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THE DEATH OF JOHN C. CALHOUN.
A SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
UNITED STATES, ON THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF MR. CALHOUN'S DEATH, APRIL 1, 1850.
I am not unaware, Mr. Speaker, that the voice of New England has already been heard to-day, in its most authentic and most impressive tones, in the other wing of the Capitol. But it has been suggested to me, and the suggestion has met with the promptest assent from my own heart, that here, also, that voice should not be altogether mute on this occasion.
The distinguished person, whose death has been announced to us in the resolutions of the Senate, belongs not, indeed, to us. It is not ours to pronounce his eulogy. It is not ours, certainly, to appropriate his fame. But it is ours, to bear witness to his character, to do justice to his virtue, to unite in paying honor to his memory, and to offer our heartfelt sympathies, as I now do, to those who have been called to sustain so great a bereavement.
We have been told, Sir, by more than one adventurous navi. gator, that it was worth all the privations and perils of a protracted voyage beyond the line, to obtain even a passing view of the Southern Cross, - that great constellation of the Southern hemisphere. We can imagine, then, what would be the emo. tions of those who have always enjoyed the light of that magnificent luminary, and who have taken their daily and their nightly direction from its refulgent rays, if it were suddenly blotted out from the sky.
Such, Sir, and so deep, I can conceive to be the emotions at this hour, of not a few of the honored friends and associates whom I see around me.
Indeed, no one who has been ever so distant an observer of the course of public affairs for a quarter of a century past, can fail to realize, that a star of the first magnitude has been struck from our political firmament. , Let us hope, Sir, that it has only been transferred to a higher and purer sphere, where it may shine on with undimmed brilliancy forever!
Mr. Speaker, it is for others to enter into the details of Mr. Calhoun's life and services. It is for others to illustrate and to vindicate his peculiar opinions and principles. It is for me to speak of him only as he was known to the country at large, and to all, without distinction of party, who have represented the country, of late years, in either branch of the National Councils.
And speaking of him thus, Sir, I cannot hesitate to say, that, among what may be called the second generation of American statesmen since the adoption of the Federal Constitution, there has been no man of a more marked character, of more pronounced qualities, or of a wider and more deserved distinction.
The mere length and variety of his public services, in almost every branch of the National Government, running through a continuous period of almost forty years, -as a member of this House, as Secretary of War, as Vice-President of the United States, as Secretary of State, and as a Senator from his own adored and adoring South Carolina, - would alone have secured him a conspicuous and permanent place upon our public records.
But he has left better titles to remembrance than any which mere office can bestow.
There was an unsullied purity in his private life; there was an inflexible integrity in his public conduct; there was an indescribable fascination in his familiar conversation; there was a condensed energy in his formal discourse; there was a quickness of perception, a vigor of deduction, a directness and a devotedness of purpose, in all that he said, or wrote, or did; there was a Roman dignity in bis whole Senatorial deportment; which, together, made up a character, which cannot fail to be contemplated and admired to the latest posterity.
I have said, Sir, that New England can appropriate no part of his fame. But we may be permitted to remember, that it was in our schools of learning and of law that he was trained up for the great contests which awaited him in the forum or the Senate chamber. Nor can we forget how long and how inti. mately he was associated, in the Executive or Legislative branches of the Government, with more than one of our own most cherished statesmen.
The loss of such a man, Sir, creates a sensible gap in the public councils. To the State which he represented, and the section of country with which he was so peculiarly identified, no stranger tongue may venture to attempt words of adequate consolation. But let us hope that the event may not be without a wholesome and healing influence upon the troubles of the times. Let us heed the voice, which comes to us all, both as individuals and as public officers, in so solemn and signal a providence of God. Let us remember, that, whatever happens to the Republic, we must die! Let us reflect how vain are the personal strifes and partisan contests in which we daily engage, in view of the great account which we may so soon be called on to render! Well may we exclaim, as Cicero exclaimed, in considering the death of Crassus : " O fallacem hominum spem, fragilemque fortunam, et inanes nostras contentiones!”
Finally, Sir, let us find fresh bonds of brotherhood and of union in the cherished memories of those who have gone before us; and let us resolve that, so far as in us lies, the day shall never come, when New England men may not speak of the great names of the South, whether among the dead or the living, as of Americans and fellow-countrymen!
ADMISSION OF CALIFORNIA,
ADJUSTMENT OF THE SLAVERY QUESTION. .
A SPEECII DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
UNITED STATES, IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE ON THE STATE OF THE UNION, MAY 8, 1850.
When I had the honor of addressing the Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union some weeks ago, I intimated my purpose to take another opportunity, at no distant day, to express, somewhat more in detail than I was able to do on that occasion, the views which I entertain in regard to what have well been called the great questions of the day.
The eager competitions for the floor, which have been witnessed here almost without intermission from that time to this, have postponed the accomplishment of this purpose much longer than I could have desired.
I rise now, however, at last, to fulfil it. And most heartily do I wish, Mr. Chairman, that, in doing so, I could see my way clear to contribute something to the repose of the country, and to the harmony of our national councils. I yield to no one in the sin. cerity or the earnestness of my desire, that every bone of contention between different portions of the Union may be broken, every root of bitterness removed, and that the American Con. gress may be seen again in a condition to discharge its
legitimate functions, of providing at once for the wants of the Government and for the interests of the people. If there be an example in history, which I would gladly emulate at such a moment as this, it is that of an old Swiss patriot, four hundred years ago - of whom I have recently read an account - who, when the confederated cantons had become so embittered against each other, by a long succession of mutual criminations and local feuds, that the dissolution of the confederacy was openly proposed and discussed, and the liberties of Switzerland seemed on the very verge of ruin, was suddenly found rushing from his cherished retirement into the Assembly of Deputies, and exclaiming, “ Concord, concord, CONCORD !” and who, it is related, by his prudence, his patriotism, and his eloquence, brought back that Assembly, and the people whom they represented, to a sense of the inestimable blessings which were at stake upon the issue, and finally succeeded in restoring his distracted country to a condition of harmony, tranquillity, and assured Union !
Sir, there is no sacrifice of personal opinion, of pride of consistency, of local regard, of official position, of present havings or of future hopes, which I would not willingly make to play such a part as this.
Perhaps it may be said, that it has been played already. Perhaps it may be said, that a voice, or voices, have already been heard in the other end of this Capitol, if not in this, which have stilled the angry storm of fraternal discord, and given us the grateful assurance that all our controversies shall be peacefully settled.
At any rate, Sir, whether this be so or not, I am but too sensible that it is not given to me, in this hour, to attempt such a character. And let me add, that there is one sacrifice which I could never make, even for all the glory which might result from the successful performance of so exalted a service. I mean, the sacrifice of my own deliberately adopted and honestly cherished principles. These I must avow, to-day and always. These I must stand to, here and everywhere. Under all circumstances, in all events, I must follow the lead of my own conscientious convictions of right and of duty.