United States. Congress.

Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856 : from Gales and Seaton's Annals of Congress, from their Register of debates, and from the official reported debates by John C. Rives online

. (page 72 of 188)
Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856 : from Gales and Seaton's Annals of Congress, from their Register of debates, and from the official reported debates by John C. Rives → online text (page 72 of 188)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

a desire of flhowing their regpect to the late Nathan
Biyan, Eaq., member of this House, deceased, vill
go into mourning for one month, by wearing a crape
on the left ann."

Selations with France*
A Message was received from the F&xsident
or THE Unttei) Stateb, as follows :

Gmtkmm of the Senate, and

Genilemm <fthe Emm of RepretemUOiivet :
I now transmit to both Houses the communica-
tions from our Envoys at Paris, received since the
last which have been presented by me to both Houses.

UHmED SxAnsB, Jtme 5, 1798.

The said Message, and communications re-
ferred to therein, were read, and ordered to lie
on the table.

Wedkebdat, June 6.
Mr. Allen proposed a resolution to the fol-
lowing effect :

" Resolvedy That there shall he a call of the House
at half past eleven o'clock eveiyduy on which the
House shall dt during the present session."

Ordered to lie on the table.

Relatione mth Francs,

Mr. D. FosTEB laid the following resolutions
upon the table, viz:

"Whereas the French Republic, regardleas of those
principles of good faith which ought to ensure a due
obseirance of treaties, have, m various instances,
violated the express stipulations of the treaties here-
tofott made and subnstin^ jetween the United States
and tiLe French nation, in a maaner highly injurious
to the interest and honor of the Uniteid States ; by
reason whereof the United States are released from
all obligation on their part to nEpect the said trea-
ties, or to consider themselves as holden or bound

" Re$elved, That it is expedient to make a Legisla.
tive declaration notifying the dtisens of the United
States, and all others concerned, that the sud trea-
ties are no longer obligatory upon the United States.

"JHewlved, That provision ought to he made by
law, authorizing the Pbesidezit of thb Uxited
States to grant letters of marque and reprisal against
all ships and other vessels, with their caigoes, found
on the high seas, sailing under the authority of the
French liepublic, or belonging to the said Republic^
or any of the citizens thereof, or its dependencies ; to
contmue and be in force nntQ the French Government
shall revoke and annul the orders and decrees author^
izing the capture and detention of the vessels and
property- of the citizens of the United States, contrary
to the laws of nations.

^Resolved, That provision ought to he made by
law grantmg a bounty, in proportion to the size and
number of guns, on all armed vessels (which shall be
taken and brought into any of the ports of the
United States) bdong^ng to the Republic of France^
or to any of the citizens thereof) or of its dependen-
cies, or to others sailing under the authority, or pre-
tence of authority, from the said Republic"

They were ordered to lie upon the table.

Fbidat, June 8.
Letters <if MarquSy Se,

Mr. D. FosTEB then called up his resolutions
relative to granting general reprisals, letters of
marque, &c,, which, being read, he moved to
refer to the Committee for the Protection of
Commerce and the Defence of the Country,
with power to report by bill or otherwise.

Mr. Davis hoped these resolutions would not
be referred. It appeared very strange to him
that gentlemen should be desirous of taking
this step at present. He had heard much in
this House about French parties, and of gentle-
men being attached to France, but he thought
the House had witnessed, not many minutes
ago, something of another party, (referring to
the negative which had been put upon the re-
solution calling upon the President for inform&-
tion respecting British depredations.) And yet*,
when we have lately received information from
France that peace is probably yet within oui
grasp, a motion is brought forward which, if

Digitized by




Jdrb, 1798.]

