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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

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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 83 of 188)
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neutral nations conducted towardis us in our
revolt from the Government of Great Britain.
Mr. P. believed it was never understood that
any nation with whom we traded was, in con-
sequence, involved in war with Great Britain.
Ibe fact was otherwise. It was never so looked
upon by that country, and gentlemen will admit
that that Government was at least high-toned
enough. All that Great Britain did was to
seize the vessels whenever she could lay hold
of them ; and this is the risk which the gentle-
man from Maryland mentioned our traders
would run in carrying oonmierce into any place
Lq a state of revolution. It is well known that
we endeavored, during the whole course of our
war, to draw foreign commerce to this country,
which was found necessary in order to enable
OS to cKCTj on the war. Agents were employed

for this purpose, and we saw no moral turpitude
in this. And during the time that Holland was
separated from the dominion of Spain, was war
declared in consequence of any nation trading
with Holland? The case was so different, he
recollected that Holland declared, that she would
seize all vessels going to Spain, though that
had heretofore been considered as the mother
country. This was reversing the case.

With respect to the three points stated gene-
rally by the Secretary of State, Ibey are not said
to go to the point for which the gentleman from
Virginia has taken them. Wilb regard to the
douceur of £60,000, Mr. P. would say, that if
we believe tiiis attempt to have been made to
extort this sum of money from our Envoys, for
corrupt purposes, (and notwithstanding all that
has been said on the subject, he did believe
that X and T were the agents of the iVench
Government in that transaction, and which has,
indeed, been acknowledged by Y, Mr. Bellamy,
of Hamburg, who declares he has never written
or said any thing to our Envoys, but by the di-
rection of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs,) no
reliance ought to be placed upon any of liieir
declarations; for after such an act, it maybe
supposed they will say one thing at one ^me
and another at another ; and no reliance could
be had upon any thing which comes from so cor-
rupt a source.

Mr. P. said he would not trouble the com-
mittee longer, except in one point, and that was
as to the consequences which might flow from
a declaration of independence on the part of St.
Domingo. He should endeavor to answer the
gentleman from Pennsylvania as to the conse-
quences which it might produce to the Southern
States. It was a subject to which he had paid
all the attention in his power. He did, on all
questions, endeavor as much as possible to divest
himself of any thing like party spirit; but in
this case, where he had himself so much at
stake, in which his native oountrv and every
thing dear to him was concerned, his sincerity
could not be doubted. Mr. P. did not him-
self believe that this bill would have the least
tendency to procure the independence of St
Domingo; but as some gentlemen think it is
probable that this may be the result, and as no
one could say with certainty what the effect of
any measure would be, he had considered the
subject, and was dearly of opinion, that should
the independence of that island take place, the
event would be more advantageous to the
Southern States, than if it remained under the
dominion of France, considering the di^x)8ition
which France has evinced towards us, (and of
which he saw no prospects of a change,) and
the present conduct of the inhabitants of St
Domingo. Nothiuff which we can do, said Mr.
P., can bring back tne internal state of that isl-
and to the state it was formerly in. Oonsidering
the inhabitants, then, in the light of fi-eeraen,
whether will it be better for us, in the Southern
States, to have to deal with ttiem, as such, or
under the direction of the French Govenimenti

Digitized by




JiiinrABT\ 1799.]

Imttrccwrw W&& France.

[H. OF R.

tmreasonable and arbitrary as we have found it?
He had no hesitation in saying, that, it would
be more for the safety of the Southern States,
to have that island independent, than under the
Goyemment of France, either in time of peace
or war. If our dispute with France should not
be accommodated, and they keep possession of
St. Domingo, they could invade this country
only from that quarter. There is there a large
body of troops, and their unofScial agents told
onr Envoys, that in case we did not submit to
their conditions, we might expect an attack
from that quarter. It would certainly lessen
the danger from that island, were it to be sepa-
rated from France ; but remaining in the hands
of France, and supported by the powerful navy
of France, notwithstanding all the vigor we
have shown on the ocean, we might be very
much annoyed from thence.

