« PreviousContinue »
SUPPOSED SPEECH OF JOHN ADAMS IN SUPPORT
AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE. -Daniel Webster.
Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote. It is true, indeed, that in the beginning, we aimed not at independence. The injustice of England has driven us to arms; and blinded to her own interest for our good, she has obstinately persisted, till independence is now within our grasp. We have but to reach forth to it, and it is ours. Why then should we defer the declaration? Is any inan so weak as now to hope for a reconciliation with England, which shall leave either safety to the country and its liberties, or safety to his own life, and his own honor ? Are not you, sir, who sit in that chair, is not he, our venerable colleague near you, are you not both already the proscribed and predestined objects of punishment and of vengeance? Cut off from all hope of royal clemency, what are you, what can you be, while the power of England remains, but outlaws? If we postpone independence, do we mean to carry on, or to give up the war? Do we mean to submit, and consent that we ourselves shall be ground to powder, and our country and its rights trodden down in the dust? I know we do not mean to submit. We never shall submit. Do we intend to violate that most solemn obligation ever entered into by men, that plighting, before God, of our sacred honor to Washington, when putting him forth to incur the dangers of war, as well as the political hazards of the times, we promised to adhere to him, in every extremity, with our fortunes and our lives? I know there is not a man here, who would not rather see a general conflagration sweep over the land, or an earthquake sink it, than one jot or tittle of that plighted faith fall to the ground. For myself, having twelve months ago, in this place, moved you, that George Washington be appointed commander of the forces, raised or to be
raised, for defense of American liberty, may my right hand forget her cunning, and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I hesitate or waver, in the support I give him. The war, then, must go on.
We must fight it through. And if the war must go on, why put off longer the declaration of independence? That measure will strengthen us. It will give us character abroad. The nations will then treat with us, which they never can do while we acknowledge ourselves subjects, in arms against our sovereign. Nay, I maintain that England herself, will sooner treat for peace with us on the footing of independence, than consent, by repealing her acts, to acknowledge that her whole conduct towards us has been a course of injustice and oppression. Her pride will be less wounded, by submitting to the course of things which now predestinates our independence, than by yielding the points in controversy to her rebellious subjects. The former she would regard as the result of fortune; the latter she would feel as her own deep disgrace. Why then, why then, sir, do we not as soon as possible, change this from a civil to a national war? And since we must fight it through, why not put ourselves in a state to enjoy all the benefits of victory, if we gain the victory?
If we fail it can be no worse for us. But we shall not fail. The cause will raise up armies; the cause will create navies. The people, the people, if we are true to them, will carry us, and will carry themselves, gloriously through this struggle. I care not how fickle other people have been found. I know the people of these colonies, and I know that resistance to British aggression is deep and settled in their hearts, and cannot be eradicated. Every colony, indeed, has expressed its willingness to follow, if we but take the lead. Sir, the declaration will inspire the people with increased courage. Instead of a long and bloody war for restoration of privileges, for redress of grievances, for chartered immunities, held under a British king, set before
them the glorious object of entire independence, and it will breathe into them anew the breath of life. Read this declaration at the head of the army, every sword will be drawn from its scabbard, and the solemn vow uttered, to maintain it, or to perish on the bed or honor. Send it to the public halls; proclaim it there ; let them hear it, who heard the first roar of the enemy's cannon; let them see it, who saw their brothers and their sons fall on the field of Bunker Hill, and in the streets of Lexington and Concord, and the very walls will cry out in its support.
Sir, I know the uncertainty of human affairs, but I see clearly through this day's business. You and I, indeed, may rue it. We may not live to the time when this declaration shall be made good. We may die; die, colonists; die, slaves; die, it may be ignominiously and on the scaffold.
Be it so.
If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready, at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may.
But while I do live, let me have a country, or at least the hope of a country, and that a free country.
But whatever may be our fate, be assured, be assured, that this declaration will stand. It may cost treasure and it may cost blood; but it will stand, and it will richly compensate for both. Through the thick gloom of the present, I see the brightness of the future, as the sun in heaven. We shall make this a glorious, an immortal day. When we are in our graves, our children will honor it. They will celebrate it with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires, and illuminations. On its annual return they will shed tears, copious, gushing tears, not of subjection and slavery, not of agony and distress, but of exultation, of gratitude, and of joy. Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come. My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake
upon it; and I leave off as I begun, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment; independence now; and INDEPENDENCE FOREVER.
EXTRACT FROM MIRABEAU'S SPEECH ON NECKAR'S PLAN
The following is considered one of Mirabeau's most powerful speeches. He proposes to adopt without examination a scheme of M. Neckar, recommending among other desperate measures, a property tax of five per cent. His argument is the peril of national bankruptcy.
Gentlemen-We have heard a great many violent speeches; I shall endeavor to direct your attention to a few simple questions, and earnestly entreat you to listen to them. Has not the Minister of finances drawn a most alarming picture of our present situation ? Has he not told you that delay must aggravate the evil—that a day—
hour—a moment-may render it irremediable ? Have we any other plan to substitute for the one he proposes? One of this assembly answers, yes! I conjure that member to recollect that his plan is unknown, that it would require time to explain and examine it, that were it now in discussion, its author may perhaps be mistaken ; or if not, that we may think he is, and that, without the concurrence of public opinion, the greatest possible talents would be of no avail in the present circumstances. I, too, am far from thinking that Mr. Neckar has proposed the best possible ways and means ; but God forbid that at this critical moment I should place my views in opposition to his. However preferable I may think them, I know that it is in vain for me
to pretend to his prodigious popularity, the reward of such distinguished services, to his long experience, to his reputation of the first financier in Europe, or to the singular and unprecedented good fortune, which has marked his career, more perhaps than that of any former statesman.
We must therefore come back to the plan of Mr. Neckar. But why adopt it without deliberation? Do you think, then, that we have time to examine it in detail, to discuss the principles, and go over all the calculations ? No, no, a thousand times no. We can only propose insignificant questions and superficial conjectures. What, then, shall we do by deliberating? Lose the decisive moment, involve ourselves in disputes about the details of a scheme, which we really do not understand, diminish, by our idle meddlings, the minister's credit, which is and ought to be greater than our own! Gentlemen, this course is both impolitic and dishonest. I would ask those, who seem to be accustoming themselves to the idea of bankruptcy, in preference to excessive taxes, whether a NATIONAL BANKRUPTCY is not itself the most cruel, the most unjust, the most ruinous of all possible taxes? Two centuries of misgovernment have opened a gulf of ruin, which threatens immediate destruction to the monarchy. This gulf MUST BE CLOSED. Take, then, the list of the proprietors of the country; and select a certain number, whose property shall be sacrificed to pay the public debt. Choose the richest, that as few citizens as possible may be ruined; but be sure to choose enough. Here are two thousand individuals, who have sufficient property among them to make up the deficit. Strike; exterminate the whole; plunge them into the abyss; it will then close; the finances will be restored to order, and the kingdom to peace and prosperity. You recoil with horror from this idea ; and yet, you do not perceive, that in decreeing a national bankruptcy, or what is stili worse, in making it inevitable without decreeing it, you