Webster's Answer to Hulsemann, BQR for April 1851
Webster's Answer to Hulsemann
We have devoted in the preceding and present numbers of this journal considerable space to the discussion of the late Hungarian rebellion, and have shown, what an able contemporary has also shown, that the American sympathy with it, on the ground that it was a movement in favor of popular institutions similar to our own, was wholly misplaced, for it was not, in the American sense, either democratic or republican. But, after all, this is only an argumentum ad hominem, and only proves that the sympathizers are inconsistent with themselves. We are disposed to take higher ground, and to maintain that if the Magyar rebellion had been in favor of democracy, or republican institutions like our own, the sympathy expressed with it would equally have been misplaced. A rebellion for democracy or republicanism is as unjustifiable as a rebellion for aristocracy or monarchy. The end does not justify the means, and whether a given rebellion is stirred up for the purpose of establishing one form of government or another has nothing to do with its justice or injustice.
The Magyar movement was a rebellion, a rebellion against the Emperor of Austria, both as Emperor of Austria and as King of Hungary. It is not true, either in fact or in law, as some would persuade us, that Hungary was an independent nation, having no connection with the Austrian empire but the mere accidental union of the crowns of each in the same person. Hungary was an integral part of the empire, and owed allegiance to the Emperor as Emperor of Austria, as well as King of Hungary. She had, it is true, a national Diet or parliament under her king, for purely civil administration ; but the administration of her finances and the command of her military were vested in the Emperor, not merely in the King, and pertained to the imperial chancery at Vienna. Whether, then, the Magyars attempted to subvert the authority of the Emperor of Austria, or of the King of Hungary, they were alike rebels, and, as they attempted to subvert both,they were undeniably rebels, and their movement a rebellion, in the strictest sense of the word.
We do not say that a rebellion is never in any case or under any circumstances justifiable; but we do say that a rebellion for the purpose of changing the form of government, whether from a monarchy to a republic or from an aristocracy to a democracy, whether from a democracy to an aristocracy or from a republic to a monarchy, is always unjustifiable, and the highest crime known to the law; for all these several forms of government may be legitimate and also illegitimate, and no one of them is per se more legitimate or illegitimate than another. There is no one form of government that has the right to establish itself everywhere, or that is universally obligatory. The popular or republican form in certain times and places may be legitimate, and most certainly is so in this country; but it is not the only legitimate form of government possible. Monarchical forms are as legitimate in Great Britain, Spain, and Austria, as republican forms are with us. None of the recognized forms of government are per se in contravention of the Divine law or of the natural rights of men, or per se tyrannical and oppressive, and therefore resistance to any one of them on the part of its subjects can never per se be lawful, or otherwise than criminal. Monarchy is per se no more in contravention of natural right or of natural freedom than is democracy, and hence it is as criminal to rebel against monarchy for the sake of instituting democracy, as it is to rebel against democracy for the sake of instituting monarchy.
If rebellion is ever justifiable, it is only for reasons independent of the form of the government. Undoubtedly, the people of a given country, when the previous authority has been subverted, and there is no longer either in fact or in law any existing political order, may reconstitute government in such form as they judge best; but they can never lawfully overthrow an established government for the sake of adopting another political form, even though fully persuaded of its superiority. The right, if such right there be, to subvert an existing government, never grows out of its form, but out of the fact that by tyranny and oppression the historical authority has lost its legitimacy. The Arnerian Congress of 1776 did not set forth that George the Third was airing, and they wanted a republican government ; they did not declare the Colonies absolved from their allegiance to the crown of Great Britain, on the ground that republicanism is the natural right of every people, and no people can ever owe allegiance to a monarchy. The moral sense of the Colonies and of the whole world would have been outraged by such a declaration. Even Mr. Jefferson adopted for his motto, not " Resistance to kings," but " Resistance to tyrants, is obedience to God." The Congress, in setting forth to the world their reasons for dissolving the connection of the Colonies with the mother country, did not draw up a list of facts which go to prove that George the Third was a king, but a list of grievances which, in their judgment, proved him a tyrant; and it is not on the ground that he is a king, but that he is a tyrant, that they conclude the Colonies are absolved from their allegiance to him, and are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, on the principle, as they imply, but do not expressly state, that the tyranny of the prince absolves the subject from his allegiance.
Even on genuine American principles, the fact that the Magyars were rebels, or even rebels against monarchy in favor of democracy, was not enough to render them worthy of American sympathy. The defence of the American Revolution is not that it resisted the king, but that it resisted the tyrant; not that it was a struggle for republicanism, but a struggle for liberty. Its glory is not that it resisted authority, but that it resisted tyranny, or an authority which had by its own conduct forfeited its rights ; and that glory is neither enhanced nor diminished by the fact that it eventuated in the establishment of a republican form of government, The Magyars, therefore, whether they proposed to establish a popular form of government or not, before they could, on American principles, have any claim to the sympathy of Americans, or of any body except rebels, cutthroats, and assassins, must prove that they were not resisting legitimate authority, received as such by the laws and historical rights of the empire, but simply tyranny and oppression; that the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary had by his long-continued misrule forfeited the allegiance of his subjects, and that only by casting him oil", and taking up arms against him, could they shelter themselves from grievous oppression, and secure the enjoyment of the inalienable or natural rights of man. This they did not do, and this they, it is well known, could not do ; for they were themselves the aggressors, the party that oppressed, or sought to oppress, both their sovereign and their Sclavic dependents.
It is precisely in its overlooking the doctrine we have here asserted, and in assuming the lawfulness of any rebellion against monarchy in favor of popular government, that we are obliged to except to Mr. Secretary Webster's defence of the sympathy manifested by the American government and people, with the Magyar rebellion, in answer to Mr. Hulsemann's protest against it in the name of the Austrian government. We are not competent to enter into the intrinsic merits of the controversy between Austria and the United States. It may be that Austria had no just cause of complaint, but we may say, that Mr. Webster, in attempting to prove it, takes a stand which strikes us as extraordinary, indefensible, and extremely dangerous.
The facts in the case, as we understand them, are, that our government, sympathizing itself with the Magyar rebellion, and importuned by Magyar agents and a portion of our own people, pending the struggle of Austria to reduce the rebellious Magyars to their allegiance, sent a Mr. Dudley Mann as an agent, authorized, if after inquiry he judged it proper, to recognize the revolutionary government of Hungary, and to conclude a commercial treaty with it. Mr. Mann's instructions, drawn up in terms highly complimentary to the Magyar rebels, and any thing, to say the least, but respectful to Austria and her Russian ally, were subsequently communicated by the President to the Senate, printed by its order, and as a matter of course published to the world. On their being published, Austria complains that sending such an agent with such instructions, drawn up in terms offensive to the Imperial Cabinet, was a violation of the policy of non-intervention, which our government professed; that the explanation given by Mr. Clayton, Mr. Webster's predecessor, that the agent was sent merely for the purpose of making inquiries, did not accord with the fact, for he was sent, as appears from the instructions themselves, with authority to recognize, if he saw proper, the Hungarian republic, and conclude with it a commercial treaty; and that even if it were so, it does not sufficiently explain the cause of the anxiety that was felt to ascertain the chances of the revolutionists.