Letten ofMarquA^ ju

[H. OF R.

adopted, would efectnaUy shut oat all hopee of
a favorable termination of onr dispute. In the
oonclusion of the late despatches, he read as
follows :

*' As we were taking our leave of Mr. TaUeyrand,
we told him that two S. hb would retom iximi6<&ateljr,
to reoeive iiutnictionB of our GoTemment, if that
wcmld be agreeable to the Directory ; if it was not,
we wonld wait some time, in the expectation of re-
ceiving instructions.*'

80, that two of our Commissioners might : e
expected shortly to return, to lay certain propo-
sitions before the Government here, or that
they will write for farther instructions; and,
whilst these things are pending, can a proposi-
tion like the present be Justified f He thought
not. It was not, in his mind, a declaration of
war; but it was evidently a war measure.
And when it is evident, from our Envoys^ own
showing, that the negotiation between them and
the Minister of Foreign Affairs in France was in
train on the 8th of March, the date of their last
despatches, as certain propositions had been
made to them which were not rejected, he
thought it would be extremely imprudent to
refer resolutions of so hostile a kind as these
certainly are. It would be time enough, Mr. D.
said, to adopt a measure of this kind when our
Envoys shall have informed us that peace is unat'
tainable; but, whilst they held up a contrary
expectation, he could not consent to do any thing
which should cast wholly away the hope of pre-
serving a state of peace. With respect to the
first resolution, which declares the treaty be-
tween France and this country void, he had
not much objection to it, because it must be so
considered from the laws already passed ; but
those which respect the ^ranting letters of
marque and general reprisals, he thought very
objectionable indeed.

Jir. Hakpbb said, if the arguments of the
ffentleman from Kentucky were well founded,
he had not introduced them at the proper time.
If he views the state of our negotiation with
France in the light which he had placed it, his
objections to this measure are natural and con-
aietent ; but they ought to be made, when a bill
is brought in, against its being read a second
time ; or if the motion had now been to adopt
the resolutions instead of referring them, the re-
marks which he had made would have been per-
fectly in order ; but that gentieman must know
that there is a great dinerence between com-
mitting and agreeing to adopt a resolution. He
would confess that ne, for one, should not now
be ready to agree to any of those propositions,
though a fortnight hence he might be willing
to adopt them all. If the motion was, there-
fore, for adopting, instead of referring them, he
should move a postponement, or the previous
question, or take some other mode of cBsposing
of tiiem; but when the motion was merely to
refer them to a committee who might report
upon them immediately, or let them lie until
farther information was received from our com-
missioners ; or, if they report a bill, that bill

might lie until gentiemen thought proper to
pass upon it. He did not, therefore, see any
ground for the alarm which the gentieman from
Kentucky has shown. He confessed he could
not look upon our negotiation with France as
in the happy train in which it appears to that
gentleman. He knew we might have peace, if
we wonld consent to have our property plunder-
ed ad libitum; or by paying a contribution to
the full amount of our ability to pay, which
were the terms that Talleyrand and his agents
had offered to our Envoys ; and this loan was
made a nne qua vxm by Talleyrand. He could
not tell, therefore, how the gentieman from
Kentucky could conceive the negotiation to be
in good train, except he is willing to pay the
tribute which France demands from us.

Mr. Yenabue said, the gentleman last up had
drawn a distinction between committing these
resolutions and agreeing to them, and had said
that he himself is not ready to agree to them,
Mr. y. thought resolutions of this kind ought
not to be Idd upon the table before the House
is ready to decide upon them, as the moment
the foreign nation to which they have reference
hears that such resolutions have been brought
forward, they will take advanl^e of it, and
seize all the property belonging to our citizens
within their power. If the resolutions are not
proper, therefore, to be adopted, they ought
immediately to be r^ected ; for, if this is not
done, we may expect that not only all the pro-
perty of our citizens in French ports will be
seized, but that all our vessels without excep-
tion which can be met with will be taken. He
hoped, therefore, if gentlemen are of opinion
with him that the time for taking measures like
the present 19 not yet arrived, that the reference
would be refused. It would do ii^nite mischief.
We ought not, he said, to show a spirit of this
kind, until we are perfectiy prepared to act.
And as he believed the House is better calculat-
ed to judge of the propriety of thus changing
the situation of the country, than any commit-
tee could be, he should not choose to ask the
opinion of the Oommittee for the Protection of
Commerce and the Defence of the Country
what he should do in this case.

Mr. B. Williams observed, that the gentie-
man from South Carolina seemed to argue in
favor of committing these resolutions, as if no
time would be so proper for doing so as the
present. But he believed this House woidd be

XEdly capable of judging of this matter here-
r as at present, and could act upon them in
future as well as now. Why, then, ought the
House now to refer them, when even the gentie-
man from South Carolina says he is not prepar-
ed to vote for them ; but that if he were called
upon now to vote upon them, he should give
his negative on the (question?

