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JUNE, 1797.]

Defensive Measures.

[H.OF R.

Us.

kind, but he was afraid of involving our country The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Swanin a war.

WICK) had objected to the arming of merchant Mr. G. observed that, when he said it was our vessels because of the expense. He believed the duty to prohibit the fitting out of armed merchant merchants of the United States in general thought vessels, he thought he owed it to our own securi- differently, though there might be some merchants ty to do so; and as the President had told them in this city who would be averse to the measure. that he had prohibited the fitting out of any such As to the expense, he believed the expense of fitvessels until the will of Congress was known ting out the vessels would be more than saved in upon the subject, he saw no danger that could the insurance. But there was a further considerarise from vessels still remaining unarmed. Andation-by this means the vessels and seamen if there were any merchant vessels arming, he would be preserved to the United States; wherebelieved it would be the best for the Government as, if it were not adopted, we not only lose our to remain silent on the subject; for then, if mer- vessels and men, but they go to strengthen the chants proceeded to acts of hostility, Government power of a nation which may use them against might disclaim the act, and they alone would have And unless France knows that this Governto answer for them.

ment will afford protection to its vessels, we Mr.G.concluded by saying, that this being a new might expect that she would take advantage of subject, he should be glad to hear what could be our remissness, by spinning out the negotiation, said in favor of it, or of any historical fact which and plundering our property. could throw light upon it.

Something had been said about the conduct of Mr. Cort complained of the proposition when other neutral nations. He believed they had first introduced, and now amended, being very in armed their merchantmen, though he did not definite. He thought the provision should be pledge himself to prove it; but if this were not made, but he wished the object to be defined. He the case, they had fleets to convoy their trade. could not say that he could so modify the resolu-We, on the contrary, had no fleet, nor did gentletion that he could himself vote for it; he had not men seem desirous that they should have any, made up his mind upon the subject as to what since they have expressed their wishes that the cases restrictions should be made ; but, in order frigates now building were burnt. He asked to take the sense of the committee, he would move what was to become of the commerce of this an amendment, in order to bring the subject be country, if we refused to protect it? If we were fore them. It was to strike out "certain cases," to resort to an embargo, what would be the conand to insert at the end of the resolution “ bound sequences? You would not, said he, suffer your to the East Indies and to the Mediterranean." vessels to lay up forever. After a time, they

Mr. HARPER proposed to amend the amend would be sent oui again, and they would be taken ment by adding the word “ West,” after " East," again. In case of an embargo, what, he asked, so as to read “East and West Indies."

would become of our seamen? They would Mr. W. Smith did not think it material whe-wander about the country, discontented, and perther West Indies was inserted, or the amendment ishing for want. What would become of our rejected altogether. It was his wish that the produce ? It would rot upon our wharves. committee should first have decided upon the ab- The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Galstract principle. Presuming it to be the exist-latin) had not said neutral nations had not a ing law of this country that merchants have a right to arm their merchant vessels, and he had right to arm their vessels, he wished to know no doubt, if he could have done it he would. whether it was their wish to interfere in regulat- | Was it, then, right for us to sit still and see the ing and restricting that right. He believed the property of our merchants spoliated ? Was it not modification of the subject might very well have our duty to protect our commerce, our merchants, been done in the bill. He would have risen be- our revenue? If we were to suffer these to be fore to have given his reason for this, had he not laid waste, when that state of things arrived, which been prevented from doing so by gentlemen who he believed was not far distant, in what a situahad complained that he had not done it. He was tion should we be! Na he believed that the in favor of the amendment to the amendment; conduct of gentlemen on that floor would have but if it was not carried, he should be against the the effect to increase the demands of France upon amendment. It would be in vain to take into us, by contrasting her means and our weakness. consideration the East India and Mediterranean The gentleman from Pennsylvania had justitrade, when spoliations were principally commit-fied our right to arm merchant vessels to the East ted in the West Indies, when, indeed, the object Indies and the Mediterranean, but had introduced of the present meeting of Congress was princi- some nice distinctions to show that the same reapally to take into consideration the protection of son did not exist for arming our West India vesihe West India and European trade; he presumed, sels; but he could see no reason for it in one case, therefore, if they meant to do anything effectual, which did not also exist in the other. they should take into consideration the West In- But he was surprised that that gentleman should dia trade. Gentlemen were very ready, he said, have treated so cavalierly our good ally, the Dey to object to every plan brought forward, but they of Algiers, who had behaved so very politely and themselves proposed nothing. All they did was generously to us. He thought much more reto hold out alarms of war, though every one ex- spect was due to the Dey than to Victor Hugues, pressed a desire for peace.

