Slike strani
PDF
ePub

my duty to express my conviction, though I may happen to be wrong.

To me it has always appeared that your President was taken by surprise, when he found a British treaty laid at his door. His instructions to his ministers precluded the possibility of a treaty, and it never entered his head that they would have been daring enough to conclude a treaty against his orders. But the ministers having obtained what they considered the substance, disregarded the form, and sent a treaty as little looked for as desired. I do not mean to contend that the President was bound to lay this treaty before the Senate, but in exercising the power to reject it, without their advice, he took upon himself a great reponsibility, and is answerable for all the consequences of an act exclusively his own. To this act, in my opinion, may be attributed the present embarrassments of our country. Had the treaty been accepted, our trade would have flourished as heretofore, and with it our agriculture, manufactures and the fisheries. But it pleased our chief magistrate to reject it, and every day has since added to the gloom which has spread over our country. In this condition was the state of our affairs, when an unexpected event occurred, calculated to inflame to the highest pitch the animosity of our citizens against the British government. I allude to the attack of the Leopard upon the Chesapeake, in June, 1807. In relation to this outrage, the people of America felt but one sentiment. A more wanton, flagitious and perfidious act was never perpetrated. It is an act which America never will nor ought to forgive, till it is expiated by adequate satisfaction. But still, sir, we must restrain our indignation, while we inquire whose act it was, and who is answerable for it. The material inquiry is, was it or has it become the act of the British government?

The British minister, as soon as the news of the occurrence reached him, voluntarily and unasked, declared, that it was unauthorized by the government. He disavowed it in parliament, and the king himself confirmed the disavowal. It rested, then, as the act of Admiral Berkeley. The nation, however, were bound to make us satisfaction for the injury done us by their public servant. If they refuse adequate satisfaction, they adopt the act. The government were sensible of this obligation, and they took steps to comply with it. They sent a special minister for the sole purpose of making reparation for the injury we had suffered. This minister we received, and agreed to consider the outrage which had been committed, as the act of Berkeley. Considered as the act of the government, it would have been an act of open You commence a negotiation as to the terms of reparation; but here the same spirits which rejected the treaty baffles every effort to accommodate this new cause of offence.

war.

When informed of the attack upon one of our public vessels by a British man-of-war, under the orders of an admiral, our government had

reason to apprehend that no individual, however high in rank, would have hazarded so daring an outrage, without the authority of his government.

With this view, and to preserve peace and tranquillity in our harbors, we may consider the President as justified in issuing his proclamation, interdicting the entrance of British armed ships into the waters of the United States. But, sir, the moment it was ascertained that the act of Berkeley was unauthorized; so soon as the government had solemnly disavowed it and offered reparation, the proclamation ought to have been withdrawn. Are you permitted to punish a nation for the acts of its subjects, in which it does not participate? The law and the practice of civilized nations, on this point, is explicit and uniform. When the subject of one,power offends against the sovereignty of another, this will not justify retaliation upon other subjects of the same power with the one who offended. It has uniformly been our own doctrine, and it is the common interest of mankind to maintain it, that in such case you must apply to the sovereign of the party offending, and abstain from any act of hostility, till he refuses you reparation. This course our government did not pursue; for the act of an individual they retaliated against his nation.

Upon the grounds which have been stated, you may excuse the issuing of the preclamation; but what excuse is there for its continuance, when we acknowledge ourselves, in treating for reparation, that the act complained of, is the act of an individual, and not of his government? A proclamation like the one issued, without adequate cause, was a breach of neutrality, and a just cause of war. For, to admit into your ports, and grant succor to the armed ships of one belligerent, while you exclude those of the other, is not consistent with that impartiality which belligerents are entitled to claim from neutrals. The point was so understood, and so felt by the British government; and they required, as they had a right to do, that, as they had not committed the act complained of, that the proclamation, which had an operation or appearance of hostility against them, should be recalled. If they refused reparation, we had a right to redress ourselves; but had we a right to take the redress into our own hands, and, at the same time, to require them to make us reparation? When you ask justice, you must expect to do it. A nation should be as ready to perform its duties, as to insist upon its rights. The British government had given sufficient evidence of a disposition to grant satisfaction for the injury done us, by sending to the country a special minister for the purpose; that minister was instructed to make voluntary reparation, but to grant none under the coercion of the proclamation. In his first communication to the Secretary of State, he informed him, that his powers did not allow him to make reparation, unless the proclamation was withdrawn. The affair was then

