Britain had, in fact, done us “no essential injury;” that she was “the bulwark of our religion;” that where “she took one of our ships, she protected twenty;” and that, if Great Britain had impressed a few of our seamen, it was because “she could not distinguish them from her own.” And so far did this spirit extend, that a committee of the Massachusetts Legislature actually fell to calculation, and discovered, to their infinite satisfaction, but to the astonishment of all the world beside, that only eleven Massachusetts sailors had ever been impressed. Never shall I forget the appeals that had been made to the sympathies of the South, in behalf of the “thousands of impressed Americans” who had been torn from their families and friends, and “immured in the floating dungeons of Britain.” The most touching pictures were drawn of the hard condition of the American sailor, “treated like a slave,” forced to fight the battles of his enemies, “lashed to the mast to be shot at like a dog.” But, sir, the very moment we had taken up arms in their defence, it was discovered that all these were mere “fictions of the brain,” and that the whole number of the State of Massachusetts was but eleven; and that even these had been “taken by mistake.” Wonderful discovery! The Secretary of State had collected authentic lists of no less than six thousand impressed Americans. Lord Castlereagh himself acknowledged sixteen hundred. Calculations on the basis of the number found on board of the Guerriere, the Macedonian, the Java, and other British ships, (captured by the skill and gallantry of those heroes whose achievements are the treasured monuments of their country’s glory) fixed the number at seven thousand; and yet, it seems, Massachusetts had lost but eleven! Eleven Massachusetts sailors taken by mistake! A cause of war, indeed! Their ships, too, the capture of which had threatened “universal bankruptcy,” it was discovered that Great Britain was their friend and protector; “where she had taken one, she had protected twenty.” Then was the discovery made, that subserviency to France, hostility to commerce, “a determination on the part of the South and the West to break down the Eastern States,” and especially, (as reported by a committee of the Massachusetts Legislature,) “to force the sons of commerce to populate the wilderness,” were the true causes of the war.* But let us look a little further into the conduct of the peace party of New England, at that important crisis. Whatever difference of opinion might have existed as to the causes of the war, the country had a right to expect that, when once involved in the contest, all America would have cordially united in its support. Sir, the war effected, in its progress, a union of all parties at the South. But not so in New England; there, great efforts were made to stir up the minds of the people to oppose it. Nothing was left undone to embarrass the financial operations of the Government, to prevent the enlistment of troops, to keep back the men and money of New England from the service of the Union, to force the President from his seat. Yes, sir, “the Island of Elba! or a halter!” were the alternatives they presented to the excellent and venerable James Madison. Sir, the war was further opposed by openly carrying on illicit trade with the enemy, by permitting that enemy to establish herself on the very soil of Massachusetts, and by opening a free trade between Great Britain and America, with a separate custom house. Yes, sir, those who cannot endure the thought that we should insist on a free trade in time of profound peace, could without scruple claim and exercise the right of carrying on a free trade with the enemy in a time of war; and, finally, by getting up the renowned “Hartford Convention,” and preparing the way for an open resistance to the Government, and a separation of the States. Sir, if I am asked for the proof of those things, I fearlessly appeal to cotemporary history, to the public documents of the country, to the recorded opinions and acts of public assemblies, to the declaration and acknowledgments, since made, of the Executive and Legislature of Massachusetts herself.*
Sir, the time has not been allowed me to trace this subject through, even if I had been disposed to do so. But I cannot refrain from referring to one or two documents which have fallen in my way since this debate began. I read, sir, from the Olive Branch of Mathew Carey, in which are collected “the actings and doings” of the peace party of New England, during the continuance of the embargo and the war. I know the Senator from Massachusetts will respect the high authority of his political friend and fellow laborer in the great cause of “domestic industry.”
In page 301, et seq. 9 of this work, is a detailed account of the measures adopted in Massachusetts during the war, for the express purpose of embarrassing the financial operations of the Government, by preventing loans, and thereby driving our rulers from their seats, and forcing the country into a dishonorable peace. It appears that the Boston banks commenced an operation by which a run was to be made upon all the banks to the South; at the same time stopping their own discounts, the effect of which was to produce a sudden and most alarming diminution of the circulating medium, and universal distress over the whole country—a distress which they failed not to attribute to the “unholy war.”
To such an extent was this system carried, that it appears from a statement of the condition of the Boston banks, made up in January, 1814, that with nearly five millions dollars of specie in their vaults, they had but two millions of dollars of bills in circulation. It is added by Carey, that at this very time an extensive trade was carried on in British Government bills, for which specie was sent to Canada, for the payment of the British troops then laying waste our Northern frontier, and this too at the very moment when New England ships, sailing under British licences, (a trade declared to be lawful by the courts both of Great Britain and Massachusetts* ) were supplying with provisions those very armies destined for the invasion of our own shores. Sir, the author of the Olive Branch, with a holy indignation, denounces these acts as “treasonable!” “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” I shall not follow his example. But I will ask with what justice or propriety can the South be accused of disloyalty from that quarter. If we had any evidence that the Senator from Massachusetts had admonished his brethren then, he might with a better grace assume the office of admonishing us now.
When I look at the measures adopted in Boston at that day, to deprive the Government of the necessary means for carrying on the war, and think of the success and the consequences of these measures, I feel my pride as an