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and expose.


If the Spanish character of the fort had been totally merged in the Indian character, it might have been justifiable to seize it. But that was not the fact; and the bare possibility of its being forcibly taken by the Indians, could not justify our anticipating their blow. Of all the odious transactions which occurred during the late war between France and England, none was more condemned in Europe and in this country, than her seizure of the fleet of Denmark, at Copenhagen. And I lament to be obliged to notice the analogy which exists in the defences made of the two

If my recollection does not deceive me, Bonaparte had passed the Rhine and the Alps, had conquered Italy, the Netherlands, Holland, Hanover, Lubec, and Hamburg, and extended his empire as far as Altona, on the side of Dennark. A few days' march would have carried him through Holstein, over the two Belts, through Funen, and into the island of Zealand. What then was the conduct of England ? It was my lot to fall into conversation with an intelligent Englishman on this subject. We knew (said he) that we were fighting for our existence. It was absoluiely necessary that we should

the command of the seas. If the feet of Denunark fell into the enemy's hands, combined with his other fleets, that command might be rendered doubtful. Denmark had only a nominal independence. She was, in truth, subject to his sway. We said to her, give us your fleet; it will otherwise be taken possession of by your secret and our open enemy. We will preserve it, and restore it to you whenever the danger shall be over. Denmark refused. Copenhagen was bombarded, gallantly defended, but the fieet was seized Everywhere the conduct of England was censured; and the name even of the negotiator who was employed by her, who was subsequently the minister near this government, was scarcely ever pronounced here without coupling with it an epithet, indicating his participation in the disgraceful transaction. And yet we are going to sanction acts of violence, committed by ourselves, which but too much resemble it! What an important difference, too, between the relative condition of England and of this country! She, perhaps, was struggling for her existence. She was combating, singlehanded, the most enorinous military power that the world has ever known. With whom were we contending? With a few halfstarved, half-clothed, wretched Indians, and fugitive slaves. And, whilst carrying on this inglorious war, inglorious as it regards the laurels or renown won in it, we violate neutral rights, which the government had solemnly pledged itself to respect, upon the principle of convenience, or upon the light presumption that, by possibility, a post might be taken by this miserable combination of Indians and slaves.


On the eighth of April, the general writes from St. Marks, that he shall march for the Suwaney river; the destroying of the establish

ments on which will, in his opinion, bring the war to a close. Accordingly, having effected that object, he writes, on the twentieth of April, that he believes he may say that the war is at an end for the present. He repeats the same opinion in his letter to the secretary of war, written six days after. The war being thus ended, it might have been hoped that no further hostilities would be committed. But on the twenty-third of May, on his way home, he receives a letter from the coinmandant of Pensacola, intimating his surprise at the invasion of the Spanish territory, and the acts of hostility performed by the American army, and his determination, if persisted in, to employ force to repel them. Let us pauze and examine the proceeding of the governor, so very hostile and affrontive in the view of general Jackson. Recollect that he was governor of Florida; that he had received no orders from his superiors, to allow a passage to the American army; that he had heard of the reduction of St. Marks; and that general Jackson, at the head of his army, was approaching in the direction of Pensacola. He had seen the president's message of the twenty-fifth of March, and reminded general Jackson of it, to satisfy him that the American government could not have authorized all those measures. I cannot read the allusion made by the governor to that message, without feeling that the charge of insincerity, which it implied, had at least but too much the appearance of truth in it. Could the governor have done less than write some such letter? We have only to reverse situations, and to suppose him to have been an American governor. General Jackson says, that when he received that letter, he no longer hesitated. No, sir, he did no longer hesitate. He received it on the twenty-third, he was in Pensacola on the twenty-fourth, and immediately after set himself before the fortress of San Carlos de Barancas, which he shortly reduced. Veni, vidi, vici. Wonderful energy!

Admirable promptitude! Alas, that it had not been an energy and a promptitude within the pale of the constitution, and according to the orders of the chief magistrate. It is irnpossible to give any definition of war, that would not comprehend these acts.

It was open,

undis. guised, and unauthorized hostility.

The honorable gentleman from Massachusetts has endeavored to derive some authority to general Jackson from the message of the president, and the letter of the secretary of war to governor Bibb. The message declares, that the Spanish authorities are to be respected wherever maintained. What the president means by their being maintained, is explained in the orders themselves, by the extreme case being put of the enemy seeking shelter under a Spanish fort. If even in that case he was not to attack, certainly he was not to attack in any case of less strength. The letter to governor Bibb admits of a similar explanation. When the secretary says, in that letter, that general Jackson is fully empow.

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ered to bring the Seminole war to a conclusion, he means that he

is so empowered by his orders, which, being now before us, must SIL speak for themselves. It does not appear that general Jackson

ever saw that letter, which was dated at this place after the capture of St. Marks. I will take a momentary glance at the orders. On the second of December, 1817, general Gaines was forbidden to cross the Florida line. Seven days after, the secretary of war having arrived here, and infused a little more energy into our councils, he was authorized to use a sound discretion in crossing or not. On the sixteenth, he was instructed again to consider himself at liberty to cross the line, and pursue the enemy; but, if he took refuge under a Spanish fortress, the fact was to be reported to the department of war. These orders were transmitted to general Jackson, and constituted, or ought to have constituted, his guide. There was then no justification for the occupation of Pensacola, and the attack on the Barancas, in the message of the president, the letter to governor Bibb, or in the orders themselves. The gentleman from Massachusetts will pardon me for saying, that he has undertaken what even his talents are not competent to – the maintenance of directly contradictory propositions, that it was right in general Jackson to take Pensacola, and wrong in the president to keep it. The gentleman has made a greater mistake than he supposes general Jackson to have done in attacking Pensacola for an Indian town, by attempting the defence both of the president and general Jackson. If it were right in bim to seize the place, it is impossible that it should have been right in the president immediately to surrender it. We, sir, are the supporters of the president. We regret that we cannot support general Jackson also. The gentleman's liberality is more comprehensive


