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

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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 80 of 186)
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of the laws of nations ; t the blood-stained Brit-
ish lion would roar, but he would not fight ; the
conscious murderers of our wives and dear
smiling babes would have shrank appalled when
they saw their husbands, sons, and brothers,
determined on just revenge.

Ko war would we have had ; our honest,
generous, and brave sailors would never have
been impressed and ignominiously whipped to
try to make them fight against their country's
friends; nor would our merchants have been
despoiled of their pelf; we would have had no
war, no apprehensions of the necessity of an
armed force to guard against the efforts of Brit-
ish intrigue, no blue lights or Hartford conven-
tions ; die table of yonr Committee of Claims
would never have groaned under the weight of
petitions for relief of officers from the pressure
of heavy judgments given against them, by
what is called courts of justice, too, for the
faithful execution of a legal military order ; and,
what is more to be deplored than all, the shame-
ful capitulation of Alexandria we never should

* Colonel JohnBOO, fW>m Kentucky, by all belored for hla
hmnane attention to our Boldlers^ olalinB and their widows*
applications for pensions.

T €k)lonel Johnson^s constmction of Yattel, upon the laws
of nations, is in perfect accordance with the laws of natoro

Digitized by




H. OF R.]

The JSemmoU War,

[Fbbbuaby, 1819.

have heard ol^ nor the conflagration of oar Cap-
itol in this citj, which bears the name of the
illustrious Wabhinqton. Oh, Genius of Histo-
ry, if from thy chaste page thou ¥W>uld'st wipe
those foul blots from our character, the laurels
of the late British war, like those of the Semi-
nole war, would forever bloom upon thy records
without an adverse shade I

Mr. Chairman, until I am convinced that
sound sense, some little reading, and clpse atten-
tion to the sound, learned, and eloquent argu-
ments I have heard, will not qualify me to give
a just opinion upon the subject, I shall be most
decidedly opposed to the resolutions under dis-
cussion, and make free to say that the Military
Committee has made a most nnmilitary report

Sir, until I am persuaded that I should be
reprehensible in hot pursuit to follow the mur-
derers of wife and children to the house of their
accessories, on whosesoever ground it might
stand, and drag them forth to iostant punkh-
ment, I shall continue to thank and praise the
man who has saved their Uvea or revenged their

Mr. Chairman, I felicitate myself, I congratu-
late my country, that our people better under-
stand their rights than those of the old Bepub-
lics, and have a more equal distribution of
property than they had; that tMs honorable
House is composed of, if not brighter, at least
stronger materials than the legislative councils
of Greece and Bome ; if it was not, this day we
might be led to record a vote at which the
crowned heads in Europe indeed might chuckle ;
more cause would they have to diuckle than
when they heard of Jackson's Creek treaty.*
Much greater cause would our friends in Eu-
rope have of woe and bitter lamentation, to
fold their desponding arms, and droop the
melancholy head, than when they heard of our
extinguishing the Indian title to a little slip of

To see us sacrifice onr General, who shame-
fully defeated old England's chosen glorious
bauds, would make the Prince Begent's Minis-
ters rejoice; to sacrifice our General would
quiet the manes of the execrable Ambrister,
and no doubt please Arbuthnot's honorable cor-
respondent in this city ;t to dismiss our Gen-
eral, who pursued the nurtured robbers of our
people and murderers of our innocent children
into Peosacola, wonld no doubt excite a grin
from His Catholic Majesty's Minister near this
metropolis. The sacrifice that we should make
to a mistaken idea of patriotism and humanity,
would be by him attributed to our fears of for-
eign force, for the poor soul knows nothing
about the milk of human kindness that so abun-
dantly flows in every freeman's breast. De-
prived of our General, (for he thinks we have
got but one,) he will again renew the Spanish

* Mr. Cia.r eoid, tho crowned heada of Europe chuckled
when they heard of Jackson^s Treaty with the Creeka; and
onr fiienda folded their melancholy anna, hnng the dejected
he^ when they found that we had acquired DidlaJi iMid.

t The Britiah Minister in Washington.

