4.--speech of Senator Seward, New York, Dec. 22.
Fellow-citizens: My friend, Mr. Evarts
, I believe, is acting as Chairman
of Committee here, or President
, or something of that sort — I do not
exactly understand what.
Coming a stranger as I do to the Astor House
[laughter] I am put under duresse
as soon as I get here, and am brought down from my own private room to this place.
That is all I know about myself or you either [laughter]; but I find you here, and Mr. Evarts
with his mallet in his hand.
I suppose it means that he is something like a presiding officer or speaker, or something of that kind.
has intimated to me that you're all Yankees, [A voice--“Yes, we are,” ] and I thought it as likely as not that you were.
Therefore, I suppose that I might as well set all doubt about myself at rest at once, and anticipate all your inquiries.
I left Auburn
this morning at 9 o'clock, after breakfast; I got here at rather a late hour, for rather a late dinner.
[A voice--“Did you come by the express train?” ] I came by the express train.
Nothing particular happened me on the way [roars of laughter] except that I might as well anticipate the Express
on Monday morning, as I did not anticipate the Express
last Monday morning, by saying that I met Thurlow Weed
in the cars.
A voice--“What did he say?”
--There the Yankee
comes out at once.
A gentleman asks me what hoe said.
Now I am not a Yankee.
There is no New England
blood in me, and I do not answer impertinent questions.
[Laughter.] I will not tell what he said to me. I will only tell what I said to him, and that was that I repudiated — all compromises whatsoever, which New York, Pennsylvania
, and New England
could not stand upon.
I learned from him that he had been in Springfield
, in the State of Illinois
I suppose you would all like to know what he told me he learned there.
[Laughter, and shouts of “Yes.” ] I will give you the best satisfaction I can. He prints a newspaper called the Evening Journal
. He is a man of truth, I believe ; and if he is, and wants to tell what he learned, you can get it in his newspaper.
[Laughter.] But I have somehow got off from the direct course of my argument.
I began to tell you about myself, and, somehow or other, I have got to telling about Mr. Weed
and his journey to Springfield
I may as well go on in this indirect way till I get back to my direct road.
I met the Governor
going up to Albany
He did not tell me exactly, but I had a strong suspicion, from his appearance generally, and from some hints which he dropped, that Charles Stetson
, of the Astor House
, would probably be Inspector General
of the State of New York
[Laughter.] I judge so because the Governor
asked me my opinion about Mr. Stetson
I told him that, as a tavern keeper, I did not know a great deal in his favor, but that as a military officer, I thought he had no superior [roars of laughter], and that if it should turn out that the State of Florida
should invade the State of New York
in these troubles of ours, I did not know any better man to send out to meet them than Charles Stetson
[uproarious laughter], who would disarm them of all hostility by bringing them in to a supper like this at the Astor House
Fellow-citizens — he continued, in a more serious tone — these are extraordinary things that are happening in our day. I remember that it was the men of New England
, who lived only two or three times as long ago as I have lived, and as my friend Mr. Joseph Grinnell
has lived, whom I am glad to see here.
I hope he is sounder in his politics than he was the last time I heard of him. [Laughter.] I hope he is as sound as his brother Moses.
It is only twice as long ago as we have lived, I say, since these men of New England
invented the greatest political discovery in the world — the confederation of republican states.
The first confederation of republican states in America
was the invention of New England
I have always admired and respected the people of New England
for that great discovery, which, after having been put into successful operation in the colonies of Massachusetts Bay
, and Connecticut
and NeW Haven
, came ultimately, after having been sanctioned by the wisdom and experience of Dr. Franklin
, to be adopted by the people of the thirteen British colonies on this continent, south of the St. Lawrence
It has been reserved for our day, and for this very hour, to see an innovation of another kind, of an opposite nature, by a portion of our countrymen residing south of the Potomac
The people of South Carolina
have invented secession.
The wisdom of the latter is now to be tried in comparison with the experience of the former.
