Hayne's Second Speech on Foot's Resolution

(editor's note: The source of this text is Webster and Hayne's Speeches in the United States Senate, on Mr. Foot's Resolution of January, 1830 ... (Philadelphia: T.B. Peterson & Brothers)

Debate in the Senate on Mr. Foot's Resolution, January 21, 1830.

MR. FOOT'S resolution being under consideration,--

{o} {開 Mr. HAYNE said, when he took occasion, two days ago, to throw out some ideas with respect to the policy of the government, in relation to the public lands, nothing certainly could have been further from his thoughts, than that he should have been compelled again to throw himself upon the indulgence of the Senate.Little did I expect, said Mr. H., to be called upon to meet such an argument as was yesterday urged by the gentleman from Massachusetts, (Mr. Webster.) Sir, I questioned no man's opinions; I impeached no man's motives; I charged no party,or state, or section of country with hostility to any other, but ventured, as I thought, in a becoming spirit, to put forth my own sentiments in relation to agreat national question of public policy. Such was my course.

{o} {開 The gentleman from Missouri, (Mr. Benton,) it is true, had charged upon the Eastern States an early and continued hostility towards the west, and referred to a number of historical facts and documents in support of that charge. Now, sir, how have these different arguments been met ? The honorable gentleman fromMassachusetts, after deliberating a whole night upon his course, comes into this chamber to vindicate New England; and instead of making up the issue with the gentleman from Missouri, on the charges which he had preferred, chooses to consider me as the author of those charges, and losing sight entirely of that gentleman, selects me as his adversary, and pours out all the vials of his mighty wrath upon my devoted head. Nor is he willing to stop there. He goes on to assail the institutions and policy of the south, and calls in question the principles and conduct of the state which I have the honor to represent. When I find agentleman of mature age and experience, of acknowledged talents and profound sagacity, pursuing a course like this, declining the contest offered from the west, and making war upon the unoffending south, I must believe, I am bound to believe, he has some object in view which he-has not ventured to disclose, Mr.President, why is this? Has the gentleman discovered in former controversies with the gentleman from Missouri, that he is overmatched by that senator ? And does he hope for an easy victory over a more feeble adversary ? Has the gentleman's distempered fancy been disturbed by gloomy forebodings of " new alliances to be formed," at which he hinted ? Has the ghost of the murdered COALITION like the ghost of Banquo, to "sear the eyeballs of the gentleman," and will it not down at his bidding? Are dark visions of broken hopes, and honors lost forever, still floating before his heated imagination ? Sir, if it be his object to thrust me between the gentleman from Misssouri and himself, in order to rescue the east from the contest it has provoked with the west, he shall not be Sir, I will not be dragged into the defence of my friend from Misssouri. The south shall not be forced into a conflict not its own. The gentleman from Missouri is able to fight his own battles.; The gallant west needs no aid from the south to repel any attack which may be made on them from any quarter.. Let the gentleman from Massachusetts controvert the facts and arguments of the gentleman from Missouri, if he can--and if he win the victory.let him wear the honors; I shall not deprive him of his laurels.

{o} {開 The gentleman from Massachusetts, in reply to my remarks on the injurious operations of our land system on the prosperity of the west, pronounced an extravagant eulogium on the paternal care which the government had extended towards the west, to which he attributed all that was great and excellent in the present condition of the new states. The language of the gentleman on this topic fell upon my ears like the almost forgotten tones of the tory leaders of the British Parliament, at the comencement of the American revolution. They, too, discovered that the colonies had grown great under the fostering care of the mother country; and I must confess, while listening to the gentleman, I thought the appropriate reply to his argument was to be found in the remark of a celebrated orator, made on that occasion: " They have grown great in spite of your protection."

