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speeches were not so frequently made in Congress as at the present time, and there were no regular reporters, so that those senators, especially of the minority, who wished to have their speeches printed, were obliged to write them out themselves. To these circumstances, the absence of Mr. Hunter's name from the debates reported in the Annals of Congress, may, it is presumed, be ascribed.
On the proposition for seizing and occupying the province of East Florida, in 1813, during the war between the United States and Great Britain, Mr. Hunter made a speech in secret session of the Senate, which he afterwards dictated to an amanuensis, and caused to be printed at Newport. This production will be found in the subsequent pages of this volume. It shows comprehensive views of the subject, expressed in a style unusually dignified and elevated, and contains passages of a high order of eloquence.
Mr. Hunter questioned the constitutionality of the Missouri restriction; voted accordingly, and failing to obtain a re-election to the Senate, he resumed his practice at the bar, and continued it until 1834, when he was appointed, by President Jackson, Chargé d'Affaires to Brazil. At Rio de Janeiro, he acquired the respect of the diplomatic body, and of the Brazilian government; and at the special request of the young emperor, was elevated to the position of Minister Plenipotentiary. During his residence in Brazil, he accumulated, from the various libraries of that country, and from every quarter to which he could gain access, vast stores of learning and research, which he would probably have published, had his life been spared.
In 1845, he returned to the United States, and on the tenth of December, 1849, died at Newport, in the seventy-sixth year of his age.
As a lawyer Mr. Hunter was distinguished for the extent and variety of his learning, while his diverse accomplishments gave him power as an advocate. In person he was tall, commanding and comely. In gesture graceful, natural and appropriate. His voice had a rare depth and melody, and his elocution was distinct and dignified. His language was rich and flowing, and his fancy quite poetical. His literary attainments were of a high order. He was quite familiar with the Latin classics, and apt in his quotations from them. In the French and Italian languages he was also well versed, and he spoke the former with as much ease and correctness as could be expected from one who had learned it in his childhood, from the French officers who were quartered in his father's house at Newport, and who had not many opportunities for practising it after their departure.
Mr. Hunter excelled in convivial talent, and was sure at a dinner-table to command at least as much attention as any one present whenever he thought proper to speak. His wit was keen and classical. Many of his good sayings are treasured up and repeated by his contemporaries in Congress. A man important as a politician in Pennsylvania, but otherwise quite insignificant, was a candidate for the office of Secretary of the Senate. Aspiring senators were eager in canvassing for him, so much so that the surprise of a newly elected senator was excited, and he asked Mr. Hunter why it was that such eminent men should take so lively an interest in the success of the candidates. Mr. Hunter replied, "Perhaps, my friend, you have not yet been long enough in Washington to be aware that Pennsylvania avenue leads to the President's house."
On another occasion, Mr. Little, of Maryland, was indulging in remarks of a personal character upon Mr. Law, of North Carolina, in the House of Representatives. Mr. Hunter happened to be among the auditors, and a gentleman near him asked if he thought Law would answer Little in the same strain. "No, indeed," said Mr. Hunter, de minimis non curat lex."
ON SEIZING EAST FLORIDA.
This speech, on the proposition for seizing and occupying the Province of East Florida by the troops of the United States, was delivered by Mr. Hunter, in secret session of the Senate of the United States, on the second of February, 1813:
| peculiarity of its construction-the duration of its members in office, and the very mode of would be, and the design that it ought to be, their appointment, indicate the hope that it distinguished for the consistency of its conduct? Do not all the speculations upon the theoretic perfection of our constitution, contemplate this, as the body that, resisting temporary impulses, and opposing its own firmness to a fluctuating and imbecile policy, would give something like system and stability to our national councils?