daim to all the lands from the head to the
mouth of the Mississippi; and if we did not
forthwith surrender them, he would threaten
us with the vengeance dire of his potent royal
master. These, sir, will be the valuable results
of our agreement with the honorable committee
on military matters ; this sacrifice, the honora-
ble committee shows, will be made upon very
slight presumptioD, that the General had, in the
execution of a military order, a little exceeded
a strictly literal construction. . I think it con-
ceded by all the honorable speakers upon this
question, that, in their various opinions of ne-
cessity consists alone their discordant opinions
upon this subject. Then, let us ask, who is the
better judge of an important mUitary move-
ment? The gentleman at home, in peace and
safety, feasting on all the luxuries of every
dime, his children, like ble^ed seraphs, playing
about him, his wife, too, sweet, soft, intelligent
all-accomplished, and beautiful too, as much as
his fond wishes could have, whose humane ear
was never pierced with the distant sound of the
dreadful savage yell; whose charitable heart
never had occasion to extend her munificent
hand to the relief of woes in^cted by a barba-
rian band of ruthless sons of the wood, or the
hardy weather-beaten General in the field, com-
bating all the difficulties necessarily accompany-
ing savas^e warfare; is that all, sir? No— sub-
sisting hunself and all his army on kind nature's
spontaneous gifts, an aU-importaut object to his
country before his eye, which must be efiTected
by a given day, or himself and ann^ starves.
Who is the best judge in such a case — ^the brave,
aged, experienced General, at the head of the
army, or the young, sweet-smelling, powdered
beau of a drawing room? Ko doubt here. Then
why not, in the name of propriety, leave to
your General's own discretion the exercise of
open orders, and not attempt to find fault where
we cannot^ from our situations, form a correct
judgment of the necessities that lead to certain

A word to my dear, good old mother, Yir-
g^a, and then I am aone. With heartfelt
pleasure did I see one of her favored sons, (Mr.
Ttleb,) of the yoxmger brood, exhibit upon this
occasion the true patriot soul; from his firm,
expressive countenance, and bright, intelligent
eye, I read the triumph of his soul, I saw that
his devotion to his country had obtained a con-
quest over his filial affections. I thought I saw
his heart weep blood when his eye said. Behold,
my country, here is your Brutus; like the elder
Brutus, I would condemn my own son for a
breach of public law — ^like the younger, I would
stab my father to save my country. I envy
such feelings; they are almost too exalted for
mortal man ; yet I am sure he had them. But
I implore my friend to recollect, that if there
had ho&Oi a hook on which to hang a doubt of
the guilt of the son of the elder Brutus, that his
act would have been thought most horrid. That
if it was not well known that Csssar was indeed
ambitious, the younger Brutus would have com-

Digitized by




VVBRVART^ 1819.]

2%eSminol6 War,

[H. OF R.

mitted ft most detested crime. I hope his re-
flections on the subject will guard him against
passing sentence against his brother, without
the most incontestable proo& that his country
is thereby to be relieved from most imminent
danger. Let not this ardent zeal for the preser-
vation of our constitution impel him to leap
over its sacred walls, and horribly trespass upon
its most valuable provisions. Is not the securi-
ty of our reputation among the greatest objects
of the constitution ? If we condemn our Gen-
eral^s conduct because, indeed, we cannot ex-
actly think like him, will we not severely tres-
pass on his feelings? Ton all do know what
Shakspeare says about the value of a good name :
^* Beputation dear, my lord, is the immediate
jewel of the soul,'* &c. Every member of this
House, every lady in the gallery, and gentleman
too, I hope, have read and highly approve his

If reputation be so dear to every one among
us, how high indeed must it be rated by him,
whose bread, whose meat, whose life itself^
hangs upon his fair won fame. I am happy,
sir, to teU my friend, the honorable member
from Philadelphia, that I shall never fear that
the keen pryiijg sense of squint-eyed suspicion
will ever find a spider^s egg among the leaves,
much less a serpent, entwined about the branch-
es of the full-grown wreath of laurels that
adorns my General's brow. No, sir; Jackson's
laurels can never scatter the seed that may
hatch some ftiture Tarquin, to wound the tender
breast of some chaste Lucretia.

• Seminole War.

The House then a^ain resolved itself into a
Oomndttee of the Whole, (Mr. Smith, of Mary-
land, in the ohair,) on the subject of the Semi-
nole war.