{o} {開 The gentleman, in commenting on the policy of the government in relation tothe new states, has introduced to our notice a certain Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts, to whom he attributes the celebrated ordinance of '87, by which he tells us, "slavery was forever excluded from the new states north of theOhio." After eulogizing the wisdom of this provision in terms of the utmost praise, he breaks forth on the greatness of Nathan Dane -- and great indeed he must be, if it be true, as stated by the senator from Massachusetts, that "he was greater than Solon and Lycurgus, Minos, Numa Pompilius, and all the legislators and philosophers of the world," ancient and modern. Sir, to such high authority it is certainly my duty, in a becoming spirit of humility, to submit And yet, the gentleman will pardon me, when I say, that it is a little unfortunate for the fameof this great legislator, that the gentleman from Missouri should have proved that he was not the author of the ordinance of '87, on which the senator fromMassachusetts has reared so glorious a monument to his name. Sir, I doubt not the senator will feel some compassion for our ignorance, when I tell him, that so little are we acquainted with the modern great men of New England, that until he informed us yesterday that we possessed a Solon and a Lycurgus in the person of Nathan Dane, he was only known to the south as a member of a celebrated assembly, called and known by the name of the " Hartford Convention In the proceedings of that assembly, which I hold in my hand, (at p. 19,) will be found, in a few lines, the history of Nathan Dane; and a little farther on, there is conclusive evidence of that ardent devotion to the interest of the new states,which, it seems, has given him a just claim to the title of "Father of the West." By the 2d resolution of the Hartford Convention," it is declared, "that it is expedient to attempt to make provision for restraining congress in the exercise of an unlimited power to make new states and admitting them into the Union." So much for Nathan Dane, of Beverly, Massachusetts.

{o} {開 In commenting upon my views in relation to the public lands, the gentleman insists, that it being one of the conditions of the grants that these lands should be applied to " the common benefit of all the states, they must always remain a fund for revenue ;" and adds, " they must be treated as so much treasure. Sir the gentleman could hardly find language strong enough to convey his disapprobation of the policy which I had ventured to recommend to the favorable consideration of the country. And what, sir, was that policy,and what is the difference between that gentleman and myself on that subject? I threw out the idea that the public lands ought not to be reserved forever as "a great fund for revenue; that they ought not to be "treated as a great treasure;" but that the course of our policy should rather be directed towards the creation of new states, and building up great and flourishing communities.

{o} {開 Now, sir will it be believed by those who now hear me, and who listened tothe gentleman's denunciation of my doctrines yesterday, that a book then layopen before him -- nay, that he held it in his hand, and read from it certain passages of his own speech, delivered to the House of Representatives in 1825, in which speech he himself contended for the very doctrines I had advocated, and almost in the same terms ? Here is the speech of the Hon. Daniel Webster, contained in the first volume of Gales and Seaton's Register of Debates, (p. 251,) delivered in the House of Representatives on the 18th of January, 1825, in a debate on the Cumberland road -- the very debate from which the senator read yesterday. I shall read from the celebrated speech two passages, from which it will appear that both as to the past and the future policy of the government in relation to the public lands, the gentleman from Massachusetts maintained, in1825, substantially the same opinions which I have advanced, but which he now so strongly reprobates. I said, sir, that the system of credit sales by which the west had been kept constantly in debt to the United States, and by which their wealth was drained off to be expended elsewhere, had operated injuriously on their prosperity. On this point the gentleman from Massachusetts, in January,1825, expressed himself thus: "There could be no doubt, if gentlemen looked at the money received into the treasury from the sale of the public lands to the west, and then looked to the whole amount expended by government, (even including the whole of what was laid out for the army,) the latter must beallowed to be very inconsiderable, and there must be a constant drain of money from the west to pay for, the public lands. It might indeed be said that this was no more than the refluence of capital which had previously gone over the mountains. Be it so. Still its practical effect was to produce inconvenience, if not distress by absorbing the money of the people."

I contended that the public lands ought not to be treated merely as "a fund for revenue;" that they ought not to be hoarded "as a great treasure." On this point the senator expressed himself thus: "Government, he believed, had received eighteen or twenty millions of dollars from the public lands, and it was with the greatest satisfaction he adverted to the change which had been introduced in the mode of paying for them; yet he could never think the national domain was to be regarded as any great source of revenue. The great object of the government, in respect of these lands, was not so much the money derived from their sale as it was the getting them settled. What he meant to say was, he did they think think they ought to hug that domain AS A GREAT TREASURE, which was to enrich the Exchequer."

