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Chap. vit. peace with the dey of Algiers was far from being 1794. flattering; and on undoubted information that the corsairs of that power had, during their first short cruise in the Atlantic, captured eleven American merchantmen, and made upwards of one hundred captives; and were preparing to renew their attack on the unprotected vessels of the United States.
In every stage of its progress the bill was most strenuously opposed. S^i"^t The m^sure was viewed simply as a present rfanavy. protection to commerce, and then as the commencement of a permanent naval establishment. Considered-in the one character, or the other, it was reprobated with extreme severity.
As a measure of protection, it was declared to be altogether incompetent to the attainment of its object, because the force contemplated was insufficient, and because it could not be brought into immediate use. The measure, therefore, would be totally inefficacious.
But the object might be effected by other means more eligible and less expensive. By proper management, and a due attention to time and circumstances, a peace might be procured with money.
Nations possessing a naval force greatly superior to the proposed armament, had found it to their advantage to purchase the friendship of the Algerines. That mode of procuring peace was recommended both by its efficacy and its economy. Unless the object was obtained, the money would not be expended.
Another mode of giving security to their commerce, preferable to the plan in the bill, was to purchase the protection of foreign powers. This Chap. vn. might be acquired at a less expense than would 1794. be incurred in fitting out the proposed armament, and its utility would be immediate.
But the measure was also to be considered as the commencement of a permanent navy. The question which this view of it presented was one of the most important that could engage the consideration of the house. The adoption of the principle would involve a complete dereliction of the policy of discharging the public debt. History afforded no instance of a nation which continued to increase its navy, and at the same time to decrease its debt.
To the extensiveness of the navy system were ascribed the oppressions under which the people of England groaned, the overthrow of the French monarchy, and the dangers which threatened that of Great Britain. The expensiveness of the government was the true ground of the oppression of the people. The king, the nobility, the priesthood, the army, and above all, the navy. All this machinery lessens the number of productive, and increases the number of unproductive hands in the nation.
The United States had already progressed full far enough in this system. In addition to the civil list, they had funded a debt on the principles of duration, had raised an army at an immense expense, and now a proposition was made for a navy.
The system of governing by debts was the most refined system of tyranny. It seemed to be a
Chap. vii. contrivance devised by politicians to succeed the 1794. old system of feudal tenures. Both were tyrannical, but the objects of their tyranny were different. The one operated on the person, the other operates on the pockets of the individual. The feudal lord was satisfied with the acknowledgment of the tenant that he was a slave, and the rendition of a pepper corn as an evidence of it; the product of his labour was left for his own support. The system of debts affords no such indulgence. Its true policy is to devise objects of expense, and to draw the greatest possible sum from the people in the least visible mode. No device can facilitate the system of debts and expense so much as a navy; and they should hold the liberty of the American people at a lower rate should this policy be adopted.
Another great objection to the establishment of a navy was, that until the United States should be able to contend with the great maritime powers on the ocean, it would be a hostage to its full value for their good behaviour. It would increase rather than lessen their dependence.
In reply it was said, that if it had been the intention of the house to incur a vast expense in the establishment of a navy for vain parade, there might be force in some of the objections which had been made. But this was not the case. It was a measure, not of choice, but of necessity. It was extorted by the pressure of unavoidable events.
It being universally admitted that their commerce required protection against the Algerine corsairs, the question was simply whether the plan Chap. vn. proposed in the bill was the best mode of afford- 1794. ing that protection.
To decide this question, it would be proper to consider the substitutes which had been offered, and then to review the objections which had been made to the measure.
The substitutes were, first, to purchase a peace; and 2ndly, to subsidize other nations to protect the commerce.
On the first substitute it was said, that the late communications * must satisfy every person who had attended to them, that all hope of purchasing a peace must be abandoned, unless there was a manifestation of some force which might give effect to negotiation. So long as the vessels of the United States remained an easy and tempting prey to the cupidity of those corsairs, it would be vain to expect that they would sell a peace for the price the government would be willing to give, or that a peace would be of any duration. If the executive had experienced such difficulties while the Algerine cruisers had captured only one or two vessels, and were confined to the Mediterranean by a Portuguese squadron, how much less prospect was there of success after they had captured a considerable number of ships, were likely to capture many more, and were at liberty to cruise on the Atlantic to the very coasts of the
• Thedey had refused a passport to colonel Humphries, who asked one for the purpose of coming to Algiers to negotiate a treaty.
Chap, Vii United States? even that little prospect of success
1794. would be diminished when the dey of Algiers should understand that the United States would take no measures to protect their trade, and were afraid of the expense of a small armament.
It was to be understood that they did not rely solely on the operations of the armament. They still looked forward to negotiation, and were willing to provide the means for purchasing a peace. But the former measure was necessary to give success to the latter, and the armament might be employed to advantage should negotiation fail. The other substitute was to subsidize foreign powers. The national dishonour of depending upon others for that protection which the United States were able to afford themselves, was strongly urged. But there were additional objections to this project. Either the nations in contemplation were at peace or at war with the regency of Algiers. If the former, it was not to be expected that they would relinquish that peace for any indemnification the United States could make them. If the latter, they had sufficient inducements to check the depredations of their enemies without subsidies. Such a protection would be hazardous, as it would be at any time in the power of the nation that should be employed, to conclude a truce with Algiers, and leave the trade of the United States at the mercy of her corsairs. While the expense of protection was perpetually to be incurred, it would never furnish the strength which that expense ought to give.