Page images

'kbruarv, 1803.]

f this kind, can you retract? Ton cannot; it i in fact a declaration of war itself. Many of he courts of Europe would consider it so, and lave engaged in war for less cause of offence han this resolution contains. You pronounce it once, without knowing whether the proceedngs at New Orleans were sanctioned by the 3ourt of Spain, that that nation is in a state of lostility against your honor and interest, which leclaration, coupled with the following resoluion, "That it does not consist with the dignity >r safety of this Union to hold a right so ira>ortant by a tenure so uncertain," is a direct nsnlt to that nation. But if war is not to be bund in those resolutions, is it not in the fifth ■esolution, " That the President be authorized

0 take immediate possession of such place or daces in the said island, or the adjacent territories, as he may deem fit or convenient." Is this jot war? If it be not, ho knew not what war .vas I And now let us inquire, if we should be justified in adopting those measures, on the grounds of public or private justice, or the laws jf nations.

Sir, the going to war has always been considered, even among barbarous nations, a most -ori< m- thing; and it has not been undertaken tvithout the most serious deliberation. It was

1 practice among the Romans, prior to undertaking a war, to consult the faeialei on the justice of it; and, after it had been declared just, to refer it to the Senate, to judge of the policy of it; and unless the justice and the policy were both accorded in, the war was not undertaken. If this was the case then among barbarous nations, shall we, who call ourselves a civilized nation, not well weigh the justice and the policy of going to war, before wo undertake it.'

As to national honor and dignity, he believed we have all a proper senso of it, and he would be one of the last on this floor to put up with insult and indignity from any nation; but, as much as we had heard of it, he did not think -we ought, without negotiation, to resent every injury by war. In many cases, national honor is only a convertible term for national interest; and he begged leave to relate an anecdote of a celebrated soldier on this head. After the failure of the attempted storm of Savannah, in the year 1779, Count D'Estaing, who was wounded in the attack, and lay in that situation about five miles from Savannah, was visited by Governor Rutledge and other gentlemen of South Carolina and Georgia. The Governor having perceived some movements in camp indicative of a retrogade motion, told the Count that his own honor and the honor of France were concerned in his remaining and taking the city. The Count very mildly replied, "Gentlemen, if my honor is to be lost by not taking the city, it is lost already; but I deem my honor to consist in the honor of my country, and that honor is my country's interest 1" The timo of operation in the West Indies was arrived, and tlie Count re-embarked his troops.


Now, sir, is it not our duty to consult our country's interest, before wo take this rash step, which we cannot recall? Peace is the interest of all republics, and war their destruction; it loads and fetters them with debt, and entangles not only the present race, but posterity. Peace, sir, has been the ruling policy of the United States throughout all her career. If we show the citizens that we are not willing to go to war, and load them with taxes, they will all be with us, when a necessity for war arrives. What, sir, was the policy of America, from the commencement of the Revolution? At that day, did we hastily go to war? No; we tried every peaceable means to avoid it, and those means induced a unanimity in the people.

At the commencement many States were exceedingly divided, in some a majority were against us; yet, seeing the moderation and justice of our measures, and the rashness and tyranny of the British cabinet, they came over to our side, and became the most zealous among us. At the present moment, fir, the people are averse to war, they are satisfied with the steps of the Executive, they wisli negotiation. If you adopt these resolutions, they will be still divided; if you negotiate, and fail in that negotiation—if you cannot obtain a redress of the injury which they feel as well as yon, they will go all lengths with you, and be prepared for any event; you will have this advantage, you will be unanimous, and America united is a match for the world. In such a case, sir, every man will be anxious to march, he would go himself if called on, and whether the sluggish Spaniard or the French grenadier commands New Orleans, it must fall; they will not be able to resist the bravo and numerous hosts of our Western brethren, who are so much interested in the injury complained of. He was himself of opinion that New Orleans must belong to the United States; it must come to us in the course of human events, although not at the present day; for he did not wish to use force to obtain it, if we could get a redress of injury; yet it will naturally fall into our hands by gradual but inevitable causes, as sure and certain as manufactures arise from increased population and the plentiful products of agriculture and commerce. But let it be noticed, that if New Orleans by a refusal of justice falls into our hands by force, the Floridas, as sure as fate, full with it. Good faith forbids encroachment on a pacific ally; but if hostility shows itself against us, interest demands it; Georgia in such case could not do without it. God and nature have destined New Orleans and the Floridas to belong to this great and rising empire. As natural bounds to the South, are the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Mississippi, and the world at some future day cannot hold them from us.

