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former friendship, had still lingered in the bosoms Chap, vm of some who had engaged with ardour in the |796 political contests of the day. But if the last spark of this affection was not now absolutely extinguished, it was at least concealed under the more active passions of the moment.
A motion to refer the message of the president to a committee of the whole house was carried by a large majority. In committee, resolutions Deb««UFon
were moved by Mr. Blount of North Carolina m»kine 'power
declaratory of the sense of the house respecting its own power on the subject of treaties. These resolutions take a position less untenable than had been maintained in argument, and rather inexplicit on an essential part of the question. Disclaiming a power to interfere in making treaties, they assert the right of the house of representatives, whenever stipulations are made on subjects committed by the constitution to congress, to deliberate on the expediency of carrying them into effect, without deciding what degree of obligation the treaty possesses on the nation so far as respects those points, previous to such deliberations. After a debate in which the message was freely criticised, the resolutions were carried, fifty-seven voting in the affirmative and thirty-five in the negative.
In the course of the month of March, the treaties with his catholic majesty, and with the dey of Algiers had been ratified by the president and were laid before congress. On the 13th of April, in a committee of the whole house on the state of the union, the instant the chairman was
Chap.vm.seated, Mr. Sedgwick moved "that provision 1796. ought to be made by law for carrying into effect with good faith, the treaties lately concluded with the dey and regency of Algiers, the king of Great Britain, the king of Spain, and certain Indian tribes northwest of the Ohio."
This motion produced a warm altercation. Of the celerity with which it had been made, the members of the majority complained loudly; and the attempt to blend together four treaties in the same resolution, after the solemn vote entered upon their journals, declaratory of their right to exercise a free discretion over the subject, was resented as an indignity to the opinions and feelings of the house.
After a discussion manifesting the irritation which existed, the resolution was amended, by changing the word "treaties" from the plural to the singular number, and by striking out the words "dey and regency of Algiers, the king of Great Britain and certain Indian tribes northwest of the river Ohio," so that only the treaty with the king of Spain remained to be considered.
Mr. Gallatin then objected to the words "provision ought to be made by law," as the expression seemed to imply a negative of the principle laid down in their resolution, that the house was at perfect liberty to pass or not to pass any law for giving effect to a treaty. In lieu of them he wished to introduce the words used in the opinion entered on their journals, which, instead of implying the obligation, declare the expediency of passing the necessary laws. This amendment
was objected to as an innovation on the forms Chap. vm. which had been invariably observed, but it was ir$6. carried; after which, the words "with good faith," were also discarded.
The resolution thus amended was agreed to without a dissenting voice; and then, similar resolutions respecting the treaties with Algiers, and with the Indians northwest of the Ohio, were assented to in like manner.
This business being dispatched, the treaty with upon the Mj Great Britain was brought before the house. The "g^'^y
friends of that instrument urged an immediateI"TM"?' decision of the question. On a subject which had*^ so long agitated the whole community, the judgment of every member, they believed, was completely formed, and the hope to make converts by argument was desperate. In fact, they appeared to have entertained the opinion that the majority would not dare to encounter the immense responsibility of breaking that treaty, without previously ascertaining that the great body of the people were willing to meet the consequences of the measure. But the members of the opposition, though confident of their power to reject the resolution, called for its discussion. The expectation might not unreasonably have been entertained, that the passions belonging to the subject would be so inflamed by debate, as to produce the expression of a public sentiment favourable to their wishes; and, if in this they should be disappointed, it would be certainly unwise either as a party, or as a branch of the legislature, to plunge the nation into embarrassments in which
cHAP.vm.it was not disposed to entangle itself, and from IT96. wn'cn the means of extricating it could not be distinctly perceived.
The minority soon desisted from urging an immediate decision of the question; and the spacious field which was opened by the propositions before the house seemed to be entered with equal avidity and confidence by both parties.
At no time perhaps had the members of the national legislature been stimulated to great exertions by stronger feelings than impelled them on this occasion. Never had a greater display been made of argument, of eloquence, and of passion; and never had a subject been discussed in which all classes of their fellow citizens took a deeper interest.
To those motives which a doubtful contest for power and for victory cannot fail to furnish, were added others of vast influence on the human mind. By those who supported the resolution, declaring the expediency of carrying the treaty into effect, it was firmly believed that the faith of the nation was pledged, and that its honour, its character, and its constitution, depended on the vote about to be given. They also believed that the best interests of the United States required an observance of the compact as formed. In itself, it was thought as favourable as the situation of the contracting parties and of the world, entitled them to expect; but its chief merit consisted in the adjustment of ancient differences, and in its tendency to produce in future amicable dispositions, and a friendly intercourse. If congress should
refuse to perform this treaty on the part of the Chap.vul United States, a compliance on the part of Great 1796. Britain could not be expected. The posts on the great lakes would still be occupied by'their garrisons; no compensation would be made for American vessels illegally captured; the hostile dispositions which had been excited would be restored with increased aggravation; and that these dispositions must lead infallibly to war, was implicitly believed. To them, the consequence of a war with Britain during the present impassioned devotion to France, seemed inevitably to be the political subjugation of their country.
By the opposite party, the treaty was undoubtedly believed to contain stipulations really injurious to the United States. Several favourite principles to which they attached much importance, were relinquished by it; and some of the articles relative to commerce were believed to be unequal in their operation. Nor ought the sincerity with which their opinion on the constitutional powers of the house had been advanced, to be called in question. In the fervor of political discussion, that construction which, without incurring the imputation of violating the national faith, would enable the popular branch of the legislature to control the president and senate in making treaties, may have been thought the safe and the correct construction. But no consideration appears to have been more influential than the apprehension that the amicable arrangements made with Great Britain, would seriously affect