« ZurückWeiter »
officers, to plunder the property and burn the houses of unarmed citizens, should proceed to rape and murder, need not excite surprize, however it may inspire horror. For every detestable violation of humanity an excuse is fabricated or found. The woun ed prisoners on the northern frontier were massacred by the Indians; the sick murdered, and the women violated at Hampton by the foreign troops in the pay of Great Britain. These pretexts, admitting them to be true, are as disgraceful as the conduct which made a resort to them necessary. Honour and magnanimity not only forbid the soldier to perpetrate crimes, but require every exertion on his part to prevent them. If, in defiance of discipline, acts of violence are committed upon any individual entitled to protection, the exemplary punishment of the offender can alone vindicate the reputation of the nation by whom he is employed. Whether such exertions were made by the British soldiers, or the character of the British nation thus vindicated, the evidence will show.
The shrieks of the innocent victims of infernal lust at Hampton were heard by the American prisoners, but were too weak to reach the ears or disturb the repose of the British officers, whose duty, as men, required them to protect every female whom the fortune of war had thrown into their power. The committee will not dwell on this hateful subject. Human language affords no terms strong enough to express the emotions which the examination of this evidence has awakened; they rejoice that these acts have appeared so incredible to the American people; and, for the honour of human nature, they deeply regret that the evidence so clearly establishes their truth. In the correspondence between the commander of the American and British forces, will be found what is equivalent to an admission of the facts by the British commander. The committee have yet to learn that the punishment of the offenders has followed the conviction of their guilt. The power of retaliation being vested by law in the executive magistrate, no measure is considered necessary to be proposed, but the resolution annexed to this report.
As such enormities, instead of inspiring terror, as was probably intended, are, in the opinion of the committee, calculated to produce a contrary effect, they submit for the consideration of the house the following resolution:
Resolved, That the president of the United States be requested to have collected and presented to this house during the continuance of the present war, evidence of every departure by the enemy from the ordinary modes of conducting war among civilized nations.
$ 25. Congress adjourned on the 2d of August, after a session of ten weeks. The first Monday in December following was fixed by law for their next meeting.
after : er fol
12th CONGRESS-2 SESSION.
Message from the President of the United States to both Houses
of Congress at the commencement of the Session.
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives.
ON our present meeting it is my first duty to invite your attention to the providential favours which our country has experienced, in the unusual degree of health dispensed to its inhabitants, and in the rich abundance with which the earth has rewarded the labours bestowed on it. In the successful cultivation of other branches of industry, and in the progress of general improvement, favourable to the national prosperity, there is just occasion, also, for our mutual congratulations and thankfulness.
With these blessings are necessarily mingled the pressures and vicissitudes incident to the state of war, into which the United States have been forced by the perseverance of a foreign power, in its system of injustice and aggression.
Previous to its declaration, it was deemed proper, as a measure of precaution and forecast, that a considerable force should be placed in the Michigan territory, with a general view to its, security, and, in the event of war, to such operations in the uppermost Canada, as would intercept the hostile influence of Great Britain over the savages, obtain the command of the lake on which that part of Canada borders, and maintain co-operating relations with such forces as might be most conveniently employed against other parts. Brigadier-general Hull was charged with VOL. I. PART I.
this provisional service ; having under his command a body of troops, composed of regulars, and of volunteers from the state of Ohio. Having reached his destination after his knowledge of the war, and possessing discretionary authority to act offensively, he passed into the neighbouring territory of the enemy, with a prospect of easy and victorious progress. The expedition, nevertheless, terminated unfortunately, not only in a retreat to the town and fort of Detroit, but in the surrender of both, and of the gallant corps commanded by that officer. The causes of this painful reverse will be investigated by a military tribunal.
A distinguishing feature in the operations which preceded and followed this adverse event, is the use made by the enemy of the merciless savages under their influence. Whilst the benevolent policy of the United States invariably recommended peace, and promoted civilization among that wretched portion of the human race ; and was making exertions to dissuade them from taking either side in the war, the enemy has not scrupled to call to his aid their ruthless ferocity, armed with the horrors of those instruments of carnage and torture, which are known to spare neither age nor sex. In this outrage against the laws of honourable war, and against the feelings sacred to humanity, the British commanders cannot resort to a plea of retaliation: for it is committed in the face of our example. They cannot mitigate it by calling it a self-defence against men in arms: for it embraces the most shocking butcheries of defenceless families. Nor can it be pretended that they are not answerable for the atrocities perpetrated ; since the savages are employed with a knowledge, and even with menaces, that their fury could not be controuled. Such is the spectacle which the deputed authorities of a nation, boasting its religion and morality, have not been restrained from presenting to an enlightened age.
The misfortune at Detroit was not, however, without a consoling effect. It was followed by signal proofs that the national spirit rises according to the pressure on it. The loss of an important post, and of the brave men surrendered with it, inspired every where new ardour and determination. In the states and districts least remote, it was no sooner known, than every citizen was ready to fly with his arms, at once to protect his brethren against the blood-thirsty savages let loose by the enemy on an extensive frontier, and to convert a partial calamity into a source of invigorated efforts. This patriotic zeal, which it was necessary rather to limit than excite, has embodied an ample force from the states of Kentucky and Ohio, and from parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia. It is placed, with the addition of a few regulars, under the command of brigadier-general Harrison, who possesses the entire confidence of his fellow-soldiers, among whom are citizens, some of them volunteers in the ranks, not less distinguished by their political stations, than by their personal merits. The greater portion of this force is proceeding on its destination towards the Michigan territory, having succeeded in relieving an important frontier post, and in several incidental operations against hostile tribes of savages, rendered indispensable by the subserviency into which they had been seduced by the enemy; a seduction the more cruel, as it could not fail to impose a necessity of precautionary severities against those who yielded to it.
At a recent date, an attack was made on a post of the enemy near Niagara, by a detachment of the regulars and other forces, under the command of major-general Van Rensselaer, of the militia of the state of New York. The attack, it appears, was ordered in compliance with the ardour of the troops, who executed it with distinguished gallantry, and were for a time victorious; but not receiving the expected support, they were compelled to yield to reinforcements of British regulars and savages. Our loss has been considerable, and is deeply to be lamented. That of the enemy, less ascertained, will be the more felt, as it includes, amongst the killed, the commanding general, who was also the governor of the province ; and was sustained by veteran troops, from unexperienced soldiers, who must daily improve in the duties of the field.
Our expectation of gaining the command of the lakes by the invasion of Canada from Detroit having been disappointed, measures were instantly taken to provide on them a naval force superior to that of the enemy. From the talents and activity of the officer charged with this object, every thing that can be done may be expected. Should the present season not admit of complete success, the progress made will insure for the next a naval ascendancy, where it is essential to our permanent peace with, and controul over, the savages. .
Among the incidents to the measures of the war, I am constrained to advert to the refusal of the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut, to furnish the required detachments of militia towards the defence of the maritime frontier. The refusal was founded on a novel and unfortunate exposition of the provisions of the constitution, relating to the militia. The correspondences, which will be laid before you, contain the requisite information on the subject. It is obvious, that if the authority of the United