Now, Mr. President, it will be seen that the very doctrines which the gentleman so indignantly abandons were urged by him in 1825; and if I had actually borrowed my sentiments from those which he then avowed, I could not have followed more closely in his footsteps. Sir, it is only since the gentleman quoted this book, yesterday, that my attention has been turned to the sentiments he expressed in1825; and if I had remembered them, I might possibly have been deterred from uttering sentiments here, which it might well be supposed, I had borrowed from that gentleman.

{o} {開 In 1825, the gentleman told the world that the public lands "ought not to be treated as a treasure." He now tells us that "they must be treated as so much treasure." What the deliberate opinion of the gentleman on this subject may be, belongs not to me to determine; but I do not think he can, with the shadow of justice or propriety, impugn my sentiments, while his own recorded opinions are identical with my own. When the gentleman refers to the conditions of the grants under which the United States have acquired these lands, and insists that, as they are declared to be "'for the common benefit of all the states," they can only be treated as so much treasure, I think he has applied a rule of construction too narrow for the case. If in the deeds of cession it has been declared that the grants were intended for " the common benefit of all the states," it is clear, from other provisions, that they were not intended merely as so much property; for it is expressly declared, that the object of the grants is the erection of new states; and the United States, in accepting this trust, bind themselves to facilitate the foundation of these states, to be admitted into the Union with all the rights and privileges of the original states. This, sir, was the great end to which all parties looked, and it is by the fulfilment of this high trust that "the common benefit of all the states" is to be best promoted.

{o} {開 Sir, let me tell the gentleman, that in the part of the country in which I live, we do not measure political benefits by the money standard. We consider as more valuable than gold liberty, principle, and justice.

{o} {開 But, sir, if we are bound to act on the narrow principles contended for by the gentleman, I am wholly at a loss to conceive how he can reconcile his principles with his own practice. The lands are, it seems, to be treated "as somuch treasure," and must be applied to the "common benefit of all the states." Now, if this be so, whence does he derive the right to appropriate them for partial and local objects ? How can the gentleman consent to vote away immense bodies of these lands, for canals in Indiana and Illinois, to the Louisville and Portland Canal, to Kenyon College in Ohio, to Schools for the Deaf and Dumb, and other objects of a similar description? If grants of this character can fairly be considered as made "for the common benefit of all the states," it can only be, because all the states are interested in the welfare of each a principle which, carried to the full extent, destroys all distinction between local and national objects, and is certainly broad enough to embrace the principles for which I have ventured to contend. Sir, the true difference between us I take to be this; the gentleman wishes to treat the public lands as a great treasure,just as so much money in the treasury, to be applied to all objects, constitutional and unconstitutional to which the public money is constantly applied. I consider itas a sacred trust which we ought to fulfil on the principles for which I have contended.

The senator from Massachusetts has thought proper to present, in strong contrast, the friendly feelings of the east towards the west, with sentiments of an opposite character displayed by the south in relation to appropriations for internal improvements. Now, sir, let it be recollected that the south have made no professions; I have certainly made none in their behalf of regard for the west. It has been reserved for the gentleman from Massachusetts, while he vaunts over his own personal devotion to western interests, to claim for the entire section of country to which he belongs an ardent friendship for the west, as manifested by their support of the system of internal improvement, while he casts in our teeth the reproach that the south has manifested hostility to western interests in opposing appropriations for such objects. That gentleman, at the same time, acknowledged that the south entertains constitutional scruples on this subject. Are we then, sir, to understand that the gentleman considers it a just subject of reproach that we respect our oaths, by which we are bound "to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the U. States ? "Would the gentleman 'have us- manifest our love to the west by trampling under foot our constitutional scruples . Does he not perceive, if the south is to be reproached with unkindness to the west, in voting against appropriations which the gentleman admits they could not vote for without doing violence to their constitutional opinions, that he exposes himself to the question, whether, if he was in our situation, he could vote for these appropriations, regardless of his scruples? No, sir, I will not do the gentleman so great injustice. He has fallen into this error from not having duly weighed the force and effect of the reproach which he endeavoring to cast upon the south.