Mr. Baldwin, of Penn., observed, that, in
entering into the investigation of this subject,
he should not inquire whether motives of feel-
ing and compassion should induce us to palliate
and excuse tiie conduct of General Jackson and
the President, and whether it were right or
wrong. If innocent blood had been shed, or the
laws and constitution of the country grossly vio-
lated, neither the exalted character nor eminent
services of the persons implicated ought to ex-
empt them from the censure of this House,
^ut, on a careful examination of all the evi-
dence and documents submitted to us, he was
fuUy of the opinion e2q)re8sed by his friend from
Kentucky, the chairman of the Military Com-
mittee, (Mr. JoBsaoNj) that General Jackson,
in the wilds of Florida, better understood the
laws of nations, and the constitution of hb
oountry, than gentlemen in this House, who
had been so long discussing the propriety of his

To come to a correct conclusion on the trial

and execution of Arbuthnot and Ambrister, it

would be well to inquire who they were, and

their business and employment in Florida. Ar-

VoL. VL— 21

buthnot was the agent of Kicholls and Wood-
bine, to excite dissensions among the Indians,
to make them dissatisfied with the treaty of
Fort Jackson, induce them by force to reclaim
the lands ceded to us by that treaty, and the
British and Spanish Governments to become
parties. By a special power of attorney he be-
came the general a^ent of all the Indians hostile
to us, and was the mstigator of all their inroads
upon our Southern border. He pretended to be
there for trade, but this was a mere pretence.
Examine his letter to Governor Cameron, " I
beg leave to represent to your excellency the
necessity of my again returning to the Indian
nation, with the deputies from the chiefs, and
as my trouble and expense can only be defray-
ed by permission to take goods to dispose
among them, I pray your excellency will be
pleased to grant such a letter or license as pre-
vents me being captured in case of meeting any
Spanish cruiser on the coast of Florida." He
was not the advocate for peaceful measures;
his letter to General Mitchell justifies the mur-
ders of the frontier inhabitants. Speaking of
the Indians, he says, " H^ in the height of their
rage, they committed any excesses, you will
overlook them, as the just ebullitions of an in-
dignant spirit against an invading foe." . To
further ascertain his true character, and that of
his agency and trade, I b^ the committee to
examine his letter to Mr. Bagot The bill of
goods that this humane trader and innocent
and injured man ordered to be sent to him, was
^* 2,000 knives, blades from six to nine inches in
length, of a good quality — 1,000 tomahawks.'-
This was Arbuthnot; and these facts appear
from letters in his own handwriting.

Ambrister was a pretended patriot ; the agent
of McGregor and Woodbine.. He came to Flori-
da to command the runaway negroes of Greor-
gia, slaves who had absconded from their mafr>
ters, and were organized by him to return to
our country, and visit it with all the horrors of
a savage negro war. He came to Florida on
their business, and to see them righted. A07
cording to the testimony of John J. Arbuthnot^
*' about the 8d of March th^ prisoner Ambrister
came with a body of negroes, partly armed, to
his father's store on Suwanee Eiver, and told
the witness that he had come to do justice to
the country, by taking the goods, and distribut-
ing them among the negroes and Indians, which
the witness saw the prisoner do ; and that the
prison^ said to him, that he had come to the
country on Woodbine's business, to see the ne-
groes righted. The witness has further known
the prisoner to give orders to the negroes; and
that, at his suggestion, a party was sent' from
Suwanee to meet the Americans, to give item
battle." Peter B. Cook testified, that, ^^some
time in March, the prisoner Ambrister took
Arbuthnot's schooner, and with an armed party
of negroes, twenty-four in number, set out to
take Arbuthnot's goods, &c. The prisoner was
sent by Woodbine to Tampa, to see about those
negroes he had left there.'' Ambrister, in a

Digitized by




H. OF R.]

The Semmole War,

[Fbbbuast, 1819.

letter to Nicholls, says, " There is about three
hnndred blacks at this place, a few of oar Bluff
people, (alluding to the negro fort on Prospect
Bluff;) they beg me to say they depend on your
promises, and expect you all on the way out
They have stuck to the cause, and will always
depend on the faith of you," &c. The prisoner,
Ambrister, according to the testimony of Jacob
Hannon, **took possession of the schooner
Chance, with an armed party of negroes, and
stated his intention of taking St Marks. "While
the prisoner was on board, he had complete
command of the negroes, who considered him
as their captain."

