whether past or present—every thing, general or local, whether belonging to national politics, or party politics, seems to have attracted more or less of the honorable member’s attention, save only the resolution before us. He has spoken of every thing but the public lands. They, have escaped his notice. To that subject, in all his excursions, he has not paid even the cold respect of a passing glance.
When this debate, sir, was to be resumed, on Thursday morning, it so happened that it would have been convenient for me to be elsewhere. The honorable member, however, did not incline to put off the discussion to another day. He had a shot, he said, to return, and he wished to discharge it. That shot, sir, which it was kind thus to inform us was coming, that we might stand out of the way, or prepare ourselves to fall before it, and die with decency, has now been received. Under all advantages, and with expectation awakened by the tone which preceded it, it has been discharged, and has spent its force. It may become me to say no more of its effect, than that, if nobody is found, after all, either killed or wounded by it, it is not the first time, in the history of human affairs, that the vigor and success of the war have not quite come up to the lofty and sounding phrase of the manifesto.
The gentleman, sir, in declining to postpone the debate, told the Senate, with the emphasis of his hand upon his heart, that there was something rankling here, which he wished to relieve. [Mr. Hayne rose, and disclaimed having used the word rankling.] It would not, Mr. President, be safe for the honorable member to appeal to those around him, upon the question, whether he did, in fact, make use of that word. But he may have been unconscious of it. At any rate, it is enough that he disclaims it. But still, with or without the use of that particular word, he had yet something here, he said, of which he wished to rid himself by an immediate reply. In this respect, sir, I have a great advantage over the honorable gentleman. There is nothing here, sir, which gives me the slightest uneasiness; neither fear, nor anger, nor that, which is sometimes more troublesome than either—the consciousness of having been in the wrong. There is nothing, either originating here, or now received here, by the gentleman’s shot. Nothing original, for I had not the slightest feeling of disrespect or unkindness towards the honorable member. Some passages, it is true, had occurred since our acquaintance in this body, which I could have wished might have been otherwise; but I had used philosophy and forgotten them. When the honorable member rose, in his first speech, I paid him the respect of attentive listening; and when he sat down, though surprised, and I must say even astonished, at some of his opinions, nothing was farther from my intention than to commence any personal warfare: and through the whole of the few remarks I made in answer, I avoided, studiously and carefully, every thing which I thought possible to be construed into disrespect. And, sir, while there is thus, nothing originating here, which I wished, at any time, or now wish to discharge, I must repeat, also, that nothing has been received here, which rankles, or in any way gives me annoyance. I will not accuse the honorable member of violating the rules of civilized war,—I will not say, that he poisoned his arrows. But whether his shafts were, or were not, dipped in that, which would have caused rankling, if they had reached, there was not, as it happened, quite strength enough in the bow to bring them to their mark. If he wishes now to gather up those shafts, he must look for them elsewhere; they will not be found fixed and quivering in the object, at which they were aimed.
The honorable member complained that I had slept on his speech. I must have slept on it, or not slept at all. The moment the honorable member sat down, his friend from Missouri rose, and with much honeyed commendation of the speech, suggested that the impressions which it had produced, were too charming and delightful to be disturbed by other sentiments or other sounds, and proposed that the Senate should adjourn. Would it have been quite amiable, in me, sir, to interrupt this excellent good feeling? Must I not have been absolutely malicious, if I could have thrust myself forward, to destroy sensations, thus pleasing? Was it not much better and kinder, both to sleep upon them myself, and to allow others, also, the pleasure of sleeping upon them? But if it be meant, by sleeping upon his speech, that I took time to prepare a reply to it, it is quite a mistake; owing to other engagements, I could not employ even the interval, between the adjournment of the Senate, and its meeting the next morning, in attention to the subject of this debate. Nevertheless, sir, the mere matter of fact is undoubtedly true—I did sleep on the gentleman’s speech; and slept soundly. And I slept equally well on his speech of yesterday, to which I am now replying. It is quite possible that in this respect, also, I possess some advantage over the honorable member, attributable, doubtless, to a cooler temperament on my part: for, in truth, I slept upon his speeches remarkably well. But the gentleman inquires, why he was made the object of such a reply? Why was he singled out? If an attack had been made on the East, he, he assures us, did not begin it—it was the gentleman from Missouri. Sir, I answered the gentleman’s speech, because I happened to hear it: and because, also, I chose to give an answer to that speech, which, if unanswered, I thought most likely to produce injurious impressions. I did not stop to inquire who was the original drawer of the bill. I found a responsible endorser before me, and it was my purpose to hold him liable, and to bring him to his just responsibility, without delay. But, sir, this interrogatory of the honorable member was only introductory to another. He proceeded to ask me, whether I had turned upon him, in this debate, from the consciousness that I should find an over-match, if I ventured on a contest with his friend from Missouri. If, sir, the honorable member, ex gratia modestiae, had chosen thus to defer to his friend, and to pay him a compliment, without intentional disparagement to others, it would have been quite according to the friendly courtesies of debate, and not at all ungrateful to my own feelings. I am not one of those, sir, who esteem any tribute of regard, whether light and occasional, or more serious and deliberate, which may be bestowed on others, as so much unjustly withholden from themselves. But the tone and manner of the gentleman’s question, forbid me that I thus interpret it. I am not at liberty to consider it as nothing more than a civility to his friend. It had an air of taunt and disparagement, a little of the loftiness of asserted superiority, which does not allow me to pass it over without notice. It was put as a question for me to answer, and so put, as if it were difficult for me to answer, whether I deemed the member from Missouri an over-match for myself, in debate here. It seems, to me, sir, that this is extraordinary language, and an extraordinary tone, for the discussions of this body.
Matches and over-matches! Those terms are more applicable elsewhere than here, and fitter for other assemblies than this. Sir, the gentleman seems to forget where, and what, we are. This is a Senate: a Senate of equals: of men of individual honor and personal character, and of absolute independence. We know no masters; we acknowledge no dictators. This is a Hall for mutual consultation and discussion; not an arena for the exhibition of champions. I offer myself, sir, as a match for no man; I throw the challenge of debate at no man’s feet. But, then, sir, since the honorable member has put the question, in a manner that calls for an answer, I will give him an answer; and I tell him, that, holding myself to be the humblest of the members here, I yet know nothing in the arm of his friend from Missouri, either alone, or when aided by the arm of his friend from South Carolina, that need deter, even me, from espousing whatever opinions I may choose to espouse, from debating whenever I may choose