Слике страница
[ocr errors]

level, instead of rising from 10 to 15 per cent, as had been confidently anticipated by the friends of peace.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Immediately after the close of the negotiations at Ghent, Mr. CLAY repaired to Paris, where he spent several weeks with Mr. CRAWFORD, our Minister there. He met here Madame DE STAEL, and many other eminent personages of the day, and in March, 1815, left Paris for England. He arrived in England before any of the other American Commissioners, and mingled in the highest social and political circles though his repugnance to the formalities of a Court presentation, prevented him from seeing the Prince Regent. He was in London at the time of the Battle of Waterloo, and witnessed the splendid illuminations, bonfires and general rejoicings to which that event gave rise. At a dinner given by Lord CASTLEREAGĦ, Lord LIVERPOOL asked him if NAPOLEON-who, it was thought, might have fled to Americawould not give his countrymen much trouble. “None whatever,” said Mr. CLAY: 6 we shall be glad to receive him, and will soon make a good democrat of him." During his stay in England, Mr. Clay became intimately acquainted with Sir JAMES MACKINTOSH, Sir SAMUEL ROMILLY, and other eminent British statesmen, and spent a week with his friend, Lord GAMBIER, at his residence near Windsor Castle.


fo ed d

Mr. Clay returned to the United States in September, 1815, and was received with the greatest regard by the people, whose rights he had so ably and so nobly aided to defend. Soon after his arrival, the compliment of a public dinner was given to himself and Mr. GALLATIN, in New York; and in his own State the liveliest demonstrations of rejoicing greeted his return. The Board of Trustees of Lexington---the town where

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

he had long resided—waited upon him, formally to present their thanks for his eminent services in behalf of his country, and to express the feelings of joy with which they welcomed him again among them. In his reply to their very flattering compliments, Mr. Clay said, that, “during a great part of the negotiation which terminated in the treaty of Ghent, our duty was limited to the simple rejection of inadmissible terms proposed by the Ministers of Great Britain. The time will never arrive when any American minister can justly acquire honor for performing a duty so obvious as that always must be, of refusing to subscribe to disgraceful conditions of peace.” On the 7th of October the citizens of the same town gave

him a public dinner, at which, in reply to a toast complimentary to the American negotiators, he made some brief and eloquent remarks concerning the circumstances under which the treaty had been concluded, and the general condition of the country, both at the commencement and the close of the war. At the same festival, in reply to a toast highly complimentary to himself, he thanked the company for their kind and affectionate attention. His reception, he said, had been more like that of a brother than a common friend or acquaintance, and he was utterly incapable of finding words to express his gratitude. He compared his situation to that of a Swedish gentleman, at a festival in England, given by the Society for the Relief of Foreigners in Distress. A toast having been given, complimentary to his country, it was expected that he should address the company in reply. Not understanding the English language, he was greatly embarrassed, and said to the Chairman : “Sir, I wish you, and this Society, to consider me a Foreigner in Distress.“So,” said Mr. Clay, evidently much affected, “I wish you to consider me a friend in distress.”

Even in anticipation of his return, Mr. Clay had been reelected, by his district, a member of the House of Represen. tatives; but, as some doubts were expressed of the legality of the election, he promptly resigned his seat, and was again chosen without opposition. On the 4th of December, 1815, the Fourteenth Congress met, in its first session ; and, upon the first balloting for Speaker, Mr. Clay received eightyseven, out of one hundred and twenty-two votes cast; thirteen being the highest number given for any one of the five opposing candidatés. He was, at this time, just recovering from a serious indisposition, but accepted the office in a brief and appropriate speech, acknowledging the honor conferred upon him, and pledging his best efforts for the proper discharge of its duties. Out of the 182 members of the House, 177 belonged to the Republican party; while in the Senate there were 24 Republicans and 12 Federalists. The condition of the country, at the opening of the session, called for the exercise of all the wisdom and energy of her National Legislature. We had just gone through an arduous war with the most powerful nation on the earth : it had been waged successfully; had conferred high renown upon our arms, and had terminated in an honorable and satisfactory treaty of peace. But it had involved the nation in extreme suffering, and the price of the contest was now to be paid. The amount of the Public Debt was as follows:

Public Debt, contracted before the war,.
Funded Debt, contracted in reference to the war,..
Floating Debt, on account of the war,..



Total amount of the Public Debt,..


But the extent of this debt by no means measured the injury which the country had sustained. Previous to the com


mencement of the contest, the wars in which the great Lait tions of Europe were engaged had diverted thatiention of their people from commercial pursuits, and had created a demand for all the surplus products of the world. Holding the advantageous, and at that time, unique, position of a neu. tral nation, the United States had found abroad a ready market for all their produce, and ample employment for her ships, in the carrying trade for all the great powers engaged in the continental combat. But now the unfabled giant, who had stolen from hell its torch of discord, and aroused half the earth to madness and carnage, had been chained to his ocean rock; and the nations of the old world enjoyed rest for a

The weapons of warfare were laid aside; the arts of Peace were revived; and Agriculture, Commerce, and Manufactures, were again prosecuted by the people, who, for so long a time, had looked abroad for the supply of their daily wants. Our grains, of course, were not there needed. We found no market abroad for the surplus products of our fertile land, nor were we longer permitted to absorb the commerce of the world. We had trusted to these foreign aids, and they were now withdrawn from our support. No adequate protection had been given to our Manufactures, and even our naval and military establishments, to a great extent, had depended upon smugglers from Britain for their clothing and necessary munitions of war. For these we had paid an extravagant price, and had thus, besides defraying our expenses during the contest, aided largely our foe in sustaining her own. Now that the war was over, we were forced to look abroad for our supply of manufactured goods, and in return for these, but little of our produce being needed, our specie was exported, and scarcely a dollar of it ever returned. Our Banks had thus been forced to suspend specie payments, and

they were countenanced in the step by both government and people. Exchange upon England rose to 20 and 25 per cent. above par. There were but about fifteen millions of specie in the country, while the issues of the banks amounted to more than one hundred millions of dollars.

Such was the condition of the country, at the opening of the session of 1815-16. In a brief and explicit message, President MADISON informed Congress of the general state of public affairs, and indicated the establishment of a NATIONAL Bank and of a PROTECTIVE TARIFF as the two great measures of relief. In his Annual Report, the financial condition of the country had been fully represented by Hon, A. J. DALLAS, Secretary of the Treasury, and he had, in the following emphatic passage, near the close of that extended and able document, seconded the leading recommendation of the President:

“ The establishment of a National Bank," said he, " is regarded as the best, and perhaps the only, adequate resource to relieve the country and the government from the present embarrassment. Authorized to issue notes which will be received in all payments to the United States, the circulation of its issues will be co-extensive with the Union : and there will exist a constant demand, leaving a just proportion to the annual amount of the duties and taxes to be collected, independent of the general circulation for commercial and social purposes. A National Bank will, therefore, possess the means and the opportunity of supplying a circulating medium of equal use and value in every State and in every district of every State. Established by the authority of the United States; accredited by the government to the whole amount

« ПретходнаНастави »