Mr. Webster replies, that, admitting the facts to be as alleged, they are no just ground of complaint, and says, that he " asserts to Mr. Hulsemann and the Imperial Cabinet, in presence of the world, that the steps taken by President Taylor, now protested against by the Austrian government, were warranted by the law of nations, and agreeable to the usages of civilized states." It must be so, we suppose, or Mr. Webster would not so solemnly assert it; but he must pardon us for telling him, that, if we take it to be so, it is on his authority, and not on his reasoning. We do not claim to be very familiar with the law of nations or the usages of civilized states ; but it strikes us that Mr. Webster argues, instead of the case before him, another somewhat analogous to it. He speaks of our neutral duties, and contends that we did nothing not permitted to neutral nations. This may be so, but he cannot be unaware, it is presumed, that the law of neutrals does not strictly apply to the case of a struggle on the part of a sovereign to put down a rebellion against his authority. A nation is regarded as neutral when it does not intervene in a war between two belligerents, each of whom has the right of war and peace. It is neutral, because it sides with neither party in the war; but though not free as a neutral nation to side with either party in the war, it is free to recognize both parties in all other respects, and to maintain amicable relations with both, without giving offence to either. But in the case of a sovereign engaged in putting down a rebellion, there is for the non-intervening nation only one party, and neutrality requires at least two parties besides the neutral party. Independent nations are known, and in fact exist to each other, only through their respective governments. The nation is only in its sovereign authority, and relation can be had with its provinces or departments only in and through that authority. The fact that these provinces or departments are in a state of rebellion does not at all relax this rule, but, so far as it affects it at all, renders it more stringent and violations of it less pardonable. The presumption in all cases is, that the authority is in the right, and its rights are as sacred and inviolable when engaged in putting down a rebellion as at any other time, and it is for us the entire nation then, as much as when all its subjects are faithful to their allegiance. The nation, in view of the non-intervening power, is still one nation, however rent by internal divisions, and is still in the sovereign authority. There is then no neutrality in the case, because the nation presents to the recognition of the non-intervening state only one party, and as long as this state chooses to abide by the policy of nonintervention, it most ignore the rebels, and maintain no sort of relations with them, because the recognition of them would be itself an act of intervention. There is, then, an obvious difference between the law of neutrals, and the law applicable to the conduct of non-intervening states towards a friendly power engaged in suppressing a rebellion among its subjects. Neutral nations may recognize and hold friendly intercourse with both belligerents, save in what directly relates to the war raging between them ; but non-intervening states in a civil war can know and hold intercourse only with one party, the authority engaged in suppressing the rebellion. Even if we did nothing in the late Hungarian rebellion not permitted to neutrals in a war between two independent sovereigns, it does not therefore necessarily follow that we did nothing not permitted to a non-intervening state in a war waged by a sovereign to suppress a rebellion, or reduce his subjects to their allegiance.
The fallacy in the reasoning of many on this subject arises from their allowing themselves to consider the war only from the point of view of the rebels, and to look upon it as a resistance to aggression, in defence of acknowledged rights. Even conceding that there may be cases where this is so, the presumption always is that it is not so; for the presumption is always in favor of authority. The non-intervening state must always look at the war as a war legitimately waged by the sovereign to suppress rebellion, to assert his rights, and maintain peace and good order in his dominions. ' To go beyond this, to judge the sovereign, and to decide against him, and in favor of his revolted subjects, is itself an act of intervention, of which he has the right to complain, even though it is followed by no other act of intervention. Doubtless one nation may form and express a judgment on the conduct of another nation, and may even go so far as to acknowledge the right and the independence of the rebel government, but not if it professes to remain on friendly terms with the authority rebelled against, and to take no part in its disputes with its subjects.
Mr. Webster says, " If the United States had gone so far as formally to acknowledge the independence of Hungary, although, as the event has proved, it would have been a precipitate step, and from which no good could have resulted to either party, it would not, nevertheless, have been an act against the law of nations, provided they took no part in her contest with Austria." But such recognition is itself a taking part in the contest, and a very grave part; for often the bare recognition by a powerful state of the independence of a revolutionary government may be decisive of the contest, the weight thrown into the revolutionary scale that causes it to preponderate, and without which it would not have preponderated. " It is not required of neutral powers," Mr. Webster adds, »that they await the recognition of the new government by the parent state. No principle of public law has been more frequently acted upon within the last thirty years by the great powers of the world than this. Within that period eight or ten new states have established independent governments within the limits of the colonial dominions of Spain, and in Europe the same thing has been done by Belgium and Greece. The existence of these states was recognized by some of the leading powers of Europe, as well as by the United States, before it was acknowledged by the states from which they had separated themselves." Conceding the facts here alleged, Mr. Webster's conclusion is not inevitable. The facts he cites hardly sustain him. What the United States may have done, as they are the party accused, must for the present be put out of the question, for no nation can say, when accused of violating the law of nations, I did formerly an act of the same nature as that of which I am now accused, therefore the act for which you arraign me is lawful. No one nation makes the law of nations, and the fact that one, two, or three nations, even though leading nations, have done this or that, is not sufficient to establish a precedent. No usage can be cited as a precedent, unless it has in its favor the general consent of Christian nations.
The instances Mr. Webster cites are either not in point, or at best doubtful as precedents. Belgium and Greece are not to his purpose. Belgium, for certain public considerations, was attached to the dominions of the king of the Netherlands by the allied sovereigns on the general pacification of Europe, after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, and her independence, after her revolution, excited by that of France, in 1830, was acknowledged by the joint action of these same allied sovereigns, who were as competent to separate her, when they judged proper, from the dominions of the king of the Netherlands, as they were to annex her to them. All the right the Dutch king ever had to Belgium was derived from them, and they of course were competent to unmake the right they had created, when the reasons which had led them to create it no longer existed, or paramount reasons required them to unmake it. Greece, sixain, is no case in point. She was a Christian nation, held in subjection by a Mahometan, that is, an infidel power, and the right of an infidel power to hold a Christian nation in subjection was never recognized by the public law of Christendom. The Turk never had any legitimate authority over Greece, and Christian nations were always free, if they chose, to intervene for her restoration to freedom and independence, and therefore, assuredly, to acknowledge and guaranty her independence when she herself asserted it. There has, in fact, never been peace between Christendom and the Mahometan world; there has hitherto been only an occasional truce, and il there are now some indications of peace, it is because Islamism has relaxed somewhat of its intolerance, or become too weak to be aggressive.
The case of the Spanish American states is doubttul as a precedent. Mr. Canning on the part of England, we grant, did acknowledge their independence before fepain had done so, and even before she had abandoned all efforts to reduce them to their allegiance; but this he did in iur-therance of a policy hostile to Spain, and avowedly to create an interest in the New World against her in the Old. We have never heard that Spain did not feel herself aggrieved by his act, and we have seen both its justice and wisdom denied by able and influential English writers. Instances in which powerful nations have taken advantage of the weakness or embarrassment of a power with whom they profess to be at peace, and acquiesced in by that power because she could not obtain redress by appeals to their sense of justice or honor, and was not in a condition to enforce it, are hardly to be cited as precedents, or regarded as warranted by the law of nations.
