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JUNE, 1797.]
Defensive Measures.

[H. OF R. solution as to lessen the evil, without any danger advantage, but that it would produce great evils, of offence to other nations. He thought they modify it as they pleased. might. Attempts had been made to terrify them If the power of self-defence was employed with the cry of war; and that they must not pur- against search or capture, it would transgress the sue that or the other plan, for fear of offending law of nations. To prove that resistance to a the French Republic or the British nation. He search was ground of capture, he read passages thought, when they were considering the best from Vattel and Marten. If resistance could be mode of defending our merchants against pirates used at all, then it must be to resist illegal search. and bucapiers, no nation had a right to take This would depend upon Treaties of Commerce offence at them; and, if masters of vessels trans- which might be in existence. By our treaties gressed their orders, they must be accountable. with France, Holland, and, he believed, Spain,

Mr. Giles reprobated the idea of masters of the modes in which searches shall be made have vessels being accountable, and of placing the peace been pointed out. No vessel of war was allowed of the United States at risk upon a merchants to come nearer to our vessels than gun-shot, and bond. The gentleman might be very bold about were not to oblige our vessels to send out their war; he could not help saying he dreaded it. boats, but were themselves to send their boat, with Why, he asked, did they all at once feel this ebul- a certain number of men, on board. lition? They had all the information last session If one of their vessels should attempt to search which they had at present, except as to the insult an American vessel contrary to these stipulations, offered to our Minister; yet he believed, if any it might be called an illegal search, and the proman had come forward with a proposition like vision of self-defence might be carried into effect, the present at that time, he would have been and in this case alone. And he wished to know deemed a madman. And now commissioners whether any advantage was to be derived from are appointed to settle our differences, and they being authorized to resist in such case ? It might were about to lay the foundation for a thousand produce an engagement, but could never prevent fresh disputes. He found himself much alarmed a vessel being taken ; because one of two things at' this, because he knew this country had all to would happen--the privateer would either comlose, and nothing to gain, by war; and nothing ply with the regulations, or go on to fight and increased his apprehension more than the lan-take the vessel. He said it was not possible to guage of gentlemen on that floor. The proposed prevent the vessel from being taken. The genscheme, he said, was a visionary one, and preg- tleman from South Carolina had pointed out a nant with mischief. They all knew there were number of restrictions under which it would be complicated difficulties with respect to the law of proper to place vessels thus armed; bui suppose nations, and it would be the height of folly to the vessel to be in none of these situations, what arm our vessels to contest the point with any was then to be done ? Our vessels, he said, might foreign Power.

be loaded with papers and regulations; the fact Nor did Mr. G. think our present situation so was, that we had no right to judge of the fact. calamitous as some gentlemen had affected to We say no privateer has a right to take this vesstate it. He believed" it was as good as it ever sel, because engaged in a legal trade ; but, if a priwould be in any time of peace. The best criteri- vateer, on inspecting the vessel's papers, suspects on was the price of produce. Much mischief, it the contrary, he may take the vessel, and the was true, had been occasioned by spoliations upon cause must be tried in the admiralty court of the merchants' property at sea; but he believed captor. To prove this, he referred io sundry docmuch greater had been occasioned by wild specu-uments. lations on land. And it was no wonder, that This being the case, he did not see a single adwhen individuals were out of humor from their vantage to be derived from arming, for a privalosses, that extravagant measures should be teer might not only deny the cargo to be a legal thought of; but that they should be seriously one, but that the vessel was American, as had urged in a legislative body, was surprising. He been the case of a capture of a vessel going out trusted there never would be a House of Re- from this port last year-[Mr. G. alluded to presentatives so lost to the interests of its coun- the ship Mount Vernon]—and as no suit had try, as to agree to a measure like the present. been instituted, he supposed the ground was a

Mr. GALLATiN said, that the question having good one. Indeed, he was informed that the vesbeen so frequently called for, he would not again sel and cargo was consigned by power of attorney have troubled the committee, had he not consid- to the consignee in England, to be delivered up on ered the present amendment to be of as great im- her arrival, and that a person on board was in posportance as any question that was likely to come session of the consignment. If there were any before them during the present session. It was other advantages to be derived from arming, he nothing less than to declare that our merchant wished to hear it. vessels, armed in the West India trade, should be It was not, Mr. G. said from a fear of offending under certain restrictions. It had no relation to this or that Power, that he was against this reguwhether the right existed or not; but whether lation, but because it was calculated to draw us they should give the power, if it did not exist, or into hostility; because, if our vessels either rerestrain it, if it did.

sisted search or capture, it would certainly lead He meant to contend, that if the measure was to war; it would not only lead to war, but it was adopted, it could not be productive of one single war!

i

H. OF R.]

Defensive Measures.

