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we have carried on the war, will make for us an ignominious peace. I cannot believe that to retain their seats is the extent of the amor patriæ of gentlemen in this House. Can we let our brave countrymen, a Daviess and his associates in arms, perish in manfully fighting our battles, while we meanly cling to our places ? But I cannot persuade myself that the nation will be ungrateful. I am convinced that when they know that their government has been strictly impartial towards the belligerents—for surely no gentleman in this House can be so base as to ascribe partiality or other improper motives to us—when they perceive the sincere and persevering exertions of their government to preserve peace; they will continue to adhere to it, even in an unsuccessful war to defend their rights, to assert their honor, the dignity and independence of the country But
my ideas of duty are such, that when my rights are invaded, I must advance to their defence, let what may be the consequence; even if death itself were to be my certain fate.
I must apologize for having trespassed so long upon the patience of the Committee. I trust that I have fully established these three positions : that the quantum of the force proposed by the bill is not too great—that its nature is such as the contemplated war calls for; and that the object of the war is justified by every consideration of justice, of interest, of honor, and love of country. Unless ihe object is attained by peaceful means, I hope that war will be waged before the close of the session.
ON THE INCREASE OF THE NAVY.
In The House of REPRESENTATIVES, JANUARY 22, 1812.
[A BILL providing for the general repair and increase of the Navy, the purchase of timber, ordnance, stores, &c. &c., in view of the approaching collision with Great Britain, having been reported to the House, and the section providing for new frigates, leaving a blank for the numbe, Mr. CHEVES of S. C. moved to fill the blank with tеn. Mr. RHEA of Tenn. moyrd to strike this section out of the Bill. The motion to strike out was advocated by Messrs. RHEA, (mover,) SMILIE of Pa., BLACKLEDGE of N. C., and Bord of N. J., and opposed by Messrs. CHEVES, Newton of Va., Clay of Ky., and MITCHEIL of N. Y., and was rejected by a rote of 52 to 47. Mr. Clay spoke as follows:]
As I do not precisely agree in opinion with any gentleman who has spoken, I shall take the liberty of deaining the committee a few moments, while I offer to their attention some observations. I am highly gratified with the temper and ability with which the discussion has hitherto been conducted. It is honorable to the House, and, I trust, will continue to be manifested on many future occasions.
On this interesting topic a diversity of opinion has existed almost ever since the adoption of the present government. On the one hand, there appear to me to have been attempts made to precipitate the nation into all the evils of naval extravagance, which have been productive of so much mischief in other countries; and on the other, strongly feeling this mischief, there has existed an unreasonable prejudice against providing such a competent naval protection for our commercial and maritime rights as is demanded by their importance, and as the increased resources of the country amply justify.
The attention of Congress has been invited to this subject by the President, in his Message delivered at the opening of the session. Indeed, had it been wholly neglected by the Chief Magistrate, from the critical situation of the country, and the nature of the rights proposed
to be vindicated, it must have pressed itself upon our attention. But the President in his message observes: “Your attention will, of course, be drawn to such provisions on the subject of our naval force as may be required for the service to which it is best adapted. I submit to Congress the seasonableness also of an authority to augment the stock of such materials as are imperishable in their nature, may not at once be attainable.” The President, by this recommendation, clearly intimates an opinion that the naval force of this country is capable of producing effect; and the propriety of laying up imperishable materials was no doubt suggested for the purpose of making additions to the navy, as convenience and exigences might direct.
It appears a little extraordinary, that so much unreasonable jealousy should exist against the naval establishment. If we look back to the period of the formation of the constitution, it will be found that no such jealousy was then excited. In placing the physical force of the nation at the disposal of Congress, the convention manifested much greater apprehension of abuse in the power given to raise armies than in that to provide a navy. In reference to the navy, Congress is put under no restrictions; but with respect to the army—that description of force which has been so often employed to subvert the liberties of mankind—they are subjected to limitations designed to prevent the abuse of this dangerous power. But it is not my intention to detain the committee by a discussion on the comparative utility and safety of these two kinds of force. I wish, however, to be indulged in saying, that I think gentlemen have wholly failed in maintaining the position they assumed, that the fall of maritime powers is attributable to their navies. They have told us, indeed, that Carthage, Genoa, Venice, and other nations, had navies, and notwithstanding were finally destroyed. But have they shown by a train of argument, that their overthrow was, in any degree, attributable to their maritime greatness ? Have they attempted even to show, that there exists in the nature of this power a necessary tendency to destroy the nation using it? Assertion is substituted for argument; inferences not authorized by historical facts are arbitrarily drawn; things wholly unconnected with each other are associated togethera very logical mode of reasoning, it must be admitted! In the same way I could demonstrate how idle and absurd our attachments are to freedom itself. I might say, for example, that Greece and Rome had forms of free government, and that they no longer exist; and, dedu
cing their fall from their devotion to liberty, the conclusion in favor of despotism would very satisfactorily follow! I demand what there is in the nature and construction of maritime power to excite the fears that have been indulged? Do gentlemen really apprehend that a body of seamen will abandon their proper element, and, placing themselves under an aspiring chief, will erect a throne to his ambition? Will they deign to listen to the voice of history, and learn how chimerical are their apprehensions ?