We, however, willingly concede that neutral powers are not obliged in all cases to wait till the new government is recognized by the parent state, because such state may be unreasonably obstinate in refusing to acknowledge it, may persist in her claims long after there ceases to be any moral possibility of her enforcing them, and the interests of the civilized world, as well as of the new states themselves, may imperatively demand that the new state be admitted into the family of independent states. But they are bound to wait till the revolutionary state is independent in fact, till the parent state has virtually abandoned the struggle, and there is no longer any probability ot her renewing it with an issue favorable to her sovereignty. This is all we ask, but thus much we do ask, and we had always understood that so much was conceded even by our own government to be necessary to authorize it formally to recognize a revolutionary state. That such was the case with the Spanish American revolutionary governments, when they were formally acknowledged by England and the United States, we do not pretend, and therefore we should cite the act of these powers as a precedent to be shunned, not followed. But whatever may have been the case with these, such certainly was not the case with the Magyars. The Magyar revolutionary government, as the government of Hungary, was not at any time independent, or a government in fact. It was acknowledged by only a minority of the Hungarian population, and did not combine in its support the whole even of the Magyar race. It was even as to Hungary only a faction. It was opposed or looked upon coldly by the majority of the magnates of the land, to whom the principal authority in the local government belonged, and was opposed by a majority ol the population of the territory over which it pretended to authority, and in arms against it, At the moment when Mr. Mann was accredited to it, it was attacked on the south and southeast by powerful armies of Hungarians, while Austria and Russia were entering it from the east, northeast, northwest, and west, with an overwhelming force. It was attacked on nine sides at once, and it is well known that the allied forces crushed it without a serious blow being struck. To say that Kossuth's government, supported only by a faction of the Hungarian people, always unable to make it assume a national character, and thus assailed on all quarters by powerful forces under brave and experienced officers, some of whom are unrivalled in modern times, save by Napoleon and Wellington, was independent in fact, is simply ridiculous ; and to pretend that Austria had virtually abandoned the contest, and had no reasonable prospect of renewing it with an issue favorable to her sovereignty, is still more ridiculous. To have formally recognized its independence would have been an act sustained by none of the instances Mr. Webster cites, even giving them an interpretation the most favorable to his position they can possibly bear, and, it strikes us, manifestly unwarranted by the law of nations or the usages of civilized states. With all deference, then, to Mr. Webster, we must think that he goes farther than he is warranted in saying that, if the United States had formally acknowledged the independence of Hungary, it would not have been an act against the law of nations.
The well-known fact is, that our government was importuned by the Magyar agents and sympathizers to acknowledge the independence of the Magyar revolutionary government, not because it was independent in fact, but because they hoped such acknowledgment would aid it in becoming so, not because Austria had abandoned the struggle, nor because her success was doubtful, but that it might become doubtful. They knew and felt that the Magyar cause, unless it could obtain direct or indirect foreign aid, was utterly hopeless. Direct aid, except from Red Republican volunteers, they could not at the moment expect; but they hoped that, if they could, through the prospect of commercial advantages, induce this country together with Great Britain to acknowledge Hungarian independence, and form commercial treaties with Kossuth's government, it would enable the rebels to make the contest a national one, and prolong it till they might have a chance to obtain direct foreign intervention, in the shape of diplomacy, if not of subsidies; and looking to the state of Europe at the time, we cannot doubt, if Kossuth could have contrived to continue the struggle some six or eight months longer, he would have had some chance of obtaining it. Through his Red Republican coadjutors in every country, he would not unlikely have succeeded in kindling a general war throughout Europe, and at its termination, she having been previously recognized by several of the belligerents, he might possibly have obtained the separation of Hungary from the empire, as one of the conditions of a general pacification. Such undoubtedly was the hope of Kossuth and his friends, and to such a result looked expressly their policy of getting this country and Great Britain to acknowledge Hungarian independence; and it is not unlikely that it was foreseeing the possibility of such a result, that induced Austria to call in the aid of Russia to suppress the rebellion before the rebels could consummate any portion of their diplomatic policy, instead of relying on her own resources alone, which were amply sufficient against the Magyars, so long as she had only them to contend with. For us under the circumstances to have acknowledged Hungarian independence would have been to second the policy of Kossuth, to contribute to his chances of prolonging the contest, of kindling a general war, and robbing the Austrian empire of one of her richest provinces. It would not, in the first instance, indeed, have been an armed intervention, but it would nevertheless have been an intervention, a comforting and consorting with rebels, which, it strikes us, the law of nations does not warrant, and which are by no means agreeable to the usages of civilized states.
It is very true, our agent did not formally recognize the independence of the revolutionary government, and that he never even entered Hungary. The contest was decided by the time he reached Vienna, in reality before he left home, and it was too late to aid the rebels, or to form any arrangements with them advantageous to ourselves. His mission had failed in its main purpose, and nothing would have come of it, if President Taylor's Cabinet could have kept their own secret. But we must dissent from Mr. Clayton and Mr. Webster in the assertion that the mission was only, or even principally, a mission of inquiry. It was no more a mission of inquiry than is that of any agent sent abroad to recognize a foreign power, and, if practicable and advantageous, to form with it a commercial treaty. This is evident from the very language of Mr. Mann's instructions, as cited by Mr. Webster to prove the contrary. " The principal object the President has in view," say the instructions, as cited by Mr. Webster, " is to obtain minute and reliable information in regard to Hungary in connection with the affairs of surrounding countries, the probable issue of the present revolutionary movements, and the chances we may have of forming commercial arrangements with that power favorable to the United States." And again, " The object of the President is to obtain information with regard to Hungary, and her resources and prospects, with a view to an early recognition of her independence and the formation of commercial relations with her" It is clear from this, that the object of the government was the early recognition of the independence of Hungary, and the formation of commercial relations with her favorable to the United States. The information sought was sought merely as subsidiary to this end. If to obtain this information was the only object, or the principal object, of sending the agent, why was he accredited to Kossuth's government, and authorized, if he saw proper, to recognize it and conclude a commercial treaty with it? Why were his instructions drawn up in terms highly complimentary to the rebels, and reproachful to the Imperial government, in terms which indicated a foregone conclusion ? Information was no doubt wanted, few cabinets have wanted information more than President Taylor's, but the particular information it wanted in this case was whether it was too late to serve the revolutionary government, in its contest with the Imperial authority, and whether commercial advantages could be secured to ourselves by formally recognizing it and concluding a commercial treaty with it.
