The National Era
Unsigned Article
Washington, D.C.: 31 March 1853


  The almost dead calm of the extra session in the Senate was enlivened by a little passage at arms between Senators Douglas and Butler, on the 16th instant. The resolution submitted by Mr. Clayton, calling upon the President for certain papers connected with the Clayton and Bulwer treaty, were under consideration. Mr. Douglas made a speech in reply to that of Mr. Clayton, in the course of which he remarked:

  "He [Mr. Clayton] had arraigned him for having attempted to arouse unkind feelings between the United States and England. He denied that this was just. He had never attempted to foster jealousies and unkindness between the two counties. He had only attempted to plant our relations on friendly terms by speaking the truth, as we and they understand and know it to exist. The remark he made about friendly relations was drawn out by the sentiment that England is known to be friendly to us. He, in reply, said that he did not believe her friendly relations constituted a claim to our gratitude. He had said, frankly, he did not think England loves us, and that it was useless to pretend that we love her. The history and the daily actions of the two countries prove this. England is spending her millions to maintain her fortifications all along our coasts, including barren rocks and waste places. Why keep them there? Does she make money out of them? It is known that they are sources of unbounded expenditure. Do they extend commerce? Not at all. She keeps her guns to point at America. If she is so friendly to us, and thus exhibits her love, we should reciprocate, and point our guns at her. We feel that these attempts to fetter and surround us are evidences of hostility, which it is our duty to see, and our ability to which it is our duty to see, and our ability to resist. The way that friendly relations are to be maintained, is to let her understand our policy, and not be so pusillanimous as to submit to her aggressions. Let her understand what we say, and that we will carry out what we profess, and she will be careful not to aggress. It is a want of candor and frankness that creates unfriendly relations. Ours is an honorable course; hers is illiberal, unkind, and unjust, and we ought to tell her so. He did not desire to annex any more territory, but he frankly avowed we will see the day when we will be compelled to do so. We cannot help, nor can treaties prevent it."

  Mr. Butler dissented from the opinion of Mr. Douglas, that it was the duty of the President to have sent down to the Senate the "Hise treaty."

  "The President, in his judgment, dared not send that treaty to the Senate, because there were in it provisions repugnant to the Constitution. The President ought to perfect the treaty before he sends it here. It should be communicated as an entirety, and to ask the Senate to mould it would change the whole policy of this Government. When he was told that the United States, a civilized confederacy of republics, is not to conduct its intercourse with the world by treaties, and is not to be restrained by them, and is to know no law but that of self-interest, he had to say we may grow fast, but not live long. Nations must meet with penalties for transgressions, as individuals; and if the principle shall be established that might makes right, and that treaties can be violated with impunity, then the historian will write one of the elements of our decay. Are we to fulfil our destiny without constitutions, and laws, restrain us from running with an acceleration which must result in ruin? He wanted the bridle of restraint to control, and not the spurs to drive us on. We must rely on treaties. When the time arrives for a modification of them, it must be by mutual consent, or annulled by war, the justifiable cause for which it is for every nation to judge. But there is a higher tribunal than ours.

  "He heard, with surprise, the Senator speak of England as a mere nation which existed in the past. When we despise England, we must despise the soil of the tree from the fruits of which we have been fed. We must despise Hampden, Sidney, Chatham, Shakespeare, and Burke. He did not say that he had special love for any nation than his own. There is none on God Almighty's earth that he loved as much. But he loved England, because she was his mother, and had poured her tributary and refreshing streams out upon America. The very common law itself made us. We have English law and literature, and tell me that I must despise her! This debate was calculated to sow the seeds of bitterness and delicacy in our relations.

  "Mr. Douglas wished to state that President Polk sent a treaty to the Senate—the Mexican treaty—which he said contained obnoxious provisions. The Senator and they who acted with him modified it, and ratified it, and it became a law.

  "Mr. Butler thought the treaty was sent down as an entirety, the President saying that Trist had no authority for making it.

  "Mr. Douglas. The President said that certain provisions must be stricken out before it could be sanctioned by him. He wished to state what his position was: we should never make a treaty which we cannot faithfully execute. Good faith requires this. His argument was in favor of the sanctity of treaties, and not in favor of violating them. The Senator referred to remarks of his, and said that we ought to love England with respect, because she is our mother. It would be hard to tell who our mother was. (Laughter.) We have a great many mothers. We have English, Irish, Scotch, French, Norman, Spanish, and every kind of descent. You cannot tell exactly who our mother was, if we go back to nations to find our mother. All we have found valuable in England we have adopted, and rejected what was injurious, so of the rest of the world. A wise people will avail themselves of wise principles, not regarding their origin. He did not speak in terms of unkindness of England, but spoke of her monuments. The point he made was, that we should not shut our eyes to the fact that England is pursuing a policy which has its origin in hostility to us, and to enhance her own interests. And he had to remark to the Senator, that when he heard him speaking of England pouring in her streams of refreshing intelligence, he thought the broad streams of abolition, treason, and insurrections, had been poured plentifully enough into South Carolina and other slaveholding States of this Union, at least to excuse him from endorsing the streams of literature under the name of Uncle Tom's Cabin and other such works. (Applause in the galleries, and cries of "Good!" "good!")

  "The Chair called to order.

  "Mr. Douglas. They are constantly sending works and addresses here, libeling our institutions, and holding us up to the hate and prejudice of the world. While they are thus engaged, he was the last to compliment England for her refreshing streams of literature. (Laughter and renewed applause.)

  "The Chair said that unless order should be preserved, the galleries would be cleared.

  "Mr. Adams hoped the galleries would be cleared.

  "Mr. Douglas. I hope they will.

  "Mr. Butler said, when he spoke of gratitude, he spoke of things in which we all have a common interest. He did not thank the Senator for going out of his way to indicate the impure streams. He spoke in laudation of the authors and orators who have poured out their streams upon us, which he trusted were as refreshing to the Senator as they were to the intelligence of the age. Would he dissent from the eloquence and literature of Burke, Chatham, Shakespeare, Hampden, and Sidney? When he spoke of the literature of England, he did not expect a miserable allusion to Uncle Tom's Cabin. It was ad captandum, but not manly made.

  "Mr. Douglas said he spoke in terms of reverence and respect of the monuments and tombstones of England, erected to patriotism, legal learning, science, and literature—all great, noble, and admirable—and did not expect Senators to go back two or three centuries past, to justify the aggressions of the present; there-


fore he thought he had a right to show the Senate the present enormities of England.

  "Mr. Butler should like to know how Europe is responsible for Uncle Tom's Cabin. If we take the spurious, sickly sentimentality of the day as an exponent of the English heart, we will find such literature everywhere. With regard to England, in all our commercial relations, would the Senator postpone her?

  "Mr. Douglas. I would not postpone her, or give her a preference over other nations, but treat her as our duty requires.

  "Mr. Butler repeated that we could find this sickly sentimentality everywhere, the Maine Liquor Law, and all that. (Laughter.)"

  Mr. Clayton defended his course in reference to the Hise treaty. He had already proved that treaty to be in contravention of the Constitution of the United States. It proposed gross political and entangling alliances. In conclusion, he caused to be read an extract from the Farewell Address of Washington, with a view of refreshing the Senate, namely:

  "The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection—either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental on trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculating policy. The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts, through passion, what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility, instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty of nations, has been the victim."

  The sneer of Mr. Douglas at Uncle Tom's Cabin was probably to have been expected from him, considering his relations to the "peculiar institution;" but, as Mr. Butler remarked, it was "not manly made."