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Title: "Should the Office of Chief Magistrate Be Awarded to One Distinguished for His Military Services Rather Than to One Distinguished for His Civil Services?" Debate Speech of Perrin H. Busbee for the Dialectic Society, June 22, 1836: Electronic Edition.
Author: Busbee, Perrin H., 1816-1853
Editor: Erika Lindemann
Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.
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This transcribed document is part of a digital collection, titled True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students in North Carolina
written by Lindemann, Erika
Title of collection: Dialectic Society Records (#40152), University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: "Should the Office of Chief Magistrate Be Awarded to One Distinguished for His Military Services Rather Than to One Distinguished for His Civil Services?" Debate Speech of Perrin H. Busbee for the Dialectic Society, June 22, 1836
Author: Perrin H. Busbee
Description: 8 pages, 8 page images
Note: Call number 40152 (University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Topics covered:
Politics and Government/Constitution of the United States
Politics and Government/Government and Governing Bodies
Examples of Student Writing/Debating Society Writings
Social and Moral Issues/Other Social and Moral Issues
Editorial practices
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Document Summary

Busbee's debate speech finds the statesman's study of law not particularly conducive to moral conduct, and politicians must court favor and become involved in party warfare. Military commanders are highly intelligent, and when liberties are at stake, we should be grateful for their skill, courage, and patriotism.
"Should the Office of Chief Magistrate Be Awarded to One Distinguished for His Military Services Rather Than to One Distinguished for His Civil Services?" Debate Speech of Perrin H. Busbee for the Dialectic Society, June 22, 18361
Busbee, Perrin H., 1816-1853

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Should the office of cheif magistrate be awarded to one distinguished for his military services, rather than to one distinguished for his Civil Services?
Mr. President. (After the full and learned investigation you have heared of this question tonight, I can hardly hope that any remarks I shall make will be listened to with patience; or that they can reflect any additional light on the subject in debate. The gentleman who has just resumed his seat will pardon me if I should not incline to follow him through all the me intricacies of logic in which he was himself involved; and I hope moreover he will not consider me illiberal in the opinion that the conclusion which he has deduced is presented to us, if not "lame and impotent", at least in "a questionable shape". The peculiar direction which gentlemen seem disposed to give to this debate—by indulging in general and imaginary speculations should admitmonish us of the necessity, of referring immediately to the real question and from the arguments we have heard, of determining it's issue. The question then sir is substantially this—Have civil or military services the greater claim upon our suffrages for the office of cheif magistrate. The gentleman (Mr. Avery ) who opened the thought proper to erect a standard by which he promised to test the qualifications of the two characters in question—"Is he honest—is he capable"is he faithful to the constitution & laws" Sir I heartily assent to his motto; and accept his challenge to a comparison of the commander and statesman by the test proposed. But how Mr. President has the gentleman himself examined these characters—how has he contrasted these two opposite claims? With perfect deference to his analysis, he reminds me of a favourite character in a favourite novel I once read.2 You recollect sir that when Esqr. Joseph Brandon promised to examine the suspected Mr. Paul Clifford in reference to rank—title—parentage—estates &c., after a few imimportant preliminaries, he was insensibly diverted from his purpose by the opportunity being presented, of entertaining the hero with the details of a fox hunt; and on being asked the result of the colloquy he replied—"very satisfactory— Capt. Clifford is quite a gentleman—O quite a gentleman,—of unexceptionable rectitude of morals Then too the gentleman seems to have been diverted from his proposed investigation of the statesman's merits by the overwhelming consideration of enter[t]aining3 the house with a formal phillipic against the character it is my part at present to defend. But sir if Esqr. Brandon had carried out his purpose he would have formd in the suiter of his daughter one who (if you recollect) had little reputation for his "honesty" of his "fidedelity" to the laws of England—And so sir, I fear if the gentleman had pursued his investigation of the statesman he might have found in the statesman of the presen[t]day, qualifications little more entitled to the office of President than those of Clifford the robber to a union with the unsuspecting Lucy—.