He boasts that three hundred negroes have
stuck to the cause — ^the cause of Indians attack-
ing the defenceless inhabitants of our frontiers;
negroes fighting against their masters ; and all
joining in horrid butchery and murder ; Am-
brister leading them in the field, Arbuthnot
their agent, adviser, commissary, quarter-mas-
ter, store-keeper — secure in a Spanish post, con-
certing all their plans, and directing all their

Gentlemen may differ as to the manner in
which we consider Indians, whether as a nation,
or as occupants of the soil, with a qualified
right of ownership ; but, as to negroes, there
can be but one opinion. In Georgia they are
slaves, property not merely personal but politi-
cal, property of the highest descriptiou, which
we are bound by the constitution to protect,
and to restore to their owners. These negroes
could acquire no new right by absconding into
Florida, and, however numerous their assem-
blage may be, we cannot acknowledge them as
thus acquiring any national character. As be-
tween them and us they were still ^ves; and
their owners, the G^rgia militia, who were
with General Jackson, had a right to consider
and treat them not as a nation entitled to the
protection of the rules of civilized warfare.
They were, in fact, suppressing an insurrection
of slaves, aided by an Indian force, all assem-
bled and armed for purposes hostile to the
country. One white man is found at their
head, fighting and leading them on* another
exciting, and supplying them with ue means
of destruction. These men cannot complain if
they are put on a footing witii those with
whom they thus associate. They cannot ex-
pect to raise this compound mass to their own
level, but must be satisfied to sink to theirs.
Arbuthnot's own opinion of himself is entitled
to some weight In his letter of 8d March,
1817, he says: "The Lower Creeks seem to
wish to live peaceably, and quietiy, and in good
fHendship with the others, but there are some
designing and ill-minded persons, self-interested,
who are endeavoring to create quarrels between
the Upper and Lower Creek Indians, contrary
to their interests, their happiness, and welfare.
Such people belong to no nation, and ought not
to be countenanced by any government. He
did excite this war, and tiiuS) by his own ac-
count, belongs to no nation. What then is he.

but an outlaw and a pirate, placed beyond the
protection of civilized society? Thus we find
General Jackson and Arbuthnot agree as to
him, and, as to Ambrister, I will willingly leave
it to be decided whether he was leas an outlaw
than the runaway brigands whom he com-

The greater part of the hostile Indians were
the Creeks, who had been outlawed by their
people. To call a gregarious collection of this
kind, composed of outlawed Indians and run-
away negroes a nation, and give them national
attributes, is idle, l^either mass was so by
themselves, and their union for a common ob-
ject could not chanfle the character of the con-
stituent parts. A better or more appropriate
name could not be given to them as a mass, or
as individuals, than outlaws and pirates. liiey
were so in fiict, and, whatever rights we had
agunst any, we had against all, whether black,
white, or red.

Arbuthnot was near the scene of operations,
aiding and abetting, an aooessoiy before the
fact An attempt is made to distinguish hia
case from Ambrister's, because he was a non-
combatant But to me it seems, that the man
who, as the agent, commissary,, and quarter-
master, directed and planned the operations
of this assemblage, and directiy supplied them
with the means, is as much a combatant as one
who actually bore arms in the field. Thus were
these men completely identified with the Indians
and negroes, and, being found in this situation
by General Jackson, he practised towards them
not the right of retaliation, which is punishing
the innocent for the guilty, but applied to them
what is admitted and conceded to be the estab-
lished law of nations ; to treat those with whom
we are at war as they treat us. Indians put
their prisoners to death, and in -this war they
did not spare women and children; the brains
of the latter were dashed out on the sides of
the boat, after the massacre of Lieutenant Scott
and party, and I think it can hardl v be con-
tended that we were bound to extend to these
sayages, to runaway slaves, or white incendia-
ries, the humane rules of modern civilized war-
fare. Their execution was only the exercise of
an acknowledged right in us.

In distinguishing between the moral depravity
of the ignorant Indian, who, in roasting his
prisoner and murdering the mother and the in-
fimt, follows the customs of his fathers, and as
he thinks, the dictates of his religion ; and the
white man, who, forgetting the mild customs
of his nation, and deaf to the benignant dictates
of the Christian religion, instigates, aids, and
abets the Indian and negro to the horrid butch- .
ery of innocence, I think all must agree that •
the one who sins a^nst light and knowledge is
infinitely more cnminal. Th^ guilt is in the
heart that plots and not the hand that executes,
as was* most forcibly expressed by a gentleman
fi*om Virginia. Not in the musket, but in him

who directs it. If , who was present and

assisted at the burning of the unfortunate Colo-

Digitized by



Febroabt, 1819.]

