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With respect to ourselves, who have been so systematically vilified by British critics—if any answer were expected to be given to their shallow and vulgar sophistry, and there was not a sufficient practical refutation of it, in the undoubted success of some of the artists and writers that are springing up in our own times- we should be perfectly safe, in resting, upon the operation of general causes and the whole analogy of history, our anticipation of the proudest success, in all the pursuits of a high and honorable ambition. That living, as we do, in the midst of a forest, we have been principally engaged in felling and improving it--and that those arts, which suppose wealth and leisure and a crowded population, are not yet so flourishing amongst us as they will be in the course of a century or two, is so much a matter of course, that instead of exciting wonder and disgust, one is only surprised how it should even have attracted noticebut the question, whether we are destitute of genius and sensibility and loftiness of character, and all the aspirings that prompt to illustrious achievements, and all the elements of national greatness and glory, is quite a distinct thing--and we may appeal, with confidence, to what we have done and to what we are, to the Revolution we are this day celebrating, to the career we have since run, to our recent exploits upon the flood and in the field, to the skill of our diplomacy, to the comprehensive views and undoubted abilities of our statesmen, to the virtues and prosperity of our people, to the exhibition on every occasion of all the talent called for by its exigencies and admitted by its nature-nay, to the very hatred--the vehement and irrepressible hatred, with which these revilers themselves have so abundantly honored us-to shew that nothing can be more preposterous than the contempt, with which they have sometimes affected to speak of us.
And, were there no other argument, as there are many, to prove that the character of the nation is altogether worthy of its high destinies, would it not be enough to say that we live under a form of government and in a state of society, to which the world has never yet exhibited a parallel? Is it then nothing to be free? How many nations, in the whole annals of human kind, have proved themselves worthy of being so? Is it nothing that we are Republicans? Were all men as enlightened, as brave, as proud as they ought to be, would they suffer themselves to be insulted with any other title? Is it nothing, that so many independent sovereignties should be held together in such a confederacy as ours? What does history teach us of the difficulty of instituting and maintaining such a polity, and of the glory that, of consequence, ought to be given to those who enjoy its advantages in so much perfection, and on so grand a scale? For, can any thing be more striking and sublime, than the idea
of an IMPERIAL REPUBLIC-spreading over an extent of territory, more immense than the empire of the Cæsars, in the accumulated conquests of a thousand years--without præfects or proconsuls or publicans--founded in the maxims of common sense--employing within itself no arms, but those of reasonand known to its subjects only by the blessings it bestows or perpetuates-yet, capable of directing, against a foreign foe, all the energies of a military despotism-a Republic, in which men are completely insignificant, and principles and laws exercise, throughout its vast dominion, a peaceful and irresistible swayblending in one divine harmony such various habits and conflicting opinions-and mingling in our institutions the light of philosophy with all that is dazzling in the associations of heroic achievement and extended domination, and deep seated and formidable power!
To conclude: Our institutions have sprung up naturally in the progress of society. They will flourish and decay with those improvements of which they were the fruit—they will grow with the growth of knowledge-they will strengthen with the strength of reason—their influence will be extended by every advance of true civilization-every thing that has a tendency to make man wiser and better, will confirm and improve and adorn them. If humanity was not endowed, in vain, with such noble faculties, many ages of glory and freedom are before us—many nations shall learn, from our example, how to be free and great. The fortunes of the species, are thus, in some degree, identified with those of THE REPUBLIC—and if our experiment fail, there is no hope for man on this side of the grave.
And now, my friends! Let us be proud that we are free-let us exult in a distinction as singular as it is honorable. Our country exhibits the last specimen of that form of government, which has done so much for the dignity and happiness of man. It stands alone—it is surrounded with ruins. In the language of BYRON
The name of Commonwealth, is past and gone
O'er the three fractions of the groaning globe. But, painful as is that reflection, we may be allowed to repeat, with honest triumph, the lines which follow-to proclaim to the world, that
"Still one great clime,
-a heritage of heart and hand,
SPEECH BEFORE THE UNION PARTY.
Speech delivered before the Union and State Rights Party, July 4th. 1831.
Charleston. S. C.
MR. LEGARÉ said he was obliged to the meeting for the opportunity offered him, according to an established usage, of saying what he thought and felt upon the momentous occasion, (for so it seemed to him that had brought them together, and would gladly avail himself of it to speak very much at length, were it not physically impossible to make himself be heard in so vast an assemblage. He thought it due to himself and to those who were of the same way of thinking, that their sentiments should be fairly and fully expressed--for he had no doubt that they were such as would meet the hearty concurrence of a great majority of the people of South-Carolina. He felt the less regret, however, at the self-denial he was obliged to practice, because the able speech of the Orator of the day had maintained the doctrines which he (Mr. L.) professed, and for which, as the representative of the people of Charleston, he had strenuously, and, he flattered himself not unsuccessfully, contended in the Legislature of the State during several successive sessions. These doctrines they had heard expounded and enforced, that morning, by a man and in a manner worthy of the proudest days of this proud city, nor did he think that any one could have listened to that discourse, without being the wiser and better for it.
