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And yet one great objection to the conduct of Chap. vu. Britain was, her prohibitory duty on the impor- 1794. tation of bread stuff while it was under a certain price.
Nothing could be more deceptive than the argument founded on the nature of American exports. What, it was asked, would be done with the surplus produce of the United States? was it to remain in the country, and rot upon the hands of those who raised it? if not, if it was to be exported, it would find its way to the place of demand. Food would search out those who needed it, and the raw material would be carried to the manufacturer whose labour could give it value.
But there was a much more serious aspect in which this subject ought to be placed. The products of America grew in other soils than hers. The demands for them might be supplied by other countries. Indeed, in some instances, articles usually obtained from the United States would be excluded by a fair competition with the same articles furnished by other countries. The discriminations made in their favour enabled them to obtain a preference in the British market. By withholding those which were of the growth of the United States, Great Britain would not lose the article, but America would lose the market; and a formidable rival would be raised up, who would last much longer than the resolutions under consideration. It is easy by commercial regulations to do much mischief, and difficult to retrieve losses. It is impossible to foresee all the evils which may
Chap. Vii. arise out of such measures; and their effects may . 1794, last after the cause is removed.
The opponents of the resolutions persisted to consider the credit given by British merchants, as a solid advantage to any country which, like the United States, was defective in commercial capital; but they denied that, from that source, any political influence had arisen. "If" said Mr. Tracey, "we may argue from a great state, Virginia, to the union, this is not true; for although that state owes immense debts, her representatives come forward with great spirit to bring Great Britain to her feet. The people at the eastward do not owe the English merchants, and are very generally opposed to these regulations. These facts must convince us that the credit given by Great Britain, does not operate to produce a fear and a dependence which can be alarming to government."
"If," said Mr. Dexter, "I have a predilection for any country besides my own, that bias is in favour of France, the place of my fathers sepulture. No one, more than myself, laments the spasm of patriotism which convulses that nation, and hazards the cause of freedom; but Pshall not suffer the torrent of love or hatred to sweep me from my post. I am sent neither to plead the cause of France nor England, but am delegated as a guardian of the rights and interests of America."
The speakers against the resolutions universally laboured to exclude from all weight in the decision on them, considerations which were foreign to the interests of the United States. The discussion of this subject," said Mr. Tracey, "has assumed Chap. Vh. an appearance which must be surprising to a 1794. stranger, and painful in the extreme to ourselves. The supreme legislature of the United States is seriously deliberating, not upon the welfare of our own citizens, but upon the relative circumstances of two European nations; and this deliberation has not for its object, the relative benefits of their markets to us, but which form of government is best and most like our own, which people feel the greatest affection for us, and what measures we can adopt which will best humble one and exalt the other.
"The primary motive of these resolutions, as acknowledged by their defenders, is, not the increase of our agriculture, manufactures, or navigation, but to humble Great Britain and build up France; and although it is said our manufactures and navigation may receive some advantage, it is only mentioned as a substitute in case of failure as to the great object.
"The discussion in favour of these resolutions has breathed nothing but hostility and revenge against the English; and yet they put on the mild garb of commercial regulations. Legislatures, always cautious of attempting to force trade from its own channels and habits, should certainly be peculiarly cautious, when they do undertake such business, to set about it with temperance and coolness; but in this debate, we are told of the inexecution of a former treaty, withholding western posts, insults and dominations of a haughty people, that through the agency of Great Britain the
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Chap, vu, savages are upon us on one side, and the Algerines 1794. on the other. The mind is roused by a group of evils, and then called upon to consider a statement of duties on goods imported from foreign countries. If the subject is commercial, why not treat it commercially, and attend to it with coolness? if it is a question of political hostility, or of war, a firmer tone may be adopted."
On this side of the question, the conduct of Great Britain, if as hostile as it was represented to be, was spoken of with high indignation. "If" said Mr. Tracey, "these statements are founded in fact, I cannot justify myself to my constituents, or my conscience, in saying the adoption of the regulations of commerce, a navigation act, or the whole parade of shutting ports, and freeing trade from its shackles, is in any degree calculated to meet or remedy the evil.
"Although I deprecate war as the worst of calamities for my country, yet I would inquire seriously whether we had on our part, fulfilled the treaty with Great Britain, and would do complete justice to them first. I would negotiate as long and as far as patience ought to go; and, if I found an obstinate denial of justice, I would then lay the hand of force upon the western posts, and would teach the world that the United States were no less prompt in commanding justice to be done them, than they had been patient and industrious in attempting to obtain it by fair and peaceable means. In this view of the subject I should be led to say, away with your milk and water regulations; they are too trifling to effect objects of
such importance. Are the Algerines to be fright- Chap m. ened with paper resolves, or the Indians to be 1794, subdued, or the western posts taken, by commercial regulations? when we consider the subject merely as a commercial one, it goes too far, and attempts too much; but when considered as a war establishment, it falls infinitely short of the mark, and does too little." This earnest and interesting debate was protracted to a great length, and was conducted on both sides, with a degree of spirit and eloquence to which justice could be done only by inserting at large the speeches of several members. At length, on the third of February, the question was taken on the first resolution, which was carried by a majority of five. The further consideration of the resolutions was then postponed until the first monday in March.
This animated debate was succeeded by another on a question which also brought into full view the systems that were embraced by the opposite parties, on some of those great national subjects which give a character to an administration.
On the second of January, a resolution was agreed to in the house of representatives declaring "that a naval force adequate to the protection of the commerce of the United States against the Algerine corsairs, ought to be provided." The force proposed was to consist of six frigates; four of forty-four, and two of thirty, six guns.
This measure was founded on the communications of the president, from which it appeared that the prospect of being able to negotiate a x x x 2