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And why, let me ask, did not the Gentleman give us some proofs of the Statesman's honesty—capability and constitutional fidelity? I know he has ascrcribed to him some general, indefinite praise—a short and glowing encomium; but is there nothing revolting beneath this fair surface? The gentleman's silence on this important branch of the question argues fear and I avail myself of the assurance it is so well calculated to excite. But sir his colleague (Mr. Swann ) has gone some further in behalf of the statesman with an attempt to prove that his studies and pursuits qualify him in the highest degree for the office under consideration. "The draught, says the gentleman which he has taken at the classic fount of his Alma Mater arouses in him an interest in the works of literature—fits him for the study of Constitutional law—political economy—banking—finances &c.&c.". I admit sir that that these advantages, if properly directed, might be productive of good effects; but how are they does he in fact employ them—At college for instance, if he go to a college. You Mr President have for 4 years, been well acquainted with this elementary school of statesmen; you have (I will not say joined in)—but you have frequently witnessed the evening groups of young politicians,—juniors, Soph, & Fresh, assembled before the passages and discussing—
"With all that hot and burning zeal
Which old and firey converts feel"4
—the comparative merits and prospects of White and Van Buren ; nay Sir not unfrequently are politics the subjectmatter of debate even in this Hall. 'Yes Sir, it is here even before he leaves these halls that the student, without reflection; without experience, without premeditation, becomes a resolute and indefatigable partisan—this is the incipient school of his political devotion. And thus Sir he leaves college at the age of 18 or 20 ready and anxious to plunge into that troubled5 Sea of politics, where for the future he is "to live & move & have his being".6 And where do we find him next sir? Why, the study of law—practice at the bar is indispensible to the moulding of what is called an eminent statesman. He must there accustom himself to speak on any and every question—he must study, aye Sir, and practice too, the art of acquitting guilt at the expense of justice and condemning innocence in spite of virtue,—utterly insensibly to any consideration which involves conscience or feeling he must at all times be indifferently prepared to condemn the right or justify the wrong. Does not such a one partake of that insensibility to the oppression of others, which gentlemen over the way have discovered to be so obnoxious in a commander. Sir of all places in the world, I conceive the Bar to be the last for moral and virtuous instruction, and much might be said to prose that such a course of study & practice as must be incidental to the profession oflaw is inconsistent with a sound mind and a discriminating judgement. But Sir, follow this character—see him in the more eventful drama of life—in the conflict of parties—with the people
On the crowded theatre of politics, where every point of distinction is preocupied,

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if he would be successful he must, I say he must court the favour of the people—he must electioneer—he must humbly bow at the shrine where the very faex popobli7 dispenses it's favours. And does this bring with it no sacrifice of independence—no bribes to dissimulation—no encouragement to intrigue? If Mr. Pre[s.] we but open our eyes to the real political condition of our country, and dispassionately contemplate the agitated elements of party warfare, we have reason to fea[r] that the arts and management of politicians are fast underming the Stamina of our free institutions. They seem to regard no means unlawful in the contest for self-advancement; corruption has usurped the place of virtue and intrigue passes for talent; candour has given way to hypocracy and perverseness and obstinacy are mistaken for independence of character. Ambition Sir! Gentlemen have expressed great fears of military ambition; I ask them to look here and resist if they can the temptation held out to it's aspirings. There are those, it really seems to me (& observation assures us of the fact) that would stir up the very dregs of corruption and float upon its surface—Office—promotion—money is the watchword. Promote him Sir—make him Senator in Congress; he may the there learn to assume a little more dignity, to speak of the people as if he were of a different race—he may probably learn to Conceal the impulses of ambition. But is his nature after all, changed by this severe ordeal of promotion? No sir no! he is still 'linked by a hook and eye' to the interest of the party which effected his elevation. Where I ask, where among the vast mul[t]i[t]ude8 of statesmen, will you find one not virtually pledged and devoted to the advancement of some particular party? Look at Congress, sir, the grand centre of this crowded, busy political panorama; or as one gentleman would have it (Mr. Avery ) —"the support of our national honor and dignity". What is it in fact sir? It is the theatre of passion, of sarcasm—vulgar repartee, of Sectional prejudice and animosity. And do these distinguished statesmen exhibits that Constitutional fidelity the gentleman's test would require in a president? They may sir, but it is a well-known fact that the Constitution of the United States is differently construed by different Sections & parties. What is Constitutional with this party is unconstitutional with that, because what gives victory to this gives to that defea[t];9 what is Constitutional with the north is unconstitutional with the South because what is policy in the No. . is not policy in the South. Most admirable unanimity! And yet Sir from this turbid whirlpool of prejudice and corruption would the gentleman bless us with a president of heavenly purity! Would not such a president in his irrepressible attachment to the party which gave him the power (if it were necessary to the support of that party, "uproar the universal peace & confound all unity on earth" in the exercise of that right of 'dismissal from office,' at which my friend over the way (Mr. Avery ) is so seriously and if he would permit me I would guess so Antijacksonically alarmed? I ask you Sir if such a one be fit to govern? Now, Mr. President whatever be the objections of gentlemen to the Commander, they have not shown, nor can they show, that he is thus, as the character to which I have alluded, the puppet of prejudice and cunning—No Sir his mind towers above intrigue; he has no

