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countenanced and admitted; and when solemnly called by the indignant voice of our country, to express in our legislative capacity, the feelings which ought to glow in the breasts of freemen, we excused these illegal acts; we palliated these enormities; we threw the mantle of legislation upon the nakedness, the folly, the vice of executive acts. Though we could not lessen the horror so considerably felt, we meanly undertook to divide the odium:we humbled ourselves in the presence of a petty officer, and terrified by the bayonets of a single regiment, we kissed the rod, and justified the reproach of your enemies, by our mean submission and flattery, that “
you are not fit to be free!"
Shall we be obliged to make this humiliating confession? No, sir, it is yet in our power to retrieve the credit we have lost-to assume the character that befits us -to address the legislature of our country in the language of manly freedom-to show to the executive how much he has been deceived and betrayed, by the civil and military chiefs; and to give him an opportunity of dismissing the weakness that degrades, and the tyranny that ruins his service in this territory. And yet, sir, it is principally for our own credit, that we ought to seize this occasion of showing that we are not the unworthy repre. sentatives of a patriotic people. For, whatever ideas we may have of our duty, the representatives of the United States will know their’s; though we may be silent, they will speak; they are fearless, though we may tremble; and should we flatter, they will' never cringe;—and next to the consolation of having done my own duty, I find one in the certainty that there are at least one hundred and thir. teen independent men in our councils, who have remembered their oaths, and will punish the betrayers of their country.
DR. WATKINS'S SPEECH
ON THE SAME SUBJECT. SIR, I OPPOSE the gentleman's motion for recommitment. I consider it a subterfuge to get rid of the memorial altogether; and I am warranted in saying, from the conduct of that gentleman and his friends, that if you consent to his wish, the memorial will never more make its appearance in this house.—The gentleman says it contains errors. If so, and he or any other member will give himself the trouble to point them out, they can be corrected in a committee of the whole house, as well and as expeditiously as in any other way. I am disposed to believe that there may be some few errors, but they are of a triAling nature, and not calculated to affect the body of the memorial in any material or important point. I have too great a respect for the constituted authorities of my country, too much regard for the character of this house, and too high a reverence for the dignity of that tribunal to whose justice we are about to appeal, ever to consent that your memorial shall be disgraced by one doubtful fact, or one disrespectful expression; and I have too much regard for my own reputation, to suffer myself to be guided by any other principle than that of truth; by any other motives than those whose object is the public welfare. If, sir, the gentleman's motion should fail, I shall propose such alterations as in my opinion ought to be made in the memorial, when it comes to be discussed by paragraphs. But when I take a view of the conduct of this house; when I advert to the extraordinary and unprecedented proceedings which took place this morning of attempting to thrust the memorial out of doors, with
out even suffering it to be read, I am compelled to believe it is the object of that gentleman and his friends, not only to reject it, but to avoid, if possible, any discussion on the subject. Under these circumstances I shall avail myself of the present opportunity to make some observations on the memorial itself.
It will be recollected, sir, that I suggested the propriety of such a measure at the beginning of your session. I thought it proper to transmit to the general government a faithful narrative of the principal events in the political history of our country a few weeks previous to that time. The same opinion seemed then unanimously to prevail in this house; and a committee was accordingly appointed to draw up a memorial to congress. I was solicitous for the memorial to go on at that time for several reasons. In the first place it would have found congress in session, and as all communication between the individuals of this country and the Atlantic states, had been intercepted by your rulers, who seemed desirous of usurping the empire of thought as well as that of law, I deemed it expedient that the representatives of the people should endea. vour to defend the honour and interests of their country, by presenting to the general government a faithful picture of their situation. It cannot be denied but at that time it was dangerous for a private citizen to express any sentiment in opposition to the measures of the day. It will not be denied but that even upon this floor, (except when your doors were closed) no member had courage enough to condemn the conduct of general Wilkinson. However conscious he might be of his own innocence; however high his bosom might glow with patriotism, and however great his indignation at the wanton violation of the laws and constitution of his country,--not one of you dared, in those dangerous times, publicly to avow your real opinions. The bold and independent conduct of the re
presentatives of a free people, would probably have been rewarded by a military arrest-a violent separation from his family and friends, and an ignominious transportation to-God knows where to a Spanish dungeon, or at least to a distant part of the United States, to the utter ruin of his fortune, and the eternal injury of his honour and reputation. Again, sir-if at that period of your session, , I could have succeeded in sending forward a proper memorial, I would, after having voted the necessary supplies for the support of the government, and providing by all the means in our power for the protection and safety of the country, have proposed to this house to adjourn, because it was insulting to exhibit to a people just admitted to the enjoyment of the boasted principles of republicanism, the deplorable spectacle of a military chief in the very presence of their legislature, violating not only the laws and constitution of their own territory, but trampling under foot that sacred charter of freedom, which had been erected at the expense of the blood and treasure of so many of our ancestors.
What was the language of every native Louisianian on that occasion? “Formerly,” said they, “such conduct would not have surprised us; we were then at the mercy of arbitrary power. But we had been told that our situation was changed; that we were governed by laws, and not by the caprice of men; that the rights of the private citizen were as sacred as those of the highest in authority; that the humblest cultivator of your soil and the chief magistrate of your country, were bound by the same laws, and subject for their violation to the same penalties. What has become of this boasted liberty, this government of laws?-It has fled, like a vision, before the accursed influence of military despotism. While you on the one hand are making laws at an enormous expense to your country; the commander in chief is violating them on the other, setting your authority at defiance,
trampling upon the sovereignty of the people, and prostrating every principle of liberty, which you had taught us to revere.”—For reasons best known to your committee, they never made a report. And here I cannot forbear remarking that they did not discharge the duty which they owed to their country, or to the dignity of this house. After having amused you for upwards of forty days, you were obliged to discharge them and name another committee in their place, who have reported the memorial now under consideration. I am a friend to this memorial with the alterations I have suggested, because in territorial governments, where the principal officers are appointed by the president of the United States, to whom and to the senate alone they are responsible for their conduct, it becomes the duty of the representatives of the people, whenever their rights are infringed, to lay their complaints before congress, the legal guardians of the liberties of the people. For wise purposes it has been thought proper to establish this kind of government in remote parts of the union, where the number of inhabitants did not justify the formation of an independent state. It is a kind of probationary state, (many of you, gentlemen, may think it a purgatory) through which it is deemed necessary that we should pass, before we are admitted to the full enjoyment of that glorious inheritance which is the birthright of every native born Ame. rican. For myself, I am no great admirer of this form of government: my objections to it are various: it may, however, be the best which could have been devised for us. In a country like our's, just emerging from despotism, composed of the inhabitants of various nations and languages, unacquainted with political concerns, because they had not before been allowed to take any share in the administration of government; it was perhaps good policy to regulate their admission as an independent mem