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II - Daniel Webster, Daniel Webster on the Draft: Text of a Speech delivered in Congress, December 9, 1814 
Daniel Webster on the Draft: Text of a Speech delivered in Congress, December 9, 1814 (Washington, D.C.: American Union Against Militarism, 1917).
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I have risen, on this occasion, with anxious and painful emotions, to add my admonitions to what has been said by others. Admonition and remonstrance, I am aware, are not acceptable strains. They are duties of unpleasant performance. But they are, in my judgment, the duties which the condition of a falling state imposes. They are duties which sink deep in his conscience, who believes it probable that they may be the last services which he may be able to render to the government of his country. On the issue of this discussion, I believe the fate of this government may rest. Its duration is incompatible, in my opinion, with the existence of the measures in contemplation. A crisis has at last arrived, to which the course of things has long tended, and which may be decisive upon the happiness of present and future generations. If there be anything important in the concerns of men, the considerations which fill the present hour are important. I am anxious above all things, to stand acquitted before God, and my conscience, and in the public judgments, of all participation in the Counsels, which have brought us to our present condition and which now threaten the dissolution of the government. When the present generation of men shall be swept away and that this government ever existed shall be a matter of history only, I desire that it may then be known that you have not proceeded in your course unadmonished and unforewarned. Let it then be known that there were those, who would have stopped you, in the career of your measures, and held you back, as by the skirts of your garments, from the precipice, over which you are plunging, and drawing after the government of your Country… .
It is time for Congress to examine and decide for itself. It has taken things on trust long enough. It has followed executive recommendation till there remains no hope of finding safety in that path. What is there, Sir, that makes it the duty of this people now to grant new confidence to the administration, and to surrender their most important rights to its discretion? On what merits of its own does it rest this extraordinary claim? …
Let us examine the nature and extent of the power which is assumed by the various military measures before us. In the present want of men and money, the Secretary of War has proposed to Congress a Military Conscription. For the conquest of Canada the people will not enlist, and if they would the treasury is exhausted and they could not be paid. Conscription is chosen as the most promising instrument, both of overcoming the reluctance to the Service, and of subduing the difficulties which arise from the deficiencies of the exchequer. The administration asserts the right to fill the ranks of the Regular Army by compulsion. It contends that it may now take one out of every twenty-five men, and any part or whole of the rest, whenever its occasions require. Persons thus taken by force and put into an army may be compelled to serve there, during the war, or for life. They may be put on any service, at home or abroad, for defense or for invasion, according to the will and pleasure of the government. This power does not grow out of any invasion of the country, or even out of a state of war. It belongs to government at all times, in peace as well as war, and is to be exercised under all circumstances according to its mere discretion. This, Sir, is the amount of principle contended for by the Secretary of War.
Is this, Sir, consistent with the character of a free government? Is this civil liberty? Is this the real character of our constitution? No, Sir, indeed it is not. The Constitution is libelled, foully libelled. The people of this country have not established for themselves such a fabric of despotism. They have not purchased at a vast expense of their own treasures and their own blood a Magna Charta to be slaves. Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained that you may take children from their parents and parents from their children and compel them to fight the battles of any war which the folly or the wickedness of government may engage in? Under what concealment has this power lain hidden which now for the first time comes forth, with a tremendous and baleful aspect, to trample down and destroy the dearest rights of personal liberty? Who will show me any constitutional injunction which makes it the duty of the American people to surrender everything valuable in life, and even life itself, not when the safety of their country and its liberties may demand the sacrifice, but whenever the purposes of an ambitious and mischievous government may require it? Sir, I almost disdain to go to quotations and references to prove that such an adominable doctrine has no foundation in the Constitution of the country. It is enough to know that that instrument was intended as the basis of a free government and that the power contended for is incompatible with any notion of personal liberty. An attempt to maintain this doctrine upon the provisions of the Constitution is an exercise of perverse ingenuity to extract slavery from the substance of a free government. It is an attempt to show, by proof and argument, that we ourselves are subjects of despotism and that we have a right to chains and bondage, firmly secured to us and our children by the provisions of our government. It has been the labor of other men at other times, to mitigate and reform the powers of government by construction; to support the rights of personal security by every species of favorable and benign interpretation, and thus to infuse a free spirit into governments not friendly in their general structure and formation to public liberty.
The supporters of the measures before us act on the opposite principle. It is their task to raise arbitrary powers, by construction, out of a plain written charter of National Liberty. It is their pleasing duty to free us of the delusion, which we have fondly cherished, that we are the subjects of a mild, free, and limited government, and to demonstrate by a regular chain of premises and conclusions, that government possesses over us a power more tyrannical, more arbitrary, more dangerous, more allied to blood and murder, more full of every form of mischief, more productive of every sort of misery, than has been exercised by any civilized government, with one exception, in modern times.