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army a reproach, which must occasion the most lasting regret.
However guilty these men were, they should not have been condemned or executed, without the authority of the law. I will not dwell, at this time, on the effect of these precedents in foreign countries, but I will not pass unnoticed their dangerous influence in our own country. Bad examples are generally set in the cases of bad men, and often remote from the central government. It was in the provinces that were laid the abuses and the seeds of the ambitious projects which overturned the liberties of Rome. I beseech the committee not to be so captivated by the charms of eloquence, and the appeals made to our passions and our sympathies, as to forget the fundamental principles of our government. The influence of a bad example will often be felt when its authors and all the circumstances connected with it, are no longer remembered. I know of but one analogous instance of the execution of a prisoner, and that has brought more odium, than almost any other incident, on the unhappy emperor of France. I allude to the instance of the execution of the unfortunate member of the Bourbon house. He sought an asylum in the territories of Baden. Bonaparte despatched a corps of gens d'armes to the place of his retreat, seized him and brought him to the dungeons of Vincennes. He was there tried by a court martial, condemned and shot. There, as here, was a violation of neutral territory; there the neutral ground was not stained with the blood of him whom it should have protected. And there was another most unfortunate difference for the American example. The duke D'Enghein, was executed according to his sentence. It is said by the defenders of Napoleon, that the duke had been machinating not merely to overturn the French government, but against the life of its chief. If that were true, he might, if taken in France, have been legally executed. Such was the odium brought upon the instruments of
this transaction, that those persons, who have been even suspected of participation in it, have sought to vindicate themselves, from what they appear to have considered as an aspersion, before foreign courts. In conclusion of this part of the subject, I most cheerfully and entirely acquit general Jackson of any intention to violate the laws of the country, or the obligations of humanity. I am persuaded, from all that I have heard, that he considered himself as equally respecting and observing both. With respect to the purity of his intentions, therefore, I am disposed to allow it in the most extensive degree. Of his acts, it is my duty to speak with the freedom which belongs to my station. And I shall now proceed to consider some of them, of the most momentous character, as it regards the distribution of the powers of government.
Of all the powers conferred by the constitution of the United States, not one is more expressly and exclusively granted than that which gives to Congress the power to declare war. The immortal convention who formed that instrument had abundant reason, drawn from every page of history, for confiding this tremendous power to the deliberate judgment of the representatives of the people. It was there seen that nations are often precipitated into ruinous war from folly, from pride, from ambition, and from the desire of military fame. It was believed, no doubt, in committing this great subject to the legislature of the union, we should be safe from the mad wars that have afflicted and desolated and ruined other countries. It was supposed that before any war was declared, the nature of the injury complained of would be carefully examined, the power and resources of the enemy estimated, and the power and resources of our own country, as well as the probable issue and consequences of the war. It was to guard our country against precisely that species of rashness, which has been manifested in Florida, that the constitution was so framed. If then this power, thus cautiously and clearly bestowed
upon Congress, has been assumed and exercised by any other functionary of the government, it is cause of serious alarm, and it becomes this body to vindicate and maintain its authority by all the means in its power; and yet there are some gentlemen, who would have us not merely yield, a tame and silent acquiescence in the encroachment, but even pass a vote of thanks to the author.
On the twenty-fifth of March, 1818, the President of the United States, communicated a message to Congress in relation to the Seminole war, in which he declared that, although, in the prosecution of it, orders had been given to pass into the Spanish territory, they were so guarded as that the local authorities of Spain should be respected. How respected ? The President, by the documents accompanying the message, the orders themselves which issued from the department of war to the commanding general, had assured the legislature that, even if the enemy should take shelter under a Spanish fortress, the fortress was not to be attacked, but the fact to be reported to that department for further orders. Congress saw, therefore, that there was no danger of violating the existing peace.
And yet, on the same twenty-fifth day of March, (a most singular concurrence of dates,) when the representatives of the people receive this solemn message, announced in the presence of the nation and in the face of the world, and in the midst of a friendly negotiation with Spain, does general Jackson write from his head quarters, that he shall take St. Marks as a necessary depot for his military operations! The general states, in his letter, what he has heard about the threat on the part of the Indians and Negroes, to occupy the fort, and declares his purpose to possess himself of it in either of the two contingencies, of its being in their hands or in the hands of the Spaniards. He assumed a right to judge what Spain was bound to do by her treaty, and judged very correctly; but then he also assumed the power, be
longing to Congress alone, of determining what should be the effect, and consequence of her breach of engagement. General Jackson generally performs what he intimates his intention to do. Accordingly, finding St. Marks yet in the hands of the Spaniards, he seized and occupied it. Was ever the just confidence of the legislative body, in the assurances of the chief magistrate, more abused? The Spanish commander intimated his willingness that the American army should take post near him, until he could have instructions from his superior officer, and promised to maintain, in the mean time, the most friendly relations. No! St. Marks was a convenient post for the American army, and delay was inadmissible. I have always understood that the Indians but rarely take or defend fortresses, because they are unskilled in the modes of attack and defence. The threat, therefore, on their part, to seize on St. Marks must have been empty, and would probably have been impracticable. At all events, when general Jackson arrived there, no danger any longer threatened the Spaniards from the miserable fugitive Indians, who fled on all sides upon his approach. And, sir, upon what plea is this violation of orders, and this act of war upon a foreign power, attempted to be justified? Upon the grounds of the conveniency of the depot and the Indian threat. The first I will not seriously examine and expose. If the Spanish character of the fort had been totally merged in the Indian character, it might have been justifiable to seize it. But that was not the fact, and the bare possibility of its being forcibly taken by the Indians could not justify our anticipating their blow. Of all the odious transactions which occurred during the late war between France and England, none was more condemned in Europe and in this country, than her seizure of the fleet of Denmark at Copenhagen. And I lament to be obliged to notice the analogy which exists in the defences made of the two cases. If my recollection does not deceive me, Bonaparte had passed VOL. III.
the Rhine and the Alps, had conquered Italy, the Netherlands, Holland, Hanover, Lubec and Hamburg, and extended his empire as far as Altona on the side of Denmark. A few days’ march would have carried him through Holstein, over the two Belts, through Funen and into the island of Zealand. What then was the conduct of England ? It was my lot to fall into conversation with an intelligent Englishman on this subject. 66 We knew, (said he,) that we were fighting for our existence. It was absolutely necessary that we should preserve the command of the seas. If the fleet of Denmark fell into the enemy's hands, combined with his other fleets, that command might be rendered doubtful. Denmark had only a nominal independence. She was, in truth, subject to his sway. We said to her, give us your fleet; it will otherwise be taken possession of by your secret and our open enemy. We will preserve it, and restore it to you whenever the danger shall be over. Denmark refused. Copenhagen was bombarded, gallantly defended, but the fleet was seized.” Everywhere the conduct of England was censured; and the name even of the negotiator who was employed by her, who was subsequently the minister near this government, was scarcely ever pronounced here without coupling with it an epithet indicating his participation in the disgraceful transaction. And yet we are going to sanction acts of violence, committed by ourselves, which but too much resemble it! What an important difference, too, between the relative condition of England and of this country! She perhaps was struggling for her exist
She was combating, single-handed, the most enormous military power that the world has ever known. Who were we contending with?
With a few half starved, half clothed, wretched Indians and fugitive slaves. And whilst carrying on this inglorious war-inglorious as it regards the laurels or renown won in it-we violate neutral rights, which the government had solemnly pledged itself to respect, upon the