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a most learned and eloquent speech lately delivered in the house o. commons, taking an extended view of the affairs of Europe, and of the particular situation of the British empire, explicitly declares, that he considers the preservation of national honor, to be almost the only legitimate cause of war; that he holds that doctrine upon the plain principle, that honor is directly and inseparably connected with self defence; and if, says he, it can be proved, that the national honor has been insulted, or the national dignity disgraced, it is a fair and legitimate cause of re-commencing hostilities. These, sir, are the noble sentiments of a man, who, for thirty years past, has supported one of the most conspicuous characters on the great political theatre of nations, who has during that time been unceasingly the favorite of the people, and the jealous advocate of their rights and liberties....they are entitled to weight.
I hope I shall not be charged with a want of delicacy towards the feelings of honorable gentlemen on the other side of the house, when I say, that there was a time, even in the infancy of our government, when a soldier and a statesman, the greatest and the best of men, was at the head of the administration, that the most powerful pation of Europe would not have dared us with such an insult as we have received. I refer to the days of Washington, days of which he was the distinguished pride and ornament, but days that, alas, are now gone, and he, unhappily for his country, with them, never, never to return. In those days we were indeed comparatively weak and poor, but a national sentiment and feeling was kept alive, that disdained to submit tamely to insult ;....and now, sir, when we have grown rich and strong, when our overflowing treasury, our increasing energies and population, are the burthen of every executive message, and ministerial communication, when our wealth, our power and our resources are the boast of every American, shall we see, at our very doors, with meek and philosophic forbearance, the dearest interests of our citizens trampled in the dust, and the dignity of our people insulted by an impotent and now degraded nation, and instead of the commanding tone and manner that becomes a nation of republicans, instead of taking justice into our own hands, and avenging these insults and injuries ; shall we stoop to send a minister abroad to supplicate, for what? For justice...for the restoration of our indisputable rights, of which we have been stripped by violence; there to whisper, at the foot of a throne, our national sensibilities, which we fear even to speak of but in secret at home, lest Castilian pride should be offended. I hope not sir, I hope energetic measures will be promptly adopted, that this Senate will recommend them, and that we shall not lose an hour in preparing to exert the means which God has given us of enforcing the rights that belong to us by treuty and by nature.
Mr. BRACKENRIDGE observed, that he did not mean to wander in the field of declamation, nor after the example of the honorable gentleman who had preceded him, endeavor to alarm or agitate the public mind ; that he should endeavor to strip the subject of all improper coloring, and examine dispassionately the propriety of the measures which the Senate were called upon to sanction. He would be very brief.
What is the true and undisguised state of facts ? Early in the session, the House of Representatives were informed, by a communication from the President, of the conduct of the intendant at Orleans. This communication stated, that he had taken measures to attempt a restoration of the right which had been violated ; and that there were reasons to be. lieve the conduct of the intendant was unauthorized by the court of Spain. Accompanying this message were official papers, in which it appeared that the governor of New Orleans had strongly opposed the conduct of the intendant, declared that he was acting without authority in refusing the deposit, and indicated a disposition to oppose openly the proceeding. The Spanish minister who resides here, also interposed on the occasion, and who stands deservedly high in the confidence of his government, was clearly of opinion, that the intendant was acting without authority, and that redress would be given so soon as the competent authority could interpose. From this state of things, and which is the actual state at this moment, what is the course any civilized nation who respects her character or rights, would pursue? There is but one course, which is admitted by writers on the laws of nations, as the proper one ; and is thus described by Vattell, in his book, sec. 336, 338....“ A sove. “ reign ought to shew, in all his quarrels, a sincere desire " of rendering justice, and preserving peace. He is obliged “ before he takes up arms, and after having taken them up “ also, to offer equitable conditions, and then alone his arms “ become just against an obstinate enemy, who refuses to “ listen to justice or to equity....His own advantage, and " that of human society, oblige him to attempt, before he
takes up arms, all the pacific methods of obtaining either “ the reparation of the injury, or a just satisfaction. This “ moderation, this circumspection is so much the more pro. 66 per, and commonly even indispensible, as the action we " take for an injury does not always proceed from a design " to offend us, and is sometimes a mistake rather than an « act of malice : frequently it even happens, that the injury s is done by inferior persons, without their sovereign lading « any share in it: and on these occasions, it is not natural “ to presume that he would refuse us a just satisfaction.” This is the course which the President has taken, and in which the House of Representatives have expressed, by their resolution, their confidence. .
