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some European power willing to make war on England, and we might be permitted by a strict alliance, to partake the misery and the dependence of being a subaltern in the quarrel
. The happiness of this situation seems to be in view, when the system before us is avowed to be the instrument of avenging our political resentments. Those, who affect to dread foreign influence, will do well to avoid a partnership in European jealousies and rivalships. Courting the friendship of the one, and provoking the hatred of the other, is dangerous to our real independence; for it would compel America to throw herself into the arms of the one for protection against the other. Then foreign influence, pernicious as it is, would be sought' for; and though it should be shunned, it could not be resisted. The connexions of trade form ties between individuals, and produce little control over government. They are the ties of peace, and are neither corrupt nor corrupting.
We have happily escaped from a state of the most imminent danger to our peace: a false step would lose all the security for its continuance, which we owe at this moment to the conduct of the president. What is to save us from war? Not our own power which inspires no terror; not the gentle and forbearing spirit of the powers of Europe at this crisis; not the weakness of England; not her affection for this country, if we believe the assurances of gentlemen on the other side. What is it then? It is the interest of Great Britain to have America for a customer, rather than an enemy: and it is precisely that interest, which gentlemen are so eager to take away, and to transfer to France. And what is stranger still
, they say, they rely on that operation as a means of producing peace with the Indians and Algerines. The wounds, inflicted on Great Britain by our enmity, are expected to excite her to supplicate our friendship, and to appease us by soothing the animosity of our enemies. What is
to produce effects so mystical, so opposite to nature, so much exceeding the efficacy of their pretended causes? This wonder-working paper on the table is the weapon of terror and destruction : like the writing on Belshazzer's wall, it is to strike parliaments and nations with dismay: it is to be stronger than fleets against pirates, or than armies against Indians. After the examination it has undergone, credulity itself will laugh at these pretensions.
We pretend to expect, not by the force of our restrictions, but by the mere show of our spirit, to level all the fences, that have guarded for ages the monopoly of the colony trade. The repeal of the navigation act of England, which is cherished as the palladium of her safety, which time has rendered venerable, and prosperity endeared to her people, is to be extorted, from her fears of a weaker nation. It is not to be yielded freely, but violently torn from her; and yet the idea of a struggle to prevent indignity and loss, is considered as a chimera too ridiculous for sober refutation. She will not dare, say they, to resent it; and gentlemen have pledged themselves for the success of the attempt: what is treated as a phantom, is vouched by fact. Her navigation act is known to have caused an immediate contest with the Dutch, and four desperate seafights ensued, in consequence, the very year of its passage.
How far it is an act of aggression, for a neutral nation to assist the supplies of one neighbor, and to annoy and distress another, at the crisis of a contest between the two, which strains their strength to the utmost, is a question, which we might not agree in deciding; but the tendency of such unseasonable partiality, to exasperate the spirit of hostility against the intruder, cannot be doubted. The language of the French government would not sooth this spirit. proposes, on the sole condition of a political connexion, to extend to us a part of their West India commerce. The
coincidence of our measures with their invitation, however singular, needs no comment. Of all men, those are least consistent, who believe in the efficacy of the regulations, and yet affect to ridicule their hostile tendency. In the commercial conflict, say they, we shall surely prevail and effectually humble Great Britain.
In open war, we are the weaker, and shall be brought into danger, if not to ruin. It depends, therefore, according to their own reasoning, on Great Britain herself, whether she will persist in a struggle, which will disgrace and weaken her, or turn it into a war, which will throw the shame and ruin upon her antagonist. The topics, which furnish arguments to show the danger to our peace from the resolutions, are too fruitful to be exhausted. But without pursuing them further, the experience of mankind has shown, that commercial rivalships, which spring from mutual efforts for monopoly, have kindled more wars, and wasted the earth more, than the spirit of conquest.
I hope we shall show by our vote, that we deem it better policy to feed nations than to starve them, and that we shall never be so unwise, as to put our good customers into a situation to be forced to make every exertion to do without us. By cherishing the arts of peace, we shall acquire, and we are actually acquiring, the strength and resources for a war. Instead of seeking treaties, we ought to shun them; for the later they shall be formed, the better will be the terms: we shall have more to give, and more to withhold. We have not yet taken our proper rank, nor acquired that consideration, which will not be refused us, if we persist in prudent and pacific counsels;
if we give time for our strength to mature itself. Though America is rising with a giant's strength, its bones are yet but cartilages. By delaying the beginning of a conflict, we insure the victory.
By voting out the resolutions, we shall show to our own citizens, and foreign nations, that our prudence has prevailed over our prejudices, that we prefer our interests to our resentments. Let us assert a genuine independence of spirit: we shall be false to our duty and feelings as Americans, if we basely descend to a servile dependence on France or Great Britain.
SPEECH OF JAMES MADISON,
THE BRITISH TREATY,
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED
STATES, APRIL 15, 1796.
On the 28th of October, 1794, a treaty between the United States
and Great Britain was concluded, and was subsequently ratified by the President. On the 1st of March, 1796, the President promulgated the treaty by proclamation, declaring it obligatory, and on the same day communicated it to the house of representatives, in order that the necessary appropriations might be made to carry it into effect. In committee of the whole, on the following resolu
Resolved, as the opinion of this committee, that it is expedient to pass the laws necessary for carrying into effect the treaty with Great Britain ;'' Mr. Madison spoke as follows:
MR. CHAIRMAN The subject now under the consideration of the committee, is of such vast extent, of such vital importance to this country, and involves so many topics, which demand minute investigation, that I wish, at setting out, to be understood as not pretending to go through all the observations that may be applicable to its circumstances, but as endeavoring to present it in a mere general view, persuaded that the omissions I shall make, will be amply supplied by other gentlemen who are to follow me in the discussion.
The proposition, sir, immediately before the committee, amounts to this, that the treaty lately made with Great Britain ought to be directly carried into