Page images
PDF
EPUB

powers which

humiliation the ravisher's feet, and wish to place upon his head a crown of immortal honour. If Burr had had to contend with such sentiments in Kentucky; if he could there have usurped with impunity the

your superiors have done here, what would then have been your situation? Who in that case would have been your saviour? If general Wilkinson had been upon the Sabine; if he and his whole army, however brave and loyal they may be, had been in the remotest corner of the globe, Burr never could have succeeded. His lawless schemes would have been defeated as they have already been. But had he even succeeded in passing Natchez with his miserable force, what would have been his fate here? Ask your boys and your women in the streets. They would have been sufficient to have given a good account of him. But, sir, it has been asked, with some triumph, suppose general Wilkinson in. stead of opposing him, had acted as Burr expected, and as the general says he had a right to expect, in concert with him; what would have been the result? I leave this question to be answered by the general's advocates themselves; and I yield either to him or to them, all the advantages they can draw from it.

SPEECH OF MR. ROSS,

DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, FEBRU. ARY 24th, 1803: ON HIS RESOLUTIONS, RELATIVE TO THE

FREE NAVIGATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI.

THAT violation by the king of Spain, of the treaty between him and the United States, commonly called the occlusion of New Orleans, attracted the attention of congress in 1803. The case was briefly as follows.

Spain holding the territory on the west of the Mississippi, extending to the Gulf of Mexico, and on the east of it, south of the southern boundary of the United States in the thirty-first degree of north latitude, was consequently the proprietor of both sides of that river. The impossibility of ascending the Mississippi in seavessels, to a height convenient to receive the produce of our western states, had convinced our government of the necessity of obtaining from Spain the right to deposit their produce on their territory, from whence it was conveniently accessibly by our ships, and also of securing to them the free use of this highway to market. These objects were obtained by the treaty concluded with Spain, the 27th October, 1795; by the 22d article of which it stipulated that his catholic majesty will permit the citizens of the United States, for the space of three years from that time, to deposit their merchandize and effects in the port of New Orleans, and to export from thence, without paying any other duty, than a fair price for the hire of the stores. And his majesty promised thereby either to continue the permission, if he found during that time, that it was not prejudicial to the interests of Spain; or if he should not continue it there, to assign them on another part of the banks of the Missis. sippi, an equivalent establishment.

In violation of this treaty the intendant of New Orleans, the officer intrusted with ihe commercial concerns of the province, did by proclamation in October 1802, interdict the American right of deposit at New Orleans, without assigning any other equivalent establishment; and the governor general of Louisiana explicitly vindicated the measure.

This produced an immediate great loss, to a portion of our citizens, and was considered by many as the com

mencement of measures to deprive us entirely of a place of deposit and to obstruct our navigation of the river.

To enable congress to act upon the subject, Mr. Ross, on the 16th February, 1803: offered the following resolutions.

Resolved, That the United States of America have an indisputable right io the free navigation of the river Mississippi, and to a convenient deposit for their produce and merchandize in the island of New Orleans:

That the late infraction of such their unquestionable right is an aggression. hostile to their honour and interest:

That it does not consist with the dignity or safety of this union to hold a right so important by a tenure so uncertain:

That it maierally concerns such of the American citizens as dwell on the western waters, and is essential to the union, strength, and prosperity of these states, that they obtain complete security for the full and peaceful enjoyment of such their absolute right:

That the president be authorized to take immediate possession of some place or places, in the said island, or the adjacent territories, fit and convenient for the purposes aforesaid, and to adopt such measures for obtaining that complete security, as to him, in his wisdom, shall seem meet:

That he be authorized to call into actual service any number of the militia of the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio, and the Mississippi Territory, which he may think proper, not exceeding 50,000, and to employ them, together with the naval and military force of the union, for effecting the object above mentioned, and that the sum of five millions of dollars be appropriated to the carrying into effect the foregoing resolutions, and that the whole or any part of that sum be paid or applied on warrants drawn in pursuance of such directions as the president may from time to time think proper to give to the secretary of the treasury.

On the 23d, these resolutions were taken into consideration. On the 24th, Mr. Wright of Maryland opposed the resolutions in a long specch; upon which Mr. Ross rose and spoke as follows.

SIR, The propriety of introducing these resolutions becomes every day more apparent. Since they have been laid on the table, our national councils have taken a new direction, and assumed a much more promising aspect. Until these resolutions were brought forward, there has been no military preparation; no proposal to detach militia; to build arsenals on the western waters; to provide armed boats for the protection of our trade on the Mississippi. I am happy in seeing gentlemen on the opposite side, pursuing a more vigorous course than they were at first inclined to adopt, and I hope they will, before long, consent to take stronger and more effectual measures for the security of what is in hazard.

As I have, on a late occasion, stated at large my reasons for presenting these resolutions, I will not detain the senate with a repetition of them, except where they have been misrepresented or distorted during the debate. I cannot suppose that any gentleman would intentionally mistate what has been said; but it was very certain that sentiments and assertions have been ascribed to me, in the course of the discussion, not warranted by any thing I have advanced.

Every gentleman who has spoken in this debate, excepting the honourable gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Wright) admits that the United States have an indisputable right to the free navigation of the river Mississippi, and to a place of deposit in the island of New Orleans. All agree that this right is of immense magnitude and importance to the western country. All agree that it has been grossly and wantonly violated-and all agree, that unless the right be restored and secured, we must and will go to war. Upon what then do we really differ? Upon nothing but the time of acting. Whether we shall take measures for immediate restoration and security, or

.

whether we shall abstain from all military preparation, and wait the issue of negotiation. There is no disagreement but upon this point; for if negotiation fails, every man who has spoken has pledged himself to declare war.

A number of the objections made against the adoption of measures we have proposed, deserve to be noticed.

The honourable gentleman from New York (Mr. Clinton) when composing his speech, has made an elaborate research into ancient and modern history, for the purpose of showing what had been the practice of nations. He has collected all the objections together and classed them under three heads. Other gentlemen who have spoken in opposition have taken nearly the same ground, and made in substance the same objection: I will, therefore, follow the arrangement made by the honourable gentleman (Mr. Clinton) and I am persuaded that it will be easy to show, he has in many instances mistaken the most material features of the authorities he has adduced, and more than once misstated the positions which I undertook to refute. He has, however, admitted the magnitude of the right, that it has been violated, and that if negotiation should fail we must go to war. He has made objections under these three heads and insisted:

1st. That the infraction may be unauthorized.

2d. That negotiation ought, in all cases, to precede the employment of force.

3d. That reasons of policy should dissuade us from using force at present, even supposing we have just cause of immediate war.

The first objection has already been amply refuted by the gentlemen from New Jersey (Mr. Dayton), the gentleman from Massachusets (Mr. J. Mason), and the gentleman from Delaware (Mr. White). I will only remark in addition that whether authorized or not, is not now very material. If authorized, the temper, the design must certainly

« PreviousContinue »