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very moment when the public minister was holding the language of friendship and inspiring confidence in the sincerity of a negotiation with which he was charged, a secret agent of his government was employed in intrigues having for their object a subversion of our government and a dismemberment of our happy union,
In reviewing the conduct of Great Britain toward the United States, our attention is necessarily drawn to the warfare just renewed by the savages on one of our extensive frontiers, a warfare which is known to spare neither age nor sex, and to be distinguished by features peculiarly shocking to humanity. It is difficult to account for the activity and combinations which have been for some time developing themselves among tribes in constant intercourse with British traders and garrisons, without connecting their hostility with that influence, and without recollecting the anthenticated examples of such interpositions heretofore furnished by the officers and agents of that government.
Such is the spectacle of injuries and indignities which have been heaped on our country, and such the crisis which its unexampled forbearance and conciliatory efforts have not been able to avert. It might at least have been expected that an enlightened nation, if less urged by moral obligations or invited by friendly disposition on the part of the United States, would have found in its true interest alone a sufficient motive to respect their rights and their tranquillity on the high seas; that an enlarged policy would have favored that free and general circulation of commerce in which the British nation is at all times interested, and which in times of war is the best allevi. ation of its calamities to herself as well as to other belligerents, and more especially that the British cabinet would not, for the sake of a precarious and surreptitious intercourse with hostile markets
, have persevered in a course of measures which necessarily put at hazard the invaluable market of a great and growing country, disposed to cultivate the mutual advantages of an active commerce.
Other counsels have prevailed. Our moderation and conciliation have had no other effect than to encourage perseverance and to enlarge pretensions, We behold our seafaring citizens still the daily victims of lawless violence, committed on the great and common highway of nations even within sight of the country which owes them protection. We behold our vessels freighted with the products of our soil and industry, or returning with the honest proceeds of them, wrested from their lawful destinations, confiscated by prize-courts no longer the organs of public law but the instruments of arbitrary edicts, and their unfortunate crews dispersed and lost, or forced or inveigled in British ports into British fleets, whilst arguments are employed in support of these aggressions which have no foundation but in a principle equally supporting a claim to regulate our external commerce in all cases whatsoever
We behold, in fine, on the side of Great Britain, a state of war against the United States, and on the side of the United States, a state of peace toward Great Britain.
Whether the United States shall continue passive under the progressive usurpations and these accumulating wrongs, or, opposing force to force in defence of their national rights, shall commit a just cause into the hands of the Almighty Disposer of events, avoiding all connections which might entangle it in the contests or views of other powers, and preserving a constant readiness to concur in an honorable re-establishment of peace and friendship,
is a solemn question which the constitution wisely confides to the legislative department of the government. In recommending it to their early deliberations, I am happy in the assurance that the decision will be worthy the enlightened and patriotic councils of a virtuous, free, and a powerful nation.
Having presented this view of the relations of the United States with Great Britain, and of the solemn alternative growing out of them, I proceed to remark that the communications last made to Congress on the subject of our relations with France will have shown, that since the revocation of her decrees, as they violated the neutral rights of the United States, her government has authorized illegal captures by its privateers and public ships, and that other outrages have been practised on our vessels and our citizens. It will have been seen, also, that no indemnity had been provided, or satisfactorily pledged, for the extensive spoliations committed under the violent and retrospective orders of the French government against the property of our citizens seized within the jurisdiction of France. I abstain, at this time, from recommending to the consideration of Congress definitive measures with respect to that nation, in the expectation that the result of unclosed discussions between our minister plenipotentiary at Paris and the French government, will speedily enable Congress to decide with greater advantage on the course due to the rights, the interests, and the honor of our country.
FOURTH ANNUAL MESSAGE,
NOVEMBER 4, 1812.
On our present meeting it is my first duty to invite your attention to the providential favors which our country has experienced in the unusual degree of health dispensed to its inhabitants, and in the rich abundance with which the earth has rewarded the labors bestowed on it. In the successful cultivation of other branches of industry, and in the progress of general improvement favorable to the national prosperity, there is just occasion also for our mutual congratulations and thankfulness.
