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and by the groundless imputation of opposite propensities on the other. The affections of the people, there, are gradually to be undermined. The project is suggested or withdrawn; the diabolical dramatis
persona, in this criminal tragedy, make their appearance or exit, as the audience, to whom they address themselves, applaud or condemn. I was astonished, sir, in reading lately a letter, or pretended letter, published in a prominent print in that quarter, and written not in the fervor of party zeal, but coolly and dispassionately, to find that the writer affected to reason about a separation, and attempted to demonstrate its advantages to the different portions of the union-deploring the existence now of what he terms prejudices against it, but hoping for the arrival of the period when they shall be eradicated. But, sir, I will quit this unpleasant subject; I will turn from one, whom no sense of decency or propriety could restrain from soiling the carpet on which he treads, to gentlemen who have not forgotten what is due to themselves, to the place in which we are assembled, or to those by whom they are opposed. The gentlemen from North Carolina, (Mr. Pearson,) from Connecticut, (Mr. Pitkin,) and from New York, (Mr. Bleecker,) have, with their usual decorum, contended, that the war would not have been declared, had it not been for the duplicity of France in withholding an authentic instrument, repealing the decrees of Berlin and Milan; that upon the exhibition of such an instrument the revocation of the orders in council took place; that this main cause of the war, but for which it would not have been declared, being removed, the administration ought to seek for the restoration of peace; and that upon its sincerely doing so, terms compatible with the honor and interest of this country might be obtained. It is my purpose to examine, first, into the circumstances under which the war was declared; secondly, into the causes of continuing it; and lastly, into the means which have been taken, or ought to be taken, to pro
cure peace; but, sir, I am really so exhausted, that, little as I am in the habit of asking of the House an indulgence of this kind, I feel I must trespass on their goodness.
[Here Mr. Clay sat down. Mr. Newton moved that the committee rise, report progress, and ask leave to sit again, which was done. On the next day he proceeded.]
I am sensible, Mr. Chairman, that some part of the debate, to which this bill has given rise, has been attended by circumstances much to be regretted, not usual in this House, and of which it is to be hoped, there will be no repetition. The gentleman from Boston, had so absolved himself from every rule of decorum and propriety, had so outraged all decency, that I have found it impossible to suppress the feelings excited on the occasion. His colleague, whom I have the honor to follow, (Mr. Wheaton,) whatever else he might not have proved, in his very learned, ingenious, and original exposition of the powers of this government-an exposition in which he has sought, where nobody before him has, and nobody after him will look, for a grant ofour powers, I mean the preamble to the constitution,-has clearly shown, to the satisfaction of all who heard him, that the power of defensive war is conferred. I claim the benefit of a similar principle, in behalf of my political friends, against the gentleman from Boston. "Idemand only the exercise of the right of repulsion. No one is more anxious than I am to preserve the dignity and the freedom of debate,--no member is more responsible for its abuse; and if, on this occasion, its just limits have been violated, let him, who has been the unprovoked aggressor, appropriate to himself, exclusively, the consequences.
I omitted yesterday, sir, when speaking of a delicate and painful subject, to notice a powerful engine which the conspirators against the integrity of the union employ to effect their nefarious purposes, I mean southern influence. The true friend to his country, knowing
that our constitution was the work of compromise, in which interests, apparently conflicting, were attempted to be reconciled, aims to extinguish or allay prejudices. But this patriotic exertion does not suit the views of those who are urged on by diabolical ambition. They find it convenient to imagine the existence of certain improper influences, and to propagate with their utmost industry, a belief of them. Hence the idea of southern preponderance; Virginia influence; the yoking of the respectable yeomanry of the north, with negro slaves, to the car of southern nabobs. If Virginia really cherishes a reprehensible ambition, an aim to monopolize the chief magistracy of the country, how is such a purpose to be accomplished ? Virginia, alone, cannot elect a President, whose elevation depends upon a plurality of electoral votes, and a consequent concurrence of many states. Would Vermont, disinterested Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, independent Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, all consent to become the tools of inordinate ambition ? But the present incumbent was designated to the office before his predecessor had retired. How? By public sentiment,-public sentiment which grew out of his known virtues, his illustrious services, and his distinguished abilities. Would the gentleman crush this public sentiment,-is he prepared to admit, that he would arrest the progress of opinion ?
