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ing the ranks and prolonging the enlistment of the regular troops, to an auxiliary force, and to detachments of the militia, presented a bill relative to the defence of the ports and harbors; which was read twice, and committed to a Committee of the Whole to-morrow. An engrossed bill making further provision for the Army of the United States was read the third time, and passed. An engrossed bill for the relief of Thomas F. Reddick was read the third time, and passed. An engrossed bill to authorize the election of Sheriffs in the Indiana Territory, and for other purposes, was read the third time, and passed. An engrossed bill to incorporate the Trustees of Washington College was read the third time, and passed. The bill from the Senate “to carry into effect an act of the Legislature of the State of Maryland” was read the third time, and passed. The bill from the Senate “in addition to the act to regulate the laying out and making a road from Cumberland, in the State of Maryland, to the State of Ohio,” was read the third time, and passed. The House proceeded to consider the engrossed bill to annex a portion of West Florida to the Mississippi Territory; and on the question that the same do pass, it was resolved in the affirmative. The House resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole on the bill from the Senate “to incorF. a bank in the town of Alexandria, in the istrict of Columbia, by the style of the ‘Mechanics' Bank of Alexandria;” and, after some time spent therein, the Committee finding themselves without a quorum, were prevented from further proceeding, and the House adjourned.
WEdNEsday, May 6.
PETITIONS FOR REPEAL OF THE EMBARGO.
Mr. Bleecker presented the petition of eight hundred citizens of Albany, in New York, and its neighborhood, stating the deleterious effects of the embargo on their interests, and the reasons of their disapprobation of the measure, praying that the embargo act may be repealed or so modified as to afford them relief. Mr. B. stated this memorial to be signed by citizens of all parties, and by some of the warmest friends of the Administration. The language of the petition was respectful; its contents certainly deserved serious consideration. He therefore moved to refer it to a select committee. Mr. RhEA moved to postpone the further consideration of these petitions to the fourth day of July next, assigning as a reason his disposition to see them follow the same course as other papers of a similar tenor, and to avoid encouraging in the breasts of the petitioners a groundless hope by a reference. Mr. Gholson moved that they should lie on the table. Motion negatived, 42 to 29. Mr. Fisk said he hoped they would not be postponed. When the people suffered, they would
complain, and it was soothing to their feelings to be answered rather than heard in silence. There was no doubt but the embargo operated severely in some quarters, and particularly on these people. The petition was couched in respectful language; and he thought it would be well to refer it, and have a detailed report made on it. Mr. Bleecker.—Mr. Speaker, I hope the motion of the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Rhea) will not prevail. A memorial of this nature, couched in such respectful terms, and from so respectable a quarter, deserves to be treated more courteously and respectfully. For, sir, what is the answer proposed to be given to the memorialists by the gentleman from Tennessee? They ask you to relieve them from impending beggary and ruin ; if this motion prevails, you will tell them, “good sirs, we will attend to your call when your beggary and ruin are complete.” Whatever, sir, may be thought of it in this House, to the memorialists such an answer to their respectful prayer will have the appearance of offence and insult. The motion of the gentleman from Tennessee is to postpone the consideration of the memorial till the 4th day of July next. This is a flat denial of the prayer of the memorialists. The propriety and policy of continuing the embargo, are of course now proper subjects of discussion. Why has an embargo been laid 2. It is avowedly the precursor of war. Its object is to keep our property, our vessels, and, seamen at home, safe from the grasp of our enemy. Being the precursor of war,
war must begin where the embargo ends. If .
