Abbildungen der Seite

and discuss the right to it afterwards. Besides this unsettled state of our relations with Spain, he said, there were other rumors, and he wished to God we had the same means of ascertaining their correctness, as we had found of ascertaining the truth of the rumor just noticed; it was rumored that the Spanish province of Florida had been ceded, with all her pretensions, to Great Britain. Would gentlemen tell him, then, that this was a time when any statesman would pursue the hazardous policy of disarming entirely, of quietly smoking our pipes by our firesides, regardless of impending danger? It might be a palatable doctrine to some, but he was persuaded was condemned by the rules of conduct in private life, by those maxims of sound precaution by which individuals would regulate their private affairs. He did not here mean to take up the question in relation to South America. Still, it was impossible not to see, that, in the progress of things, we might be called on to decide the question, whether we would or would not lend them our aid. This opinion he boldly declared, and he entertained it, not in any pursuit of vain glory, but from a deliberate conviction of its being conformable to the best interests of the country; that, having a proper understanding with foreign powers — that understanding which prudence and a just precaution recommended—it would undoubtedly be good policy to take part with the patriots of South America. He believed it could be shown, that, on the strictest principles of public law, we have a right to take part with them, that it is our interest to take part with them, and that our interposition in their favor would be effectual. But he confessed, with infinite regret, that he saw a supineness on this interesting subject, throughout our country, which left him almost without hope, that what he believed the correct policy of the country would be pursued. He considered the release of any part of America froin the dominions of the old world, as adding to the general security of the new. He could not contemplate the exertions of the people of South America, without wishing that they might triumph, and nobly triumph. He believed the cause of humanity would be promoted by the interposition of any foreign power which should terminate the contest between the friends and enemies of independence in that quarter, for a more bloody and cruel war never had been carried on since the days of Adam, than that which is now raging in South America; in which not the least regard is paid to the laws of war, to the rights of capitulation, to the rights of prisoners, nor even to the rights of kindred. I do not offer these views, expecting to influence the opinions of others; they are opinions of my own. But, on the question of general policy, whether or not we shall interfere in the war in South America, it may turn out that, whether we will or will not choose to interfere in their behalf, we shall be drawn into the contest in the course of its progress. Among other demands by the minister of Spain, is the exclusion of the flag of Buenos Ayres, and other parts of South America, from our ports. Our government has taken a ground on this subject, of which I think no gentleman can disapprove — that all parties shall be admitted and hospitably treated in our poris, provided they conform to our law's whilst among us. What course Spain may take on this subject, it was impossible now to say. Although I would not urge this as an argument for increasing our force, I would place it among those considerations which ought to have weight with every enlightened mind, in determining upon the propriety of its reduction. It is asserted that Great Britain has strengthened, and is strengthening herself in the provinces adjoining us. Is this a moment when in prudence we ought to disarm? No, sir. Preserve your existing force. It would be extreme indiscretion to lessen it.

Mr. Clay here made some observations, to show that a reduction of the army to from four 10 five thousand men, as had been sug. gested, would not occasion such a diminution of expense as to authorize the rejection of the report, or any essential alteration in the amount of revenue, which the system proposes to raise from internal taxes, and his colleague (Mr. M'kee) appeared equally hostile to all of them. Having, lowever, shown that we cannot in safety reduce the army, he would leave the details of the report in the abler hands of the honorable chairman (Mr. Lowndes), who, he had no doubt, could dernonstrate, that with all the retrenchments which had been recommended, ibe government would be bankrupt in less than three years, if most of these taxes were not continued. He would now hasten to that conclusion, at which the committee could not regret more than he did, that he had not long since arrived.

As to the attitude in which this country should be placed, the duty of congress could not be mistaken. My policy is to preserve the present force, naval and military; to provide for the augmentation of the navy; and, if the danger of war should increase, to increase the army also. Arm the militia, and give it the most effective character of which it is susceptible. Provide in the most ample manner, and place in proper depots, all the munitions and instruments of war. Fortify and strengthen the weak and vulner

. able points indicated by experience. Construct military roads and canals, particularly from the Miami of the Ohio to the Miami of Erie; from the Sciota to the bay of Sandusky; from the Hudson to Ontario; that the facilities of transportation inay exist, of the men and means of the country, to points where they may be wanted. I would employ on this subject a part of the army, which should also be employed on our line of frontier, territorial and maritime, in strengthening the works of defence. I would provide steam batteries for the Mississippi, for Borgne and Ponchartrain, and for the Ches. apeake, and for any part of the north or east, where they might be beneficially employed. In short, I would act seriously, effectively act, on the principle, that in peace we ought to prepare for war; for I repeat, again and again, that, in spite of all the prudence exerted by the government, and the forbearance of others, the hour of trial will come. These halcyon days of peace, this calm will yield to the storm of war, and when that comes, I am for being prepared to breast it. Has not the government been reproached for ihe want of preparation at the commencement of the late war? And yet the saine gentlemen who uiter these reproaches, instead of taking counsel from experience, would leave the country in an unprepared condition.

