« ZurückWeiter »
He contended, that the real cause of British aggression was, not to distress an enemy, but to destroy a rival. A comparative view of our commerce with that of England and the continent, would satisfy any one of the truth of this remark. Prior to the embargo, the balance of trade between this country and England was between eleven and fifteen millions of dollars in favor of England. Our consumption of her manufactures was annually increasing, and had risen to nearly fisty millions of dollars. We exported to her what she most wanted, provisions and raw materials for her manufactures, and received in return what she was most desirous to sell. Our exports to France, Holland, Spain, and Italy, taking an average of the years 1802, 1803, and 1804, amounted to about twelve million dollars of domestic, and about eighteen million dollars of foreign produce. Our imports from the same countries, amounted to about twenty-five million dollars. The foreign produce exported, consisted chiefly of luxuries, from the West Indies. It is apparent that this trade, the balance of which was in favor, not of France, but of the United States, was not of very vital consequence to the enemy of England. Would she, therefore, for the sole purpose of depriving her adversary of this commerce, relinquish her valuable trade with this country, exhibiting the essential balance in her favor; nay, more, hazard ihe peace of the country? No, sir; you must look for an explanation of her conduct in the jealousies of a rival. She sickens at your prosperity, and beholds, in your growth — your sails spread on every ocean, and your numerous seamen— the foundations of a power which, at no very distant day, is to make her tremble for her naval superiority. He had omitted before to notice the loss of our seamen, if we continued in our present situation. What would become of the one hundred thousand (for he understood there was about that number) in the American service? Would they not leave us and seek employment abroad, perhaps in the very country that injures us?
It is said, that the effect of the war at home, will be a change of those who administer the government, who will be replaced by others that will make a disgracesul peace. He did not believe it. Not a man in the nation could really doubt the sincerity with which those in power have sought, by all honorable and pacific means, to protect the interests of the country. When the people saw exercised towards both belligerents the utmost impartiality; witnessed the same equal terms tendered to both; and beheld the government successively embracing an accommodation with each, in exactly the same spirit of amity, he was fully persuaded, now that war was the only alternative left to us, by the injustice of one of the powers, that the support and confidence of the people would remain undiminished. He was one, however, who was prepared (and he would not believe that he was more so than any other
member of the committee) to march on in the road of his duty, at all hazards. What! shall it be said, that our amor patriæ is located at these desks; that we pusillanimously cling to our seats here, rather than boldly vindicate the most inestimable rights of the country? Whilst the heroic Daviess, and his gallant associates, exposed to all the dangers of treacherous savage warfare, are sacrificing themselves for the good of their country, shall we shrink from our duty ?
He concluded, by hoping that his remarks had tended to prove that the quantum of the force required was not too great, that in its nature it was free from the objections urged against it, and that the object of its application was one imperiously called for by the present peculiar crisis.
ON THE INCREASE OF THE NAVY.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, JANUARY 22, 1812.
[The bill making provisions for the general repair and increase of the Navy, followed the preceding measure for augmenting the army. During Mr. Jefferson's administration, the Navy had been unpopular with the democratic party, and the policy of reducing that branch of the national force had been pursued, in opposition to the former course, adopted by the administration of John Adams. Many of the democratic supporters of Mr Madison's administration, still adhered to the policy of Mr. Jefferson; while Mr. Clay, Mr. Cheves, and other members of that party, saw the importance of sustaining the navy, in prospect of war. Among the arguments in opposition to the bill, now introduced, it was insisted that the fitting out of naval armaments would require a pecuniary expenditure which the people were not prepared to meet. The bill contained a section, providing for new frigates, leaving a blank for the number. Mr. Cheves (of South Carolina) moved to fill the blank with ten. Mr. Rhea (of Tennessee) moved to strike out this section of the bill. In committee of the whole, a warm debate ensued. Mr. Clay, in the following speech, sustained the proposition of Mr. Cheves, and the motion to strike out was rejected, by a vote of fifty-two to forty-seven. An appropriation was made, and the Navy fiited out with despatch. The result is known by the naval victories, which, in less than two years, crowned this right arm of the nation with glory, and gave it an enduring popularity with the people.]
Mr. Clay (the speaker) rose to present his views on the bill before the committee. He said, as he did not precisely agree in opinion with any gentleman who had spoken, he should take the liberty of detaining the committee a few moments, while he offered to their attention some observations. He was highly gratified with the temper and ability with which the discussion had hitherto been conducted. It was honorable to the house, and, he trusted, would continue to be manifested on many future occasions.