Mr. Webster contends that President Taylor's Cabinet was justified in the steps it took, by an example which he cites of the Imperial court. In the early part of our Revolutionary struggle, and while England was putting forth all her power to subdue us, an agent of the American Congress, he says, " was not only received with great respect by the ambassador of the Empress Queen at Paris, and by the minister of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who afterwards mounted the Imperial throne, but resided in Vienna for a considerable time; not, indeed, officially acknowledged, but treated with courtesy and respect; and the Emperor suffered himself to be persuaded by that agent to exert himself to prevent the German powers from furnishing troops to England to enable her to suppress the rebellion in America. Neither Mr. Hulsemann nor the Cabinet of Vienna, it is presumed, will undertake to say that any thing said or done by this government, in regard to the recent war between Austria and Hungary, is not borne out, and more than borne out, by this example of the Imperial court." The example of Joseph the Second, the Emperor here referred to, has little weight with us, and can have little weight with an Austrian, for he is well known, through the greater part of his life, to have departed widely from the traditions of the house of Hapsburg. He was a half French philosopher, a bold innovator, a revolutionist on the throne, whose authority in founding precedents we hardly expected such a man as Mr. Webster to recognize. But there is, it strikes us, a wide difference between treating with courtesy and respect, as a private gentleman, a person who happens to be, but who is not officially recognized to be, an agent from a revolutionary government, and appointing and sending out an agent to such a government, with instructions drawn up in terms highly complimentary to it and reproachful to the government against which it is in arms, and authorized, in a certain contingency, to recognize its independence, and conclude a commercial treaty with it. The Emperor, moreover, at the instance of the' agent, performed no act that was not required by his position as a neutral power; for all he is said to have done was simply to exert himself to prevent the German princes, that is, the princes that acknowledged him as Emperor, from intervening in favor of England. He was not bound to intervene in the quarrel between England and her Colonies, and to advise, as Emperor, the princes of his empire not to intervene against us by furnishing troops to England to aid her in subduing us, was simply not intervening, and England had no more cause to complain than Austria would "have had to complain of the Federal government in case it had exerted itself, if they had been so disposed, and had had the power to do so, to prevent the several States of this Union from furnishing her troops to enable her to put down the rebellion in Hungary. The example of the Imperial court does not, therefore, appear to us to bear out, or indeed to have any bearing on, the conduct of President Taylor's Cabinet.
Mr. Webster expresses great indignation at Mr. Hulse-mann's suggestion, that they who took the responsibility of sending out Mr. Mann exposed him to be treated as a spy. He denies that Mr. Mann was a spy, and says, ,; To give this odious name and character to a confidential agent of a neutral power, bearing the commission of his country, and sent for a purpose fully warranted by the law of nations, is not only to abuse language, but also to confound all just ideas, and to announce the wildest and most extravagant notions." Certainly, if "sent for a purpose fully warranted by the law of nations," but not so certainly, if sent to tamper with rebels contrary to the law of nations. " Had the Imperial government of Austria subjected Mr. Mann to the treatment, of a spy," Mr. Webster adds, " it would have placed itself out of the pale of civilized nations ; and the Cabinet of Vienna may be assured, that if it had carried, or attempted to carry, any such lawless purpose into effect, in the case of an authorized agent of this government, the spirit of the people of this country would have demanded immediate hostilities to be waged bv the utmost exertion of the power of the republic, military and naval." Perhaps so. But if Mr. Mann at Vienna, with instructions hostile to Austria, and his credentials to her rebellious subjects in his pocket, and seeking information as to her policy and movements with a view of using it against her to the advantage of her rebellious subjects in anus against her, was not a spy, what was he ? We are far from certain that he was not a'spy in the full legal sense of the term, for a spy, we take it, is a secret emissary in the camp or dominions of one belligerent, communicating with traitors, or seeking information of its resources, intentions, plans, and operations, with a view to the interests of its enemies, or the other belligerent, all of which was true of Mr. Mann, as is evident from the very face of his instructions. He was sent especially to collect information in the dominions of Austria, with a view of using it against her and in favor of her rebellious subjects, as is undeniable? what was he. then, but a spy? The fact that he was a confidential agent of our government, acting under its authority, could not alter the nature of his errand, and onlv implicated our government itself in his unlawful doings/ But be this as it may, if, as Austria contends, and Mr. Webster, in our judgment, fails to disprove, the asjent or emissary despatched was despatched on an unlawful mission, that is, a mission not warranted by the law of nations, the commission of his government could not protect him. If, then, Austria had apprehended him within her jurisdiction, she could have punished him according to the nature of his offence, without his government having either the right to protect him or to complain; for it could claim no right in virtue of its own wrong. Mr. Webster^s indignation seems to us, therefore, unwarranted, and his threat, which would have been more dignified if the dominions of Austria were contiguous to our own, or she were more formidable as a naval power, wholly uncalled for.
Finally, Mr. Webster takes the ground that Austria has no right to complain of the instructions to Mr. Mann, however reproachful to her, because they were instructions of the government to its own agent. This is undoubtedly tenable ground, so long as they remained confined to the government and its agent, and were unknown beyond; but not at all since they are published to the world. Austria complains of the instructions only inasmuch as they have received publicity. They were communicated by the President to the Senate, and by the Senate printed and published. They are, when published, addressed to the world, and Austria has now a perfect right to question the government concerning them. Mr. Webster says, " With respect to the communication of Mr. Mann's instructions to the Senate, and the language in which they were couched, it has already been said, and Mr. Hulsemann must feel the justice of the remark, that there are domestic affairs in reference to which the government of the United States cannot admit the slightest responsibility to the government of his Imperial Majesty." Very true, so long as they remain purely domestic affairs; but Mr. Webster forgets that, when published to the world, they cease to be purely domestic affairs, and become public, and as public the government is of course responsible for them. This is only common sense and common justice, and Mr. Webster himself maintained the same, some years since, when the doctrine he now opposes to Mr. Hulsemann was put forth by General Jackson in one of his messages to Congress.
We are pleased to find Mr. Clay taking in the Senate the same ground that we do. " It is true," he says, on the motion for printing an extra number of copies of the correspondence, " it is true that in some sense a communication between the President of the United States and Congress, or either branch of it, is a domestic document, but the moment it is published it is transmitted to every quarter of the globe; and I think, if we look into the history of our diplomacy, we shall find unquestionable precedents where foreign governments have been called to an account for acts which
were somewhat, if not wholly, of a domestic character. Even occurrences of the day, as seen in the periodicals of the country, have been the subject of diplomatic action. Sir, does the fact that it is of a domestic character limit its publicity ? It is published throughout the world; if you say any thing in that document which another government must feel as a reproach, is it any consolation to reflect that,-while the whole world knows what you have said disparagingly of her, the whole world knows that it was a domestic matter?" The fact is, the moment the document is published, it ceases to be domestic, and becomes a public document, and is to be treated as such.
We do not, therefore, think Mr. Webster's reply proves that Austria had no cause of complaint, or that "the steps taken by President Taylor's Cabinet, which she now protests against, were warranted by the law of nations and agreeable to the usages of civilized states." Whether they did in fact violate the law of nations and lawful usages or not, it is not within our province to decide, but we may, we trust, without rashness or indecorum, be permitted to suggest, that, if those steps were not absolutely unlawful, or more than other powers have sometimes suffered themselves to take, they are such as no high-minded or honorable government would ever take against a power to whom it professed to be friendly, who had never given it the slightest cause of complaint, and whose friendship it wished to retain. They show that all the sympathies of the government were with the rebellious Magyars, and that it was willing to aid them all it could without an open rupture with their rightful sovereign. They show that the government had no sincere friendship for Austria, no esteem for her character, no respect for her rights, no sympathy with her noble efforts to maintain the cause of authority and law against rebellion and anarchy, in a word, they show that it cared nothing for her, the only party it had, as a non-intervening power, any right to know in the contest, and was solicitous only for the success of her rebellious subjects. An astute lawyer may, perhaps, show that we technically violated, in our ungenerous and dishonorable conduct, no law of nations ; but sure are we, that if the cases had been reversed, and we had been in the place of Austria and she in ours, Mr. Secretary Webster would have taken a different view of the question, and addressed a protest against her doings in terms not more courteous, and far more energetic, than Austria has seen proper to adopt. " Sir," said Mr. Clay, in his remarks in the Senate on Mr. Webster's answer, " any interference, no matter how cautious, how legitimate, it may be, in the affairs of a great government which is engaged in a contest with any of its departments, is one of great delicacy. We have only to reverse the positions in which we are relatively placed to appreciate it. Suppose any one of the States of this Union were in revolt against the general government, and any European power should send an agent here for the purpose of obtaining information, even such as that which our agent was sent to Hungary to procure, certainly it would create a great deal of feeling throughout the United States." Most assuredly it would, and if Austria had sent such an agent, accredited to the revolted State, with instructions, drawn up in a tone of decided hostility to the general government, to recognize, in a certain contingency, the independence of the rebels, and to form commercial arrangements with them, and had afterwards published the fact, together with these instructions, to the world, we cannot doubt that Mr. Webster would have found little difficulty in maintaining that her conduct was by no means "warranted by the law of nations," or "agreeable to the usages of civilized states" ; and if, during the struggle, we had found her emissary lurking about our court or camp, there is just as little doubt that we should have hung him, as General Jackson hung Arbuthnot and Ambrister.