With these blessings are necessarily mingled the pressures and vicissitudes incident to the state of war into which the United States have been forced by the perseverance of a foreign power in its system of injustice and aggression. Previous to its declaration, it was deemed proper, as a measure of
precaution and forecast, that a considerable force should be placed in the Michigan territory with a general view to its security, and, in the event of war, to such operations in the uppermost Canada as would intercept the hostile influence of Great Britain over the savages, obtain the command of the lake on which that part of Canada borders, and maintain co-operating relations with such forces as might be most conveniently employed against other parts. Brigadier-general Hull was charged with this provisional service, having under his command a body of troops composed of regulars and volunteers from the state of Ohio. Having reached his destination after his knowledge of the war, and possessing discretionary authority to act offensively, he passed into the neighboring territory of the enemy with the prospect of easy
and victorious progress. The expedition, nevertheless, terminated unfortunately, not only in a retreat to the town and fort of Detroit, but in the surrender of both, and of the gallant corps commanded by that officer. The causes of this painful reverse will be investigated by a military tribunal.
A distinguishing feature in the operations which preceded and followed this adverse event, is the use made by the enemy of the merciless savages under their influence. Whilst the benevolent policy of the United States invariably recommended peace and promoted civilization among that wretched portion of the human race, and was making exertions to dissuade them from taking either side in the war, the enemy had not scrupled to call to his aid their ruthless ferocity, armed with the horrors of those instruments of carnage and torture which are known to spare neither age nor sex. In this outrage against the laws of honorable war, and against the feelings sacred to humanity, the British commanders cannot resort to a plea of retaliation, for it is committed in the face of our example. They cannot mitigate it by calling it a self-defence against men in arms, for it embraces the most shocking butcheries of defenceless families. Nor can it be pretended that they are not answerable for the atrocities perpetrated, since the savages are employed with a knowledge, and even with menaces, that their fury could not be controlled. Such is the spectacle which the deputed authorities of a nation boasting its religion and morality have not been restrained from presenting to an enlightened age.
The misfortune at Detroit was not, however, without a consoling effect. It was followed by signal proof that the national spirit rises according to the pressure on it. The loss of an important post, and the brave men surrendered with it, inspired every where new ardor and determination. In the states and districts least remote, it was no sooner known than every citizen was ready to fly with his arms at once to protect his brethren against the blood-thirsty savages let loose by the enemy on an extensive frontier, and to convert a partial calamity into a source of invigorated efforts. This patriotic zeal, which it was necessary rather to limit than excite, has embodied an ample force from the states of Kentucky and Ohio, and from parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia. It is placed, with the addition of a few regulars, under the command of Brigadier-general Harrison, who possesses the entire confidence of his fellow soldiers, among whom are citizens, some of them volunteers in the ranks, not less distinguished by their political stations than by their personal merits
. The greater portion of this force is proceeding on its destination toward the Michigan territory, having succeeded in relieving an important frontier post, and in several incidental operations against hostile tribes of savages, rendered indispensable by the subserviency into which they had been seduced by the enemy,—a seduction the more cruel as it could not fail to impose a necessity of precautionary severities against those who yielded to it.
At a recent date, an attack was made on a post of the enemy near Niagara, by a detachment of the regular and other forces under the command of Major-general Van Rensselaer, of the militia of the state of New York. The attack, it appears, was ordered in compliance with the ardor of the troops who executed it with distinguished gallantry and were for a time victorious; but not receiving the expected support
, they were compelled to yield to reinforcements of British regulars and savages. Our loss has been considerable and is to be deeply lamented. That of the enemy, less ascertained, will be the more felt, as it includes among the killed the commanding
general, who was also the governor of the province, and was sustained by veteran troops from unexperienced soldiers who must daily improve in the duties of the field.
Our expectation of gaining the command of the lakes by the invasion of Canada from Detroit having been disappointed, measures were instantly taken to provide on them a naval force superior to that of the enemy. From the talents and activity of the officer charged with this object, every thing that can be done may be expected. Should the present season not admit of complete success, the progress made will ensure for the next a naval ascendancy where it is essential to our permanent peace with, and control over,
Among the incidents to the measures of the war, I am constrained to advert to the refusal of the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut to furnish the required detachments of militia toward the defence of the maritime frontier. The refusal was founded on a novel and unfortunate exposition of the provisions of the constitution relating to the militia. The correspondences which will be laid before you contain the requisite information on the subject. It is obvious that if the authority of the United States to call into service and command the militia for the public defence can be thus frustrated, even in a state of declared war, and of course under apprehensions of invasion preceding war, they are not one nation for the purpose most of all requiring it, and that the public safety may have no other resource than in those large and permanent military establishments which are forbidden by the principles of our free government, and against the necessity of which the militia were meant to be a constitutional bulwark.
