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sitions. It did not content itself with non-importation acts, or non-intercourse laws. It was a spirit of active preparation; of dignified energy. It studied, both to know our rights and to devise the effectual means of maintaining them. In all the annals of '76, you will find no such degrading doctrine, as that maintained in this report. It never presented to the people of the United States, the alternative of war or a suspension of our rights, and recommended the latter rather than to incur the risk of the former. What was the language of that period, in one of the addresses of Congress to Great Britain ?
“ You attempt to reduce us by the sword to base and abject submission. On the sword, therefore, we rely for protection.” In that day there were no alternatives presented to dishearten; no abandonment of our rights, under the pretence of maintaining them; no gaining the battle by running away. In the whole history of that period there are no such terms as “ embargo; dignified retirement; trying who can do each other the most harm.” At that time we had a navy: that name so odious to the influences of the present day. Yes, sir, in 1776, though but in our infancy, we had a navy scouring our coasts, and defending our commerce, which was never for one moment wholly suspended. In 1776, we had an army also; and a glorious army it was! Not composed of men. halting from the stews, or swept from the jails; but of the best blood, the real yeomanry of the country–noble cavaliers, men without fear and without reproach. We had such an army in 1776, and Washington at its head. We have an army in 1808, and a head to it.
I will not humiliate those, who lead the fortunes of the nation at the present day, by any comparison with the great men of that period. But I recommend the advocates of the present system of public measures to study well the true spirit of 1776, before they venture to call it in aid of their purposes. It may bring in its train some recollections not suited to give ease, or
hope to their bosoms. I beg gentlemen, who are so frequent in their recurrence to that period, to remember, that among the causes, which led to a separation from Great Britain, the following are enumerated; “ unnecessary restrictions upon trade; cutting off commercial intercourse between the colonies; embarrassing our fisheries; wantonly depriving our citizens of necessaries; invasion of private property by governmental edicts; the authority of the commander in chief, and under him of the brigadier-general, being rendered supreme in the civil government; the commander in chief of the army made governor of a colony; citizens transferred from their native country for trial.” Let gentlemen beware how they appeal to the spirit of '76; lest it come with the aspect, not of a friend, but of a tormentor; lest they find a warning, when they look for support, and instead of encouragement they are presented with an awful lesson.
But repealing the embargo will be submission to tribute. The popular ear is fretted with this word tribute; and an odium is attempted to be thrown upon those, who are indignant at this abandonment of their rights, by representing them as the advocates of tribute. Sir, who advocates it? No man, in this country, I believe. This outcry about tribute is the veriest bugbear that was ever raised in order to persuade men to quit rights, which God and nature had given them. In the first place, it is scarce possible, that, if left to himself, the interest of the merchant could ever permit him to pay the British re-exportation duty, denominated tribute. France, under penalty of confiscation, prohibits our vessels from receiving a visit from an English ship, or touching at an English port. In this state of things, England pretends to permit us to export to France certain articles, paying her a duty. The statement of the case, shows the futility of the attempt. Who will pay a duty to England for permission to go to France to be confiscated? But, suppose there is a mistake in this, and that it may be the in
terest of the merchant to pay such duty, for the purpose of going to certain destruction, have not you full powers over this matter? Cannot you, by pains and penalties, prohibit the merchant from the payment of such a duty? No man will obstruct you. There is, as I believe, but one opinion upon this subject. I hope, therefore, that gentlemen will cease this outcry about tribute.
However, suppose thạt the payment of this duty is inevitable, which it certainly is not, let me ask-is embargo independence? Deceive not yourselves. It is palpable submission. Gentlemen exclaim, Great Britain smites us on one cheek." And what does administration? 6 It turns the other also.” Gentlemen say, Great Britain is a robber, she “ takes our cloak.” And what say administration ? - Let her take our coat also.” France and Great Britain require you to relinquish a part of your commerce, and you yield it entirely. Sir, this conduct may be the way to dignity and honor in another world, but it will never secure safety and independence in this.
At every corner of this great city, we meet some gentlemen of the majority, wringing their hands and exclaiming—“What shall we do? Nothing but embargo will save us. Remove it, and what shall we do?" Sir, it is not for me, an humble and uninfluential individual, at an awful distance from the predominant influences, to suggest plans of government. But to my eye, the path of our duty is as distinct as the milky way; all studded with living sapphires; glowing with cumulating light. It is the path of active preparation; of dignified
energy It is the path of 1776. It consists, not in abandoning our rights, but in supporting them, as they exist, and where they exist--on the ocean, as well as on the land. It consists, in taking the nature of things, as the measure of the rights of your citizens; not the orders and decrees of imperious foreigners. Give what protection you can.
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fear. Your strength will increase with the trial, and prove greater than you are now aware.
But I shall be told, “ this may lead to war." I ask, “ are we now at peace?” Certainly not, unless retiring from insult be peace; unless shrinking under the lash be peace. The surest way to prevent war is not to fear it. The idea, that nothing on earth is so dreadful as war, is inculcated too studiously am ng us. Disgrace is worse. Abandonment of essential rights is worse.
Sir, I could not refrain from seizing the first opportunity of spreading before this House the sufferings and exigencies of New England, under this embargo. Some gentlemen may deem it not strictly before us. In my opinion, it is necessarily. For, if the idea of the committee be correct, and embargo is resistance, then this resolution sanctions its continuance. If, on the contrary, as I contend, embargo is submission, then this resolution is a pledge of its repeal.
SPEECH OF WILLIAM B. GILES.
DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF THE CNITED STATES,
N. VEMBER 24, 1808,
On the following resolution : Resolved, That it is expedient that an
act, entitled “ An act laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbors of the United States, and the several acts supplementary thereto," be repealed, and that a committee be appointed to prepare and report a bill for that purpose.
MR. PRESIDENT, * Permit me now, sir, to make some observations upon the general character of this measure, as well as replies to some of the more general objections brought against it. I have said, sir, that there are no substitutes for the embargo, but war or submission. I will now proceed to prove this position—a repeal of the embargo without a substitute, is submission; if with a substitute, it is war. Gentlemen in the opposition, seem fully sensible of the delicacy and urgency of this part of the question. When pressed for their substitute, they manifest vast reluctance to producing it.
The gentleman from Delaware, indeed, told us, he was not the pioneer of the administration. I never knew that he was called upon to act in that character; but I hope he will not voluntarily act as the sapper, nor the miner of the administration, especially when he must behold the administration assailed by
* In the first part of Mr. Giles' speech, which is here omitted, he described the situation of the country at the time of the adoption of the embargo, and pointed out the objects it was designed to accomplish. He replied to the objections which had been urged against it as a measure injurious to commerce, agriculture and other branches of industry. He then proceeded to point out the actual effects which it had produced upon France and Great Britain, and what causes had prevented its complete success.