Page images

the hinge on which interesting events may possibly turn. I pray gentlemen to review their opinions on this subject before they fully commit themselves. I understood the honorable member from South Carolina to say, that if Spain chose to transfer this Island to any power in Europe, she had a right to do so, and we could not interfere to prevent it. Sir, this is a delicate subject. I hardly feel competent to treat it as it deserves; and I am not quite willing to state here all that I think about it. I must, however, dissent from the opinion of the gentleman from South Carolina. The right of nations, on subjects of this kind, are necessarily very much modified by circumstances. Because England or France could not rightfully complain of the transfer of Florida to us, it by no means follows, as the gentleman supposes, that we could not complain of the cession of Cuba to one of them. The plain difference is, that the transfer of Florida to us was not dangerous to the safety of either of those nations, nor fatal to any of their great and essential interests. Proximity of position, neighbourhood, whatever augments the power of injuring and annoying, very properly belong to the consideration of all cases of this kind. The greater or less facility of access itself is of consideration in such questions, because it brings, or may bring, weighty consequences with it. It justifies, for these reasons, and on these grounds, what otherwise might never be thought of. By negotiation with a foreign power, Mr. Jefferson obtained a province. Without any alteration of our Constitution, we have made it part of the United States, and its Senators and Representatives, now coming from several States, are here among us. Now, sir, if, instead of being Louisiana, this had been one of the provinces of Spain proper, or one of her South American colonies, he must have been a madman, that should have proposed such an acquisition. A high conviction of its convenience, arising from proximity, and from close natural connexion, alone reconciled the country to the measure. Considerations of the same sort have

weight in other cases.

An honorable member from Kentucky, (Mr. WICKLIFFE,) argues, that although we might rightfully prevent another power from taking Cuba from Spain, by force, yet if Spain should choose to make the voluntary transfer, we should have no right whatever to interfere. Sir, this is a distinction without a difference. If we are likely to have contention about Cuba, let us first well consider what our rights are, and not commit ourselves. And, sir, if we have any right to interfere at all, it applies as well to the case of a peaceable, as to that of a forcible, transfer. If nations be at war, we are not judges of the question of right, in that war; we must acknowledge, in both parties, the mutual right of attack, and the mutual right of conquest. It is not for us to set bounds to their belligerant operations, so long as they do not affect ourselves. Our right to interfere, sir, in any such case, is but the exercise of the right of reasonable and necessary self-defence. It is a high and delicate exercise of that right; one not to be made but on grounds of strong and manifest reason, justice, and necessity. The real question is, whether the possession of Cuba by a great maritime power of Europe, would seriously endanger our own immediate security, or our essential interests

I put the question, sir, in the language of some of the best considered state papers of modern times. The general rule of national law, is, unquestionably, against interference, in the transactions of other States. There are, however, acknowledged exceptions, growing out of circumstances, and founded in those circumstances. These exceptions, it has been properly said, cannot, without danger, be reduced to previous rule, and incorporated into the ordinary diplo macy of nations. Nevertheless, they do exist, and must be judged of, when they arise, with a just regard to our own essential interests, but in a spirit of strict justice and delicacy also towards foreign States. The ground of these exceptions is, as I have already stated, selfpreservation. It is not a slight injury to our interest; it is not even a great inconvenience, that makes out a case. There must be danger to our security, or danger, manifest and imminent danger, to our essential rights, and our essential interests. Now, sir, let us look at Cuba. I need hardly refer to its present amount of commercial connexion with the United States. Our statistical tables, I presume, would show us, that our commerce with the Havanna alone is more in amount than our whole commercial intercourse with France and all her dependencies. But this is but one part of the case, and not the most important. Cuba, as is well said in the report of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, is placed in the mouth of the Mississippi. Its occupation by a strong maritime power would be felt, in the first moment of hostility, as far up the Mississippi and the Missouri, as our population extends. It is the commanding point of the Gulf of Mexico. See, too, how it lies in the very line of our coast-wise traffic; interposed in the very highway between New York and New Orleans.

Now, sir, who has estimated, or who can estimate, the effect of a change, which should place this Island in other hands, subject it to new rules of commercial intercourse, or connect it with objects of a different and still more dangerous nature? Sir, I repeat that I feel no disposition to pursue this topic, on the present occasion. My purpose is only to show its importance, and to beg gentlemen not to prejudice any rights of the country by assenting to propositions, which, perhaps, may be necessary to be reviewed.