On the coasts and on the ocean the war has been as successful as circumstances inseparable from its early stages could promise. Our public ships and private cruisers, by their activity, and where there was occasion, by their intrepidity, have made the enemy sensible of the difference between a reciprocity of captures and the long confinement of them to their side. Our trade, with little exception, has safely reached our ports, having been much favored in it by the course pursued by a squadron of our frigates under the command of Commodore Rogers. And in the instance in wbich skill and bravery were more particularly tried with those of the enemy, the American flag had an auspicious triumph. The frigate Constitution, commanded by Captain Hull, after a close and short engagement, completely disabled and captured a British frigate, gaining for that officer and all on board a praise which cannot be too liberally bestowed, not merely for the victory actually achieved, but for that prompt and cool exertion of commanding talents which, giving to courage its highest character, and to the force applied its full effect, proved that more could have been done in a contest requiring more.
Anxious to abridge the evils from which a state of war cannot be exempt I lost no time after it was declared in conveying to the British government the terms on which its progress might be arrested, without awaiting the delays of a formal and final pacification ; and our chargé d'affaires at London was at the same time authorized to agree to an armistice founded upon them. These terms required that the orders in council should be repealed as they affected the United States, without a revival of blockades violating, acknowledged rules, and that there should be an immediate discharge of American seamen from British ships, and a stop to impressment from American ships, with an understanding that an exclusion of the seamen of each nation from the ships of the other should be stipulated ; and that the armi
stice should be improved into a definitive and comprehensive adjustment of depending controversies. Although a repeal of the orders susceptible of explanations meeting the views of this government had taken place before this pacific advance was communicated to that of Great Britain, the advance was declined, from an avowed repugnance to a suspension of the practice of impressments during the armistice, and without any intimation that the arrangement proposed with respect to seamen would be accepted. Whether the subsequent communications from this government, affording an occasion for reconsidering the subject on the part of Great Britain, will be viewed in a more favor. able light or received in a more accommodating spirit, remains to be known. It would be unwise to relax our measures, in any respect, on a presumption of such a result.
The documents from the department of state, which relate to this subject, will give a view also of the propositions for an armistice which have been received here, one of them from the authorities at Halifax and in Canada, the other from the British government itself through Admiral Warren, and of the grounds on which neither of them could be accepted.
Our affairs with France retain the posture which they held at my last communications to you. Notwithstanding the authorized expectations of an early as well as favorable issue to the discussions on foot, these have been procrastinated to the latest date. The only intervening occurrence meriting attention is the promulgation of a French decree purporting to be a definitive repeal of the Berlin and Milan decrees. This proceeding, although made the ground of the repeal of the British orders in council, is rendered by the time and manner of it liable to many objections.
The final communications from our special minister to Denmark afford farther proofs of the good effects of his mission, and of the amicable disposition of the Danish government. From Russia we have the satisfaction to receive assurances of continued friendship, and that it will not be affected by the rupture between the United States and Great Britain. Sweden also professes sentiments favorable to the subsisting harmony.
With the Barbary powers, excepting that of Algiers, our affairs remain on the ordinary footing. The consul-general residing with that regency has suddenly and without cause been banished, together with all the American citizens found there. Whether this was the transitory effect of capricious despotism or the first act of pre-determined hostility is not ascertained. Precautions were taken by the consul on the latter supposition.
The Indian tribes not under foreign instigations remain at peace, and receive the civilizing attentions which have proved so beneficial to them.
With a view to that vigorous prosecution of the war to which our national faculties are adequate, the attention of Congress will be particularly drawn to the insufficiency of existing provisions for filling up the military establishment. Such is the happy condition of our country, arising from the facility of subsistence and the high wages for every species of occupation, that notwithstanding the augmented inducements provided at the last session, a partial success only has attended the recruiting service. The deficiency has been necessarily supplied during the campaign by other than regular troops, with all the inconveniences and expense incident to them. The remedy lies in establishing more favorably for the private soldier the proportion between his recompense and the term of his enlistment, and it is a subject which cannot too soon or too seriously be taken into consideration.
The same insufficiency has been experienced in the provisions for volun