MR. PRESIDENT: It is, sir, with the utmost reluctance, that I make the attempt to suggest some remarks on the present subject. For although the question now under consideration is Sir, I doubt not our power at all times-and confessed on all sides to be one of the deepest upon great and extraordinary occasions I doubt interest and importance, involving in its deci- not the right, the expediency and propriety of sion no less a consequence than that of a change reversing our decisions. No body of men can of our relations with a friendly power from a be infallible, and therefore its decisions ought state of peace to that of war, yet we have been not to be irreversible. All I contend for is, informed by the honorable gentleman from that a case clear and strong indeed ought to be Maryland (whose judgment on all occasions, made out, to induce the Senate to forfeit, or from his experience and standing here, is en- even to hazard its character for stability and titled to peculiar respect) that every exertion consistency. I do not say that our deliberate will be unavailing, and that it is the pre-deter- decisions, a few months since, is such conclusive mination of a majority of this Senate to adopt proof of its absolute perfection, of its entire the present bill. If that gentleman desponds impeccability, as that it operates as an estoppel after his own able and ample discussion of the upon all subsequent inquiry, and necessarily present bill, and his own vigorous efforts to precludes all debate; but grounding myself prevent his own prediction, it would be pre- upon a well-known distinction, I do say, it is sumption in me to hope. Whoever, too, moves most persuasive, convincing and satisfactory in the discussion of this question must go on evidence of the correctness of that decision, depressed, if not alarmed, by the denunciation and that according to all the principles of parof the honorable gentleman from Georgia, who liamentary usage, deducible either from the in the overflowing of an allowable zeal and rules of a sound logic, or from judicial analoanxiety (connected as he deems the success of gies, it imposes on the honorable mover of this this bill to be with the peculiar interest and ad- proposition and all its advocates, the necessity vantage of his own State) has declared it not of substantiating, by new and further evidence, less than infatuation, that pretends to foresee by arguments not before adduced, and by conany evil consequences resulting from its adop-siderations of policy, arising out of a new tion. juncture of our affairs-the wisdom, propriety and necessity of the present proceeding.
This too, sir, ought to be done with a clear
In spite, however, of the forlorn hope to which I am condemned by the honorable gentleman from Maryland, and the certainty of in-ness and copiousness of proof, sufficient to repel curring the penalty of the denunciation of the the warrantable, and inevitable suspicion, which honorable gentleman from Georgia (to whose always attaches to a renewed effort for a repersonal good opinion I am far from being in- jected measure; to an application for a new different), I feel myself impelled by obligations trial, upon a suggestion of new and further eviof duty, by a fair interpretation of the instruc- dence. What is the actual case? have we new tions of my constituents in reference to another proofs? even new statements? have we had occasion, and the clearest convictions of my any thing but arguments before refuted? Is understanding, to record my vote against the the relation of our country different? Has any present proposition; and from the pressure of new event taken place? No, sir, it is not even the same motives, I find myself induced, hope- pretended. I do therefore, on the ground of less and unpropitious as is the occasion, to as- our former decision, on the ground that we sign my reasons for that vote. were then right, and on the absence of all new inducement from proof, statement or argument, to do away that presumption, call upon gentlemen, as they respect themselves individuallyupon the Senate, whose character for consistency and dignity (most important and essential attributes of that character) will be compromitted and hazarded with the nation, to resist this overthrow of their best resolves to stand to their former opinions, and to permit no con
And in the first place, is it nothing, is it a consideration worthy of no regard, that this House has but lately, after a protracted and solemn discussion, rejected the very proposition contained in the bill before us? Is a character for consistency in its measures of no importance to this branch of the legislature? Does not the
*General Samuel Smith.
tradictory record to be produced against them | tude to encounter? At second-hand with our ―to the degradation of their established politi-intermediate decision to break off the storm of cal character and consequence. public censure, they may be willing to adopt it. Sir, on this point of consistency and adher- But let us leave to them the honor and the peril ence to our former resolves, we ought to be of this at least contingent measure. If it will the more tenacious, because we have excited be so productive of good as some gentlemen hopes and expectations among our constituents, predict, it will be an act of condescension and and especially the commercial class, that we liberality for us to relinquish our pretensions ought not to disappoint. Next to an English, in their favor; but if it be an act pregnant with a Spanish war is the most disastrous in which innumerable evils, let the responsibility rest this country can be engaged. It affects, most upon the broad shoulders of the immediate deeply, the little commercial enterprise that is representatives of the people. They have a suffered to exist in the country. Upon the sug-power to which we cannot pretend, that of gestion that you were playing at this deep game originating money-bills-of devising the sys last session, a hundred commercial enterprises tems of taxation. The present war has exconnected with shipments to Spanish countries ceeded, in expense, all previous calculation; and colonies were suspended. Upon your wise has transcended every estimate:-and the exand virtuous rejection of this measure, hundreds pense of the next year will be at least double of shipments of enterprises grounded on your that of the last. A new war must inevitably consistency, upon your permanency of system, lead to a farther enormous increase of the pubhave commenced, and are now proceeding. lic burdens. Shall we originate measures, and leave to them the laborious, and I am afraid odious task of exacting from the pockets of the people the means of executing them? Or shall we heedlessly precipitate the country into a new war, ignorant whether the means will ever be provided to carry it on? Let us at least wait to see what is the system of taxation which their wisdom and patriotism will present to us. It may be too intolerable to be adopted;—then this measure must fail; and we shall as a Senate have lavished our precious stock of public favor in a legislative effort at once premature and impotent.
