Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

our property all driven by our own act into her grasp as a precursor to war ; nor can she, if her Orders in Council were dictated by a fear of rivalry in trade from our commercial spirit, have any objection to see that spirit laid, not in the Red Sea, but in the Fresh river of embargo. My own opinion decidedly is, said Mr. R. that if we mean to go to war, we should have refused leave of absence to the honorable and worthy chairman of the Committee of Finance to have gone home. We should have gone into committee of supply, granted the supply wanted by Government, and take them out of the disgraceful situation in which they are now placed in endeavoring to borrow money and not being able to obtain it. The laying of taxes should have been preparatory to the loan—the first measure taken after we met here, if our intention be really to wage active war which shall not recoil on the heads of our own people and Government, and involve the latter in disgrace. But, Mr. R. said, it seemed that after laying out all the money to make preparation for a war by land, after refusing almost to take any measure for the protection of the seacoast, and adding nothing to our Navy; under these circumstances they were about to wage a war of predatory rapine, and all the military preparations for the ensuing year were to eventuate in nothing. After this, said he, I shall not be surprised if, when we receive news of inroads from the savages, we were forth with to build a fleet to repel them. We had put all our means in an Army, and we are now about to wage a predatory war, to be carried on by the exertions, personal and pecuniary, of individuals' I venture to affirm, sir, said Mr. R. that the New York election of the Spring of 1800 was not more portentous of the events which thereafter very soon ensued, than the elections now going on are portentous of the destiny of this Administration. The people will support you in whatever is just and necessary; they would have done so in 1799 and 1800. They would then have gone with the Government to war, if they had been sensible that the national interest required it. But you cannot stem the current of popular sentiment; you cannot drive the American people into measures which they see and which they feel to be subversive of their best interests. They will speak, and you must hear. It has been the case from time immemorial with all Governments—they have always exhibited a proneness to turn a deaf ear to the complaints of the people. Some Monarchs have even shut themselves up in their palaces, and refused to let the people see their faces. What was the consequence 2 Every thing without was discord and confusion; and one of the most remarkable of whom we read had to set fire to the house over his head, from the effects of his effeminacy and deafness to the voice of the people over whom he presided. I have seen one revolution in the councils of the nation, and I do not want to see another brought about by the operation of laws, as cruel, as impolitic and wild, as destitute of rational policy as the one now under consideration. What

ever o be the determination of the Government, whether peace or quasi war, I believe we shall consult the interest of the people, of the nation, and consequently of the Government, by an immediate repeal of the act in question, which every man sees, is inadequate to the purposes which it ostensibly undertakes to answer. Mr. Johnson said, however parliamentary a discussion of our foreign relations might be upon the postponement of a petition to a certain period, he could not believe it either timely or interesting. If the House were notified of such a debate, or could anticipate it, then members would not be taken by surprise. He said he did not rise with a view to answer all the remarks that had been made by the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. RANDolph,) as he had taken no memorandum, nor did he expect to have made a single remark; but the character of some observations would compel him to ask the indulgence of the House a very few minutes. The gentleman from Virginia has reminded us of the signs in the North, the elections of Massachusetts and New York. He supposed the change which had been alluded to would not give any uneasiness to the gentleman, if we judged from his opposition to the measures of the present Administration. He presumed, therefore, that the House was not reminded of these political signs as admonitions to change their course of measures, with a view of sustaining the popularity of the present majority in Congress and the Administration—but to give a greater impulse to that opposition which is manifest from these places. As to those elections, he would state that the people had their rights, and he did not wish to encroach upon them, and he hoped they would elect whom they pleased. This was a Government of the people, and if a majority of the nation thought with the gentleman from Virginia, then indeed the time would soon come when he and those in the opposition, with whom he seemed in most cases to act, would come into power, and they might pursue a different course of measures, as they seemed to agree very well in what course that should be—retracing our steps. But, if the gentleman from Virginia should be disappointed, of which Mr. J. said he had little doubt, then the present majority would not only retain their present popularity and pursue the course they had marked out for themselves, but meet the support of the people. But the same gentleman says, we have failed in negotiating the loan—and therefore disgrace has fallen upon us. He did not know whence such information was derived. Sufficient time had not elapsed to know the extent of the success in obtaining a loan, and only two days had been given to try the experiment. But, Mr. J. said e would venture the assertion, that the loan had succeeded well, and beyond expectation, taking into view the violent opposition that had been made to it by certain men in the United States, discouraging every individual and institution, that could be operated upon by their misrepresentations, not to subscribe. It was a tory opposition, of which he spoke, in the cities and seaports;

