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Lord Nelson was a man of sterling English sense; and knowing himself to mean rightly, and being rather a plain man, much annoyed by the pedantic rules of the service, he went back to the first pinciples, and once for all made up his mind to obey orders he thought to be all perfection, “but the great order of all is to serve your country, and down with the French.” And whenever any statute militates against that, I go back to the great order of all, out of which the little order springs; and he explained to his officers that in case of no signals, or not understanding any signals, no captain could go wrong who brought his ship close alongside an enemy's ship. So every wise American will say, in the construction of statutes, or their doubtful interpretation.
Liberty is the great order, which all lesser orders are to promote. That is the right meaning of the 'statute which extirpates crime, and obtains for every man the largest liberty compatible with liberty for every man. No citizen will go wrong who upon any question leans to the side of general liberty. And whilst thus society is no fiction, but has real rank from its king or political head to its lowest member; and whilst it has a real function, that of this race being to eliminate liberty — so it has public actions which it is to perform with electric energy.
Men inspire each other. The affections are nurses. Hope is. Love is. Despair is none. Selfishness drives away the angels. It is delicious to act with great masses to great aims, – for instance, the summary or gradual abolition of slavery. Why, in the very name of reason and the peace of mankind is this not made the subject of instant negotiation and settlement?
Is it possible to speak of it with reason and good nature, because it is property? Why, then, it has a
price. Because it is political? Well, it intimately concerns us, threatens us, and there will never be a better time than the present time. That is really a great task fit for this country to accomplish - to buy this property of the plunderers, as the British nation bought the West India slaves. I say Buy, never conceding the right of the plunderer to own, but acknowledging the calamity of his position, and willing to bear a countryman's share in relieving him; and because it is the only practicable course, and is innocent.
Wealth here is a right social or public function. If one man cannot do, why all men must do. We shall one day bring the States shoulder to shoulder; and citizens, man to man, to exterminate slavery. It used to be said it will cost a thousand, and twelve hundred, and it is now said that it will cost two thousand millions of dollars.
Well, was there ever any contribution so enthusiastically paid as this will be? We will have a chimney tax. We will give up our coaches, and wine and watches. The churches will melt their plate. The Father of his Country shall wait well pleased a little longer for his moment. Franklin shall wait for his. The Pilgrim Fathers for theirs; and the patient Columbus, who waited all his life for justice, shall spend a larger share of his immortality still, waiting for his. We will call on those rich benefactors who found asylums, athenæums, lyceums, city libraries -- we shall call on wealthy bachelors and maidens to make the State their heirs, as they were wont in Rome. The mechanics will give; the children will have cent societies. If really the thing could come to a negotiation, and a price were named in good faith, I don't think that any price, founded on a sum that figures could tell, would be quite unmanageable.
Gentlemen and Ladies: -I think in bad times we must rely on these simple truths. Men are beginning to suspect that in spite of all chance and change a Divine Providence does rule in the world, and brings victory to the right at the last. And thus by ever new creation, to those statutes which blacken the code of the country, the opposition will never end, never relax, whilst the statutes exist. As long as the grass grows, as long as there is Summer or Winteras long as there are men, so long will the sentiments condemn them. We cannot educate men, or raise them to any mental power, without their discovering the wrong. We do not suffer by defeat. It can well afford to wait, if God pleases, for ages. It is the order that chemistry, nature, the stars of Heaven, the thoughts of the mind, all are to be the Emancipator of the slave!
LETTER TO MARTIN VAN BUREN
CONCORD, Mass., 23 April, 1838. Sir:— The seat you fill, places you in a relation of credit and dearness to every citizen. By right, and natural position, every citizen is your friend. Before any acts contrary to his own judgment or interest have repelled the affections of any man, each may look with trust and loving anticipations to call your attention to such subjects as are of a public nature and properly belong to the chief magistrate; and the good magistrate will feel a joy in meeting such confidence. In this belief, and at the instance of a few of my friends and neighbors, I crave of your patience a short hearing for their sentiments and my own; and the circumstances that my name will be utterly unknown to you, will only give the fairer chance to your equitable constructions of what I have to say. Sir, my communication respects the sinister rumors that fill this part of the country concerning the Cherokee people. The interests always felt in the Aboriginal Population-an interest naturally growing as that decays — has been heightened in regard to this tribe. Even in our distant state, some good rumor of their worth and civility has arrived. We have learned with joy their improvement in social arts. We have read their newspapers. We have seen some of them in our schools and colleges. In common with the great body of the American people we have witnessed with sympathy the painful labors of these red men to redeem their own race from the doom of eternal inferiority, and to borrow and domesticate in the tribe, the
arts and customs of the Caucasian race. And notwithstanding the unaccountable apathy with which of late years the Indians have been sometimes abandoned to their enemies, it is not to be doubted that it is the good pleasure and the understanding of all humane persons in the republic of the men and the matrons sitting in the thriving independent families all over the land, that they shall be duly cared for, that they shall taste justice and love from all to whom we have delegated the office of dealing with them.
The newspapers now inform us, that, in December, 1835, a treaty contracting for the exchange of all the Cherokee territory, was pretended to be made by an agent on the part of the United States, with some persons appearing on the part of the Cherokees; that the fact afterwards transpired that these deputies did by no means represent the will of the nation, and that out of eighteen thousand souls composing the nation, fifteen thousand six hundred and sixty-eight have protested against the so called Treaty. It now appears that the Government of the United States choose to hold the Cherokees to this sham treaty, and are proceeding to execute the same. Almost the entire Cherokee nation stand up and say, “ This is not our act. Behold us there are we. Do not mistake that handful of deserters for us; ” and the American President and his Cabinet, the Senate and the House of Representatives neither hear these men nor see them, and are contracting to put this nation into carts and boats and to drag them over mountains and rivers to a wilderness at a vast distance beyond the Mississippi. And a paper purporting to be an army order, fixes a month from this day, as the hour for this doleful removal.
In the name of God, Sir, we ask you if this is so? Do the newspapers rightly inform us? Men and