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The foregoing sketch of this debate, though imperfect, presents the principal arguments on both sides of the question ; some of which have been more than once reproduced in the discussions of the same or kindred subjects since that period.
On the 3d of February, the question was taken upon the first resolu. tion, and carried by a majority of five. When the second resolution, which related to the duties, came up for consideration, Mr. Fitzsimmons moved an amendment designed to extend its operation to all nations. This motion gave way to one from Mr. Nicholas, restricting its effects to Great Britain. The subject was then postponed until the first Monday of March.
On the 5th of February, the house took up a report made in pursuance of a resolution previously adopted, declaring " that a naval force ade. quate to the protection of the commerce of the United States against the Algerine corsairs, ought to be provided." The bill provided for the building of six frigates; four of forty-four, and two of thirty-six guns, each. The debate on this subject affords another of the many illustrations of the common propensity to view public measures through a party medium.
The proposed force was said to be insufficient to answer the intended purpose, and could not be brought into immediate use. It would be cheaper and more eligible to purchase the friendship of the Algerines, as other nations had done. Or, if this was impracticable, we might purchase the aid of foreign powers in protecting our commerce. But the plan was most objectionable, as being the commencement of a permanent navy; the expense of which would perpetuate the public debt, and load the people with insupportable burdens. We had gone far enough in this system of tyranny-that of governing a nation by debts. The oppressions of the people of England and France, caused in great part by their expensive navy establishments, had led to the overthrow of the monarchy of the one, and was threatening that of the other.
To this it was replied, that the information lately communicated forbade all hope of purchasing peace. To subsidize other nations to protect our commerce, when we were able to protect it ourselves, was derogatory to the national character. Besides, nations at peace with Algiers would be unwilling to relinquish that peace for any sum we would pay them. Nations at war with that power, had sufficient inducements to check the depredations of their enemy without subsidies. With a navy of our own, we could coöperate effectually with any power that might be at war with Algiers, and accomplish what could not be done by a single nation. Against the expense of the contemplated force, must be offset the value of ships and cargoes saved, and the money paid in extra insurance and for the ransom of captured seamen. But a far more important object was, to prevent an increase of the number of these unfortunate captives. It was a matter of surprise that alarm should be taken at & proposition to equip a small armament, especially by gentlemen who had just advocated the improvement of our navigation as a measure of defense, at the hazard of a commercial war with Great Britain.
The question on the final passage of the bill was carried by a majority of eleven votes; several members of the opposition having voted in the affirmative. The bill was concurred in by the senate, and approved by the president.
The British order of the 8th of June, 1793, designed to cut off supplies from France, has been noticed. On the 6th of November, additional instructions were issued to the commanders of British ships of war and privateers, directing them" to stop and detain all ships laden with goods, the produce of any colony belonging to France, or carrying provisions or other supplies for the use of such colony, and to bring the same, with their cargoes, to legal adjudication in the courts of British admiralty." The American minister in England had no notice of these instructions until the last of December. Under this new order, American vessels engaged in French West India trade, were, without previous notice, seized, carried into British West India ports, and some of them condemned.
The intelligence of these instructions increased the excitement against Great Britain ; and war was considered a probable event. On the 12th of March, Mr. Sedgwick moved a series of resolutions, proposing to raise a military force of 15,000 men, to be brought into actual service only in case war should break out; and to be drilled, in the mean time, not exceeding twenty-four days in a year, for which they were to receive half a dollar per day. One of the resolutions authorized the president to lay an embargo for forty days, if he should deem it necessary. The majority, however, determined to resume the consideration of Mr. Madison's commercial regulations. A debate ensued, no less animated than the first; but the house came to no decision.
It was now urged against this plan, that it was not adapted to the present emergency. In the event of a war it would be useless. Besides, it was a measure upon which the public sentiment was not sufficiently united. Its tendency was to provoke war, and to prevent that unanimity in which the strength of the country consisted.
In support of the resolutions, it wag said, that they could do no harm, even in case of war; as they would not prevent the adoption of any
other measures that might be judged necessary. And in the negotiation of peace, they would serve a valuable purpose as a basis for such negotiation.
The indications of war were now strengthened by the appearance of what was said to be a speech of lord Dorchester at Quebec, on the 10th of February, to the deputation of a general council of the Western Indians, held at the rapids of the Miami. In this speech, a war between the United States and Great Britain was spoken of as probable.
The resolutions of Mr. Sedgwick had been negatived; but the subject was resumed on the 26th of March, and a substitute adopted, laying an embargo for thirty days, on all vessels in the ports of the United States, bound to any foreign place. This measure was intended to save our commerce from farther exposure to depredation, or to prevent a supply of the British forces in the West Indies. A bill was passed for fortify. ing certain ports and harbors; and a report was adopted, providing an addition to the regular military force, of 25,000 men, and authorizing the requisition of 80,000 militia from the several states, to be ready to march at a moment's warning.
Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, having given notice of a resolution, declaring that provision ought to be made for the indemnification of all citizens of the United States, whose vessels or cargoes had been seized and confiscated by any of the belligerent powers, contrary to the law of nations," Mr. Dayton moved a resolution for the sequestration of all debts due from American citizens to British subjects, and to compel their payment into the treasury as a fund for the proposed indemnification,
This resolution was debated with great vehemence. · The peace measures of the government were severely reprobated, as manifesting a disregard of public sentiment in behalf of France, and as having encouraged Great Britain to new aggressions. The resolution was opposed as injurious to our credit, unjust, and of dangerous tendency.
