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SPEECH OF JOHN C. CALHOUN,
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
UNITED STATES, DECEMBER 12, 1811,
On the second resolution reported by the committee of foreign rela
tions; “ That an additional force of ten thousand regular troops, ought to be immediately raised to serve for three years : and that a bounty in lands ought to be given to encourage enlistment."
MR. SPEAKER, I UNDERSTOOD the opinion of the committee of foreign relations, differently from what the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Randolph,) has stated to be his impression. I certainly understood that committee as recommending the measures now before the House, as a preparation for war; and such in fact was its express resolve, agreed to, I believe by every member, except that gentleman. I do not attribute any wilful misstatement to him, but consider it the effect of inadvertency or mistake. Indeed, the report could mean nothing but war or empty menace. I hope no member of this House is in favor of the latter. "A bullying, menacing system has every thing to condemn' and nothing to recommend it; in expense it is almost as considerable as war ; it excites contempt abroad, and destroys confidence here. Menaces are serious things, and, if we expect any good from them, they ought to be resorted to with as much caution and seriousness, as war itself; and should, if not successful, be invariably followed by it. It was not the gentleman from Tennessee, (Mr. Grundy,) that made this a war question. The resolve contemplates an additional, regular force; a measure confessedly improper, but as a preparation for war, but undoubtedly necessary in that event. Sir, I am not insensible of the weighty import
ance of this question, for the first time submitted to this House, as a redress of our long list of complaints against one of the belligerents; but, according to my mode of thinking on this subject, however serious the question, whenever I am on its affirmative side, my conviction must be strong and unalterable. · War, in this country, ought never to be resorted to but when it is clearly justifiable and necessary; so much so, as not to require the aid of logic to convince our reason, nor the ardor of eloquence to inflame our passions. There are many reasons why this country should never resort to war but for causes the most urgent and necessary. It is sufficient, that under a government like ours, none but such will justify it in the eye of the nation; and were I not satisfied that such is our present cause, I certainly would be no advocate of the proposition now before the House.
Sir, I prove the war, should it ensue, justifiable, by the express admission of the gentleman from Virginia ; and necessary, by facts undoubted, and universally admitted ; such as that gentleman did not pretend to controvert. The extent, duration, and character of the injuries received; the failure of those peaceful means, heretofore resorted to for the redress of our wrongs, is my proof that it is necessary. Why should I mention the impressment of our seamen; depredation on every branch of our commerce, including the direct export trade, continued for years, and made under laws, which professedly undertake to regulate our trade with other nations; negociation resorted to, time after time, till it is become hopeless; the restrictive system persisted in to avoid war, and in the vain expectation of returning justice? The evil still grows, and, in each succeeding year, swells in extent and pretension beyond the preceding. The question, even in the opinion and admission of our opponents, is reduced to this single point; which shall we do, abandon or defend our own commercial and maritime rights and the personal liberties of our citizens employed in exerting them? These rights are essentially attacked, and war is the only nieans of redress. The gentleman from Virginia, has suggested none; unless we consider the whole of his speech as recommending patient and resigned submission as the best remedy. Sir, which alternative this House ought to embrace, it is not for me to say. I hope the decision is made already, by a higher authority than the voice of any man. It is not for the human tongue to instill the sense of independence and honor. This is the work of nature; a generous nature that disdains tame submission to wrongs.
This part of the subject is so imposing, as to enforce silence even on the gentleman from Virginia. He dared not to deny his country's wrongs or vindicate the conduct of her enemy.
Only one point of that gentleman's argument had any, the most remote relation to this point. He would not say, we had not a good cause of war; but insisted, that it was our duty to define that cause. If he means that this House ought, at this stage of the proceeding, or any other, to enumerate such violations of our rights, as we are willing to contend for, he prescribes a course, which neither good sense nor the usage of nations warrants. When we contend, let us contend for all our rights; the doubtful and the certain; the unimportant and essential. It is as easy to struggle, or even more so, for the whole as a part. At the termination of the contest, secure all that our wisdom and valor and the fortune of the war will permit. This is the dictate of common sense; such also is the usage of nations. The single instance
alluded to, the endeavor of Mr. Fox to compel Mr. Pitt to define the object of the war against France, will not support the gentleman from Virginia in his position. That was an extraordinary war for an extraordinary purpose, and could not be governed by the usual rules. It was not for conquest, or for redress of injury; but to impose a government on France, which she refused to
receive; an object so detestable, that an avowal dare not be made. Sir, here I might rest the question. The affirmative of the proposition is established. I cannot but advert, however, to the complaint of the gentleman from Virginia, the first time he was up on this question. He said, he found himself reduced to the necessity of supporting the negative side of the question, before the affirmative was established. Let me tell that gentleman, that there is no hardship in his case.
It is not every affirmative that ought to be proved. Were I to affirm, the House is now in session, would it be reasonable to ask for proof ? He who would deny its truth, on him would be the proof of so extraordinary a negative. How then could the gentleman, after his admissions, with the facts before him and the nation, complain? The causes are such as to warrant, or rather make it indispensable in any nation, not absolutely dependent, to defend its rights by force. Let him, then, show the reasons why we ought not so to defend ourselves. On him, then, is the burden of proof. This he has attempted; he has endeavored to support his negative.
Before I proceed to answer the gentleman particularly, let me call the attention of the House to one circumstance; that is, that almost the whole of his arguments consisted of an enumeration of evils always incident to war, however just and necessary; and that, if they have any force, it is calculated to produce unqualified submission to every species of insult and injury. I do not feel myself bound to answer arguments of the above description; and if I should touch on them, it will be only incidentally, and not for the
purpose of serious refutation. The first argument of the gentleman which I shall notice, is the unprepared state of the country. Whatever weight this argument might have, in a question of immediate war, it surely has little in that of preparation for it. If our country is unprepared, let us remedy the evil as soon as possible. Let the gentleman submit his plan; and if a reasona
ble one, I doubt not it will be supported by the House. But, sir, let us admit the fact and the whole force of the argument; I ask whose is the fault? Who has been a member for many years past, and has seen the defenceless state of his country even near home, under his own eyes, without a single endeavor to remedy so serious an evil? Let him not say, “ I have acted in a minority.” It is no less the duty of the minority than a majority to endeavor to serve our country. For that purpose we are sent here; and not for that of opposition. We are next told of the expenses of the war; and that the people will not pay taxes. Why not? Is it a want of capacity? What, with one million tons of shipping; a trade of near one hundred million dollars ; manufactures of one hundred and fifty million dollars, and agriculture of thrice that amount, shall we be told the country wants capacity to raise and support ten thousand or fifteen thousand additional regulars? No; it has the ability, that is admitted; but will it not have the disposition? Is not the course a just and necessary one? Shall we then utter this libel on the nation? Where will proof be found of a fact so disgraceful? It is said, in the history of the country twelve or fifteen years ago. The case is not parallel. The ability of the country has greatly increased since. The object of that tax was unpopular. But on this, as well as my memory and almost infant observation at that time serve me, the objection was not to the tax, or its amount, but the mode of collection. The eye of the nation was frightened by the number of officers; its love of liberty shocked with the multiplicity of regulations. We, in the vile spirit of imitation, copied from the most oppressive part of European laws on that subject, and imposed on a young and virtuous nation all the severe provisions made necessary by corruption and long growing chicane. If taxes should become necessary, I do not hesitate to say the people will pay cheerfully. It is for their government and their cause, and would be their interest and duty to pay. But it may be, and I believe was said, that