Sir, I wish to husband our peculiar reputation. Prudence, caution, and circumspection, but above all, independence; a firm, severe, and erect independence, ought to be the distinguishing qualities of this grave and dignified assembly. It is not for us to court popularity—but I am not unwilling to augment and corroborate our claims upon the public gratitude. We have already this session done much. We originated and carried through with uncommon despatch and unanimity, the bill for the augmentation of the navy. We conducted, with like dispatch and unanimity, our proceedings in regard to the Merchants' Bonds. We have unbound from the rack the victims of financial extortion, and preserved an useful and unoffending class of citizens from ruin, and the nation from disgrace. Let us not surrender these strong holds upon the public confidence. Let us at least not invoke public execration, by a rash declaration of an additional, unjust, and unnecessary war. If the car of the state is to be driven Jehu-like to destruction, let us refuse to be the charioteers. I admit, that these objections are entirely preliminary; and relate not so much to the specific merits of the question now under consideration, as to the point whether we ought to consider it at all. Whether (if I may so express myself) we ought to assume of it any cognizance whatever. But in my humble conception, these objections are not less valid and important, for being preliminary considerations such as natu
Sir, it will be a gross breach of faith towards the commercial world; they will be ruined by this secret declaration of war. It will burst upon them, from this conclave, like a hurricane from the cave of Eolus, sweeping into the power of your new enemy as large an amount of property as that for which we pretend we are solicitous to seek indemnification. Where is our property? our commerce? at Cadiz―at Havana-at Lisbon. Do you suppose that the Spaniards, and the Portuguese, their allies, are dullards and fools? and that they will omit the fair and honest exercise of the rights of reprisal and retaliation? Will they not preach our doctrines against ourselves; practice our own arts, and repel aggression by aggression?
It is not on the mere ground of obstinate, unenlightened, indiscriminating adherence to your former measures, that I appeal to your sense of honor, magnanimity and consistency; but in relation to the prospect of loss, of disastrous consequences, of wide-spread distress. The merchants are now pursuing a lucrative honest trade with a friendly nation, upon the ground of their special and unsuspecting confidence in this Senate. Will you disappoint that confidence, and expose them to inevitable ruin; yourselves to inevitable censure?
Sir, why should we, as a Senate, at this time introduce this proposition? Is it by way of penitence for our former sin? a means of obtaining pardon for our past offences? a reparation for wrongs we have done? Or is it that some terrible necessity exists, that the Senate should entitle itself to forgiveness, and propitiate selfish and senseless clamor, by an act of submission and a surrender of its former opinions? Sir, I know we have the right to originate this measure; but is it proper, expedient, decorous in us to do it? It was, at first, the measure of the House of Representatives: let them at least re-produce it. Why this attempt to oblige us to adopt a bantling they have abandoned? Why court a perilous responsibility, which it seems they have no longer the forti
rally and necessarily precede, and for a time exclude the discussion of the main question.
And, sir, there is another remaining topic, under this head of argument, of more prevailing force, than either of those I have attempted to illustrate.