though that gentleman did not seem to speak of 5th Con.-9

H. Or R. )

Defensive Measures

[JONE, 1797.

The gen

him with equal respect. The Dey of Algiers had upon the great body of the people of America, and lent forty thousand dollars to our agent for the that the fall in the price of produce had been occapurpose of making a treaty with Tunis. Victor sioned principally by the British Admiral having Hugues, on the contrary, took all that he could forbidden the carrying our provisions to Hispaniget from us.

ola. The British feet in the West Indies, he said, Unless some means of protecting our vessels was supplied with provisions from Ireland, whilst was determined upon, our coasting trade would the French depended upon this country for supbe lost, since the picaroons had been off the Capes plies; so that they were our best customers there. of the Delaware. And if they were to know that The gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. W. Congress had adjourned without doing anything SMITH) supposed the cry of war would have no for our protection against them, our coast would effect in the country; but let us refer back to the swarm with them.

British Treaty, said he, when that gentleman was But gentlemen were afraid, if our vessels went so loud in his cry. But that was a war with Great to the West Indies armed, war would be the con- Britain, and not with France. At that time there sequence. He did not think so. He believed was not a British tear which was not called forth France considered all that part of the country as by the appeals which were made on this ground. outlawed, and that it had little connexion with But, Mr. S. said, he did not then fear war, nor did the Government of that country. Indeed, he knew he now, if they took prudent measures. it as a fact, that the French Minister had assured tleman said his plan was to prevent war, and yet our Government, before he left Philadelphia, that he proposed to go to fight and sink the vessels of the spoliations committed in the West Indies were a particular nation. This was a way for preservunauthorized; and, therefore, if no means of de- ing peace peculiar to himself. fence were taken against them, we could have no If merchant vessels were armed, they would ground upon which to expect redress from France. serve the purpose of privateers, which might be

But gentlemen said, why take these measures used against our own vessels. This was a risk he at present, since they may be looked upon as hos- did noi choose to run. But it was a curious fact, tile, while our negotiation is pending? He be- that at the same time that we are proposing to lieved, that after the present dispute should be permit the merchants to arm, they express a disadjusted with France, it would be necessary to inclination to it, because they love their country arm our vessels trading to the West Indies, as he better than their own interest. But the gentlebelieved, for some years to come, these bucaniers man had said the expense of insurance would be of various colors would continue to insest those lessened by this arming. On the contrary, he (and seas. And if this were the case, why ought they he was an underwriter) should consider the risk not to go into arming our vessels at present, when greater from their having guns. Indeed, he found they were met for the purpose of taking effectual the insurance offices were all against the measure. measures for the defence of our country?

But the gentleman says, let the French know Mr. S. SMITH conceived that Congress were we are preparing. He trusted we should prepare called together to adopt such measures as were