If these people in St. Domingo find that we
withhold f»om them supplies which are neces-
sary for their subsistence, said Mr. P., though
they are friendly disposed towards us, they will
look elsewhere for support; they must either
turn their attention to cultivating their land,
look to Great Britain, or become freebooters.
Which situation is it most for the interest of
the United States that they should be in?
Surely the peaceful cultivation of the ground ;
and to induce them to take this course, it will
be our interest to supply them with what they
have occasion for, lest they should get the habit
of freebooters, and make our commerce ^e ob-
ject of their plunder. He hoped, therefore, the
motion for striking out would not prevail.

Kr. Macon had no doubt the ffentleman from
South Carolina had paid particmar attention to
this subject It was to be expected that every
gentleman from the Southern States would pay
attention to it. In one respect, he was precisely
in the same situation with the gentleman from
South Carolina. He lived in a country that
would bo affected by any event, such as had
been mentioned, and all his connections were
there. It was the same with all other gentle-
men from the Southern States. He differed in
opinion, however when the gentlemen said that
we should have less to apprehend from St. Do-
mingo, in case it should become independent,
than whilst it remained a part of the French
Bepublia He believed the state of society to
be such in that country, as not to admit of self-
government In case they separate from France,
be should apprehend that the consequence will
be, that instead of being ruled by one of the
European powers, they would become the tools
of them all, in turn, and we should probably
have the same game played off upon us from
thence, that we have heretofore had played
upon us by means of the Indians.

Mr. M. said, that although the part of the bill
moved to be stricken out, does not go directly to
say that it has reference to St Domingo, it is a
lit^e extraordinary that no other case will fit it
There could be no doubt, if the island became
independent, we should have a right to trade to

it; but he believed it would puzzle gentlemen
to find an instance of a Legislature passing a
law in order to fit a case which might happen.
As he thought it improper, he hoped it would
be stricken out.

Mr. GooDBioH said this amendment went to
change the principle of the bill. ' The bill goes
upon the idea that when any island in the West
Indies shall cease to make depredations upon
our commerce, our trade shall be opened with
them, without regarding by what authority or
force the change was effected. The matter is
not placed upon the ground of any treaty
whatever ; for, said Mr. G., we can neither in-
crease nor diminish the power of the Pbesident
in this respect. A great deal of mist has been
thrown on this subject. The effect of this
amendment will be, that the person restraining
from depredations upon our commerce must act
under the authority of the French Republic ;
on the contrary, the friends of this bill wish not
to examine by what authority the thing is done,
provided that it be done. We have a right to say
that our vessels shall go to any port we please ;
but, according to the doctrine of the amendment
supposing the island of St Domingo was con-
quered, we could not send our conm[ierce there,
nor could we send it to a place in rebellion ; so
that our commerce was to be affected by every
change of circumstances which might take
place. He hoped the committee would recog-
nize no principle which shall say we have not
a right to send our commerce wherever we
please, whether the places to which our vessels
go are in war, peace, or rebellion.

Mr; Gallatin was astonished to hear the
gentleman fh)m Connecticut say that this is
merely a commercial question. Let us, said he,
examine the effect of this amendment. We are
told that the provisions of this biU do not ex-
tend to any colony which may- be conquered ;
for instance, to St Martinis, St Lucia, or any
other colonies which have been conquered. Let
us see, then, how it will apply if this amend-
ment is rejected, and whether the question is
commercial or political. Let us inquire, said
he, what is the case provided for, if the amend-
ment is rejected, and which is unprovided for
if it is adopted, and it will then appear what
ground is covered by the opposers of this
amendment. If r^ected, it will result^ that all
persons who may claim or exercise any com-
mand in any island, &o., although they have
not that command under the Government of
France, and who shall refrain from privateering,
shall be entitled to a free trade with this coun-
try. The only case is a case of insurrection
and rebdlion. Suppose, said Mr. G., I ^ould
agree with the gentleman from Connecticut,
that if once a rebellion takes place, or any
colony shall declare itself independent, (but, by
the by. thedootrine is not countenanced by the
law of nations,) that we may trade there as we
please. Does it result that we have a right to
pass a law beforehand to contemplate such an
event? If we do, it win be speaking publicly,

Digitized by




H. ofR.]

IntereouTBe vfUh Franoe,

[J^SUAST, 1799,

thns: ^^ If any persons shall, in any island, port,
or place, belon^mg to the French Republic, raise
an insurrection, and declare themselves inde-
pendent, and shall be found to refrain from
committing depredations upon onr commerces
we will open a free trade with them." And
yet the gentleman from Gonnectiont calls this a
mere conmiercial question.