But all this by the way. Our purpose was not to prove the insufficiency of Mr. Webster's reply to the Chevalier Hulsemann, to inculpate our own government, or to vindicate the justice of the Austrian protest. It was for a far different purpose that we introduced the correspondence between the two governments. It was to point out a far graver fault on the part of Mr. Webster than that of inconclusive reasoning, namely, that of attempting to defend the sympathy of the American government and people with European rebels in general, and the Magyar rebels in particular, on a ground fatal to all political right and social order. Mr. Webster, as representing the government, might feel himself called upon to make the best defence in his power of the steps taken by President Taylor's Cabinet, even if he did not personally approve them; but we cannot excuse him for attempting to do it on principles, which must not only be an aggravation of the offence complained of by Austria, but absolutely ruinous to his own government, and which it cannot accept without placing itself out of the pale of civilized nations.
The policy of our government under Washington, and which was commended to us by the father of his country in his " Farewell Address," was that of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other nations. In those purer days of the Republic, to which President Taylor proposed to restore the administration of the government, and the history of which it is rumored Mr. Webster is engaged in writing, we proceeded on the principle of adopting and maintaining for ourselves such political forms and institutions as we judged most appropriate to our peculiar position, and best adapted to our national character and interests, and of leaving to other nations to do the same for themselves, each in its own individual case. We were sturdy republicans for ourselves ; but we recognized, in themselves considered, the equal legitimacy of all forms of government, and claimed only that the republican was the legal and best form for us. We were republicans for ourselves, without proposing or claiming to be republicans for the whole world. We recognized in every independent people, what, indeed, is the essence of independence, the right of self-government, that is, the right of determining its own form of political constitution, undictated to by any other people ; and we also recognized the rights of authority, and the duty of the people to obey it in the legal discharge of its legal functions, that is, we recognized the allegiance of every people to the sovereign authority of the state, however constituted, or their strict obligation to obey the laws. We defended our own act of separation from the crown of Great Britain, not on modern revolutionary principles, but on legal principles, on the ground that George the Third had by his tyranny broken the compact between him and the Colonies; that is. had by his own act, against our repeated remonstrances and protests, himself absolved us from our allegiance. Whether our defence was successful or not is nothing to the present question ; certain it is, the principle we asserted is a sound one, and if we erred in its application to facts, whatever defect in our title that error occasioned was supplied the moment that the British crown acknowledged our independence. From that moment, at least, our government was legal, and we asserted it on legal principles, and no more asserted or conceded the misnamed right of insurrection or rebellion than do monarchical governments themselves. Like all governments, we asserted the principle of legitimacy, of authority, for ourselves, and recognized it in all independent governments. We thus placed ourselves in harmony with the civilized world, and could recognize and treat with governments, and be recognized and treated with by them, on terms of mutual esteem and respect, although their constitution of the sovereign power was different from our own.
Unhappily, of late years we have shown a disposition to depart from this sound principle and wholesome policy, and have come in some measure to regard ourselves as the representatives of a political system, and the political system we represent as the only system which, here or anywhere else, is or can be legitimate. Rebellion of the people against other systems in favor of ours, we assume to be everywhere lawful, and to be discountenanced, if discountenanced at all, only where it is imprudent, that is, where it has not a reasonable prospect of succeeding. On this principle we encouraged, indirectly, at least, the Spanish American colonies to revolt from the mother country, and prematurely acknowledged their independence ; wrested Texas from Mexico and annexed it to the Union; and have intrigued with the democrats of Cuba, and sought to do the same with the Queen of the Antilles. On this principle we invaded Mexico, for if there had been no movement in Mexico to reestablish monarchy, it cannot be doubted that we should have had no war with that republic ; and it is remarkable, that the first thing we did after crossing the Rio Grande was to displace the monarchical party, and restore the republican party to power. And on this same principle, also, we sympathize, both government and people, with the rebels of all countries, and rejoice at their victories over legitimate authority, historical rights, and the brave defenders of law, of order, of liberty, and of society.
Mr. Webster, considering his antecedents, is the last man in the country that we should have suspected of a disposition to indorse this most dangerous principle, so utterly repugnant to justice and civilization. Yet, unless we have wholly mistaken his answer to the protest of the Austrian government, he has fully indorsed it, and supported it in the clear and forcible language which belongs to his character. This is the principal fault we lay to his charge. Speaking of the deep interest taken by this country in the recent European revolutionary movements, he says," The undersigned goes farther, and freely admits, that in proportion as these extraordinary events appeared to have their origin in those great ideas of responsible and popular governments, on which the American constitutions themselves are wholly founded, they could not but command the warm sympathy of the people of this country. Well-known circumstances in their history, indeed their whole history, have made them the representatives of purely popular principles of government. In this light they stand before the world. They could not, if they would, conceal their character, their condition, or their destiny." This will bear but one interpretation, for Mr. Webster is not merely stating a fact; .he is assuming a postulate, from which he infers the justice of that sympathy of our government and people, as \ve have said, with European rebels in general, and Magyar rebels in particular, which had induced the steps against which Mr. Hulsemann, in the name of Austria, had protested. It could be no justification of that sympathy, except on the principle of the exclusive legality everywhere of purely popular principles of government. Not otherwise could sympathy with rebellious movements be defensible on the'ground of their appearing to originate " in those great ideas of responsible and popular governments, on which the American constitutions themselves are wholly founded." Moreover, on no other principle could it be maintained that such sympathy is justifiable, because the American people are " the representatives of purely popular principles of government." If they are representatives of such principles only for their own country, without questioning the legality of other forms of government for other countries, this would be no reason why they should sympathize with rebellions in other countries in favor of popular principles of government, or why they should not hold the overthrow of monarchy in France, Italy, Germany, and Austria to be as great a crime, and as great a calamity, as would be the overthrow of democracy or republicanism in the United States. If they must sympathize with rebellions against monarchy in favor of democracy, because they are representatives of purely popular principles of government, it can be so only because they represent such principles not for themselves only, but for the world, that is, assert the exclusive legality of such principles, and deny the legality of all others, or, in plain words, maintain that every government except the democratic is per se a tyranny, and may lawfully be subverted by its subjects, wherever they are able to do so.
