Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/202

This page needs to be proofread.


198 Southern Historical Society Papers.

slavery agitators to apply the Wilmot proviso interdicting the carry- ing of slaves to any country which might be acquired from Mexico as the result of a successful war. Mr. Hunter cherished the Union of the States, and he loved peace always; but, pacific as he was by nature and principle, he would not consent to any measure that destroyed the equality of the Southern States in the Federal Union. At that very hour two-thirds of the soldiers imperilling their lives for the country in the Mexican war were from the South, and more than half the others were Democrats who disapproved of the abolition crusade. Perhaps, however, I ought to bear in mind that ingrati- tude is the cardinal principle of modern politics.

In 1846 Mr. Hunter was elected by the General Assembly, to the United States Senate. He took his seat in December, 1847. As a result of the reputation he had already achieved in the other branch of Congress, he was placed on the Finance Committee by far the most important committee of the Senate, and the one having charge then, not only of all revenue measures, but also of all the appropria- tions of the National Government. At the session of 1850-51, Mr. Hunter became the chairman of the Finance Committee. "The revenue is the State," said a great statesman of the Old World

Mr. Hunter's tastes and studies fitted him especially for all this class of questions, To recount his work upon them would be im- possible. He filled this position up to the spring of 1861, when he left the Senate. On all the questions and topics belonging to this committee he had the unbounded confidence of his brother Senators of every party and section. His integrity, purity, and knowledge of affairs, gave him an almost absolute veto on everything corrupt, base or dangerous in fiscal legislation. He was deemed a safe, con- servative man; a watch-dog of the Treasury not a mere barking dog, but a faithful and incorruptible sentinel. He shaped and car- ried through the compromise tariff bill of 1857 a measure supported not only by the Democrats, but by many prominent northern Re- publicans, by William H. Seward, Henry Wilson, N. P. Banks, Salmon P. Chase, and others. They were content to follow a Vir- ginian of the Virginians. His statement of what any provision in a bill he had in charge, meant or effected was enough. His candor and truth were a power and a pillar of fire. You have to-day at Washington, a great court to examine and consider claims against the United States Government. The government creditor, instead of vainly hanging around Congress and growing gray-haired in a hopeless quest for justice, has his "day in court." Search the his-