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in this branch of the General Government the power to take possession of the country, whenever it might be proper in his discretion. The President has not, therefore, violated the Constitution and usurped the war-making power, but he would have violated that provision which requires him to see that the laws are faithfully executed, if he had longer forborne to act. It is urged that he has assumed powers
belonging to Congress, in undertaking to annex the portion of West Florida, between the Mississippi and the Perdido, to the Orleans Territory. But Congress, as has been shown, has already made this annexation, the limits of the Orleans Territory, as prescribed by Congress, comprehending the country in question. The President, by his proclamation, has not made law, but has merely declared to the people of West Florida what the law is. This is the office of a proclamation, and it was highly proper that the people of that Territory should be thus notified. By the act of occupying the country, the government de facto, whether of Spain or the revolutionists, ceased to exist; and the laws of the Orleans Territory, applicahle to the country, by the operation and force of law attached to it. But this was a state of things which the people might not know, and which every dictate of justice and humanity therefore required should be proclaimed. I consider the bill before us merely in the light of a declaratory law.
Never could a more propitious moment present itself for the exercise of the discretionary power placed in the President, and bad he failed to embrace it, he would have been criminally inattentive to the dearest interests of this country. It cannot be too often repeated, that if Cuba on the one hand, and Florida on the other, are in the possession of a foreign maritime power, the immense extent of country belonging to the United States, and watered by streams discharge ing themselves into the Gulf of Mexico.--that is one-third, nay, more than two-thirds of the United States, comprehending Louisiana, are placed at the mercy of that power. The possession of Florida is a guarantee absolutely necessary to the enjoyment of the navigation of those streams. The gentleman from Delaware anticipates the most direful consequences from the occupation of the country. He supposes a sally from a Spanish garrison upon the American forces, and asks what is to be done? We attempt a peaceful possession of the country to which we are fairly entitled. If the wrongful occupants under the authority of Spain assail our troops, I trust they will no
trieve the lost honor of the nation in the case of the Chesapeake. Suppose an attack upon any portion of the American army within the acknowledged limits of the United States by a Spanish force ? In such event there would exist but a single honorable and manly
The gentleman conceives it ungenerous that we should at this moment, when Spain is encompassed and pressed on all sides by the immense power of her enemy, occupy
West Florida. Shall we sit by passive spectators, and witness the interesting transactions of that country-transactions which tend, in the most imminent degree, to jeopard our rights, without attempting to interfere ? Are you prepared to see a foreign power seize what belongs to us? I have heard in the most credible manner that, about the period when the President took his measures in relation to that country, agents of a foreign power were intriguing with the people there, to induce them to come under his dominion : but whether this be the fact or not, it cannot be doubted that, if you neglect the present auspicious moment -if you reject the proffered boon, some other nation, profiting by your errors, will seize the occasion to get a fatal footing in your southern frontier. I have no hesitation in saying, that if a parent country will not or cannot maintain its authority in a Colony adjacent to us,
and there exists in it a state of misrule and disorder, menacing our peace, and if moreover such Colony, by passing into the hands of any other power, would become dangerous to the integrity of the Union, and manifestly tend to the subversion of our laws, we have a right, upon the eternal principles of self-preservation, to lay hold upon it. This principle alone, independent of any title, would warrant our occupation of West Florida. But it is not necessary to resort to it, our title being in my judgment incontestably good. We are told of the vengeance of resuscitated Spain. If Spain, under any modification of her government, choose to make war upon us, for the act under consideration, the nation, I have no doubt, will be willing to embark in such a contest. But the gentleman reminds us that Great Britain, the ally of Spain, may be obliged, by her connexion with that country, to take part with her against us, and to consider this measure of the President as justifying an appeal to arms. Sir, is the time never to arrive when we may manage our own affairs without the fear of insulting His Britannic Majesty? Is the rod of British power to be for ever suspended over our heads ? Does Congress put on an embargo to shelter our rightful commerce against the piratical depredations committed upon it on the ocean-We are imme
diately warned of the indignation of offended England. Is a law of non-intercourse proposed—the whole navy of the haughty mistress of the seas is made to thunder in our ears. Does the President refuse to continue a correspondence with a minister who violates the decorum belonging to his diplomatic character, by giving and deliberately repeating an affront to the whole nation-we are instantly menaced with the chastisement which English pride will not fail to inflict. Whether we assert our rights by sea, or attempt their maintenance by land—whithersoever we turn ourselves, this phantom incessantly pursues us. Already has it had too much influence on the councils of the nation. It contributed to the repeal of the embargo —that dishonorable repeal, which has so much tarnished the character of our government. Mr. President, I have before said on this floor, and now take occasion to remark, that I most sincerely desire peace and amity with England ; that I even prefer an adjustment of all differences with her, before one with any other nation. But if she persists in a denial of justice to us, or if she avails herself of the occupation of West Florida to commence war upon us, I trust and hope that all hearts will unite in a bold and vigorous vindication of our rights. I do not believe, however, in the prediction that war will be the effect of the measure in question.