It appeared to him, Mr. W. said, that the
reference of these resolutions could have no
other appearance than that of a challenge, apd
will doubtiees produce the consequences which
have been mentioned by the gentieman from

Digitized by




H. OP R]

Letten of Mcarqwt, tbc

[JuHE, 1798.

Virginia. And however their yessels may have
depredated upon our commerce, and suflfered
their citizens to plunder us at sea, they have not
gone so far as to make it a national act to seize
all the property of our citizens within their
power. He was, therefore, opposed to this re-
ference: for though, whenever the time of
actual war shall arrive, (for it seemed as if it
must arrive,) we shall think it necessary to do
France all the mischief we can, yet he did not
think it would he prudent to tell them we mean
to injure them in this or that way beforehand.

Mr. Hasbison believed, that to refer these
resolutions would be to give them a degree of
sanction ; and as he looked upon the question
as very important, he should call for the veas
and nays upon it They were agreed to be taken.

Mr. Gallatebt said, it appeared to him that
the committee to whom it is proposed to refer
these resolutions might, without this reference,
have brought the subject before the House, as
tliey are appointed to consider whatever relates
to the protection of commerce and the defence
of the country. The reference must mean som^
thing more, therefore, than a mere instruction to
them to consider the subject, because they have
already those instructions given to them gene-
rally in their ori^nal appointment. What, he
aaked, could be obtained by a vote on this sub-
ject ? He was at a loss to know. He could see
no possible good to be derived from it He
wished, indeed, the committee to whom it is

Proposed to refer these resolutions, instead of
oing the business committed to them by piece-
meal, in the manner which they had adopted,
had laid before the House at once a complete
general plan of defence consistent with the pre-
sent situation of the country. A mi^orily of
this House seem not only ready to take every
defensive measure, but, in a certain degree, of-
fensive measures also. This having been once
determined, the committee might very well pre-
pare such a plan. Such a plan would be more
consistent and uniform, than if individual mem-
bers were left to bring forward any measures
which it may strike t^em as necessary to be
taken. Of what use, Mr. G. asked, had been the
reference of a set of resolutions made some days
ago by }Xt, SrroBEAVBS? No report has been
Xttiade upon them. A part of them were of the
same nature with these, and would authorize a
report on this subject, if the committee had not
the general power already mentioned.

So far as any conclusion could be drawn from
the despatches of our Ministers, he confessed he
had no great hopes of our negotiation with
France being conduded in an effectual manner.
He saw a kind of negotiation open between onr
Envoys and the French Minister for Foreign
Affairs. He saw that the ktter had asked for a
loan; a demand inadmissible by our Envoys,
since it was contrary to their instructions ; a de-
mand inadmissible from any instructions they
might hereafter receive, for the sentiments of
the Executive on that subject were well known ;
And, be would add^ a demand inadmissible in its

very nature, inadmissible in the opinion not only
of this House, but of every individual in the
House. So that, as long as that demand was
insisted upon, no accommodation could be effect-
ed. But it must have been remarked, in the
late despatches, that when our Envoys inquired
of Mr. Talleyrand whether a loan of money was
the ultimatum of the French Government he
did not choose to give a direct answer. This
shows it to be possible that this demand may
not be their ultimatum ; and if not os we have
heard it reported, (though not officially,) that
one of our Commissioners still remains in Paris,
it would not be prudent to take any step that
would defeat any treaty which might be in con-

Mr. W. Olaibobnx hoped the motion for post-
ponement would prevail, for, though a reference
of those resolutions would not 1^ a complete
sanction of them, he should consider it as a pre-
lude to a speedy adoption. His observation on
the past proceedings of the House justified this

Mr. 0. differed in opinion from the gentlenuin
from North Carolina as to the power of Congress
witli respect to treaties. He believed Congress
has a right to do away any treaty by a Le^a-
tive act ; if not, he should think he lived under
the most miserable Government upon earth.