it does not, the embargo is improper and premature. Now, sir, unless you are prepared to go to war in less than sixty days, you cannot justify a measure which operates with such cruel severity on the State of New York, and particularly on my immediate constituents, who state to you the immense loss they must sustain if it be continued. I ask gentlemen, how they will justify themselves to the memorialists for denying their petition. Sir, we cannot go to war within sixty days. I mean not to offend gentlemen, or to rouse their feelings, but it is impossible that we can go to war at the expiration of the embargo. I speak, sir, of active offensive war; such a war as that is wholly out of the question. This being so, is it wise, is it just, to distress and ruin so many of our people by suffering the produce which they pray your permission to export to moulder and perish in their granaries? Certainly not, sir; you ought to grant their petition. There is no escape from this argument. And, sir, am I not correct in saying that you are not prepared to go to war 7 What is the state of your fortifications? Where are your armies, your navy 2 Have you money? No, sir, rely upon it there will be, there can be, no war, active offensive war, within sixty days. Whatever may be thought of it here, the
people know that we cannot go to war, at the ex
piration of the embargo. The petitioners do not believe that you will attempt it. They think with the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. RANDolph) that for the Government to go to war in our present unprepared state, would be little short
of an act of treason. Thinking as I do sir, of the intelligence and patriotism of the gentlemen who are now the lords of the ascendant in this House, and respecting the intelligence and patriotism of the Cabinet, I cannot believe, that we are to commence the war without any of the necessary means for carrying it on ; without an army, without a naval force, without money. To go to war under such circumstances would necessarily bring upon us shame, disgrace, and defeat. The people are unwilling to believe that you are going to war immediately. You are not prepared now, and, long before you can be prepared, the produce of the country may be exported and the avails of it brought home. The alleged policy and necessity of an embargo, therefore, do not exist, and the memorialists ought to be relieved. You may declare war at the expiration of the embargo, or sooner; but, what then, sir? Rely upon it—I repeat it, you will have no war, active offensive war. But, war declared, the produce of the country that may be fit for exportation will still be embargoed by the fear the owners will of course have of the enemy’s cruisers that will then hover on our coast. Sir, gentlemen will find it impossible to satisfy the petitioners that Congress can be justified in refusing to listen to their prayers. The gentleman from Tennessee asks me the price of wheat in Albany. I have understood that there are no sales at all, and that it is not considered worth more than a dollar a bushel.
When petitions of a similar kind were before the House a few days ago, it was said, that the sufferers under the embargo must charge their loss to the members on this side of the House, who, by their speeches in the House and their conversation out of doors, had deceived the people as to the intention of the Government to go to war. I thought this rather an ungenerous observation. No speeches had been made on this side of the House on the subject of war. No, sir, if any false impression respecting the war has been made on the public mind, it is to be charged to the proceedings of this House. The people know that you were not, that you could not soon be, prepared for war. They knew that your coffers were exhausted, that you had neither fleets nor armies. Of course they could not suppose that you were going to war with nothing but paper preparations. it was there. fore impossible for them to foresee the embargo. It came upon them suddenly, as a stroke of thunder. But, sir, there are other important considerations to induce you to relieve the memorialists. Is it wise, sir, to plunge the people into distress and ruin; first, to impoverish the country and then to go to war; and that very country too, sir, in and through which the war is to be carried on 4 Is it not better to have the hearts of the people with you when you are about to enter into the conflict, than to alienate them from you? You cannot go to war without the people. No, sir, it will be better to conciliate a people who must necessarily bear so much of the privations, burdens, and calamities of the war, the people of a State so much exposed to the enemy. I hope the House will seriously consider this memorial, and not reject it
