Imagens das páginas

JUNÉ, 1813.

French Decrees.

H. OF R.

nitive repeal of the decrees, while the law itself whether the effect of the Orders in Council was was founded on the fact, declared by the Presi- injurious to the British nation; whether the exdent's proclamation, that they were already defi- tent of that injury was so great as to make it exnitively repealed.

pedient to abandon them, notwithstanding France Thus it is, now, as clear as the light of day, that might still refuse to revoke her decrees. Great the proclamation of the President was rash and Britain must always have been sensible, that the precipitate; that the fact on which it rested did effect of those orders was injurious to herself. not exist; that the declaration of the Duke of Theclamors of her manufacturing interest against Cadore was false and deceptive; and that thus them had been long as loud, and importunate, as

the calamitous war, in which we are now invol- they were at the period of their repeal. She | ved, has its very foundation in the duplicity and wished only for a pretence to repeal them con| fraud of the French Government, and in the sistently with the ground she had uniformly taken blind or wilful folly of our own.

with respect to the decrees of France. And I But, sir, it has been urged with great warmth, have litile doubt that they would have been ultiI by the honorable gentleman from South Caroli- mately repealed without that pretence. The ! na, that, had there been no concealment of the communication of the decree of April 28th, at

decree of the 28th of April, had it been commu- the time it bears date, would have afforded the

nicated to the British Government at the time it opportunity she had long wished ; an opportunity i bears date, it would not have produced a repeal which the event has shown her eager to improve. 1 of the Orders in Council; and the gentleman re- But, sir, it is again intimated, that the conceal

fers us to the declaration of the Prince Regent ment of that decree was unimportant, for we are i of the 21st of April, 1812, and the subsequent told, that although its promulgation might have i correspondence between the Secretary of State produced the repeal of the Orders in Council, i and the British Minister in this country; by that repeal would not have prevented the war.

which he tells us, it will appear, that a repeal of The right claimed by Great Britain to impress i the decrees of France, only as they related to the her own seamen on board of our merchant ves1 United States, would not have been satisfactory sels, it is now said, was in itself ample cause of

to that Government. Sir, admitting for the sake war. Sir, I can never believe, that for this cause i of the argument that the gentleman's construc- alone war would have been declared. Did not

tion of that declaration and correspondence is the Administration, at a late period, profess its i correct, it by no means supports the position he readiness to overlook the question of impress

has taken. If the British Government has as- ment, and to give up its whole restrictive system sumed at all the ground in relation to the French against England, on an arrangement of the other decrees, now asserted by the gentleman, it assum- matters of difference between the two Governed it by the declaration of the 21st of April, 1812. ments? If we go back to the negotiation with For one year, then, after the date of the decree of Mr. Erskine; if we consider the eagerness with the 28th of April, 1811, had Great Britain been which that negotiation was conducted, and the requiring the definite evidence afforded by that rapidity with which it was hurried through all decree, of the repeal of the decrees of Berlin and the forms of diplomacy; and if we consider, also, Milan-standing pledged on the receipt of that that in the arrangement made with that Minisevidence to proceed, pari passu, in the repeal of ter, the question of impressment was untouched, the Orders in Council. Although, then, by the we inusi be convinced that the Administration declaration of the 21st April, she may have as- considered it a point of minor importance. sumed higher ground, can it be reasonably doubt- It is not reasonable to expect on this subject ed, that if that decree had been communicated to that any proof can be drawn from the formal her at the time it bears date, the Orders in Coun- declarations of the Government. But even here cil would have been revoked? We cannot doubt we may discover something which may serve to about it, sir, when we know that, notwithstand- show in what light a repeal of the Orders in ing that declaration, she did repeal them in a Council before the declaration of war would manner“ susceptible of explanations meeting the have been viewed. In the letter before alluded views of that Governmeni" within a reasonable to, of the 21st of August, 1812, from the Secretime after that decree was made known to her. Itary of State to Mr. Russell, we are told, that sày within a reasonable time, for when we con "it is not now a question whether the declaration sider the unsettled state of the British Ministry at of the Prince Regent (repealing the Orders in that period, the intervention of thirty days, be Council) is such as ought to have produced a tween the receipt of the decree and the repeal of repeal of the non-importation act, had war not the orders, cannot be considered a material cir- 'been declared, because, by the declaration of cumstance.