approve with all my heart of the restoration of Pensacola. I think St. Marks ought, perhaps, to have been also restored; but I say this with doubt and diffidence. That the president thought the seizure of the Spanish posts was an act of war, is manifest from his opening message, in which he says that, to have retained them, would have changed our relations with Spain, to do which the power of the executive was incompetent, congress alone possessing it. The president has, in this instance, deserved well of his country. He has taken the only course which he could have pursued, consistent with the constitution of the land. And I defy the gentleman to make good both his positions, that the general was right in taking, and the president right in giving up,


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the posts.

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(Mr. Holmes explained. We took these posts, he said, to keep them from the hands of the enemy, and, in restoring them, made it a condition that Spain should not let our enemy have them. We said to her, here is your dagger; we found it in the hands of our enemy, and, having wrested it from him, we restore it to you, in the hope that you will take better care of it for the future.]


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The gentleman from Massachusetts is truly unfortunate; fact or principle is always against him. The Spanish posts were not in the possession of the enemy. One old Indian only was found in the Barancas, none in Pensacola, none in St. Marks. There was not even the color of a threat of Indian occupation as it regards Pensacola and the Barancas. Pensacola was to be restored unconditionally, and might, therefore, immediately have come into the possession of the Indians, if they had the power and the will to take it. The gentleman is in a dilemma from which there is no escape. He gave up general Jackson when he supported the president, and gave up the president when he supported general Jackson. I rejoice to have seen the president manifesting, by the restoration of Pensacola, his devotedness to the constitution. When the whole country was ringing with plaudits for its capture, I said, and I said alone, in the limited circle in which I moved, that the president must surrender it; that he could not hold it. It is not my intention to inquire, whether the army was or was not constitutionally marched into Florida. It is not a clear question, and I am inclined to think that the express authority of congress ought to have been asked. The gentleman from Massachusetts will allow me to refer to a part of the correspondence at Ghent different from that which he has quoted. He will find the condition of the Indians there accurately defined. And it is widely variant from the gentleman's ideas on this subject. The Indians, inhabiting the United States, according to the statement of the American commissioners at Ghent, have a qualified sovereignty only, the suprerne sovereignty residing in the government of the United States. They live under their own laws and customs, may inhabit and hunt their lands; but acknowledge the protection of the United States, and have no right to sell their lands but to the government of the United States. Foreign powers or foreign subjects have no right to maintain any intercourse with them, without our permission. They are not, therefore, independent nations, as the gentleman supposes. Maintaining the relation described with them, we must allow a similar relation to exist between Spain and the Indians residing within her dominions. She must be, therefore, regarded as the sovereign of Florida, and we are, accordingly, treating with her for the purchase of it. In strictness, then, we ought first to have demanded of her to restrain the Indians, and, that failing, we should have demanded a right of passage for our army. But

, if the president had the power to march an army into Florida, without consulting Spain, and without the authority of congress, he had no power to authorize any act of hostility against her. If the gentle man had even succeeded in showing that an authority was conveyed by the executive to general Jackson to take the Spanish posts, he would only have established that unconstitutional orders had been given, and thereby transferred the disapprobation from

the military officer to the executive. But no such orders were, in truth, given. The president acted in conformity to the constitution, when he forbade the attack of a Spanish fort, and when, in the same spirit, he surrendered the posts themselves.

I will not trespass much longer upon the time of the committee; but I trust I shall be indulged with some few reflections upon the danger of permitting the conduct on which it has been my painful duty to animadvert, to pass without a solemn expression of the disapprobation of this house. Recall to your recollection the free nations which have gone before us. Where are they now?

'Gone glimmering through the dream of things that were,
A school-boy's tale, the wonder of an hour.'

And how have they lost their liberties? If we could transport ourselves back to the ages when Greece and Rome flourished in their greatest prosperity, and, mingling in the throng, should ask a Grecian if he did not fear that some daring military chieftain, covered with glory, some Philip or Alexander, would one day overthrow the liberties of his country, the confident and indignant Grecian would exclaim, no! no! we have nothing to fear from our heroes; our liberties will be eternal. If a Roman citizen had been asked, if he did not fear that the conqueror of Gaul might establish a throne upon the ruins of public liberty, he would have instantly repelled the unjust insinuation. Yet Greece fell; Cæsar passed the Rubicon, and the patriotic arm even of Brutus could not preserve the liberties of his devoted country! The celebrated Madame de Stael, in her last and perhaps her best work, has said, that in the very year, almost the very month, when the president of the directory declared that monarchy would never more show its frightful head in France, Bonaparte, with his grenadiers, entered the palace of St. Cloud, and dispersing, with the bayonet, the deputies of the people, deliberating on the affairs of the state, laid the foundation of that vast fabric of despotism which overshadowed all Europe. I hope not to be misunderstood ; I am far from intimating that general Jackson cherishes any designs inimical to the liberties of the country. I believe his intentions to be pure and patriotic. I thank God that he would not, but I thank him still more that he could not if he would, overturn the liberties of the republic. But precedents, if bad, are fraught with the most dangerous consequences. Man has been described, by some of those who have treated of his nature, as a bundle of habits. The definition is much truer when applied to governments. Precedents are their habits. There is one important difference between the formation of habits by an individual and by governments. He ccatracts it only after frequent repetition. A single instance fixes the habit and determines the direction of governments. Against

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