a defence which could not offend any one. Let best calculated to preserve the peace of the coun- us do all we can to promote peace-let the negotry, by means of negotiation, and to fix upon such tiations go on. It would be a fine story, indeed, means of defence as would not be injurious to the when a reconciliation was about to take place country. It was his opinion that ihe President betwixt our negotiators and the French Governwas not authorized by law to prevent the vessels ment, that they should hear we were sinking her of merchants being armed; but the merchants of privateers at the West Indies! They would doubtthe United States would readily submit to any less send them about their business. loss rather than go to war. He knew that this The gentleman from South Carolina seemed to was the opinion of the Philadelphia merchants: think it was right for our vessels to go into rebel he had seen many of them. Nor had he met ports in the West Indies, and had told them of our with one native American who wished to go into men being taken by Victor Hugues, considered as this arming plan; they believe it would infringe pirates, and hung.' [Mr. W. Smitu denied havour neutrality, and throw us into a war. When ing said our citizens were hung.) Mr. S. read he came here, his mind was scarcely made up on Victor Hugues's proclamation, (though he said he the subject. He did not like to give up his right had no more respect for him than that gentleman, to defend his property; but he had found this to as he had lost 6,000 or 7,000 dollars by him,) and be the general opinion, and therefore he brought showed that those persons were only considered forward the amendment, which had been well as traitors who sailed out of rebel ports, and not amended by the gentleman from Connecticut. citizens of the United States. Nor were those The gentleman from South Carolina had since ports considered as rebel ports which were taken added West Indies, and this brought them to an by the English. (Cape Nichola Mole was one of issue; for it was war or no war.

those,) but merely tñose which were in a state of If the latter amendment was agreed to, he should rebellion, to which, if we were determined to be for striking out the whole, leaving it general; trade, it would certainly lead to war. because, with West Indies in it, it would be par- Mr. S. said he was surprised to hear the gentleticularly pointed.

man from South Carolina make one concession, They had been told of the loss sustained by spo- viz: that the French Minister had assured our liations, and where it fell. He believed it fell | Government the captures made in the West

JUNE, 1797.]

Defensive Measures.

[H. OF R.

lodies were unauthorized; because, when he had censure on his motives, or the desire of averting asserted the same thing, on a former occasion, it, should never induce him, in any degree, to that gentleman denied it. Mr. S. insisted that the alier his conduct. It was the public good he French trade carried on to the West Indies was a sought; and the public esteem, in addition to his productive one, and that payments were in gen-own, was the reward he desired. As to the good eral made as punctual as in any other parts, and opinion of certain gentlemen, if it came in his referredio Major Mouniflorence's letter for an act way, he should not reject it, but he could not of generosity never shown by the British; nay, say that he would go out of his way to obtain it. he thought ihere was a better chance of getting if, therefore, it was an effect on him they meant money owing from France than there was of to produce, ihey might spare themselves the trougetting it for any spoliations committed by the ble in future. If it was an effect on the public, British, and now under adjudication.

still their labors would not affect him, for he was Mr. S. concluded by saying he had another rea- very willing to let his motives be laid before the son for opposing this measure. Two-thirds of his public, on his own sincerity, weighed against the constituents were farmers, and one-third citizens, accusations of those gentlemen. and they enjoined him to do all in his power to He had been led into these remarks, not only keep this country out of war. He thought the by the course constantly pursued by gentlemen in rejection of this resolution as tending to this end, general, but by the assertion of the gentleman last and therefore he opposed it.

up, from Maryland, (Mr. Smith)—that this moMr. HARPER observed that it did not seem to tion, for excepting ihe West India trade from the him necessary for members to preface their obser- prohibition to arm for defence, was a motion for vations in that House with accounts of them- peace or war! In this opinion he could not agree. selves, or declarations about their motives; much He was persuaded, and he should endeavor to less could it be necessary to talk about the mo- show, that the right of arming merchant ships lives of other people. He believed that gentle for defence in the West India trade might be so men were, for ihe most part, far better known to regulated and restricted, as to become in no deothers than to themselves; and, as for their mo- gree dangerous to the peace of this country, tives, they would best be judged of by the nature He said, merchant ships had the right of armand tendency of their actions. He would, there- ing for defence; for he took this to be a right infore, content bimself with stating his own reasons, herent by the law of nations in every neutral and endeavoring to controvert those of gentlemen State. He had not, he confessed, made researches who opposed him, without saying anything about into the law of nations on this point, but the genhis motives or theirs.

