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the House, I shall cheerfully concur in it. But there is one part of the proposed amendment to which I could not agree, in any form. I wish to ask the gentleman from Delaware himself to reconsider it. I pray him to look at it again, and to see whether he means what it expresses or implies; for, on this occasion, I should be more gratified by seeing that the honorable gentleman himself had become sensible that he had fallen into some error, in this respect, than by seeing the vote of the House against him by any majority whatever.
That part of the amendment to which I now object, is that which requires, as a condition of the resolution before us, that the ministers "shall not be authorised to discuss, consider, or consult upon any measure which shall commit the present or future neutral rights or duties of these United States, either as may regard European nations, or between the several States of Mexico and South America." I need hardly repeat, that this amounts to a precise instruction. It being understood that the ministers shall not be authorised to discuss particular subjects, is a mode of speech precisely equivalent to saying, provided the ministers be instructed, or the ministers being instructed, not to discuss those subjects. After all that has been said, or can be said, about this amendment being no more than a general expression of opinion, or abstract proposition, this part of it is an exact and definite instruction. It prescribes to public ministers the precise manner in which they are to conduct a public negotiation; a duty manifestly and exclusively belonging, in my judgment, to the Executive, and not to us.
But if we possessed the power to give instructions, this instruction would not be proper to be given. Let us examine it. The ministers shall not "discuss, consider, or consult," &c.
Now, sir, in the first place, it is to be observed, that they are not only not to agree to any such measure, but they are not to discuss it. If proposed to them, they are not to give reasons for declining it. Indeed they cannot reject it; they can only say they are not authorised to consider it. Would it not be better, sir, to leave these agents at liberty to explain the policy of our Government, fully and clearly, and to show the reasons which induce us to abstain, as far as possible, from foreign connexions, and to act, in all things, with a scrupulous regard to the duties of neutrality?"
But again: they are to discuss no measure which may commit our neutral rights or duties. To commit is somewhat indefinite. May they not modify nor in any degree alter our neutral rights and duties? If not, I hardly know whether a common treaty of commerce could be negotiated; because all such treaties affect or modify, more or less, the neutral rights or duties of the parties; especially all such treaties as our habitual policy leads us to form. But I suppose the author of the amendment uses the word in a larger and higher sense. He means that the ministers shall not discuss or consider any measure which may have a tendency, in any degree, to place us in a hostile attitude towards any foreign State. And here, again, one cannot help repeating, that the injunction is, not to propose or assent to any such measure, but not to consider it, not to answer it, if proposed; not to resist it with reasons?
But, if this objection were removed, still the instruction could not properly be given. What important or leading measure is there, connected with our foreign relations, which can be adopted, without the possibility of committing us to the necessity of a hostile attitude? Any assertion of our plainest rights may, by possibility, have that effect. The author of the amendment seems to suppose that our pacific relations can never be changed, but by our own option. He seems not to be aware that other states may compel us, in defence of our own rights, to measures, which, in their ultimate tendency, may commit our neutrality. Let me ask, if the ministers of other powers, at Panama, should signify to our agents that it was in contemplation immediately to take some measure which these agents know to be hostile to our policy, adverse to our rights, and such as we could not submit to-should they be left free to speak the sentiments of their Government, to protest against the measure, and to declare that the United States would not see it carried into effect? Or should they, as this amendment proposes, be enjoined silence, let the measure proceed, and afterwards, when, perhaps, we go to war to redress the evil, we may learn that if our objections had been fairly and frankly stated, the step would not have been taken? Look, sir, to the very case of Cuba-the most delicate, and vastly the most important point in all our foreign relations. Do gentlemen think they exhibit skill or statesmanship, in laying such restraints as they propose on our ministers, in regard to this subject, among others? It has been made matter of complaint, that the Executive has not used, already, a more decisive tone towards Mexico and Colombia, in regard to their designs on this Island. Pray, sir, what tone could be taken, under these instructions? one word—not one single word could be said on the subject. If asked whether the United States would consent to the occupation of that Island by those republics, or to its transfer by Spain to a European power; or whether we should resist such occupation or such transfer, what could they say? "That is a matter we cannot discuss, and cannot consider-it would commit our neutral relations -we are not at liberty to express the sentiments of our Government on the subject: we have nothing at all to say." Is this, sir, what gentlemen wish, or what they would recommend?
If, sir, we give these instructions, and they should be obeyed, and inconvenience or evil result, who is answerable? And I suppose it is expected they will be obeyed. Certainly it cannot be intended to give them, and not to take the responsibility of consequences, if they be followed. It cannot be intended to hold the President answerable both ways; first, to obey our instructions, and, secondly, for having obeyed them, if evil comes from obeying them.
Sir, events may change. If we had the power to give instructions, and if these proposed instructions were proper to be given, before we arrive at our own homes, affairs may take a new direction, and the public interest require new and corresponding orders to our agents abroad.
This is said to be an extraordinary case, and, on that account, to justify our interference. If the fact were true, the consequence would not follow. If it be the exercise of a power assigned by the
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. We 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 tho 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 stateswhoever, 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