What, said Mr. C, is the nature of the in-
juries which we have received from France?
Have they not been wholly maritime ? and have
we not done all we can conveniently do for the
defence of onr commerce? Was not all our
marine force already under such regulations as
to be enabled to act to great advantage in the
prevention of ftiture outrages on our commerce ?
Why, then, shall we proceed to measures which
must inevitably involve the country in war?
Will the adoption of these resolutions give na
a single ship or gun? No. Why, then, widen
the breach between the two countries, by act-
ing upon a measure more replete with impolicy
than any act he ever saw introduced into that
House. If it were adopted, it would go to the
destruction of our commerce with several of the
great commercial powers ; for the moment war
is declared with France, we shall also be at war
with Spain and Holland, her allies. And when
a war with Spain shall take place, the commeroe
of the Southern States and Western country
will be immediately gone, and all our vessels in
French, Dutch, or Spanish ports, will donbtlesa
be confiscated. These, he said, were evils which
he foresaw would attend the adoption of these
resolutions, and he called upon the mover to
show a single advantage which could be derived
from their adoption. He hoped, therefore, the
question would be postponed for a week ; and
i^ at the end of that period, nothing shall have
transpired which will make their adoption pro-
per, he trusted they would then be farther post-
poned. If France is determined to have war
with us, we must and will defend ourselves ;
but he was desirous that no act of ours should
show that we ourselves wish for war.

Digitized by




Jcinc, 1798.]

Letten of Marque, (te.

[H. OF K

Mr. SiTOBBATES did not feel very solicitous
whether the reference of these resolutions should
or should not be postponed for one week, as he
did not think so short a time would maxe any
essential difference in the state of things ; but,
as he knew no good purpose that could be an-
swered by the postponement, he should vote
against it. He rose to offer his reasons in favor
of the reference, generally.

His colleague (Mr. Gaixatin) had fallen into
two mistakes; he had said that these resolu-
tions are of the same nature with those which
he (Mr. SnoBEAYEs) had the honor, some days
ago, to lay before the House ; and that the com>
mittee, to which the resolutions are proposed
to be referred, have, at present, all the power
which this reference would give them. He was
not correct, in the first place, in saying that
these resolutions are of the same nature with
those formerly submitted. The former proposi-
tions suggested a course of special reprisal, in
cases limited and defined ; the present proposi-
tions are for letters of general marque and
reprisal, which modes of proceeding are essen-
tially different in their nature ana their inci-
dents, in their theory and practice. The present
propositions, also, recommend a declaration on
the subject of the treaties, to which the former
ones made no allusion. He believed his col-
league to be equally mistaken in Ms other asser-
tion, that the conmuttee had already power to
report to the extent of these resolutions, if they
should deem it expedient Their general power
was to consider and report upon so much of the
Pbbsidbnt^s Speech as relates to the protection
of commerce and defence of the country ; and this
authority, when construed with relation to the
Speech, cannot be considered as going beyond the
measures of defence, strictly compatible with the
neutral position in which we stood at the com-
mencement of the session; and could not, without
an express reference, justify the committee in pro-
posing broad measures of hostility. This, how-
ever, is a question of form merely. If the com-
mittee have already the nower, the reference
proposed can do no mischief ; if they have it
not already, it remains to inquire whether they
ought not to have it. He conceived they ought

Mr. Baldwin said, that nothing was more
certain than that individual members could not
vote to refer a motion to a committee, as was
now proposed, xmless at the time they feel them-
selves favorably disposed to the object of the
motion, and vote to refer it to a committee to
further that object, and to give it practicable
shape and form. The gentleman who hod pust
sat down should reflect, that referring petitions
is a matter of course, and is established by
usage as a respectful form of receiving and
hearing the applications of our fellow-citizens.
The introduction of a petition requires no
second ; but a motion made and seconded, is to
be regarded as a step in the actual opera-
tions of the House. For himself he must say
that, with respect to the present motion, it
required no time for him to be ready to declare,

that he was not now fiivorably disposed towards
it, and could not, in any shape, now give it hia
countenance and support.