And here I differ again with the gentleman from Kentucky. He thinks that, in this, as in other cases, we should wait till the event comes, without any previous declaration of our sentiments upon subjects important to our own rights or our own interests. Sir, such declarations are often the appropriate means of preventing that which, if unprevented, it might be difficult to redress. A great object in holding diplomatic intercourse, is frankly to expose the views and objects of nations, and to prevent, by candid explanation, collision and war. In this case, the government has said that we could not assent to the transfer of Cuba, to another European State. Can we so assent? Do gentlemen think we can? If not, then it was entirely proper that this intimation should be frankly and seasonably made. Candor required it; and it would have been unpardonable, it would have been injustice, as well as folly, to have been silent, while we might suppose the transaction to be contemplated, and then to complain of it afterwards. If we should have a subsequent right

to complain, we have a previous right, equally clear, of protesting, and if the evil be one, which, when it comes, would allow us to apply a remedy, it not only allows us, but it makes it our duty, also, to apply prevention.

But, sir, while some gentlemen have maintained, that on the subject of a transfer to any of the European powers, the President has said too much, others insist that on that of the Islands being occupied by Mexico or Colombia, he has said and done too little. I presume, sir, for my own part, that the strongest language has been directed to the source of greatest danger. Heretofore that danger was, doubtless, greatest, which was apprehended from a voluntary transfer. The other has been met, as it arose; and, thus far, adequately and sufficiently met. And here, sir, I cannot but say that I never knew a more extraordinary argument than we have heard on the conduct of the Executive on this part of the case. The President is charged with inconsistency; and, in order to make this out, public despatches are read, which, it is said, militate with one another.

Sir, what are the facts? This government saw fit to invite the Emperor of Russia to use his endeavours to bring Spain to treat of peace with her revolted colonies. Russia was addressed on this occasion as the friend of Spain; and, of course, every argument which it was thought might have influence, or ought to have influence, either on Russia or Spain, was suggested in the correspondence. Among other things, the probable loss to Spain, of Cuba and Porto Rico, was urged; and the question was asked, how it was, or could be, expected by Spain, that the United States could interfere, to prevent Mexico and Colombia from taking those Islands from her, since she was their enemy, in a public war, and since she pertinaciously, and unreasonably, as we think, insists on maintaining the war; and since these Islands offered an obvious object of attack? Was not this, sir, a very proper argument to be urged to Spain? A copy of this despatch, it seems, was sent to the Senate, in confidence. It has not been published by the Executive. Now, the alleged inconsistency is, that, notwithstanding this letter, the President has interfered to dissuade Mexico and Colombia from attacking Cuba; that, finding or thinking that those States meditated such a purpose, this government has urged them to desist from it. Sir, was ever anything more unreasonable than this charge? Was it not proper, that, to produce the desired result of peace, our government should address different motives to the different parties in the war? Was it not its business to set before each party its dangers and its difficulties in pursuing the war? And if, now, by anything unexpected, these respective correspondences have become public, are these different views, addressed thus to different parties, and with different objects, to be relied on as proof of inconsistency? It is the strangest accusation ever heard of. No government, not wholly destitute of common sense, would have acted otherwise. We urged the proper motives to both parties. To Spain we urged the probable loss of Cuba; we showed her the dangers of its capture by the new States; and we asked her to inform us on what ground it was, that we could interfere to prevent such capture, since

she was at war with these states, and they had an unquestionable right to attack her in any of her territories; and especially she was asked, how she could expect good offices from us, on this occasion, since she fully understood our opinion to be, that she was persisting in the war without, or beyond, all reason, and with a sort of desperation. This was the appeal made to the good sense of Spain, through Russia. But, soon afterwards, having reason to suspect that Colombia and Mexico were actually preparing to attack Cuba, and knowing that such an event would most seriously affect us, our government remonstrated against such meditated attack, and to the present time it has not been made. In all this, who sees anything either improper or inconsistent? For myself, I think the course pursued showed a watchful regard to our own interest, and is wholly free from any imputation, either of impropriety, or inconsistency.