war, that question was superseded.”. A ground But, sir, we are told by the honorable gentle- is thus afforded for a fair inference, that the Adman from South Carolina, that the result of the ministration felt itself precluded by the declarainquiries, then going on in the House of Com- tion of war from giving to the repeal of the Or. mons, as to the operation of the Orders in Counders in Council that effect and influence on the cil on the commerce and manufactures of Great policy of this country, to which it might otherBritain, was the true cause of their final repeal. wise have been entitled. But, sir, let it be remembered, that the object of But, sir, independent of all evidence on this those inquiries was not so much to ascertain subject to be drawn from the acts or declarations

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H. of R.

French Decrees.

JONE, 1813.

of the Government, I may venture to appeal to these resolutions. The nation ought not, and honorable gentlemen who were members of this will not be satisfied without this inquiry. The House at the time war was declared, and to ask public voice imperiously demands it. Now when them whether such a declaration would or could the pressure of the war begins to be felt; when have been made, had it not been for the convic- you are about to impose heavy burdens on the tion which the majority then professed to feel, people for its support, at least let them know that that the Orders in Council would not be revoked } if you have been the dupes, you have not been I may appeal to the general sense and understand the willing dupes of the intrigues and falsehood ing of the nation on this head, and to the univer- of France. You accuse us of thwarting the sal expression of regret, when it was found that measures and views of the Administration by these orders were in fact revoked about the time our opposition to the war. If you know your war was declared; that that declaration had not own interest, take from us the most deadly weapbeen delayed. Sir, I can be convinced of noth-on that can be wielded against you. Be prompt ing more firmly than that the sober sense of this in repelling the charge that you have been tricked House, or of this people, would never have sanc- and betrayed into this war by France, and that tioned a declaration of war on the ground alone you have not dared to remonstrate. Let the Adof the British claim to impress their own sea- ministration tell us where the falsehood lies, and men.

if they are innocent, let us know how they reI have thus, Mr. Speaker, endeavored to state pelled the vile calumny. Let us see that they to the House the reasons which have induced have had spirit enough to resent an imposition me to think that the promulgation of the decree which they had discernment enough to detect. of April 28th, at the time of its date, was highly Sir, these are considerations which I urge to important to the best interests of this country. gentlemen who sit on the other side of the House. You will have perceived, sir, that my remarks To me, had I a seat there, they would be concluhave been founded on the supposition, that that sive. But, sir, I confess I have much higher modecree was in truth made by the French Govern. tives; motives which, I have no doubt, operated ment at the time it bears date, and that it has strongly on the mind of my friend from New been suppressed by that Government, or our own, Hampshire, when he determined to call the attenor by both in concert. I have also ventured to tion of the House to this subject. My political state to the House the considerations which ope- observation, limited as it has been, has taught me rate powerfully to convince us that the declara- that many of the worst evils under which this tion of the Duke of Bassano, charging the sup- country has suffered have arisen from that overpression exclusively on the Government of this weeping confidence in French faith and honor, country, is true. And really, sir, when we con which is felt not only by the men who adminissider that this declaration is the solemn official ter the Government, but by a portion of the peoact of the French Government; of a Govern-ple. It is this confidence that has bound and ment to whose acts and declarations this Admin- hoodwinked every victim which has been sacriistration has always declared that the most un- ficed by France. I confess, sir, I wish this delubounded confidence was due; that it is a declara- sion in the public mind corrected. I wish to see tion as yet unexplained and uncontradicted, and this Administration compelled to stamp on the that, for the act it imputes to the Administration, forehead of France, the falsehood she has dared adequate motives may be assigned, the mind musi to utter, that it may remain there as a mark to struggle hard to resist the conviction pressed warn the nations, that there is no safety but in upon it by such a weight of evidence.