That this is no forced interpretation of Mr. Webster's language would seem to be evinced by his contrasting the position of the United States, as the representative of one system, with that of the European sovereigns supposed to represent another, and by his concluding from the fact that, as he alleges, they have denounced the popular principles on which the rights of our government are founded without remonstrance from us or disturbing our equanimity, so they should not remonstrate, or suffer their equanimity to be disturbed, when we denounce the principles on which they rest their rights. Thus he says:
"The position thus belonging to the United States is a fact as inseparable from their history, their constitutional organization, and their character, as the opposite position of the powers composing the European Alliance is from the history and constitutional organization of the governments of those powers. The sovereigns who form that alliance have not unfrequently felt it their right to interfere with the political movements of foreign states; and have in their manifestoes and declarations denounced the popular ideas of the age, in terms so comprehensive as of necessity to include the United States and their forms of government. It is well known that one of the leading principles announced by the allied sovereigns after the restoration of the Bourbons is, that all popular or constitutional rights are holden no otherwise than as grants and indulgences from crowned heads. ' Useful and necessary changes in legislation and administration,' says the Laybach Circular of May, 1841, " ought only to emanate from the free will and intelligent conviction of those whom God has rendered responsible for power; all that deviates from this line necessarily leads to disorder, commotions, and evils far more insufferable than those which they pretend to remedy.' And his late Austrian Majesty, Francis the First, is reported to have declared in an address to the Hungarian Diet, in 1826, that' the whole world had become foolish, and, leaving their ancient laws, was in search of imaginary constitutions.' These declarations amount to nothing less than a denial of the lawfulness of the origin of the American government, since it is certain that the government was established in consequence of a change which did not proceed from thrones, or the permission of crowned heads. But the government heard these denunciations of its fundamental principles without remonstrance, or disturbance of its equanimity."
This fully confirms all that we have said, and proves that Mr. Webster regards the two systems of government as fundamentally antagonistic, so that the legitimacy of the one cannot be proclaimed anywhere without denying the legitimacy of the other. But this cannot be the case, unless each' is exclusive, and asserts itself as the only legitimate form of government throughout the world, not only where it has the historical right, but equally where it has not, and its opponent has. Consequently he must hold, that, according to the principles of our government, all political systems but our own have no rights, are unlawful, and may be lawfully subverted by rebellion. This must be his doctrine, for he defends sympathy with rebellion against monarchy in behalf of popular government without any limitation, and solely on the ground that it is in behalf of popular government, and he is too good a moralist to hold that sympathy with wrong is ever defensible, and too distinguished a lawyer and a statesman to maintain that a rebellion against legitimate authority, that is, rightful authority, is ever right.
It is only on the ground that our government is founded, not merely on the right of a popular form of government here where there was no historical right against it, but on its right to found itself everywhere in opposition to the existing government differently constituted, that Mr. Webster can establish any fundamental antagonism between the principles of our government and the declarations of the allied sovereigns of Europe. He says it is certain that our government "was established in consequence of a change which did not proceed from thrones, or the permission of crowned heads." This is not precisely true, if we believe the Revolutionary Congress of 1776; for that declares the Colonies were absolved from their allegiance to the crown of Great Britain by the act or acts of George the Third, who was a crowned head, and he would be a bold man who, on any recognized principles of public or constitutional law, would undertake to maintain the strict legality of the American government prior to the acknowledgment of its independence by the king of Great Britain. But waiving this, conceding all that Mr. Webster asserts as to the origin of our own government, his conclusion does not follow; for the allied sovereigns do not say, and never have said, that none but monarchical forms of government can be legal, and that no legislative or administrative changes are lawful unless they " proceed from thrones, or the permission of crowned heads." Even as Mr. Webster himself cites them, they only say that such changes " ought only to emanate from the free will and intelligent conviction of those whom God has rendered responsible for power? that is, from the sovereign or the supreme authority of the state. Does Mr. Webster himself deny this? Did he, when formerly Secretary of State, deny it, and recognize the legitimacy of Mr. Dorr's rebellion in Rhode Island ? Did he deny it before the Supreme Court of the United States, when employed as counsel in a case which turned on this very principle ? Was it not, and did not he, with ourselves and all other friends of law and order in the country who expressed their views on that rebellion, maintain that it was, precisely the vice of Mr. Dorr's constitution, that it did not emanate from the free will and intelligent conviction of the sovereign authority of Rhode Island, but from a band of real, though not very sanguinary, rebels, who formed it without historical right, and undertook to enforce it against the will of the government already existing? Is it necessary for us at this day, even after the decision of the highest tribunals known to our laws, to defend Rhode Island, and to prove that, in suppressing the Dorr rebellion, she did not violate the fundamental principles of the American state, and that too against such a lawyer and statesman as Mr. Secretary Webster?
Mr. Webster cannot be ignorant that the leading principle which he says was announced by the allied sovereigns after the restoration of the Bourbons, that " popular or constitutional rights are holden no otherwise than as grants and indulgences from crowned heads," was not announced as a universal principle, but as a special principle applicable only to the monarchical states of Europe, and was the simple statement of an historical fact, known to every decently-read man on the subject to be an historical fact, rather than the announcement of a principle at all. If we recollect aright, it was not even then stated as a reason against such rights, but as a reason for granting or confirming them. At least such is the fact with regard to the charter granted by Louis the Eighteenth of France, one of those sovereigns, to his subjects, after his restoration to the throne of his ancestors, in the preamble to which it is set forth. At any rate, it had, it could have, and was intended to have, no application to this country, where monarchy had no historical rights. Mr. Webster should not have confounded the statement of a fact with the announcement of a principle, nor the announcement of a special with the announcement of a universal principle. The allied sovereigns have on no occasion announced any principle that denies the lawfulness of our government, unless we so assert our government as to deny the lawfulness of every other not constituted like it. They have denounced the popular ideas of the age, we grant, but not "in terms so comprehensive as of necessity to include the United States, and their forms of government," for they have never denied the legality of popular government as such. They have denied its legality only when it attempts to assert itself in opposition to established law and historical right, and we, who yield to no man in our republicanism, or in our loyalty to our government, have done and still do as much, and so must every American citizen who knows the distinction between a sovereign state and a mob, or a legal convention and an electioneering caucus. That they have denounced, in denouncing the popular ideas of the age, doctrines which many of our people have imbibed, and in accordance with which there is a strong tendency among us at present to interpret our constitutions, is no doubt true, but those doctrines are not the foundation of our forms of government; they are irreconcilably hostile to them, as no man knows better, or on occasions feels more deeply, than Mr. Webster himself, as it would be easy to collect from his support of the Fugitive Slave Law, and his denunciations of resistance to it.