in the manner proposed by the gentleman from Tennessee, which cannot fail to offend and wound the feelings of the memorialists. Mr. Boyd said he wished to make a few observations on the motion now before the House, to postpone the further consideration of the petition until the fourth of July next. I did not intend to advocate such a measure, nor do I think that the Congress can grant the prayer of the petitioners; but there is a propriety in observing a decent respect to so respectable a petition, with others of the same tenor already referred. We should do well to consider what the feelings of the petitioners will be if treated in this manner. We all know, at least a great many of us, what were our feelings on the information of our petitions (prior to the Revolution) being treated with contempt and disrespect | Sir, my intention in laying that embargo was with a double view, the one to save and secure our property from the grasp of the proposed enemy, the other to keep from her those supplies that will, or would, enable her to be better able to prosecute a war. . I think that this petition, with the others on the same subject of the embargo, ought to be committed to a select committee or the Committee of Commerce and Manufactures, with instructions to report to the House their opinion—not to repeal the embargo, but assign the reasons why it was expedient to lay it, and the reasons of the impropriety of a repeal at this time. Such a course is due to the petitioners; it would be treating them with the respect due to numerous and decent petitions. If you cannot grant them their prayer, at least deign to assign your reasons. This they expect, and, I think, have a right to ; and I also think it would be the soundest policy. I, therefore, move that this petition, together with all the others on the same subject, be committed to the Committee of Commerce and Manufactures, and that they be directed to report to the House their opinion. The SPEAKER decided that the motion was not now in order, another motion being pending. Mr. RhEA.—The objects and design of the memorial are to persuade and obtain a repeal of the embargo law. Is this House prepared to repeal that law 7 or are the members thereof prepared to excite a continuance of the delusory hopes which seem to prevail 7 From whence have these hopes arisen 7 Let those, if any such there be, who excited those hopes, be responsible for the effects. If any section of citizens will in such case act, with themselves be it; if injury occurs by a conduct bottomed on particular opinion—an opinion, contrary to the reason of things, persevered in also against evidence, the laws are not censurable. In this memorial the word “rulers” is used. If by this word is meant the Congress, Executive, and Judiciary of the United States, or either of them, it is apprehended that the use of that term in that signification, however well it may apply to any foreign Government, can have no relation to the Government of the United States or to any departments of that Government. They who ad
minister the said several departments, and perform the duties belonging to each of them, are the representatives, not the rulers, of the people. The people are sovereign, from them emanates all power; they are the true rulers—they create and annihilate the power held by those whom the memorial designates rulers. It appears difficult to eradicate ideas springing from monarchical principles, and more especially if the mind is habituated to the contemplation of them. The word “rulers” in the sense used in the memorial is abhorrent to the Constitution of this Government—and it would be well if the use of it in that sense was omitted. That all popular Governments are bottomed on the people, and ought to be exercised for the good of all, is a political axiom as old as the existence of popular Governments. Whatever the number or periods of popular Governments heretofore have been, the Government of the United States, at the present day, appears to be the only existing popular Government; consequently, to it is applit cable, in a peculiar manner, that it ought to be exercised for the good of all. The interest and benefit of the greatest number are, therefore, to be contemplated and cherished, although that might produce some partial ill. . This will apply to nearly o law enacted, and such application is not new. The embargo law has been, for several weeks, in operation; and if the opinion of the citizens, relative to that law, is to be formed by a comparison of the numbers petitioning against the embargo law, with the numbers of those who have not petitioned, the inference is. that the great body oft. people are satisfied that the law is expedient, because the number petitioning is small indeed, and bears little proportion to the numbers who have not petitioned. Hence it follows that there is evidence manifesting that the embargo law contains a principle operating for the general good. At the time the law alluded to was enacted, they who were in favor of it believed that it would operate for the interest of this nation; that it would, to a certain extent, be a means of preserving American seamen from slavery, and the property of American citizens from robbery; that it might operate as a cautionary notice to mercantile men, warning them that the times were dangerous, and advising not to hazard men or property on the ocean. Since the day that law was made, no circumstance has occurred to alter or change the reason of the law, or to show that it ought to be repealed. Almost every day brings information that seamen are impressed, and property-neutral property—of this nation, unlawfully and wrongfully taken. It is, in the meantime, admitted, that the law will, more or less, affect every section of the Union. But it is presumed that its operation will effect a national benefit, more especially when it operates as a preparatory to war. It is urged, that the language used in the memorial is respectful, and that the memorialists are very respectable. All that is admitted, but that will not go to prove that the prayer of the memorial ought to be granted. It prays for a repeal or modification of the em
