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of the judgment of Congress, in selecting for repeal, modification, or abolition, those which may be found most oppressive, inconvenient, or unproductive.
(The eighteenth and last Toast was: “Our guest, HEXRY CLAY-We welcome his return to that country, whose rights and interests he has to ally mamtained at hoine and abroad."]
My friends, I must again thank you for your kind and affectionate attention. My reception has been more like that of a brother than a comnion friend or aco quaintance, and I am utterly incapable of finding words to express my gratitude My situation is like that of a Swedish gentleman, at a dinner given in England, by the Society of Friends of Foreigners in Distress. A toast having been given complimentary to his country, it was expected, as is usual on such occasions, that he would rise and address the company. The gentleman, not understanding the English language, rose under great embarrassinent, and said: “Sir, I wish you to con. sider me A Foreigner in Distress.” I wish you, gentlemen, to consider me Friend in distress.
ON THE SPANISH TREATY.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, APRIL 3, 1820.
Rorolved, That the Constitution of the United States veste in Congress the power to dispose of the territory belonging to thein, and that no treaty, purporting to aliewale ang puru thereof, is valid without the concurrence of Congress.
Resolved. That the equivalent proposed to be given by Spain to the United States in the treaty conclurled between them, on the 224 of Februars, 1819, for that part of Louisiann lying went of the Subine, was inadequate ; aud that it would be inexpedient to make a tralisser thereot' to any fureigu power, or to renew the aforesaid irealy.
WHILE I feel very grateful to the House for the prompt and respectful manner in which they have allowed me to enter upon the discussion of the resolutions which I had the honor of submitting to their notice, I must at the same time frankly say, that I think their character and consideration, in the councils of this nation, is concerned in not letting the present session pass off without deliberating upon our af. fairs with Spain. In coming to the present session of Congress, it has been my anxious wish to be able to concur with the executive branch of the government in the measures which it might conceive itself called upon to recommend on that subject, for two reasons, of which, the first, relating personally to myself, I will not trouble the committee with further noticing. The other is, that it appears to me to be always desirable, in respect to the foreign action of this government, that there should be a perfect coincidence in opinion between its several coordinate branches. In time, however, of peace, it may be allowable to those who are charge ed with the public interests to entertain and express their respective views, although there may be some discordance between them. In a season of war, there should be no division in the public councils : but an united and vigorous exertion to bring the war to an honorable conclusion. For my part, whenever that calamity may befall my country, I would entertain but one wish, and that is, that success might crown our struggle, and the war be honorably and gloriously terminated. I would never
refuse to share in the joys incident to the victory of our arms, nor to participate in the griefs of defeat or discomfiture. I concede entirely in the sentiment once ex. pressed by that illustrious hero, whose recent melancholy fall we all so sincerely deplore, that fortune may attend our country in whatever war it may be involved.
There are two systems of policy which our government has had the choice. The first is, by appealing to the justice and affections of Spain, to employ all those per. suasives which could arise out of our abstinence from any direct countenance to the causc of South America and the observance of a strict neutrality. The other is, by appealing to her justice also and to her fears, to prevail upon her to redress the injuries of which we complain-her fears by a recognition of the independent governments of South America, and leaving her in a state of uncertainty as to the further steps we may take in respect to those governments. The unratified treaty is the result of the first system. It cannot be positively affirmed what effect the other system will produce; but I verily believe that, while it renders justice to those gore ernments, and will better comport with that magnanimous policy which ought to characterize our own, it will more successfully tend to an amicable arrangement of our differences with Spain.
? The first system has so far failed. At the commencement of the session, the President recommended an enforcement of the provisions of the treaty. After three months deliberation, the Committee of Foreign Affairs, not being able to conour with him, he has made us a report recommending the seizure of Florida in the nature of a reprisal. Now the President recommends our postponement of the subject antil the next session. It has been my intention, whenever the Committee of Foreign Affairs should engage the House to act upon their bill, to offer, as a substitute for it the sys. tem which I think it becomes this country to adopt, of which the occupation of Texas, as our own, would have been a part, and the recognition of the independent goveru. ments of South America anower. If I do not now bring forward this system, it is because the Committee propose to withdraw their bill, and because I know too much of the temper of the House and the Executive, to think that it is advisable to bring it forward. I hope that some suitable opportunity may occur during the session, for considering the propriety of recognizing the independent governments of South America.