The Seminole War.

[H. OF R.

nel Crawford, had been talcen by our troops,
and executed ; if, on that day, so prond ana
yet so fatal for Kentnoky, when, after the battle
of the river Baisin, there was a barbarons mas-
sacre of her captive soldiers, it had been trae,
as was alleged, that a British officer, high
in command, abetted and connived at the mur-
ders, and he had been taken and executed,
would his fate have been more lamented than
that of the poor savage, whom they encouraged ?
In executing Arbuthnot and Ambrister, it is
not charged against General Jackson that he
had shed innocent blood. The facts were admit-
ted; their guilt was established; one threw
himself on the mercy of the court, the other
rested his defence on the tules of evidence.
The charge is, that the guilty have not been
punished according to the forms of law, and
that the constitution and laws of the country
have been violated in their trial and execution.
I think that neither have any bearing on the
case of these men. They were found and ex-
ecuted out of the territorial limits of the United
States, where our laws or constitution have no
operation, except as between us and our citi-
zens, and where none other could claim their
benefit and protection. If the rights of an
American citizen had been violated by an
American officer, he must answer to our laws
for an abuse of an authority .which he derived
under them. These men were not our dtizens,
not bound by our laws; they owed us no aJle-
^ance, and were entitled to no protection.
The General claimed no power to punish them
under our laws. He knew that legislation was
necessarily confined to the boundary of the
Sovereign ; that on the ocean, where each na-
tion has concurrent jurisdiction, or in Ihe terri-
tory of any other where it is exclusive, our
laws could not give us any power over the
citizens of other Governments, or within their
boundaries. All that we could daim or exer-
cise, in either case, is by the laws and usages
of nations. Our l^islation cannot extend or
annul this code. We may, indeed, prescribe
the mode in which our officers shall execute
the powers which the laws of nations give us
over the persons, territory, or property of
others, but cannot extend our Jurisdiction over
either, or give it in cases where those laws are
silent. In advocating the resolution which re-
quires some legislative rule on this subject,
eentlemen seem to forget these principles — ^we
have no power — ^we should encroach on the
rights of other nations. As we cannot, there-
fore, give ourselves any new powers by any act
of legislation, I trust gentlemen will see the bad
policy and the injustice we should do ourselves
by adopting any rule not to be ibund in na-
tional law. If we take from our officers the
powers which that law gives them, we go to
war op unequal terms, with our hands ti^ so
that we shall not be at liberty .to treat our
enemy as they treat us. Our officers could
neither retaliate nor punish for the most atro-
cious outrages on humanity. Innocent blood

would forever flow. Indian ware would never
cease. Foreign emissaries would always hang
on our borders, and escape with impunity.
The law of nations and of war gives the Gene*
ral power over his prisoners. The old prac-
tice was to put them to death ; and that still
exists, when the consent of the belligerents has
. not adopted a different rule. Civilized nations
govern themselves by the laws of humanity ;
but our savages have not yet learned them.
War, with them, has lost none of its horrors or
cruelties. It surely cannot be pretAded tiiat
we are bound by a rule which tney do not re-
spect; that we cannot, by retaliation or by
just punishment, revenge for pastor prevent
future murders ; or that where we take white
men who have served in civilized armies and
know their usages, and yet aid and instigate the
most dreadful savage war, we may not treat
them as we might the savages or negroes whom
they command and lead on. By the laws and
uniform practice of civilized nations, this pow-
er is in the commanding General. In the case
of Captain Asgill, the old Congress resolved
that it was in every oonmiander of a detach-
ment. This was a strong case. He was about
to be executed for the crimes of another. We
have never by any law, prohibited to a com-
manding officer the exercise of this power, and
it therefore remains with him.

Monday, Febbuaby 8.
£anh qf the United States.
The Sfkaieeb laid before the House a memo-
rial of William Jones, late President of the
Bank of the United States, containing an expo-
sition of the views and motives which have
regulated his official conduct, and submitting
his case to the wisdom and justice of Congress,
in the fbll confidence that his reputation will
not be subjected to obloquy, by inierences alike

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 80 of 186)