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The treaty, however, was ratified by the senate; but when the lower house was resorted to for the laws necessary to carry it into effect, the antifederalists opposed it. At their head was our present president, Mr. Madison, who made the following speech upon the occasion. MR. CHAIRMAN,
The subject now under the consideration of the committee is of such vast extent, of such vital importance to this country, and involves so many topics which demand minute investigation, that I wish at setting out to be understood as not pretending to go through all the observations that may be applicable to its circumstances, but as endeavouring to present it in a mere general view, persuaded that the omissions I shall make, will be amply supplied by other gentlemen who are to follow me in the discussion.
The proposition, sir, immediately before the committee amounts to this, that the treaty lately made with Great Britain ought to be directly carried into effect by all such means and provisions, as are peculiarly within the province and the competency of the house of representatives to supply. This, sir, is the substance of the point immediately in question: But it will in examining it, be proper to keep constantly in view another proposition which was made yesterday, by the gentleman from Pennsylvania, * and referred to the committee, and which will be taken
up of course, if the immediate question shall be decided in the negative.
Sir,-If the proposition for carrying the treaty into effect be agreed to by the house, it must necessarily be upon some one or other of the three following considerations;— That the legislature is bound by a constitutional
MR. MACLAY, who moved a resolution that it is not expedient at this time lo concur in passing the laws necessary for carrying the seid treaty into effect."
necessity to pass the requisite laws, without examining the treaty or considering its merits—or, that on due ex. amination the treaty is deemed to be in itself a good one -or that, apart from these considerations, there shall appear extraneous reasons of sufficient weight to induce the house to carry the treaty into effect, even though it should be thought to be in itself a bad treaty. The first of these considerations however, is now completely excluded by the late decision of the house, that they have a right to judge of the expediency or inexpediency of passing laws relative to treaties—the question then first to be examined by the committee is that which relates to the merits of the present treaty. I will now therefore proceed to discuss those merits, and to present them to the committee under three different aspects. The first, as it relates to the execution of the treaty of peace, made in the year 1783.The second, as it bears upon and determines the several points in the law of nations connected with it.-And the third, as it infringes upon, and may be supposed to affect the commercial intercourse of the two nations.
Sir, in animadverting upon the first of those, I will not take upon me the invidious office of enquiring which party it is to whom the censure may justly be ascribed of having more than the other contributed to the delay of its execution, though I am far from entertaining any de. sire to shrink from the task, under an apprehension that the result might be disadvantageous to this country. The present treaty has itself in express terms waved this enquiry, and professes that its purpose is to adjust all controversies on the subjects of which it is conversant, without regard to the mutual complaints or pretensions of the parties. Naturally therefore and most just it was to be expected, that the arrangements for carrying that treaty into effect would have been founded on the most exact, scrupulous and equitable reciprocity.--But, has this been
the case, sir? I venture to say that it has not--and it grieves me to add, what nevertheless truth and justice compel me to declare, that, on the contrary, the arrangements were founded on the grossest violation of that principle. This, sir, is undoubtedly strong language, and as such I should be one of the last men living to give.it utterance, if I were not supported in it by facts no less strong and unequivocal. There are two articles in the old treaty for the execution of which no provision whatsoever is made in the new one. The first is that which relates to the restitution of, or compensation for the negroes and other property carried away by the British. The second that which provided for the surrender to the United States of the posts so long withheld by them on our territory. The article that remained unexecuted on the part of the United States was that which stipulated for the payment of all bona fide debts owing to British creditors; and the present treaty guarantees the carrying of that article into the most complete effect by the United States, together with all damages sustained by the delay, even to the most rigid extent of exaction, while it contains no stipulation whatever on the part of Great Britain for the faithful performance of the articles left unexecuted by her. Look to the treaty, sir, and you will find nothing like it, nothing allusive to it.-No, on the contrary, she is entirely and formally absolved from her obligation to fulfil that article which relates to the negroes, and is discharged from making any 'compensation whatsoever for her 'having delayed to fulfil that which provided for the surrender of
I am aware, sir, of its being urged in apology, or by way of 'extenuation, for those very unequal stipulations, that the injury that could possibly be sustained by us in consequence of the detention of the posts by the British government, was not susceptible of an accurate valuation;
that between such an injury and money there was no common measure, and that therefore the wrong was incapable of liquidation, and afforded no fair basis for a calculation of pecuniary damages. This apology, sir, may appear plausible, but it is by no means satisfactory.-Nothing could be more obviously practicable than an adjustment of some kind in way of retribution-commissioners might easily have been appointed, as they were, vested too with full discretion, for other purposes, to take charge of this subject, with instructions to do what they could, if unable to do what they ought, and if incapable of effecting positive justice, at least of mitigating the severe and provoking injustice of not so much as attempting to do any thing For the very extraordinary abandonment of the compensation due for the negroes and other property carried off by the British, apologies had also been lamely attempted; and these apologies demanded consideration. It is said to be at least doubtful whether this claim was ever authorised by the seventh article of the treaty of peace, and that Great Britain had uniformly denied the meaning put by the United States on that article. In reply to these assertions, it is sufficient for me to remark, that so far from its being true that Great Britain had uniformly denied the American construction of that article, it is susceptible of positive proof that till very lately Great Britain did uniformly admit our construction of it, and had rejected that claim on no other ground than the alleged violation of the fourth article on the part of the United States. But on the supposition that it had been true, that Great Britain had uniformly asserted a different construction of the article, and refused to accede to ours, I beg leave to ask the house what ought to have been done?-Ought we to have acceded at once to her construction?-You will anticipate me, sir, in saying, assuredly not. Each party had an equal right
to interpret the compact; and if they could not agree, they ought to have done in this, what they did in other cases, where they could not agree—that is, have referred the settlement of the meaning of the compact to arbitration: But, for us to give up the claim altogether because the other party to the compact thought proper to disallow our construction of it, was in effect to admit nothing less than that Great Britain had a better right than the United States to explain the point in controversy, or that the United States had done something which in justice called for a sacrifice of one of their essential rights.
From this view of the subject, sir, I consider it to be evident that the arrangements in this treaty which relate to the treaty of peace of 1783, are in several instances deficient both in justice and reciprocity. And here a cir. cumstance occurs that in my opinion deserves the very particular attention of the committee. From the face of the treaty generally, and particularly from the order of the articles, it would seem that the compensation for the spoliations on our trade have been combined with the execution of the treaty of peace, and may therefore have been viewed as a substitute for the equivalent stipulated for the negroes. If this be really the meaning of the instrument, it cannot be the less obnoxious to reasonable and fair judges. No man can be more firmly convinced than I myself am, of the perfect justice on which the claims of the merchants on Great Britain are founded, nor can any one be more desirous to see them fully indemni. fied. But surely, sir, it will not be asserted that compen. sation to them is a just substitute for the compensation due to others. It is impossible that any claims can be better founded than those of the sufferers under the seventh article of the treaty of peace—because they are supported by positive and acknowledged stipulation as well as by equity and right. Just and undeniable as the