managed with sufficient adroitness to catch the popularity of the country: when it was known that the proclamation must be first withdrawn, its revocation and the reparation were proposed by the secretary, as simultaneous acts. Why was this proclamation so tenaciously insisted on? If you had revoked it, and the reparation offered was deemed insufficient, you would have had no difficulty in renewing it. It is no task to our President, to issue a proclamation: at most, we contend only for a point of etiquette, a thing important, perhaps, in a monarchy, but very little respected among us republicans. Give me leave to say, that in this negotiation, I soon became persuaded that the difference in question was not to be settled by itself, but was to stand open in the general account. If there had been a sincere desire to settle it, the paltry measure of the proclamation would not have formed an obstacle for a moment. I have here a new and great proof that the executive is not sincerely desirous of a full and friendly settlement of all differences with England. It may be difficult to trace the motive which governs; but I can plainly discover the same spirit now, which agitated the nation in 1795; a spirit then subdued by the mighty influence of Washington, but which has since risen with increased strength, and now domi

We have, sir, to choose our enemy between these two nations. We are hardly equal to a contention against both at the same time. How does the case stand in relation to them? The Emperor first issues his Berlin decree, interdicting our trade to England and her colonies. England then gave us notice, if you allow France to prevent your trading with us, we will not suffer you to trade with France. If you are tame enough to submit to a French decree, you will surely not be too proud to yield to a British order. Assure us that you will resist the execution of the decree, and we will not retort its principles upon you. This our government declined doing, and left England to pursue her own course. Her government then issues the order of the 11th of November, retaliating the Berlin decree. I do not defend this order; but if the administration had resisted, as they ought to have done, the Berlin decree, we should not have seen the order. What now is to be done? England insists on her orders, as a measure of retaliation against France. Prevail on France to repeal her decrees, or agree to resist the execution of them: and if England then executes her orders, I will be as free as any man to go to war with her.

No such course has been taken, but what have we done? Laid an embargo. And for what purpose did we lay the embargo? This is a subject of conjecture to some; but our government tells us, it was to preserve our ships, our sailors, and our mercantile capital. Some have said, to preserve them from the operation of the orders in council. When the embargo was laid, the orders in council were not known in this country. Of this fact I want no stronger proof, no stronger can exist, than that the President, in his message to Congress, in which he recommends the embargo, says not a word of these orders in council. No, the embargo was not produced by the orders in council, nor by any thing which we heard from England, but by news which had then been recently received from France.

nates.

We are told the embargo was to save our

I consider, sir, that the measures of the administration have been, not only insincere, but extremely feeble; they will not settle their differences with England, and yet have not courage openly to quarrel with her; they pass a non-importation act to punish the impressment of seamen and the aggressions upon our carrying trade; they exclude, by proclamation, British armed ships from our waters, to avenge the outrage on the Chesapeake and what benefit to ourselves or detriment to our adversary, have these measures produced? They are calculated to increase the animosity between the nations, but I know of no other effect they can produce. So far, indeed, have they been from constraining Britain to accede to our terms, that they have rendered her more re-ships, our sailors, and mercantile capital. I do gardless of our rights and interests. She has not believe that such was its object; but if such since given us new and more feeling causes of were its purpose, we have been miserably discomplaint, by her orders in council of the 7th appointed. The embargo, for a short period, of January, and the 11th of November, 1807. might have been a prudent measure. As a step These orders take from us the trade of nearly of precaution, to collect our seamen and merall Europe. They are the counterpart of the cantile capital, I should never have complained French decrees. God forbid that I should of it. But it is insulting to common sense, to justify them! I will never admit that France propose it as a scheme of permanent security, or England have a right to make laws for the as it must daily consume, and finally annihilate ocean nor shall I ever hesitate, when they the objects of its preservation. Your ships insist upon the execution of such laws, to de- once in, and the danger known, you should clare myself for war. I am as free as any gen- have left your merchants to their own discretleman in this Senate, to protest against sub- tion. They would have calculated the profits mission to the decrees of France, or the orders and the perils, and been determined by the of England; but is not submission to the decrees balance of the account. No class of society is as disgraceful as submission to the orders? more capable of taking care of itself. The gentleman from Virginia said nothing of the decrees, nothing of a war with France, his resentment was confined to Britain.