MUiUrippi Question.

Senate.] Mississippi Question.

TncBSijAY, February 24. Mississippi Question. Agreeably to the order of the day, the Senate resumed the consideration of the resolutions respecting the indisputable right of the United States to the free navigation of the Mississippi, together with tho proposed amendments thereto.

Mr. Wells, of Delaware, said,—Gentlemen have persuaded themselves that the conduct of the Intendant is not authorized by the Spanish or French Government; but what reason have they assigned ns in support of this opinion? They tell us of the friendlv assurances received from the Minister of His Catholic Majesty resident near our Government; and they place considerable stress upon the circumstance of the Governor of New Orleans disapprovir^ of what the Iutendant has done. I will not stop to speak of the imprudence of reposing themselves upon the assurances of a Minister, perhaps expressly instructed to mislead them. But why have they trusted to the imaginary collision of sentiment between the Governor and Intendant of New Orleans? Do not gentlemen know that our Government is in possession of testimony, demonstrating beyond all kind of doubt, that this is not the fact? Have they not seen the letter of the Governor of New Orleans to the Governor of the Mississippi Territory? In this letter I learn that the Governor comes out and acknowledges his cooperation with the Intendant, justifies the breach of tho treaty, and declares that these instruments cease their binding force the moment it suits the interest of either party to break through them. Alas! the history of the world furnishes us too many evidences of this melancholy truth. But this is the first time that any nation has had the hardihood to avow it. No, sir, even Carthage herself, who became proverbial for her disregard of treaties, never attained to a point so profligate. If I am incorrect in my statement, honorable gentlemen, who have easier access to the sources of official information than is permitted to us, will set me right. Why has this document been so sedulously kept from the public eye? Why it should be even now so carefully locked up, is a mystery not for me to nnravel.

I see no other course for us to pursue than that pointed out by the resolutions. Our interests, our honor, and our safety, require it to be adopted. I am aware that the alarm of war will be rung through the country. I know full well the pains that will be taken to impress an opinion upon our fellow-citizens that we are the friends of war. This we cannot help: the danger with which our country is threatened, will not permit us to shrink from the discharge of our duty, let the consequences to ourselves be what they may. Let me ask you with my honorable friend from New Jersey, (Mr. Dayton,) what stronger evidence can we give you of the sincerity of out intentions than

[febbcabt, 1*8.

the resolutions themselves? So far from ensuing, or diminishing the power of gentlemendeposed to us, in a crisis like the present, we o»k offer to strengthen their own hands. Bad a* advice of an honorable gentleman near roe flfr. Morris) been listened to, when yon were abanding your army, this crisis would not hre happened. Had you then posted at the Natch* as he recommended, a thousand soldiers, the litigation of the Mississippi would not now but been interrupted. He foretold you what wiid happen, and his prediction has been literaiT fulfilled.

