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principle of convenience, or upon the light presumption that, by possibility, a post might be taken by this miserable combination of Indians and slaves !
On the 8th of April, the general writes from St. Marks, that he shall march for the Suwaney river; the destroying of the establishments on which will, in his opinion, bring the war to a close. Accordingly, having effected that object, he writes, on the 20th of April, that he believes he may say the war is at an end for the present. He repeats the same opinion in his letter to the secretary of war, written six days after. The war being thus ended, it might have been hoped that no further hostilities would have been committed. But on the 23d of May, on his way home, he receives a letter from the commandant of Pensacola, intimating his surprise at the invasion of the Spanish territory, and the acts of hostility performed by the American army, and his determination, if persisted in, to employ force to repel them. Let us pause and examine this proceeding of the governor, so very hostile and affrontive in the view of general Jackson. Recollect that he was governor of Florida; that he had received no orders from his superiors to allow a passage to the American army; that he had heard of the reduction of St. Marks; and that general Jackson, at the head of his army, was approaching in the direction of Pensacola. He had seen the President's message of the 25th of March, and reminded general Jackson of it, to satisfy him that the American government could not have authorized all those measures. 1 cannot read the allusion made by the governor to that message, without feeling that the charge of insincerity, which it implies, has at least but too much the appearance of truth in it. Could the governor have done less than write some such letter We have only to reverse situations, and to suppose him to have been an American governor.
General Jackson says, that when he received that letter, he no longer hesitated. No, sir, he did no longer hesitate! He received it on
the 23d, he was in Pensacola on the 24th, and immediately after set himself before the fortress of San Carlos de Barancas, which he shortly reduced. Veni, vidi, vici. Wonderful energy! Admirable promptitude. Alas! that it had not been an energy and a promptitude within the pale of the constitution, and according to the orders of the chief magistrate! It was impossible to give any definition of war, that would not comprehend these acts. It was open, undisguised and unauthorized hostility.
The honorable gentleman from Massachusetts has endeavored to derive some authority to general Jackson from the message of the President, and the letter of the secretary of war to governor Bibb. The message declares that the Spanish authorities are to be respected wherever maintained. What the President means by their being maintained, is explained in the orders themselves, by the extreme case being put of the enemy seeking shelter under a Spanish fort. If even in that case he was not to attack, certainly be was not to attack in any case of less strength. The letter to governor Bibb admits of a similar explanation. When the secretary says, in that letter, that general Jackson is fully empowered to bring the Seminole war to a conclusion, he means that he is so empowered by his orders, which, being now before us, must speak for themselves. It does not appear that general Jackson ever saw that letter, which was dated at this place after the capture of St. Marks. I will take a momentary glance at the orders. On the 2d of December, 1817, general Gaines was forbidden to cross the Florida line. Seven days after, the secretary of war, having arrived here, and infused a little more energy into our councils, he was authorized to use a sound discretion in crossing it or not. On the 16th, he was instructed again to consider himself at liberty to cross the line, and pursue the enemy; but, if he took refuge under a Spanish fortress, the fact was to be reported to the department of
These orders were transmitted to general Jack
son, and constituted, or ought to have constituted, his guide. There is then no justification for the occupation of Pensacola, and the attack on the Barancas, in the message of the President, the letter to governor Bibb, or in the orders themselves. The gentleman from Massachusetts will pardon me for saying that he has undertaken what even his talents are not competent to—the maintenance of directly contradictory propositions, that it was right in general Jackson to take Pensacola, and wrong in the President to keep it. The gentleman has made a greater mistake than he supposes general Jackson to have done in attacking Pensacola for an Indian town, by attempting the defence both of the President and general Jackson. If it were right in him to seize the place, it is impossible that it should have been right in the President immediately to surrender it. We, sir, are the supporters of the President. We regret that we cannot support general Jackson also. The gentleman's liberality is more comprehensive than ours. I approve, with all my heart, of the restoration of Pensacola. I think St. Marks ought, perhaps, to have been also restored ; but I say this with doubt and diffidence. That the President thought the seizure of the Spanish posts was an act of war, is manifest from his opening message; in which he says that, to have retained them, would have changed our relations with Spain, to do which the power of the executive was incompetent, Congress alone possessing it. The President has, in this instance, deserved well of his country. He has taken the only course which he could have pursued, consistent with the constitution of the land. "And I defy the gentleman to make good both his positions, that the general was right in taking, and the President right in giving up the posts. [Mr. Holmes explained. We took these posts, he said, to keep them from the hands of the enemy, and, in restoring them, made it a condition that Spain should not let our enemy have them. We said to her, here is vour dagger: we found it in the
hands of our enemy, and having wrested it from him, we restore it to you in the hope that you will take better care of it for the future. Mr. Clay proceeded.] The gentleman from Massachusetts is truly unfortunate; fact or principle is always against him. The Spanish posts were not in the possession of the enemy. One old Indian only was found in the Barancas, none in Pensacola, none in St. Marks. There was not even the color of a threat of Indian occupation as it regards Pensacola and the Barancas. Pensacola was to be restored unconditionally, and might, therefore, immediately have come into the possession of the Indians, if they had the power and the will to take it. The gentleman is in a dilemma, from which there is no escape. He gives up general Jackson when he supports the President; and gives up the President when he supports general Jackson. "I rejoice to have seen the President manifesting, by the restoration of Pensacola, his devotedness to the constitution. When the whole country was ringing with plaudits for its capture, I said, and I said alone, in the limited circle in which I moved, that the President must surrender it; that he could not hold it. It is not my intention to inquire whether the army was or was not constitutionally marched into Florida. It is not a clear question, and I am inclined to think that the express authority of Congress ought to have been asked. The gentleman from Massachusetts will allow me to refer to a part of the correspondence at Ghent different from that which he has quoted. He will find the condition of the Indians there accurately defined. And it is widely variant from the gentleman's ideas on this subject. The Indians, according to the statement of the American commissioners at Ghent, inhabiting the United States, have a qualified sovereignty only, the supreme sovereignty residing in the government of the United States. They live under their own laws and customs, may
inhabit and hunt their lands; but acknowledge the protection of the United States, and have no right
to sell their lands but to the government of the United States. Foreign powers or foreign subjects have no right to maintain any intercourse with them, without our permission. They are not, therefore, independent nations, as the gentleman supposes. Maintaining the relation described with them, we must allow a similar relation to exist between Spain and the Indians residing within her dominions. She must be, therefore, regarded as the sovereign of Florida, and we are accordingly treating with her for the purchase of it. In strictness, then, we ought first to have demanded of her to restrain the Indians, and, that failing, we should have demanded a right of passage for our army. But, if the President had the power to march an army into Florida without consulting Spain, and without the authority of Congress, he had no power to authorize any act of hostility against her. If the gentleman had even succeeded in showing that an authority was conveyed by the executive to general Jackson to take the Spanish posts, he would only have established, that unconstitutional orders had been given, and thereby transferred the disapprobation from the military officer to the executive. But no such orders were, in truth, given. The President acted in conformity to the constitution, when he forbade the attack of a Spanish fort, and when, in the same spirit, he surrendered the posts themselves.
I will not trespass much longer upon the time of the committee; but I trust I shall be indulged with some few reflections upon the danger of permitting the conduct on which it has been my painful duty to animadvert, to pass, without a solemn expression of the disapprobation of this House. Recall to your recollection the free nations which have gone before us? Where are they now?
Gone glimmering through the dream of things that were,