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of those who lived on fixed incomes, for the benefit of those who produce the commodities on which those incomes are laid out. It is for this reason that the radicals of England-Mr. Atwood, for example-are all strenuous advocates of paper money, and even of inconvertible paper. The idea that the poor are to gain by a return to metallic currency is, so far as I know, contined to their friends in this country, whose zeal is certainly greater than their knowledge. It is true, sir, that, among other disadvantages attending frequent fluctuations in the currency, it is said that wages are the last thing that rises in a case of expausion. And that may be so in countries where the supply of labor is greater than the demand, but the very reverse is most certainly the fact here where the demand-especially, when stimulated by any extraordinary increase, real or fictitious, of capital-is always greater than the supply. All price is a question of power, or relative necessity between two parties, and every body knows that in a period of excitement here wages rise immediately, and out of all proportion more than anything else, because the population of the country is entirely inadequate to its wants. During the last year, for instance, the price of labor became so exorbitant, that some of the most fertile land in South-Carolina, rice fields which have been cultivated a hundred years, were in danger of being abandoned from the impossibility of paying for it. Sir, as a southern man, I represent equally rent, capital and wages, which are all confounded in our estates—and I protest against attempts to array, without cause, without a color of pretext or, plausibility, the different classes of society against one another, as if, in such a country as this, there could be any natural hostility, or any real distinction between them--a country in which all the rich, with hardly an exception, have been poor, and all the poor may be rich-a country in which banking institutions have been of immense service, precisely because they have been most needed by a people who all had their fortunes to make by good character and industrious habits. Look at that remarkable picture-remarkable not as a work of art, but as a monument of history—which you see in passing through the Rotunda. Two out of five of that immortal committee were mechanics, and such men!* In the name of God, sir, why should any one study to pervert the natural good sense, and kindly feelings of this moral and noble people, to infuse into their minds a sullen envy towards one another, instead of that generous emulation which every thing in their situation is fitted to inspire, to breathe into them the spirit of Cain, muttering deep curses and meditating desperate revenge against his brother, because the smoke of his sacrifice has ascended to heaven before his own! And do not they who treat our industrious classes as if they were in the

* Franklin and Sherman, signers of the Declaration of Independence.

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same debased wretched condition as the poor of Europe, insult them by such an odious comparison ?-Why, sir, you do not know what poverty is-we have no poor in this country, in the sense in which that word is used abroad. Every laborer, even the most humble, in the United States, soon becomes a capitalist; and even, if he choose, a proprietor of land, for the West with all its boundless fertility is open to him. How can any one dare to compare the mechanics of this land, (whose inferiority in any substantial particular-in intelligence, in virtue, in wealth---10 the other classes of our society, I have yet to learn,) with that race of outcasts, of which so terrific a picture is presented by recent writers--the poor of Europe? A race, among no inconsiderable portion of whom famine and pestilence may be said to dwell continually-many of whom are without morals, without education, without a country, without a God! and may be said to know society only by the terrors of its penal code, and to live in perpetual war with it. Poor bondmen! mocked with the name o: liberty, that they may be sometimes tempted to break their chains, in order that, after a few days of starvation in idleness or dissipation, they may be driven back to their prison-house, to take them up again, heavier and more galling than before :severed, as it has been touchingly expressed, from nature, from the common air and the light of the sun; knowing only by hearsay that the fields are green, that the birds sing, and that there is a perfume in flowers.* And it is with a race, whom the perverse institutions of Europe have thus degraded beneath the condition of humanity, that the advocates, the patrons, the protectors of our working men, presume to compare them ? Sir, it is to treat them with a scorn, at which their spirit should revolt, and does revolt! Just before I left Charleston, there was a meeting called for some purpose, which was regarded by the people of that city as unfavorable to public order. There was something, I suppose, in the proceedings, which looked to the invidious distinction of which I have been speaking; for it led, as I have heard, to an expression of sentiment from one of our mechanics,t which struck me as noble beyond all praise. He said, he wondered what could be meant by addressing, to the industrious classes particularly, all inflammatory appeals against the institutions of the country-as if they were not a part of the community, as much interested in its order and peace, as any other--as if they had no ties of sympathy or connection with their fellow-citizens-above all, as if they had not intelligence and knowledge enough to take care of their own interests, but were reduced to a state of perpetual pupilage and infancy, and needed the officious protection of self-constituted guardians! Sir, that

* Michelet.

+ Mr. Henry J. Harby.

was a sentiinent worthy of a freeman, and which may be recorded, with honor, among the sayings of heroes.