There is but one fault I find with these resolutions, which is, they do not po far eaoop. If I could obtain a second, I would move s amendment explicitly authorizing the taking possession of both the Floridas as well m tie island of New Orleans. In one respect I entirely accord *ith the honorable gendema from Georgia, (Mr. Jackson,) and I adaun the manly and decisive tone in which he h* spoken upon thus subject. Wo both agree that the Floridas must be attached to the United States; but we differ in point of time. The violent aggression committed npon ourrizbs. and the extent of the danger with which * are threatened, in my humble opinion, would amply justify our taking possession of them immediately. Look at the relative sifasao of Georgia, the Mississippi Territory, and he Floridas, and it will require very little of lb* spirit of prophecy to foretell that we shall, ere long, be compelled to possess ourselves of tbeffl in our own defence.

Mr. Gouverneur Morris.—Mr. President my object is peace. I could assign many reason to show that this declaration is sincere. But can it be necessary to give this Senate any other assurance than my word? Notwithstanding the acerbity of temper which results from partj strife, gentlemen will believe me on ray word. I will not pretend, like my honorable colleague, (Mr. Clinton,) to describe to you the waste, the ravages, and the horrors of war. I bare not the same harmonious periods, nor the same musical tones; neither shall I boast of Christian charity, nor attempt to display that ingenuous glow of benevolence so decorous to the cheek of youth, which gave a vivid tint to every sentence he uttered; and was, if possible, as impressive even as his eloquence. But though we possess not the same pomp of words, our hearts are not insensible to the woes of humanity. We can feel for the misery of plundered towns, the conflagration of defenceless village* and the devastation of cultured fields. Turning from these features of general distress, we can enter the abodes of private affliction, W» behold the widow weeping, as she traces, in the pledges of connubial affection, the resemblance of him whom she has lost for ever. "* see the aged matron bending over the" ashes of her son. He was her darling; for he was generous and bravo, and therefore his spirit W him to tho field in defence of his country.


Fbbruabt, 1803]

can observe another oppressed with unutterable anguish: condemned to conceal her affection; forced to hide that passion which is at once the torment and delight of life; she learns that those eyes which beamed with sentiment, are closed in death; and his lip, the ruby harbinger of joy, lies pale and cold, the miserable appendage of a mangled corpse. Hard, hard indeed, must be that heart which can be insensible to scenes like these, and bold the man who dare present to the Almighty Father a conscience crimsoned with the blood of Li« children.

Yes, sir, we wish for peace; but how is that blessing to be preserved? I shall here repeat a sentiment I have often had occasion to express. In my opinion, there is nothing worth fighting for, but national honor; for in the national honor is involved the national independence. I know that a State may find itself in such unpropitious circumstances, that prudence may force a wise government to conceal the sense of indignity. But the insult should be engraven on tablets of brass, with a pencil of steel. And •when that time and chance, which happen to all, shall bring forward the favorable moment, then let the avenging arm strike him. It is by avowing and maintaining this stern principle of honor, that peace can be preserved. But let it not be supposed that any thing I say has the slightest allusion to the injuries sustained from France, while suffering in the pangs of her Revolution. As soon should I upbraid a eick man for what he might have done in the paroxysms of disease. Nor is this a new sentiment; it was felt and avowed at the time when these wrongs were heaped on us, and I appeal for the proof to the files of your Secretary of State. The destinies of France were then in the hands of monsters. By the decree of Heaven she was broken on the wheel, in the face of the world, to warn mankind of her folly and madness. But these scenes • have passed away. On the throne of the Bourbons is now seated the first of the Gallic Cffisars. At the head of that gallant nation is the great—the greatest—man of the present age. It becomes us well to consider his situation. The things he has achieved, compel him to the achievement of things more great. In his vast career, we must soon become objects to command attention. We too, in our turn, must contend or submit. By submission we may indeed have peace, alike precarious and ignominious. But is this the peace which we ought to seek? Will this satisfy the ju9t expectation of our country? No. Let us have peace permanent, secure, and, if I may use the term, independent. Peace which depends, not on the pity of others, but on our own force. Let us have the only peace worth having, a peace consistent with honor.

