with its ordinary concomitants. But how much stronger does not the argument become, when we advert to the peculiar complexion, arising from the novel and awful condition of the world, of that into which we have been precipitated; to the dark, degrading, and too plausible suspicions which hang over its origin and objects; to the detestation with which it is viewed by the most enlightened and virtuous of the community; to the doubts and dismay it has cast over the minds of men of all ranks and parties? How could, or should any good citizen abstain from inquiry, after he has read the statements, and resistless arguments contained in the address, of the thirtyfour members of congress; after he has seriously reflected upon the following opinions on the same subject, uttered and published, with all possible solemnity, by another representative, of unimpeachable integrity, of the keenest discernment, and the warmest patriotism?

“ A war with England under existing circumstances comports neither with the interest, nor the honor of the American people, but is an idolatrous sacrifice of both, on the altar of French rapacity, perfidy, and ambition: it is a war of submis. sion to the mandates of a foreign despot,—the basest, the most unqualified submission.

“ If without having received any shadow of indemnity for the past, or security for the future,-if indeed security could be given by the French emperor-the United States become virtually a party to the war in his behalf, it must confirm beyond the possibility of doubt, every surmise that has gone abroad, however gross, however injurious to the honor or interests of this government,—that there exists in our councils an undue, a fatal French bias. After the declarations of official men,

after the language uttered on the floor of congress, if the United States become parties to the war with France against her rival, it must establish this conclusion as clearly as the existence of the sun above us, and this government will stand branded to the latest posterity, (unless the press should perish in the general wreck of human liberty) as the panders of French despotism-as the tools, the minions, sycophants, parasites of France."*

While the constitution exists, every law enacted pursuant to its forms, although repugnant to its spirit, is obligatory upon us, until we have effected a repeal of that law, by constitutional means. From the frequency of our elections, there can scarcely occur here, one of those extreme cases of sion, which, under other governments less happily constituted,


Speech of Mr. Randolph.

form the line of demarcation “when obedience ought to end, and resistance must begin.” However grievous may be the present war, however great an abuse of power, it may imply on the part of congress, yet when the constitution itself furDishes us with a speedy and effectual remedy, things cannot justly be said to be in that lamentable condition, which authorises a people “to administer the critical, ambiguous, bitter potion of violence or revolution to a distempered state."With every constitutional requisition made in aid of the war, every good citizen will comply without hesitation, whatever may be his opinion of its merits. There are few, if any of us, who will not wish success to the American arms, whenever they may come into conflict with those of the enemy. This is a matter of innate, irresistible feeling. There are none who will not eagerly unite in resisting, at any cost or hazard, foreign invasion from any quarter. For our own part, we would rejoice to see, the entire resources of the country, put into the hands of administration, were they capable of wielding them,—to be turned inexorably against Great Britain, if we supposed that our hostilities, would not sensibly impair her strength, in her contest with France, in which we think our own safety involved; or if we believed,—what we most certainly do not believe that those resources would be sufficient, to extort from her even the concessions, and the redress really due.

So much for the absolute duties of the citizen, and for our own particular sentiments. There are, however, in this case, other considerations not to be overlooked. It is one of our constitutional privileges, to confine ourselves, if we think fit, to the performance of strict constitutional obligations. Every individual is entitled to decide for himself on this point, after full deliberation. In the case of a war like the present, he owes it in the first place, to his conscience, and his country, to inquire whether,--abstracting all other views,-there be sufficient provocation to warrant so awful an expedient;-whether all the resources of negotiation, all gentle methods have been honestly and ineffectually tried;

whether this desperate resort be, in any degree likely to accomplish its legitimate objects;---whether the springs of the war, do not lie in private interests and passions;-whether it be not visibly, in the majority even of those who enacted it, the effect of necessity and fear, not choice or patriotism;—whether the motives officially assigned for it, be not, for the most part, a tissue of counterfeit mischiefs, imaginary injuries, and gross falsehoods dressed VOL. IV.


up in order to inflame and deceive the nation;—whether, in fine, it be, and we can conceive no more terrible case of folly and guilt,—what it is represented to be, in the most imposing and emphatic manner, by a considerable proportion of the most able and virtuous of the federal representatives.

Whoever concurs with them, after having examined the whole question, and believes that a war of this description, is fitted rather to ruin, than benefit the country, is bound in conscience, to lend no other succor to his rulers, than they are legally entitled to claim. If, from a penury of mears, and the secession of all the virtuous from their cause, they can, the more promptly, be brought to allow the “soft effulgence of peace" to shine forth once more on the land, he will advance nothing gratuitously; lend them no countenance whatever. Under all circumstances, he will be careful not to make the ruin of the country irretrievable, by ceasing to struggle against it; he will omit no lawful effort to procure a change of public men, and no one can fail to see, that this object is only to be effected, by the most unreserved, public discussion, of the motives and measures of those now in power. If it happens to any of us to think this war just and politic, and that we yet deem our present rulers, incapable of waging it with energy and wisdom, we should, in like manner, by our remonstrances and votes, endeavor to replace them by others who are.