her open and avowed enmity: And sir, if, conViewing the subject in this point of light; contrary to our hopes, the Administration have been sidering that as the facts now stand before the a willing party to this dark intrigue; if they public, this Administration must be convicted of have connived at the falsehood of the French having suppressed an important public document Government, and have not dared to repel the for the worst of purposes, I must be permitted, grossest insult which could be offered to the inin common with my eloquent friend from Mary-dependence and honor of our country, I equally land, (Mr. Hanson) to express my surprise that wish to see the mask stripped from the faces of the resolutions now on the table, should be op- men, who will ihen be acknowledged to have too posed. These resolutions are designed to throw long deceived an honorable and confiding people. light on this dark transaction. If it will bear the Mr. GROSVENOR addressed the Chair as follows: light, the friends of the Administration ought to Mr. Speaker, I cannot suffer the question to be promote the inquiry. They ought not to shrink taken without offering to the House my reasons from a measure which must result in the vindi for supporting the resolution. In doing this, sir, cation of its honor, if indeed it can be vindi-I, like the honorable gentleman from South Car. cated. We now tender to the majority an oppor-olina, may become warm; yet as I can never adtupity, which they ought themselves to have mit that such warmth furnishes any license to taken of repelling this foul slander on our Gov- him for personal attack, or improper language, so ernment. We would fain hope that the effect of I shall claim no such license myself, by condethis investigation will be to wipe away the sus- scending to imitate his example. I have, Mr. picion which is now attached to our rulers-a Speaker, adverted to the example of the honorsuspicion, which is daily gathering strength, and able genileman, for the purpose of informing him which will soon become conviction, if you reject I that the boisterous language on this floor by way


June, 1813.

French Decrees.

H. of R.

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of defiance, threat, or intimidation, will no longer But it is said that no reason is assigned in the have its wonted effect.

resolutions for the call, no purpose designated for I wish that honorable gentleman and every which the information is required. other gentleman on this floor distinctly to under- | Sir, I had considered that this objection was stand, that their threats have no terror for us. settled forever in the session of 1796. The Presi. They pass by us like the idle winds which we re- dent then refused the information demanded by spect not. Sir, I stand here the independent rep- the House. Upon this refusal the House passed resentative of a free people. Upon all topics which two resolutions, the one of which I will read: come before this House, I shall ever “ speak what Resolved, That it is not necessary to the propriety

I do think,” restrained by nothing bui the rules of any application from this House to the Executive ! of decorum which are here established, and which for information desired by them, and which may it may become every gentleman to observe. relate to any Constitutional functions of the House,

I stand upon my own personal right, which I that the purposes for which such information may be will yield to no man. I stand upon the freehold wanted, or to which the same may be applied, should of the Constitution, from which I will not be be stated in the application.” driven without a struggle.

On the passage of this resolution, Mr. Madison Sir, I have no doubt that this House has a per- and Mr. Gallatin, then members of this House, fect right to the information demanded by the res- both spoke and voted in the affirmative. Can

olutions. How can we speak or act upon sub- the Executive shrink from the rule which he |jects inseparably connected with our foreign re- when on this floor adopted? Or will his suplations, if the Executive, the only organ of comporters here deal to him a measure different from

munication with other nations, may be suffered ihat which he dealt to the Father of his Country? i at his sovereign will and pleasure to withhold The principle on which this resolution is found| from us all his correspondence? By admitting ed, has prevailed here to this day; and strange | such a course of practice, the President has had indeed would it be, if now it should be violated,

the destinies of this nation in his hands-nor is to shield from its fair operation the very man I it strange that this House, that Congress and the who originated and established it among us. i nation, have been hurried from one restrictive Another objection has been started. It seems

measure to another, and finally into an unneces that the resolutions are too categorical and par. sary and a wanton war. Sir, I have not the ticular. Sir, I do admit that the resolutions are

slightest doubt that to this constant habit of Ex- strongly marked with a particular, categorical, : ecutive secrecy, to the garbled extracts of letters and even inquisitorial character. From them no i from and to the French Government, which de- casuistry, no art, can enable the President to es

form our journals and deceive the public; to the cape. They were thus drawn for no other rea

deep darkness which shrouds our intercourse with son than to preclude all evasion and elusion-to i the arch tyrant; more than to any other cause, obtain the particular and precise information deI may be impuled all our present dangers and ca- manded. I well kuow, that the ordinary general i lamities. Let this House, let this country, no form is more proper and more respectful. But,

longer be forced to feel its way in thick darkness sir, there may be cases in which mere form must when the light and the day are within its reach. yield to substance and necessity, courtly respect