[JUNE, 1797.

In addition to what had been said, it might be any armed merchant vessel, whilst a merchant observed, that when the British exclusively com- vessel would be equal to cope with any vessel mitted depredations upon our commerce, nothing which now annoyed our trade in the West Indies. was said about arming our merchant vessels; and If merchant vessels armed at all, he thought if they had done it, he believed it would have there was as much necessity for it to the West Inbeen considered as an infraction of the law of dies as to any other part. He contended that the 1794. He, therefore, submitted it to the commit-construction put upon Victor Hugues's proclamatee, whether a provision like the present would tion was a good one. He said he had examined not be considered as an act of partiality. From into the practice of the neutral nations, and he this opinion, and that the measure would be im- found that Sweden was in the habit of arming mediate hostility, he should oppose it.

her merchantmen. Mr. Harper charged the gentleman last up He called the attention of gentlemen to the with building his superstructure upon a sandy consequences of rejecting the present amendfoundation. He insisted that the power of carry- ment. He believed, if the restrictions were coning vessels into port on suspicion, was done away fined to the East Indies and Mediterranean, that by treaty, and that if a vessel had a regular sea- the bill would not pass the Senate, if it passed that letter and passports on board, there could be no House. The righi of arming would then be sancplea for carrying her in. Mr. H. complained that tioned, and they would have determined not to many American vessels were taken by small pri- restrain it. The consequence would be, that mervateers without any authority whatever. The chants would arm their vessels incompetently, go Mount Vernon, he said, was taken by one of these, and trade with what were called rebel ports, which and there could be no ground of offence to any would cause bloodshed; their vessels would be Government to resist the attacks of such marau- taken and they would be hanged; whereas, if the ders. The spoliations of 1794, and the present, restriction passed, the arming might be confined were wholly different; and, therefore, there could to large vessels, which would be able to defend be po ground for a charge of partiality. At that themselves. He hoped, therefore, the principle time our vessels were taken by large authorized would be agreed to. privateers; now they were principally attacked Mr. Macon was surprised to hear the gentleand taken by small unauthorized vessels. man from South Carolina introduce the opinion

Mr. Gallatin maintained his ground and de- of the Attorney General in the way he had done. nied that a show of regular papers was sufficient That gentleman was to give his opinion when to secure a vessel.

called upon by the House; but it was extremely Mr. W. Smith said, if the construction given irregular to introduce it in the way he had proto our treaties by the gentleman last up was a duced it, as given to an individual. He was opgood one, it would go to nullify several articles posed to the resolution, and said, if large bonds in our treaties whose only tendency was to pre were to be taken, none but men of property could vent vessels being carried into foreign ports as find the security, and it would of course destroy prizes, and therefore, as they were certainly meant all the small vessels trading to the West Indies. to have some meaning, his construction could not The call for the question was loud, and also for be a good one.

the committee to rise. The question for the comThe question was not whether we should au- mittee to rise was put and negatived. thorize our vessels to arm to protect themselves ;

Mr. Williams said he was as desirous of takbut whether, in the first place, our citizens have a ing the question as any one, but he wished to give natural righi to arm and defend themselves, and his reasons for voting in favor of the amendment. if they have the right, whether the Legislature He was far from thinking that the adoption of ought to restrict it, and in what cases. Though this resolution would amount to a declaration of some gentlemen had denied this right to exist, no war; if so, he should be the first to oppose it. proof had been adduced in support of that opin- The measure was recommended to them in the

The question then was, whether the right Speech of the President, and he wished to go should be restricted in voyages to the West In- into a consideration of it. He wished the princidies as well as to the East Indies and Mediter-ple to be agreed to, and referred to a special comranean.

mittee, that they might have a plan reported beThere could be no doubt, Mr. S. said, that if a fore them. But, in doing this, he should not consearch was attempted in any way contrary to the sider himself as pledged to support the bill, except mode directed by treaty, such search was illegal, he approved of it. and warranted resistance. That merchant ves- The question was then taken on inserting the sels had a right to arm in their defence, in addi-“West Indies." and negatived, there being 35 tion to their authorities, he had the opinion of the votes in favor of it, and against it 46. A motion Attorney General of the United States, which he was then made by Mr. Harper for the committee trusted would have due weight with the commit to rise, which was negatived, there being only 32 tee. [He read it; it was dated June 1.]

votes in favor of it. The question was then taken It was said this power was not exercised in on the first amendment, to insert “ East Indies 1794; but he said they were now only about to and the Mediterranean," and carried, 41 to 40. restrict a right which was then unrestrained. The question was about to be taken on the reIndeed, the privateers which then took our ves-solution as amended, when Mr. Dayton said he sels would have been more than an overmatch for I had an amendment to introduce, but that as it

ion.