There are other subjects, sir, in the President's message, which have been discussed in the debate, but on which I shall not detain the Committee.

It cannot be denied, that from the commencement of our government, it has been its object to improve and simplify the principles of national intercourse. It may well be thought a fit occasion to urge these improved principles, at a moment when so many new States are coming into existence, untrammeled, of course, with previous and long established connexions or habits. Some hopes of benefit, connected with these topics, are suggested in the message.

The abolition of private war on the ocean, is also among the subjects of possible consideration. This is not the first time that that subject has been mentioned. The late President took occasion to enforce the considerations which he thought recommended it. For one, I am not prepared to say how far such abolition may be practicable, or how far it ought to be pursued; but there are views belonging to the subject, which have not been, in any degree, answered or considered, in this discussion.

Sir, it is not always the party that has the power of employing the largest military marine, that enjoys the advantage by authorising privateers in war. It is not enough that there are brave and gallant captors; there must be something to be captured. Suppose, sir, a war between ourselves and any one of the new States of South America were now existing, who would lose most, by the practice of privateering, in such a war? There would be nothing for us to attack; while the means of attacking us would flow to our enemies from every part of the world. Capital, ships, and men, would be abundant in all their ports, and our commerce, spread over every sea, would be the destined prey. So, again, if war should unhappily spring up among those States themselves, might it not be for our interest, as being likely to be much connected by intercourse with all parties, that our commerce should be free from the visitation and search of private armed ships; one of the greatest vexations to neutral commerce in time of war? These, sir, are some of the considerations belonging to this subject. I have mentioned them only to show that they well deserve serious attention.

I have not intended to reply to the many observations which have been submitted to us, on the message of the President to this House,

or that to the Senate. Certainly I am of opinion, that some of those observations merited an answer, and they have been answered by others. On two points only will I make a remark. It has been said, and often repeated, that the President in his message to the Senate, has spoken of his own power in regard to missions, in terms which the Constitution does not warrant. If gentlemen will turn to the message of President Washington, relative to the mission to Lisbon, in the 10th vol. of State Papers, they will see almost the exact form of expression used in this case. The other point, on which I would make a remark, is the allegation, that an unfair use has been made in the argument of the message, of General Washington's Farewell Address. There would be no end, sir, to comments and criticisms, of this sort, if they were to be pursued. I only observe, that, as it appears to me, the argument of the message, and its use of the Farewell Address, are not fairly understood. It is not attempted to be inferred from the Farewell Address, that, according to the opinion of Washington, we ought now to have alliances with foreign States. No such thing. The Farewell Address recommends to us, to abstain as much as possible from all sorts of political connexion with the States of Europe, alleging, as the reason for this advice, that Europe has a set of primary interests of her own, separate from ours, and with which we have no natural connexion. Now the message argues, and argues truly, that the new South American States, not having a set of interests of their own growing out of the balance of power, family alliances, &c., separate from ours, in the same manner, and to the same degree, as the primary interests of Europe were represented to be; this part of the Farewell Address, aimed at those separate interests expressly, did not apply in this case. But does the message infer from this the propriety of alliances with these new States? Far from it. It infers no such thing. On the contrary, it disclaims all such purpose.

There is one other point, sir, on which common justice requires a word to be said. It has been alleged that there are material differences, as to the papers sent respectively to the two Houses. All this, as it seems to me, may be easily and satisfactorily explained. In the first place, the instructions of May, 1823, which, it is said, were not sent to the Senate, were instructions on which a treaty had been already negotiated; which treaty had been subsequently ratified by the Senate. It may be presumed, that when the treaty was sent to the Senate, the instructions accompanied it; and if so, they were actually already before the Senate; and this accounts for one of the alleged differences. In the next place, the letter to Mr. Middleton, in Russia, not sent to the House, but now published by the Senate, is such a paper as possibly the President might not think proper to make public. There is evident reason for such an inference. And, lastly, the correspondence of Mr. Brown, sent here, but not to the Senate, appears, from its date, to have been received after the communication to the Senate. Probably when sent to us, it was also sent, by another message, to that body.

These observations, sir, are tedious and uninteresting. I am glad to be through with them. And here I might terminate my remarks,

« PreviousContinue »