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possible, that the British government, after instructing, admiral Warren to communicate to the department of state the repeal of the orders in coưncil, may have declined the arrangement proposed by Mr. Russell, in the expectatien that that measure would have been satisfactory to the United States. Be this as it may, your committee consider it the duty of this House to explain to its constituents the remaining cause of controversy, the precise nature of that cause, and the high obligation which it imposes.
From what has been stated it appears, that however great the sensibility to other wrongs, the impressment of
our seamen was that alone which prevented an armistice, : and in all probability an accommodation. Had that great interest been arranged in a satisfactory manner, the President was willing to rely on the intrinsick justice of other claims, and the amicable spirit in which the negotiation would have been entered into, for satisfaction in their favour. Great Britain claims a right to impress her own seamen and to exercise it in American vessels. In the practice, British cruisers impress American citizens, and from the nature of things, it is impossible that that abuse should not be carried to great extent. A subaltern, or any other officer of the British navy, ought not to be the arbiter in such a case. The liberty and the lives of American citizens ought not to depend on the will of such a party.
The British government has insisted that every American citizen should carry with him the evidence of his citi. zenship, and that all those not possessed of it might be impressed. This criterion, if not otherwise objectionable, would be so, as the document might be lost, destroyed or taken from the party to whom it was granted, nor might it in all cases be entitled to respect, as it might be counterfeited, transferred or granted to improper persons. But this rule is liable to other and much stronger objections. On what principle does the British government claim of the United States so great and shameful a degradation ? Ought the free citizens of an independent power to carry with them on the main ocean, and in their own vessels, the evidence of their freedom ? and are all to be considered British subjects and liable to impressnient who do not bear with them that badge? Is it not more consistent with every idea, both of publick as well as of private right, that the party setting up a claim to any interest, whether it be to persons or property, should prove his right? What would be the conduct of Great Britain under similar circumstances? Would she permit the publick ships of any other power, disregarding the rights of her flag, to enter on board her merchant vessels, take from them such part of their crews as the boarding officers thought fit, often her own subjects, exposing, by means thereof, their vessels to destruction? Would she suffer such an usurpation to derive any sanction from her patient forbearance ?
With the British claim to impress British seamen, the United States have no right to interfere, provided it be in British vessels or in any other than those of the United States. That American citizens should be exempted from its operation is all that they demand. Experience has shown that this cannot be secured otherwise than by the vessel in which they sail. Take from American citizens this barrier, which ought to be held sacred, and there is nothing to protect them against the rapacious grasp of the British navy. This then is the extent of the demand of the United States; a demand so just in itself, so consistent and inseparable from their rights as an independent nation, that it has been a cause of astonishment that it should ever have been called in question. The foundation of the British claim is, that British seamen find employment in the service of the United States : this is represented as an evil affecting essentially the great interests of the British nation. This complaint would have more weight, if sanctioned by the British example. It is known, on the contrary, that it is in direct repugnance to it. Great Britain does not scruple to receive into her service all who enter into it voluntarily. If she confined herself within that limit, the pre sent controversy would not exist. Heretofore the subjects of even the most despotick powers have been left at liberty to pursue their own happiness, by honest industry, wherever their inclination led them. The British government refuses to its seamen that privilege. Let not this, then, be a ground of controversy with Great Britain. Lei it be distinctly understood, that in case an arrangement
should be made between the two nations, whereby each should exclude from its service the citizens and subjects of the other, on the conditions and principles above stated, that this House will be prepared so far as depends on it, to give it effect, and for that purpose to enact laws with such regulations and penalties as will be adequate. With this pledge, it is not perceived on what ground the British government can persist in its claim. If British seamen are excluded from the service of the United States, as may be effectually done, the foundation of the claim must cease. When it is known that not one British sea. man could be found on board American vessels, it would be absurd to urge that fact as a motive for impressment.
