Abbildungen der Seite

discharged only £39,594,305. The national debt at the peace of Utrecht amounted to £52,681,076, and during the peace which followed, being twenty-seven years, from 1714 to 1740, there was discharged only £7,231,503. When the operations of our sinking fund were contrasted with those of Great Britain, they would be found to present the most gratifying results. Our public debt, existing on the first day of January, 1802, amounted to $78,754,568 70; and on the first of January, 1815, we had extinguished $33,373,463 9. Thus in thirteen years, one half the period of peace that followed the treaty of Utrecht, we had discharged more public debt than Great Britain did during that period. In twenty-six years she did not pay much more than a seventh of her debt. In thirteen years we paid more than a third of ours. If, then, a public debt, contracied in a manner, he trusted, satisfactory to the country, imposed upon us a duty to provide for its payment; if we were encouraged, by past experience, to persevere in the application of an effective sinking fund, he would again repeat, that the only alternatives were the adoption of a system of taxation producing the revenue estimated by the committee of ways and means, or by great retrenchment of the public expenses.

In what respect can a reduction of the public expenses be effected? Gentlemen who assailed the report on this ground have, by the indefinite nature of the attack, great advantage on their side. Instead of contenting themselves with crying out retrenchment! retrenchment! a theme always plausible, an object always proper, when the public interest will admit of it, let them point the atiention of the house to some specified subject. If they really think a reduction of the army and navy, or either of them, be proper, let them lay a resolution upon the table to that effect. They had generally, it was true, singled out, in discussing this report, (and he had no objection to meet them in this way, though he thought the other the fairest course,) the military establishment. He was glad that the navy had fought itself into favor, and that no one appeared disposed to move its reduction or to oppose its gradual augmenta

But the standing army'is the great object of gentlemen's apprehensions. And those who can bravely set at defiance hobgoblins, the creatures of their own fertile imaginations, are trembling for the liberties of the people, endangered by a standing army of ten thousand men. Those who can courageously vote against taxes, are alarmed for the safety of the constitution and the country, at such a force scattered over our extensive territory! This could not have been expected, at least in the honorable genileman (Mr. Ross), who, if he had been storming a fort, could not have displayed more cool, collected courage than he did, when he declared, that he would show to Pennsylvania, that she had one faithful representative, bold and independent enough to vote against a tax!


[ocr errors]

He had happened, very incidentally, the other day, and in a manner which he had supposed could not attract particular attention, to state, that the general condition of the world admonished us to shape our measures with a view to the possible conflicts into which we might be drawn; and he said, he did not know when he should cease to witness the attacks made upon him in consequence of that general remark; when he should cease to hear the cry standing army,' national glory,' &c. &c. From the tenor of gentlemen's observations, it would seem as if, for the first time in the history of this government, it was now proposed, that a certain regular force should constitute a portion of the public defence. But from the administration of general Washington, down to this time, a regular force, a standing army (if gentlemen please), had existed, and the only question about it, at any time, had been, what should be the amount.

Gentlemen themselves, who most loudly decry this establishment, did not propose an entire disbandment of it; and the question, ever with them, is, not whether a regular force be necessary, but whether a regular force of this or that amount be called for by the actual state of our affairs.

The question is not, on any side of the house, as to the nature, but the quantum of the force. He maintained the position, that, if there was the most profound peace that ever existed; if we had no fears from any quarter whatever; if all the world was in a state of the most profound and absolute repose; a regular force of ten thousand men was not too great for the purposes of this government. We knew too much, he said, of the vicissitudes of human affairs, and the uncertainty of all our calculations, not to know, that, even in the most profound tranquillity, some tempest may suddenly arise, and bring us into a state requiring the exertion of military force, which cannot be created in a moment, but requires time for its collection, organization, and discipline. When gentlemen talked of the force which was deemed sufficient some twenty years ago, what did they mean? That this force was not to be progressive? That the full grown man ought to wear the clothes and habits of his infancy? That the establishment maintained by this government, when its population amounted to four or five millions only, should be the standard by which our measures should be regulated, in all subsequent states of the country? If gentlemen meant this, as it seemed to him they did, he and they should not agree. He contended, that establishments ought to be commensurate with the actual state of the country, should grow with its growth, and keep pace with its progress. Look at that map (said he, pointing to the large map of the United States, which hangs in the hall of representatives) -- at the vast extent of that country which stretches from the Lake of the Woods, in the northwest, to the Bay of Fundy, in the east. Look at the vast extent of our maritime coast; recollect we have Indians and powerful nations conter