The committee have been told of a number
of cases which he had been astonished to hear
- cases which happened in our war. Gentle*
men who have mentioned these have not
attended to any of the facts of the war. Mr.
G. referred to liie case of the treaty made in
Holland, which has already been explained in a
former debate. Mr. G. said, gentlemen might
put what construction they pleased upon uiis
section ; but certainly publicly to tell the French
colonies that if they will rebel against their
€k>yernment, and restrain from depredating
upon us, we will treat with them, is to invite
them to do it. A declaration of war has always
been the consequence of such a conduct in
other countries ; and he supposed gentlemen are
not ready for a declaration of war, though they
tell us there is no change in our aflOftirs for the
better ; that negotiation is at an end ; that no
idea can be entertained of the sincerity of any
prof^ions of the French; and not being ready
to bring in a declaration of war, they are not
surely ready to make it, or provoke it ; and if
not, why assume a principle that may have this
effect? He hoped the amendment would be
agreed to.

The conmiittee now rose, and had leave to sit

Thubsday, January 24.
Death of Mr, . TcumeU.

A message was received frx>m the Senate, in-
forming the House that Hsnbt Tazewell, Esq.,
one of their body, died this morning, and that
they had directed orders to be taken respecting
his frmeral.

Afterwards, on motion of Mr. Dsirr, the
House came to the following resolution :

Be%ohed^ That this House will attend the
frmeral of Hekbt Tazewell, Esq., late a mem-
ber of the Senate of the United States, on to-
morrow, at half past four o'dook.*

IfUereaune with Fromee.

The House ad^ resolved itself into a Oom-
mittee of the Whole, on the biU ftirther to sus-
pend the oommercial intercourse between the
tJnited States and France, and the dependen-
cies thereof, and for other purposes.

Mr. Spaioht's amendment being under con-

Mr. ELabtlet said the general policy of this
bfll had been considered at the last session ; and
he had no doubt, that when any parts of the

* It wM not the eostom then to a^oum the Hooses to
attend the Aineral of a member. The hmial took place be-
fore, or after, the day's aenion.

French dominions cease to depredate upon our
commerce, we might, wi& propriety, open our
intercourse with them. If, for instance, the
Isle of France had fitted out privateers, and
depredated upon our commerce, and chose to
forbear to do so in future, and leave our passage
to the Indian seas dear, it would be a good
reason for opening our commerce with that
place. The case of St. Domingo is still
stron^r, and has, as has been shown, the power
of domg as much mischief, should we renise to
frirmsh them with the necessary supplies. If
they call in their privateers, therefore, it would
certainly be right to open our intercourse with
that valuable island, especially since they appear
to be *<bandoned \f France, who has with-
drawn aJ her troops from the island.

After some other observations, Mr. H. con-
eluded with hoping the amendment would not
be agreed to, as it would only tend to embarrass
the bill, by making it necessary to ascertain the
legality of the governing authority of the
places with which we might open our inter*

Mr. Brace was opposed to this amendment,
as it came round to the same point with that
which the gentleman fr^m Pennsylvania had
proposed. It struck him that, in &e course of
the debate, gentlemen have forgot the ground
on which we stand. Our treaties with the
French Government have been declared void,
on account of the conduct of that Government.
We have proceeded further, and suspended all
commercial intercourse with France and her
dependencies. It would be well to conaid^
what kind of connection now easts between
the United States and France, and whether a
measure of the kind proposed can injure our
present prospect of peace. By the arguments
of some gentlemen it would seem that we are
under some obligation or contract to that Gov-
ernment; whereas, we ought to consider our-
selves, with respect to it, in no other light than
we consider ourselves witiii respect to the gov-
ernments of the world with which we have no
connection. We have, therefore, no object to
pursue, but what, in a dignified national view,
It is our duty and our interest to pursue.