The war was declared because Great Britain arrogated to herself the pretension of regulating our foreign trade, under the delusive name of retaliatory orders in council,-a pretension by which she undertook to proclaim to American enterprize,—“Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther,"-orders which she refused to revoke after the alleged cause of their enactment had ceased; because she persisted in the practice of impressing American seamen; because she had instigated the Indians to commit hostilities against us; and because she refused indemnity for her past injuries upon our commerce. I throw out of the question other
wrongs. The war in fact was announced, on our part, to meet the war which she was waging on her part. So undeniable were the causes of the war, so powerfully did they address themselves to the feelings of the whole American people, that when the bill was pending before this House, gentlemen in the opposition, although provoked to debate, would not, or could not, utter one syllable against it. It is true, they wrapped themselves up in sullen silence, pretending they did not choose to debate such a question in secret session. Whilst speaking of the proceedings on that occasion, I beg to be permitted to advert to another fact which transpired,--an important fact, material for the nation to know, and which I have often regretted had not been spread upon our journals. My honorable colleague, (Mr. M'Kee, moved, in committee of the whole, to comprehend France in the war; and when the question was taken upon the proposition, there appeared but ten votes in support of it, of whom, seven belonged to this side of the House, and three only to the other!. It is said that we were inveigled into the war by the perfidy of France; and that had she furnished the document in time, which was first published in England in May last, it would have been prevented. I will concede to gentlemen every thing they ask about the injustice of France towards this country. I wish to God that our ability was equal to our disposition to make her feel the sense that we entertain of that injustice. The manner of the publication of the paper in question, was undoubtedly extremely exceptionable. But I maintain, that, had it made its appearance earlier, it would not have had the effect supposed; and the proof lies in the unequivocal declarations of the British government. I will trouble you, sir, with going no further back than to the letters of the British minister, addressed to the secretary of state just before the expiration of his diplomatic functions. It will be recollected by the committee, that he exhibited to this government a despatch from lord Castlereagh, in which
the principle was distinctly avowed, that, to produce the effect of a repeal of the orders in council, the French decrees must be absolutely and entirely revoked as to all the world, and not as to America alone. A copy of that despatch was demanded of him, and he very awkwardly evaded it. But on the tenth of June, after the bill declaring war had actually passed this House, and was pending before the senate, (and which, I have no doubt, was known to him,) in a letter to Mr. Monroe, he says: “I have no hesitation, sir, in saying, that Great Britain, as the case has hitherto stood, never did, nor ever could engage, without the greatest injustice to herself and her allies, as well as to other neutral nations, to repeal her orders as affecting America alone, leaving them in force against other states, upon condition that France would except singly and specially, America from the operation of her decrees.” On the fourteenth of the same month, the bill still pending before the senate, he repeats: “I will now say, that I feel entirely authorized to assure you, that if you can at any time produce a full and unconditional repeal of the French decrees, as you have a right to demand it in your character of a neutral nation, and that it be disengaged from any question concerning our maritime rights, we shall be ready to meet you with a revocation of the orders in council. Previously to your producing such an instrument, which I am sorry to see you regard as unnecessary, you cannot expect of us to give up our orders in council.” Thus, sir, you see that the British government, would not be content with a repeal of the French decrees as to us only. But the French paper in question was such a repeal. It could not, therefore, satisfy the British government. It could not, therefore, have induced that government, had it been earlier promulgated, to repeal the orders in council. It could not, therefore, have averted the war. The withholding of it did not occasion the war, and the promulgation of it would not have prevented the war. But gentlemen have contended, that, in point of fact, it did pro