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

and an opposition which would not be quite so bold and powerful in a time of war; and he trusted in that Heaven, to which the gentleman from Virginia had appealed, that sixty days would not elapse before | the traitorous combinations and oppositions to the laws and the acts of the General Government, would in a great measure cease or change, and moderate their tone. He stated that in times of war, all Governments had their tories and their traitors and enemies in disguise; and to such he alluded, and not to those who were Americans, and might differ from those who were in the confidence of a majority of the people, and had voted the war. . With respect to the ion, he farther observed, that he had no doubt the sum subscribed would be sufficient to meet the wants of the Government; and after a declaration of war, no difficulty would exist as to the amount of loans. The Congress would not then be represented as insincere in their determination to go to war; nor would the clamor against the loan be quite so high. But he did not see what connexion this subject had with the one before the House. He should pass to the remarks of the gentleman, that we were !...i as did the blind and mad Administrations of Lor North in England, and Mr. Adams, in the years '99 and 1800. For his part Mr. J. could see no such analogy; nor did he believe it existed, whatver might be the sentiments of those who think herwise. Those who oppose the measures of Congress say the voice of the people is disregarded; and so has the gentleman from Virginia said. Indeed! and was he to give up his sentiments, and the sentiments of those whom he represented, because the constituents of the gentleman from Virginia, and the minority in this House, did not agree with him and his constituents, and with the constituents of a great majority of the members of Congress 7 With the same propriety and more, the gentlemen, who made this charge, might be called upon to give up their opposition and their judgment too, if you will, and with much better grace, if a majority of this nation is to govern, and that majority to be ascertained by their representatives here. And what other criterion will be established ? Mr. J. said, he not only voted his own sentiments, but represented truly his constituents, his district; and he presumed other members did the same. If that was the case, he did not believe the voice of the people was disregarded, but consulted, except it was disregarded by the minority. And while the opposition members exercised their rights, and he never wished to curtail them, they should recollect that the majority had rights also, and could not be called upon with any propriety to abandon them, because the constituents of a minority in the House wished it. Such a principle would totally destroy the great fundamental maxim of all good and rightful Governments, that a majority should govern. He was willing therefore, that the impartial world should judge of the propriety or correctness of such a charge, and he would proceed to the remarks of the gentleman from Virginia against the embargo. He would ask, whe

ther the gentleman supposed that a measure so well understood would be abandoned by the House to-day for any argument which could be urged— a measure so recently adopted, and one which had been the subject of examination, of applause, and invective, for more than three years 7 He presumed that no such calculation could be made. But the gentleman from Virginia not only reprobated this measure in the strongest terms as a coercive measure, a system of restriction, but as a reliminary, the precursor of war, it was equally improper and a destructive measure; and, as a measure, it could not be defended by its advocates. Mr. J. said he recollected to have read a speech of the gentleman himself on the subject of an embargo, before he had the honor of a seat in Congress, in which it was asserted that this nation could never go to war without laying an embargo previously, and for a limited time. Here, then, we have the authority of the gentleman himself many years ago, who declared that an embargo was not only wise but indispensable as a precursor of war; and now, it is the most iniquitous system that could have been adopted, even if war is intended, upon its expiration, and not only this, but it subserves the views of France. How can these sentiments and opinions be reconciled with former declarations and opinion as to an embargo? And who is the most consistent, the gentleman from Virginia, who believed in 1806 an embargo must always precede war, and now denounces such a measure as unwise and destructive of the best interests of the people; or those who believed with the gentleman in 1806, and who continue of the same opinion to this moment, and who have actually made the experiment recommended by the gentleman himself? Mr. J. said he had adverted to this circumstance on account of the charge which had been made upon those who had voted for the embargo. It was said by the same gentleman, that our proceedings reminded him of the days of '98, '99, &c. He would here again inquire of the gentleman how it happened that he was in most cases found acting with those very gentlemen who approved the measures of 98–99, and not with those who disapproved them ? Is not this state of things calculated to make us doubt the similarity of these proceedings, notwithstanding the sincerity of the contrary belief? But, to proceed. The gentleman thought he had a resentiment of some great calamity, which was so over this nation. Mr. J. did not pretend to prophesy of events, more especially of any calamitous visitation of Providence, but he would state that in his opinion, the annals of the world could not give an instance equal to that of a free people, in the enjoyment of all the blessings of character, property, rights, honor and liberty, with means to maintain them and their independence, meanly, treasonably, and ignominiously skulking from the danger of such a contest, and submitting to a system of insult and injury, of encroachment and foreign domination, which would end in the annihilation of every object for which a free Government was instituted. And he thought a Re

MAY. 1812.