This separation having been effected by the
wrong acts of the French Government, she can
have no daim upon us ; we have tdcen our
stand upon such ground oa can always be justi-
fied, whenever a spirit of justice uiall return.
There is no man, said Mr. B., in the House,
who does not wish for peace, whenever it can
be obtained on a solid foundation* But it was
well observed yesterday by his colleague, (Mr,
GooDBiOH,) that this question is wholly a com-
mercial one. This declaration gave offence to
the gentleman from Pennsylvania. He was
surprised that any one could suppose this to be
the case. Mr. B. said he was equally surprised
at the arguments of that gentleman. What
connection had we with the French Govern-
ment? or what connection had we with any
other, besides commercial? He had heard

Digitized by




Jahuakt, 1799.]

Jntaroaune with Htmet,

much okmor out of doors about other con-
nections — ^about treaties offensive and defensive.
He hoped no such connexion ever -would exist
between this country and any nation whatever.

Mr. Spaigrt said, he willed to have given
the reasons which induced him to make this
amendment yesterday, but a motion being
made for the committee to rise, prevented him.
Having been a member of the committee who
formed this bill, and having given his consent
to it, he trusted it would not be bdieved that
he brought forward this motion to defeat the
bill ; his object was to make it more palatable
to many gentlemen, who, if an amendment
Bomethmg like the present was not adopted,
would vote against the bill. The gentlemen
from Massachusetts and Connecticut have said,
that if this amendment is adopted, it wHl de-
stroy some of the most important principles of
the bilL He believed they had mistaken the
effect of the amendment. They state that it
will be necessary for the President to inquire
whether the conmumder of any island with
which he was about to open our intercourse,
had his authority from the irench Government ?
On the contrary, it appeared to Mr. 8. that, so
long as the citizens of any island acknowledged
France as the mother country, whatever au^o-
lity may exist there, the place must be under
the Government of France. K an open rebel-
lion took place, it would alter the case entirely.
And if conquered by any of the belligerent
powers, it would not then come under the bill ;
8o that, in either case, the amendment could
have no bad effect. The principal motive with
him for moving the amendment was, in order
to take away the objection made to it by many
gentlemen, that the bill is calculated to produce
the independence of St Dominoo ; for he him-
self had no such view, nor did he think any
other member of the committee, who reported
the bill, had. He believed, if the wants of
these people are supplied from this country, it
will be better that they should remain under the
Government of France ; but, if we refuse to
supply them with provisions, they may act as
freebooters, or do still worse— throw them-
selves into the haids of Great Britain, in order
to procure supplies. These reasons had induced
him to make the amendment, and he should be
^aA to see it adopted.

Mr. Chamfun could see no difference between
this and the former amendment, which had
been negatived. The design of this section is,
to authorize the PBEsmEzrr to open the inter-
course with any of the islands and the United
States, whenever he shall deem it consistent
with the honor and dignity of this country,
without inquiring whether such place is under
the French Government. Frequent decrees are
passed in France, said Mr. C, for revoking t^e
commissions of these officers, which are not
enforced ; and yet, if this amendment is passed,
sxich a person could not be treated with, and it
would alw:ays be difficult to ascertain whether
an officer acted under the French Goveromeat

[H. OK R.

or not If the islands choose to cease from
their depredations, he would openly trade with
them ; for the intercourse was originally sus*
pended, not with a view of starving the islands,
but to prevent depredations being committed
upon our commerce. He was astonished to find
that nothing could come before this House, but
gentlemen are ready to object to it on account
of the effect it may have on France. For his
part, if the measure be beneficial to this coun-
try, he cared not what efiect it might have
upon France. It was said this provision would
have a tendency to provoke insurrection, . or
the independence <^ the island; on the contrary,
he believed, if this law does not pass, they will
throw themselves into the hands of Great
Britain, or become plunderers of our property.
He hoped to see the intercourse opened, not
only with St Domingo, but with the Isle of