Mr. Chairman, I thank the committee for the attention with which it has honored me. I have detained it long : but I was full of the subject which appears to me to be one of vast imporlance, in all its bearings. I have spoken what I felt and thought, without reference to party. But I will say one word to those with whom I have generally acted on this floor. I have heard that some of them disapprove this measure, but are disposed to vote for it to oblige their friends. Sir, this is a strange and great mistake. A true friend ought to be a faithful counsellor.* Let them remember the deep reproach which the great poet puts in the mouth of one of his heroes :

Hadst thou but shook thy head, or made a pause,
When I spoke daikly what purposed;
Or turned an eye of doubt upon my face !-

ου δυνασαι μοι

[* Phocion to Antipater. Plutarch de Adulatore et Amico. και φιλω κρησται και κολακι τουτ' εςι, και φιλω και μη φιλ...]

VOL. 1.--41


Speech, delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States,

December 18, 1838.

Mr. SALTONSTALL, of Massachusetts, having presented a memorial praying for the recognition of the Republic of Hayti

, and the establishment of international relations with her, and having moved its reference to the committee on Foreign Affairs

Mr. LEGARÉ desired further information as to the nature of the memorial, and the grounds on which it asked for its object.

The Chair said there was no question before the House but the question of reference.

Mr. Legaré raised the question of reception. He objected to the memorial being received. There was a wide difference between petitions which were presented bona fide by our merchants with a view to relieve themselves from a difficulty or embarrassment under which they labored in their business, and petitions of similar form got up by abolitionists for purposes of political effect, and to promote the ends of abolition. If this were a petition of the former character, he saw no difficulty in receiving it. He was aware how difficult it was to distinguish practically between them. Still, if it were a memorial of the latter kind, it was virtually an act of war against one portion of the Union, and the House had not only a clear constitutional right to reject it, but was under the most solemn and imperative duty to do so. He had been desirous of an opportunity of expressing his views in relation to this subject; and it was certainly much to be regretted that a question of such vital importance to a great and growing confederacy, whose members were continually multiplying, and with them the diversities in condition, character, pursuits, and interests, that made the administration of a Federal government so very delicate a matter-a question, too, which must

, in the nature of things, be perpetually recurring-should be smothered in this manner. But he was out of order, he knew, and he would not press his remark further. [Cries of "Go on! go on!"] If not out of order, I should really like to address a few words to this question. The gentleman from Massachusetts, (Mr. Adams), in a spirit, I must be permitted to say, less offensive than he usually displays on this subject, has contended that the amendment of the constitution

touching the right of petition has set at nought all the precedents of the British House of Commons. But look at the amendment; what does it say?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press ; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The question is whether there is any thing in this language to render inapplicable here the parliamentary law touching the subject of petitions. And is it not as clear as day that there is not? The thing prohibited in this amendment is a new law; an act of both Houses, approved by the Executive; a statute, declaring that the right of assembling to petition their rulers does not belong to American citizens, or which shall in any wise weaken or impair that right. The words are, "Congress shall pass no law." What is “Congress?” The Senate and House of Representatives together. The object was, as in the analogous case of trial by jury, to preserve freedom of debate and the right of petition forever as they stood at comrnon law. But here we are not called to pass a statute, but simply to declare what is the meaning of the common law itself.

It is not a legislative but a judical function we are exercising in relation to the reception of petitions, under our undoubted constitutional right of regulating our own procedure. The right of petition is as much protected by this amendment of the constitution as the freedom of speech is, and no more.

And will any man tell me that the freedom of speech is absolute and inherent, and cannot be restrained by this House? Is a member of this House, under this provision of the constitution, entitled to say just what he pleases in this hall ? May he vomit forth blasphemies? May he shock your ears with foul obscenity ? May he attack the fundamental principles of republican government-for that I pronounce to be clearly out of order ? I think no man will maintain this, or any thing like this.* The meaning of the amendment is clear. It means that what is liberty of speech in this House shall be judged by the House, and by the House alone. Not by the Senate; not by the President; not by any power other than the House itself. It is not to make the right absolute, but to render the jurisdiction exclusive. And I say that the judicial right of this House to decide on all such questions is not in the least impaired, but, on the contrary, secured and guarded by this amendment to the constitution. The right is preserved as a sacred prerogative of the American people, but to be exercised, with reference to the ends of the con

* So the previous question, a motion to lay on the table, &c., are familiar instances of the control of the House over liberty of speech in its own members.

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