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of those who would, without inquiry, take the words of a spy, traitor, and villain, as truth. It might be well to print a sufficient number for the House, but no more until they knew more about it. However gentlemen in the Eastern States might have been dissatisfied at particular measures, the embargo law for instance, their opposition to them had arisen from their operation on their particular interests, and not that they had any disposition to sever themselves from the Union. This business had been very correctly communicated by the Executive to Congress; but they ought to act on it with temper, prudence, and coolness. Mr. W. protested against considering any such disposition as it attributed to a certain party to exist, particularly in the spot which has been frequently and emphatically styled the cradle of the Revolution. He could not feel the same disposition which some appeared to do, to give consequence to this affair. Mr. TRoup did not consider these papers as involving the character of any portion of our people. They appeared to him to be calculated merely to put the people on their guard against foreign emissaries or agents employed for the purpose of effecting a dismemberment of this Union. As to the opinions this person expresses of parties, &c., they are merely the individual speculations of this man, and cannot have much weight. But the documents have a most important bearing. They establish the fact, that a foreign Government. on the eve of hostility with us, has for some time past employed an agent to foment divisions among us; and another fact, which, considered in connexion with other circumstances, is of great importance. They show the deep-rooted hostility of this foreign Power to our Republican Government and liberties—a hostility which could stop nothing short of a dismemberment of the country. After the affair of the Wabash, when it was said that the Indians had been instigated by the same enemy to hostilities against us, the British Minister’s choler rose; he denied the whole. He avails himself of suggestions in public prints to deny their statements; to state that so far from a disposition to stir up the Indians against us, the contrary was the fact; that, indeed, Sir James Craig has been intent on diverting Indian hostilities. Sir, may we not reasonably believe him to have fomented Indian hostilities in one part of the country, while in another he was promoting disunion in the body of the people? These, sir, are the only facts disclosed of importance; the only facts which would justify the publication of more than the ordinary number of copies. Mr. RANdolph said, that although he was of opinion that the suggestion of the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Wright) was entitled to greater weight than was allowed to it by the gentleman from Georgia, yet he would submit to the consideration of the gentleman from Maryland, and of the House, whether, in a Government like Curs, documents of the nature of those read this morning publicly, audibly and articulately read, in the presence of several note-takers, to say 12th Con. 1st Sess.-38
nothing of the notes taken by gentlemen themselves; whether it was possible, even if desirable, that the contents of these papers could be kept from the public eye 7 Was it not better that an authorized and correct transcript of them, under the sanction of the House, should be sent to press, than that they should be mutilated, and presented to the public with no more similitude to the original than the reports which passed to the great mass of the nation of the acts and proceedings of this House? Ours is a Government of the people, and ought to have no secrets. It is a Government, which, from the very nature of its origin, cannot use that despatch and promptitude of action, to the success of which, secrecy is so very valuable and favorable. On the whole, then, although he conceived the suggestions of the gentleman from Maryland entitled to the highest respect, because he thought they did honor at once to his heart and understanding, yet perhaps it would be as well to send these papers to press, although he believed that the opinion of a discreet and select committee of the House on the subject would not render the decision less mature or less safe. But there was another aspect in which these papers were to be viewed. If they were worthy of being communicated to the House by the Executive, under the discharge of a solemn Constitutional obligation, they are, or ought to be, worthy of being acted upon by us. Although the author of this information had been, and perhaps justly, branded by gentlemen of all descriptions of party with the epithets of traitor and spy; and although the evidence of a person standing in his peculiar situation ought to be received with many grains, he might say even pounds, of allowance, it did not therefore follow that a committee would not have it in their power to extort from him, directly or indirectly, information which might be valuable to the community. If he could not give it himself, he might either intentionally or unintentionally lead a committee of this House to sources whence it might be procured. As a member of the Committee of Foreign Relations, he could not say that he had any particular anxiety to take his share of this burdensome, and, in some respects, invidious duty; yet, as a reference to that committee had been mentioned, he certainly should not shrink from the discharge of that portion of duty devolving on him in case the House should give that direction to the papers. In some respects, the character, he would not say of a portion, but of the whole nation, was implicated in this affair. The information was either of such a character as ought never to have been submitted to the House; such as was unworthy of notice; such as it would be a compromitment of the national character to act on ; or else it was of a character which demanded that they should sift it, bolt it to the bran; that they should call the individual before them, if he was to be found within our jurisdiction ; that he should be called upon to say to whom, in what manner, and in what character he had developed