Mr. Webster says that the allied sovereigns " have not unfrequently felt it their right to interfere with the political movements of foreign states," and he appears to wish to leave the impression, that they have interfered to put down popular government, and that, as they have done this, they ought not to complain when we only express our sympathy with the various movements to establish such governments. We are not the apologists of the sovereigns of Europe, but we have no right to misrepresent them, and we must say that this statement, in the sense it appears to be made, is far from being correct. The allied sovereigns have, undoubtedly, interfered occasionally in the political movements of foreign states, but rarely, if ever, in the political movements of any foreign state without the invitation or consent of its sovereign, and never to put down popular government as such, nor at all where it could pretend even to a shadow of political or historical right. They have interfered against usurpers and rebels in defence of legal constitutions and historical rights, but never to put down a government merely because it was founded on popular principles. It is against illegality, against revolutionism, against the disrespect for undeniable historical and political rights, against disorder and anarchy, that they have interfered. If they have interfered with republicanism as such, why have they not interfered to suppress republicanism in Switzerland, in San Marino, and the Free Towns oi' Germany ? No, the principle of intervention asserted by the allied sovereigns has been misunderstood, and often maliciously misrepresented. We in this country, instead of looking at the facts, and ascertaining the principle on which the sovereigns profess to act, have generally relied, without any critical examination, on the statements of European liberals, a class of men to whom truth is for the most part a stranger, and whose passions, prejudices, and purposes very naturally lead them to calumniate their sovereigns, against whom they are everywhere and continually conspiring, and who have so often thwarted their criminal attempts. The principle on which the sovereigns have interfered is respect for historical rights, and the preservation of liberty and social order in Europe. Where republicanism existed, and had an historical right to exist, they have respected republicanism; where monarchy survived, and had an historical right to reign, they have respected monarchy, and exerted themselves to put down its enemies. It does not therefore follow, because in defence of national constitutions and historical rights the allied sovereigns have frequently claimed the right to interfere to suppress usurpers and rebels, that they have no right to complain of us for everywhere sympathizing with usurpers and rebels, with the party in arms against national constitutions and the historical rights of sovereignties, which we, as a government, are as much interested in maintaining as are the allied sovereigns themselves.
It may be asked, why these sovereigns have not left to each state the settlement of its own domestic affairs. It might as well be asked, why our government interfered to prevent the reestablishment of monarchy in Mexico, and why the press has called upon it to interfere and put down monarchy in Cuba and in Hayti. The answer to the question is, that the intervention was necessary for the common good of all the states, and the preservation of social order in Europe. The several states were so connected one with another, that a convulsion could not occur in one without shaking another, and often the individual sovereign was too weak to suppress the revolutionists in his own dominions, aided as they were by their sympathizers in other states. If youv children fire your house, and you will not or cannot extinguish its flames, I am not obliged to stand quiet and see it burn down, when it is so situated that it cannot burn down without burning down mine with it. I. have the right to interfere and extinguish the ilames, and if not able to do it alone, I have a right to call in my neighbors to help me. The principles and proceedings of the popular party in Europe were incompatible with civilization, inasmuch as they respected no public law, and attacked all political rights, and even social order itself. The European sovereigns entered into an alliance and intervened against them, because they asserted democracy as the only form of government that is or can anywhere be lawful; because they denied the lawfulness of kingly governments as such, and asserted the right of the people, and exerted themselves to induce the people to exercise the right, everywhere to rebel against monarchical governments, and overthrow them simply because monarchical ; because they assumed the position and character of armed propagandists, and formed among themselves, as they do at this moment, a league or confederation in every country for the express purpose of revolutionizing all monarchical states. The sovereigns of Europe were bound, as the heirs of the historical rights of the European nations, and by their position and coronation oaths, to interfere, and, if possible, save the civilized world from its most deadly enemies; and if they had not interfered, they would have been false to God and to society, and would have deserved the utter reprobation of every friend of civilization.
Now it is precisely sympathy with these banded European conspirators, these Jacobins, Red Republicans, Socialists, Carbonari, Freemasons, Illuminati, Friends of Light, or by whatever other name they may call themselves or be called by their opponents, and with their detestable principles and criminal movements, that Mr. Webster defends, and undeniably defends, on the ground that their principles are ours, and cannot be denounced without of necessity including the United States and their forms of government. That is, our institutions are founded on the denial of the lawfulness of all forms of government but the democratic, the assertion of the legality of the popular form of government universally, and the indefeasible right of the people everywhere to conspire, to rebel, against monarchy, in utter disregard of public law, or of historical rights, for the sake of establishing it! And this pernicious doctrine is put forth, not by some foreign refugee from the dungeon or the halter, not by some obscure radical desirous of attracting notoriety by the extravagancy of his paradoxes, but by the distinguished lawyer and statesman, Daniel Webster, and by him not as a private citizen, but as Secretary of State, by authority of the President of the United States, in a grave official document addressed to a foreign court in defence of the American government and people!
" Non tali auxilio, nee defensoribus istis Tempus eget."
Here is our well-founded objection to Mr. Webster's reply to the Chevalier Hulsemann, a reply which, though not so intended, really calumniates this country, and insults every loyal American citizen. It is in striking contrast with the principles and policy of Washington, the father of his country; and it adopts principles, and paves the way for a policy, to which we have been accustomed to regard Mr. Webster as the most strenuous and distinguished opponent among American statesmen. His intended defence, but real charge, we need not say, is unfounded, and we evidently cannot identify the principles of the American constitution and government with the principles of the European rebels and revolutionists, without placing ourselves as a people out of the pale of civilized nations. We are, no doubt, a great people, in our way, but it behooves us to remember that we do not give law to the civilized world. The civilized world existed, civilized nations were constituted, public law was settled, and the principles and usages of civilization were determined, some centuries before we as an independent government were born. The fact of our existence has made no alteration in public law, or in the principles and usages of the civilized world; and we, in order to be a member of the civilized family, must not undertake to create anew public law and civilized usages, but conform to them as they existed before us. If we choose to arraign them, or to place ourselves in opposition to them, it is not other nations we nncivilize, but ourselves. The principles and movements of the European liberalists, or revolutionists, are, undeniably, in direct and systematic opposition to all law, to the principles and usages of the whole civilized world, and we cannot indorse them, and maintain that our government cannot be defended without defending them, and not maintain that our government stands opposed to the whole civilized world, and therefore is not itself a civilized government.