minous on the whole frontier; and that we know not at what moment the savage enemy, or Great Britain berself, may seek to make war with us. Ought the force of the country to be graduated by the scale of our exposure, or are we to be uninfluenced by the increase of our liability to war? Have we forgotten that the power of France, as a counterpoise to that of Great Britain, is annihilated - gone, never to rise again, I believe, under the weak, unhappy, and imbecile race who now sway her destinies? Any individual must, I think, come to the same conclusion with myself, who takes these considerations into view, and reflects on our growth, the state of our defence, the situation of the nations of the world, and above all, of that nation with whom we are most likely to come into collision for it is in vain to conceal it; this country must have many a hard and desperate tug with Great Britain, let the two governments be administered how and by whom they may. That man must be blind to the indications of the future, who cannot see that we are destined to have war after war with Great Britain, until, if one of the two nations be not crushed, all grounds of collision shall have ceased between us. I repeat, if the condition of France were that of perfect repose, instead of that of a volcano, ready to burst out again with a desolating eruption; if with Spain our differences were settled ; if the dreadful war raging in South America were terminated; is the marines of all the powers of Europe were resuscitated as they stood prior to the revolution of France; if there was universal repose, and profound tranquillity among all the nations of the earth; considering the actual growth of our country, in my judgment, the force of ten thousand men would not be too great for its exigences. Do gentlemen ask, if I rely on the regular force entirely for the defence of the country I answer, it is for garrisoning and keeping in order our fortifications, for the preservation of the national arms, for something like a safe depository of military science and skill, to which we may recur in time of danger, that I desire to maintain an adequate regular force. I know, that in the hour of peril, our great reliance must be on the whole physical force of the country, and that no detachment of it can be exclusively depended on. History proves that no nation, not destitute of the military art, whose people were united in its defence, ever was conquered. It is true, that in countries where standing armies have been entirely relied on, the armies have been subdued, and the subjugation of the nation has been the consequence of it; but no example is to be found of a united people being conquered, who possessed an adequate degree of military knowledge. Look at the Grecian republies, struggling successfully against the overwhelming force of Persia ; look more recently at Spain. I have great confidence in the militia, and I would go with my honorable colleague (Mr. M'Kee), whose views I know are honest, hand in hand, in arming, disciplining, and rendering effective, the militia ; I am for providing the nation with every possible means of resistance. I ask iny honorable colleague, alter i have gone thus far with him, to go a step further with me, and let us retain the force we now have for the purposes I have already described. I ask gentlemen who propose to reduce the army, if they have examined in detail the number and extent of the posts and garrisons on our maritime and interior frontier? If they have not gone through this process of reasoning, how shall we arrive at the result that we can reduce the arıny with safety? There is not one of our forts adequately garrisoned at this moment; and there is nearly one fourth of them that have not one solitary man. I said the other day, that I would rather vote for the augmentation than the reduction of the army. When returning to my country from its foreign service, and looking at this question, it appeared to me that the maximum was twenty thousand, the minimum ten thousand of the force we ought to retain. And I again say, that rather than reduce I would vote to increase the

present force.

A standing army had been deemed necessary, from the commencement of the government to the present time. The question was only as to the quantum of force; and not whether it should

No man who regards his political reputation, would place himself before the people, on a proposition for its absolute disbandment. He admitted a question as to quantum might be carried so far as to rise into a question of principle. If we were to propose to retain an army of thirty, or forty, or fifty thousand men, ihen truly the question would present itself, whether our rights were not in some danger from such a standing army; whether reliance was to be placed altogether on a standing army, or on that natural safe defence which, according to the liabits of the country and the principles of our government, is considered the bulwark of our liberties. But, between five and ten thousand men, or any number under ten thousand, it could not be a question of principle; for, unless gentlemen were afraid of spectres, it was utterly impossible that any danger could be apprehended from ten thousand men, dispersed on a frontier of many thousand miles; here twenty or thirty, there an hundred; and the largest amount, at Detroit, not exceeding a thin regiment. And yet, brave gentlemen - gentlemen who are not alarmed at hobgoblins - who can intrepidly vote even against tazes-- are alarmed by a force of this extent! What, he asked, was the amount of the army in the time of Mr. Jefferson a time, the orthodoxy of which had been so ostentatiously proclaimed? It was true, when that gentleman came into power, it was with a determination to retrench, as far as practicable. Under the full influence of these notions, in 1802, the bold step of wholly disbanding the army, never was thought of. The military peace establishment was then fixed at about four thousand men.


[ocr errors]


But, before Mr. Jefferson went out of power, what was donethat is, in April, 1808? In addition to the then existing peace establishment, eight regiinents, amounting to between five and six thousand men, were authorized, making a total force precisely equal to the present peace establishment. It was true, that all this force had never been actually enlisted and embodied; that the recruiting service had been suspended; and that at the commencement of the war we had far from this number; and we have not now actually ten thousand men— being at least two thousand deficient of that number. He adverted to what had been said, on this and other occasions, of Mr. Jefferson's not having seized the favorable moment for war, which was afforded by the attack on the Chesapeake. He had always entertained the opinion, he said, that Mr. Jefferson on that occasion took the correct, manly, and frank course, in saying to the British government, your officers have done this; it is an enormous aggression; do you approve the act; do you make it your cause, or not? That government did not sanction the act; it disclaimed it, and promptly too; and although they for a long time withheld the due redress, it was ultimately tendered. If Mr. Jefferson had used his power to carry the country into a war at that period, it might have been supported by public opinion, during the moment of fever, but it would soon abate, and the people would begin to ask, why this war had been made without understanding whether the British government avowed the conduct of its officers, and so forth. If the threatening aspect of our rela. tions with England had entered into the consideration which had caused the increase of the army at that time, there were considera. tions equally strong at this time, with our augmented population, for retaining our present force. If, however, there were no threatenings from any quarter; if the relative force of European nations, and the general balance of power existing before the French revolution were restored; if South America had not inade the attempt, in which he trusted in God she would succeed, to achieve her independence; if our affairs with Spain were settled, he would repeat, that ten thousand men would not be too great a force for the necessities of the country, and with a view to future emergences.

He had taken the liberty, the other day, to make some observations which he might now repeat as furnishing auxiliary considerations for adopting a course of prudence and precaution. He had then said, that our affairs with Spain were not settled ; that the Spanish minister was reported to have made some inadmissible demands of our government.

The fact turned out as he had presented it. It appeared that what was then rumor, was now fact; and Spain had taken the ground, not only that there must be a discussion of our title to that part of Louisiana, formerly called West Florida, (which it might be doubted whether it ought to take place,) but had required that we must surrender the territory first,

« ZurückWeiter »