The fate of the first worthies of the Jacobin school, in France, should be a lesson to those war-zealots, among us, who are willing to imitate them, in silencing all opposition to their will, and perhaps in employing, not only the hands of the mob, but those of the executioner, to effect their purpose. The Legendres, Marats and Robespierres, could not escape with impunity, although in their sanguinary intolerance, they did but go along, in some sort, with the national torrent, and were, by the general prevalence of the most furious and profligate anarchy ever known, armed with the force sufficient to establish their ruffian code. In this country, although mobs may be found in some of our cities to trample on the rights of property and personal security, we are not, however, by any means ripe for the “ reign of terror," which several of those, who have been most clamorous in their professions of republicanism, testify an eagerness to introduce.

Faction, it has been wisely said, will bear any thing, share in any thing, justify any thing. But although faction is but too strong among us, particularly in our public councils, it is yet feeble, when compared with what may be called, in contradistinction to the cabal of demagogues, that has usurped the public voice, the national party;-a party "unmixed with foreign filth, and undefiled;"_liable indeed to be deluded for a time, but still open to the lessons of reason and experience; truly attached to order and to justice; and which, although it might not be able, or perhaps ready, to prevent

the laws from being violated, in a few instances, would, nevertheless, finally unite in abhorrence of the act, and visit the perpetrators with triple vengeance. Of this party, faction, whatever may be its hopes, has not as yet, secured the ascendant. As yet, -thank God, we have no martial law established over us; no ambulatory guillotine in motion. Let faction then beware, until this happens.“ Proscriptions,” says Bolingbroke, “are abominable and inhuman, when they are backed by a fullness of arbitrary power. But to hang up the tables of proscription, without the power of sending centurions to cut off every obnoxious head, is the extreme of folly and imprudence.”

In the first number of this journal, we predicted, that advantage would be taken, of the pretended revocation of the Berlin and Milan decrees, to involve us in hostilities with Great Britain. We shuddered at this hollow imposture, when it was first announced, seeing in it the mask, under which the plans laid for that purpose, would be adroitly, and perhaps succesfully urged. When we found our fears strengthened, by the proceedings of government during the last summer, we again proclaimed the danger, and were persuaded, that ere long, the country would be made, to drink the chalice of French alliance, to the lowest and foulest dregs. Yet, perhaps, there were none of our fellow-citizens, more confident, during the last discussions of congress on the subject of war, than ourselves, that the measure would not, at that time, be adopted.

We had passed from despondency to hope, in witnessing

at we conceived to be, a most favourable alteration of things, in the course of the few months immediately preceding. We saw in the majority of the nation what we did not anticipate,-a marked aversion for the war:-We saw the administration baffled in the attempt, to procure money from the people by loan, for belligerent purposes:-We saw the treasury left empty, and with no resource for the exigencies of the public service, but the emission of a paper-credit, or a heavy system of taxation, expedients not to be tried with impunity, and likely to prove inefficacious when tried:-We saw every proposition made in congress during the winter, for the protection of our defenceless navigation and coasts, by a naval force, or other safeguard, uniformly rejected, and evidently, with a determination that none should be carried:-We saw the business of the war department so conducted, the force demanded by it from congress, so insignificant when compared with the ostensible object, the recruiting service when tardily commenced, so like "the rolling stone which gathers no moss, that obviously, much time must elapse, before our military strength would be, to any real purpose, more considerable than our maritime:--We saw a correspondence brought by the long-expected, all-decisive Hornet, between our minister at Paris and the French government, which set the treacherous and hostile character of that government, in such a light, as to put it beyond the possibility of dispute, that in declaring war against Great Britain, the pretext of violated honor would be almost ludicrous, unless we declared it at the same time against 'France:—We saw, in fine, all the branches of government staggering under the weight, of the responsibility attached to their plans, and labouring to shift it, from one to the other, by cunning devices; the ranks of the dominant party broken, divided in opinion, cherishing different schemes, and filled with mutual distrust.

Under such circumstances,-making, too, every allowance for the strong desire, which prevailed among the majority, to assail the British, and for the pledges they had multiplied to that effect,we did not, we must confess, imagine it possible, that they would thus suddenly, and at one leap, plunge to the bottom of the abyss. There was still further room left to temporize;—the most specious reasons existed for a delay of some months;—nay, the state of our relations with France, and the unprepared condition of the country, rendered this indispensable, with a view to public honor and safety. We did not suppose

that those, who had bid so high at the auction of popularity, we will not say at what lamentable price, and who usually calculated with so much nicety and caution, would, by a sudden start, in a sort of hurry and confusion of spirits, risk their dear-bought acquisition in the lottery of war, without having, at the same time, one prize of any value, to hold out to the people. But we did not, it seems, allow due weight to the influence of false shame, of irritated pride, of inveterate resentments impatient for gratification, and tremulous, as it were, lest the opportunity should pass by unimproved. We did not lay sufficient stress upon certain vague

« ForrigeFortsett »