June, 1797.]

Defensive Measures.

[H. OF R.

was then past four o'clock, he should move that the Executive to interfere in preventing vessels the committee rise. He would just say that his to arm under any circumstances. Members who amendment was intended to change the principle were in favor of arming merchant vessels to all of the resolution altogether; it was to strike out parts of the world, could not be against this pro" restricting," and insert “authorizing under cer- position, because it could be so modified, if a matain regulations.” He could by no means agree jority should think it desirable; but he did not to give his countenance to a resolution that should think it safe to establish the principle, that merconvey an idea that the merchants had a right to chant vessels have a right to arm, without an act arm their vessels without the previous consent of of the Legislature to sanction the practice. If this the Legislature.

amendment was carried, a bill might be brought The committee then rose, and the House ad- in accordingly; if not, he should give his decided journed.

negative to the resolution.

Mr. Dana thought this measure tended to Friday, June 9.

arraign the conduct of Government. The Presi.

dent had not supposed it to be his duty to prevent STEPHEN BULLOCK, from Massachusetts, ap- armed merchant vessels from sailing to the East peared, produced his credentials, was qualified, Indies and Mediterranean. The instructions and took his seat.

given to the custom-houses seemed to be founded The bill for preventing privateering was read on the ground of a right to arm; but, if they the third time and passed.

went on the idea that the merchants had no right RETURN OF ARMS, &c.

to arm without permission, it seemed as if they Mr. Blount proposed a resolution to the fol- ought to have been prevented from arming. lowing effect :

Mr. Dayton showed the reverse of the posiResolved, That the President of the United States be true. He thought the restriction which the

tion of the gentleman who had just sat down, to be requested to cause to be laid before this House a re. President had lately put upon arming vessels, was turn of all the arms, ammunition, accoutrements, and lawful and commendable. other military stores, owned by the United States, specifying their condition, and the place or places of their

Mr. Venable supported the amendment. deposite."

It was put and carried, there being fifty-one

votes in favor of it. The resolution was taken up the next day and

An amendment to add the words, “and for readopted.

stricting," was moved and carried. DEFENSIVE MEASURES.

Mr. Potter was against this resolution, beThe House then resolved itself into a Commit-cause he thought to pass a resolution allowing tee of the Whole on the state of the Union ; when, our merchants to do what they already did, that the fifth resolution being under consideration- is, to go armed to the East Indies and the Medi

Mr. Dayton (the Speaker) rose to make the terranean, would be doing nothing motion which he yesterday proposed to make. It

Mr. W. Smith said he should vote for the was to strike out

restricting" and to insert amendment, because it would not take away the - authorizing under certain regulations." right of merchants to arm, if it already existed;

Mr. D. asked the committee if they had at- it would, on the contrary, sanction it, in the same tended to the consequences which would follow way as the inserting of a known law of nations in the passing of a resolution like this, for restricting a treaty, sanctioned that law. It might also serve armed merchant vessels bound to the East Indies as the foundation of other useful regulations. and Mediterranean? What would be the conse- Mr. Otis believed this resolution would be a quence, if this elementary proposition did not narrowing of the present ground; because he did pass into a law? And if it was now carried, the not know that the word East Indies would inbill, if the detail was not approved, might die in clude Africa. He thought it would be better to that House or the Senate. In that case, this pro- leave the resolution a blank. He moved to strike position would be different from all other original out the words which defined the places to which abstract propositions, because it would go to esta- the regulations should extend. blish the principle that merchants had a right to The Chairman declared this motion not to be arm their vessels, to all parts of the world, if not in order. restricted. And it even had been hinted by the Mr. DAYTON said, a division of the question gentleman from South Carolina, for what purpose might be called for in the House. he could not tell, ibat in the entering upon this The question was then taken on the resolution discussion, the right to arm was in some degree as amended, and negatived; there being 37 for it, admitted. This had excited some degree of alarm and 45 against it. in his mind. He was willing that a committee

REQUISITION OF MILITIA, &c. should be appointed, and that a bill should be reported on the subject to authorize merchant ves. Mr. Blount proposed the following resolutions sels to arm under certain regulations. When that to the committee: bill was before them, such restrictions might be “ Resolved, that provision ought to be made by law, introduced as should render it agreeable to the for putting 80,000 militia of the United States, in equal House; but he never could agree that a resolution proportions from the several States, in a state of requishould pass which should go to deny the right of sition.