It has been frequently thrown out of late, in the language of complaint and censure, (said Mr. L.) and on a recent occasion, very emphatically, by a gentleman for whom on every account, I entertain the profoundest respect, that there is a certain party among us, who seem much more intent upon "correcting the errors of some of our Statesmen” (as they are said modestly to express it) than upon putting their shoulders to the wheel along with the rest of their fellow-citizens, in an honest and manly effort to relieve the State from the burdens under which it is thought to be sinking-in plain English that their pretended hostility to the tariff acts is all a sham. Sir, this would be a severe rebuke, if it were deserved. I for one should be very sorry to think that the part I am taking in the proceedings of this day were open to that construction. God knows it was with extreme reluctance that I made up my mind to take this step. But what was I to do? What alternative has been left us by those who have the constructive majority of the State, that is to say, the majority of the Legislature at their back? They have chosen to narrow down the whole controversy concerning the American system to a single point. They have set up an issue and demand a categorical expression of opinion upon the expediency of immediately interposing the sovereign power of the State, to prevent the execution of the tariff law. That is to say, according to Mr. M'Duffie's reading, (the only sensible reading) of that rather ambiguous phrase, to raise the standard of the State, and to summon her subjects, by the allegiance which they owe to her, to gather around it in order to resist a law of Congress. Sir, if I do not misunderstand all that we have recently heard from men in high places, (and if I do misunderstand them, it is not because I have not most anxiously and patiently examined whatever they have said and done) this, and this alone, is the question now before is.
In such a question all minor considerations are swallowed up and lost. Upon such a question, no man can, or ought to be—no man in the face of a community, excited and divided as this, dare be neutral. It is propounded to us, after the fashion of the old Roman Senate--you who think thus, go thither.--you who are of any other opinion stay here. The country calls upon every individual, however humble he may be, to take his post in this mighty conflict. Sir, I obey that paramount command, and be it for weal or be it for woe, be it for glory, or be it for shame, for life and for death, here I am.
But, Sir, I repeat it, I should most deeply regret that what we are now doing should be thought to give any countenance to any part of the "American System.” It is known, I believe, to every body present, from various publications which have been long before the community, that I think that system unconstitutional, unjust and inexpedient. This opinion I did not take up hastily, for with regard to the tariff
, I, in common with every body else in the State, once thought it within the competency of Congress. But more mature inquiry has resulted in a change of my opinion upon that subject, and although I dare not express myself so confidently in respect to it as it is the habit of the times to do, I must be permitted to say, that I am more and more strengthened in that conviction by every day's experience and reflection. Sir, if I had any doubt about the matter, the proceedings of this day would be sufficient to dispel it. It is melancholy to think of the change which has been made in the feelings and opinions of some of the best and ablest men among us, by this pernicious system-to reflect that alienation and distrust, nay, in some instances, perhaps, that wrath and hostility now possess those bosoms which were but a few years ago warmed with the loftiest and the holiest enthusiasın for the government of their own and their father's choice. The authors of this policy are indirectly responsible for this deplorable state of things, and for all the consequences that may grow out of it. They have been guilty of an inexpiable offence against their country. They found us a united, they have made us a distracted people. They found the Union of these States an object of fervent love and religious veneration; they have made even its utility a subject of controversy among very enlightened men. They have brought us not peace but a sword. It is owing to this policy that the government has to bear the blame of whatever evils befall the people, from natural or accidental causes-that whether our misfortunes spring from the barrenness of the earth, or the inclemency of the seasons, or the revolutions of commerce, or a defective system of domestic and rural economy-or, in short, from any other source, they are all indiscriminately imputed to the tariff. The decay and desolation which are invading many parts of the lower country-the fall in the price of our great staple commoditythe comparative unproductiveness of slave labor-are confidently declared to be the effects of this odious and tyrannical mouopoly. Sir, firmly convinced as I am that there is no sort of connection, (or an exceedingly slight one) between these unquestionable facts and the operation of the tariff law, yet I do not wonder at the indignation which the imposition of such a burthen of taxation has excited in our people in the present unprosperous state of their affairs. I have sympathized and do sympathize with them too deeply to rebuke them for their feelings, however improper I deem it to be to act upon such feelings, as recklessly as some of their leaders would have them do.
Sir, it is not only as a Southern man, that I protest against the tariff law. The doctrine of Free Trade, is a great fundamental doctrine of civilization. The world must come to it at last, if the visions of improvement in which we love to indulge are ever to be realized. It has been justly remarked that most of the wars which have for the last two centuries desolated Europe, and stained the land and sea with blood, originated in the lust of colonial empire, or commercial monopoly.—Great nations cannot be held together under a united Government by any thing short of despotic power, if any one part of a country is to be arrayed against another in a perpetual scramble for privilege and protection, under any system of protection. They must fall to pieces, and if the same blind selfishness and rapacity animate the fragments which had occasioned the disunion of the whole, there will be no end to the strife of conflicting interests. When you add to the calamities of public wars and civil dissensions, the crimes created by tyrannical revenue laws, and the bloody penalties necessary to enforce them, the injustice done to many