H. of R. his views. When he said this, he did not give any pledge, that upon his (Henry’s) testimony, he would condemn men of high minds and fair fame. You yourself, Mr. Speaker, are too much in the practice of sifting evidence not to know that we may reason from things false to things true; that the falsehood of a witness is not unfrequently an unerring clue to truth. If, sir, he (Henry) should have it in his power to bring into question the character of any individual in this country, it will be competent to the party thus implicated, either by fair presumption or direct testimony, to rebut any such implication ; or presumption or testimony still deeper will go very far to uphold and fix these imputations. You, sir, are too well read in the history of the country from which we spring, not to be conversant in all the plots, from the Popish treasons in the reign of James I, down to those of the Rye-house; and from thence perhaps to the plot of Colonel Despard. This witness, to be sure, stands before us in a most questionable point of view. He evidently undertook a service in its nature not by any means enviable, not generally esteemed most honorable, with a view to reward. He points out specifically the nature of the reward he expected. It was in the power of a Government, at once the most corrupt and most wealthy perhaps in the world, by not a very unreasonable douceur for the services performed, forever to have stopped the barking of this political Cerberus. That Government must have much underrated his services. But is this all ? Was it not his business to enhance to this Government, to magnify to a virtuous, and therefore credulous people, the importance of the mission with which he was charged, and the zeal and ability with which he discharged its duties? On whose testimony are we to take the account of the mighty deeds per
formed ? . The place is pointed out; we have the
where and the when, but that all-important fact, with whom, is studiously kept out of view. He has had it in his power to do great mischief to the United States. This is his story. In proportion to the mischief which he was able to inflict, Mr. R. said, ought his services to have been appreciated by the British Government, they entertaining the views which these papers ascribe to them. As they, for reasons best known to themselves, I suppose from that infatuation which sometimes attends the movement of governments, have refused to give him adequate recompense, he turns his attention to us.
In proportion as his
been made by gentlemen, induced him to ask the indulgence of the House, to give some information and make a few observations relative to the subject now under consideration. This Mr. Henry was an Englishman, but had long resided in this country; so long, that he had obtained a captaincy in the Army raised in the year 1798; he was a man of gentlemanly deportment, and reputed good moral character; that he (Mr. Fisk) and his colleague (Mr. STRoNG) well remembered, when he passed through Burlington, in the Spring of the year 1808, and that his object was at that time much suspected to have been what he now states; but, as a politician, he was thought by the Republicans to have been a firm believer in the British maxim, “that the end sanc
|tifies the means;” and the Federal party enjoyed
the full benefits of his principles and labors while he lived in Vermont. Sir, gentlemen say that he is a traitor, a spy, and, therefore, what he here relates is not entitled to credit. However dishonorable a transaction like this may be deemed by our Government, whose motives and conduct are directed and squared by the principles of morality and justice, yet, I believe, it is not thought so very disgraceful in the British Government, as to be beneath her first characters to undertake. Sir, was the mission to Copenhagen to destroy that city, murder the innocent inhabitants, and rob the Danes of their fleet, a more honorable one than this 2 Certainly not. And yet, sir, the famous Mr. Jackson, who went on that mission, was considered worthy of being a Minister to this country, where he was caressed and highly esteemed by some; and persormed both missions much to the satisfaction of his master. Why, sir, can gentlemen seriously doubt the truth of the facts stated by this Mr. Henry, when they have it from the highest authority, that the former, British Minister, Mr. Erskine, while here, at this very time, was in the same business this Henry was sent to perform 3 In a letter written by that Minister to his Government, and published by its order, he tells them : “I have endeavored, by the most strict and diligent inquiries into the views and strength of the Federal party, to ascertain to what extent they would be willing and able to resist the measures of the party in power, and how far they could carry the opinions of this country along with them in their attempts to remove the embargo, without recurring to hostilities against both Great Britain aud France.” And again, he tells them, in his letter of the
services were valuable to those to whom they 15th February, 1809, when spraking of the divis
were rendered, precisely in the same ratio must opposition made to the laws by the people of the
be the value of the disclosure made to us.
ions which then agitated this country, and the
Without going further, Mr. R. said he was Eastern States:
decidedly of opinion that the Message should be referred to the Committee of Foreign Relations, with power to send for persons, papers, effects.
