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not have proved, in his very learned, ingenious, and original exposition of the powers of this government - an exposition in which he has sought, where nobody before him has, and nobody afier him will look, for a grant of our powers, I mean the preamble to the constitution — has clearly shown, to the satisfaction of all who heard him, that the power of defensive war is conferred. I claim the benefit of a similar principle, in behalf of my political friends, against the gentlemen from Boston. I demand only the exercise of the right of repulsion. No one is more anxious than I am to preserve the dignity and the freedom of debate; no member is more responsible for its abuse, and, if, on this occasion, its just limits have been violated, let him, who has been the unprovoked aggressor, appropriate to himself, exclusively, the consequences.
I omitted yesterday, sir, when speaking of a delicate and pain. ful subject, to notice a powerful engine which the conspirators against the integrity of the union employ, to effect their nefarious purposes; I mean southern influence. The true friend to his country, knowing that our constitution was the work of compromise, in which interests apparently conflicting were attempted to be reconciled, aiins to extinguish or allay prejudices. But this patriotic exertion does not suit the views of those, who are urged on by diabolical ambition. They find it convenient, to imagine the existence of certain improper influences, and to propagate with their utmost industry a belief of them. Hence the idea of southern preponderance, Virginia influence, the yoking of the respectable yeomanry of the north with negro slaves to ihe car of southern nabobs. If Virginia really cherished a reprehensible ambition, an aim to monopolize the chief magistracy of the country, how was such a purpose to be accomplished ? Virginia, alone, cannot elect a president, whose elevation depends upon a plurality of electoral votes, and a consequent concurrence of many states. Would Vermont, disinterested Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, independent Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, all consent to become the tools of inordinate ambition ? But the present incumbent was designated to the office before his predecessor had retired. How? By public sentiment; public sentiment, which grew out of his known virtues, his illustrious services, and his distinguished abilities. Would the gentleman crush this public sentiment?– is he prepared to admit, that he would arrest the progress of opinion ? The war
was declared, because Great Britain arrogated to herself the pretension of regulating our foreign trade, under the delusive name of retaliatory orders in council - a pretension by which she undertook to proclaim to American enterprise, thus far shalt thou go, and no further' — orders which she refused to revoke, after the alleged cause of their enactment had ceased; because she persisted in the practice of impressing American seamen; because she had instigated the Indians to commit hostilities against us; and because she refused indemnity for her past injuries upon our commerce. I throw out of the question other wrongs. The war in fact was announced, on our part, to meet the war which she was waging on her part. So undeniable were the causes of the war, so powerfully did they address themselves to the feelings of the whole Ainerican people, that when the bill was pending before this house, gentlemen in the opposition, although provoked to debate, would not, or could not, utter one syllable against it. It is true, they wrapped themselves up in sullen silence, pretending they did not choose to debate such a question in secret session. Whilst speaking of the proceedings on that occasion, I beg to be permitted to advert to another fact which transpired; an important fact, material for the nation to know, and which I have often regretted had not been spread upon our journals. My honorable colleague (Mr. M'kee) 'moved, in committee of the whole, to comprehend France in the war; and when the question was taken upon the proposition, there appeared but ten votes in support of it, of whom, seven belonged to this side of the house, and three only to the other! It is said, that we were inveigled into the war by the perfidy of France; and that, had she furnished the document in time, which was first published in England, in May last, it would have been prevented. I will concede to gentlemen, every thing they ask about the injustice of France towards this country. I wish to God, that our ability was equal to our disposition, to make her feel the sense that we entertain of that injustice. The manner of the publication of the paper in question, was, undoubtedly, extremely exceptionable. But I maintain, that, had it made its appearance earlier, it would not have had the effect supposed; and the proof lies in the unequivocal declarations of the British government. I will trouble you, sir, with going no further back than to the letters of the British minister, addressed to the secretary of state, just before the expiration of his diplomatic functions. It will be recollected by the committee, that he exbibited to this government a despatch, from lord Castlereagh, in which the principle was distinctly avowed, that, to produce the effect of a repeal of the orders in council, the French decrees must be absoluiely and entirely revoked as to all the world, and not as to America alone. A copy of that despatch was demanded of him, and he very awkwardly evaded it. But on the tenth of June, after the bill declaring war had actually passed this house, and was pending before the senate, (and which, I have no doubt, was known to him,) in a letter to Mr. Monroe, he says: 'I have no hesitation, sir, in saying, that Great Britain, as the case has hitherto stood, never did, nor never could, engage, without the greatest injustice to herself and her allies, as well as to other neutral nations, to repeal her orders as affecting America alone, leaving them in force against other states, upon condition that France would
except, singly and specially, America from the operation of her decrees. On the fourteenth of the same month, the bill still pending before the senate, he repeats: 'I will now say, that I feel entirely authorized to assure you, that if you can, at any time, produce a full and unconditional repeal of the French decrees, as you have a right to demand it, in your character of a neutral nation, and that it be disengaged from any question concerning our maritime rights, we shall be ready to meet you with a revocation of the orders in council. Previously to your producing such an instrument, which I am sorry to see you regard as unnecessary, you cannot expect of us to give up our orders in council.' Thus, sir, you see, that the British government would not be content with a repeal of the French decrees, as to us only. But the French paper in question was such a repeal. It could not, therefore, satis the British government. It could not, therefore, hare induced that government, had it been earlier promulgated, to repeal the orders in council. It could not, therefore, have averted the war. The withholding of it did not occasion the war, and the promulgation of it would not have prevented the war. But gentlemen have contended, that, in point of fact, it did produce a repeal of the orders in council. This I deny. After it made its appearance in England, it was declared by one of the British ministry, in parliament, not to be satisfactory. And all the world knows, that the repeal of the orders in council resulted from the inquiry, reluctantly acceded to by the ministry, into the effect upon their manufacturing establishments, of our non-importation law, or to the warlike attitude assumed by this government, or to both. But it is said, that the orders in council are withdrawn, no matter from what cause; and that having been the sole motive for declaring the war, the relations of peace ought to be restored. This brings me to the examination of the grounds for continuing the present hostilities between this country and Great Britain.