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such inducements to degrade the high faculties of his intellect in the low purposes of electioneering. If he be ambitious it is known; if he be hypocritical and intriguing his station cannot conceal it, for, the responsibility of his office is too important and imposing not to be watched but with eagledeyed concern. It is admitted that he has "independence—decision of character & promtitude of action", if no more; & sir whether these are "abstract qualities" or not as one gentleman (Swann ) was pleased sarcastically to style them, I incline to think that they funct constitute, if not fundamental, at least very eminent qualifications in a president. Can the gentleman say as much for his statesman? But sir it has been said that the statesman is first to signalize himself in dethroneing the tyrant—dethroneing the tyrant! Oh yes Mr. Pres. the statesman may declare he loves liberty—he may write off & polish long speeches (that never were delivered) and send them out in their travelling habilliments to the people; the philosopher may reason and calculate, the pedant & coward boast, and the scholar write learned essays on Government—the tyrant disdains and defys them; nor does Liberty res[t]10 her temple on so frail a stamen. It is the sword sir she looks to for defence; it is the sword that makes the tyrant tremble on11 his power throne; and it is the sword only which palsies his power. Mr. President many references have been made here tonight in support of the strange doctrine, that a commander, after all his services and sacrifices, must from the very nature of things, become a despot;— Caesar, Bonnaparte Cromwell & Santa Anna have been cited as example. My friend to my left (Mr. Taylor ) has said that these people tyrants the subjects of these had virtually lost their liberties, previous to the actual elevation of these commanders. But then says a gentleman (Mr. Swann ) the dagger of Brutus was "therefore stained in innocent blood"! This is a curious argument—a strange conclusion indeed Sir!—that because there Caesar asserted and maintained his authority over a people who had virtually lost their liberties (I dont care how base & ignomious they were) that ergo Caesar is an 'innocent' man. But sir be this as it may the gentleman is unfortunate in his reference; for, if he recollects Brutus was himself a warrior—yes a noble, a patriotic one & he evinced his patriotism, not in speeches, but in the death of Caesar; and if the gentleman would prefer Brutus in consideration of his Services in preference to Caesar, certainly sir I have no objection. And here I would simply remark that Brutus would have asked Cicero's assistance in the conspiracy against Caesar, but that he thought him more elequent than intrepid, or as an12 historian informs us, "too timid";13 it will be recollected that Cicero was at that time the greatest statesman in the world. But, sir I am not the advocate of Caesar's conquests or services—I am not to defend Bonnapart's ambitious career, nor am I the panegyrist of Cromwell or Santa Anna; The fact is denied on the very face of the question before you which assigns to me the part of proving the preference due to the commander of a free people and I submit it to the candour of the House if the examples to which we have been refered should have a consideration. But we have been refered to one other example which demands some notice. One gentleman (Avery ) has with much skill & grace &