In England, it is true "His Majesty can do no to plain Republican sincerity. Is not this prewrong"_and when his Ministry draw a veil over cisely such a case ? their conduct, they step boldly forth and demand Ai the close of the last session, upon the mothe confidence of the Parliament and the country, tion of the honorable gentleman from Maryland, secure in the protection of the King and the ma- (Mr. GOLDSBOROUGH,) a resolution was adopted jority. But, sir, I am útlerly astonished when I find in the ordinary and general formgentlemen who bluster much about the purity of Resolved, That the President be requested to cause their republicanism, who are in an absolute polit- to be laid before the House the French decree, purical fever when the theory or practice of that porting to be a repeal of the Berlin and Milan decrees, "corrupt, despotic, and treacherous” pation is referred to in his Message of the 4th of November even hinted at, should now wish to introduce here last, together with such information as he may possess a practice precisely similar. The foundation of concerning the time and manner of promulgating the our whole system of Government is responsibility. samc,” &c. &c.

The President and most of his dependents are by This is the material part of the resolution. the Constitution obnoxious to the animadversions What was the reply to this resolution ? A simof this House. And every official man in the Re-ple communication of the degrading accusation public is responsible to the people. Let this re- of the French Minister, and that only. Not one sponsibility never be destroyed or evaded by suffer- word of denial or of comment; not a murmur ing any officer, be he high or be he low, to draw a of resentment at the foul stigma which the Duke permanent veil over his official conduct; and, if of Bassano had attempted to fix on the honor of he attempts it, let this House, planting itself upon the Executive and the character of the country. the Constitution, raise its arm, tear asunder the All information that the President "might pospernicious covering, and expose the naked truth sess relative to the time and manner of promulio the view of the people. In the pure age of gating the decree was refused or evaded; and our Republie such was the theory and the prac- thereby the blot on our national honor was rentice under our Constitution.

dered tenfold deeper and blacker.

H. of R.

French Decrees.

JUNE, 1813.

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Would these honorable gentlemen have us re-establish an impartial policy between the two peat an experiment which issued in such conse- belligerents, assumed what was then called its quences? Would they again adopt a course final neutral attitude. which would again disappoint us and disgrace The Committee of Foreign Relations of this our country? No, sir, if this information ought House, under the immediate influence of the dito be obtained, this is the only form, the only rection of the present Executive, on the 22d of manner to obtain it. We must tell the Executive November, 1808, made a report, in which was without ambiguity and with precision, and yet described the situation of the country in relation with every respect compatible with our duty, our to France and England, the ground which the objects and our requests. If these resolutions Administration were about to occupy distinctly pass, they must be met with satisfactory inform- pointed out, and the principles of justice and pola ation, or with a refusal to communicate. The re-icy which would influence its conduct towards ply will rest with the President, and upon him those nations fully developed. I beg the attenbe the responsibility for the form and substance tion of the House to a few passages in that report. of that reply:

The framers of the report first describe the orHaving disposed of the form of these resolu- igin and foundation of ihe French decrees and tions, I will now proceed to their substance. British orders, the manner in which they violate

An instrument purporting to be a French de- American rights, the policy of the embargo, and cree, modifying or repealing the French Berlin the efforts made by the American Government to and Milan decrees, so far as they violated our obtain a revocation of those decrees and orders. neutral rights, was communicated by the Duke They then