{o} {開 In relation to the other point, the friendship manifested by New England towards the west, in their support of the system of internal improvement, the gentleman will pardon me for saying, that I think he is equally unfortunate in having introduced that topic. As that gentleman has forced it upon us, however, I cannot suffer it to pass unnoticed. When the gentleman tells us that the appropriations for internal improvement in the west would, in almost, every instance, have failed but for New England votes, he has forgotten to tell us the when, the how, and the wherefore this new-born zeal for the west sprung up in the bosom of New England. If we look back only a few years, we will find in both houses of Congress a uniform and steady opposition on the part of the members from the Eastern States, generally, to all appropriations of this character. At the time I became a member of this house, and for some time aftrwards a decided majority of the New England senators were opposed to the very measures which the senator from Massachusetts tells us they now cordially support. Sir, the Journals are before me, and an examination of them will satisfy every gentleman of that fact.

It must be well known to every one whose experience dates back as far as 1825,that up to a certain period, New England was generally opposed to appropriations for internal improvements in the west. The gentleman from Massachusetts may be himself an exception, but if he went for the system before 1825, it is certain that his colleagues did not go with him.

{o} {開 In the session of 1824 and '25, however, (a memorable era in the history of this country.) a wonderful change took place in New England, in relation to western interests. Sir,an extraordinary union of sympathies and of interests was then effected, which brought the east and the west into close alliance. The book from which I have before read contains the first public annunciation of that happy reconciliation of conflicting interests,personal and political, which brought the east and west together, and locked in a fraternal embrace the two great orators of the east and the west. Sir, it was on the 18th January 1825, while the result of the presidential election, in the House ofRepresentatives, was still doubtful, while the whole country was looking with intense anxiety to that legislative hall where the mighty drama was so soon to be acted, that we saw the leaders of two great parties in the house and in the nation, "taking sweet counsel together," and in a celebrated debate on the Cumberland road, fighting side by side for western interests. It was on that memorable occasion that the senator from Massachusetts held out the white flag to -the west, and uttered those liberal sentiments which he yesterday so indignantly repudiated. Then it was, that that happy union between the members of the celebrated coalition was consummated, whose immediate issue was a president from one quarter of the Union, with the succession (as it was supposed) secured to another. The "American system," before a rude, disjointed, and misshapen mass, now assumed form and consistency. Then it was that it became "the settled policy of the government," that this system should be so administered as to create a reciprocity of interests and a reciprocal distribution of government favors, east and west, (the tariff and internal improvements,) while the south yes, sir, the impracticable south was to be "out of your protection." The gentleman may boast as much as he pleases of the friendshipof New England for the west, as displayed in their support of internal improvement; but when he next introduces that topic, I trust that he will tell us when that friendship commenced, how it was brought about, and why it was established. Before I leave this topic, I must be permitted to say that the true character of the policy now pursued by the gentleman from Massachusetts and his friends, in relation to appropriations of land and money, for the benefit of the west, is in my estimation very similar to that pursued by Jacob of old towards his brother Esau: "It robs them of their birthright for a mess of pottage."