Why, I ask, is there, in the mode of presenting this measure, a total evasion of presidential responsibility? Is it a measure of the cabinet? Then, why has it not the sanction of presidential recommendation? Why are we to be used as a constitutional screen, interposed between the people, and the efficient initiator of this measure? Where is the message, where is the manifesto, spreading out in the expansion of detail, this declaration of another war, against an innocent, neutral, and friendly country?
| practice of every administration-this assertion of a truism, which, in the abstract, nobody is disposed to deny; this stripping a case of all its circumstances, for the purpose of facilitating the progress of an unusual and unexplained course, is, I confess, not a mode of reasoning, for which my plain and unscholastic mind has a preference. I admired the animation and the spirit with which the gentleman from Pennsylvania asserted his own personal independence in regard to the executive, and feel grateful to him for the clear exposition of the principles upon which our independence as a political body is constitutionally upheld. And I accord with him in the assertion, that initiative legislation in all cases but those of revenue, and uninfluenced deliberation in all cases without exception, is the right and privilege of this House.
Is it not a presidential measure? then we are driving on to the consummation of a deed of dreadful import, without the usual and necessary instructions on this subject. It may be that we are doing something in opposition to another branch of the Government, who may hold, on this subject, opinions adverse to ours; —and we are voluntarily subjecting ourselves to the peril of a dangerous conflict between the constitutional authorities. This, I again admit, we have the power of doing;-but is it right, proper, expedient and decorous to do it? There may be an extreme case presumed, when it might be proper, at all hazards, to exercise this power. But will gentlemen pretend that the case has, in this instance, occurred? Is this an occasion of such pressing emergency, of such imperious necessity, of such obvious enormity, as compels us from duty and principle to act, even at the hazard of interrupting the harmony of the different departments of the Government? By the third Section of the 2d Article of the constitution, it is made the duty of the President, from time to time, to give to the Congress information of the state of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. It is his imperative duty;-he shall do it. It is a fair presumption, that if he thought this measure advisable, just, honest, practicable and expedient, that he would have recommended it. I know, sir, that some gentlemen object to this course of observation;-and alarm themselves with a jealousy, that there is in this argument, something that imports a surrender of the independent powers of this House, and they repel, with some warmth and indignation, the opinion that we should not act upon our own plans and conceptions, without a previous presidential recommendation. Most undoubtedly the gentleman from Pennsylvania is correct. I admit it-this is the theory of the constitution, and there may be cases in which it would not only be the duty of this House to act without presidential communication, but something like treason not to act. But is this such a case? This resort to the dormant, theoretic principles of the constitution, in contradistinction to the daily, well-understood and unobjectionable
But the exercise of this right, to be practically useful and beneficial, will, from its very nature, be infrequent. It is no corroboration of that right to assert it in unqualified terms, or to resort to it without judicious discrimination or self-evident necessity. And, sir, in a case involving a change of our relations from a state of peace with a friendly nation to that of war, no instance can hardly be imagined, in which our primary interference would be justifiable. It was clearly shown by my honorable friend from Connecticut, with a peculiar felicity of illustration, and an irrefutable force of argument, to be in as little accordance with the spirit of the constitution as it is contrary to the uniform practice under it. It may be, sir, reprobated as a tory doctrine;—but I have imbibed it, from an attention to the cases that have occurred, under the administrations of Messrs. Jefferson and Madison. In the great cases of the two embargoes, in that of the war with England, in this very measure heretofore, and indeed in all where a change of our relative situation with foreign powers was contemplated, we have had an executive message—a distinct recommendation. And, sir, this is the true whig doctrine-it is the correct republican course-it fixes the responsibility upon one person-it limits-it defines it-it reduces it to a single point. We can judge of the recommendation, by the reasons by which it is enforced; we can venture to indulge in a warrantable confidence, as to the truth of the statements that are made;-because we know they are made under the consciousness and the peril of the highest official responsibility. If the measure recommended, and made the basis of our proceedings, should afterwards appear to have pro ceeded from base, corrupt, or traitorous motives, by the constitutional process of impeachment, the transgression would be visited on the actual transgressor-the national honor would be redeemed, and public justice would be vindicated.