Before I consider the existing state of things, let me notice what gentlemen have said in relation to it The honorable member from Kentucky has told us, that indeed there is a right


arrested, but whether by authority or not is equivocal. He says the representative of Spain verily believes it to be an unauthorized act. My honorable colleague informs us there has been a clashing between the Governor and Intendant. He says we are told by the Spanish Minister it was unauthorized. Notwithstanding these assurances, however, my honorable colleague has, it seems, some doubts; but nevertheless he presumes iunocence, for my colleague is charitable. The honorable member from Maryland goes further. He tells us the Minister of Spain says, the Intendant had no such authority, and the Minister of France, too, says there is no such authority. Sir, I have all possible respect for those gentlemen, and every proper confidence in what they may think proper to communicate. I believe the Spanish Minister has the best L naginable disposition to preserve peace; being indeed the express purpose for which he was sent among us. I believe it to be an object near to his heart, and which has a strong hold upon his affections. I respect the warmth and benevolence of his feelings, but he must pardon me that I am deficient in courtly compliment; I am a republican, and cannot commit the interests of my country to the goodness of his heart

What is the state of things? There has been a cession of the island of New Orleans and of Louisiana to France. Whether the Floridas have also been ceded is not yet certain. It has been said, as from authority, and I think it probable. Now, sir, let us note the time and the manner of this cession. It was at or immediately after the treaty of Luneville, at the first moment when France could take up a distant object of attention. But had Spain a right to make this cession without our consent? Gentlemen have taken it for granted that she had. But I deny the position. No nation has a right to give to another a dangerous neighbor without her consent. This is not like the case of private citizens, for there, when a man is injured, he can resort to the tribunals for redress; and yet, even there, to dispose of property to one who is a bad neighbor is always considered as an act of unkindness. But as between nations, who can redress themselves only by war, such transfer is in itself an aggression. He who renders me insecure; he who hazards my peace, and exposes me to imminent danger, commits an act of hostility against me, and gives me the rights consequent on that act. Suppose Great Britain should give to Algiers one of the Bahamas, and contribute thereby to establish a nest of pirates near your coasts, would you not consider it as an aggression? Suppose, during the late war, you had conveyed to France a tract of land along Hudson's River, and the northern route by the Lakes into Canada, would not Britain have considered and treated it as an act of direct hostility? It is among the first limitations to the exercise of the rights of property, that we must so use our own as not to injure another; and it is under the immediate sense Senate.]

Mississippi Question.

[ocr errors]

of this restriction that nations aro bonnd to act toward each other.

But it is not this transfer alone. There are circumstances both in the time and in the manner of it which deserve attention. A gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Wright) has told you, that all treaties ought to be published and proclaimed for the information of other nations. I ask, was this a publio treaty? No. Was official notice of it given to the Government of this country? Was it announced to the President of the United States, in the usual forms of civility between nations who duly respect each other? It was not. Let gentlemen contradict me if they can. They will say perhaps that it was the omission only of a vain and idle ceremony. Ignorance may indeed pretend that such communication is an empty compliment, which, established without use, may he omitted without offence. But this is not so. If these be ceremonies, they are not vain, but of serious import, and are founded on strong reason. He who means me well acts without disguise. Had this transaction been intended fairly, it would hftve been told frankly. But it was secret because it was hostile. The First Consul, in the moment of terminating his differences with you, sought the means of future influence and control. He found and secured a pivot for that immense lever, by which, with potent arm, he means to subvert your civil and political institutions. Thus, the beginning was made in deep hostility. Conceived in such principles, it presaged no good. Its bodings were evil, and evil have been its fruits. We heard of it during the last session of Congress, hut to this hour we have not heard of any formal and regular communication from those by whom it was made. Has the King of Spain, has the First Consul of France, no means of making such communication to the President of the United States? Yes, sir, we have a Minister in Spain; we have a Minister in France. Nothing was easier, and yet nothing has been done. Our First Magistrate has been treated with contempt; and through him our country has been insulted.

