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They are acts amounting to colonization and taxation; to the exercise of the national sovereignty of the United States. Great Britain has even gone so far, as to exercise an act of sovereignty over the people of the United States, which they would not entrust to Congress ; but retained to themselves, in their highest sovereign capacity.
The British orders of council, now sanctioned by an act of parliament, direct all vessels, laden with the produce of the United States, destined to any of the ports of the enemies of Great Britain, to call at a British port, and then to pay an enormous transit duty, and accept a license for the further prosecution of the voyage; and upon refusal, they are forced to do so by British armed ships. This is literally and precisely the introduction of the old and long established colonial principle of coercing all the commerce of the colony to the ports of the mother country, there to pay a transit duty for their protection by the mother country. In the colonial state, the mandate of the mother country was sufficient to effect this object. Now the same object is effected by an armed force. . This is the only real difference in the two cases. But, sir, this is not all; Great Britain has attempted, by an act of parliament, to, exercise an act of sovereignty over the United States, solemnly given by the people to their Congress. Amongst the powers given to Congress, I find these words, “ Congress shall have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations,” &c. Now, sir, permit me to read an extract from an act of parliament, and see whether it does, not only impose a tax upon American productions, but also exercise this act of national sovereignty, delegated by the people to Congress.
6 And whereas, it is expedient and necessary, der effectually to accomplish the object of such orders, that duties of customs should be granted upon certain goods exported from Great Britain; we, your majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the commons of the
united kingdom, in parliament assembled, do most humbly beseech your majesty, that it may be enacted ; and be it enacted by the king's most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords, spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that from and after the passing of this act, there shall be raised, levied, collected and paid unto his majesty, his heirs and successors, upon all goods, wares and merchandize, enumerated or described in the tables, (A.) (B.) and (C.) annexed to this act, exported from Great Britain, the several duties and customs, as the same are respectively described and set forth in figures in said tables."
In those tables, marked A. B. C. are to be found productions of the United States. It has been said, that Great Britain may lay an export duty upon any goods within her ports. That is readily admitted ; it being a mere municipal regulation. But Great Britain has no right to compel our ships to carry our productions into her ports, for the purpose of imposing duties thereon; and this is the act regulating our commerce, of which I complain.
Again, sir, Great Britain has attempted, by this act of parliament, to lay an export duty upon the productions of the United States-a power not even entrusted to the discretion of Congress. I find in the constitution these words : “no tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.” Here, then, is an express prohibition to Congress against laying a duty on any articles exported from any state; yet Great Britain has attempted, by an act of parliament, to lay an export duty on cotton exported from one of the United States; an authority which can only be exercised by the people, in their highest sovereign capacity. It is true, sir, that Mr. Canning has offered to commute this duty into an entire prohibition of the article, as an export from Great Britain. This, sir, was only adding insult to injury, and showed, that Mr. Canning possessed
very little knowledge of the human character, if he expected to sooth the feelings, by insulting the understanding
I regret, that so much respect was shown to this proposition, as to forward it to our government. It would have been more agreeable to me, if the Ameri-. can minister had thrown the proposition back upon Mr. Canning:
It is true, Mr. President, that the export duty is to be collected in London, and not in Charleston. But, sir, it is not the better in principle on that account ; and it is worse in practice. A vessel sailing from Charleston, is to be forced into London, for the purpose of paying this tribute. Better would it be to col-, lect it in Charleston; because the circuity of the voyage would be saved, and many other vexations and expenses avoided, which are now incurred by being forced into London, to make the payment; and if this measure were to be submitted to, I should not be at all surprised to see his most gracious majesty, in the spirit of a mitigated retaliation, send out his collectors to the ports of the United States, for the accommodation of our merchants. In that case, I presume, we should all admit it to be a duty imposed upon an article exported from a particular state. Are we, sir, not only basely to surrender to Great Britain our rights, entrusted to us by the people, but, treacherously to them, to surrender rights reserved to themselves, in their highest sovereign capacity? And in a case like this, sir, can it be necessary to resort to argument, to rouse the indignant feelings of the American people?
Mr. President, the eyes of the world are now turned upon us; if we submit to these indignities and aggressions, Great Britain herself would despise us; she would consider us as an outcast amongst nations; she would not own us for her offspring; France would despise us; all the world would despise us; and what is infinitely worse, we should be compelled to despise ourselves! If we resist, we shall command the respect
of our enemies, the sympathies of the world, and the noble approbation of our own consciences.
Mr. President, our fate is in our own hands; let us have union, and we have nothing to fear. So highly do I prize union, at this awful moment, that I would prefer any one measure of resistance, with union, to any measure of resistance, with division. Let us then, sir, banish all personal feelings ; let us present to our enemies the formidable front of an indissoluble band of brothers: nothing else is necessary to our success. Mr. President, unequal as the contest may seem, favored as we are, by our situation, and under the blessing of a beneficent Providence, who has never lost sight of these United States in times of difficulty and trial, I have the most perfect confidence, that if we prove true to ourselves, we shall triumph over our enemies. Deeply impressed with these considerations, I am prepared to give to the resolutions a flat and decided negative.
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES,
DELIVERED MARCH 4, 1809.
Unwilling to depart from examples of the most revered authority, I avail myself of the occasion, now presented, to express the profound impression made on me by the call of my country to the station, to the duties of which I am about to pledge myself, by the most solemn of sanctions. So distinguished a mark of confidence, proceeding from the deliberate and tranquil suffrage of a free and virtuous nation, would, under any circumstances, have commanded my gratitude and devotion, as well as filled me with an awful sense of the trust to be assumed. Under the various circumstances which give peculiar solemnity to the existing period, I feel, that both the honor and the responsibili ty, allotted to me, are inexpressibly enhanced.
The present situation of the world is indeed without a parallel ; and that of our country full of difficulties. The pressure of these two is the more severely felt, because they have fallen upon us at a moment, when national prosperity being at a height not before attained, the contrast resulting from this change has been rendered the more striking. Under the benign influence of our republican institutions, and the maintenance of peace with all nations, whilst so many of them were engaged in bloody and wasteful wars, the fruits of a just policy were enjoyed in an unrivalled growth of our faculties and resources. Proofs of this were seen in the improvements of agriculture; in the