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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 American 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 collect 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 responsibility, 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 successful enterprises of commerce; in the progress of manufactures and useful arts; in the increase of the public revenue and the use, made of it in reducing the public debt; and in the valuable works and establishments every where multiplying over the face of our land.
It is a precious reflection, that the transition from this prosperous condition of our country to the scene, which has for some time been distressing us, is not chargeable on any unwarrantable views, nor, as I trust, on any involuntary errors in the public councils. Indulging no passions which trespass on the rights or the repose of other nations, it has been the true glory of the United States to cultivate peace, by observing justice, and to entitle themselves to the respect of the nations at war by fulfilling their neutral obligations with the most scrupulous impartiality. If there be candor in the world, the truth of these assertions will not be questioned. Posterity at least will do justice to them.
This unexceptionable course could not avail against the injustice and violence of the belligerent powers. In their rage against each other, or impelled by more direct motives, principles of retaliation have been introduced, equally contrary to universal reason and acknowledged law. How long their arbitrary edicts will be continued in spite of the demonstrations, that not even a pretext for them has been given by the United States, and of the fair and liberal attempts to induce a revocation of them, cannot be anticipated. Assuring myself, that under every vicissitude, the determined spirit and united councils of the nation will be safeguards to its honor, and its essential interests, I repair to the post assigned me with no other discouragement than what springs from my own inadequacy to its high duties. If I do not sink under the weight of this deep conviction, it is because I find some support in a consciousness of the purposes, and a confidence in the principles which I bring with me into this arduous service.
To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations having correspondent dispositions; to maintain sincere neutrality towards belligerent nations; to prefer, in all cases, amicable discussions and reasonable accommodation of differences, to a decision of them by an appeal to arms; to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities, so degrading to all countries and so baneful to free ones; to foster a spirit of independence, too just to invade the rights of others, too proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices ourselves, and too elevated not to look down upon them in others; to hold the union of the states as the basis of their peace and happiness; to support the constitution, which is the cement of the union, as well in its limitations as in its authorities 5 ; to respect the rights and authorities reserved to the states and to the people, as equally incorporated with and essential to the success of the general system; to avoid the slightest interference with the rights of conscience or the functions of religion, so wisely exempted from civil jurisdiction; to preserve, in their full energy, the other salutary provisions in behalf of private and personal rights, and of the freedom of the press; to observe economy in public expenditures; to liberate the public resources by an honorable discharge of the public debts; to keep within the requisite limits a standing military force, always remembering, that an armed and trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics, that without standing armies their liberty can never be in danger, nor, with large ones, safe; to promote, by authorized means, improvements friendly to agriculture, to manufactures, and to external, as well as internal commerce; to favor, in like manner, the advancement of science and the diffusion of information, as the best aliment to true liberty; to carry on the benevolent plans which have been so meritoriously applied to the conversion of our aboriginal neighbors, from the degradation and wretchedness of savage life, to a participation of the improvements of