As an American citizen we protest against this foul dishonor to our government and principles. There is no occasion to appeal to those popular ideas of the age, denounced by the allied sovereigns of Europe, in order to vindicate the lawfulness of our government, and here no more than in Austria or Russia are the sacredness and inviolability of national constitutions or historical rights of authority denied. If, as a fact, the people intervened in forming our constitution, it was because there was here, after the acknowledgment of our independence, no other power that had a right to do it, and they violatpd no historical or already existing rights in doing it. As a matter of fact, however, their actual intervention was in accordance with, if not indeed in virtue of, all the historical rights subsisting in the nation at the time, and was less to found or institute government, than to supply the defects in the already existing government occasioned by the lapse of the crown of Great Britain. But be this as it may, nobody questions, not even the allied sovereigns of Europe themselves question, the natural right of a people who find themselves without government, since government is a prime necessity of society, as society is of man, to assemble in convention and institute a government. This right is universally conceded. But the moment the government is instituted, the moment it can be said to exist, its historical right commences, and the right of the people to found or institute government ceases. This, whatever may be the theory of our unfledged politicians, is the principle of our institutions, sustained by all our laws, as no man knows better than the eminent lawyer now Secretary of State. The people here have not one particle of power, except by virtue of historical right. The law admits them to a large share in the administration through the elective franchise, it is true, but that franchise is a trust, not a natural right, and is possessed only by those to whom the law grants it, and can be exercised only in the form and manner the law prescribes. The people may be legally assembled in convention, to amend the constitution, but they can assemble only by virtue of the law, and when so assembled are as much a legal assembly holding under law as any one of our ordinary legislatures. Is it not so ? Try the experiment ; let the people assemble without being legally convened, let them, on the simple ground of popular sovereignty, form a new constitution, and institute a new government, as they did in Rhode Island, and will it be held to have the right to govern ? Not at all, and any act of it to supplant forcibly historical right, or to compel itself to be obeyed as the government, will be by the laws of every State in the Union an act of treason, and punishable as such. The case is not an imaginary one ; it has already occurred in our brief history, has been fully argued on both sides, and finally settled by the highest tribunals known to our laws, and settled in favor of the old government, on the ground that it has the historical right, and is the only government historically known. The fact, then, of the intervention of the people here in the formation of the government, of their large share through the elective franchise in its administration, and of their right, when legally convened, to amend the constitution or the fundamental law, makes no difference, in so far as government, between our governments and the governments of Europe. It has the same rights and duties that they have, and holds its powers under the same Divine law under which they hold theirs. It has the same historical rights that they have, the same right that they have, and no other than they have, to protect itself, and to suppress all rebellions against it. Without asserting the sacredness and inviolability ol historical rights, of its right to be and to govern because it has been and is the government, and no other has been or is the government, it could not sustain itself a single moment, for it could not rightfully put down a single rebellion against it, or attempt to enforce a single one ol its laws. If we must assume historical rights to be sacred and inviolable, as the only condition of sustaining our government, what is more absurd than to maintain, that to assert these rights against the rebels in arms, madmen conspiring everywhere against them, is to deny the lawfulness of our own constitution and forms of government ? No government is more interested in sustaining those rights than our own, and it is with no little regret we hear the government itself renouncing its own legality, and every principle on which its lawfulness can be defended, telling us that our sympathy is due, not to those who labor to protect those rights, but to those who scorn them, trample them under their feet, and are everywhere confederated, and about again to take up arms, to render them of no avail.
It is true, Mr. Webster tells us that the American people, though they everywhere sympathize with rebels and the sworn enemies of all historical rights, do not propose to take up arms to assist them. « The United States have abstained at all times from acts of interference with the political changes of Europe. They cannot, however, tail to cherish always a lively interest in the fortunes of nations struggling for institutions like our own. But this sympathy, so far from being necessarily a hostile feeling towards any of these parties, is quite consistent with amicable relations with both." Will Mr. Webster explain how we can maintain amicable relations with the sovereign, while we have amicable relations with his rebellious subjects .' But this is not the point now under consideration. We do not believe that as long as Mr. Webster is in the Cabinet our government will take any very active measures ol interference in behalf of rebels in Europe or elsewhere, but he defends principles which permit such interference whenever we choose. In assuming that our government by its origin and principles denies, with the European rebels, all historical rights, and authorizes and sympathizes with their movements, he denies that so to interfere would be any violation of public right. The rights of nations are all historical, and if we deny them, there is nothing to hinder us from accepting the doctrine of Fraternity preached by Mr. Webster's European friends, and then we should have the same right to engage in a struggle for democracy anywhere that the revolutionists themselves have. Nay, Mr. Webster's own assertion, by authority of the President of the United States, of our sympathy with these revolutionists, and his identification of their principles and cause with our own, can be vindicated only on a principle that would allow interference in their behalf to any extent we chose, or thought it prudent for our own sake, to carry it.
Mr. Webster asserts the prosperity of his own country as superinduced by her peculiar institutions, in the true spirit of a propagandist. " The power of this republic is at the present moment spread over a region, one of the richest and most fertile on the globe, and of an extent in comparison with which the possessions of the house of Hapsburg are but as a patch on the earth's surface." This probably was written with a view to the pit. Suppose this to be a fact, what relevancy has it to the matter in controversy ? Does it prove us in the right by proving our dominions are larger than those of Austria, or her in the wrong, because her farm is less than ours? Even supposing it proved the superiority of republican institutions over monarchical, what has that to do with the question ? Austria has not protested against our republicanism, or asserted the superiority of monarchy, and what right has Mr. Webster, if he recognizes the independence of Austria, and proposes to treat with her as a sovereign state, to bring in question the relative superiority or inferiority of the respective forms of the two governments? Why does he travel out of the record, and give vent to a very silly boast ? Do his best, he cannot claim for his country any superiority over Austria, except in vain and undignified boasting. But how, in fact, stands the question with regard to this vast extent of territory of the Union. Of the territory of the old thirteen States, we say nothing; but of the rest, which far exceeds it, will Mr. Webster seriously set its acquisition down to the credit of our political principles and institutions? The Louisiana purchase he cannot, for Mr. Jefferson, who purchased the territory from France, confessed that he did it in violation of the Constitution he had sworn to observe and defend. The acquisition of Texas he cannot ; for he maintained in the Senate that it could not be constitutionally annexed to the Union, and he opposed its annexation with all his energy, ability, and eloquence. The acquisition of New Mexico and California he cannot; for he opposed as unjust the war which led to their conquest, and also opposed to the last moment the treaty by which they were acquired, and even voted against its ratification. As to Oregon, we know not under what title we hold it, unless it be that one Captain Gray happened to approach very near to, perhaps entered, the mouth of the Columbia River, before any one else was known to have done so. Now, we submit to Mr. Webster himself, if he has any right to consider this vast acquisition of territory, effected for the most part by open violation of the Constitution, or by a war which he held at the time to be aggressive and uncalled for, a war, as he pronounced it, " of pretexts," as any thing honorable to the republic or republican institutions in general.
But we have extended our remarks much farther than we intended, and we hasten to dismiss this painful subject, although we leave several points of some importance untouched. We need not add, that for Mr. Webster, both in consideration of his public services and of what we have seen of him in social intercourse, we have entertained a very great, indeed, a very profound respect; and we have looked to him as the leader of that true American party which, we trusted, would be formed out of the conservative elements of the two great parties which have hitherto divided the country. We have particularly approved his course in regard to the so-called " Compromise measures," and we were exceedingly gratified when we heard that he had consented to accept the Department of Stafe in Mr. Fillmore's Cabinet, It has therefore been with great disappointment, as well as unfeigned sorrow, that we have read the document on which we have commented. As a diplomatic document we shall not trust ourselves to characterize it, any farther than to say that it is singularly irrelevant in several of its topics, inconclusive in its reasonings, and undignified in its tone. As a political document embodying the views of the government and announcing American principles, it is in a high degree objectionable. In it Mr. Webster leaves the statesman for the demagogue, the conservative for the radical, and instead of availing himself of his position and the occasion to announce sound and salutary principles, he has assumed the bonnet rouge of the Jacobin, and descended to pander to the worst principles, the basest passions, and the most dangerous tendencies of his countrymen. Little did we think that he who some years since applauded, and induced not a few others to applaud, our own indignant denunciation of these principles, passions, and tendencies, would himself one day need to be remonstrated with for proclaiming them, and proclaiming them as American, and inseparable from the American character, condition, and destiny. We hope his lapse will prove but momentary, that he will hasten to take back his defence of rebels everywhere, and assume his rightful and natural position once more on the side of authority, in defence of historical rights, and of liberty through law. This, with disunion preached throughout the land, and the laws openly resisted in our cities, is no time to proclaim sympathy with rebels and rebellion.