It is said we have preserved our seamen. The President has as gravely repeated this remark in his message, as he recommended to us

to devise means to dispose of our surplus reve- | sufferings which this miserable system has caus-
nue, at a moment when it was evident that the ed, if, in looking abroad, we could discover
situation of the country would drain the treas- that the nations who have injured and offended
ury of its last dollar.
us, felt its oppression only equally with our-
selves. But when we find that we have been
scourging ourselves for their benefit and amuse-
ment, when they can tell us, with indifference
and contempt, that they feel for us, but that
we must correct our own folly; instead of
meeting with the poor comfort which we ex-
pected, we are overwhelmed with accumulated
mortification.

Where are your sailors? They are not to be seen in your ports. One-half that were employed by you have passed into foreign service, and many that remain, are to be found begging in your roads and at your doors.

As to our ships and mercantile capital, the one-tenth part of the loss from decay and waste and want of employment, would have paid for an insurance against every danger to which they would have been exposed. It is not my intention, Mr. President, to detain you with any details on this subject, as I should be compelled to repeat the same things which have been stated by other gentlemen on a former occasion. But there are some general views of the sub-does not comport with his own designs. ject, not undeserving of notice, which yet remain to be taken.

I consider it as admitted, that the embargo was intended to coerce England; and the gentleman from Virginia now contends that if it had been strictly executed, it would have had that effect. Nothing has happened that common foresight might not have foreseen. The gentleman has read to you extracts from an English pamphlet, published before the embarNow I ask you, sir, if your government ought go was laid, which predicts the very evasions not to have been acquainted with its own pow- of the law, the discontents it would produce, ers, its own people, and its own situation, well and the opposition it would meet with, which enough to have known, that it was impossible we have all had the melancholy opportunity of for it to confine the whole produce of the coun- witnessing. I know the pamphlet was referred try within its limits, for any length of time? to for another purpose-to show that British Ought they not to have foreseen the vast temp-gold or influence had corrupted or seduced the tations which have arisen and presented them- Vermontese, before the embargo was imposed. selves, as well to our own citizens as to for- The gentleman may believe the fact to be so if eigners, to combine, in order to break or elude he pleases; but I say, sir, that your government your laws? Ought they not to have known, here, with all its means of information, ought that, with our extent of coast and frontiers, to have known as much about the condition of with our numerous waters, that a wretched Vermont as a pamphleteer on the other side of gunboat navy, aided even by ten thousand reg- the Atlantic. ulars, was not capable of covering our borders It seems now to be admitted, and the fact is and shutting up the numberless outlets of the too evident to be denied, that the embargo has country? Could they expect that patriotism failed in its coercive effect upon Britain. The was to feed and to clothe the people of the north; want of bread, cotton, or lumber, has neither or, that thousands would submit to starve, in starved her subjects, nor excited them to insurorder to contribute to the success of an experi-rection. Some gentlemen have had shrewdness ment? enough to discover an effect in an English price We all know, that the opposition to the em- current, which might, to be sure, have been bargo, in the eastern States, is not the opposition owing to the embargo, or might have been proof a political party, or of a few discontented duced by the operation on the market of some men, but the resistance of the people to a meas-private speculations. But it has enriched Canure which they feel as oppressive and regard ada, and has taught the islands their policy and as ruinous. The people of this country are not ability to live without us. to be governed by force, but by affection and confidence. It is for them we legislate, and if they do not like our laws, it is our duty to repeal them.

If the embargo were ever a measure of precaution, it certainly has long lost that character. As a measure of coercion, it was hopeless, unless completely executed. If the party to be coerced was partially supplied, the object was defeated.

It is madness to talk of forcing submission, when there is general dissatisfaction. Your government is in the hands of the people; it has no force but what it derives from them; and your enforcing laws are dead letters, when they have once been driven to resist your meas

ures.

It would, sir, be some consolation, amidst the

Was this a measure against France? No; the emperor commends the magnanimous sacrifice which you have made of your commerce rather than submit to British tyranny on the ocean. His imperial majesty never approves what he does not like; and he never likes what

Would to God, Mr. President, that the embargo had done as little evil to ourselves as it has done to foreign nations! It is ourselves who are the victims of the miserable experiment. Your treasury will lose at least fifteen millions of dollars, and your country, in addition, not less than forty. This tax has not been so much felt, though it has not in truth been less paid, because the embargo has not taken the money out of our pockets, but only prevented it going into them. This measure has been not only ruinous to our interests, but it is hos