and records; that everything which could be
States, would inevitably tend to a dissolution of the Union, which has been for some time talked of, and
sifted out of this transaction be iaid without re-j has, of late, as I have heard, been seriously contem
serve before the people. Nothing short of this
would satisfy the public sentiment, nor did he
think it ought. Mr. Fisk said that the remarks which had
plated by many of the leading people in the eastern
division.” Now, sir, when the British Minister was on
this business, by order of his Government, is it
extraordinary or incredible that this Henry should be sent on the same errand by Governor Craig 7 The occurrences of those times place the fact out of doubt. I perfectly recollect that, on my return home from this place in March, 1809, I was informed of this Henry having passed through the country; and it was then conjectured that he was on the very business which he now states. But, say gentlemen, he libels and calumniates the Government ' Why, sir, he does not more so than has often been done on this floor, by a gentleman not now present, or than has been done for years by one description of presses and newspapers in this country. The division of the Union is not a new subject. As early as the time the Jay Treaty agitated this country, I saw two numbers in the “Centinel.” printed at Boston, holding out the idea of a separation of the States. I am very far from believing it was ever the wish of the great body of the Federal party, or that they would knowingly join the enemies of this country, to effect such a purpose, but that there are some who call themselves Federalists, and who in principle and feeling are Englishmen, that would do it, I have no doubt. From the very nature of things, all monarchical and despotic Governments must always be inimical to, and seek the destruction of this Government, while it remains a free one; and the only uneans of effecting this, is by somenting divisions among us; angering one party against the other, and thereby dividing the Union. I believe this to have been the constant object of the British Government, from the date of our Treaty of Peace until now, and they will always join the minority, be its political character what it may. And I humbly hope this occurrence will be received as a solemn admonition by all citizens of this country, to unite in support of their Government and liberties, and convince them in what estimation they are held, notwithstanding the professions of friendship made toward this country by the British Government and its agents. Mr. SMille said the character of this man was nothing to us, though it might be to him, and he therefore should not follow the example of gentlemen who had made so free with it. There was one point in which he considered the publieation of these documents, which was of real importance; that they exhibited to the American f. what sort of a nation we had to deal with. t appeared to him that Great Britain considered no means dishonorable provided they would ac. complish the attainment of her object. With respect to Mr. Wright's idea, that the publication of the papers would throw an odium on the leading parties in this country, said Mr. S., none of those papers said anything more disrespectful to the parties in this country than those parties had frequently said of each other in the public prints. He never had believed that the mass of the Federal party wished a separation of the Union; but that there were men in it, attached to the British interests, he knew to be true. There was at least enough in these papers to put every man on his guard with respect to the insidious, dishonorable
conduct of that Government, and he would, therefore, vote for printing 5,000 copies. Mr. Macon said, this was one of those debates which sometimes arose in the House, in which all were on one side of the question. Nothing can be more true than that these papers do prove that Great Britain has not yet ceased her attempts to disturb the peace of this nation. That they were genuine, he believed, although they came from a man whom that Government had employed. There was nothing new in the manner of communicating them. How was it in the conspiracy of Blount and Liston 7 Mr. Adams communicated the disclosure to Congress. I imagine that Burr’s conspiracy was communicated by some one who was or had been engaged in it. In this case, a man who had been in the service of this Government, preferring the British, was, while in Canada, engaged by Governor Craig, to go into a part of this country to endeavor to procure a division of the Union. Mr. M. said he had, four years ago, stated that both Great Britain and France had agents in this country. Had they not had them in other countries? They had ; and he cited Holland as a particular instance. The Constitution, said Mr. M., is founded on the Union of these States, and, (if I may be allowed to use a word once fashionable,) on the indivisibility of the Empire. And, what was the object of Great Britain For what did she employ this man 7. To separate the Union; to destroy the Constitution, the greatest work of the greatest men this country has produced. Sir, I was almost struck with horror, when such documents were reading, to see that any man could laugh at them. They expose an attempt, not to stab an individual, but to stab a nation. Owing to our relative situation, in consequence of our Revolution, you can never expect Great Britain to look upon you with as much friendship as other nations. There is another reason for her jealousy; we have predicted over and over again, that we shall, at one time or other, clip her maritime wing. She believes it; and the existence of the nation depends on her preventing it. The only question that presents itself is, Is the information useful to us P Does it not confirm every man in the belief that, while she is making professions of friendship through her Minister here, Great Britain is, in another direction, plotting our destruction by her secret agents It would be happy for us if we had not also French agents here. I never did believe the Federal party had any notion of joining Great Britain; but this nation, favored as it is, has yet not been clear of discord; and, to say that there is not a man in the Federal or Republican parties who would wish a union with Great Britain or France, would be to say what I do not believe. So long, sir, as both belligerents remain as they have been, for the last hundred years, willing to disturb the peace of the world, so long we ought to watch their motions. Let the Executive have obtained these papers as he might, it became his duty to communicate them to Congress. They