On this interesting topic a diversity of opinion has existed, alınost ever since the adoption of the present government. On the one hand, there appeared to him to have been attempts made to precipitate the nation into all the evils of naval extravagance, which had been productive of so much mischief in other countries; and, on the other, strongly feeling this mischief, there has existed an unreasonable prejudice against providing such a competent naval protection, for our commercial and maritime rights, as is demanded by their importance, and as the increased resources of the country amply justify.
The attention of congress has been invited to this subject by the president, in his message, delivered at the opening of the session. Indeed, had it been wholly neglected by the chief magistrate, from the critical situation of the country, and the nature of the rights proposed to be vindicated, it must have pressed itself upon our attention. But, said Mr. Clay, the president, in his inessage, observes: your attention will, of course, be drawn to such provisions on the subject of our naval force, as may be required for the service to which it is best adapted. I submit to congress the seasonableness, also, of an authority to augment the stock of such materials as are imperishable in their nature, or may not, at once, be attainable?' The president, by this recommendation, clearly intimates an opinion, that the naval force of this country is capable of producing effect; and the propriety of laying up imperishable materials, was no doubt suggested for the purpose of making additions to the navy, as convenience and exigences might direct.
It appeared to Mr. Clay a little extraordinary, that so much, as it seemed to him, unreasonable jealousy, should exist against the naval establishment. If, said he, we look back to the period of the formation of the constitution, it will be found that no such jealousy was then excited. In placing the physical force of the nation at the disposal of congress, the convention manifested much greater apprehension of abuse in the power given to raise armies, than in that to provide a navy. In reference to the navy, congress is put under no restrictions; but with respect to the army, that description of force which has been so often employed to subvert the libertjes of mankind, they are subjected to limitations designed to prevent the abuse of this dangerous power. But it was not his intention to detain the committee, by a discussion on the comparative utility and safety of these two kinds of force. He would, however, be indulged in saying, that he thought gentlemen had wholly failed in maintaining the position they had assumed, that the fall of maritime powers was attributable to their navies. They have told you, indeed, that Carthage, Genoa, Venice, and other nations, had navies, and, notwithstanding, were finally destroyed. But have they shown, by a train of argument, that their overthrow was, in any degree, attributable to their maritime greatness? Have they attempted, even, to show that there exists in the nature of this power a necessary tendency to destroy the nation using it? Assertion is substituted for argument; inferences not authorized by historical facts are arbitrarily drawn; things wholly unconnected with each other are associated together; a very logical mode of reasoning, it must be admitted! In the same way he could demonstrate how idle and absurd our attachments are to freedom itself. He might say, for example, that Greece and Rome had forms of free government, and that they no longer exist; and, deducing their fall from their devotion to liberty, the conclusion, in favor of despotisın, would very satisfactorily follow! He demanded what there is in the nature and construction of maritime power, to excite the fears that have been indulged? Do gentlemen really apprehend, that a body of seamen will abandon their proper element, and, placing themselves under an aspiring chief, will erect a throne to his ambition ? Will they deign to listen to the voice of history, and learn how chinerical are their apprehensions ?
But the source of alarm is in ourselves. Gentlemen fear, that if we provide a marine, it will produce collisions with foreign nations; plunge us into war, and ultimately overturn the constitution of the country. Sir, if you wish to avoid foreign collision, you had better abandon the ocean; surrender all your commerce; give up all your prosperity. It is the thing protected, not the instrument of protection, that involves you in war. Commerce engenders collision, collision war, and war, the argument supposes, leads to despotism. Would the counsels of that statesman be deemed wise, who would recommend that the nation should be unarmed; that the art of war, the martial spirit, and martial exercises, should be prohibited; who should declare, in the language of Othello, that the nation must bid farewell to the neighing steed, and the shrill trump, the spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife, and all the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war; and that the great body of the people should be taught, that national happiness was to be found in perpetual peace alone ? No, sir. And yet, every argument in favor of a power of protection on land, applies, in some degree, to a power of protection on the sea. Undoubtedly a commerce void of naval protection is more exposed to rapacity than a guarded commerce; and if we wish to invite the continuance of the old, or the enactment of new edicts, let us refrain from all exertion upon that element where we must operate, and where, in the end, they must be resisted.
For his part (Mr. Clay said) he did not allow himself to be alarmed by those apprehensions of maritime power, which appeared to agitate other gentlemen. In the nature of our government he beheld abundant security against abuse. He would be unwilling to tax the land to support the rights of the sea, and was for drawing from the sea itself, the resources with which its violated freedom should at all times be vindicated. Whilst this principle is adhered to, there will be no danger of running into the folly and extravagance which so much alarms gentlemen; and whenever it is abandoned — whenever congress shall lay burdensome taxes, to augment the navy beyond what may be authorized by the increased wealth, and demanded by the exigences, of the country, the people will interpose, and, removing their unworthy representatives, apply the appropriate corrective. Ir. Clay, then, could