But the source of alarm is in ourselves. Gentlemen fear that if we provide a marine it will produce collisions with foreign nationsplunge us into war, and ultimately overturn the constitution of the country. Sir, if you wish to avoid foreign collision, you had better bandon the ocean ; surrender all your commerce ; give up all
your prosperity. It is the thing protected, not the instrument of protection, that involves
Commerce engenders collision, collision war, and war, the argument supposes, leads to despotism. Would the counsels of that statesman be deemed wise who would recommend that the nation should be unarmed that the art of war, the martial spirit, and martial exercises, should be prohibited—who should declare, in the language of Othello, that the nation must bid “farewell to the neighing steed, and the shrill trump, the spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife, and all the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war”-and that the great body of the people should be taught that the national happiness was to be found in perpetual peace alone? No, sir. And yet every argument in favor of a power of protection on land applies, in some degree, to a power of protection on the sea. Undoubtedly a commerce void of naval protection is more exposed to rapacity than a guarded commerce; and if we wish to invite the continuance of the old, or the enactment of new edicts, let us refrain from all exertion upon that element where we must operate, and where, in the end, they must be resisted.
For my part, I do not allow myself to be alarmed by those apprehensions of maritime power which appear to agitale other gentle
In the nature of our government I behold abundant security against abuse. I would be unwilling to tax the land to support the rights of the sea, and am for drawing from the sea itself the resources with which its violated freedom should at all times be vindicated. Whilst this principle is adhered to, there will be no danger
of runing into the folly and extravagance which so much alarm gentle. men; and whenever it is abandoned—whenever Congress shall lay burdensome taxes to augment the navy beyond what may be authorized by the increase of wealth, and demanded by the exigences of the country, the people will interpose, and, removing their unworthy representatives, apply the appropriate corrective. For these reasons I can see no just ground of dread in the nature of naval power. It is, on the contrary, free from the evils attendant upon standing armies. And the genius of our institutions--the great representative principle, in the practical enjoyment of which we are so eminently distinguished, affords the best guarantee against the ambition and wasteful extravagance of government. What maritime strength is it expedient to provide for the United States ? In considering this subject, three different degrees of naval power present themselves. In the first place, such a force as would be capable of contending with that which any other nation is able to bring on the ocean—a force that, boldly scouring every sea, would challenge to combat the fleets of other powers, however great. I admit it is impossible at this time, perhaps it never will be desirable, for this country to establish so extensive a navy. Indeed, I should consider it as madness in the extrome in this government to attempt to provide a navy able to cope with the fleets of Great Britain, wherever they might be met.
The next species of naval power to which I will advert, is that which, without adventuring into distant seas, and keeping generally in our own harbors, and on our coasts, would be competent to beat off any squadron which might be attempted to be permanently stationed in our waters. My friends from South Carolina (Messrs. Cheves and Lowndes) have satisfactorily shown that, to effect this object, a force equivalent only to one-third of that which the maintenance of such a squadron must require, would be sufficient--that if, for examplc, England should determine to station permanently upon our coast a squadron of twelve ships of the line, it would require for this service thirty-six ships of the line, one-third in port repairing, one-third on the passage, and one-third on the station. But that is a force which it has been shown that even England, with her boasted navy, could not spare for the American service, whilst she is engaged in the present contest. I am desirous of seeing such a force as I have described, that is, twelve ships of the line, and fifteen or twenty frigates, provided for the United States; but I admit that it is unattainable in