Mr. Speaker, what is this liberty of which so much is said? Is it to walk about this earth, to breathe this air, to partake the common blessings of God’s providence? The beasts of the field and the birds of the air unite with us in such privileges as these. But man boasts a purer and more ethereal temperature. His mind grasps in its view the past and future, as well as the present. We live not for ourselves alone. That which we call liberty is that principle on which the essential security of our political condition depends. It results from the limitations of our political system, prescribed in the Constitution. These limitations, so long as they are faithfully observed, maintain order, peace, and safety. When they are violated, in essential particulars, all the concurrent spheres of authority rush against each other; and disorder, derangement, and convulsion are, sooner or later, the necessary consequences.
With respect to this love of our Union, concerning which so much sensibility is expressed, I have no fears about analyzing its nature. There is in it nothing of mystery. It depends upon the qualities of that Union, and it results from its effects upon our and our country’s happiness. It is valued for “that sober certainty of waking bliss” which it enables us to realize. It grows out of the affections, and has not, and cannot be made to have, any thing universal in its nature. Sir, I confess it: the first public love of my heart is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There is my fireside; there are the tombs of my ancestors.
“Low lies that land, yet blest with
Strong are her sons, though rocky are her shores;
And none, ah! none, so lovely to my sight,
Of all the lands which heaven o’erspreads with light.”
The love of this Union grows out of this attachment to my native soil, and is rooted in it. I cherish it, because it affords the best external hope of her peace, her prosperity, her independence. I oppose this bill from no animosity to the people of New Orleans; but from the deep conviction that it contains a principle incompatible with the liberties and safety of my country. I have no concealment of my opinion. The bill, if it passes, is a death-blow to the Constitution. It may, afterward, linger; but, lingering, its fate will, at no very distant period, be consummated.
—OF KENTUCKY. (BORN 1777, DIED 1852.)