What are the reasons urged by gentlemen to induce a different proceeding, an immediate appeal to arms ?.... You prostrate, say the gentlemen, your national honor by negocio ating, where there is a direct violation of a treaty! How happens it that our national honor has, at this particular cri.. sis, become so delicate, and that the feelings of certain gentlemen are now so alive to it? Has it been the practice of this government heretofore to break lances on the spot with any nation who injured or insulted her? Or has not the invariable course been to seek reparation in the first place by negociation ?....I ask for an example to the contrary; even under the administration of Washington, so much eulogized by the gentleman last up?. Were not Detroit, and several other forts within our territory, held ten or a dozen of years by Great Britain, in direct violation of a treaty ? Were not wanton spoliations committed on your commerce by Great Britain, by France, and by Spain, to the amount of very many millions ; and all adjusted through the medium of negociations ? Were not your merchants plundered, and your citizens doomed to slavery by Algiers, and still those in power, even Washington himself, submitted to negociation, to ransom, and to tribute? Why then do gentlemen, who on those occasions approved of these measures, now, despair of negociation! America has been uniformly successful, at least in settling her differences by treaty.
But the gentleman is afraid that if we do not immedi. ately seize the country, we shall lose the golden opportunity of doing it.
Would your national honor be free from imputation by a conduct of such inconsistency and duplicity? A minister
is sent to the offending nation with an olive branch, for the purpose of an amicable discussion and settlement of differences, and before he has scarcely turned his back, we invade the territories of that nation with an army of 50,000 men ! Would such conduct comport with the genius and principles of our republic, whose true interest is peace, and who has hitherto professed to cultivate it with all nations ? Would not such a procedure subject us to the just censure of the world, and to the strongest jealousy of those who have . possessions near to us? Would such a procedure meet the approbation of even our own citizens, whose lives: and fortunes would be risqued in the confliét? And would it not be policy inexcusably rasii, to plunge this country into war, to effect that which the President not : only thinks can be effected, but is now actually in a train of . negociation ? If, on the other hand, negociation should fail, how different will be the ground on which we stand. We stand acquitted by the world, and what is of more consequence, by our own citizens, and our own consciences. But one sentiment will then animate and pervade the whole, and from thenceforth, we will take counsel only from our courage.
But to induce us to depart from this proper, this safe, and honorable course of proceeding, which is pursuing by the President, the gentleman from Pennsylvania first, and the gentleman from Delaware again told you, that by such pacific measures you will irritate the western people against you, that they will not be restrained by you, but will either invade the country themselves, or withdraw from the Union and unite with those who will give them what they want. Sir, said Mr. B. I did not expect to hear such language held on this floor! Sir, the gentleman from Pennsylvania best knows the temper and views of the western people he represents, but if he meant to extend the imputation to the state I have the honor to represent, I utterly disclaim it. The
citizens of Kentucky value too highly their rights and cha. · racter to endanger the one, or dishonor the other. They deal not sir, in insurrections. They hold in too sacred re. gard their federal compact to sport' with it. They were among the first to oppose violations of it, and will, I trust be the last to attempt its dissolution. The time indeed was when not only irritation but disgust prevailed in that country ; when, instead of sending 50,000 men, to seize on Orleans, an attempt was meditated, and a solemn yote taken in Congress to barter away this right for 25 years. The time
indeed was, when great dissatisfaction prevailed in that country, as to the measures of the general government; but it never furnished there, whatever it might have done elsewhere, even the germs for treasons or insurrections. The people I have the honor to represent, are not accustomed to procure redress in this way. Instead of trampling on the constitution of their country, they rally round it as the rock of their safety. But happily these times have passed away. Distrust and dissatisfaction have given place to confidence in, and attachment to, those in whom the concerns of the nation are confided. I ask no reliance on my opinion for this fact, but appeal to the memorial of the legislature of Kentucky, to the present Congress,
for the truth of this assertion. In this disposition of mind · therefore, and from the sound sense and the correct views and discernment of their true interest, which the people of Kentucky possess, I have no hesitation in pledging myself, that no such precipitate and unwarranted measures will be taken by them, as predicted by the gentlemen in the opposition.
But he begged leave to ask gentlemen, who hold such languiage, would the western people, admitting they were to withdraw from the Union, be able to accomplish the object? Could they alone go to war with France and Spain? Could they hold Orleans, were they to take possession of it without the aid of the United States ? Admitting they could hold it, what security would they have for their commerce? A single ship of the line would be able completely to blockade that port.... See also the Havanna, one of the safest and strongest of the Spanish ports, and so situated as to possess every advantage in annoying our commerce. Are the gentlemen therefore really serious, when they endeavour to persuade us, that the western people are in such a state of fury and mad impatience, that they will not wait even a few months to see the fate of a negociation, and if unsuccessful, receive the aid of the whole nation, but that they will madly run to the attack without a ship, without a single cannon, without magazines, without money, or preparation of any kind; and what is worse, without union among themselves; and what is still worse, in the
face of the laws and constitution of their country? It is impos·sible. Such a desperate project could not come to a successful issue ; for should they even obtain the right by their own exertions alone, they could not expect long to enjoy it in peace, without descending from that exalted, that enviable rank of one of the independent States of United America, to the degrada ed, dependent condition of a colonial department of a foreign nation,