IV. The “Greek Question” As An Issue of U.S. Foreign Policy

B3. John Randolph's Opposition to Daniel Webster's Resolution

(Robinson, pp. 93-94)

Mr. Randolph said, that this was perhaps one of the finest and the prettiest themes for declamation ever presented to a deliberative assembly. but it appeared to him in a light very different from any that had as yet been thrown upon it. He looked at the measure as one fraught with deep and deadly danger to the best interests and to the liberties of the American people, and so satisfied was he of this, that he had been constrained by that conviction to overcome the almost insuperable repugnance he felt to throwing himself upon the notice of the House, but he felt it his duty to raise his voice against both the propositions. He would not at this time go at length into the subject; his intention, in rising, was merely to move that the committee rise, and that both of the resolutions might be printed. He wished to have some time to think of this business-to deliberate, before he took this leap in the dark into the Archipelago, or the Black Sea, or into the wide mouth of the La Plata. He might be permitted to add one or two other views. He knew, he said, that the post of honor was on the other side of the House, the post of toil and of difficulty on this side, if indeed, any body should be with him on this side. It was a difficult and an invidious task to stem the torrent of public sentiment when all the generous feelings of the human heart were appealed to. But sir, said Mr. R. I was delegated to this House to guard the interests of the People of the United States, not to guard the rights of other people; and if it was doubted, even in the case of England, that land fer-tile above all other lands (not excepting Greece herself) in great men-if it was doubtful whether her interference in the politics of the Continent, though separated from it only by a narrow frith [sic], were either for her honor or advantage, if the effect of that interference has been a monumental debt that paralyzes the arm that might now strike for Greece, the arm that certainly would have struck for Spain, can it be for us to seek in the very bottom of the Mediterranean for a quarrel with the Ottoman Porte? And this while we have an ocean rolling between? While we are in that sea without a single port in which to refit a ship? And while the powers of Barbary lie in succession in our path: Shall we between the Barbary States and what we may denominate the mother power. Are we prepared for a war with these Pirates? (Not that we are not perfectly competent to such a war, but) does it suit our finances? Does it, Sir, suit our magnificent projects of roads and canals: Does it suit the temper of our people? Does it promote their interests: Will it add to their happiness? Sir, why did we remain supine while Piedmont and Naples were crushed by Austria: Why did we stand aloof, while the Spanish peninsula was again reduced under legitimate government! If we did not interfere then, why now? Sir, I refer you to the memorable attempted interference of that greatest of statesman, when he was in the zenith of his glory-when all his dazzling beams were unshorn. You know I mean Mr. Pitt; and I refer you, as a commentary of that attempted interference, to the speech of Mr. Fox, a speech fraught with the wisdom of a real statesman. [Here Mr. Randolph paused. When he resumed, he said,] I perceive, sir, I have overcalculated my strength. I feel that I am not what I was. The effort of speaking is too much for me. The physical effort has suspended, (as when physical effort is violent, it always does,) the intellectual power. What I wished to say, was, that this Quixotism in regard either to Greece or to South America, or, I will add, to North America, (so much of it as lies without our own boundary, you know I mean Mexico;) that this Quixotism is not what the sober and reflecting minds of our people require at our hands. Sir, we are in debt as individuals, and we are in debt as a nation; and never, since the days of Saul and David, of Cæsar and Cataline, could a more unpropitious period have been found for such an undertaking. The state of society is too much disturbed. There is always, in a debtor, a tendency either to torpor or to desperation-neither is friendly to such deliberations. But he would suspend what he had further to say on the subject. For himself, he saw as much danger, and more, in the resolution proposed by the gentleman from Kentucky, as in that of the gentleman from Massachusetts. The war that may follow on the one, is a distant war; it lies on the other side of the ocean. The war that may be induced by the other, is a war at hand; it is on the same continent. He was equally opposed to the amendment, as well as to that which had since been offered to the original resolutions. Let us look a little further at all of them. Let us sleep upon them, before we pass resolu-tions which, I will not say, are mere hooks to hang speeches on, and thereby, commit the nation to a war, the issues of which it is not given to human sagacity to calculate.

(Hatzidimitriou 241-242)

Source: Constantine G. Hatzidimitriou, Founded on Freedom and Virtue: Documents Illustrating the Impact in the United States of the Greek War of Independence, 1821-1829 (New Rochelle, New York: Aristide D. Caratzas, 2002).