bargo law, because of the great quantity of produce shut up in a particular section. It would be gratifying, indeed, if the case was otherwise. But this is one of those circumstances which generally are consequential to laws of a similar nature, and when put in competition with the general safety, will partially remain until the proper remedy is applied. It is true that the motion goes to set aside the memorial, but for that it is not a denial, generally, of relief; the National Legislature will, no doubt, give that relief which the present state of things requires; and it is hoped that the memorialists will confide in the Legislature of this Union, that the proper remedy at a proper time will be applied. Whether this nation .# be ready or not to go to war within sixty days, is not at present necessary to undertake to show. This consideration is respecting a motion to postpone a memorial, and does not necessarily involve the question as to being prepared to go to war. Little by me, said Mr. R., as has yet been said on the subject of war—and, at present, it is not deemed necessary; a day may be when it may be otherwise. It is urged that they do not believe the United States can go to war. Well, if they do not believe, and will act accordingly, with themselves be it, on themselves be the consequence. Several laws have been enacted, during the present session, bearing strong evidence in themselves that they are preparatory to war, carrying with them also evidence that the United States can go to war at a time when the unprovoked injuries inflicted by a foreign nation renders war necessary; but they will not believe that the Constitutional Government of this nation is sincere in respect to war. Well, then, that they who will not believe may be convinced, if possible, let the further consideration of the memorial be postponed until the fourth day of July next. Let this evidence of sincerity, in addition to all those already offered, be afforded. The agreeing to this motion will not ruin the people. If I thought, said Mr. R., it would have that effect, far from me would be a disposition to persist in it. Several memorials of a similar nature have been postponed to the same fourth day of July next; and certainly this memorial ought to go the same way. I have no inclination to injure any person; the memorialists are all believed to be worthy, but that consideration affects not the question. Mr. RANDolph said that, to a stranger to the proceedings of the American House of Representatives, it might appear strange that a discussion of the merits of an act similar to that now under consideration, of an act so important in its consequences, should first take place on a motion to refer a petition from people complaining of the grievances of that act; and yet he believed substantially such was nearly the fact—for it could hardly be said that the act was passed on the ground of any information properly derived from other co-ordinate branches of Government, or from any arguments advanced in its favor on this floor.
To one to whom the character of the times Was
unknown, it would appear astonishing, with the general apathy prevailing in this House and out of it, that a slumbering Legislature, and a people stupified under the effects of this powerful political narcotic, the embargo, should have their dreams disturbed by the thought of war. War ! when, as a gentleman has justly asked, where are the means to carry it on ? Not that I doubt, sir, said Mr. R., that there will be war; for I am myself precisely in a situation similar to what would have been that of one of the unfortunate people of Caraccas, if preadvised of the danger which overhung his country—I know that we are on the brink of some dreadful scourge—some great desolation—some awful visitation from that Power, whom, I am afraid, we have as yet, in our national capacity, taken no means to conciliate. If other civilized people, if the other nations of Christendom have not escaped, what reason have we to suppose that we shall be preserved from the calamities which Providence has thought fit to inflict on those nations which have ventured to intermingle in the conflicts now going on in Europe? But let me, sir, if I can, confine myself to the merits of this petition; and, that I may be strictly in order, bring my discourse to the so of the insipidity of the Court Gazette. Amidst this j cry of war, the sound “restrictive system” struck my ear with dreadful apprehension. Restrictive system | Yes, sir, there's the rub. The embargo, engendered from a fortuitous concourse between the Executive and the Committee of Foreign Relations, has been laid as the precursor of war, and not as a restrictive measure; and yet it is defended in this House, if not by the same arguments, certainly by the same feeling, which supported the celebrated embargo of Mr. Jefferson's Administration. In this there is, in my judgment, the most manifest inconsistency. An