« ForrigeFortsett »
by what means or by whose measures the nation was brought into its present situation ; it must, however, be satisfactory to all, that the administration had done every thing that could have been expected to avoid the present crisis, and to keep the nation at peace. If the British government would cease to violate our neutral and national rights, our difficulties would be at an end. It was no longer a question about the colonial carrying trade that was at an end ; because Great Britain might now be considered as possessing the West India Islands ; and we have now neither sugar nor coffee to carry, she has determined to execute with rigor her unjust orders against our carrying the productions of our own soil to any market except her own or that of her allies : this is attacking the best interest of the country; indeed, it is taking the profits of both planter and merchant. Hence, none of our exports bring a price by which we can live, except flour; and that would be no better than any other article of export, was it not that Great Britain and her allies, Spain and Portugal, want it for the support of their armies : it is their wants, and the great difficulty of getting them supplied any where else, that keeps up the price of wheat.
Notwithstanding these were his sentiments, he thought it would be going too far to consent by the vote he was about to give, that he pledged himself to vote for any measure which the committee of Foreign Relations might hereafter bring forward, when he did not intend to vote for all the resolutions contained in the report, which was now under consideration. Our affairs must now command the serious attention of every man in the nation. We must either prepare to maintain the right to carry our produce to what market we please, or to be content without a market: to attempt another negociation, would be useless ; every effort has been made in that way that could be made. Indeed, no one has yet said that he wished another. He was as desirous of peace as he ever was ; and if any plan shall be proposed by which the peace of the country can be preseryed, and the right to export our native produce maintained, he should still prefer it to war; but if no such plan can be devised, he was willing to go to war for that right. He was also willing to declare the points to the nation for which we went to war, and rather than not succeed, he would carry it on for fifty years, and longer if necessary. He felt no hesitation in declaring, that he would not go to war to encourage the nation, or any part of it, to become manufacturers, (and it may not be amiss to observe, that from the day that this report was laid on the table, we have heard nothing about manufactures) nor would he go to war for the purpose of building a navy. He mentioned this, because he heard a good deal said of late about increasing the fleet and building seventy-fours. If, therefore, it was to be a war either to encourage manufactures or to build a fleet, he should be opposed to it; he would rather remain as we are awhile longer, bad as our situation is, than to stick these two set-fasts to the back of the nation, neither of which it could ever get clear of. A peace in Europe might free us from our present embarrassments, but from the other, once established, we can never expect to get
free. He could not agree with the gentleman from Georgia,(Mr.Troup) that the House ought now, by the previous question, to put an end to the debate ; on the contrary, he wished every member might have full time to deliver his sentiments on this great question : for his part, he wished to hear the opinions of those who lived on the eastern frontier; he was gratified that several of the members of the western had favored the committee with theirs. He expressed this wish, because the part of the country which he represented was in the middle country, about the same distance from the mountains and the Atlantic ocean, in no danger of being surprised or injured by any plu.2dering party : but if the House was to do that which the gentleman from Georgia seemed to desire, it would do no good, because if our object be to invade Canada, it can scarcely be expected that this could be done with our utmost exertions by regular troops, hereafter to be raised, sooner than June or July. Hitherto our proceedings have been carried on not only with good humor, but with great urbanity also; to stop the debate, might have a tendency to change this, which no one would regret more than the gentleman himself. Before we raise an army, and provide it with every thing necessary for marching, we have much to do. We have now no Washington to command, and since the days of Joshua' I have read of no such man; such men do not appear every century, and a thousand years will hardly produce one. It is quite probable, except the commander in chief, as good or better appointments may be now made, than were made at the beginning of the revolution : because, there are now more men of experience in the country than there were at that time ; and also, because the men of talents and experience are much better known to the national government now than they then were ; besides the selection of officers, the waggons, carts and provisions are to purchase, and almost every other article necessary for marching an army. "It may not be improper here to remark, that this is not a gov. ernment of confidence; and that before we go too far, we ought by some means or other to know who is to command the
army. There cannot be much difficulty in this, especially as every department of the government seems willing to raise a force adequate to the purpose for which it may be wanted. And here, sir, permit me to say, that I hope this is to be no party war ; but a national war, in which every person in the nation may have a fair chance to participate in the honor and glory to be acquired in the field of battle, and in defence of the rights of his country. Such a war, if war we shall have, can alone, in my judgment, obtain the end for which we mean to contend, without any disgrace.
Before I sit down, it is proper for me to say, that I shall vote for the resolution now under consideration ; but in doing this, I give no pledge to vote for the number of men that has been mentioned in de. bate; almost every number from 50,000 'down to 15,000 have been stated as the proper number to be raised ; when these are compared with the number, 10,000, mentioned by the chairman of the commitee of Foreign Relations, (and I understood him to say that was tie number wanted by the executive) it appears more like guessing than calculating. The administration, no doubt, know the number of troops in Canada and in all the American continental dominions of Great Britain ; this is not known to the House, of course we can do nothing but guess; and it is enough for me, at present, to vote the number which it has requested. If I should appear too cautious about voting men, it ought to be remembered that I voted for the six thousand additional troops, under the belief that Great Britain had made war upon us, and that afterwards the law raising them could not be repealed.
One word as to what has been said about secret proceedings ; they are useless ; and experience has convinced the nation that Congress has never kept a secret one week; it is known to all the world that both France and England use money to buy political secrets; but as the documents are public, it would have appeared a little strange to keep the proceedings in the legislature, which originated from them, a secret.
MR. M'KEE_Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House at this late hour of the debate, with reluctance, but the importance of the question must be my apology.
Some gentlemen, in felicitating themselves on the account of the temper of the House, evidenced by the determination to adopt yg. orous measures aga'nst England, have expressed a regret that n. ures of a similar character had not been resorted to long since.