“ The effort has been ineffectual. of Bassano to Mr. Barlow, our Minister in France, The propositions have been actually rejected by on the 10th of May, 1812. This decree bears one of the belligerent Powers and remain undate the 24th of April, 1811. It had been con- ' answered by the other. In that state of things, cealed for more than one year from the time of what course ought the United States to pursue ; its date. Mr. Barlow, conscious that the publi- : Your committee can perceive no other alternacation of the decree, at its date, would have saved tive but abject and degrading submission, war this country from many evils, and astonished at with both nations, or a continuance and enforceits concealment, demanded of the Duke of Bas- ' ment of the present suspension of commerce." sano whether it had ever been published. The They reject the first alternative, and then proDuke replied, that it had been communicated to ceed: "There is no other alternative but war our Minister in France, and sent on to Mr. Ser with both nations, or a continuance of the presrurier, to be communicated to our Governinent. ent system; for war with one of the belligerents If the Duke of Bassano stated the fact correctly, would be submission to the edicts and will of then our Government was guilty of concealing - the other.” “Nor can it be doubted, that a measthe decree. If he stated a falsehood, then his ure that would supply exclusively one of the own Government is guilty of the concealment, ' belligerents, would be war with the other." with the full addition of duplicity and falsehood. While the decrees of both nations remain upreCertainly, the charge of the French Minister im- pealed, the committee here distinctly state, that plicated the honor and the honesty of the Exec- any “ restrictive measures that would exclusively utive of this country. It struck a blow at the supply one of the belligerents, whether of nonintegrity and honor of the Government. Yet intercourse or non-importation against the one the Executive has never publicly denied the foul nation, would be, ipso facto, war with that naaccusation. It is to arrive at truth in relation to tion, and submission to the edicts and will of this dark and alarming transaction, to acquit the the other." innocent, and to hang the guilty up a detestable They then consider the question of war, and spectacle to the universe, that these resolutions say: “ The present unsettled state of the world, are offered. Let me ask the House, let me ask the extraordinary situation in which the United the nation, is not the object laudable—is not the States are placed, and the necessity, if war be duty important and imperious ?

' resorted to, of making it, at the same time, Mr. Speaker, I have not one doubt that, if that against both nations, and these the two most decree had been published at the time of its date, powerful in the world, are the priacipal causes it would have prevented the present war and all of hesitation. There would be none in resortits calamitous consequences. To establish this ing to the remedy, however calamitous, if a position, I must solicit the attention of the House selection could be made on any principle of justo the facts and events which conducted this de- ' tice, or without a sacrifice of national indepenvoted nation to its present disastrous situation. 'dence." Language cannot be plainer. The After unsuccessfully negotiating for the repeal of committee, acting, I repeat, under the entire conthe French decrees and British orders after a trol and direction of ihe Executive, distinctly wild and destructive experiment had evinced that state, that war with either nation, whether by the the embargo, a measure founded in the grossest new fashioned mode of commercial restrictions, political error, continued in obstinacy, and end or by the old fashioned mode of fighting, while ing in national disgrace and commercial ruin, the decrees of both nations were in force, would was equally imbecile abroad and pernicious ai be dishonor, injustice, submission, and a sacrifice home-the Government, either shrinking from of national independence, and in direct contrathe frowning aspect of the North, or resolving to | diction to the idea advanced yesterday by the

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gentleman from South Carolina. In such cir- | an Executive. What a wild field of Gallic incumstances, neither pation could be, with honor trigue was now presented! The imperial magiand justice, selected for hostility.

cian had now only to seduce or to dupe the ExMr. Speaker, this report, and all its principles, ecutive, and this proud nation would lay prostrate, emanating directly from the Executive, were in the spares of French perfily and violence. A adopted by this House, and by Congress. The "gordian knot” would be fastened upon us, and Government of the United States thereby pledged this last Republic be found fighting in the univertheir honor, their character, and their faith to our sal battle, side by side, with the veriest tyrant merchants, to our people, to the belligerent na- that ever crimsoned the earth with blood. tions, and to the world, to be governed in their From the moment that this law was known in future policy by its provisions, and they never France, the work of duplicity began, and it never violated thai pledge until the President of the ceased until all the designs of the French despot

