Front Page Titles (by Subject) VI - Daniel Webster on the Draft: Text of a Speech delivered in Congress, December 9, 1814
Return to Title Page for Daniel Webster on the Draft: Text of a Speech delivered in Congress, December 9, 1814
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
VI - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
I would ask, Sir, whether the supporters of these measures have well weighed the difficulties of their undertaking. Have they considered whether it will be found easy to execute laws which bear such marks of despotism on their front, and which will be so productive of every sort and degree of misery in their execution. For one, Sir, I hesitate not to say that they cannot be executed. No law professedly passed for the purpose of compelling a service in the Regular Army, not any law, which under color of military draft shall compel men to serve in the Army, not for the emergencies mentioned in the constitution, but for long periods and for the general objects of war, can be carried into effect. The operation of measures thus unconstitutional and illegal ought to be prevented by a resort to other measures which are both constitutional and legal. It will be the solemn duty of the State Governments to protect their own authority over their own Militia, and to interpose between their citizens and arbitrary power. These are among the objects for which the State Governments exist, and their highest obligations bind them to the preservation of their own rights and the liberties of their people. I express the sentiments here, Sir, because I shall express them to my constituent. Both they and myself live under a constitution which teaches us that “the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.”2 With the same earnestness with which I now exhort you to forbear from these measures, I shall exhort them to exercise their unquestionable right of providing for the security of their liberties.
In my opinion, Sir, the sentiments of the free population of this country are greatly mistaken here. The nation is not yet in a temper to submit to conscription. The people have too fresh and strong a feeling of the blessings of civil liberty to be willing thus to surrender it. You may talk to them as much as you please of the victory and glory to be obtained in the enemy's provinces, they will hold those objects in light estimation, if the means be a forced military service. You may sing to them the song of Canada conquests in all its variety, but they will not be charmed out of the remembrance of their substantial interests and true happiness. Similar pretenses, they know, are the graves in which the liberties of other nations have been buried and they will take warning.
Laws, Sir, of this nature can create nothing but opposition. If you scatter them abroad like the fabled serpents teeth, they will spring up into armed men. A military force cannot be raised, in this manner, but by the means of a military force. If the administration has found that it cannot form an army without conscription, it will find, if it venture on these experiments, that it cannot enforce conscription without an army. The Government was not constituted for such purposes. Framed in the spirit of liberty and in the love of peace, it has no powers which render it able to enforce such laws. The attempt, if we rashly make it, will fail and having already thrown away our peace, we may thereby throw away our government.
New Hampshire Bill of Rights.