eral course of his reading had led to this concluHe could have wished that other gentlemen sion. It was also confirmed by history, and the had acted thus. They had, however, chosen to practice of neutral States, whose merchant ships pursue a very different course. They had con- did very frequently sail armed in time of war. It stantly and loudly attributed to him, and other was a natural right to carry arnis for defence, as gentlemen who thought with him, the very worst much on the water as on the land. The offence of motives-a desire to bring their country into lay in either case, not in the arming, but in the war; and this in contradiction to their express improper use of the arms. If a man on his jourand repeated disavowal of such intentions. When ney should carry arms for his defence against he, and gentlemen with whom he had agreed, had robbers, this would be proper; but, should he use made the most solemn asseverations that it was them to rob others, he becomes punishable as a

their whole desire to preserve the peace of this felon. So it is at sea. The arms may be carried, · country, in every manner consistent with its true and may be used properly. If used 'improperly, interests, and that they advised certain measures punishment ensues. This he had, morever, unbecause they, in the best of their judgment, derstood to be the result of the best legal opinions thought them best calculated to produce this in this country, and, indeed, it had not been effect, they had been repeatedly told, though not denied. always with the same rudeness, that they were It must, however, be admitted that the abuse of Doi believed. The accusation of intending to this right was far more easy; and far more dandraw the country into war had been extended to gerous, at sea, than on land. It was, therefore, all who differed in sentiment with certain gentle-proper to lay it under much stronger restrictions, men, and every measure which they did not like and some nations had thought fit to restrict it was imputed to this intention. The charge had altogether. Whether we should do so in the prebeen extended to the Executive; and it had been sent circumstances was the question. This quessaid, both on that floor and elsewhere, that proofs tion, he would repeat, was not about the giving of this hostile intention were to be found even in of a right, but about the restricting or taking away tbe pacific measures which he had resolved to entirely of one which already existed. pursue.

When this proposition was first brought forOn this head, Mr. H. said, he did not know how ward by his colleague, it was presented in the gentlemen were to be cured of their incredulity. most general and abstract form. It was How did he know whether it was desirable that ulate the arming of merchant ships for defence." they should be cured? He certainly should take Afterwards, by the consent of the mover, it had no further pains to do so. Of one thing, however, been expressed differently: “ To restrict the armhe could assure gentlemen: that the fear of their ing of merchant ships for defence to particular

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H. OF R.]

Defensive Measures.

(JUNE, 1797.

cases."

A gentleman from Connecticut (Mr cially by those gentlemen who contended that the Coir) had moved to amend it so as to read: “To French Government is not accountable for the restrict the arming of merchant ships.” &c., "to hostile acts in the West Indies, though avowedly the trade to the East Indies and the Mediterra- founded on one of their decrees, and done by their nean.” It had then been moved to insert before public and acknowledged agents. If, under these the word " Indies” the words "and West," so as circumstances, the French Government be not to make the proposition stand, "to restrict the answerable for these acts, because it has not esarming of merchant ships," &c., "to the trade pecially authorized them, how, he would ask, of the East and West Indies, and the Mediterra- could the American Government be accountable nean." That was the motion then under discus- for acts done, not only without its authority, but sion. The question was, whether merchants' against its express and public orders ? For acts ships engaged in the West India trade should be which, instead of being able to avow, should it prevented entirely from arming for defence? And think fit, as the French Government do with rethis the gentleman from Maryland had declared spect to the depredations in the West Indies, it to be a question of peace or war.

would be bound to punish. But how, he would ask, was it a question of He would exemplify this general position as to peace or war?