{o} {開 The gentleman from Massachusetts, in alluding to a remark of mine, that before any disposition could be made of the public lands, the national debt (for which they stand pledged) must be first paid, took occasion to intimate "that the extraordinary fervor which seems to exist in a certain quarter, (meaning the south, sir,) for the payment of the debt, arises from a disposition to weaken the ties which bind the people to the Union." While the gentleman deals us this blow, he professes an ardent desire to see the debt speedily extinguished. He must excuse me, however, for feeling some distrust on that subject until I find this disposition manifested by something stronger than professions. I shall look for acts, decided and unequivocal acts; for the performance of which an opportunity will very soon (if I am not greatly mistaken) be afforded. Sir, if 1were at liberty to judge of the course which that gentleman would pursue, from the principles which he has laid down in relation to this matter, I should be bound to conclude that he will be found acting with those with whom it is a darling object to prevent the payment of the public debt. He tells us he isdesirous of paying the debt, "because we are under an obligation to discharge it." Now, sir, suppose it should happen that the public creditors,'with whom we have contracted the obligation, should release us from it, so far as to declare their willingness to wait for payment for fifty years to come, provided only the interest shall be punctually discharged. The gentleman from Massachusetts will then be released from the obligation which now makes him desirous of paying the debt; and, let me tell the gentleman, the holders of the stock will not only release us from thisobligation, but they will implore, nay, they will even pay us not to pay them. But, adds the gentleman, so far as the debt may have an effect in binding the debtors to the country, and thereby serving as a link to hold the states together, he would be glad that it should exist forever. Surely then, sir, on the gentleman's own principles, he must be opposed to the payment of the debt.

Sir, let me tell that gentleman, that the south repudiates the idea that pecuniary dependence on the federal government is one of the legitimate means of holding the states together. A moneyed interest in the government isessentially a base interest; and just so far as it operates to bind the feelings of those who are subjected to it to the government, just so far as it operates in creating sympathies and interests that would not otherwise exist, is it opposed to all the principles of free government, and at war with virtue and patriotism. Sir, the link which binds the public creditors, as such, to their country, binds them equally to all governments, whether arbitrary or free. In a free government, this principle of abject dependence, if extended through all the ramifications of society, must be fatal to liberty. Already have we made alarming strides in that direction. The entire class of manufacturers, the holders of stocks, with their hundreds of millions of capital, are held to the government by the strong link of pecuniary interests; millions of people-entire sections of country, interested, or believing themselves to be so, in the public lands, and the public treasure are bound to the government by the expectation of pecuniary favors. If this system is carried much further no man can fail to see that every generous motive of attachment to the country will be destroyed, and in its place will spring up those low grovelling, base, and selfish feelings which bind men to the footstool of a despot by bonds as strong and enduring as those which attach them to free institutions. Sir, I would lay the foundation of this government in the affectionsof the people -- I would teach them to cling to it by dispensing equal justice,and above all, by securing the "blessings of liberty to " themselves and to their posterity."

{o} {開 The honorable gentleman from Massachusetts has gone out of his way to pass a high eulogium on the state of Ohio In the most impassioned tones ofeloquence, he described her majestic march to greatness. He told us, that, having already left all the other states far behind, she was now passing by Virginia and Pennsylvania, and about to take her station by the side of New York. To all this, sir, I was disposed most cordially to respond. When, however, the gentleman proceeded to contrast the state of Ohio with Kentucky to the disadvantage of the latter, I listened to him with regret; and when he proceeded further to attribute the great, and, as he supposed,acknowledged superiority of the former in population, wealth, and general prosperity, to the policy of Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts, which had secured to the people of Ohio (by the ordinance of '87) a population of freemen, I will confess that my feelings suffered a revulsion which I am now unable to describe in any language sufficiently respectful towards the gentleman fromMassachusetts. In contrasting the state of Ohio with Kentucky, for the purpose of pointing out the superiority of the former, and of attributing that superiority to the existence of slavery in the one state and its absence in the other, I thought I could discern the very spirit of the Missouri question intruded into this debate, for objects best known to the gentleman himself. Did that gentleman, sir, when heformed the determination to cross the southern border, in order to invade the state of South Carolina, deem it prudent or necessary to enlist under his banners the prejudices of the world which. like Swiss troops, may be engaged in any cause, and are prepared to serve under any leader? Did he desire to avail himself of those remorseless allies, the passions of mankind, of which it may be more truly said than of the savage tribes of the wilderness. "that their known rule of warfare is an indiscriminate slaughter of all ages, sexes, and conditions "? Or was it supposed, sir, that, in a premeditated and unprovoked attack upon the south,it was advisable to begin by a gentle admonition of our supposed weakness, in order to prevent us from making that firm and manly resistance due to our own character and our dearest interests? Was the significant hint of the weakness of slaveholding states, when contrasted with the superior strength of free states, like the glare of the weapon half drawn from its scabbard, -- intended to enforce the lessons of prudence and of patriotism, which the gentleman had resolved, out of his abundant generosity, gratuitously to bestow upon us? Mr. President, the impression which has gone abroad of the weakness of the south, as connected with the slave question, exposes us to such constant attacks, has done us so much injury, and is calculated to produce such infinite mischiefs, that I embrace the occasion presented by the remarks of the gentleman of Massachusetts, to declare that we are ready to meet the question promptly and fearlessly. It is one from which we are not disposed to shrink, in whatever form or under whatever circumstances it may be pressed upon us.

