« PreviousContinue »
Constitution to the Executive, it can make no difference whether the occasion be common or uncommon. But, in truth, there have been much stronger cases for the interference of the House, where, nevertheless, the House has not interfered. For example; in the negotiations for peace carried on at Ghent. In that case, Congress, by both Houses, had declared war, for certain alleged causes. After the war had lasted some years, the President, with the advice of the Senate, appointed ministers to treat of peace; and he gave them such instructions as he saw fit. Now, as the war was declared by Congress, and was waged to obtain certain ends, it would have been plausible to say that Congress ought to know the instructions under which peace was to be negotiated, that they might see whether the objects for which the war was declared, had been abandoned. Yet no such claim was set up. The President gave instructions, such as his judgment dictated, and neither House asserted any right of interference.
Sir, there are gentlemen in this House, opposed to this mission, who, I hope, will nevertheless consider this question of amendment on general Constitutional grounds. They are gentlemen of much estimation in the community, likely, I hope, long to continue in the public service; and, I trust, they will well reflect on the effect of this amendment on the separate powers and duties of the several departments of the government.
An honorable member from Pennsylvania, (MR. HEMPHILL,) has alluded to a resolution introduced by me the session before the last. I should not have referred to it myself, had he not invited the reference; but I am happy in the opportunity of showing how that resolution coincides with everything which I say to day What was that resolution? When an interesting people were struggling for national existence against a barbarous despotism, when there were good hopes, (hopes, yet, I trust, to be fully realized,) of their success, and when the Holy Alliance had pronounced against them certain false and abominable doctrines, I moved the House to resolve -what? Simply, that provision ought to be made by law to defray the expense of an agent or commissioner to that country, whenever the President should deem it expedient to make such appointment. Did I propose any instruction to the President, or any limit on his discretion? None at all, sir; none at all. What resemblance then can be found between that resolution and this amendment? Let those who think any such resemblance exists, adopt, if they will, the words of the resolution, as a substitute for this amendment. shall gladly take them.
I am, therefore, Mr. Chairman, against the amendment; not only as not being a proper manner of exercising any power belonging to this House; but also as not containing instructions fit to be given, if we possessed the power of giving them. And as my vote will rest on these grounds, I might terminate my remarks here: but the discussion has extended over a broader surface, and following where others have led, I will ask your indulgence to a few observations on the more general topics of the debate.
Mr. Chairman: it is our fortune to be called upon to act our part, as public men, at a most interesting era in human affairs. The
short period of your life, and of mine, has been thick and crowded with the most important events. Not only new interests and new relations have sprung up among States, but new societies, new nations, and families of nations, have risen to take their places, and perform their parts, in the order and the intercourse of the world. Every man, aspiring to the character of a statesman, must endeavour to enlarge his views to meet this new state of things. He must aim at adequate comprehension, and instead of being satisfied with that narrow political sagacity, which, like the power of minute vision, sees small things accurately, but can see nothing else, he must look to the far horizon, and embrace, in his broad survey, whatever the series of recent events has brought into connexion, near or remote, with the country whose interests he studies to serve. We have seen eight States, formed out of colonies on our own continent, assume the rank of nations.
This is a mighty revolution, and when we consider what an extent of the surface of the globe they cover; through what climates they extend; what population they contain, and what new impulses they must derive from this change of government, we cannot but perceive that great effects are likely to be produced on the intercourse, and the interests of the civilized world. Indeed, it has been forcibly said, by the intelligent and distinguished statesman who conducts the foreign relations of England, that when we now speak of Europe and the world, we mean Europe and America; and that the different systems of these two portions of the globe, and their several and various interests, must be thoroughly studied and nicely balanced by the statesmen of the times.
In many respects, sir, the European and the American nations are alike. They are alike Christian States, civilized States, and commercial States. They have access to the same common fountains of intelligence; they all draw from those sources which belong to the whole civilized world. In knowledge and letters-in the arts of peace and war, they differ in degrees; but they bear, nevertheless, a general resemblance. On the other hand, in matters of government and social institution, the nations on this continent are founded upon principles which never did prevail, in considerable extent, either at any other time, or in any other place. There has never been presented to the mind of man a more interesting subject of contemplation than the establishment of so many nations in America, partaking in the civilisation and in the arts of the old world, but having left behind them those cumbrous institutions which had their origin in a dark and military age. Whatsoever European experience has developed favorable to the freedom and the happiness of man; whatsoever European genius has invented for his improvement or gratification; whatsoever of refinement or polish the culture of European society presents for his adoption and enjoyment-all this is offered to man in America, with the additional advantages of the full power of erecting forms of government on free and simple principles, without overturning institutions suited to times long passed, but too strongly supported, either by interests or prejudices, to be shaken without convulsions. This unprecedented state of things presents the happiest of all occasions for an attempt to establish national intercourse
upon improved principles; upon principles tending to peace, and the mutual prosperity of nations. In this respect America, the whole of America, has a new career before her. If we look back on the history of Europe, we see how great a portion of the last two centuries her States have been at war for interests connected mainly with her feudal monarchies; wars for particular dynasties; wars to support or defeat particular successions; wars to enlarge or curtail the dominions of particular crowns; wars to support or to dissolve family alliances; wars, in fine, to enforce or to resist religious intolerance. What long and bloody chapters do these not fill, in the history of European politics! Who does not see, and who does not rejoice to see, that America has a glorious chance of escaping, at least, these causes of contention? Who does not see, and who does not rejoice to see, that, on this continent, under other forms of government, we have before us the noble hope of being able, by the mere influence of civil liberty and religious toleration, to dry up these outpouring fountains of blood, and to extinguish these consuming fires of war. The general opinion of the age favors such hopes and such prospects. There is a growing disposition to treat the intercourse of nations more like the useful intercourse of friends; philosophy-just views of national advantage, good sense and the dictates of a common religion, and an increasing conviction that war is not the interest of the human race-all concur, to increase the interest created by this new accession to the list of nations.
We have heard it said, sir, that the topic of South American Independence is worn out, and threadbare. Such it may be, sir, to those who have contemplated it merely as an article of news, like the fluctuation of the markets, or the rise and fall of stocks. Such it may be, to those minds who can see no consequences following from these great events. But whoever has either understood their present importance, or can at all estimate their future influence-whoever has reflected on the new relations they introduce with other states— whoever, among ourselves especially, has meditated on the new relations which we now bear to them, and the striking attitude in which we ourselves are now placed, as the oldest of the American nations, will feel that the topic can never be without interest; and will be sensible that, whether we are wise enough to perceive it or not, the establishment of South American independence will affect all nations, and ourselves perhaps more than any other, through all coming time. But, sir, although the independence of these new States seems effectually accomplished, yet a lingering and hopeless war is kept up against them by Spain. This is greatly to be regretted by all nations. To Spain it is, as every reasonable man sees, useless, and without hope. To the new States themselves it is burdensome and afflictive. To the commerce of neutral nations it is annoying and vexatious.— There seems to be something of the pertinacy of the Spanish character in holding on in such a desperate course. It reminds us of the seventy years during which Spain resisted the Independence of Holland. I think, however, that there is some reason to believe that the war approaches to its end. I believe that the measures adopted by our own government have had an effect in tending to produce that result. I understand, at least, that the question of recognition has
been taken into consideration by the Spanish government; and it may be hoped that a war, which Spain finds to be so expensive, which the whole world tells her is so hopeless, and which, if continued, now threatens her with new dangers, she may, ere long, have the prudence to terminate.
We treated with
Our own course during this contest between Spain and her colonies is well known. Though entirely and strictly neutral, we were in favor of early recognition. Our opinions were known to the Allied Sovereigns when in Congress at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818, at which time the affairs of Spain and her colonies were under consideration; and, probably, the knowledge of those sentiments, together with the policy adopted by England, prevented any interference by other powers at that time. Yet we have treated Spain with scrupulous delicacy. We acted on the case as one of civil war. the new governments as governments de facto. Not questioning the right of Spain to coerce them back to their old obedience, if she had the power, we yet held it to be our right to deal with them as with existing governments in fact, when the moment arrived at which it became apparent and manifest that the dominion of Spain over these, her ancient colonies, was at an end. Our right, our interest, and our duty, all concurred at that moment to recommend recognition-and we did recognise.