Whatever I may think of the discretion which was evinced in recommending the postponement of the bill of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, I cannot think that the reasons assigned by the President for that recommendation, were entitled to the weight which he has given them. I think the House is called upon, by a high sense of duty, seriously to animadvert upon some of those reasons. I believe it is the first example in the annals of the country, in which a course of policy respecting a foreign power, which we must suppose has been deliberately considered, has been reconn. mended to be abandoned, in a doinestic communication from one to another coör di. wate branch of the government, upon the avowed ground of the interposition of for. cign powers. And what is the nature of this interposition? It is evidenced from the cargo of scraps gathered up from this Charge d'Affairs, and that—of loose con. versations held with this foreign minister, and that perhaps mere levee conversa. tions, without a commitment in writing, in a solitary instance, of any of the foreign parties concerned, except only in the case of his Imperial Majesty; and what was the character of his commitment we shall presently see. But I enter my solemn protest against this and every other species of foreign interference in our matters with Spain. What have they to do with them? Would they not repel as an offi
cious and insulting intrusion, any interference on our part in their concerns with for. eign states? Would his imperial majesty have listened with complacency to our remonstrances against the vast acquisitions which he has recently made? He has lately craimed his maw with Finland and with the spoils of Poland, and while the difficult process of mastication is going on he throws himself upon a couch, and cries out-don't, don't disturb my repose.
He charges his minister here to plead the cause of peace and concord! The Amer. ican government is too enlightened” (ah! sir, how sweet this unction is, which is poured down our backs,) to take hasty steps. And his imperial majesty's minister here is required to engage (I hope the original expression is less strong, but I believe the French word engager bears the same meaning, the American government, &c." “Nevertheless, the emperor does not interpose in this discussion." No! not he. He makes above all “no pretension to exercise influence in the councils of a foreign power." Not the slightest. And yet, at the very instant when he is protesting against the impulation of this influence, his interposition is proving effectual! His imperial majesty has at least manifested so far, in this particular, his capacity to govern his empire, by the selection of a sagacious minister. For if Count Nesselrode had never written another paragraph, the extract from his despatch to Mr. Poletica, which has been transmitted to this House, will demonstrate that he merited the con. fidence of his master. It is quite refreshing to read such State papers, after peru. sing those (1 am sorry to say it, I wish there was a veil broad and thick enough to conceal them for ever,) which this treaty has produced on the part of our govern.
Conversations between my Lord Castlereagh and our minister at London have also been communicated to this House. Nothing from the hand of his lordship is produ. ced; no! he does not commit himself in that way. The sense in which our minister understood, and the purport of certain parts of despatches from the British govern. ment to its minister at Madrid, which he deigned to read to our minister, are alone communicated to us. Now we know very well how diplomatists, when it is their pleasure to do so, can wrap themselves up in mystery. No man, more than my Lord Castlereagh, who is also an able minister, possessing much greater talents than are allowed to him generally in this country, can successfully express himself in ambig. uous languuage when he choses to employ it. I recollect myself once to have wit. nessed this facility on the part of his lordship. The case was this: when Bonaparte made his escape from Elba, and invaded France, a great part of Europe believed it was with the connivance of the British ministry. The opposition charged them in Parliament with it, and they were interrogated to know what measures of precaution they had taken against such an event. Lord Castlereagh replied by stating, that there was an understanding with a certain naval officer of high rank, commanding in the adjacent seas, that he was to act on certain contingencies. Now, Mr. Chairman, if you can make any thing intelligible out of this reply, you will have much more success than the English opposition had.
The allowance of interference by foreign powers in the affairs of our government, not pertaining to themselves, is against the counsels of all our wisest politiciansthose of Washington, Jefferson, and I would also add, those of the present chief magistrate, for, pending this very Spanish negotiation, the offer of the mediation of foreign States was declined, upon the true ground that Europe had her system, and we ours; and that it was not compatible with our policy to entangle ourselves in the labyrinths of hers. But a mediation is far preferable to the species of interference on
which it had been my reluctant duty to comment. The mediator is a judge, placed on high, his conscience his guide, the world his spectators, and posterity his judge. His position is one, therefore, of the greatest responsibility. But what responsibility. is attached to this sort of irregular, drawing-room, intriguing interposition? I can see no motive for governing or influencing our policy in regard to Spain, furnished in any of the communications which respected the disposition of foreign powers. I rely gret, for my part, that they have at all been consulted. There is nothing in the character of the power of Spain ; nothing in the beneficial nature of the stipulations of the treaty to us, which warrants us in seeking the aid of foreign powers, is in any case whatever that aid is desirable. I am far from saying that, in the foreign action of this government, it may not be prudent to keep a watchful eye upon the probable conduct of foreigo powers. That may be a material circumstance to be taken into consideration. But I never would avow to our own people-never promulgate to foreign powers, that their wishes and interference were the controlling cause of our policy. Such promulgatioa would lead to the most alarming consequences. It is to invite further interposition. It might, in process of time create in the bosom of our country a Russian faction, a British faction, a French faction. Every nation ought to be jealous of this species of interference, whatever is its form of govern. ment. But of all forms of government the united testimony of all history admonishes a republic to be most guarded against it. From the moment Philip intermeddled with the affairs of Greece, the liberty of Greece was doomed to inevitable destruc. tion.