At the first glance it exhibits this singular anomaly — that of a state which has in the Senate of the United States two seats, and in the House of Representatives six members, each of them paid $3,000 a year out of a treasury to which they contribute only a small part — a state consisting of 700,000 people of all conditions, and of whom 274,000 are white, going out of the Union
, to stand by itself, and sending to the Congress of the United States three commissioners to stand outside of the bar to negotiate for their interests, and to be paid by herself, instead of having two senators and six representatives in Congress, on an equality with all the other states.
This is the experiment that is to be tried by states on this continent — whether they will find it wiser to occupy seats within the Congress of the United States, and to have their representatives paid by the United States
for coming there; or, in lieu of that, to send Commissioners to present their claims and their rights at the bar of the United States
, without the privilege of voting on their own claims, and to be paid for by the states themselves.
This is the last political invention of the times.
I need not say to you that I do not think it is likely to be followed by many other states on this continent, or to be persevered in long, because it is manifestly very much inferior to the system that already exists.
The State of South Carolina
desires to go out. Just at this moment I am going back to Washington
for the purpose of admitting the State of Kansas
in; and I venture to say that for every state on this continent that will go out of the Union
, there stand already waiting at least two states that will be glad to come in and take their place.
[Loud cheers.] They will do so for this simple reason — that every state on the continent of North America
will be a democratic or republican state.
You, gentlemen of New England
, do not like always to hear the word democratic.
I will, therefore, use the word republican.
No republican state on this continent or any other can stand alone.
That is an impossibility.
And the reason is a simple one.
So much liberty, so much personal independence, such scope to emulation and ambition, as a free republic gives, where universal suffrage exists, are too much for any one state, standing alone, to maintain.
it is, as you have seen, that the moment it was thought that secession had commenced in this great national confederacy of ours, you begin to hear at once of secession, not only in South Carolina
, but of secession in California
, secession in New England
, and lastly, you begin to hear of secession of New York city and Long Island
from the State of New York
[Laughter.] They are right in all this.
Dissolve this American Union, and there is not one state that can stand without renewing perpetually the process of secession until we are brought to the condition of the States of Central America
--pitiful states, unable to stand alone.
No, gentlemen, republican states are like the sheaves in the harvest field.
Put them up singly, and every gust blows them down; stack them together, and they defy all the winds of heaven.
[Tumultuous applause.] And so you have seen that these thirteen republican states all came to the conviction, each of them that it could not stand alone; and the thirteen came together, and you have seen other states added to them.
The state of Michigan
, the state of Indiana
; of Illinois
, the state of Wisconsin
, the state of Iowa
and the state of Louisiana
--what under heaven kept each of these states from setting up for itself and becoming independent?
Nothing, but that it could not stand alone.
And they are ready to be united to other republican states on this continent.
So it was with Texas
She was independent.
Why did she not remain so?
You know how much it tried us to admit her into the Union
; but it tried her much harder to stay out as long as she did. Why is not Kansas
content to remain out?
Simply because of the sympathy and the interest which makes it needful that all republican states on this continent shall be united in one.
Let South Carolina
, let Alabama
, let Louisiana
--let any other state go out, and while they are rushing out you will see Canada
and all the Mexican States
rushing in to fill up the vacuum.
[Loud applause.] It is the wisdom discovered by our fathers which is all concentrated in these three words of such pregnant meaning--E Pluribus Unum
. [Loud applause.] There is no such thing as one, separate from the many, in republican states.
[Continued applause.] And now, fellow-citizens, I will speak one word concerning the anomalous condition of our affairs produced by this disposition of some of the American
states to secede from the Union
It has taken, as it ought to have taken, the American
people and the world by surprise.
Why has it taken them by surprise?
Because it is unwise and unnatural.
It is wise that all the republican states of this continent should be confederated.
It is unwise that any of them should attempt to separate.
And yet it ought not to have taken us by surprise.