With that meek and peaceful spirit now so strongly recommended, we submitted to this jnsult, and what followed? That which might have been expected; a violation of our treaty. An open and direct violation by a public officer of the Spanish Government. This is not the case cited from one of the books. It is not a wrong done by a private citizen, which might, for that reason, be of doubtful nature. No; it is by a public officer,—that officer, in whose particular department it was to cause the faithful observance of the treaty which ho has violated. We are told indeed that there was a clashing of opinion between the Governor and the Intendant. But what have we to do with their domestio broils? The injury is done, we feel it. Let the fault be whose it may, the suffering is ours. But, say gentlemen, the Spanish Minister has interfered to correct this irregular

[FESKrART, lt»jS.

procedure. Sir, if the Intendant was amenafcia to the Minister, why did he not inform him rf the step he was about to take, that the Presdent of the United States mipht season&bsT have been apprised of his intention, and grraa the proj>er notice to our fellow-citizens? Wlir has he first learnt this offensive act from those who suffer by it? Why is he thus held op to contempt and derision? If the Intendant is a> be controlled by the Minister, would he hare taken a step so important without his advice? Common sense will say no. But, the bitter esp of humiliation was not yet full. Smarting raider the lash of the Intendant, the Ministersoothes you with assurances, and sends advice-hoate to announce your forbearance. But while they are on their way, new injury and new iasali are added. The Intendant, as if determined to try the extent of your meekness, forbids to your citizens all communication with those who inhabit the shores of the Mississippi. Though they should be starving, the Spaniard is made criminal who should give them food. Fortanately, the waters of the river are potable, or else we should be precluded from the comnKm benefits of nature, the common bonnty of heaven. What then, I ask, is the amount of this savage conduct? Sir, it is war. Open and direct war. And yet gentlemen recommend peace, and forbid us to take up the gauntlet of defiance. Will gentlemen sit here and shut their eyes to the state and condition of their country? I shall not reply to what has been said respecting depredations on commerce, but confine myself to objects of which there can be no shadow of donbt. Here is a vast country riven away, and not without danger to us. Has a nation a right to put these States in a dangerous situation? No, sir. And yet it has been done, not only without our consent previous to the grant, but without observing the common forms of civility after it was made. Is that wonderful man who presides over the destinies of France, ignorant or unmindful of theso forms? See what was done the other day. He directed his Minister to communicate to the Elector of Bavaria, his intended movements in Switzerland, and their object. He knew the Elector had a right to expect that information, although the greater part of Swabia lies between his dominions and Switzerland. And this right is fonnded on the broad principles already mentioned.

Having thus considered the effect of this cession upon the United States, in a general point of view, let us now examine it more particularly, as it regards the greater divisions of our country, the Western, the Southern, the Middle, and the Eastern States. I fear, sir, I shall detain you longer than I intended, certainly longer than the light of day will last, notwithstanding my effort to comprise what I have to say in the smallest compass. As to the Western States, the effects will be remote and immediate. Those more remote may be examined under the twofold aspect of peace and war. In peace they

Muuuuippi Question.

MiiaUsijrpi Question. [senate.

February, 1803.]

■will suffer the diminution of price for their produce. The advantage of supplying the French, Dutch, and Spanish colonies, may at first sight lead to a different opinion ; but when the port of New Orleans is shut to all but French ships, there will no longer be that competition which now exists, and which always results in the highest price that commodities can bear. The French merchants have neither the large capital, nor have they the steady temper and persevering industry which foster commerce. Their invariable object in trade, is to acquire sudden ■wealth by large profit; and if that cannot be done, they abandon the pursuit for some new project. Certain of the market, and certain of the increasing supply, they will prescribe the price, both to those who cultivate, and to those who consume. Such will be the effect in peace.