Mr. Habfeb said, when this amendment was
first made, he considered it as making no con*
siderable change in the section, and was, there*
fore, inclined to vote for it; but the gentleman
from Massachusetts, (Mr. Yabituu,) of whose
discemment he had a very high opinion, having
said that he considered it as making a very con-
siderable change in the section, and declaring
that he would, on that account, vote for it, he
was induced to take a ftirther view of it, and
he found, upon reconsideration, that it would,
indeed, make a very material change in the
section, and because he fouiid this would be the
case, he must vote against it

Mr. Gajllatts said, it appeared to him that
this amendment goes no further than to pre-
vent any stipulationa with persons who have^
usurped the power of a country. It was yester-
day stated by the gentleman from Massachusetts,
and repeated to-day by the gentleman from
North Carolina, that it did not extend to cases
where men^s commissions are doubtful. If a
man has once held a commission as an agent in
any French colony, he may be recognized as their
agent so long as he has not been publicly de-
clared to be otherwise. His exercising the
power will be sufficient proof that he has it;
and, unless this principle is admitted, it must
be evident that the bill is intended to operate
in favor of revolters.

There is a great difi^Brence, said Mr. G., be-
tween this amendment and the one which had
beeoi moved by the gentleman from Yii^nia,
the gentleman from New York, or that which
he Imd himself moved. It was the opinion of
the gentleman from Virginia, and it was his
also, that the Pbssident ought not to be author-
ized to open a trade with St Domingo, unless
the constituted authorities of France had dis-
avowed their former aggressions, and refrained
f^om them ; they did not think it right to per-
mit a trade with particular parts of iJhe posses-
sions of France, considering that the measure
was originally taken to distress the French
Government, and bring it to terms; but this
section gives the power of opening apartial in-

Digitized by




H. OF R.]

ImUrooune viih FrmiM,

[Jahoabt, 1799.

terooorse with St. Domingo, though the Got-
emmont of France should not disavow any of
her former illegal acts ; and the present amend-
ment only proposes to except cases of insnrgen-
oy. ^ Nor could he see what possible objection
can be made to it, except that it will prevent a
lure from being held out to promote the inde-

Sendence of St. Domingo ; for in nothing else
oes the amendment differ from the hill as it
now stancbs.

If we are to hold out this lure, said Mr. G.,
it must be because we have the rig^t, and it is
our interest to do it. When he asserted we
have not the right to do it, he would remark
upon the word ** rij^t." Gentlemen say we
have a right to do this, because we are an inde-
pendent nation. No doubt But when he said
we have not a right to do it, he meant that we
oould not do it without infracting the law of
nations, or those rules which we have declared
ought to govern, every nation. And though the
gentleman itom Connecticut has said that
Biere is no connection of a political nature be-
tween us and France, and therefore considers
this as merely a commercial regulation, Mr. G.
eaid, he has mistaken his meaning, by making
use of the word ^^ connection'' instead of relor
turn. We have no connection, either commer-
cial or political, with France ; but we stand, as
a nation, in a political and commercial relation
with France and other nations. There is no
connection between us, but there is the same
relation, both political and commercial, that
there is between all other nations. And, said
Mr. G., it is, doubtless, an infraction on the law
of nations to offer any lure, or promote the
independence of a colony. We certainly have
a right to give assistance, in case of a rebellion,
by running the risk of becoming a party in the
war, but not without infracting the law of
nations ; still less cod.d we do it without break-
ing that morality in politics, the breach of
which we have so often complained of. We
may suppose the Government of France radical-
ly wrong, and the people exercising it corrupt,
but neiuier would justify the overturning, or
holding out any encouragement to others to
overturn, the Government of any part of her
dependencies. A conduct of this fdnd could
onlv be justified in time of war.

£i this country, in our speeches, at least^ we
have gone further, and said that, even in case of
war, it would not be rig^t to sow the seeds of
insurrection ; for, on what other grounds oould
we account for the philippics which have been
pronounced on this floor against France, for her
conduct not only against countries witn whom

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 83 of 188)