Whoever could have imagined that a machine so complicated, so vast, so new, so untried, as this confederated system of republican states, should be exempt from the common lot of states which have figured in the history of the world?
A more complex system of government was never devised — never conceived of among men. How strange it is, how unreasonable it is, that we should be surprised that a pin may drop out of this machinery and that the wheel should drag, or that the gudgeon should be worn until the wheel should cease to play with the regular action!
How could we expect to subsist for a period of seventy years exempt from the necessity of repairing our political system of government?
Every state in this Union is just like the federal Union--a republic.
It has its constitution, and its regular system of action.
No state is more than seventy years old, and there is not in any one state of this Union a constitution which is more than twenty-five years old; and so certain has it become that no state can adopt a constitution which will last for more than twenty-five years without being repaired and renewed, that in our own state the constitution which we adopted twenty years ago contains a provision that next year, without any appeal to the people whatever, a convention shall come together in the state of New York
and make a new constitution.
Is it strange, then, that this complex system of our government should be found, after a lapse of seventy years, to work a little rough, a little unequal, and that it should require that the engineer should look at the machinery to see where the gudgeon is worn out, and to see that the main wheel is kept in motion?
A child can withdraw a pin from the mightiest machine and arrest all its motion, and the engineer cannot see it when it is being done; but if the engine be rightly devised and strongly constructed, the engineer has only to see where the pin has fallen out and replace it, and the machine will then go on stronger and more vigorous than ever.
[Applause.] We are a family of thirty-three states, and next Monday I hope that we shall be a family of thirty-four.
[Cheers.] Would it not be strange, in a family of thirty-four members, if there should not, once in the course of a few years, be one or two, or three or four, or five of the members who would get discontented, and want to withdraw awhile, and see how much better they could manage their fortunes alone?
I think there is nothing strange in this.
I only wonder that nobody has ever withdrawn before, to see how much better they could get along on their own hook, than they get along in this plain, old-fashioned way under the direction of Uncle Sam.
They say that, while I was a boy, Massachusetts
and some of the New England
States got the same idea of contumacy for the common parent and want of affection for the whole family, and got up a Hartford Convention.
[Laughter.] I hope you do not think this personal.
[No, no.] Somebody in Massachusetts
--I do not know who — tried it. All I know about it is, that for the first twenty years of my political life, although I was a democrat — a Jeffersonian — born and dyed in the faith of the Republican
fathers, somehow or other, because I happened to become a whig, I was held responsible for the Hartford Convention.
[Laughter.] And I have made this singular discovery in contrasting those times with the present; that, whereas, when Massachusetts
or any New England
State, gets in a pet and proposes to go out of the Union
, the democratic party all insist that it is high treason, and ought to be punished by coercion; when one of the slave states gets into the same fret, and proposes to go out of the Union
, the democratic party think it exceedingly excusable, and have doubts whether — she ought not be helped out of the Union
, and whether we ought not to give her a good dowry besides.
[Laughter.] Now, gentlemen, my belief about all this is, that whether it is Massachusetts
or South Carolina
, or whether it is New York or Florida
, it would turn out the same way in each case.
There is no such thing in the book, no such thing in reason, no such thing in philosophy, and no such thing in nature, as any state existing on the continent of North America
outside of the United States
I do not believe a word of it; and I do not believe it, for a good many reasons.
Some I have already hinted at; and one is, because I do not see any good reason given for it. The best reason I see given for it is, that the people of some of the southern states hate us of the free states very badly, and they say that we hate them, and that all love is lost between us. Well, I do not believe a word of that.
On the other hand, I do know for myself and for you, that, bating some little differences of opinion about advantages, and about proscription, and about office, and about freedom, and about slavery and all those which are family difficulties, for which we do not take any outsiders in any part of the world into our councils on either side, there is not a state on the earth, outside of the American Union, which I like half so well as I do the state of South Carolina
, nor Ireland
, nor Scotland
, nor France
, nor Turkey
; although .from Turkey
they sent me Arab horses, and from South Carolina
they send me nothing but curses.
