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duce a repeal of the orders in council. This I deny. After it made its appearance in England, it was declared, by one of the British ministry in parliament, not to be satisfactory. And all the world knows, that the repeal of the orders in council resulted from the inquiry, reluctantly acceded to by the ministry, into the effect upon their manufacturing establishments, of our nonimportation law, or to the warlike attitude assumed by this government, or to both. But it is said, that the orders in council are withdrawn, no matter from what cause; and that having been the sole motive for declaring the war, the relations of peace ought to be restored. This brings me to the examination of the grounds for continuing the present hostilities between this country and Great Britain.
I am far from acknowledging, that, had the orders in council been repealed, as they have been, before the war was declared, the declaration of hostilities would of course have been prevented. In a body so numerous as this is, from which the declaration emanated, it is impossible to say, with any degree of certainty, what would have been the effect of such a repeal. Each member must answer for himself. As to myself
, I have no hesitation in saying, that I have always considered the impressment of American seamen, as much the most serious aggression. But, sir, how have those orders at last been repealed ? Great Britain, it is true, has intimated a willingness to suspend their practical operation, but she still arrogates to herself the right to revive them upon certain contingencies, of which she constitutes herself the sole judge. She waves the temporary use of the rod, but she suspends it in terrorem over our heads. Supposing it to be conceded to gentlemen that such a repeal of the orders in council
, as took place on the twenty-third of June last, exceptionable as it is, being known before the war was proclaimed, would have prevented it: does it follow, that it ought to induce us to lay down our arms, without the redress of any other injury of which we complain ?
Does it follow, in all cases, that that, which would in the first instance have prevented, would also terminate the war? By no means. It requires a strong and powerful effort in a nation, prone to peace as this is, to burst through its habits and encounter the difficulties and privations of war. Such a nation ought but seldom to embark in a belligerent contest; but when it does, it should be for obvious and essential rights alone, and should firmly resolve to extort, at all hazards, their recognition. The war of the revolution is an example of a war begun for one object and prosecuted for another. It was waged, in its commencement, against the right asserted by the parent country to tax the colonies. Then no one thought of absolute independence. The idea of independence was repelled. But the British government would have relinquished the principle of taxation. The founders of our liberties saw, however, that there was no security short of independence, and they achieved that independence. When nations are engaged in war, those rights in controversy, which are not acknowledged by the treaty of peace, are abandoned.
And who is prepared to say, that American seamen shall be surrendered, as victims to the British principle of impressment ? And, sir, what is this principle ? She contends, that she has a right to the services of her own subjects; and that, in the exercise of this right, she may lawfully impress them, even although she finds them in American vessels, upon the high seas, without her jurisdiction. Now I deny that she has any right, beyond her jurisdiction, to come on board our vessels, upon the high seas, for any other purpose than in the pursuit of enemies, or their goods, or goods contraband of war. But she further contends, that her subjects cannot renounce their allegiance to her, and contract a new obligation to other sovereigns. I do not mean to go into the general question of the right of expatriation. If, as is contended, all nations deny it, all nations, at the same time, admit and practice the right of natu
ralization. Great Britain herself does this. Great Britain, in the very case of foreign seamen, imposes, perhaps, fewer restraints upon naturalization than any other nation. Then, if subjects cannot break their original allegiance, they may, according to universal usage, contract a new allegiance. What is the effect of this double obligation? Undoubtedly, that the sovereign having the possession of the subject, would have the right to the services of the subject. If he return within the jurisdiction of his primitive sovereign, he may resume his right to his services, of which the subject, by his own act, could not divest himself. But his primitive sovereign can have no right to go in quest of him, out of his own jurisdiction, into the jurisdiction of another sovereign, or upon the high seas; where there exists either no jurisdiction, or it is possessed by the nation owning the ship