We are ready to make up the issue with the gentleman, as to the influence of slavery on individual or national character on the prosperity and greatness, either of the United States or of particular states.

{o} {開 Sir, when arraigned before the bar of public opinion, on this charge of slavery, we can stand up with conscious rectitude, plead not guilty, and put ourselves upon God and our country. Sir, we will not consent to look at slavery in the abstract. We will not stop to inquire whether the black man, as some philosophers have contended, is of an inferior race, nor whether his color and condition are the effects of a curse inflicted, for the offences of his ancestors. We deal in no abstractions. We will not look back to inquire whether our fathers were guiltless in introducing slaves into this country. If an inquiry should ever be instituted in these matters, however, it will be found that the profits of the slave trade were not confined to the south. Southern ships and southern sailors were not the instruments of bringing slaves to the shores of America, nor did our merchants reap the profits of that "accursed traffic." But, sir, we will pass over all this. If slavery, as it now exists in this country, be an evil, we of the present day found it readymade to our hands. Finding our lot cast among a people whom God had manifestly committed to our care, we did not sit down to speculate on abstract questions of theoretical liberty. We met it as a practical question of obligation and duty. We resolved to make the best of the situation in which Providence had placed us,and to fulfil the high trusts which had devolved upon us as the owners of slaves, in the only way in which such a trust could be fulfilled, without spreading misery and ruin throughout the land.

{o} {開 We found that we had to deal with a people whose physical, moral, and intellectual habits and character totally disqualified them from the enjoyment of the blessings of freedom. We could not send them back to the shores from whence their fathers had been taken; their numbers forbade the thought, even if we did not know that their condition here is infinitely preferable to what it possibly could be among the barren sands and savage tribes of Africa; and it was wholly irreconcilable with all our notions of humanity to tear asunder the tender ties which they had formed among us, to gratify the feelings of a false philanthropy.

What a commentary on the wisdom, justice, and humanity of the southern-slave owner is presented by the example of certain benevolent associations and charitable individuals elsewhere. Shedding weak tears over sufferings which had existence in their own sickly imaginations, these " friends of humanity " set themselves systematically to work to seduce the slaves of the south from their mastors. By means of missionaries and political tracts, the scheme was in a great measure successful. Thousands of these deluded victims of fanaticism were seduced into the enjoyment of freedom in our northern cities.

And what has been the consequence? Go to these cities now and ask the question. Visit the dark and narrow lanes, and obscure recesses, which have been assigned by common consent as the abodes of those outcasts of the world, the free people of color. Sir, there does not exist, on the face of the whole earth, a population so poor, so wretched, so vile, so loathsome, so utterly destitute of all the comforts, conveniences, and decenciesof life, as the unfortunate blacks of Philadelphia, and New York and Boston. Liberty has been to them the greatest of calamities, the heaviest of curses. Sir, I have had some opportunities of making comparison between the condition of the free negroes of the north and the slaves of the south, and the comparison has left not only an indelible impression of the superior advantages of the latter, but has gone far to reconcile me to slavery itself. Never have I felt so forcibly that touching description "the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head," as when I have seen this unhappy race, naked and homeless almost starving in the streets and abandoned by all the world Sir, I have seen in the neighborhood of one of the most moral, religious, and refined cities of the north, a family of free blacks, driven to the caves of the rocks and there obtaining a precarious subsistence from charity and plunder.