[ocr errors]

of the United States under certain conditions, to suspend the operation of the act laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbors of the United States, and the several supplementary acts thereto,' by suspending the embargo law and its supplements as regards Great Britain. I am authorized to give you this assurance in the most formal manner."

tile to the genius of our government. It calls for an increase of your regular army, and a vast augmentation of your military force. Ten thousand bayonets were not sufficient to enforce it, but fifty thousand volunteers, (as I have seen by a bill on the table,) were to be invited to assist in its execution. That measure of an administration which arms citizen against citizen, or requires the soldier to act against Now, sir, what is the amount of this boasted the citizen, is baneful to liberty. If persevered offer? Nothing more than the assurance of our in there would soon be an end of free govern- minister of an intention of the President to rement. The effect is also to be deprecated move the embargo, in case the orders in council upon the spirit of your military. They are were actually repealed. Great Britain was to called upon to execute laws they are unable to repeal her orders, allow the President to make construe, and, in obeying their orders, are ex- the most of that act with her enemy, and trust posed to the commission of murder. Your na- to his executing his good intention when it val forces are sent out to cruise, not for ene- should suit his good pleasure. The offer to mies, but for defenceless fellow-citizens, and England related only to the embargo, when this they return to boast not of a gallant battle, but experimental measure, so far from being injuof a miserable seizure, which may bring pov-rious to her, was adding to her wealth and erty upon some wretched family in their own strength. It leaves her navigation without a country. rival on the ocean, and has restored to her more seamen than she could have impressed in ten years. Well may Mr. Canning say, there is no assignable relation between the removal of the embargo, and the repeal of the orders in council. The President had instructed his minister to assure the British government, that the embargo was designed solely as a municipal regulation, and not as an act in any degree hostile to them. The orders in council were a measure of hostility against France; and we offer to revoke a municipal regulation operating in favor of Britain, if she will relieve us from the pressure of a measure adopted against her enemy. But let me ask, was there any offer made to rescind the proclamation or to repeal the non-importation law? Two measures much more offensive and hostile to Great Britain than the embargo. With these laws in force, it was a mere mockery to offer the removal of the embargo. What more proof do we want, than this transaction affords, that the executive has not been sincere in his endeavors to restore a good understanding between this country and England. And therefore it is that I contend that war is not unavoidable with that nation. I confess, sir, I should think a war with England one of the greatest evils that could befall this country; not only from the sufferings which it would inflict upon it, but also from the fatal connection with France to which it would give birth.

It has been often said in defence of the embargo, that the nation had nothing left but that measure, submission, or war. Can you distinguish between the embargo and submission? Can you pretend to say that it is a voluntary self-restriction imposed as a matter of choice? Can it be denied that it has been forced upon us by the conduct of one or both of the belligerents? And with a full knowledge of the fact, can you describe it as any thing but vile, abject submission? France tells you, you shall not trade to Britain; you obey her: Britain then tells you, you shall not trade to France; you submit. You have not resisted the decrees or orders, but have complied with the object of both. We have borne the burden of the embargo till it has almost broke our backs, and even when we are sinking under it, we pretend to say it was no task to bear it. In this case, it is then said, there only remained submission or war. Submission I put out of the case. I trust in God it never entered into the head of one American! But I deny that war is necessarily the alternative; and I never will admit it till I see sincere efforts ina'e to accommodate our differences with England. The President, in his message at the opening of Congress, would give us the impression that Britain had refused the last and the fairest offer it was in the power of our government to make in order to preserve peace. It will be important for us to understand the nature and extent of that offer. The proposition no doubt was made by Mr. Pinkney, in conformity to his instructions. To avoid error, I will take the liberty of reading to the Senate the words of Mr. Pinkney to Mr. Canning on the subject, in his letter of the 23d of August last:

"I had the honor to state to you, sir, that it was the intention of the President, in case Great Britain repealed her orders as regarded the United States, to exercise the power vested in him by the act of the last session of Con- | gress, entitled 'An act to authorize the President