public should love peace and encourage an attachment to that desirable state of things above all earthly blessings, except of liberty; he hoped that when that inestimable jewel was the prize of contest every other consideration would yield to its influence. In fact, this is the real situation of the United States. A love of peace brought them to the brink of ruin ; their liberties are in danger; and necessity now drives them to take up arms to avenge wrongs and regain their lost reputation. He called upon any member who was opposed to war, measures to put his finger upon a single essential and imprescriptible right, without which even life was a burden, that had not been violated or attempts made to its violation. The people have a right of cultivating their farms and sending their produce to foreign markets. This right has been denied and assailed, and at this moment it remains destroyed. Our seamen have a right to personal liberty and security upon our shores and in our merchant vessels. These rights are violated, and thousands of our fellow-citizens are wantonly impressed in the service 7 The Union of the States is the ark of our safety from foreign enemies and domestic traitors. The integrity of these States has been attempted, domestic ...'. has been aimed at, that it might be succeeded by a civil war. The United States have jurisdiction in their own waters. This jurisdiction has been despised, defied, and the laws violated. The frontiers are thinly settled, and mostly with helpless families of men, women, and children. These are murdered by the Indian hatchet, and by British influence, and no right can be mentioned, worth having, that has not been assailed directly or indirectly—not accidentally, but systematically; and at this very moment, this system of destruction is continued with a perseverance that astonishes any mind, and which pays no heed to remonstrance, to justice, to reason, the laws of nations and negotiation. Under this view of the subject, he should not consult dangers and hazards; the United States could not even pause—they must go on. He would resist and save the rights, the honor, and independence of the people, or be buried in the ruins of their overthrow. He said he was reminded of the declarations of those who were unfriendly to republican government—tyrants, monarchists, friends of despotism. and privileged orders, affected to believe that a republican government could not exist; that it was impracticable; that the people would not support their rights; that they could not be trusted ; that a republican government, depending upon the will of the people, was too weak to contend with a monarchy. He believed such sentiments a libel against republican governments, particularly the American Government. He believed a republican government was the strongest on earth; and such was the opinion of the illustrious Jefferson, one of the greatest and best men on earth. He knew the people were ready able, and willing to defend their rights, and maintain their independence.

[ocr errors]

But calculations have been made by the gentleman from Virginia as to the influence of the enbargo, as to the prices of our produce, flour, &c. It will not be denied that the embargo ought not to have been laid without a most evident necessity; nor ought any other restrictions without the very best reasons. But because the embargo had an influence upon produce, was that alone a good argument against it 3. The same argument would have applied with double force in the time of the Revolution, when the three pence upon a pound of tea was the immediate cause of opposition to His Britannic Majesty in the Revolution. He would not say it was the sole cause of the Revolution. No ; it was part of a system of oppression which had commenced many years before; much like that which has been pursued ever since, Principle and not profit determined the patriots of that day. They might have been told of the high price of produce, and the blessings of peace, and the perils of war; and indeed they might have anticipated the eighty thousand lives which were lost in that great conflict, and the $80,000,000 of public debt, and the depreciation of paper money and property to the amount of $100,000,000 more. But these arguments would not avail when the alternative was political slavery on one hand, and liberty and independence on the other. Had this policy governed, the independence of the United States would never have existed. He said, as much as he was opposed to war if it could be avoided, and as much as he valued life, and he had numerous friends and connexions which made existence as valuable to him as any other man, still he set a double value upon it in the hope anticipated that he should have an opportunity before many weeks of voting for war, or letters of marque and reprisal, against a nation which had attempted for more than twenty years to destroy thc happiness and liberties of the people of the United States, and who seemed determined not to be satisfied with anything short of absolute subjugation. The gentleman from Virginia says the majority have no system; that they have not voted the taxes; that if war was the object, the taxes should be first laid. As the gentleman was opposed not only to all preparation for war, but to the ways and means to carry on the war, he could not suppose his plan, as recommended to the majority, would carry any obligations with it. If indeed, the gentleman had been in favor of the measure, his opinion might have had great influence. But as to the taxes, it would be recollected, that there was a distinct resolution that no taxes should be laid until a declaration of war. It is known to all that the taxes proposed are war taxes, and as war taxes they remained in their proper place—in possession of the Committee of Ways and Means. Mr. J. said, if the bill for laying the taxes was before the House, he would not vote for them until a declaration of war or letters of marque and reprisal. He had no idea of fixing the burden of taxes upon the people, unless it was for the purposes of supporting a war to maintain

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

their own rights and independence. He did not wonder, therefore, at the suggestion of the gentleman that the taxes ought to be laid, which would be another theme of complaint and denunciation. When war is declared, taxes will be laid if necessary, and not without. A Government which cannot protect itself and its citizens from outrage and plunder, does not deserve the name: and freemen who will not fight for their rights do not deserve to enjoy them. Mr. CAlhoun.—Mr. Speaker: It is not my intention to discuss the merits of the embargo law, or to follow the gentleman from Virginia in that maze of arguments and assertions through which he has thought proper to wander. The House must be wearied, and can receive no additional light on a subject which, through the zeal of some gentlemen in opposition, has been so frequently dragged into discussion. I cannot suppose that our opponents, in their impunity, are governed by an expectation that a change will be made in the opinion of any individual of the majority. This they must see is hopeless. The measure has been too recently adopted, and after too much deliberation, to leave to the most sanguine any hope of change. To reply, then, to the arguments of gentlemen on the general merits of the embargo, would be an useless consumption of time, and an unwarranted intrusion on the patience of the House. This, as I have already stated, is not my intention; but it is my object to vindicate the motion now under discussion from unmerited censure, and to prove that it cannot be justly considered as treating the petitioners with contempt. I am aware that the right to petition this body is guarantied by the Constitution, and that it is not less our interest than our duty to receive petitions, expressed in proper terms, as this is, with respect. Two propositions have been made relative to the disposition of the petition now before us; one to refer to a committee—the other, that is now under discussion, to postpone the further consideration to a day beyond the termination of the embargo. It is contended, not by argument but assertion, that the former would have been more respectful to the petitioners. They have left us to conjecture the reasons. I ask, then, why would it be more respectful ? Would it present stronger hopes of success, or admit as great latitude of discussion on its merits 2 The gentlemen know that it would not. They well know when the House wishes to give the go-by to a petition, it has been usually by the very motion which, in this instance, they advocate. On a motion of reference, debate on the merits is precluded ; and, when referred, the committee, where there is no hopes of success, usually let it sleep. But, sir, I ask what is the necessity for referring this petition to a committee ? What are the objects of a reference I conceive them to be two; one to investigate some matter of fact, and the other, when a subject is much tangled with detail, to digest and arrange the parts, so that the House may more easily comprehend the whole. This body is too large for either of those opera

tions, and therefore, a reference is had to smaller ones. Neither of these furnish a good reason for the commitment of the present petition. The facts are not denied, and, as to detail, there is none. It ends in a point, the repeal of the embargp law, and has been so argued in opposition. his House is as fully competent to discuss its merits now, as it would be after the report of any committee ; and the motion to postpone admits of the greatest latitude of discussion on its merits. This the speech of the gentleman from Virginia has proved. He has argued not only on the merits of the petition, but the embargo, and almost every subject, however remotely connected. I know that the motion is tantamount to that of rejection in the present instance. In fact, it has been vindicated by the mover on that ground. He has justly said, as we cannot grant the relief prayed, we ought to act with promptitude and decision, so that the petitioners may know what to expect. This motion has that character. It leaves no expectation where there can be no relief. I know, sir, we might have acted very differently; we might have spun out the hopes of the petitioners. Some may think that it would be sound policy, but in my opinion it would be unworthy ..? this House. Candor, in our Government, is one of the first political virtues. Let us always do directly, what we intend shall finally be done. Since there can be no objection to the motion now before the House, it remains to be considered whether the relief prayed ought to be granted. I am sensible that the maxim is generally correct, that individual profit is national gain; and that the party interested is the best judge of the hazard and propriety of a speculation. But there are exceptions; there are cases in which the Government is the best judge—and such are those where the future conduct of Government is the cause of the hazard. It certainly is the best judge of what it intends; and, in those cases where it foresees a hazard, it ought, in humanity to the merchants, to restrain their speculations. Such is the present case. Many of our merchants labor under a delusion as to the measures of Government: nor can this seem strange, since some gentlemen, even in this House, have taken up such mistaken views of things. With such conceptions of the course of events, as the gentleman from New York thinks, will take place, I am not surprised that he should advocate the prayer of the petition. He believes that the embargo will be permitted to expire without any hostile measure being taken agains: Great Britain; and that, in the present state of our preparation, it would be madness to think of war in sixty days or any short period. When I hear such language on this floor, I no longer wonder that merchants are petitioning you to make speculations, which, in a short time, must end in their ruin. I ask the gentleman from New York, who are the true friends to the petitioners; the majority, who, foreseeing the hazard to which they would be exposed, restrain them from falling into the hands of British cruisers; or the minority, who, by suppressing