But in the present mode who is responsible? who, in any event would be impeachable? To the President solely, in the first instance is in
How do we know that the functions of the treaty-making power in this instance have ceased? that the virtuous attempt to preserve the country in peace has been abandoned in despair? May we not heedlessly and officiously interfere with unclosed negotiations on this very subject and thus disappoint the best concerted efforts of the proper authority directed to the attainment of this very object, by peaceful, in preference to belligerent means? Was not this the very argument urged successfully last session, in relation to France?
trusted the treaty-making power. He watches | by the honorable gentleman from Georgia, bu over our concerns with foreign nations he has from their formal public acts. I agree the he the means of intelligence the power of inter- reditary king was Charles; the rightful king ference. If the former relative situation of our is Ferninand; the intrusive, usurping king is affairs with Spain has changed, he ought and Joseph. The country is invaded by France and will, unless you presume him criminally indif- is closely allied with England; but still, in prinferent to his sacred duty and his country's wel- ciple and fact, and for all efficient purposes, the fare, announce that change. Shall we clamor- government is Spanish ;—legitimately Spanish ; ously rush to arms, when the sentinel on the represented and conducted by the agents of the watch-tower has lighted no beacon-has sound- Spanish nation; who make treaties, contract ed no trumpet-has rung no alarm-bell? alliances, fight battles, achieve victories, and perform all the essential duties and mighty functions of a great nation. We have, at this very moment, a minister from that nation resident in this country, (why he has not been publicly acknowledged it is not for me to say,) who has tendered reparation for all the wrongs Spain has, at any time, inflicted on this country-on her part unintentional wrongs, occasioned by the peculiarity of her situation-and inflicted, not from injustice, but in consequence of French instigation, and French despotic dictation. The whole of our unpublished correspondence with Spain proves that she acted under duress. These wrongs, sir, were accidental blows, which in the paroxysm of distress, she directed without aim against a friend; and for which, now restored to sanity and freedom, she feels penitence and offers reparation. It would be unjust to avenge ourselves, in her present distresses; ungenerous, because her house is on fire, to plunder it of its precious effects; unchristian not to meet penitence with forgiveness.
Were not the manifold and enormous injuries committed against us by France equally reprobated by all parties, and did we not all agree that reparation-prompt, comprehensive, effectual reparation was due? What restrained us from requiring it in the same way from France as we did from England? because the President announced to us that negotiations with the one power and not with the other were closed. Let us wait for the same communication in regard to Spain.
According, sir, to our American principles, These considerations, drawn from the nature grounding ourselves on the acknowledged rules of the treaty-making power, when first urged of public law, there always is a legitimate by my honorable friend from Connecticut, seem-government, the government "de facto;" we ed by the admission of the honorable gentleman interfere not with the independency or intefrom Kentucky on my right, to have made their rior constitutions of foreign nations. I adproper impression on his candid and intelligent mit that there may exist circumstances to mind. But he has struggled manfully against which this, as a general rule, must bend; but his tendency to be convinced against his will, it is a fact that has been repeatedly stated in and has reconciled himself (as we all too easily print, and never contradicted, and to the concan) to a former favorite prepossession. But viction of my mind, ascertained by circumstanthe course of reasoning by which the honora- ces, that the reparation offered by the Minister ble gentleman achieved this victory over him- of the Cortes of Spain, was an immediate repaself, is to my humble conception as fallacious in ration; a reparation in rem-by the delivery of principle, as it has been, when acted on by min- dollars actually in this country-to the amount isters and politicians, baneful in its effects. It of all our fair claims; the amount to be settled is grounded on the assumption of the fact that by commissioners, upon the principle of the very there is no existing authority in Spain with convention made by Mr. Charles Pinckney, once whom it is safe and proper to treat. This, too, acquiesced in by this very Senate, and highly is the favorite argument of the honorable gen- advantageous to this country. If we get the tleman from Georgia, who last addressed you. reparation by honest means, if we were snug in The stress and substance of his very able ad- our indemnity by consent of parties, we clearly dress, appeared to me to be this: You must do should have an equitable, and at all events a this act necessity constrains you to adopt it, legal right to retain it, let what would happen. as a measure of security and precaution. You No matter who might hereafter occupy the cannot negotiate-there is no Spain with whom government of Spain; no action for money, had to treat; or, at any rate, there is no Spain but and received, could rightfully be instituted as identified with Great Britain. against us; and if attempted to be exacted by In the true republican language of old times, force, we should then clearly have a right to I should say, that is the government which the repel force by force. We ought to have dispeople will to be so: and I should take the ev-dained the menaces of an interfering, usurping idence of that will, not from an English news-power, have consulted solely American interests paper, Cobbett's Register, which was quoted and feelings, have taken the money, and paid it