will convince every man in the nation, it appears to me, that all the talk about the friendship and good disposition of the British nation toward us was a mistake. May we not reasonably suppose that Great Britain moved the Prophet? Whenever we come near a point with Great Britain, do not the Indians move 7 How was it before Jay's Treaty, and whenever she is likely to assume a hostile attitude 7 Exactly at those moments are the Indians moved upon you. To conquer this country by force of arms, if united, is impossible. France and England together could not do it. I do not believe the world could. All we want is union at home. As to this man, he is just such a one as the British usually employ for these purposes; he is one of their own agents. Can England complain of our giving credit to a man with whom her first Secretary of State and the Governor General of Canada correspond? I care nothing about the cause which brings him here, it is an affair between him and them... The question is, Has he told the truth? I verily believe he has. I understood enough of the papers, as read, to know that he was the agent of the British Government, sent here to sow disunion, and that was enough for me. So long as we are governed by interest, mutual wants, or common sense, so long shall we continue united. We are placed in such a situation that, we ought to love each other, and we always should, did not our mad passions sometimes run away with us. One part of the nation delights in using the sea; another in agriculture; we supply each other's wants; we ought never to dream of separation. And, sir, when these messengers of hell are sent here, shall we not look at them 3 Let us have the papers printed, sir. This is the second attempt Great Britain has made to divide the country, and I believe France would do the same; for I have no confidence in the morality of either. Our affairs are in such a state, that, with one, we must try what has been called the last resort of Kings. I have made up my mind on the subject, and, whenever we are ready to declare war, I shall vote for it. Mr. Johnson said, he did not feel disposed, nor was it a time, to say much—the documents spoke for themselves—nor did he address the House to identify the Federal party with this British conspiracy to dismember the Union; nor did he intend to load the individual who had made this communication to the President with the opprobrious epithet of spy and traitor; but to call the attention of the House, and the gentleman from Virginia, to the position which had been taken by himself and others upon the discussion of our for. eign relations, respecting the British influence in stimulating the savages against our infant and innocent settlements upon the frontiers. Mr. J. said, when he had ascribed the hostility of the Indians to British influence, the gentlemán from Virginia could not place any confidence in such intimations; and he moreover stated, that if such influence could be proven, he would himself join heart and hand in measures against Great Britain, and would even march himself to Canada, if ne:
cessary, to expel and destroy the British authorities in that quarter. Mr. J. said, he wished to know whether the House had not now record evidence of an attempt on the part of the British Government to alienate the affections of the people from their own Government—to organize opposition to the laws of Congress, and to produce a dissolution of our happy Government, a dismemberment of the Union, and the erection of a monarchy upon its ruins—and whether such a case did not call for equal union ? Mr. J. asked, who would now assert that Great Britain was friendly disposed towards us; that she was fighting our battles, or the battles of freedom; that she stood between us and universal domination; that good men would pray that our arms might not be successful against that Government, which had so long trampled upon our rights; that Great Britain was acting upon the principle of retaliation towards France 7 Mr. J. said, it was now reduced to a certainty that the hostility of Great Britain towards us, in the continuance of her orders in Council—in the impressment of our seamen—originated in a determination to destroy the union of the States, and from a belief that a separation could be effected, in case of a war with Great Britain. It was now evident, that the disavowal of Mr. Erskine’s arrangement, and her subsequent conduct towards the United States, arose from the delusive hope that the people of the New England States would join Great Britain in the conflict. This communication also accounts for the news we are daily receiving of the hostile intentions of the savages upon our borders. Mr. J. said, he wanted 5,000 copies to be printed, that the people might judge whether Congress had wantonly sported with their rights, or whether they had not been driven to the brink of war by a conduct on the part of Great Britain that would disgrace the most abandoned, the most savage, and the most piratical nations on earth. Mr. J. said, he hoped the House would no longer debate what course to pursue, and that no additional arguments would be required to convince them of the propriety of breaking up the rogues' harbor, and taking possession of the Canadas; without which, the United States never could enjoy, in tranquillity, those rights which were transmitted to the citizens of the United States by their ancestors. Mr. Stanford suggested the propriety of a reserence of the subject to a Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union. Mr. Key made some remarks which were not all distinctly heard by the Reporter. He wished that the publication could have been accompa: nied with some refutation of its contents, as, it would go to alarm the people with an idea of the existence of a spirit in one section of this country which he was sure did not exist. He was not only for committing the subject, but for following it up with a full and prompt examination: Sure I am, said Mr. K., that the people of Europe have mistaken the American character. Whatever difference of opinion may exist among our. selves, there can be none as to the propriety of supporting the integrity of the Union. There ca"