H. OF R.]

Defensive Measures.

[JUNE, 1797.

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Resolved, That provision ought to be made by law he was correct in saying, in reference to this defor procuring, by purchase or otherwise, thou- fence, that gentlemen opposed every thing, and sand stand of arms, with accoutrements complete, to proposed nothing. Gentlemen, he said, were very be deposited in the several States, in proportion to the ready to propose things which would cost the pubwhole number of effective men in each.”

lic nothing : the militia measure proposed would DEFENSIVE MEASURES.

cost no more than the passing of ihe law; but, if

ever any expense was to be incurred, then all was Mr. W. Smith said, he had waived a considera- opposition. tion of the third and fourth resolutions, in order The commerce of the country could not be deto pass to the fifth, because he thought it was pro- | fended, without calling upon the people for revebable the committee would have determined upon nue; and he thought those gentlemen who stepped arming our merchant vessels; and if so, it might forward to advocate such measures as involved have influenced the votes of members on those; expense, and which were consequently in some but, as the committee had just decided against degree unpopular, deserved the gratitude of their arming merchant vessels, he should propose an- constituents. He had never hesitated to do this, other resolution to the committee. It was well when he thought it necessary. He should not, known that the three frigates which had been however, object to the passing of this proposition; agreed to be manned, would not be ready for sea he only rose to say, he did not think it immediately for several months; in the mean time there might necessary. be occasion for some armed vessels; he should, Mr. Thatcher objected to the phrase requisitherefore, submit to them the following reso- tion. However fond that gentleman might be of lution :

the French phrases, he did not wish to imitate, Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, them in their expressions in our legislative acts. that the President of the United States ought to be He had no objection to the holding such a number authorized by law to provide a further naval force, of men in readiness. He hoped the sentiment whenever, in his opinion, the circumstances of the would be expressed in American language. country shall require the same ; and that dol- Mr. Blount supposed he should be told, belars be appropriated for that purpose.”

cause he used the word requisition in his resoThe CHAIRMAN said the resolutions of the gen- lutions, that he was one of the factious. He betleman from North Carolina were first in order. lieved if the gentleman looked over the old Con

Mr. W. Smith said he had no objection to the gressional proceedings, he would find that the proposition of the gentleman from North Caro- demands made upon the States were called relina, as a part of a plan of defence, but he thought quisitions. He had, however, no objection to any it also necessary to attend to the protection of our other word which had the same meaning. He

thought the objection a trifling one, and such as Mr. Blount said, it was perfectly indifferent to the gentleman ought to be ashamed of making. him whether the gentlemen from South Carolina Mr. THATCHER replied, that he did not often considered his plan as a part or the whole of a say any thing of which he was ashamed; that he system. That gentleman had accused those who had said nothing about French factions; but, it voted against his proposition, with being unwill-was an old saying, “That a guilty conscience ing to place the country in a posture of defence needs no accuser." Now, he had voted against, and should continue Mr. Blount (with a good deal of warmth) said to vote against, his proposition-but he was will- he should take from no man, with impunity, such. ing, notwithstanding (as he believed all those who language as that. [There was a loud call to voted with him were) to put the country in a order.] state of defence. It was his opinion that internal Mr. Lyon said, perhaps, if the gentleman from defence only was necessary.

He thought the Massachusetts could be persuaded that requisition system which he had proposed would be sufficient. was plain English, he might be satistied. When they had adopted this resolution, it might Mr. W. Smitu called for the reading of a simibe considered whether any thing more was neces- lar resolution passed in 1794 ; which being read, sary. He had no idea of creating a naval force for and a wish expressed that the present might be defence; on the contrary, he believed it would be made conformable to it, Mr. Blount gave his the means of plunging us into fresh difficulties. consent; and, after a few observations from Mr. For this reason, it the resolution he had proposed Williams in favor of the resolution, though he were passed into a law, he should go home satis- denied that it could be carried into effect without fied, with a belief that he had done all that was ne- expense, the resolution was agreed to. cessary. And he was convinced that his con- The resolution respecting the arms was passed stituents would believe that he never wanted a over for the present, until information should be disposition to defend his country when in danger. received as to what quantity of arms Government

Mr. W. Smith did not think these propositions have. Mr. B. wished to make up the quantity could be of any use at present; they would be eighty thousand, and to have them distributed in very proper in case an invasion was apprehended. the way proposed; but upon several gentlemen He thought the principal object, at this time, was expressing opinions that there would not be a to defend our commerce, and thereby secure the want of arms, he consented to postpone the resorevenue arising from it, either by an effectual na- lution. val armament, or by an embargo; and he thought | Mr. W. Smith called the attention of the con

commerce.

