of the utility of addresses upon public occasions, has already been given in our last number. Indeed, we must confess that the idea of their beneficial tendency is somewhat consoling and encouraging, considering that they form no trifling proportion of the literature of our country. Whoever has taken the pains to examine, with a view to this subject, the lists of new publications in our modern literary journals, cannot fail to have observed how small a part they are of the works continually issuing from the European presses, and how large a part of those from our own. With us, all sorts of public occasions call for these discourses, and orators of all classes and degrees of merit are employed to deliver them. The anniversary of an important event in the settlement of our country, or of the war of the revolution, the completion of a century, the inauguration of a college professor, and the election of a President, are all celebrated by this kind of harangues. The fourth of July is the signal for putting in motion the lungs of thousands of 'declaimers from one end of the country to the other. Most literary and scientific societies treat the public to at least one address in the course of the year; and the societies bearing the names of Phi Beta Kappa, connected with the different universities in our country, seem constituted for the sole purpose of giving vent to this propensity for making orations, when more obvious occasions are wanting. These compositions are of course of various merit, but they are generally composed with considerable care—always with an eye to display and effect, and sometimes with an eye to instruction and improvement. At one time the abundance of forensic idiom betrays the pen of the lawyer, at another the formal cut of the sentences announces the ecclesiastic;—now it is the youthful graduate from the universities, disburdening himself of what he knows about Greece and Rome, and now the practical man, uttering maxims gleaned from the experience of his own life. Our manner of delivering these harangues is also free from objections which lie against that of some other coun
tries. It is not here as in England, where celebrated individuals make speeches upon important topics amid the confusion and merriment of a dinner, the jingling of glasses, and the clattering of knives and forks. The benefit of all this eloquence is confined to those who eat the dinner; it is impossible that the whole of it should always be understood, and we dare say that still less is remembered, and that the guests preserve a much more distinct recollection of the good cheer and festivity they have enjoyed, than of the topics or arguments of the orator. With us, these discourses are composed in the deliberation of the closet, and delivered before audiences, disposed, it is true, with the usual good nature of popular assemblies, to be pleased with what they hear, but still rational and fasting. In the mean time, something is done towards the public improvement. Every body knows that large assemblies of men, collected for any purpose whatever, cannot remain long together without hecoming the subjects of some excitement. This excitement, which is so easily awakened, and so quickly caught by one individual from another, is made to direct itself to laudable and important objects ;-to the free and wholesome institutions of our country, the principles of liberty, the pursuits of learning and industry, the maxims of virtue, and the example and memory of the great and good. This effect is produced on numberless individuals, who would never have thought of reading the discourse, had it merely been printed instead of being publicly pronounced. Its utility, however, ceases not with its delivery ; it is read after its publication by numbers who are attracted to its perusal by the occasion which produced it.
On rare and great occasions, great men are called to the task of addressing the public, and we are permitted to see in what manner those talents which we have admired in another and more familiar sphere of exertion, are able to acquit themselves in this. Such an occasion was the Laying of the Corner Stone of the Bunker Hill Monument; and, our eastern brethren did well in selecting for the orator of that day, one of the most highly gifted men of the country. He has performed the work committed to him powerfully and eloquently-yet we must say that we rise from the perusal of this address without feeling our minds perfectly filled and satisfied. That this effect should be produced, is owing probably to the overwhelming magnitude and interest of the occasion, and the difficulty, if not total impossibility, of satisfying the indefinite expectation which it raises of something surpassing the ordinary flights of human genius. The occasion itself anticipates all that eloquence can do. The idea of the mighty event to be commemorated—of
the hallowed and glorious spot chosen for the solemnity-of the splendid and imperishable monument whose first stone was about to be laid—of the presence of those venerable men who bled in that great battle for our liberties--and of that innumerable audience stretching around the speaker till the articulations of his powerful voice were lost in the distance, altogether are enough to excite an emotion to which words can add nothing. Independently of this consideration, the topics connected with such an occasion are so numerous and important, that the limits which a public speaker necessarily prescribes to himself would not allow him time to do them justice. He could do no more than merely to allude to the interesting and affecting circumstances of that memorable battle. He could not be permitted to dwell long on its important consequences to our country and to the world; he could only rapidly trace them as they are at work in Europe and in the southern portion of our own continent, gradually preparing the nations for the blessings of freedom. He could but glance at the present prosperity and future destines of a nation, which, on that day of darkness and doubt, entered upon a career of greatness of which no one was then permitted to see the swiftness and the glory. He could spare but few words to the memory of the illustrious dead who were the actors in that scene, and few to the aged survivors of that generation, and hardly could he speak at large of the great monument about to be reared to their honour. All these topics, and others of equal importance and interest, would naturally crowd upon the mind of the speaker. It would require a series of orations to give to each its just consideration, and an opportunity to produce its due effect on the mind. On the other hand, the omission of any of them would seem to render the work imperfect and unfinished. The topics we have mentioned are all touched upon in this address, but they are only touched upon. The result of all this is a want of unity of effect; the mind hardly begins to kindle with one subject before it is abruptly called to another; and the current of enthusiasm is checked just as it begins to flow. It is said (we vouch not for the truth of it) that this address was delivered in the first instance in a sort of extemporaneous manner—that is, without verbal preparation—and afterwards reduced to writing by the author for the press. This may account for the occasion
appearance of coldness and constraint in the expression, and quaintness in the thought, neither of which could have had place amid the fervid excitement to which the mind of the speaker must have been wrought during its delivery. After all, it contains many passages of great eloquence, and many lessons of