Was it not practicable to leave the manner of modifying this measure, by some The merchants possessed of this right, but under particular cases, not in order to point out all the such regulations and restrictions as would take modifications whereof it was susceptible, or to away the danger of abuse, or, if abuses should declare that he would support all that he should happen, would save the nation from responsibility, mention, but to show how it might be modified would take away cause of offence from other na- so as to remove every objection. tions? He believed it was practicable, and he In the first place, Britain exercised the right of should now endeavor to show it. The question taking the goods of her enemies, if found on had now been presented to us in its abstract form. board of our ships. This France alleged was a In this form it was proper first to discuss it. The right given to the English by our treaty with modifications would com afterwards, when it them, and that she also had become entitled to it. should assume the form of a bill. Gentlemen She therefore declared that she would take the had complained of this mode, and called for the goods of her enemies whenever she could find modifications in the first instance; but they had them in our ships. This point we do not conthemselves proved that this mode was proper. cede ; but neither do we mean to resist the right They had not only proved by the tenor of their by force. We intend to negotiate, and perhaps to opposition, that they meant to vote against the yield it, if found expedient. It would therefore measure under any possible modification, but had be improper, and contrary to the spirit of this neexpressly declared it. One gentleman from Vir- gotiation, to permit our vessels io arm in this ginia, (Mr. GILES,) had even declared that he trade; and consequently every vessel which shall would vote against every proposition on the table. take on board goods the property of the enemies Why, then, spend time in modifying a measure of France, must be prevented from arming. which, however modified, gentlemen were re- Every vessel, before she arms, must give suffisolved to oppose? The proper way was to see cient proof that she has no such goods on board, whether it could be carried in its general form, and sufficient security not to take them. and let the modification come afterwards. Though, So also as to contraband, about which there is however, he thought it improper to propose any a point in dispute between us and France, which modification at present, he would tell gentlemen we mean to settle by negotiation. The French and endeavour to show the committee how, in bis Treaty limits the contraband list. In the British, opinion, it might be modified so as to strip it of all it is more extended, and the French declare that its dangers.

they will extend it in the same manner. Here is There were, he said, three kinds of trade, as a dispute, which, like the former, we mean to between us and France. There was one kind settle, if possible, by negotiation. We must not, prohibited either by treaties or the law of nations; therefore, permit our citizens to contest it by one kind in dispute, and one kind neither prohibit arms, and accordingly, vo vessel should be pered nor in dispute. To this last kind the right mitiéd to arm without proving that she had none might be, and in his opinion ought to be restricted. of these articles on board, and giving security to These restrictions should be expressed in the law, take none. If she did so, it would be contrary to and in precise instructions, and heavy penalties, her instructions, and at her own risk. The bonds under good security, should be exacted for the ob- would be forfeited, the act disapproved, and the servance of these instructions. Thus, as the in- nation saved from all responsibility. structions would be confined wholly to a trade The same observations, he said, would apply neither prohibited nor in dispute, they could not to the case of a place blockaded or besieged. By be complained of, and if they were infringed, it the laws of nations, provisions could not be carwould not be the act of the nation. The nation ried to a blockaded or besieged place. What would have only to disavow the act, and show would constitute a siege or blockade, was a questhe instructions whereby it was forbidden; it then tion of the law of nations; but the existence of became the private act of parties, for which they the siege or blockade must, in the first instance, were punishable, but the nation not bound to be notified to neutrals by the party forming it.

This must be admitted by all, espe- l It could be known in no other manner; for the JUNE, 1797.]

answer.

Defensive Measures.

[H. OF R.