Still, I like South Carolina
better than I like any of them ; and I have the presumption and vanity to believe that if there were nobody to overhear the state of South Carolina
when she is talking, she would confess that she liked us tolerably well.
I am very sure that if anybody were to make a descent on New York to-morrow — whether Louis Napoleon
, or the Prince
, or his mother [laughter], or the Emperor
, or the Emperor
, all the hills of South Carolina
would pour forth their population for the rescue of New York.
[Cries of “Good,” and applause.] God knows how this may be. I do not pretend to know, I only conjecture.
But this I do know, that if any of those powers were to make a descent on South Carolina
, I know who would go to her rescue.
[A voice--“We'd all go.” ] We would all go — everybody. [ “That's so,” and great applause.] Therefore they do not humbug me with their secession.
[Laughter.] And I do not think they will humbug you; and I do not believe that, if they do not humbug you and me, they will much longer succeed in humbugging themselves.
[Laughter.] Now, fellow-citizens, this is the ultimate result of all this business.
These states are always to be together — always shall.
Talk of striking down a star from that constellation.
It is a thing which cannot be done.
[Applause.] I do not see any less stars to-day than I did a week ago, and I expect to see more all the while.
[Laughter.] The question then is, what in these times — when people are laboring under the delusion that they are going out of the Union
and going to set up for themselves — ought we to do in order to hold them in. I do not know any better rule than the rule which every good father of a family observes.
It is this.
If a man wishes not to keep his family together, it is the easiest thing in the world to place them apart.
He will do so at once if he only gets discontented with his son, quarrels with him, complains of him, torments him, threatens him, coerces him. This is the way to get rid of the family, and to get them all out of doors.
On the other hand, if you wish to keep them, you have got only one way to do it. That is, be patient, kind, paternal, forbearing, and wait until they come to reflect for themselves.
The South is to us what the wife is to her husband.
I do not know any man in the world who cannot get rid of his wife if he tries.
I can put him in the way to do it at once.
[He has only got two things to do. One is to be unfaithful to her. The other is to be out of temper with her. I do not know a man on earth who — even though his wife was as troublesome as the wife of Socrates
— cannot keep his wife if he wants to do so; all that he needs is, to keep his own virtue and his own temper.
[Applause.] Now, in all this business I propose that we shall keep our own virtue, which, in politics, is loyalty, and our own temper, which, in politics, consists in remembering that men may differ, that brethren may differ.
If we keep entirely cool and entirely calm, and entirely kind, a debate will ensue which will be kindly in itself, and it will prove very soon either that we are wrong — and we shall concede to our offended brethren — or else that we are right, and they will acquiesce and come back into fraternal relations with us. I do not wish to anticipate any question.
We have a great many statesmen who demand at once to know what the North
propose to do — what the Government
proposes to do — whether we propose to coerce our southern brethren back into their allegiance.
They ask us, as of course they may rightfully ask, what will be the value of fraternity which is compelled?
All I have to say on that subject is, that so long ago as the time of Sir Thomas More, he discovered, and set down the discovery in his writing, that there were a great many schoolmasters, and that while there were a very few who knew how to instruct children, there were a great many who knew how to whip them.
[Laughter.] I propose to have no question on. that subject, but to hear complaints, to redress them if they ought to be redressed, and if we have the power to redress them; and I expect them to be withdrawn if they are unreasonable, because I know that the necessities which made this Union exist, for these states, are stronger to-day than they were when the Union
was made, and that, those necessities are enduring, while the passions of men are short lived and ephemeral.
I believe that secession was stronger on the night of the 6th of November last, when a President and Vice-president who were unacceptable to the Slave States
were elected, than it is now. That is now some fifty days since, and I believe that every day's sun which set since that time, has set on mollified passions and prejudices, and that if you will only give it time, sixty days more suns will give you a much brighter and more cheerful atmosphere.
[Loud and long continued applause.]