It is asked why, some years ago, when the interruption of the right of deposite took place at New Orleans, the government did not declare war against Spain, and how has it happened that there has been this long acquiescence in the Spanish possesion of West Florida ? The answer is obvious. It consists in the genius of the nation, which is prone to peace; in that desire to arrange, by friendly negotiation, our disputes with all nations, which has constantly influenced the present and preceding administrations; and in the jealousy of armies, with which we have been inspired by the melancholy experience of free states. But a new state of things has arisen : negotiation has become hopeless. The power with whom it was to be conducted, if not annihilated, is in a situation that precludes it; and the subject matter of it is in danger of being snatched for ever from our power. Longer delay would be construed into a dereliction of our right, and would amount to treachery to ourselves. May I ask, in my turn, why certain gentlemen, now so fearful of war, were so urgent for it with Spain when she withheld the right of deposite ? and still later, when in 1805 or 6 this very subject of the actual limits of
Louisiana was before Congress? I will not say, because I do not know that I am authorized to say, that the motive is to be found in the change of relation between Spain and other European powers, since those periods.
Does the honorable gentleman from Delaware really believe that he finds in St. Domingo a case parallel with that of West Florida ? and that our government, having an illicit commerce with the former, ought not to have interposed in relation to the latter? It is scarcely necessary to consume your time by remarking that we had no pretensions to that island; that it did not menace our repose, nor did the safety of the United States require that they should occupy it. It became, therefore, our duty to attend to the just remonstrance of France against American citizens supplying the rebels with the means of resisting her power.
I am not, sir, in favor of cherishing the passion of conquest. But I must be permitted, in conclusion, to indulge the hope of seeing, ere long, the new United States, (if you will allow me the expression,) embracing, not only the old thirteen States, but the entire country east of the Mississippi, including East Florida, and some of the territories of the north of us also.
ON ARMING FOR WAR WITH ENGLAND.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DECEMBER 31, 1811.
[THE patience of the Nation having been utterly exhausted by a long series of most flagrant outrages on our Rights and Independence by Great Britain, in the harassing of our Commerce, Searching of our Vessels, Impressment of our Seamen, &c., President Madison transmitted to Congress, on its assembling, November 4, 1811, a Message recommending decisive measures for the vindication of our Na. tional honor, and the redress of our wrongs. The subject immediately became the engrossing one, and many Members spoke in earnest deprecation of War mea. sures-among them John RANDOLPH, of Virginia, with great energy and eloquence. The Committee on Foreign Relations having "reported a series of Resolutions echoing the sentiments of the Message, and proposing the immediate increase of the Army, they were debated at length and adopted. A Bill was thereupon framed in and passed by the Senate, proposing to raise thirteen additional regiments for the publie service. This Bill having reached the House, and being under consideration in Committee of the whole, Mr. Clay (who had entered the House a new Member, aged 34, at the opening of that Session, and been immediately chosen Speaker by a vote of 75 to 44,) rose and addressed the Committee as follows:]
When the subject of raising an additional military force was discussed some days past, it was the pleasure of the House not to deliberate on it in Committee of the Whole. I should not complain of this course of proceeding, nor indeed of any other which they might think fit to take on any other occasion ; but the effect was to preclude me from participating in debate; from taking upon myself that share of responsibility for measures which it has become necessary to adopt at the present moment; a responsibility from which I shall never shrink at any period or on any subject. I owe it to myself, to my constituents, and to my country to express, on this occasion, my views of the great interests involved in the bill under consideration.
The first question which presents itself, in relation to this bill, is as to the quantum of force which it proposes to raise. Is it too large or too small——too strong or too weak? The contemplated army is, to my mind, too great for peace; and I am fearful, far as it is above the wishes of some of those with whom I generally have the honor to