neutrals must be unacquainted with the circum- forfeit these bonds.” And thus all justifiable stances, and the besieged party would not testify cause of offence would be taken away. against themselves. Indeed, access could not be He said "justifiable cause of offence,” because bad to them, and, of course, their opinion could it was, and always would be, impossible to take not be known. The besiegers must therefore away pretexts of war from a nation that has make the declaration in the first instance, and resolved on it. Such pretexts, it was well known neutrals must believe it. Whether false or true, from the history of all nations and ages, had becomes afterwards a question in the Courts of never been wanting, when one Power was reAdmiralty, or between the Governments; but solved to attack another. All that could be done for neutrals to dispute it in the first instance, at by a State desirous of peace, was to avoid real the mouths of their cannon, would be an act of cause of offence, justifiable cause of quarrel. This hostility; therefore, if a French squadron should must be our conduct. We must avoid justifiaplace itself before an English port in the West ble ground of complaint and offence; this would Indies, and declare it in a state of blockade, our be done by the measures recommended, and we armed ships must be instructed to abstain from could do no more. If France were so determined any attempt to enter. Even if half a dozen on a quarrel as to attack us under so flimsy a French privateers were to station themselves off pretence, she would find others were we to dePortsmouth, and declare it in a state of blockade, prive her of this. War we should have, if war our ships must not dispute the point or attempt to was her desire; and the only possible chance of go in by force. If they do not think it blockaded, avoiding it would be by letting her see that it was they may attempt to enter peaceably, if they not her interest. Mr. H. was not afraid to proplease, and, when taken, dispute the point in the nounce the word war. He was neiiher afraid of Courts of Admiralty, or leave it to the two Gov- the thing, nor alarmed at the sound; and he ernments to be settled by negotiation; but they could conceive easily of circumstances in which must be prevented from clearing out for such all the interests of this country would call for ports with arms, and forbidden, under strong war. Those circumstances he did not believe penalties, to attempt to enter by force. Should now to exist. He believed they might be averted, they make such attempts, it is at their own risk, and that to adopt this measure, would strongly and not an act of the Government.

tend to produce that effect. Much had been said So also as to places declared to be in a state of about a clamor of war which had on former occarebellion. There are several ports in the West sions been raised. If such a clamor had been Indies which the French authority there has raised, the justice would be done him to acknowdeclared to be in this state. The truth of this ledge that he had never assisted it. He had declaration will be a matter of controversy when never resorted to the alarm of war. It was an any of our vessels shall be taken in the attempt event which he had never apprehended, nor did to enter those ports peaceably; but, in the mean- he now apprehend it. It was an event always time, they must not be allowed to attempt to possible, and for which every country ought to enter by force. They must be prohibited in the be prepared, and this constant state of preparation same manner as if the place were declared by the was the best means of averting it, which was eommander of a squadron to be in a state of not to be done by temporising measures. blockade. At least, Mr. H. said, this appeared to country which acts justly towards others and him to be proper, according to his present view shows a desire of peace, and, at the same time, a of the point. He might hereafter think other resolution to defend itself, will always be the wise, for his mind was not fully made up. But most safe from injury and aggression. the adoption of the proposition demands serious When Mr. H. sat down, there was a loud call consideration; it was certainly practicable, and, for the committee to rise (it being past three) if done, would save the Government from any when Mr. Livingston rose, and hoped the quesresponsibilty, and that was sufficient for the tion would be taken. The question was put for present purpose.

the committee to rise, and carried—42 to 40. These modifications, Mr. H. said, and as many more as might be thought necessary, it would be

CORPS OF ARTILLERISTS, &c. practicable to introduce into a bill. The provis- A bill was received from the Senate for raising ions of this bill would be digested into a set of and organizing an additional corps of artillerists instructions, and owners of vessels applying for and engineers, which was read the first time; permission to arm defensively, would be obliged when Mr. Macon moved that it be rejected, as to conform to the law, and to give large bonds he saw no necessity for increasing our army. with sufficient security for conforming io the in- The motion was opposed by Mr. W. Smith, who structions. Resolves, by way of indictment, might said the men would be wanted for supplying the also be added for masters of vessels who should garrisons; and in order to get rid of the question, contravene the instructions. If they should still he moved the House to adjourn. Carried. be contravened, the Government would have nothing to do but disavow the act, show the in

THURSDAY, June 8. structions, and say to the other nation, "punish these persons if you can catch them; they have

EXPORTATION OF ARMS, &c. disobeyed our orders, and if they come here we The bill for preventing the exportation of arms will punish them. In the meantime, we will land ammunition, was read the third time ; when

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