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Regarding this regulation in another view, he anticipated beneficial effects from it. In
of the weakness of some of the powers of Europe in their maritime force, they had found it convenient to open ports to us, which were formerly shut, and we could thence draw our supplies, thus effecting a mere change in the channel of supply with the advantage of the employment of our own navigation, as already stated. South America, besides, would be open to us, and we could there obtain a large portion of the commodities we import from the West Indies, except, perhaps, the article of rum. Whether that could be obtained there or not, he did not know. Sugar might be obtained, in quantity, from Louisiana, where the product of that article increased every year. Georgia, and a portion of South Carolina, too, had turned their attention to that object; and the effect of this measure would be, to encourage the cultivation of that article. With respect to the article of spirits, if its importation were totally cut off, he thought it would be a benefit. He believed, he said, that America was the only country that imported as great a quantity of spirituous liquors; every other country he was acquainted with, used more of its own manufacture.
I think that the suffering of the navigating interest, to which the attention of congress is attracted, is one which calls loudly on this body to do something to alleviate it. It is attributable greatly to the colonial system of Great Britain, though no doubt also greatly to the state of peace, and the consequent resumption of their navigation by the powers of Europe, who, during war, suspended a great proportion of it. Taking care of the interests of the nation, and guarding our commerce against the effect of foreign regulations, it becomes us to act on this subject. He should, he said, cheerfully give his assent, therefore, to the bill before the house; and should vote for it, but with reluctance, if the amendment proposed by Mr. Forsyth should succeed.
The great question was, the modus operandi of this bill, to use a favorite expression of a member of another body. Operating on the sympathy as well as the direct interest of the parent country, it would induce her to relax her system. Great Britain would find a greater interest in securing the amount of six millions of trade, necessary to support and cherish her colonies, than she would gain merely on the transportation of the articles of which that trade consists. That was the question on which the British people would be called on to decide; and he believed the effect of this measure would be such as to induce them to decide in favor of admitting us, on a footing of reciprocity, into the West India trade. If the British government did not take this course, it would have to wink at the formation of entrepots, by which the object proposed by the bill would be substantially accomplished.
ON INTERNAL IMPROVEMENT.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEBRUARY 4, 1817.
[The house resolved itself into a committee of the whole on the bill to set apart, and pledge, as a fund for internal improvement, the bonus and United States share of the dividends of the national bank. The discussion was commenced by Mr. Calhoun, of South Carolina, who advocated the constitutionality, importance, and expediency of a system of internal improvements, under the authority of the general government. The same views were expressed by Mr. Clay (speaker), Mr. Gold, of New York, Mr. Sheffey, of Virginia, and others. The bill finally passed both houses (but was vetoed by president Madison, on constitutional grounds, on the third of March, 1817). In the brief remarks of Mr. Clay on this occasion, which are subjoined, he expresses the same sentiments as will be found more at length in his subsequent speeches on this subject.]
MR. CLAY (speaker) observed, that it was not his intention to enter into the general discussion of the subject; he wished only to say, that he had long thought that there were no two subjects which could engage the attention of the national legislature, more worthy of its deliberate consideration, than those of internal improvements and domestic manufactures.
As to the constitutional point which had been made, he had not a doubt on his mind; but it was not necessary, in his judgment, to embarrass the passage of the bill with the argument of that point at this time. It was a sufficient answer to say, that the power was not now to be exercised. It was proposed merely to designate the fund, and, from time to time, as the proceeds of it came in, to invest them in the funded debt of the United States. It would thus be accumulating; and congress could, at some future day, examine into the constitutionality of the question, and if it has the power, it would exercise it; if it has not, the constitution, there could be very little doubt, would be so amended as to confer it. It was quite obvious, however, that congress might so direct the application of the fund, as not to interfere with the jurisdiction of the several states, and thus avoid the difficulty which had been started. It might distribute it among those objects of private enterprise which called for national patronage in the form of subscriptions to the capital stock of incorporated companies, such as that of the Delaware and Chesapeake canal, and other similar institutions. Perhaps that might be the best way to employ the fund; but, he repeated, this was not the time to go into this inquiry.