When he reflected on what they had done in
the smaU space of a few weeks, and the course
of measures which had been adopted by Con-
gress since the receipt of the despatches from
our Envoys, he thought they had come on, one
upon another, in a succession sufficiently rapid.
They must, in their nature, greatly affect the
state of the country, perhaps more than was
ever done before in so short a time. He thought
it would be wise in the House, at present, to
make a short pause, before they proceeded any
further. It is a subject on which all Govern-
ments ore apt to err, and to proceed too rapidly.
Let us, said he, take a little time to ourselves,
and gjve some time to our constituents, to look
at our interests, and tlie state of our public
affairs, in the new posture which we have ^ven
them in the course of a few weeks.

Our measures, he said, divided themselves
into three classes ; first, the internal defence of
our country and of our sea-coast. On this there
had been no difference of opinion ; we had
adopted, promptly, the same course of measures
which had been adopted a few years ^o, when
we were threatened by another European
power ; we had fortified our ports and harbors,
fixed row-^galleys and other vessels on our coast,
and ordered a draft of eighty thousand militia
to hold themselves in constant readiness ; and
ordered a million of dollars to be expended, in
procuring arms, cannon, and ammunition, to be
placed aU along the country in proper situa-
tions, that they may be put into use by such of
our fellow-citizens as should be driven to the
unfortunate necessity of defending themselves
by arms. He had been glad to see such a per-
fect unanimity in those measures, and such a
readiness, on all quarters, to vote even larger
sums than were recommended in- the reports
for these purposes. This course of measures
was founded on principles merely defensive,
and related only to our own country, and our
own coast within cannon shot from our shores,
which, by the law of nations, is called our ter-
ritory ; he trusted what had been done, accom-
panied with the spirit and resolution of our
countrymen, would render our country impreg-

The second course of measures, which he said
had also been adopted, was extending our mili-
tary preparations, and carrying our force beyond
our own jurisdiction, on the main ocean, to de-
fend our commerce by convoys, and to seek for
and capture French privateers. On these the
House had not been unanimous; they had ap-
peared to be founded on more questionable
policy ; but, as the laws were passed, they would
not only be cheerfully submitted to, but as
vigorously supported as the others ; it was now
his duty to hope and expect that they would do
more good than harm.

The third and last course of measures, was
presented to our consideration by the present

Digitized by




H. OF R.]

Zetien ofMar^pie, ju

[Junk, 179^.

motion, to put the conntry immediately into an
actual state of war. He mnst say he had been
surprised to hear it; he thought it very ill-
timed ; he must express upon it his utter dis-
approbation. As had been already stated, the
last official information from our Envoys, showed
that our negotiations were still going on; and
though the French Minister still insisted on a
compulsory loan, which our Ministers justly
declared to be a very inadmissible condition ;
yet, it ought to be noticed in tiie despatches
that, when he was asked by Mr. Gbbbt, if tiiey
were to consider him as insisting on a loan as
an ultimatum, he avoided the question, which
gives reason to believe that, as things then stood,
a loan or war was not an absolute inevitable alter-
native; it was such an alternative as he was
not disposed to take, bo lon^ as it was avoid-
able. Though our situation has been, in many
respects, bad for the year past, yet in a state of
actual war it will be much worse. He never
turned his attention to the part of the country
where he lived, but that he felt himself com-

Eelled, by every principle of doty to those whom
e represented, to address and to urge every con-
sideration to avoid going to that extreme. They
have been once almost totally destroyed by war ;
they know, from their distance and from past
experience, that prompt and adequate protec-
tion never will be extended to them. He be-
lieved no honest man, deliberating merely for
the public good, could take a view of the affairs
of this country, of his own home, and of his
friends, and think of going into a state of war,
if it is possible to avoid it.

Mr. DAS A. hoped the gentleman from Georgia
did not want to inquire of his constituents whe-
ther they would consent to a treaty with France,
in which we shall bind ourselves to pay a tri-
bute. He trusted if that gentleman's constitu-
ents were thus to instruct him, he would refttse
to obey their instructions. He hoped no mem-
ber of this House could be prevailed with to set
his hand to what would prove the death-warrant
to the liberties of the country. Mr. D. thought,
therefore, that no instructions were necessary
on this subject; it is not a subject proper for

Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856 : from Gales and Seaton's Annals of Congress, from their Register of debates, and from the official reported debates by John C. Rives → online text (page 72 of 188)