In declaring a willingness to give effect to the proposed arrangement, your committee consider it equally the duty of the House to declare, in terms the most decisive, that should the British government still decline it, and persevere in the practice of impressment from American ves. sels, the United States will never acquiesce in that practice, but will resist it unceasingly with all their force. It is not necessary now to inquire what the course would have been with respect to impressment, in case the orders in council had been repealed before the declaration of war, or how long the practice of impressment would have been borne, in the hope that that repeal would have been followed by a satisfactory arrangement with respect to impressment.
War having been declared, and the case of impressment being necessarily included as one of the most important causes, it is evident that it must be provided for in the pacification : the omission of it in a treaty of peace would not leave it on its former ground : it would, in effect, be an absolute relinquishment; an idea, at which the feel. ings of every American must revolt. The seamen of the United States have a claim on their country for protection, and they must be protected. If a single ship is taken at sea, and the property of an American citizen wrested from him unjustly, it rouses the indignation of the country, How much more deeply then ought we to be excited, when we behold so many of this gallant and highly meritorious class of our fellow citizens snatched from the bosom of their families and of their country, and carried
into a cruel and afflicting bondage. It is an evil which ought not, which cannot be longer tolerated. Without dwelling on the sufferings of the victims, or on that wide scene of distress which it spreads among their relatives through the country, the practice in itself is, in the highest degree, degrading to the United States as a nation. It is incompatible with their sovereignty. It is subversive of the main pillars of their independence. The forbearance of the United States under it has been mistaken for pusillanimity.
The British pretension was maturing fast into a right, Had resistance been longer delayed, it might have become one. Every administration remonstrated against it, in a tone which bespoke the growing indignation of the country. Their remonstrances produced no effect. It was worthy the illustrious leader of our armies, when called by the voice of his country to the head of the government, to pause, rather than to recommend to his fellow citizens a new war, before they had recovered from the calamities of the late one. It was worthy his immediate successors to follow his example.
In peace our free system of government would gain strength, and our happy union become consolidated : but, at the last session, the period had arrived when forbearance could be no longer justified. It was the duty of Congress to take up this subject in connection with the other great wrongs of which they complained, and to seek redress in the only mode which became the representatives of a free people. They have done so by appealing to arms, and that appeal will be supported by their constituents.
Your committee are aware that an interesting crisis has arrived in the United States ; but they have no painful apprehension of its consequences.
The course before them is direct. It is pointed out equally by a regard to the honour, the rights, and the interests of the nation. If we pursue it with firmness and vigour, relying on the aid of heaven, our success is inevitable.
Our resources are abundant ; the people are brave and virtuous, and their spirit unbroken. The gallantry of our infant navy bespeaks our growing greatness on that element; and that of our troops, when led to action, inspires
full confidence of what may be expected from them when their organization is complete. Our union is always most strong when menaced by foreign dangers; the people of America are never so much one family, as when their liberties are invaded.
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES TO THE
SENATE. FEB. 18, 1813.
I TRANSMIT to the Senate a report of the Secretary of State, complying with their resolution of the 18th of Janu
[Report, &c. not published, as the negotiations are still pénding ; but the subject may be indistinctly understood from the resolution which follows.]
Extract from the Confidential Proceedings of the Senate of
the United States, Jan. 18, 1813. “ RESOLVED, That the President of the United States be requested to cause to be laid before the Senate, all letters and communications that have passed between the government of the United States and that of Spain, or the ministers thereof, since the 9th day of January, 1804, on the subject of indemnities for spoliations committed on our commerce by her subjects before that time ; and also in relation to French seizures and condemnation of our vessels in the ports of Spain, during the late war with France; together with such communications between this and the French government, as relate to the same subjects; with such instructions as have been given to the ministers of the United States in relation to the same. And any propositions or negotiations that have been had or made with France or Spain, for ceding East Florida to the United States, previous to the 15th day of January, 1811, not heretofore communicated."