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with no less confidence, I imagine introduced the name of present chiefmagistrate ; and unless I greatly mistake, this furnished the gentleman with a darling theme from which he was in the hope that arguments addressed to this body, might not be wholly ineffectual. The specific charges of tyranny & corruption he has enumerated belong I think to different subject from the one in debate. But sir casting aside all party predilections and estimating the administration by the approbation it has invariably obtained & especially from "distinguished, enlightened & eminent statesmen" who to borrow the classical figure of the gentleman (Mr. Avery ) "support upon their Atlantean shoulders the honor and dignity of our country"—I say sir judging from the opinions of a vast majority of our fellow citizens the name of Andrew Jackson will ever receive the gratitude of a people whose country he defended in war by his valour & has governed in peace by his wisdom. But Mr. President it is "passing strange to me that both gentlemen on the opposite side, should have overlooked the illustrious example of that statesman whose administration was immediately antecedent to Genl. Jackson's . He sir has drank deep at the 'classic fount'—he has cultivated the sciences—practiced law—studied every system of political economy nor "The division of a battle knows more than a spinster"14 and he too has been president of the U.S. But his administration needs no comment of mine—it has been execrated by his country; nor does the individual himself; for he has been lashed with the curses of an insulted people. Where is he now sir? Reposing on the laurels his public services have won for him? No sir—a member in the house of Rep.—the discarded, obnoxious object of contempt & indifference to all parties—cha football of mirth—a focus to the rays of every species of sarcasm. And yet he has recd. the very education and pursued the very course gentlemen would recommend as so well calculated to make a good president. The gentleman last up (Mr. Swann ) spoke of "military talent' as opposed to the acquirements of a civilian. What sir does the gentleman mean by his "military talent"? If sir he means some sort of talent that comprehends the exclusive and incidental duties of the officer, or if he means the science of arms I beg leave to recriminate him with same charge he prefered against my colleague—that of unfairness. Sir this is by no means a contest between Mars and Minerva; for I maintain that it is a contradiction in terms—a paradox, an indefensible paradox to say that anyone ever did or ever can make a distinguished general unless he be possessed of the highest order of intellect. There is such a variety of mental ingredient—so much boldness of conception—quickness & decision of character necessary to making a good commander that none can attain it unless supported both by nature and acquirements; and sir history clearly proves the fact further that few"very few (I should be glad to know any) distinguished military men have failed to make good statesmen. The peculiar cast of thought & judgment necessary to constitute the one eminently qualifies the other. And yet Mr. President my friend over the way (Mr. Avery ) calls him ignorant;—aye sir if ignorant were all!—but in the fervid tenor of his denunciation he has applied to him the epithets—"licentious—vindictive—aspiring—tyrannical" and in "all his movements the government of the vilest & more brutal passions of our nature"! And how sir are these alarming facts established? By exposition of his corruption—through the influence of the camp says his colleague, who passed far from the topic with the seeming confidence that the argument

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was settled on sure demonstration. Now sir I should like to know—I am exceedingly anxious to learn what practical evidences the gentleman had in view?—were they the camps of our forefathers in their struggle for freedom? Were they the camps of Bunker HillSaratoga Brandywine or Yorkton? Or has the gentleman's uncompassionate fancy discovered these additional corruptions in the more familiar character of the defender of Orleans ? Whosever be the camps to which the gentleman alluded & at what ever time they may have had their existence of one thing, sir I am sure—that the Genius of Liberty could not coexist with such a state of morals as the gentleman has described—the ideas are utterly incompatible. What sir! A free people invest their commander with almost omnipotent sway and sit still in silence, nay in "admiration" of his vices and usurpations! If our commanders could thus with despotic impunity, degrade our national character; if they could thus prostitute the high functions with which they are trusted and to use the words of the gentleman "exert their authority merely for the purpose of exhibiting it's extent & its latitude"; if the Am[er]ican Camp were that filthy repository of corruption—that school of ambition & sensuality the gentleman has so pathetically pourtrayed, then indeed sir would prospect of national defence serve but to cheer and animate the foe; then sir in case of war would our national wretchedness be miserable, complete, fathomless. But sir we have ever been successful—our flag has ever waved high—high on the breeze of freedom and our enemies have ever been taught that Liberty, Economy & Patriotism are the guardians of our Camps. And sir it is a well known fact, as my colleague has said, that the military is strictly subordinated to civil authority—constituted by it and ameneneable to it for every abuse of its power. And can it be supposed that we would intrust an individual, such as some would paint him
"Fierce as Ten furies—terrible as Hell"15 with the command of an army on whose efficiency & in the wisdom of whose leader the hopes of 10 or 15 milions of free people were concentered? I cannot agree think with the gentleman that this argument is conf "Confirmation strong as proof of holy writ". And hence sir arises the argument of the gentleman that it is unwise and unsafe to trust a military character with any the affairs of civil govermnent—they fear his disposition to [t]yrannize.16 Sir the fears are immaginary—unnatural, ungrateful. The argument seems to resolve itself into this—In times the most trying and difficult when all is doubt, danger, fear and confusion—when the enemy is hovering on our shores—and our constitution, laws and institutions are endangered—when the lives and fortunes of 14 millions of free people are in imminant peril, when & the reputation of wives and daughters is open to assault—violence and ruin—when all that it is dear to freedom is at stake, then will we repose our hopes and confidence in the wisdom, judgments & patriotism of a commander & sleep secure while he fights our battles; but when victory is won & danger over &when peace & independence restored to an anxious people we consign him to retirement & confer upon some fireside -self styled patriot the highest honors in our gift—yes'!twine the laurels on another brow'. Sir what sort of miserable logic is this? By compounding the arguments of both gentlemen it would really seem, that his very identity must undergo a radical revolution

