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It would be superfluous in your committee to state, that by this order the British government declared direct and positive war against the United States. The dominion of the ocean was completely usurped by it, all commerce forbidden, and every flag driven from it, or subjected to capture and condemnation, which did not subserve the policy of the British government by paying it a tribute and sailing under its sanction. From this period the United States have incurred the heaviest losses and most mortifying humiliations. They have borne the calamities of war without retorting them on its authors.
So far your committee has presented to the view of the house the aggressions which have been committed under the authority of the British government on the commerce of the United States. We will now proceed to other wrongs, which have been still more severely felt. Among these is the impressment of our seamen, a practice which has been unceasingly maintained by Great Britain in the wars to which she has been a party since our revolution. Your committee cannot convey, in adequate terms, the deep sense which they entertain of the injustice and oppression of this proceeding. Under the pretext of impressing British seamen, our fellow-citizens are seized in British ports, on the high seas, and in
every other quarter to which the British power extends, are taken on board British men of war and compelled to serve there as British subjects. In this mode our citizens are wantonly snatched from their country and their families, deprived of their liberty and doomed to an ignominious and slavish bondage, compelled to fight the battles of a foreign country, and often to perish in them. Our flag has given them no protection; it has been unceasingly violated, and our vessels exposed to danger by the loss of the men taken from them. Your committee need not remark, that while this practice is continued, it is impossible for the United States to consider themselves an independent nation. Every new case is a new proof of their degradation. Its continuance is the more unjustifiable, because the United States have repeatedly proposed to the British government an arrangement which would secure to it the controul of its own people. An exemption of the citizens of the United States from this degrading oppression, and their flag from violation, is all that they have sought.
This lawless waste of our trade, and equally unlawful impressment of our seamen, have been much aggravated by the insults and indignities attending them. Under the pretext of blockading the harbours of France and her allies, British squadrons have been stationed on our own coast, to watch and annoy our own trade. To give effect to the blockade of European ports, the ports and harbours of the United States have been blockaded. In executing these orders of the British government, or in obeying the spirit which was known to animate it, the commanders of these squadrons have encroached on our jurisdiction, seized
our vessels, and carried into effect impressments within our limits, and done other acts of great injustice, violence and oppression. The United States have seen, with mingled indignation and surprise, that these acts, instead of procuring to the perpetrators the punishment due to unauthorized crimes, have not failed to recommend them to the favour of their government.
Whether the British government has contributed by active measures to excite against us the hostility of the savage tribes on our frontiers, your committee are not disposed to occupy much time in investigating. Certain indications of general notoriety may supply the place of authentic documents ; though these have not been wanting to establish the fact, in some instances. It is known that symptoms of British hostility towards the United States have never failed to produce corresponding symptoms among those tribes. It is also well known, that on all such occasions, abundant supplies of the ordinary munitions of war have been afforded by the agents of British commercial companies, and even from British garrisons, wherewith they were enabled to commence that system of savage warfare on our frontiers, which has been at all times indiscriminate in its effect, on all ages, sexes, and conditions, and so revolting to humanity.
Your committee would be much gratified if they could close here the detail of British wrongs ; but it is their duty to recite another act of still greater malignity, than any of those which have been already brought to your view. The attempt to dismember our union and overthrow our excellent constitution, by a secret mission, the object of which was to foment discontents and excite insurrection against the constituted authorities and laws of the nation, as lately disclosed by the agent employed in it, affords full proof that there is no bound to the hostility of the British government towards the United States-no act, however unjustifiable, which it would not commit to accomplish their
This attempt excites the greater horror from the consideration that it was made while the United States and Great Britain were at peace, and an amicable negotiation was depending between them, for the accommodation of their differences, through public ministers regularly authorized for the purpose.
The United States have beheld, with unexampled forbearance, this continued series of hostile encroachments on their rights and interests, in the hope, that, yielding to the force of friendly remonstrances, often repeated, the British government might adopt a more just policy towards them ; but that hope no longer exists. They have also weighed impartially the reasons which have been urged by the British government in vindication of those encroachments, and found in them neither justification nor apology.
The British government has alleged, in vindication of the orders in council
, that they were resorted to as a retaliation on France, for similar aggressions committed by her on our neutral
trade with British dominions. But how has this plea been sup. ported ? The dates of British and French aggressions are well known to the world. Their origin and progress have been marked with too wide and destructive a waste of the property of our fellow-citizens, to have been forgotten. The decree of Berlin of November 21, 1806, was the first aggression of France in the present war. Eighteen months had then elapsed after the attack made by Great Britain on our neutral trade with the colonies of France and her allies, and six months from the date of the proclamation of May, 1806. Even on the seventh of January, 1807, the date of the first British order in council, so short a term had elapsed, after the Berlin decree, that it was hardly possible that the intelligence of it should have reached the United States. A retaliation which is to produce its effect, by operating on a neutral power, ought not to be resorted to, 'till the neutral had justified it by a culpable acquiescence in the unlawful act of the other belligerant. It ought to be delayed until after sufficient time had been allowed to the neutral to remonstrate against the measures complained of, to receive an answer and to act on it, which had not been done in the present instance; and when the order of November 11, was issued, it is well known that a minister of France had declared to the minister plenipotentiary of the United States at Paris, that it was not intended that the decree of Berlin should apply to the United States. It is equally well known, that no American vessel had then been condemned under it, or seizure been made, with which the British government was acquainted. The facts prove incontestibly, that the measures of France, however unjustifiable in themselves, were nothing more than a pretext for those of England. And of the insufficiency of that pretext, ample proof has already been afforded by the British government itself, and in the most impressive form. Although it was declared that the orders in council were retaliatory on France for her decrees, it was also declared, and in the orders themselves, that owing to the superiority of the British navy, by which the fleets of France and her allies were confined within their own ports, the French decrees were considered only as empty threats.
