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predecessor had taken. It saw no important objects to be gained by changing the state of things, unless that change was to admit our products into the British West Indies directly from our ports, and not burdened with excessive duties. The direct trade, by English enactments and American enactments, had become closed. No British ship came here from the British West Indies. No American ship went hence to those places. A circuitous trade took place through the islands of third pow. ers; and that circuitous trade was, in many respects, not disadvantageous to us.
In this state of things, Sir, Mr. McLane was sent to England; and he received his instructions from the Secretary of State. In these instructions, and in relation to this subject of the colonial trade, are found the sentiments of which I complain. What are they? Let us examine and see.
Mr. Van Buren tells Mr. McLane, “ The opportunities which you have derived from a participation in our public counsels, as well as other sources of information, will enable you to speak with confidence (as far as you may deem it proper and useful so to do) of the respective parts taken by those to whom the administration of this government is now committed, in relation to the course heretofore pursued upon the subject of the colonial trade."
Now, this is neither more nor less than saying, “ You will be able to tell the British minister, whenever you think proper, that you, and I, and the leading persons in this administration, have opposed the course heretofore pursued by the government, and the country, on the subject of the colonial trade. Be sure to let him know, that, on that subject, we have held with England, and not with our own government.” Now, I ask you, Sir. if this be dignified diplomacy. Is this statesmanship? Is it patriotism, or is it mere party? Is it a proof of a high regard to the honor and renown of the whole country, or is it evidence of a disposition to make a merit of belonging to one of its political divisions ?
The Secretary proceeds : “ Their views” (that is, the views of the present administration) “upon that point have been submitted to the people of the United States; and the counsels by which your conduct is now directed are the result of the judgment expressed by the only earthly tribunal to which the late administration was amenable for its acts.”
Now, Sir, in the first place, there is very little reason to suppose that the first part of this paragraph is true, in point of fact; I mean that part which intimates that the change of administration was brought about by public disapprobation of Mr. Adams's conduct respecting the subject of the colonial trade. Possibly so much was then said on a subject which so few understood, that some degree of impression may have been produced by it. But be assured, Sir, another cause will be found, by future historians, for this change; and that cause will be the popularity of a successful soldier, united with a feeling, made to be considerably extensive, that the preferences of the people in his behalf had not been justly regarded on a previous occasion. There is, Sir, very little ground to say that “the only tribunal to which the late administration was amenable” has pronounced any judgment against it for its conduct on the whole subject of the colonial trade.
But, however this may be, the other assertion in the paragraph is manifestly quite wide of the facts. Mr. Adams's ad. ministration did not bring forward this claim. I have stated, already, that it had been a subject both of negotiation and leg. islation through the whole eight years of Mr. Monroe's administration. This the Secretary knew, or was bound to know. Why, then, does he speak of it as set up by the late administration, and afterwards abandoned by them, and not now revived ?
But the most humiliating part of the whole follows:-“ To set
up the acts of the late administration as the cause of forfeiture of privileges which would otherwise be extended to the people of the United States, would, under existing circumstances, be unjust in itself, and could not fail to excite their deepest sensibility.”
So, then, Mr. President, we are reduced, are we, to the poor condition, that we see a minister of this great republic instructed to argue, or to intercede, with the British minister, lest he should find us to have forfeited our privileges; and lest these privileges should no longer be extended to us! And we have forfeited those privileges by our misbehavior in choosing rulers, who thought better of our own claim than of the British! Why, Sir, this is patiently submitting to the domineering tone of the British minister, I believe Mr. Huskisson-[Mr. Clay said, “ No,
Mr. Canning.”] – Mr. Canning, then, Sir, who told us that all our trade with the West Indies was a boon, granted to us by the indulgence of England. The British minister calls it a boon, and our minister admits it as a privilege, and hopes that his Majesty will be too gracious to decide that we have forfeited this privilege, by our misbehavior in the choice of our rulers! Sir, for one, I reject all idea of holding any right of trade, or any other rights, as a privilege or a boon from the British government, or any other government.
At the conclusion of the paragraph, the Secretary says, “ You cannot press this view of the subject too earnestly upon the consideration of the British ministry. It has bearings and relations that reach beyond the immediate question under discussion."
Adverting again to the same subject, towards the close of the despatch, he says, “I will add nothing as to the impropriety of suffering any feelings that find their origin in the past pretensions of this government to have an adverse influence upon the present conduct of Great Britain."