In a war with Great Britain, the attention of her fleets to cut off supplies from her enemies, must necessarily affect the price of produce in a still greater degree; and in a war with France it will bear no price at all, until New Orleans shall be wrested from their grasp. Add to this the danger and the devastation from the troops of that country, aided by innumerable hosts of savages from the Western wilds. Such being the evident effects to be produced in times not far remote, the present evil follows from the anticipation of them. The price of land must be reduced, from the certainty that its produce will become less valuable. The flood of emigration to those fertile regions must cease to flow. The debts incurred in the hope of advantageous sales, must remain unpaid. The distress of the debtor must then recoil on his creditor, and, from the common relations of society, become general.

What will be the effect on the Southern States? Georgia, Carolina, and the Mississippi Territory are exposed to invasion from the Floridas and New Orleans. There are circumstances in that portion of America which render the invasion ea«y, and the defence difficult. Pensacola, though the climate be warm, is among the healthiest spots on earth. Not only a large garrison, but an army may remain there without hazard. At Pensacola and St. Augustine, forces may be assembled to operate in that season of the year, when the morasses which separate them from our southern frontier no longer breathe pestilence. By what are those armies to be opposed? Will you call the militia from the North to assist their Southern brethren? They are too remote. Will you secure their seasonable aid, bring them early to the fields they are ordered to defend? They must perish. The climate, more fatal than the sword, will destroy them before they see their foe. The country adjoining to our Southern frontier is now in possession of the most numerous tribes of savages we are acquainted with. The access to it from New Orleans and the Floridas is easy and immediate. The toys and gewgaws manufactured in France, will be scattered in abundance, to win their affections, and seduce them

from their present connection. The talents of the French to gain the good will of the savages is well known, and the disposition of those uncultured men for war, is equally notorious. Here then is a powerful instrument of destruction, which may he used against yon with ruinous effect. Besides, what is the population of the Southern States? Do you not trenjble when you look at it? Have we not within these few days passed a law to prevent the importation of certain dangerous characters? What will hinder them from arriving in the Floridas, and what can guard the approach from thence to our Southern frontier? These pernicious emissaries may stimulate with a prospect of freedom the miserable men who now toil without hope. They may excite them to imitate a fatal example, and to act over those scenes which fill our minds with horror. When the train shall be laid; when the conspiracy shall he ripe; when the armies of France shall reach your frontier, the firing of the first musket will be a signal for general carnage and conflagration. If you will not see your danger now, the time must soon arrive when you shall feel it. The Southern States being exposed to such imminent danger, their Representatives may be made to know, that a vote given in Congress shall realize the worst apprehensions. You will then feel their danger even on this floor.

Let us now consider the consequence of the cession we complain of, to other nations, and this we may do generally, and then more especially as to those who have a direct and immediate interest in the transaction. In a general view, the first prominent feature is the colossal power of France. Dangerous to Europe and to the world, what will bo the effect of a great increase of that power? Look at Europe I One half of it is blotted from the list of empire. Austria, Russia, Prussia, and Britain, are the only powers remaining, except Sweden and Denmark, and they are paralyzed. Where is Italy, Switzerland, Flanders, and all Germany west of the Rhine? Gone; swallowed up in the empire of the Gauls. Holland, Spain, Portugal, reduced to a state of submission and dependence. What is the situation of the powers that remain? Austria is cut off from Italy, the great object of her ambition for more than three centuries; long the rival of France, long balancing with the Bourbons the fate of Europe, she must now submit, and tacitly acknowledge to the world the superiority of her foe, and her own humiliation. Prussia, under the auspices of the Great Frederick, was at the head of a Germanic leagne to balance the imperial power. Though united with Austria for a moment in the hollow league of the coalition, she has, like Austria, been actuated by a blind jealousy, and favoring the operations of France for the ruin of her rival, expected to share largely in the general spoil. In this fond hope she is disappointed ; she now sees the power of France at her door. There is not a fortress from the Rhine to the Baltic, except Magdeburgh, which

« PreviousContinue »