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

the evidence of danger, induce them to enter into the most ruinous speculations ? By the one, the merchants still retain their property, depreciated, it is true, in a small degree: by the other, it will be lost to themselves and their country, and will go to augment the resources of our enemy. For, sir, let me assure the gentleman that he makes a very erroneous estimate of our preparations, and the time at which we will act. Our army and measures are not only on paper, as he states ; but, were this the proper time and subject, it could be shown that very considerable advances have been made to put the country into the posture of defence, and to prepare our forces for an attack on our enemy. So far from being unprepared, sir, I believe that, in four weeks from the time that a declaration of war is heard on our frontier, the whole of Upper and a part of Lower Canada will be in our possession. We will not, I hope, wait the expiration of the embargo to take our stand against England; that stand which the best interest and honor of this nation have so loudly demanded. With such a prospect, I again ask, would it be humanity, or cruelty, to the petitioners, to grant their prayer; and, by relaxing the embargo in their favor, to entice them to certain destruction ? The gentleman from Virginia stated, to induce us to repeal the embargo law, and to make it odious, I suppose, with the community, that it operated less severely on the merchant than on the farmer and miller. He did not prove very distinctly how this unequal pressure was produced. But I understood him to say that Eastern vessels could be had with so much facility to make shipments to any European port, and that flour had risen so much already in consequence of the embargo, that the rise in the price nearly compensated for the additional risk and price of exportation. I observe the gentleman shakes his head in disapprobation of the statement. I suppose I mistook his statement. However, I could not mistake the conclusion which he drew, that the merchants, by eluding the embargo, had prevented the depreciation of the price of wheat and flour on hand. This, sir, is sufficient for my purpose. The gentleman from Virginia must know that, from the character of trade, the profit of such trade, if it really exists, cannot be confined to the merchants. It would soon raise the price of breadstufts in tile hands of the other classes of the community, and would prove that his statement of the distressed condition of the millers aud farmers cannot be correct. In his zeal against the embargo, the gentleman from Virginia says, it was engendered between the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Executive. Engendered The gentleman must be sensible of the impropriety of such language, as applied to the Executive or a committee of this #. No, sir, it was not engendered, but adopted by both the Executive and committee, from its manifest propriety as a prelude to war. There is no man, in his reason, and uninfluenced by party feelings, but must acknowledge that a war in this country ought almost invariably to be preceded

by an embargo. The very persons most loud against that measure, would be the most clamorous had it not preceded the war. There, sir, has been much false statement in relation to the embargo. I remember, when it was under discussion on a former occasion, that a gentleman then observed, he had certain information that the French Minister had been importuning our Government to stop the exportation of breadstuffs to the Peninsula. I know not whether he intended to insinuate this as one of the causes of the embargo. Be it as it may, I do assert, from the highest authority, that no such application has ever been made, directly or indirectly, on the part of the French Government. The assertion was of such a nature, as induced me to inquire into its correctness; and the result is such as I have stated. I can scarcely suppose that the gentleman intended to convey the idea that French influence had anything to do with the measure. He must know that either the Executive or a majority of this body would resist, with the greatest indignation, any attempt to influence the measures of Government; but such has been the use made of it by certain prints, either through the manner in which it was connected in debate with the embargo, or the very imperfect and unfair reports of the secret proceedings. One would suppose, from the language of the gentleman from Virginia, that he was much in the secret of Government. He says the plan now is to disband the Army, and carry on a predatory war on the ocean. I can assure him if such is the plan, I am wholly ignorant of it; and that, should it be proposed, it would not meet with my approbation. I am decisively of opinion that the best interests of the country will be consulted by calling out the whole force of the community to protect its rights. Should this course fail, the next best would be to submit to our enemy with as good a grace as possible. Let us not provoke where we cannot resist. The mongrel state, neither war nor peace, is much the worst. The gentleman srom Virginia has told us much of the signs of the times. I did hope that the age of superstition was past, and that no attempt would be made to influence the measures of Government, which ought to be founded in wisdom and policy, by the vague, I may say, superstitious feelings of any man, whatever may be the physical appearances which gave rise to them. Are we to renounce our reason 7 Must we turn from the path of justice and experience, because a comet has made its appearance in our system, or the moon has passed between the sun and the earth 3 If so, the signs of the times are bad indeed. It would mark a fearful retrograde in civilization ; it would prove a dreadful declension toward barbarism. Sir, if we must examine the auspices; if we must inspect the entrails of the times, I would pronounce the omens good. It is from moral, and not from brutal or physical omens that we ought to judge; and what more favorable could we desire than that the nation is, at last roused from its lethargy, and that it has deter. mined to vindicate its interest and honor. On the

« ForrigeFortsett »