Suppose we could see the communications which have passed between his imperial majesty and the British government, respectively, and Spain, in regard to the United States; what do you imagine would be their character ? Do you suppose the same language has been held to Spain and to us? Do you not, on the contrary, believe, that the sentiments expressed to her have been consoling to her pride? That we have been represented, perhaps, as an ambitious republic, seeking to aggrandize ourselves at her expense?
In the other ground taken by the President, the present distressed condition of Spain, for his recommendation of sorbearance to act during the present session, I am also sorry to say does not appear to me to be solid. I can well con. ceive how thc weakness of your aggressor might, when he was withholding from you justice, form a motive for your pressing your equitable demands upon him; I cannot accord in the wisdom of that policy which would wait his recovery of strength, so as to enable him successfully to resist those demands. Nor would it comport with the practice of our government heretofore. Did we not, in 1811, when the present monarch of Spain was an ignoble captive, and the people of the Peninsula were con. tending for the inestimable privilege of self-government, seize and occupy that part of Louisiana which is situated between the Mississippi and the Perdido? the people of Spain think of that policy which would not spare them, and which commisserates alone an unworthy prince, who ignominiously surrendered himself to his cnemy; a vile despot, of whom I cannot speak in appropriate language without departing from the respect due to this House or to myself? What must the people of South America think of this sympathizing for Ferdinand, at a moment when they, as well as the people of the Peninsula themselves, (if we are to believe the late accounts, and God send that they may be true,) are struggling for liberty?
Again : when we declared our late just war against Great Britain, did we wait for moment when she was free from embarrassment or distress; or did we not rathor
wisely select a period when there was the greatest probability of giving success to our arms? What was the complaint in England; what the language of faction here? Was it not that we had cruelly proclaimed the war at a time when she was strug. gling for the liberties of the world? How truly, let the sequel and the voice of im. partial history tell.
Whilst I cannot, therefore, persuade myself, that the reasons assigned by the President for postponing the subject of our Spanish affairs until another session, are entitled to all the weight which he seemed to think belonged to them, I do not nevertheless regret that the particular project recommended by the committee of for. eign relations is thus to be disposed of ; for it is war-war, attempted to be disguised. And if we go to war, I think it should have no other limit than indemnity for the past, and security for the future. I have no idea of the wisdom of that measure of hostility which would bind us, whilst the other party is lest free.
Before I proceed to consider the particular propositions which the resolutions contained which I had the honor of submitting, it is material to determine the actual posture of our relations to Spain. I consider it too clear to need discussion, that the treaty is at an end ; that it contains in its present state, no obligation whatever on the part of Spain. It is as if it had never been. We are remitted back to the state of our rights and our demands which existed prior to the conclusion of the treaty, with this only difference, that, instead of being merged in, or weakened by the treaty, they have acquired all the additional force which the intervening time and the faithlessness of Spain can communicate to them. Standing on this position, I should not deem it necessary to interfere with the treaty-making power, if a fixed and persevering pur. pose had not been indicated by it, to obtain the revival of the treaty. Now I think it a bad treaty. The interest of the country, as it appears to me, forbids its renewal. Being gone, it is perfectly incomprehensible to me why so much solicitude is mani. fested to restore it. Yet it is clung to with the same sort of frantic affection with which the bereaved mother hugs her dead infant in the vain hope of bringing it back
Has the House of Representatives a right to express its opinion upon the arrange. ment made in that treaty? The President, by asking Congress to carry it into effect, has given us jurisdiction of the subject, if we had it not before. We derive from that circumstance the right to consider, Ist, if there be a treaty; 2dly, if we ought to carry it into effect; and 3dly, if there be no treaty. It will not be contended that we are restricted to that specific mode of redress which the Presideat intimated in his opening message.
The first resolution which I have presented, asserts that the constitution vests in the Congress of the United States the power to dispose of the territory belonging to them; and that no treaty, purporting to alienate any portion thereof, is valid, without the concurrence of Congress. It is far from my wish to renew at large a discussion of the treaty-making power. The constitution of the United States has not defined the precise limits of that power, because from the nature of it they could not be prescribed. It appears to me, however, that no safe American statesman will assign to it a boundless scope. I presume for example, that it will not be contended that in a government which is itself limited, there is a functionary without limit. The first great bound to the power in question, I apprehend is, that no treaty can constitution. ally transcend the very objects and purposes of the government itself. I think, also, wherever there are specific grants of powers to Congress, they limit and control, or,