« PreviousContinue »
those orders was known here, our president considered that our own conduct had not been perfectly regular; there was some cause of complaint against us, in the midst all the just complaints we had against the British cruisers; there were also old differences which had created great un. easiness between the two countries. In the recent causes of quarrel we had been the first in suffering improper acts to be done by a foreign agent within our own territory, which we ought to have prevented as neutrals.-Under all these circumstances, being already engaged in an Indian war, he resolved to try negotiation.—An envoy extraordinary was accordingly sent.
How does all this apply to the present case? There had been old, unsettled differences with England-our's with Spain were settled by the treaty of 1795. There were horrible spoliations upon our trade by Britain, but we had permitted acts towards them with which we were obliged to reproach ourselves. Spain has also spoiled our commerce, and to an immense extent, without provocation. For that, the case of England would say negotiate, and we have actually been negotiating. But had England blockaded your harbours, had she shut out half a million of your people from access to the ocean, had she closed up the Chesapeake or the Delaware, would there have been negotiation? No. You would, you must have had immediate war. Such an invasion of the sovereignty and independence of the country would have left no hesitation in the mind of any man; but fortunately as our affairs then stood we were not obliged to resort to hostilities. The man of high talents who undertook to negotiate, succeeded in forming a treaty between the two countries.--Such, however, were the passions of the times, that the negotiator was grossly calumniated. The treaty was opposed by the formidable array of all the artillery of popular opinion organized in town meetings, played off along the coast
from Boston to Charleston, under the direction of the ablest engineer in this country. Public opinion was again shaken, but finally peace was preserved, the treaty went fairly into execution, and even the negotiator was elected their governor, by the people of his own state, where he presided for a long time with honour to himself and infinite advantage to the interests and peace of society, until at length he retired from public life, leaving an example which will always be useful for imitation, and serve at the same time as a severe reproof to those who may materially depart from it.
Our differences and negotiations with England, then, furnish an interesting and serious view of the course we have taken in troublesome times, but certainly do not present any thing like the present case. For although they actually held our western posts and built a new fort at the foot of the rapids of Miami, yet, we had never been in possession of those posts, we had not purchased the coun. try from the Indians, we had no settlements near to it, no great portion of our citizens were obstructed or cut off from the free exercise of their rights, and there were mutual complaints, perhaps mutual enquiries, between the parties, which seemed to require negotiation as the only mode in which they could ever be terminated.
Next comes our difference with Spain. To this it may be answered briefly:-- That we made a treaty with that power; difficulties arose respecting the execution of that treaty; we had not then been in the possession or exercise of the rights claimed under the treaty. The Spaniards delayed and evaded the execution, in a very unjustifiable manner. But the administration of that day did not rely upon negotiation alone; they ordered troops to the Ohio, and had the Spaniards persisted in their refusal, those troops would have acted decisively, without any new application to the court of Spain. They saw the approach
ing storm; they entered upon the execution of the treaty, by running the line, and giving up the posts; and, if the war office be examined, gentlemen will find that our troops were then so disposed as to fall down the river Mississippi, and act with effect, at any moment. It was well known to us that Spain did not act in that business from the mere impulse of her own interests or wishes. She was then, and is still, under the irresistible influence of a pzwerful neighbour, with whom we at that time had seri. ous differences-she was urged and pushed forward by France. For Spain, until she became thus dependent upon France, has ranked high for her good faith, and, in my opinion, deservedly higher than any other court in Europe. „Slow to promise, she has always fulfilled her engagements with honour, according to the spirit, without cavilling about the words of her treaties.
When we were aware of all these things, when there was no absolute refusal, but only delay and evasive ex. cuses about the execution, not about the right, it would not have been wise to precipitate an absolute rupture between the two countries.
The proceedings with France are next adduced. These are fresh in the memory of every one, and need not be repeated. There was no blockade, no denial of egress to the ocean, no invasion, no territorial dismemberment, no attack upon the country which required the immediate use of force. True, they captured your ships, they heaped indignities upon you; but they also alleged that you had first broken the treaty of alliance. You negotiated: what else could you do? You had no navy. You could
quest of them, and they did not attempt to land on your shores. When their aggressions rose to such a height as to be tolerated no longer, and defensive war was resolved on, what was the conduct of the minority then? Did they come forward and offer their support like
the minority now? No, sir: they declared the administration was blameable; that the French had been provoked; that peace was still attainable by negotiation, and war at all events to be avoided. Look at the debates of that day, and you will discover that many leading men contended that our own government was altogether in the wrong, and France in the right. Such was the impression abroad, that Tallerrand insultingly boasted of a party in our own country, and threatened us with the fate of Venice; and when the sacred right of embassy was trampled upon, as stated by the honourable gentleman from New York, still the cry at home was negotiate, negotiate. Surely there is very little if any resemblance between that case and this. However justifiable a war would have been then, we must have gone abroad to seek our enemy; now he has come to our doors, and stripped us of what is most precious and dear to us as an independent nation.
We are next told, under the third head of objections, that our national debt will be increased by war; that war will be the necessary consequence of the resolutions; that our object is war.
Sir, our object is not war, but the attainment of secu. rity for a right, without which our union, our political existence, cannot continue. In seeking this security, should war arise, it will be a less evil than insecure and delusive hopes of tranquillity. No doubt war will increase your public debt, but not more, nor so much as vain attempts to secure this right another way, and after failing you must have a war.
But your merchants will not obtain indemnities for spoliations. Their chance is but precarious now, and would be altogether as great in the way we propose to take.
Seaports will be blockaded and the Mississippi shut. The first is not probable, and as to the last, all the western
people must be satisfied when they see their country maintaining and asserting their right. The very effort to maintain it will consume a great portion of the resources and afford an extensive market to the aggrieved people, by supplying your military force. The river may as well be shut up completely as be in its present condition.
An honourable gentleman (Mr. Wright) has said that we may have a place of deposit within our own territory and navigate the river from thence.
The gentleman certainly has not well considered this subject. The nearest point upon our territory is three hundred miles from the sea. The river crooked, the current rapid, the anchorage bad. A favourable wind in one direction of the river would be adverse at the next bend. Ships could never ascend in any reasonable time, nor could they gain any point on our own territory when they are forbidden to touch the shore even to fasten a cable or towline. Without the privilege of the shore, the navigation would be impracticable.
The honourable gentleman from New York had ad. - vanced a most extraordinary position;—That if our adversaries have time to prepare, we also have time to prepare -Yet he resists the resolutions and proposes no effectual military preparations. While they are busy, we are to be idle- When they make the stroke, we are in our present defenceless state. Next year we shall be as weak and exposed as now, our commerce equally scattered over the ocean, our seaports as defenceless, our army and navy as weak, and they have then possession of the disputed spot with an armament to annoy us and maintain their possession.
The honourable gentleman from Kentucky, (Mr. Breckenridge,) disclaims all apprehension of disgust, or disaffection among his constituents, or any of the western people. They were not always in this mild, forbearing