Friday, November 27, 2009

"Repress the ardor of these passions"

In his speech of February 5, 1850, after identifying “passion, passion – party, party – and intemperance” as the source “of the great questions which unhappily divide our distracted country,” Henry Clay begged his fellow Senators to step back from the abyss and listen to reason:
All is now uproar, confusion, menace to the existence of the Union and to the happiness and safety of the people. I implore Senators – I entreat them, by all that they expect hereafter, and by all that is dear to them here below, to repress the ardor of these passions, to look at their country at this crisis – to listen to the voice of reason, not as it shall be attempted to be uttered by me, for I am not so presumptuous as to indulge the hope that anything I can say shall deserve the attention I have desired, but to listen to their own reason, their own judgment, their own good sense, in determining what is best to be done for our country in the actual posture in which we find it.

Clay then moved toward consideration of his own “scheme” while at the same time disavowing any attempt to impose a particular plan by fiat. Clay's resolutions were the result of his attempt to come up with “some mode of accommodation, which should once more restore the blessings of concord, harmony, and peace to this great country.” If his colleagues could improve on them, Clay urged them to do so:
[A]llow me to say to honorable Senators, that if they find in it [Clay's plan] anything which is worthy of acceptance, but is susceptible of improvement by amendment, it seems to me that the true and patriotic course for them to pursue is, not to denounce it, but to improve it; not to reject, without examination, any project of accommodation, having for its object the restoration of harmony in this country, but to look at it, and see if it be susceptible of alteration or improvement, so as to accomplish the object which I indulge the hope is common to all and every one of us, to restore peace, and quiet, and harmony, and happiness to this country.

About the illustration, published in New York in 1851:
A patriotic allegory illustrating the cover of sheet music for a song composed by William Vincent Wallace with words by George P. Morris. The theme of the indissoluble union of North and South is evoked here, no doubt in the context of debate over the Compromise of 1850. The artist expresses the concept by two female figures, crowned with diadems, standing together on a globe and holding the staff of a large American flag. The arm of the North (left) encircles the neck of the maiden representing the South. Before them is a large eagle, his talons gripping thunderbolts and his breast emblazoned with the word "Union." The eagle's wings spread to enframe the lower half of the oval picture. The upper half is ringed with stars. Into the distance stretch two great rivers, past large cities, toward rising mountains.

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