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hands of this country against every effort for making it the interest of Great Britain to yield to our reasonable claims. For this end I beg leave to point out to the committee the clause, which restrains the United States from imposing prohibitions or duties on Great Britain, in any case, which shall not extend to all other nations, and to observe, that the clause makes it impossible to operate on the unreasonable policy of that nation, without suspending our commerce at the same time with all other nations, whose regulations, with respect to us, may be ever so favorable and satisfactory.
The fifteenth article, Mr. Chairman, has another extraordinary feature, which I should imagine must strike every observer. In other treaties, which profess to put the parties on the footing of the most favored nation, it is stipulated that where new favors are granted to a particular nation in return for favors received, the party claiming the new favor shall pay the price of it. This is just and proper where the footing of the most favored nation is established at all. But this article gives to Great Britain the full benefit of all privileges that may be granted to any other nation, without requiring from her the same or equivalent privileges, with those granted by such nation. Hence it will happen, that if Spain, Portugal or France shall open their colonial ports to the United States, in consideration of certain privileges in our trade, the same privileges will result gratis and ipso facto to Great Britain. This stipulation, sir, I consider as peculiarly impolitic, and such an one as cannot fail to form, in the view of the committee, a very solid and weighty objection to the treaty.
I dare say, sir, that by the advocates of the treaty great stress will be laid on the article relating to the East Indies. To those who are better acquainted with the subject than I can pretend to be, I shall resign the task of examining and explaining that part of the subject. With two observations, however, I must trouble the committee, before I drop the subject of this
article; one is, that some gentlemen, as judicious and well informed, as any, who can be consulted, declare that they consider this article as affording not a shadow of advantage to the United States. The other is, that no privilege is stipulated in it, which has not heretofore been uniformly granted without stipulation; and as the grant can have proceeded from no motive but a pure regard to the British interest in that country, there was every reasonable security that the trade would continue open as it had been, under the same consideration.
Such, Mr. Chairman, being the character of this treaty, with respect to the execution of the treaty of peace, the great principles of the law of nations, and the regulations of commerce, it never can be viewed as having any claim to be carried into effect on its own account. Is there then any consideration, extraneous to the treaty, that can furnish the requisite motives? On this part of the subject the house is wholly without information. For myself, I am ready to declare, that I have neither seen, nor known, nor heard, of any circumstances in the general posture of affairs, or in the particular relations of this country to them, that can account for the unequal and injurious arrangements, which we are now called upon for laws to execute, But there is something further to be taken into account. The continuance of the spoliations on our trade, and the impressment of our seamen, whether to be understood as practical comments on the treaty, or as infractions of it, cannot but enforce on the minds of the committee the most serious reflections. And here, sir, I beg leave to refer once more to the passage I have already read, extracted from the letter of Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Pinckney, and to ask if, as there stated by the executive, our neutrality and peace are to be exposed, by permitting practices of that kind, what must be thought of our giving effect, in the midst of such practices, to a treaty from which a countenance may be derived by that nation for going on further with them?
I am aware that the executive, notwithstanding the doctrine and policy laid down as above, has finally concurred in the treaty under all these circumstances. But I do not consider that as invalidating the reasoning drawn from the present state of things. I may be treading on delicate ground, but I cannot think it improper to remark, because it is a known fact, that the executive paused for some weeks after the concurrence of the senate, before he ratified the treaty with his signature; and I think it may fairly be presumed, that the true grounds of that pause were the renewal of spoliation, and a recollection of the light in which they had been represented; that, on that supposition, he was probably influenced in signing the treaty when he did, by an expectation that such a mark of confidence in the British government would produce an abolition of the unlawful proceeding, and consequently, if it were foreseen that the spoliations would have been continued, as we find them to be, the treaty would not have been then signed, or if it had not been then signed, it would not be signed under the circumstances of the moment, when it falls under our consideration.
I shall conclude, Mr. Chairman, with taking notice of two considerations, which have been made great use of by way of inducing Congress to carry the treaty into effect. In the first place, it has been said, that the greater part of the treaty is to continue in force for no longer time than two years after the termination of the present war in Europe; and that no very great evils can grow out of it in that short period. To this I reply, that ten of the articles, containing very objectionable stipulations, are perpetual; and that, in the next place, it will be in the power of Great Britain, at the expiration of the other articles, to produce the same causes for the renewal of them, as are now urged in their support. If we are now to enforce the treaty, lest Great Britain should stir up the Indians, and refuse to pay our merchants for the property of which she has plundered them, can she not, at the end of two
or three years, plunder them again, to the same or a greater amount? Cannot the same apprehensions be revived with respect to the Indians, and will not the arguments then be as strong as they are now, for renewing the same treaty, or for making any other equal sacrifices that her purposes may dictate?
It has been asked-what will be the consequences of refusing to carry the treaty into effect? I answer, that the only supposable consequence is, that the executive, if governed by the prudence and patriotism, which I do not doubt will govern that department, will of course pursue the measures most likely to obtain a reconsideration and remodification of the offensive parts of the treaty. The idea of war as a consequence of refusing to give effect to the treaty, is too visionary and incredible to be admitted into the question. No man will say that the United States, if they be really an independent people, have not a right to judge of their own interests, and to decline any treaty that does not duly provide for them. A refusal, therefore, in such cases, can afford no cause, nor pretext, nor provocation for war, or for any just resentment. But, apart from this, is it conceivable that Great Britain, with all the dangers and embarrassments that are thickening on her, will wantonly make war on a country, which is the best market she has in the world for her manufactures, which pays her an annual balance, in specie, of ten or twelve millions of dollars, and whose supplies, moreover, are essential to an important part of her dominions? Such a degree of infatuation ought not to be ascribed to any country. And, at the present crisis, for reasons well known, an unprovoked war from Great Britain, on this country, would argue a degree of madness, greater than any other circumstances that can well be imagined.
With all the objections, therefore, to the treaty, which I have stated, I hope it will not now be carried into effect, and that an opportunity will take place for reconsidering the subject, on principles more just and favorable to the United States.
SPEECH OF WILLIAM B. GILES,
THE BRITISH TREATY,
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES, APRIL 18, 1796.
In committee of the whole on the following Resolution, 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. Giles spoke as follows:
It is much to be regretted that all the information which could throw light upon the subject of discussion, should not be before the committee. A sense of responsibility arising from the peculiarly delicate nature of the question, has induced the House to take every step with more than a common degree of caution. Before we proceeded to deliberate upon the expediency or inexpediency of providing for carrying the treaty into effect, we made a request to the President for the papers which attended the negociation. This request has been refused; not because the call itself contained any thing unconstitutional; not because the contents of the papers called for are of such a nature as to render the disclosure thereof at this time improper-neither of these causes being intimated in the message-but because, principles were advocated by individual gentlemen in the course of