embargo, on the same principle as that laid by Mr. Jefferson, might be defended by such as deemed it Constitutional and wise, and might be stretched to the utmost extent, to give a fair trial to the experiment; but not so with that laid on a recent occasion. That was a sort of chance medley; it came. nobody knows whence, and nobody knows how. Now, for its operation-I say that, as a precursor of war, its operation is manifestly detrimental to the best interests of the country. In the character under which it affects to pass, it is, if not an imposture, at least utterly inadequate to the purposes for which its friends say it is intended. It is nothing more than a sort of never-end to the old system of restriction—it is something like what the Rump Parliament, in the days of Cromwell, was to all the Parliaments which preceded it—it is pork still, without even changing the sauce. I shall not step out of the way to prove, as unquestionably I might, that the operation of the other part of the restrictive system has been manifestly injurious to the agricultural and commercial interests; for, although flour was, before the embargo, at ten dollars, but for the non-importation it would have been at twelve– because our merchants, being prevented from
bringing return cargoes, sustain a loss of twenty per cent. in exchange, and of course cannot give so much for flour by twenty per cent. as if the restriction did not exist; indeed by more, because the merchant not only suffers by the difference in exchange, but by the loss of his usual profit on a return cargo. That very difference of exchange against Great Britain, which has been vaunted as showing the balance of trade in our favor, was, in fact, a dead loss to the American people. I have heard it whispered on this floor that flour yet bears a good price; that a dollar used to be considered a good price for a bushel of wheat. Is this an answer to be given, when Government reduces its price fifty per cent. in a night ! But, sir, what is it that keeps wheat at a dollar and flour at seven dollars and a half? It is this: the whole operation of this system is entirely upon the grower of the commodity, upon the miller and upon him who purchased previous to the laying of the embargo, and was unable to get his commodity out. It diminishes the price here, two, three, or four dollars a barrel; it has the effect again to raise the price abroad, perhaps, as much, making a difference between the price before and after the embargo, of from five to seven dollars a barrel. I speak from no theory, but from as authentic commercial information as any in the nation, when I say that, if any persons wish to export flour, vessels from the Eastern States can be got to clear out coastwise, take all risk on themselves, and put that flour in any port named by the person chartering the vessels, for a less sum per barrel than the difference in price between flour here and abroad; in some cases for less than the difference in price here before and since the embargo. This is the actual state of things. The original grower of the article and the miller therefore suffer almost exclusively. Let us take it in another point of view. It is true, as the petitioners have stated, and pity 'tis that it is true, that the Hudson and Northern rivers have been blocked up all the Spring by ice, while the Southern rivers have been open. But, sir, is that all the difference in the relative hardship of the embargo? For my part, I can conceive nothing more iniquitous in principle than the law in operation. The embargo is at Baltimore and Alexandria for ninety days; in New Orleans for how many ? It is here in its full operation from the day of its imposition to the 3d day of July; in New Orleans it went into operation perhaps about four weeks after it went into operation here. The people here are suffering under the pressure of the embargo for ninety days, while the people of New Orleans, to whom you are lavishly giving almost everything you have, will be embargoed for only sixty days. This is most unjust, and as respects the federative system, a most iniquitous distinction. For my part, sir, I cannot help looking at the signs of the times. I see a parallel that runs almost on all fours between these days and the days of the administration of Mr. Grenville and Lord North, in England, and the last days of the administration of John Adams. I see the same
disrespect to the voice of the people; the same contempt with which their humble remonstrances are treated ; for I pronounce it to be a contempt to say that we will take their case into consideration at a time beyond which it will be of no avail to consider their petitions; like a physician who, when sent to by you for, advice and relief in a dangerous disease, should send you word he would come and see you in the next century. t But are the effects which I have endeavored to portray the only ones suffered from the operation of this blister plaster—the embargo? Look at your export of provisions: the last year, but one it was ten millions; the last year more than double that amount. Is there any man at all acquainted with the nature and the course of trade who does not believe that the first quarter of the year 1812 has far exceeded any other quarter of any preceding year? He cannot. And