We have seen what has been the course of the government in relation to Britain: and I will beg a few moments to examine what has been its conduct in regard to France? The last proposition made to Britain is well known; the documents fully disclose it; but what at the same time was proposed to the French government? This we know little of. We have not been furnished with the correspondence with that government on the subject. The transaction is covered with a dark and impenetrable veil. The President tells us in his message, that the same proposals were not made to the two belli

gerents, and it would seem from what he hints, that the offer to France, in case she repealed her decrees, was to join her in the war against England. It cannot be denied that we have lost more by the spoliations, and have been more harassed under the arbitrary edicts of France, than of England. By the treaty of 1800, we gave up more than twenty millions of dollars which had been seized, and, against all right, confiscated in France. Since that time, we are officially informed, that an amount nearly equal has been seized and confiscated or sequestered. She has wantonly burnt our ships on the ocean and made no compensation. Her Berlin decree of the 21st of November, 1806, commenced the present system of outrage upon neutral rights. In effect, it interdicts all trade with England and her colonies. This is followed by the Milan decree of the 17th of December, 1807. Under this edict, an American vessel which has been searched or visited against her will, by a British cruiser, or is proceeding to or returning from Eugland, is liable to be captured as good prize. And finally, to complete this monstrous system, comes the Bayonne decree, the 17th of April, 1808, which declares every American vessel found upon the ocean liable to seizure and confiscation. Opposed to these accumulated violations of our neutral rights, what steps has our government taken against France? Have they passed a non-importation act, issued a proclamation, or imposed an embargo? The last measure is general in its terms, but is avowedly against England alone. No, they have contented themselves with memorializing, remonstrating and protesting. Against England we took every step short of war, against France we have employed nothing but gentle words. Has your government then shown an equal resentment against the wrongs suffered from these two powers?

And what, sir, are we to gain by a non-intercourse? It can never benefit the nation; it is nothing more than a part of that miserable musquito system, which is to sting and irritate England into acts of hostility. I have no doubt she sees the object, and she will take care not to give us the advantage which would be derived from war being commenced on her part. But I ask, what will be the effect of non-intercourse? I see no other than that it will require two voyages instead of one, to transport our produce to the markets of the interdicted countries. You carry your merchandise to Lisbon, and there deposit it; and from thence it is carried in foreign ships to England and France. Who will pay the expense of this circuity of transportation? The United States. It will be deducted from the price of your produce. Can the gentleman contrive no system which will operate with less severity upon ourselves than upon those whom he deems our enemies? If the resolution has no design, but what is apparent on the face of it, it is evident that its sole operation is against ourselves. Its inevitable effect will be to reduce the profit of what we have to sell, and to increase the expense of what we have to purchase. I can perceive also, sir, that it will be a measure of unequal pressure upon different sections of the country; and that its weight will fall heaviest upon that part of the Union already too much galled to suffer any addition to its burden. The lumber, the live stock, the fish, and the articles of common exportation to the eastward, will not bear the expense of double freights. Will they thank you for repealing the embargo, and adopting a substitute which continues to shut the ports of the north, while it opens those of the south? Will they thank you for a measure which deprives them even of the miserable consolation of having fellow-sufferers in their distress? If this resolution be adopted, you do nothing to heal the wounds which you have inflicted. If New-England loses her trade, she will derive no comfort from its being under a non-intercourse, and not under an embargo law.

The objects of the resolution are embargo, non-intercourse and non-importation as to England and France, and their colonies. The existing embargo is to be repealed only in part; | expect, sir, that a law, to this effect, could ever

It is a part of the resolution, that we are to import no produce or merchandise from England, or France, or their colonies. Do you

It may be from the habit of enduring; but we do not feel an aggression from France with the same quickness and sensibility that we do from England. Let us see, sir, the same conduct observed with regard to both belligerents; let us see the impediments to a friendly settlement with Britain removed; let us witness a sincere effort made to regulate the intercourse of the two nations by a treaty, formed on principles of mutual concession, and equal interest, and I will answer for it, if Great Britain persists in her orders, that you will find no division in this country on the question whether we shall submit to them or resist their execution.

one-half of the channel of your rivers is opened, the other is to be embargoed; and vessels may proceed to sea, but they must not pass through the embargoed waters. I can well conceive of one port in the United States being embargoed and the others open: but of an embargo which gives the right to every vessel in a harbor to leave it, I confess I have no comprehension. I should have supposed that the honorable gentleman might have ventured to repeal the embargo generally, and trusted to the provisions on the subject of non-intercourse to accomplish what seems to be the object in view, in partially retaining it. Sir, it is a strange infatuation, that the name of this odious measure should be preserved, when the thing itself is abandoned.

Permit me, Mr. President, to detain you a few moments longer. I am sensible that I have already trespassed upon the indulgence of the Senate, and I shall hasten to conclude the remarks which I have thought it of importance to make upon the resolution which has been submitted.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »