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holding supplies, and in leaving the country without defence? Do gentlemen foresee the dilemma, which they are preparing for themselves and for the House; a dilemma in which they must choose between pride and duty, between supporting the executive in measures adopted against their advice, and leaving the country defenceless, at the mercy of all who may choose to assail it? What possible effect can this interference have, but to lay the foundations of a schism between the different departments of government ?
But admitting such a recommendation to be conformable to the constitution, in what is it useful? Is it to dispose the executive to treat? If so, it is useless, for he already has that disposition, and has strongly declared it in his speech to both Houses. He has declared it as his resolution 6 to institute a fresh attempt at negociation, and to promote and accelerate an accommodation, provided one can be made on terms compatible with the rights, duties, interests and honor of the nation.” He has declared, that if we have committed“ errors, and these can be demonstrated, we shall be willing to correct them. If we have done injuries, we shall be willing, on conviction, to redress them.” Can there be a spirit more conciliatory-or would gentlemen wish to see the negociations conducted on other principles ?
Is it to give information to the executive, to point out the course which the public good requires to be taken? But do gentlemen imagine that the executive is ignorant of the public interest, or less acquainted with it than the House ? Is it not notorious that bodies of this kind are always unfit for negociation ? Have not the people declared it, by placing that power in the hands of the President? Can gentlemen suppose, that the House possesses, or can possess, all the information necessary, in forming an opinion about what ought to be given, and what ought to be required, in a negociation with another nation? Can the House foresee all that may happen, to render this of
fer inexpedient, or useless, or unnecessary—to justify other offers, or to make demands necessary, instead of offers of any kind ? What will become of the power of negociation in the executive, if the House is first to instruct him, and afterwards to censure him?
Some gentlemen have seemed to think, that this amendment would give weight to the negociation abroad; would strengthen the hands of the executive, and place him on higher ground. But how is this effect to be produced? By showing, it is answered, that, in making this offer, all the branches of government are united, and that the ground thus taken will be firmly supported. But must it not be perfectly evident, that the best way of giving this impression is, to pursue a conduct and hold a language, which will evince a perfect confidence in the executive, and a determination to support him with the whole force and resources of the country? Then it is, that the offers of the executive will come with weight, when they come with evidence of union in the government, and of mutual confidence among the various departments.
Some gentlemen have supported this amendment on the ground, that it will give confidence to the people of this country in the executive; and one gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Nicholas,) has gone so far as to say, that the people of this country will not support the government, unless its measures are right. Admitting this opinion to be true, (and I am inclined to think it may be,) still it will remain to be inquired, by what means and on what standard the people would form their opinion of the propriety and wisdom of the measures, pursued by their government. Not certainly from the declarations of that gentleman or his friends; because there has not been one measure adopted by the government, since its formation, which they have not opposed in the House and out of it, on which they have not set the stamp of their most decided censure; and yet, sir, we have seen all these measures supported and approved of by the people. We have seen the
late President, who was in a peculiar manner the author of them, under whose auspices they were adopted and established, in spite of the most violent and persevering opposition from these very gentlemenwe have seen him surrounded with applauses, with gratitude and with thanks, from every quarter of the union; we have seen the wisdom and firmness of his administration made one very principal ground of these thanks and applauses; and even in a former House of Representatives, where the principles of these gentlemen did so greatly preponderate, when they moved to strike out of an address to this great man a clause expressly approving his administration, as wise, firm and greatly beneficial to his country, the motion was overruled by a very large majority; and when the address itself, containing this obnoxious clause, was put to the vote, it passed with only twelve nays. Yet gentlemen talk to us, as if they were the standard, by which the people would measure the conduct of government! Sir, the people are not truly estimated by those gentlemen. They are not the blind, ignorant herd which those gentlemen take them to be. They will do in future what they have always done heretofore—they will judge of the measures of government by the measures themselves, and by the just confidence which they have long placed in those whom they have appointed to administer it; not by the opinions or invectives of this or that set of men, either on this floor or out of doors. Gentlemen ought to be admonished, by the frequent and always unsuccessful appeals, which they have made to the people, to give up at length this vain chimera of being able to rule public opinion, with which they have so long suffered themselves to be deluded.
I hold, sir, in my hand a paper, from that very quarter where gentlemen probably suppose, and not without appearance of reason, that their labors in the vineyard of opposition have been crowned with most success. It is an address from Mecklenburg county, in
Virginia, to their representative on this floor, and contains sentiments so just, so truly patriotic, and so applicable to the point of confidence in government, that
cannot help reading it to the committee, though I am sensible it must have already attracted the notice of every individual. [Mr. Harper then read the address.]
This paper, sir, affords a most consoling and honorable contrast to the speeches, which have lately been heard on this floor. It contains sentiments, which I have no doubt are reverberated from the hearts of every American in every part of the union, and which prove how far the people, even that part of them on which these gentlemen have most particularly relied, are from sharing with them in their want of affection for the government, and of confidence in its measures. There is nothing in this address to prove, that the people in that part of the union will refuse to support the government, unless those gentlemen should inform them that its measures were right.
I also consider the recommendation, contained in this amendment, as extremely impolitic. Is it good policy to show the enemy your eagerness to treat, your eagerness to make concessions? Is it good policy to show to France, that you have no confidence in the executive, in his wisdom, his information, his pa'triotic intentions; that you think it necessary to instruct and direct him? Is it good policy to send the executive trammelled to France; to send him in a situation, where he must either yield to a part of her demands, or go against the recommendations of this House? Is this the way to give weight to his negociations, or to lessen her demands ? Is it true, that there is in this House a majority, who do not confide in the executive? I repeat the question, and I address it not to those gentlemen whose constant employment it has been, for eight years past, in the House and out of it, to oppose the executive and every measure which he was understood to favor, to declare their distrust of him, and endeavor to weaken that
confidence so justly reposed in him by the people. I address not myself to these: I address myself to those gentlemen, and some such there no doubt are, who, entertaining just ideas of the constitution, and reposing full confidence in the executive, may nevertheless be inclined to favor this recommendation, because they think it a harmless thing. I could ask these gentlemen, whether there is a majority in this House, who do not think the executive worthy of confidence in the performance of his constitutional functions? I could ask them whether they are willing to make this declaration, if they do not believe it? I could ask them. whether, admitting it to be true, it would be prudent to tell France so? I would ask them what, beside such a declaration, France can see in this amendment? I answer, and they must, I think, join me in the answer, that she can see nothing else. She will see in it a proof and confirmation of her present opinion, that we are a divided people; that the people are divided from the government, and the government divided within itself. This will encourage her to press and heighten her demands ; for, seeing us, as she will think, divided, she will remember one part of the scripture, while she forgets all the rest, that " a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
As I believe this recommendation to be unconstitutional, useless and highly impolitic, I can never give my vote in its favor.
I will now ask gentlemen, who may think the recommendation not improper, whether the measure recommended is entitled to their support? Why should it be entitled to support? Either because it is necessary, or because it is useful; because it is demanded by justice, or recommended by good policy.
If the measure were really necessary, or useful, surely the executive is as well apprized of that necessity and utility, as well qualified to judge about it, as the House of Representatives: and the thing will be as well done by him alone, and will have as much effect,