JUNE, 1797.]

Defensive Measures.

[H. OF R.

mittee to the resolution he had proposed respect- have no objection, provided it was confined to that ing an additional naval armament.

particular object, to agree to the proposition. Mr. VARNUM could hardly suppose the gentle- Mr. W. Smith declared he had no other object man serious in proposing this resolution, as the in view, nor did the Speech of the President allude power of judging and determining of whatever to anything more. related to the army or navy was assigned by the Mr. Nicholas then moved to add the words, Constitution to the Legislature, and this being "if circumstances hereafter arise which shall make the case, they alone had the right to exercise it, it necessary for the defence of our seacoast." and could not delegate it to another. If a further Mr. Williams moved to add, “ during the recess naval armament were to be provided, he trusted of Congress.” they should provide it, as he should not be willing These amendments were agreed to. to delegate the power (it it could be done) to any Mr. McDowell said these modifications did not man, however great and good he might be. make the thing more acceptable to him. The Pre

Mr. W. Smith said, if the gentleman last up sident had told them this armament was neceshad not appeared very serious, he should not have sary; but they had the facts before them, and he supposed he had really been so. What was his wished that they might theinselves determine the argument? It was, that because Congress was propriety of the measure. The gentleman from empowered to provide a navy, yet they could not South Carolina talked to them about great danger authorize the Executive to do it during the recess from picaroons; but he knew that gentleman had of Congress. As well might he say, that because a great desire to increase our naval force. He that House had only the right to borrow money, doubted not the Executive had the same desire, they could not authorize the President to do the because it would increase his power; but he did business for them. The authority, he took it, not wish that House to give the power out of its emanated from that House, but they could em

own hands. power the President to act in their behalf. For, Mr. Williams thought this resolution was calif the gentleman's construction was true, in what. culated to meet the ideas of the gentleman, as its ever danger this country might be involved, the object was to save expense; for the power was Presideni could not call out the militia. Mr. S. only given to the Executive to be exercised in mentioned several other instances in which this case of necessity. If this power were not to be power was exercised by the Presideni, and par- thus placed, they would doubtless think it necesticularly the power of 'laying an embargo in the sary to provide some additional vessels for the proyear 1794, during the recess of Congress; and tection of our trade. In June, 1794, a similar meathis power, he said, must be given again, except sure to this was agreed to. If they could do the some means for defending our commerce was de- business themselves, he should wish it, because it termined upon; for he believed, when it should was laying an unpleasant business upon the Exebe known that there was no disposition in that cutive. House to defend our commerce, the picaroons Mr. Swanwick thought the force should be dewould swarm upon our coasts. He wished 10 signated. The Senate had proceeded with a bill leave it to the Executive to procure a small num- of this kind, in which the number of vessels was ber of merchant vessels, and convert them into stated. He thought it would be best to see their vessels of war, to be placed either at the entrance bill before they proceeded. Mr. S. did not think of our rivers, or to cruise on our coast. If this the provision would be effectual, and he thought were not done, our coasting trade would be cut there was some weight in the objections to the up. What was then to be done, provided this transferring the power of that House into the hands should be the case, after the House shall have of the Executive. broken up? Was the President again to call Mr. HARPER observed it was not said that the them together to determine what was to be done? present circumstances of the country required this He trusted they did not wish this, and yet gen- armament, but that such a state night arise durulemen came forward and desired to defeat the ing the recess of Congress. If this state now business at the threshold by a Constitutional existed, doubtless the House would go into the scruple. Mr. S. concluded with reading an ex- measure itself; but as it did not, (and there was tract from a newspaper, giving an account of an at least a possibility it might,) he thought the armed American vessel having taught the pica-measure a prudent one. roons civility, and from thence enforcing the Mr. McDowell supported his opinion, and necessity of arming.

declared he did not think the coasting trade of Mr. Varnum defended the construction he had sufficient importance to warrant so expensive a put upon the resolution, as the President was left measure as that proposed. to determine the propriety of the naval force. Mr. GallaTIN allowed that the modification of

Mr. Nicholas defended the construction of the the resolution introduced by the gentleman from gentleman from Massachusetts, though he acknow- Virginia, had rendered the proposition much less ledged, in cases of necessity, the House had thought exceptionable than it was before; but he was it prudent to delegate their powers to the Execu- against it in any shape in which it could be brought tive for special purposes. It became a question before them. In the first place, the modification whether the necessity existed at present. If the of the vessels being confined to the seacoast, was gentleman from South Carolina thought there was not a very clear idea. If it only meant to protect danger to be apprehended on our coast, he should I our neutrality within gunshot, or within nine miles

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