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immediately on the close of his military career duties—that now is he a patriot but and now a usurper nay—that the mariner who conducts the ship safely through the storm cannot direct it in the calm. They call him a despot! Though for our sakes he in this battle
"He stood face to face with death
"Smiled at the drawn sword and defied it's point"
yet he would enslaves us; though he lost an arm in this engagement, and in that an eye, braved every danger and underwent every self-denying privation to conquer the foes of our rights, yet he would himself usurp those rights! Sir I ask gentlemen to reconcile the inconsistency if they can. And here Mr. Pres. we see the great difference of the services embraced in the question; Of the patriotism of the one we can judge by his acts—every body can read action—there can be no deception—no none at all; of the other we must judge by his words, Sir they are bu "Empty brass and tinkling sounds"17 and every one will fain assert his pretensions to the name of patriot—Sir words alone constitute but a feeble for our gratitude or suffrage. I might say much of the self complementay speeches that are contantly filling the ear from one end of the union to the other—the pernicious influence of political dinner speeches I might condemn; I might speak of the consequent fast decay of the economy—patriotism simplicity and sterling patriotism of our forefathers—nay I might cite the example of the immortal Washington, but I forbear—
"Tempore mutaverunt et nos mutavimus cum illis"18
Mr. President, in a few—very few years there will not be a Single in among individual in among the already vast19 & increasing population of this republic who can say "I bore a part in the Revolution which acheived our freedom"—there will be none to impress the lessons of patiotism with the force of experience none whose wounds may rebuke the declining virtues of the heroes of 76. And who without the most sombre misgivings can see these last living links of revolutionary glory by which our hearts are bound in sympathy to the past, crumble one by one in e[t]ernal20 dissolution. They demand of us at the altar of that national prosperity effected by their services the generous gratitude which a free people ever accord to the defenders of liberty—they demand a practical evidence of that gratitude. Sir I cannot echo back to the gentlemen on the opposite side one correspondent fear that our liberties can ever become the prey of a commander. I can see nothing in that character to excite alarm—nothing to threaten the sweet enjoyment of freedom. But I think I see & have seen in the people of this country a disposition to undervalue military services—indeed the legislative treatment they have recd. at our hands furnishes too melancholy a proof of the truth.
It does really seem to me, sir that as we advance in wealth and fame and all the luxuries of life that our national ingra[t]itude21 becomes more and more apparent—more & more

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prelusive of our ultimate and absolute degeneracy—that as we glide softly down the current of national prosperity; rich in every thing calculated to promote the happiness of mankind, we are forgetting that its fountain head is consecrated by the blood of heaven-born devotion.

1 William WAvery , Burke Civil
3. Alex. D. Swann , Pittsboro Civil
2 Leonard H. Taylor Granville Military.22
4 Perrin H. Busbee Wake Military.

Debate— P. Busbee

June 1836


2. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830).

3. Busbee wrote enterlaining.

4. Probably George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron, The Siege of Corinth , IV, lines 10-14 (1816): "He stood a foe, will all the zeal/Which young and fiery converts feel,/Within whose heated bosom throngs/The memory of a thousand wrongs."

5. Busbee crossed b and l in troubled.

6. Acts 17:28: "For in him we live, and move, and have our being."

7. "faex popobli": a misspelling for "vox populi" or "voice of the people."

8. Busbee wrote mulliluđe, crossing the d instead of the ts.

9. Busbee wrote defeal.

10. Busbee wrote resl.

11. Busbee wrote on on top of in.

12. Busbee wrote an on top of the.

13. Plutarch's Life of Marcus Brutus claims that those who were planning to murder Julius Caesar "concealed the plot from Cicero, though he was very much trusted and as well beloved by them all, lest, to his own disposition, which was naturally timorous, adding now the wariness and caution of old age, by his weighing, as he would do, every particular, that he might not make one step without the greatest security, he should blunt the edge of their forwardness and resolution in a business which required all the dispatch imaginable."

14. William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Othello , I.i, lines 23-24 (1622).

15. John Milton, Paradise Lost , Book II, line 671 (1667).

16. Busbee wrote lyrannize.

17. I Corinthians 13:1: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."

18. Times have changed and we have changed with them. The Latin proverb usually appears as "Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis."

19. Busbee wrote v on top of f.

20. Busbee wrote elernal.

21. Busbee wrote ingralitude.

22. A spiral flourish appears below and to the right of "Military."

23. Written in Busbee's hand, "Debate— P. Busbee /June 1836" appears perpendicular to the text, with a mid-line flourish on each line, down the right edge of the page.