I ask again, Mr. President, if this be statesmanship? if this be dignity ? if this be elevated regard for country? Can any man read this whole despatch with candor, and not admit that it is plainly and manifestly the writer's intention to promote the interests of his party at the expense of those of the country?
Lest I should do the Secretary injustice, I will read all that I find, in this letter, upon this obnoxious point. These are the paragraphs :
“Such is the present state of our commercial relations with the British colonies; and such the steps by which we have arrived at it. In reviewing the events which have preceded, and more or less contributed to, a result so much to be regretted, there will be found three grounds upon which we are most assailable; 1st. In our too long and too tenaciously resisting the right of Great Britain to impose protecting duties in her colonies ; 2d,” &c.
“ The opportunities which you have derived from a participation in our public counsels, as well as other sources of information, will enable you to speak with confidence (as far as you may deem it proper and useful so to do) of the respective parts taken by those to whom the administration of this government is now committed, in relation to the course heretofore pursued upon the subject of the colonial trade. Their VOL. III.
views upon that point have been submitted to the people of the United States ; and the counsels by which your conduct is now directed are the result of the judgment expressed by the only earthly tribunal to which the late administration was amenable for its acts. It should be sufficient that the claims set up by them, and which caused the interruption of the trade in question, have been explicitly abandoned by those who first as. serted them, and are not revived by their successors. If Great Britain deems it adverse to her interests to allow us to participate in the trade with her colonies, and finds nothing in the extension of it to others to induce her to apply the same rule to us, she will, we hope, be sensible of the propriety of placing her refusal on those grounds. To set up the acts of the late administration as the cause of forfeiture of privileges which would otherwise be extended to the people of the United States, would, under existing circumstances, be unjust in itself, and could not fail to excite their deepest sensibility. The tone of feeling which a course so unwise and untenable is calculated to produce, would doubtless be greatly aggravated by the consciousness that Great Britain has, by order in council, opened her colonial ports to Russia and France, notwithstanding a similar omission on their part to accept the terms offered by the act of July, 1825. You cannot press
this view of the subject too earnestly upon the consideration of the British ministry. It has bearings and relations that reach beyond the immediate question under discussion.”
“I will add nothing as to the impropriety of suffering any feelings that find their origin in the past pretensions of this government to have an adverse influence upon the present conduct of Great Britain."
Sir, I submit to you, and to the candor of all just men, if I am not right in saying that the pervading topic, through the whole, is, not American rights, not American interests, not American defence, but denunciation of past pretensio own country, reflections on the past administration, and exultation and a loud claim of merit for the administration now in power. Sir, I would forgive mistakes; I would pardon the want of information ; I would pardon almost any thing, where I saw true patriotism and sound American feeling; but I cannot forgive the sacrifice of this feeling to mere party. I cannot concur in sending abroad a public agent, who has not conceptions so large and liberal as to feel, that, in the presence of foreign courts, amidst the monarchies of Europe, he is to stand up for his country, and his whole country; that no jot nor tittle of her honor is to suffer in his hands; that he is not to allow others to reproach either his government or his country,
and far less is he himself to reproach either; that he is to have no objects in his eye but American objects, and no heart in his bosom but an American heart; and that he is to forget self, and forget party, to forget every sinister and narrow feeling, in his proud and lofty attachment to the republic whose commission he bears.
Mr. President, I have discharged an exceedingly unpleasant duty, the most unpleasant of my public life. But I have looked upon it as a duty, and it was not to be shunned. And, Sir, however unimportant may be the opinion of so humble an individual as myself, I now only wish that I might be heard by every independent freeman in the United States, by the British minister and the British king, and by every minister and every crowned head in Europe, while, standing here in my place, I pronounce my rebuke, as solemnly and as decisively as I can, upon this first instance in which an American minister has been sent abroad as the representative of his party, and not as the representative of his country.
FURTHER REMARKS ON THE SAME SUBJECT.*
In reply to some remarks of Mr. Forsyth, Mr. Webster spoke as follows:
It is, in my judgment, a great mistake to suppose that what is now called the American “pretension" originated with Mr. Adams, either as President or Secretary of State. By the way, it is singular enough that the American side of this question is called, in the instructions before us, a pretension too long persisted in; while the British side of it is called a right, too long and too tenaciously resisted by us. This courteous mode of speakng of the claims of a foreign government, and this reproachful node of speaking of the claims of our own, is certainly somewhat novel in diplomacy. But whether it be called, respectfully, a claim, or, reproachfully, a pretension, it did not originate with Mr. Adams. It had a much earlier origin. This “preten
• In Secret Session of the Senate, on the 26th of January, 1832.