The three exemplary oratorical stances delivered by the three outstanding American legislators during the middle part of the nineteenth century, namely William Seward, John Calhoun, and Daniel Webster, put into words the intense magnitude of the social dilemma that the American society had faced during the said era. These became such a debacle to the American public, especially to the powerful politicians and the senators that represented their respective communities that most of them were ready, and were in fact preparing for the eventual consequences of the introduction of free slave States.
Based on these readings, it is clear that they were correct in taking a position that assures the liberty and equality of all the citizens living under the security of America’s constitution, as this tenet on the equality of men truly falls under the jurisdiction of the said constitution and complemented further by our theological understandings that promote a humanity that is absent of any forms of societal disparity, especially that of slavery. Daniel Webster’s Speech
First of the three speeches under discussion is that of Daniel Webster’s Seventh of March Speech, where he had strongly expressed his disapproval for a secession of the United States of America. Here, what is most distinct was his plea for the American public, as well as his esteemed colleagues, to observe tranquility and not to be swayed by the prevailing wave of dissent, as evidenced by several of the States expressing the desire to form their own independent nation outside of the republic.
Likewise, he warns of an impending violence as a prerequisite for secession, and his comparison of the planetary laws furthered his argument: “…without causing the crush of the universe. There can be no such thing as a peaceful secession. Peaceful secession is an utter impossibility” (Webster, 1850, p. 3).
The said speech was also exhibiting of his personal inclination to preserve what the founders of this nation fought for, which are separate states that are unified to form a single, dynamic, and progressive nation, as evidenced in his exclamation, “I would rather hear of natural blasts…war, pestilence, famine…To break up this great government! To dismember this great country! ” (Webster, 1850, p. 4).
Perhaps what was most significant in his speech is the fact that after the prevailing social chaos had subsided a few years after his death, the American people reflected and saw the sagacity in Webster’s words that made them grateful for his contributions in preserving the nation. John Calhoun’s Speech On the other hand, Calhoun’s The Clay Compromise Measures, which was delivered on March 4, 1850, explored on the reasons behind the South’s attitude of discontent, and the prevalence of a feeling of being defrauded, in relation to its importance in the entirety of the nation.
He attempted to abridge this into three main factors, being, the South’s exclusion from the common territory belonging to all the States; the adoption of an inappropriate system of revenue in the South, compared with that of the North; and the introduction of political measures by which the original character of the government has been radically changed (Calhoun, 1850, p. 4).
John Calhoun’s call for an equal delegation of importance between the North and the South are the basis of his belief that this will prevent the impending dissolution of the government. He had been clear in detailing his suggestion towards this aim, and it is to “cease the agitation of the slave question, and to provide for the insertion of a provision in the Constitution…which will restore the South…the power she possessed of protecting herself…between the sections was destroyed by the action of this government” (Calhoun, 1850, p.
7). Notably, compared with the other two speeches that are in discussion, Calhoun’s was concerned with the causes of the South’s disenchantment and eventual discontent that led to the prevalence of inequalities in the government’s treatment of the two geographical spheres that are demarcated by strife. He questions the motives of the majority of the North’s legislators, and whether they are truly avowed in finding solutions for the grater good of the majority, or only of their own personal gains. William Seward’s Speech
William Seward’s Higher Law, in presenting his arguments, believed the Constitution to be prohibiting the practice of slavery, as opposed to the general perception that it actually promotes this precept. He utilizes the natural law, specifically the law of God, in emphasizing the follies of those who believe slavery to be a natural and common order of things. First and perhaps the strongest among these arguments is the logic that if God gave man dominion over all his creations on earth, this “would have been incomplete, if the lord of all terrestrial things could himself have been the property of his fellow-man” (Seward, 1853, p.
2). Indeed, those who believe the Constitution as providing the legal and moral bases for slavery should question the validity of the Biblical claims presented by Seward, since everybody will attest to his own belief in the Scriptures. Admittedly, then, we must concede to the reality that there exists a “higher law than the Constitution, which regulates our authority over the domain, and devotes it to the same noble purposes” (Seward, 1853, p. 4), and this greater power, which is God, upholds a tenet of equality in all of humanity, regardless of his social stature.
Conclusion The three speeches that were discussed all delved on the social dilemma that had beset the American society in the nineteenth century, particularly on issues surrounding secession and slavery. While those legislators who proposed for the promotion of these ideas had their own reasons in their beliefs, it is clear that these three legislators were correct in fighting for an America that is truthful to her Constitution, as proven by succeeding generations.
References Calhoun, J. (1850). The Clay Compromise Measures. Nationalcenter. org. Retrieved May 6, 2010, from <http://www. nationalcenter. org/CalhounClayCompromise. html> Seward, W. H. (1853). Higher Law Speech. History. furman. edu. Retrieved May 6, 2010, from <http://history. furman. edu/~benson/docs/seward. htm> Webster, D. (1850). On the Clay Compromise. Bartleby. com. Retrieved May 6, 2010, from <http://www. bartleby. com/268/9/4. html>