navigating them. But, sir, this discussion is altogether useless. It is not to the British principle, objectionable as it is, that we are alone to look; it is to her practice, no matter what guise she puts on. It is in vain to assert the inviolability of the obligation of allegiance. It is in vain to set up the plea of necessity, and to allege that she cannot exist without the impressment of her seamen. The naked truth is, she comes, by her press gangs, on board of our vessels, seizes our native as well as naturalized seamen, and drags them into her service. It is the case, then, of the assertion of an erroneous principle, and of a practice not conformable to the asserted principle-a principle which, if it were theoretically right, must be for ever practically wrong—a practice which can obtain countenance from no principle whatever, and to submit to which, on our part, would betray the most abject degradation. We are told, by gentlemen in the opposition, that government has not done all that was incumbent on it to do, to avoid just cause of complaint on the part of Great Britain; that, in particular, the certificates of protection, authorized by the act of 1796, are fraudulently used. Sir, goy
ernment has done too much in granting those paper protections. I can never think of them without being shocked. They resemble the passes which the master grants to his negro slave—" let the bearer, Mungo, , pass and repass without molestation.” What do they imply? That Great Britain has a right to seize all who are not provided with them. From their very nature they must be liable to abuse on both sides. If Great Britain desires a mark, by which she can know her own subjects, let her give them an ear-mark. The colors that foat from the mast head should be the credentials of our seamen. There is no safety to us, and the gentlemen have shown it, but in the rule that all who sail under the flag, (not being enemies,) are protected by the flag. It is impossible that this country should ever abandon the gallant tars, who have won for us such splendid trophies. Let me suppose that the genius of Columbia should visit one of them in his oppressor's prison, and attempt to reconcile him to his forlorn and wretched condition. She would say to him, in the language of gentlemen on the other side: “Great Britain intends you no harm; she did not mean to impress you, but one of her own subjects; having taken you by mistake, I will remonstrate, and try to prevail upon her, by peaceable means, to release
you, but I cannot, my son, fight for you.” If he did not consider this mere mockery, the poor tar would address her judgment and say, “you owe me, my country, protection; I owe you, in return, obedience. I am no British subject, I am a native of old Massachusetts, where live my aged father, my wife, my children." I have faithfully discharged my duty. Will you refuse to do yours ? Appealing to her passions, he would continue: • I lost this eye in fighting under Truxton, with the Insurgente; I got this scar before Tripoli; I broke this leg on board the Constitution, when the Guerriere struck. If she remained still unmoved, he would break out, in the accents of mingled distress and dispair,
Hard, hard is my fate! once I freedom enjoyed,
I will not imagine the dreadful catastrophe to which he would be driven by an abandonment of him to his oppressor. It will not be, it cannot be, that his country will refuse him protection.
It is said, that Great Britain has been always willing to make a satisfactory arrangement of the subject of impressment; and that Mr. King had nearly concluded one, prior to his departure from that country. Let us hear what that minister says, upon his return to America. In his letter, dated at New York, in July, 1803, after giving an account of his attempt to form an arrangement for the protection of our seamen, and his interviews to this end with lords Hawkesbury and St. Vincent, and stating, that, when he had supposed the terms of a convention were agreed upon, a new pretension was set up, (the mare clausum,) he concludes : “ I regret not to have been able to put this business on a satisfactory footing, knowing as I do its very great importance to both parties; but I flatter myself, that I have not misjudged the interests of our own country, in refusing to sanction a principle, that might be productive of more extensive evils than those it was our aim to prevent.” The sequel of his negociation, on this affair, is more fully given in the recent conversation between Mr. Russell and lord Castlereagh, communicated to Congress during its present session. Lord Castlereagh says to Mr. Russell: • Indeed, there has evidently been much misapprehension on this subject, an erroneous belief entertained, that an arrangement, in regard to it, has been nearer an accomplishment than the facts will warrant. Even our friends in Congress, I mean those who are opposed to going to war with us, have been so confident in this mistake, that they have ascribed the failure of such an arrangement, solely to the miscon