He would as earnestly commence the great work, too long delayed, of internal improvement. He desired to see a chain of turnpike roads and canals, from Passamaquoddy to New Orleans; and other similar roads intersecting the mountains, to facilitate intercourse between all parts of the country, and to bind and connect us together. He would also effectually protect our manufactories. We had given, at least, an implied pledge to do so, by the course of administration. He would afford them protection, not so much for the sake of the manufacturers themselves, as for the general interest. We should thus have our wants supplied, when foreign resources are cut off, and we should also lay the basis of a system of taxation, to be resorted to when the revenue from imports is stopped by war. Such, Mr. Chairman, is a rapid sketch of the policy which it seems to me it becomes us to pursue. It is for you now to decide, whether we shall draw wisdom from the past, or, neglecting the lessons of recent experience, we shall go on headlong without foresight, mcriting and receiving the reproaches of the community. I trust, sir, notwithstanding the unpromising appearances sometines presenting themselves, during the present session, we shall yet do our duty. I appeal to the friends around me, with whom I have been associated for public life; who nobly, manfully vindicated the national character by a war, waged by a young people, unskilled in arms, single-handed, against a veteran power — a war which the nation has emerged from, covered with laurels; let us now do something to ameliorate the internal condition of the country; let us show that objects of domestic, no less than those of foreign policy, receive our attention; let us fulfil the just expectations of the public, whose eyes are anxiously directed towards this session of congress; let us, by a liberal and enlightened policy, entitle ourselves, upon our return home, to that best of all rewards, the grateful exclamation, well done, thou good and faithful servant.'

years in



(President Madison, in a message dated December 26, 1816, had apprized con. gress, that the existing laws did not enable him to preserve the peace of the l'nited Štates with foreign powers. The subject having been referred to the committee on foreign relations, that committee, through their chairman, Mr. Forsyth, of Georgia, reported a bill for enforcing neutrality. This bill was debated in committee of the whole, on the 24th of January, 1817, by. Messrs. Forsyth, Smith, of Maryland, Grosvenor, of New York, Randolph, of Virginia, Sharp, of Kentucky, Sheffey, of Virginia, Hopkinson, of Pennsylvania, and Clay (speaker). In the brief remarks of Mr. Clay it will be observed, that he renews the expression of his sympathies with the people of South America in their struggle for independence; and, considering the bill under discussion as intended to discountenance that revolution, he avowed his oppo. sition to it.)

Mr. Clay (speaker). As long as the government abstained from taking any part in the contest

now carrying on in the southern part of this continent, it was unquestionably its duty to maintain a strict neutrality. On that point there was and could be no difference of opinion. It ought not, however, to be overlooked, that the two parties stood with this government on unequal ground. One of them had an accredited minister here, to watch over its interests, and to remonstrate against any acts of which it might complain; whilst the other, being wholly unrepresented, had no organ through which to communicate its grievances. This inequality of condition in the contending parties, imposed upon us the duty of great circumspection and prudence in what we might do.

Whenever a war exists, whether between two independent states or between parts of a common empire, he knew of but two relations in which other powers could stand towards the belligerents; the one was that of neutrality, and the other that of a belligerent.

Being then in a state of neutrality respecting the contest, and bound to maintain it, the question was, whether the provisions of the bill were necessary to the performance of that duty? It will be recollected that we have an existing law, directed against armaments, such as are described in the bill. That law was passed in 1794. It was intended to preserve our neutrality in the contest between France and her enemies. The circumstances under which it was passed, must be yet fresh in our recollection. The French


revolution had excited a universal enthusiasm in the cause of liberty. The flame reached this country, and spread with electric rapidity throughout the continent. There was not a state, county, city, or village, exempted from it. An ardent disposition to enter into the conflict, on the side of France, was every where felt. General Washington thought it the interest of this country to remain neutral, and the law of 1794 was enacted, to restrain our citizens from taking part in the contest. If that law had been effectual to preserve the neu. trality of this country, during the stormy period of the French revolution, we ought to pause before we assent to the adoption of new penalties and provisions. If the law did not reach the case (which he understood to be doubtful from some judicial decisions), he was willing to legislate so far as to make it comprehend it. Further than that, as at present advised, he was not willing to go.

But the present bill not only went further, but, in his judgment, contained provisions not demanded of us by our neutral duties. It contained two principles not embraced by the law of 1794. The first was, the requisition of a bond from the owners of armed vessels, that persons, to whom they might sell these vessels, should not use them in the contest. The second

The second was, the power vested

, in the collectors to seize and detain, under certain circuinstances, any such vessels. Now, with regard to the first provision, it is not denied that an armed vessel may be lawfully sold by an American citizen to a foreign subject, other than a subject of Spain. But on what ground is it possible, then, to maintain, that it is the duty of the American citizen to become responsible for the subsequent use which may be made of such vessel by the foreign subject? We are bound to take care that our own citizens do not violate our neutrality, but we are under no such obligation as it respects the subjects of foreign powers. It is the business of those foreign powers to guard the conduct of their own subjects. If it be true, as he had heard it asserted, that Fell's Point exhibits an activity in hostile preparation, not surpassed during the late war, we had enough to do with our own citizens. It was not incumbent upon us, as a neutral power, to provide, after a legal sale had been made of an armed vessel to a foreign subject, against any illegal use of the vessel.

Gentlemen have contended, that this bill ought to be considered as intended merely to enforce our own laws; as a municipal regulation, having no relation to the war now existing. It was impossible to deceive ourselves, as to the true character of the measure. Bestow on it what denomination you please, disguise it as you may, it is a law, and will be understood by the whole world as a law, to discountenance any aid being given to the South American colonies in a state of revolution against the parent country. With respect to the nature of that struggle, he had not now, for the first time, to express his opinion and his wishes. An honorable genule

« ZurückWeiter »