I am far from acknowledging, that, had the orders in council been repealed, as they have been, before the war was declared, the declaration of hostilities would of course have been prevented. In a body so numerous as this is, from which the declaration emanated, it is impossible to say, with any degree of certainty, what would have been the effect of such a repeal. Each member must answer for himself. As to myself, I have no hesitation in saying, that I have always considered the impressment of American seamen as much the most serious aggression. But, sir, how have those orders at last been repealed ? Great Britain, it is true, has intimated a willingness to suspend their practical operation, but she still arrogates to herself the right to revive them upon certain contingences, of which she constitutes herself the sole judge. She waives the temporary use of the rod, but she suspends it in terrorem over our heads. . Supposing it to be conceded to
gentlemen, that such a repeal of the orders in council as took place on the twenty-third of June last, exceptionable as it is, being known before the war was proclaimed, would have prevented it; does it follow that it ought to induce us to lay down our arms, without the redress of any other injury of which we complain ? Does it follow, in all cases, that that which would in the first instance have prevented would also terminate the war? By no means. It requires a strong and powerful effort in a nation, prone to peace as this is, to burst through its habits, and encounter the difficulties and privations of war. Such a nation ought but seldom to embark in a belligerent contest; but when it does, it should be for obvious and essential rights alone, and should firmly resolve to extort, at all hazards, their recognition. The war of the revolution is an example of a war begun for one object and prosecuted for another. It was waged, in its commencement, against the right asserted by the parent country to tax the colonies. Then, no one thought of absolute independence. The idea of independence was repelled, But the British government would have relinquished the principle of taxation. The founders of our liberties saw, however, that there was no security short of independence, and they achieved that independence. When nations are engaged in war, those rights in controversy, which are not acknowledged by the treaty of peace, are abandoned. And who is prepared to say, that American seamen shall be surrendered as victims to the British principle of impressment ? And, sir, what is this principle? She contends, that she has a right to the services of her own subjects; and that, in the exercise of this right, she may lawfully impress them, even although she finds them in American vessels, upon the high seas, without her jurisdiction. Now I deny that she has any right, beyond her jurisdiction, to come on board our vessels, upon the high seas, for any other purpose, than in the pursuit of enemies, or their goods, or goods contraband of war. But she further contends, that her subjects cannot renounce their allegiance to her, and contract a new obligation to other sovereigns. I do not mean to go into the general question of the right of expatriation. If, as is contended, all nations deny it, all nations at the same time admit and practice the right of naturalization. Great Britain herself does this. Great Britain, in the very case of foreign scamen, imposes, perhaps, fewer restraints upon naturalization than any other nation. Then, if subjects cannot break their original allegiance, they may, according to universal usage, contract a new allegiance. What is the effect of this double obligation? Undoubtedly, that the sovereign, having possession of the subject, would have the right to the services of the subject. If he return within the jurisdiction of his primitive sovereign he may resume his right to his services, of which the subject, by his own act, could not divest himself. But his primitive sovereign can have no right to go in quest of him,
out of his own jurisdiction, into the jurisdiction of another sovereign, or upon the high seas, where there exists either no jurisdiction, or it is possessed by the nation owning the ship navigating them. But, sir, this discussion is altogether useless. It is not to the British principle, objectionable as it is, that we are alone to look; it is to her practice; no matter what guise she puts on. It is in vain to assert the inviolability of the obligation of allegiance. It is in vain to set up the plea of necessity, and to allege that she cannot exist, without the impressment of her seamen.
The naked truth is, she comes, by her press-gangs, on board of our vessels, seizes our native as well as naturalized seamen, and drags them into her service. It is the case, then, of the assertion of an errone. ous principle, and of a practice not conformable to the asserted principle — a principle, which, if it were theoretically right, must be for ever practically wrong
-a practice which can obtain countenance from no principle whatever, and to submit to which, on our part, would betray the most abject degradation. We are told, by gentlemen in the opposition, that government has not done all that was incumbent on it to do, to avoid just cause of complaint on the part of Great Britain; that, in particular, the certificates of protection, authorized by the act of 1796, are fraudulently used. Sir, government has done too much in granting those paper protections. I can never think of them without being shocked. They resemble the passes which the master grants to his negro slave —' let the bearer, Mungo, pass and repass without molestation. What do they imply? That Great Britain has a right to seize all who are not provided with them. From their very nature, they must be liable to abuse on both sides. If Great Britain desires a mark, by which she can know her own subjects, let her give them an ear mark. The colors that float from the mast-head should be the credentials of our seamen. There is no safety to us, and the gentlemen have shown it, but in the rule, that all who sail under the fag (not being enemies) are protected by the flag. It is impossible, that this country should ever abandon the gallant tars, who have won for us such splendid trophies. Let me suppose that the genius of Columbia should visit one of them in his oppressor's prison, and attempt to reconcile him to his forlorn and wretched condition. She would say to him, in the language of gentlemen on the other side, Great Britain intends you no harm; she did not mean to impress you, but one of her own subjects; having taken you by mistake, I will remonstrate, and try to prevail upon her, by peaceable means, to release you; but I cannot, my son, fight for you. If he did not consider ihis mere mockery, the poor tar would address her judgment, and say, "you owe me, my country, protection; I owe you, in return, obedience. I am no British subject, I am a native of old Massachusetts, where lived my aged saiher, my wife, my children. I have faithfully discharged my duty.