With regard to the general importance of the proposition; the effect of internal improvements in cementing the union; in facilitating internal trade; in augmenting the wealth and the population of the country; he would not consume the time of the committee in discussing those interesting topics, after the able manner in which they had been treated by his friend from South Carolina. In reply to those who thought that internal improvements had better be left to the several states, he would ask, he would put it to the candor of every one, if there were not various objects in which many states were interested, and which, requiring therefore their joint coöperation, would, if not taken up by the general government, be neglected, either for the want of resources, or from the difficulty of regulating their respective contributions. Such was the case with the improvement of the navigation of the Ohio at the rapids; the canal from the Hudson to the lakes; the great turnpike road, parallel with the coast from Maine to Louisiana. These, and similar objects were stamped with a national character; and they required the wisdom and the resources of the nation to accomplish them. No particular state felt an individual interest, sufficient to execute improvements of such magnitude. They must be patronised, elficaciously patronised, by the general government, or they never would be accomplished
The practical effect of turnpike roads in correcting the evil, if it be one of the great expansion of our republic, and in conquering space itself, as was expressed by the gentleman from South Carolina, is about to be demonstrated by the great turnpike road from Cumberland to Wheeling. That road is partially executed, and will probably be completed in about three years. In the mean time, Maryland is extending a line of turnpike roads from Baltimore to Cumberland, which is also partially finished, and will be completed in the same period. Three years from the present time, we shall have a continued line of turnpike roads from Baltimore to Ohio. The ordinary time requisite to travel from Wheeling to Baltimore, prior to the erection of these roads, was eight days. When the roads are completed, the same journey may be performed in three days. The distance, in effect, between those two points, will be diminished in the proportion of five eighths, or, in other words, they will be brought five days nearer to each other. Similar results will follow wherever this species of improvement is effected.
Mr. Clay owned that he felt anxiously desirous for the success of this measure. He was anxious, from its intrinsic inerits; from his sincere conviction of its tendency greatly to promote the welfare of our common country. He was anxious from other, perhaps more selfish, considerations. He wished the fourteenth congress to have the merit of laying the foundations of this great work. He wished this congress, who, in his opinion, had so many other just grounds for the national approbation, notwithstanding the obloquy which had attended a single unfortunate measure, to add this new claim to the public gratitude.
ON THE WAR BETWEEN SPAIN AND HER
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DECEMBER 3, 1817.
[The president's message being under consideration in committee of the whole, Mr. Taylor moved a series of resolutions, embracing references of various parts of the message.
The first resolution having been read for consideration, Mr. Clay (speaker) moved to amend the same by adding to the end thereof the following words:
* And that the said committee be instructed to inquire, whether any, and, if any, what provisions of law are necessary to insure, to the American colonies of Spain, a just observance of the duties incident to the neutral relation in which the United States stand, in the existing war between them and Spain.']
MR. CLAY said, that his presenting, at so early a period of the session, this subject to the consideration of the house, was in consequence of certain proceedings which he had seen represented in the public prints as having taken place before certain of our courts of justice. Two or three cases bearing on this subject had come to his knowledge, which he wished to state to the house. The first had occurred at Philadelphia, before the circuit court of the United States held in that ity The circumstances of the case, for which, however, he did not pretend to vouch, having received them through the channel already indicated, were these; if they were incorrectly stated, he was happy that a gentleman had taken his seat this morning from that city, who would be able to correct him : that nine or ten British disbanded officers had formed in Europe the resolution to unite themselves with the Spanish patriots in the contest existing between them and Spain; that, to carry into effect this intention, they had sailed from Europe, and in their transit to South America had touched at the port of Philadelphia; that during their residence in Philadelphia, wearing perbaps the arms and habiliments of military men, making no disguise of their intention to participate in the struggle, they took passage in a vessel bound to some port in South America ; that a knowledge of this fact having come to the ears of the public authorities, or, perhaps, at the instigation of some agent of the Spanish government, a prosecution was commenced against these officers, who,