Page:The American Review Volume 02.djvu/578

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560
[Dec.,
The Whig Party:its Position and Duties.

systems, with which Europe might not interfere.

The Whigs, in every event, and by all their antecedents, are bound to these doctrines; and we hope to see during this session some formal and authentic declaration proposed from the Whig side, to the effect that no European interference in the international concerns of this American continent will be looked upon with indifference by the United States.

Their power, as has been said before, at present is solely a moral power. They must take heed that it be not in any wise impaired in their hands, either by omission or commission. They must neither do nor advocate what is questionable in good faith and in sound morality, nor abstain from earnest opposition thereto, if proposed by others. In the lust of territorial aggrandizement, which, revived in our day and among our people, from their Norman-Saxon ancestry, seems neither less audacious nor less rapacious —audax et rapax—than when described of old by the Romans—and in the lawlessness of reasoning by which this lust is to be justified—the Whigs must hold the high ground of moral arbiters. Not indifferent certainly, on the one hand, to the just claims of their country—but not lesss averse to assert the robber plea, that we want, and have the power to take—they will be looked to by the good and the wise to promote moderation and justice, and especially to maintain peace and uphold the right, at whatever hazard of transient popularity. There is, we fear, what must be termed a degree of pusillanimity among public men and the public press, about seeming to be found, on any great topic of foreign controversy, in opposition to their own country, if they should frankly and honestly follow out the principles they nevertheless deem right. The discredit attached, even yet, to those who opposed the war of 1812, acts in terrorem upon the public sentiment of this day, and operates most mischievously upon the sound judgment and moral feelings of the country. It is an old artifice of executive usurpation, to foment such exasperation, and to insist that when foreign danger menaces, all domestic dissension should cease.

The Address to the people of Virginia, accompanying the resolution of '98—drawn up by Mr. Madison—thus refers to the claim of those in power that, in n the face of foreign danger, we are not to scan too nicely domestic usurpation.

"It would be perfidious not to warn you of encroachments which, though clothed with the pretext of necessity, or disguised by arguments of expedier.cy, may yet establish precedents, which may ultimately devote a generous and confiding people to all the consequences of usurped power. Exhortations to disregard domestic usurpation until foreign danger shall have passed, is an artifice which may be forever used, because the possessors of power, who are the advocates of its extension, can ever create national embarrassments, to be successively employed to soothe the people into sleep, while that power is swelling silently, secretly, fatally."

These warnings, from one of the Fathers of the Republic, find a ready application to the course of the Executive, in seizing, under the plea of "expediency," upon the Rio del Norte as the western boundary of Texas, to the language of the last message and that anticipated in the forthcoming message respecting Oregon, combined with the denunciation by the official paper at Washington, and its echoes—as enemies to their country, and advocates of the foreign cause against that of their own land—of all who insist that the President should not, and constitutionally cannot, assume thus to forestall the action of Congress, and commit both it and the nation, in the face of the world, to acts and opinions which their deliberate judgment might dissent from and disapprove.

On the Whigs it will devolve to uphold the Constitution in this regard, as in so many others; and they must not flinch from any part of this great duty, even though called upon by what may seem public opinion to acquiesce. An honest party cannot, any more than an honest man, bend its conscience to the clamor of others, however numerous; nor in the great account which each, both here and hereafter, must give for himself of his acts, will the

be admitted as any justification for him or them who knowingly do wrong.

Popularity is not to be contemned—party success is surely desirable; but far beyond success, and far above popularity, are to be ranked consistency, honor and justice. These are the professed aims of the Whig party—let them be inflexibly its guides—and leaving the event where those thus influenced, thus

"To fine issues finely touched,"

should without distrust be content to leave it, let the Whigs abide their time.