United States issued his inconsiderate-his false were fully accomplished. By the principles of i proclamation, on the 2d day of November, 1810. the repori, adopted by Congress; by ihe avowed

Soon after this report and its principles were and permanent policy of the Goveroment; by the adopted in this House, the embargo descended to non-intercourse law of 1809; by every considerathe grave, I hope, never again to rear its "miscretion of "justice, national honor, and national in

ated front” among us. In pursuance of the prin- dependence," and finally by the express provision i ciples of the report, on the 1st of March, 1809, of the law of May, 1810, on which only he could

an act, commonly called the non-intercourse law, act, the President was solemnly bound never was passed, to commence on the succeeding 20th to issue his proclamation, until the French Govof May, against both belligerents, but in strict ernment should have, in good faith, repealed or accordance with the new and impartial policy modified her decrees, in relation to American of our Government, containing a provision tbai, commerce. How was the fact? The President if France or England should so far repeal or waited for no such repeal or modification. He modify her edicts, as that they should cease to became the dupe of French duplicity and falseviolate our neutral rights, the fact should be pro hood. In the language of Mr. Russell, then our claimed by the President, and the act was to cease Minister in France, the President “ was shuffled as to that nation.

into the lead where national honor and the law This act was to expire with the next session of required him to follow.Congress. I pass over the arrangement of the For the indubitable correctness of these propoBritish Minister, Erskine, the proclamation of sitions I appeal to facts. On the 5th of August, the President founded thereon, the rescinding of 1810, the Duke de Cadore, the French Minister that proclamation, the outrageous conduct of of Foreign Relations, addressed a note to Mr. France upon the pretence of retaliation for that Armstrong, then our Minister in France, from act, the vile insults heaped upon our Goveroment which I will read an extract: "I am authorized by France, and borne with a patience bordering to declare to you, sir, that the decrees of Berlin on pusillanimity, and request your attention to and Milan are revoked, and that after the 1st the act of the 1st of May, 1810. This act was November they will cease to have effect; it befounded on the principles of the report; it was ing well understood that, in consequence of this passed just before the expiration of the act of declaration, the English shall revoke their Ornon-intercourse, and was intended to supply its' ders in Council, and renounce the new principlace. It declared that, if Great Britain or France ples of blockade, which they have wished to es

should so revoke or modify her edicts as that they tablish, or that the United States, conformably I

should cease to violate the neutral commerce of to the act you have just communicated, shall the United States, which fact the President should cause their rights to be respected by the English." declare by proclamation ; and, if the other nation Sir, this is the instrument, and the only instrushould not, within three months thereafter, re- ment, upon which the proclamation of the Presivoke or modify her edicts in like manner, then dent was founded. Upon perusing this letter, its certain sections of the non-intercourse law of hollow, juggling, jesuitical character is visible and March, 1809, should be revived against the nation glariug. Unconnected with subsequent events, so refusing to revoke or modify. The sections, which stripped it of all ambiguity, from its very thus to be revived, constituted an iron system of terms, who will dare to say that it revoked or non-importation against such nation.

modified the decrees, as required by the act of Mr. Speaker, from this act this country may May preceding? It does not even purport to do date the origin of those sinister events, which this; it has not even the merit of Pythian obscurnow cover her with distress and blood. This is ity; it ought not to have deceived the weakest the Pandora's box, whence have escaped all that understanding. " It being well understood,” that swarm of disasters which that nation will long is, “ upon condition," (not in consequence of this remember with tears of blood. It placed the fate revocation, even the juggler himself had not the of this country, its peace, its prosperity, its hap- impudence to call it a revocation,) " the English piness, in the hands of men unable to guard and shall revoke, &c., or America cause her rights to protect them. The Constitutional guardians of be respected.” What is the plain English of this ihe people, the immediate sentinels of our honor jesuitical instrument ? “Upon condition that Engand independence, shrinking or flying from their land revokes her decrees, or that America, in case posts, surrendered their power, to be exercised by I she does not so revoke, proclaims a measure of

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