Now, sir, the history of this proposed Congress goes back to an earlier date than that of our recognition. It commenced in 1821; and one of the treaties now before us, proposing such a meeting, that between Colombia and Chili, was concluded in July, 1822, a few months only after we had acknowledged the independence of the new States. The idea originated, doubtless, in the wish to strengthen the union among the new governments, and to promote the common cause of all, the effectual resistance to Spanish authority. As independence was at that time their leading object, it is natural to suppose that they contemplated this mode of mutual intercourse and mutual arrangement, as favorable to the necessary concentration of purpose, and of action, for the attainment of that object. But this purpose of the Congress, or this leading idea, in which it may be supposed to have originated, has led, as it seems to me, to great misapprehensions as to its true character, and great mistakes in regard to the danger to be apprehended from our sending ministers to the meeting. This meeting, sir, is a Congress-not a Congress as the word is known to our Constitution and laws, for we use it in a peculiar sense; but as it is known to the law of nations. A Congress, by the law of nations, is but an appointed meeting for the settlement of affairs between different nations, in which the representatives or agents of each treat and negotiate as they are instructed by their own government. In other words, this Congress is a diplomatic meeting. We are asked to join no government-no legislature-no league-acting by votes. It is a Congress, such as those of Westphalia, of Nimeguen, of Ryswyck, or of Utrecht; or such as those which have been holden in Europe, in our own time. No nation is a party to any thing done in such assemblies, to which it does not expressly make itself a party. No one's rights are put at the disposition of any of the rest, or of all the rest. What ministers
agree to, being afterwards duly ratified at home, binds their government; and nothing else binds the government. Whatsoever is done, to which they do not assent, neither binds the ministers nor their government, any more than if they had not been present.
These truths, sir, seem too plain, and too commonplace to be stated. I find my apology only in those misapprehensions of the character of the meeting to which I have referred both now and formerly. It has been said that commercial treaties are not negotiated at such meetings. Far otherwise is the fact. Among the earliest of important stipulations made in favor of commerce and navigation, were those at Westphalia. And what we call the treaty of Utrecht, was a bundle of treaties, negotiated at that Congress; some of peace, some of boundary, and others of commerce. Again, it has been said, in order to prove that this meeting is a sort of confederacy, that such assemblies are out of the way of ordinary negotiation, and are always founded on, and provided for, by previous treaties. Pray, sir, what treaty preceded the Congress at Utrecht? and the meeting of our Plenipotentiaries with those of England at Ghent, what was that but a Congress? and what treaty preceded it? It is said, again, that there is no sovereign to whom our ministers can be accredited. Let me ask whether, in the case last cited, our ministers exhibited their credentials to the Mayor of Ghent? Sir, the practice of nations in these matters, is well known, and is free of difficulty. If the government be not present, agents or Plenipotentiaries interchange their credentials. And when it is said that our ministers at Panama will be, not ministers, but deputies, members of a deliberative body, not protected in their public character by the public law; when all this is said, propositions are advanced, of which I see no evidence whatever, and which appear to me to be wholly without foundation.
It is contended that this Congress, by virtue of the treaties which the new States have entered into, will possess powers other than those of a diplomatic character, as between those new States themselves. If that were so, it would be unimportant to us. The real question here is, what will be our relation with those States, by sending ministers to this Congress? Their arrangements among themselves will not affect us. Even if it were a government, like our old confederation, yet, if its members had authority to treat with us in behalf of their respective nations on subjects on which we have a right to treat, the Congress might still be a very proper occasion for such negotiations. Do gentlemen forget that the French Minister was introduced to our old Congress, met it in its sessions, carried on oral discussions with it, and treated with it in behalf of the French King? All that did not make him a member of it; nor connect him at all with the relations which its members bore to each other. As he treated on the subject of carrying on the war against England, it was, doubtless, hostile towards that power; but this consequence followed from the object and nature of the stipulations, and not from the manner of the intercourse. The Representatives of these South American States, it is said, will carry on belligerant councils at this Congress. Be it so; we shall not join in such councils. At the moment of invitation, our Government informed the