Open main menu

Page:Register of debates in congress, v6.djvu/59

This page needs to be proofread.

devotion to country so characteristic of the South, they only asked if the rights of any portion of their fellow-citizens had been invaded; and when told that Northern ships and New England seamen had been arrested on the common highway of nations, they felt that the honor of their country was assailed; and, acting on that exalted sentiment, “which feels a stain like a wound,” they resolved to seek, in open war, for a redress of those injuries which it did not become freemen to endure. Sir, the whole South, animated as by a common impulse, cordially united in declaring and promoting that war. South Carolina sent to your councils, as the advocates and supporters of that war, the noblest of her sons. How they fulfilled that trust let a grateful country tell. Not a measure was adopted, not a battle fought, not a victory won, which contributed in any degree to the success of that war, to which Southern counsels and Southern valor did not largely contribute. Sir, since South Carolina is assailed, I must be suffered to speak it to her praise, that, at the very moment when, in one quarter, we heard it solemnly proclaimed, “that it did not become a religious and moral people to rejoice at the victories of our army or our navy,” her Legislature unanimously:

“Resolved, That we will cordially support the Government in the vigorous prosecution of the war, until a peace can be obtained on honorable terms; and we will cheerfully submit to every privation that may be required of us, by our Government, for the accomplishment of this object.”

South Carolina redeemed that pledge. She threw open her treasury to the Government. She put at the absolute disposal of the officers of the United States all that she possessed—her men, her money, and her arms. She appropriated half a million of dollars, on her own account, in defence of her maritime frontier; ordered a brigade of State troops to be raised; and when left to protect herself by her own means, never suffered the enemy to touch her soil, without being instantly driven off or captured. Such, sir, was the conduct of the South—such the conduct of my own State in that dark hour “which tried men’s souls.”

When I look back and contemplate the spectacle exhibited, at that time, in another quarter of the Union, when I think of the conduct of certain portions of New England, and remember the part which was acted on that memorable occasion by the political associates of the gentleman from Massachusetts—nay, when I follow that gentleman into the councils of the nation, and listen to his voice during the darkest period of the war, I am indeed astonished that he should venture to touch upon the topics which he has introduced into this debate. South Carolina reproached by Massachusetts! And from whom does the accusation come? Not from the democracy of New England: for they have been, in times past, as they are now, the friends and allies of the South. No, sir, the accusation comes from that party whose acts, during the most trying and eventful period of our national history, were of such a character, that their own Legislature, but a few years ago, actually blotted them out from their records, as a stain upon the honor of the country. But how can they ever be blotted out from the recollections of any one who had a heart to feel, a mind to comprehend, and a memory to retain, the events of that day! Sir, I shall not attempt to write the history of the party in New England, to which I have alluded—the war party in peace, and the peace party in war. That task I shall leave to some future biographer of Nathan Dane, and I doubt not it will be found quite easy to prove that the peace party of Massachusetts were the only defenders of their country, during the war, and actually achieved all our victories by land and sea.

In the mean time, sir, and until that history shall be written, I propose, with the feeble and glimmering lights which I possess, to review the conduct of this party, in connexion with the war, and the events which immediately preceded it. It will be recollected, sir, that our great causes of quarrel with Great Britain were her depredations on Northern commerce, and the impressment of New England seamen. From every quarter we were called upon for protection. Importunate as the West is now represented to be, on another subject, the importunity of the East on that occasion was far greater. I hold in my hands the evidence of the fact. Here are petitions, memorials, and remonstrances, from all parts of New England, setting forth the injustice, the oppressions, the depredations, the insults, the outrages, committed by Great Britain against the unoffending commerce and seamen of New England, and calling upon Congress for redress. Sir, I cannot stop to read these memorials. In that from Boston, after stating the alarming and extensive condemnation of our vessels by Great Britain, which threatened “to sweep our commerce from the face of the ocean,” and “to involve our merchants in bankruptcy,” they called upon the Government “to assert our rights and to adopt such measures as will support the dignity and honor of the United States.”

From Salem, we heard a language still more decisive; they call explicitly for “an appeal to arms,” and pledge their lives and property in support of any measures which Congress might adopt. From Newburyport, an appeal was made “to the firmness and justice of the Government to obtain compensation and protection.” It was here, I think, that, when the war was declared, it was resolved “to resist our own Government, even until blood!”*

In other quarters, the common language of that day was, that our commerce and our seamen were entitled to protection, and that it was the duty of the Government to afford it at every hazard. The conduct of Great Britain, we were then told, was “an outrage upon our national independence.” These clamors, which commenced as early as January, 1806, were continued up to 1812. In a message from the Governor of one of the New England States, as late as the 10th October, 1811, this language is held: “A manly and decisive course has become indispensable—a course to satisfy foreign nations that, while we desire peace, we have the means and the spirit to repel aggression. We are false to ourselves, when our commerce or our territory is invaded with impunity.”

About this time, however, a remarkable change was observable in the tone and temper of those who had been endeavoring to force the country into a war. The language of complaint was changed into that of insult, and calls for protection, converted into reproaches. “Smoke, smoke;” (says one writer) “my life on it our Executive have no more idea of declaring war, than my grandmother.” “The Committee of Ways and Means” (says another) “have come out with their Pandora’s Box of taxes, and yet nobody dreams of war.” “Congress do not mean to declare war; they dare not.” But why multiply examples? An honorable member of the other House, from the city of Boston, [Mr. Quincy] in a speech delivered on the 3 d April, 1812, says, “neither promises, nor threats, nor asseverations, nor oaths, will make me believe that you will go to war. The navigation States are sacrificed, and the spirit and character of the country prostrated by fear and avarice;” “you cannot,” said the same gentleman on another occasion, “be kicked into a war.”

Well, sir, the war at length came, and what did we behold! The very men who had been for six years clamorous for war, and for whose protection it was waged, became at once equally clamorous against it. They had received a miraculous visitation; a new light suddenly beamed upon their minds; the scales fell from their eyes, and it was discovered that the war was declared from “subserviency to France;” and that Congress and the Executive “had sold themselves to Napoleon;” that Great