It is no justification of the wrongs of one power, that the like were committed by another, nor ought the fact, if true, to have been urged by, either, as it could afford no proof of its love of justice, of its magnanimity, or even of its courage. It is more worthy the government of a great nation, to relieve than to assail the injured. Nor can a repetition of the wrongs by another power repair the violated rights or wounded honour of the injured party. An utter inability alone to resist, would justify a quiet surrender of our rights, and degrading submission to the will of others. To that condition the United States are not reduced, nor do they fear it. That they ever consented to discuss with either power the misconduct of the other, is a proof of their love of peace, of their
moderation, and of the hope which they still indulged, that friendly appeals to just and generous sentiments would not be made to them in vain. But the motive was mistaken, if their forbearance was imputed, either to the want of a just sensibility to their wrongs, or a determination, if suitable redress was not obtained, to resent them. The time has now arrived when this system of reasoning must cease. It would be insulting to repeat it. It would be degrading to hear it. The United States must act as an independent nation, and assert their rights and avenge their wrongs, according to their own estimate of them, with the party who commits them, holding it responsible for its own misdeeds, unmitigated by those of another.
For the difference made between Great Britain and France, by the application of the non-importation act against England only, the motive has been already too often explained, and is too well known to require further illustration. In the commercial restrictions to which the United States resorted as an evidence of their sensibility, and a mild retaliation of their wrongs, they invariably placed both powers on the same footing, holding out to each in respect to itself, the same accommodation, in case it accepted the condition offered, and in respect to the other, the same restraint, if it refused. Had the British government confirmed the arrangement which was entered into with the British minister in 1809, and France maintained her decrees with France would the United States have had to resist, with the firmness belonging to their character, the continued violation of their rights. The committee do not hesitate to declare that France has greatly injured the United States, and that satisfactory reparation has not yet been made for many of those injuries. But that is a concern which the United States will look to and settle for themselves. The high character of the American people, is a sufficient pledge to the world, that they will not fail to settle it, on conditions which they have a right to claim
More recently the true policy of the British government towards the United States has been completely unfolded. It has been publicly declared by those in power that the orders in council should not be repealed until the French government had revoked all its internal restraints on the British commerce, and that the trade of the United States with France and her allies, should be prohibited until Great Britain was allowed to trade with them. By this declaration it appears, that to satisfy the pretensions of the British government, the United States must join Great Britain in the war with France, and prosecute the war, until France should be subdued, for without her subjugation, it were in vain to presume on such a concession. The hostility of the British government to these states has been still further disclosed. It has been made manifest that the United States are considered by it as the commercial rival of Great Britain, and that their prosperity and growth are incompatible with her welfare.
When all these circumstances are taken into consideration, it is impossible for your committee to doubt the motives which have governed the British ministry in all its measures towards the United States since the year 1805. Equally is it impossible to doubt, longer, the course which the United States ought to pursue towards Great Britain.
From this view of the multiplied wrongs of the British government since the commencement of the present war, it must be evident to the impartial world, that the contest which is now forced on the United States, is radically a contest for their sovereignty and independence. Your committee will not enlarge on any of the injuries, however great, which have had a transitory effect. They wish to call the attention of the house to those of a permanent nature only, which intrench so deeply on our most important rights, and wound so extensively and vitally our best interests, as could not fail to deprive the United States of the principal advantages of their revolution, if submitted to. The controul of our commerce by Great Britain, in regulating at pleasure and expelling it almost from the ocean; the oppressive manner in which these regulations have been carried into effect, by seizing and confiscating such of our vessels with their cargoes, as were said to have violated her edicts, often without previous warning of their danger; the impressment of our citizens from on board our own vessels, on the high seas, and elsewhere, and hold. ing them in bondage until it suited the convenience of their oppressors to deliver them up, are encroachments of that high and dangerous tendency which could not fail to produce that pernicious effect, nor would these be the only consequences that would result from it. The British government might, for a while, be satisfied with the ascendency thus gained over us, but its pretensions would soon increase. The proof, which so complete and disgraceful a submission to its authority would afford of our degeneracy, could not fail to inspire confidence that there was no limit to which its usurpations and our degradation might not be carried.
Your committee believing that the free born sons of America are worthy to enjoy the liberty which their fathers purchased at the price of so much blood and treasure, and seeing, in the measures adopted by Great Britain, a course commenced and persisted in, which must lead to a loss of national character and independence, feel no hesitation in advising resistance by force, in which the Americans of the present day, will prove to the
enemy and to the world, that we have not only inherited that liberty which our fathers gave us, but also the will and POWER to maintain it. Relying on the patriotism of the nation, and confidently trusting that the Lord of Hosts will go with us to battle in a righteous cause, and crown our efforts with success your committee recommend an immediate appeal to ARMS.