In this sentiment I cannot agree. In reviewing past times, we cannot but perceive, that it has been the desire of the government to avoid being involved in the war with which Europe has been so long desolated, and by dealing out justice to the belligerents respectively with an impartial hand, to preserve our neutrality, permitting our citizens peacefully to pursue their private avocations, reaping the rich harvest arising from our neutral commerce.
This was certainly a wise policy, and the distinguished s'ccess with which it was attended is a clear evidence of its wisdom and propriety. Why then should it be condemned ? Have any people ever acquired individual wealth with so much rapidity ; or have any been more happy in the enjoyment of domestic tranquillity, than the peo. ple of the United States ? None. The wish of the late and the present administrations, was, to continue this state of happy prosperity, as long as it was practicable, by making acts of wrong and vexation of a minor sort, growing out of the violence of the times, the subject of negociation, rather than a cause of war. And is this course of policy now to be condemned, and regrets entered up that we have not been at war years ago ?
At the opening of the session of Congress in December 1809, after the disavowal of Erskine's arrangement, when our relations with England assumed a more unfavorable aspect than at the close of the summer session, the committee on Foreign Relations, with a desire to preserve our neutrality, presented the House a measure usually termed Macon's bill, No. i--a measure, which it is now known, was approved by the administration, and had the sanction even of a higher authority, (if such there be.) This measure was calculated in its operation to present serious difficulties to those nations, by whom the rights of our neutral flag were disregarded ; and at the same time it left open to the enterprize of our citizens those channels of trade, not included within the scope of the orders and decrees of the belligerents, as they then stốod ; a commerce as extensive and valuable as we can expect to enjoy in times of general peace. It was, however, opposed, and successfully too, by war speeches. It fell : and by its fall the administration were driven from their ground, and the hope of maintaining much longer the neutrality of the United States fell with it. This unfortunate event was succeeded by the act of May 1810. By this act the belligerents were invited in a new form to withdraw their orders and decrees; promising on our part, in case either of them should accept the invitation thus given to both, to put in force the non-importation sections of the non-intercourse law against the party persevering in their orders or decrees for three months after their adversary had accepted the invitation thus given. The law of May 1810 was enacted with a hope, that the terme thereby offered to the belligerents respectively, would induce one or the other to accept them, and withdraw their orders or decrees. And an expectation was also entertained, that if one of the parties could be induced to relinquish their orders or decrees, the other party would follow the example ; and if this just expectation should be met by a perseverance of either of the parties in their orders or decrees, after their adversary had accepted the invitation thus given, it would test the sincerity of the various and repeated declarations made by them respectively, that their orders and decrees affecting our commerce were reluctantly issued in their own just defence.
Those also who preferred war to the preservation of our neutrality, md by whom Macon's bill was rejected, would be relieved from the embarrassment of going to war with two of the most powerful nations in the world; or of selecting which of the two should be made our enemy, at a time when we had just cause of war against both.— The fixed and determined hostility of one of the parties towards the United States, would be (as it certainly now is) most clearly proved ; and thereby our measures of hostility rendered the more necessary, and more likely to receive the unanimous approbation of the American people.
My opinion, therefore, is, that it was wise to preserve our neutrality as long as possible, making an appeal to force the last reluctant resort; and inasmuch as the majority of Congress in 1809, resolved
to change the peaceful character of this country, the intervening period has been employed in a last effort to avert the calamities of war; the result of which has relieved this government from anv liability to the charge of partiality to either of the belligerents, by compelling one of them by their own act to present themselves as the object of our just hostility.
In the present state of our relations with Europe, it seems to me the question which we are summoned to decide, is, whether we shall repeal the non-importation law, or adhere to it as a system of resist. ance to the orders in council ; or whether we shall raise the force contemplated by the resolutions on your table, with the intention of using it when raised against Great Britain ? If we repeal the nonimportation law in pursuance of the request or rather the mandate of his Britannic majesty's minister and plenipotentiary to the United States, without substituting war, or some equivalent measure of resistance to the orders in council, we shall consecrate the monstrous pretensions of the British government to regulate our foreign trade, and fashion it into that form which best suits her views and interest. Such a course would be unworthy and disgraceful, and would entitle us to the indignant contempt of all the world, and cannot be pursued.
An adherence to the non-importation law as a measure of resistance to the orders in council, appears to me to be no better. How long shall we live at this poor dying rate, before this non-importation law will effect the repeal of the orders in council? Will it be two years or twenty years? The answer is in the bosom of futurity. But in the mean time our prosperity is gone; our resources are wasting; and the present state of things is sapping the foundations of our political institutions by the demoralization of the people. It cannot be denied, that a bounty is offered to the people to violate your law; a bounty that has been accepted by many, and will be accepted by more --and thus the wicked are prosperous whilst the good man turns pale.' Their prosperity will have an injurious and demoralizing effect on the country, tending to lessen the ideal enormity of the violations of your laws by the frequency and familiarity of such acts, and the consequent prosperity attendant thereon, morality and patriotism will, in too great a degree, be abandoned as the badges of poverty; and whenever the morality and patriotism of your people is lost in any degree, so in proportion will your political institutions be rendered insecure. In the mean time the wishes, the views, and calculations of your adversary, founded on their orders in council, are fulfilled.
To me, therefore, war, with all its evils, is the preferable course calculated to produce the desired end, if attainable at all, with more celerity by producing a stronger appeal to the interests of the British government to do us justice. It has been stated by the gentleman from Virginia who spoke last, (Mr. Nelson) that he is willing to comply with the executive recommendation, by voting the men; but he seems unwilling to vote for the employment of these men at this time.