Before any question was taken on this proposition, information was received from Mr. Pinckney, our minister at London, that the British order of November 6th had been revoked by another of January 8th, instructing British cruisers to capture only those neutral vessels which were bound with the produce of the French islands on a direct
voyage to Europe; or whithersoever bound, if such produce belonged to French subjects ; thus leaving the direct trade to the French islands free to American vessels conveying the property of our own citizens.
Mr Pinckney also communicated an explanation by lord Grenville, stating that the objects of the order of November 6th, were to prevent apprehended abuses from the St: Domingo fleets having sailed to the United States, and to favor a contemplated attack upon the French West India islands; for which purposes the order was no longer necessary. It was stated also, that no vessels were to be condemned under that order, if, on trial, they should not be found to have violated other laws. The concealment of the first order from our minister admitting of no justification, and both the orders being an infringement of neutral rights, the explanation was unsatisfactory. Nor did it allay the public excitement. The minority of the house, and all who refused to espouse the French cause, were represented as British partisans. One of the numerous facts illustrative of the state of the French feeling, at this period, is the following: In a report made by the secretary of state, Mr. Randolph, relative to the vexations of American commerce, by officers and cruisers of the belligerent powers, said it was urged that the French privateers had harassed our trade no less than those of the British, and that France had violated her treaty with us. Although he had been long known as a devoted friend of France, his fidelity to the cause of France and liberty was suspected.
Regulations more stringent than those contemplated by Mr. Madison's resolutions, being deemed necessary at the present juncture, Mr. Clark, of New Jersey, on the 7th of April, moved a resolution to prohibit all commercial intercourse with Great Britain, so far as respected the products of Great Britain and Ireland, until her government should make compensation for injuries sustained by citizens of the United States from British armed vessels, and until the western posts should be given up. The favor with which this proposition was received, indicated its passage by the house; and the equal division of parties in the senate rendered its rejection by that body doubtful.
Determined to leave unemployed no means consistent with the national honor to prevent war—an event quite likely to follow the measure proposed—the president concluded to make an effort at negotiation. Accordingly, on the 16th of April, he nominated to the senate John Jay as envoy extraordinary of the United States, to Great Britain. This nomination was opposed, because the mission was deemed impolitic and unnecessary; also because he was a judge of the supreme court, and was withal considered too friendly to Great Britain, having, while secretary of foreign affairs, stated certain infractions of the treaty of peace on the part of the United States. The nomination was confirmed, however, 18 to 8.
The discussion of Clark's resolutions was continued. They were opposed on the ground that they would be an obstacle to negotiation—that they manifested a partiality toward one of the belligerents, incompatible with a state of neutrality. On the other hand it was urged that the measure could not lead to war; and it would facilitate instead of embarrassing negotiation. The condition on which the intercourse was to be restored-the surrender of the western military posts--having been struck out, the resolutions were adopted, 58 to 38. A bill conforming is
the same was passed by the house by the same vote; but was defeated in the senate by the casting vote of the vice-president.
As the success of Mr. Jay's contemplated mission was considered doubtful, and as a state of war was likely to follow the failure of negotiation, it was deemed proper to prepare for such event, by carrying into effect the measure previously reported. The raising of 25,000 more was negatived. The proposed detachment of the 80,000 minute-men, and other necessary preparations for war were authorized. Additional taxes would of course become necessary. But in selecting the objects of taxation there was a difference of opinion. The bill, as passed, imposed additional duties on imports, taxes on pleasure carriages, snuff, refined sugar, on sales at auction, and on licenses for retailing liquors. It received much opposition. A direct tax, (land tax,) had been reported by the committee, and had some strenuous advocates among the opposition members. It was declared to be a less objectionable tax than any other. They were in favor of raising the whole sum by direct taxes and duties on imports
. The tax on carriages was pronounced unconstitutional; and its payment was afterward refused in Virginia, until the question was decided by the supreme court of the United States.
At this session, a second inquiry into the official conduct of the secre. tary of the treasury, was moved by Mr. Giles, the mover in the former case. The motion was agreed to without opposition, Mr. Hamilton himself being known to desire the inquiry. After a laborious investigation by the committee, of which Mr. Giles was the head, no cause of censure was found. The result was deemed the more honorable to the secretary, as the inquiry was conducted by his political opponents.
A law was also passed, prohibiting the exercise, within the United States, of the powers assumed by Genet, of enlisting men and arming vessels, setting on foot military expeditions against nations at peace with the United States, and authorizing the president to employ force in executing the laws. Notwithstanding the favorable responses of both houses to that part of the president's speech at the opening of the session, relating to his efforts to maintain neutrality, this bill met with a determined opposition. It originated in the senate, where it was saved only by the casting vote of the vice-president. In the house, as in the senate, motions were made to strike out some of its clauses deemed most essential; and with respect to that which prohibited the condemnation and sale, within the United States, of prizes of the subjects of nations peace with us,
the motion was successful. This law is still in force. On the 9th of June, the third congress closed its first session, and adjourned to the first Monday of November. The most important events that occurred in the intermediate time, were the defeat of the western Indians by General Wayne, and the suppression of the "whisky insur