in this situation, in the most flourishing trade ever carried on in these great commodities, in the staff of life, in the principal article we have to sell; in a period when commerce is more flourishing (except as far as it is impaired by our own restrictions) than for years before, we have been called upon to commit this political felo de se. The operation of the measure has been what I have mentioned, and it has the effect to enable speculators to combine, and obtain produce at their own prices to ship at the end of ninety days. The annual list of our exports of breadstuff is of itself a conclusive argument. In the year 1807, the breadstuffs of this country exported amounted to $14,400,000, a greater amount than they had ever before attained. In the succeeding year, although for a part of that year the embargo was not in operation—I speak of the custom; house year, and not of the year from the 1st of January to the 31st of December—although the embargo was not during the whole year in operation, yet such was its effects that these exports fell down to three and a half millions. In the year 1809 they partially recovered and got up to eight millions; in 1810, when the trade began to breathe a little from the effects of our own statutes, they mounted to ten millions. In 1811, as I said before, they were upwards of twenty millions; and in the first quarter of the present year I have no hesitation in saying they exceeded the export in the same period of any year from the commencement of the Government to the present day. And in this situation we have laid an embargo—as a precursor to war, it is said. If so, it should be shown how it adds one single man to our army, a single gun to our forts, a single sailor to our navy, or a shilling to the Treasury. As the reverse is self-evidently true, it follows of course if we do not mean to go to war, that we ought to shake off this night-mare which is palsying all the operations of the Government, and the feelings of the people. All the excitement we see in this nation, all the talk of war, is that produced on the people in consequence of the oppressive acts of the party in power, of the pressure produced by their own
Petitions for Repeal of the Embargo.
Government, like that produced by the sedition act, the alien act, and the eight per cent. loans of Mr. Adams's Administration; the excitement is among those who are opposed to them. Go to war, without money, without men, without a navy . . Go to war when you have not the courage, while your lips utter “war,” to lay, war taxes . When your whole courage is exhibited in passing resolutions ! The people will not believe it. The gentleman from New York has well said that it is not the conduct of the minority, but of the House itself and of the Government—and I might go on and add of the Government prints—of the most violent Government prints, which has impressed the people with an idea that there was to be no war. I said on a late occasion on this floor, with much diffidence of the state of my information when I differed from the very extraordinary man at the head of the Treasury, that I could not be brought to believe that he could obtain money at the legal interest, and experience bears me out in that opinion. The first loan, only for eleven millions, has failed, and in so far as it has failed has cast disgrace on the credit of the country. If the first loan at the commencement of your war, when trade is embarrassed, and moneyed men not knowing what to do with their money, cannot be filled, how will you obtain the succeeding loans ? The reason why the public mind is impressed with an opinion that there will be no war is, because the public are totally unaware of the high price at which this House holds its own consistency—that the ruin of the nation weighs nothing in the scale against it. The reason why the public mind has been impressed with an idea that there would be no war is not the breaking up or down of this or that system of restriction, but they must have been blind and deaf not to have seen that there has not been, from the beginning of the session to this day, any system at all. It is notorious. and is as well known to the well informed gentlemen in this House as to any gentleman in this nation. There has been nothing like a system; and the bill passed this House a few days ago in relation to the War Department proves there has been no system. Passing resolutions to lay taxes by overwhelming majorities, and letting them lie on the table, and relying on the scanty resource of borrowing, which has failed, proves that you have no system; and yet, sir, I do not mean to say that you will not have war; but with the gentleman from New York I will say, because I know it, that you have neither army, ships, seamen, nor system. Under these circumstances, sir, you may have war. That one of the two great belligerents with whom we are about to come into contact, can have no objection to see all our ships and seamen driven by the operation of this law within her grasp; for sailors who have received fiftyfour dollars a month to go to sea, will not receive fifty-four dollars a month to come back; and there will be very little need of a hot press on the river Thames, or the river Liffey, to man the British navy. She can have no objection to see