Obrázky stránek

forbid this mode of punishing, or preventing them, equally as relates to aliens and citizens. If they are not crimes, the citizen has no more safety by the constitution, than the alien; for all these provisions apply only to crimes. So that in either event, the citizen has the same reason to expect a similar law to the one now before you, which will subject his person to the uncontrolled despotism of a single man. You have already been told of plots and conspiracies; and all the frightful images, that are necessary to keep up the present system of terror and alarm, have been presented to you; but who are implicated by these dark hints -these mysterious allusions ? They are our own citizens, sir, not aliens. If there is any necessity for the system now proposed, it is more necessary to be enforced against our own citizens, than against strangers; and I have no doubt, that either in this or some other shape, this will be attempted. I now ask, sir, whether the people of America are prepared for this? Whether they are willing to part with all the means which the wisdom of their ancestors discovered; and their own caution so lately adopted to secure their own persons? Whether they are willing to submit to imprisonment, or exile, whenever suspicion, calumny, or vengeance, shall mark them for ruin? Are they base enough to be prepared for this ? No, sir, they will, I repeat it, they will resist this tyrannical system; the people will oppose, the states will not submit to its operations; they ought not to acquiesce, and I pray to God, they never may.

My opinions, sir, on this subject, are explicit, and I wish they may be known; they are, that whenever our laws manifestly infringe the constitution under which they were made, the people ought not to hesitate which they should obey : if we exceed our powers, we become tyrants, and our acts have no effect. Thus, sir, one of the first effects of measures, such as this, if they be acquiesced in, will be disaffection among the states, and opposition among the people to your government; tumults, violations and a recurrence to first revolutionary principles : if they are submitted to, the consequences will be worse. After such manifest violation of the principles of our constitution, the form will not long be sacred; presently every vestige of it will be lost and swallowed up in the gulf of despotism. But should the evil proceed no further than the execution of the present law, what a fearful picture will our country present! The system of espionage thus established, the country will swarm with information spies, delators and all that odious tribe, that breed in the sunshine of despotic power, that suck the blood of the unfortunate, and creep into the bosom of sleeping innocence only to awaken it with a burning wound. The hours of the most unsuspecting confidence; the intimacies of friendship, or the recesses of domestic retirement, afford no security: the companion whom you must trust, the friend in whom you must confide, the domestic who waits in your chamber, are all tempted to betray your imprudence or guardless follies, to misrepresent your words, to convey them, distorted by calumny, to the secret tribunal where jealousy presides, where fear officiates as accuser, where suspicion is the only evidence that is heard.

These, bad as they are, are not the only ill consequences of these measures. Among them we may reckon the loss of wealth, of population and of commerce. Gentlemen, who support the bill, seemed to be aware of this, when yesterday they introduced a clause to secure the property of those who might be ordered to go off. They should have foreseen the consequences of the steps, which they have been taking: it is now too late to discover, that large sums are drawn from the banks, that a great capital is taken from commerce. It is ridiculous to observe the solici. tude they show to retain the wealth of these dangerous men, whose persons they are so eager to get rid of. If they wish to retain it, it must be by giving them security to their persons, and assuring them that while they respect the laws, the laws will protect them from arbitrary powers; it must be, in short, by rejecting the bill on your table. I might mention other inferior considerations : but I ought, sir, rather to entreat the pardon of the House, for having touched on this. Compared to the breach of our constitution, and the establishment of arbitrary power, every other topic is trifling; arguments of convenience sink into nothing; the

preservation of wealth, the increase of commerce, however weighty on other occasions, here lose their importance, when the fundamental principles of freedom are in danger. I am tempted to borrow the impressive language of a foreign speaker, and exclaim_ Perish our commerce, let our constitution live;" perish our riches, let our freedom live. This, sir, would be the sentiment of every American, were the alternative between submission and wealth : but here, sir, it is proposed to destroy our wealth in order to ruin our commerce: not in order to preserve our constitution, but to break it-not to secure our freedom, but to abandon it.

I have now done, sir, but before I sit down, let me entreat gentlemen seriously to reflect, before they pronounce the decisive vote, that gives the first open stab to the principles of our government. Our mistaken zeal, like the patriarch of old, has bound one victim; it lies at the foot of the altar; a sacrifice of the first born offspring of freedom is proposed by those who gave it birth. The hand is already raised to strike, and nothing I fear, but the voice of heaven, can arrest the impious blow.

Let not gentlemen flatter themselves, that the fervor of the moment can make the people insensible to these aggressions. It is an honest, noble warmth, produced by an indignant. sense of injury. It will never, I trust, be extinct, while there is a proper cause to excite it. But the people of America, sir, though watchful against foreign aggressions, are not careless of domestic encroachment; they are as jealous, sir, of their liberties at home, as of the power and prosperity of

their country abroad; they will awake to a sense of their danger. Do not let us flatter ourselves, then, that these measures will be unobserved or disregarded : do not let us be told, sir, that we excite a fervor against foreign aggressions only to establish tyranny at home; that, like the arch traitor, we cry “ Hail Columbia,” at the moment we are betraying her to destruction; that we sing out, “ happy land," when we are plunging it in ruin and disgrace; and that we are absurd enough to call ourselves " free and enlightened,” while we advocate principles, that would have disgraced the age of Gothic barbarity, and establish a code, compared to which the ordeal is wise, and the trial by battel is merciful and just.







A Resolution had been introduced, which, among other provisions,

proposed to limit to forty thousand dollars, the annual appropriation“ for the support of such persons, as the President should commission to serve the United States in foreign parts.” An amendment was brought forward, the object of which was to restrict the President in the exercise of the power of appointing Ministers Plenipotentiary. It proposed to limit the number of Ministers to two; viz. one at London, and one at Paris. The amend

ment was subsequently modified so as to allow one also at Madrid. In Committee of the whole, Mr. Harper spoke as follows:

It was my wish and my hope, Mr. Chairman, when this business was again called up some days ago, after an intermission of three weeks or more, that we should at length be permitted to come to a decision, without further debate, on a question which had so long occupied the attention of the House, and already perhaps exhausted the patience of the public. I and those, with whom I think on this occasion, were willing, for the sake of an early decision, to pass by unanswered many things, which though susceptible, in our opinion, of an easy refutation, were calculated to make an impression to our disadvantage. We were even content to leave unnoticed the violent philippic of the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Nicholas,) who intro

« PředchozíPokračovat »