Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

turned back upon her hands, without occupation for their enterprise, eager for new fields of battle, and new rewards of achievement.” From these veterans ten thousand were selected, and having been placed under the command of an approved and brave officer, whose subsequent untimely fate all parties lamented, they were sent to attack New Orleans, and to acquire possession of the shores and waters of the Mississippi. To meet this emergency, and to raise the necessary funds for the defence of New Orleans, and for the repulsion of these dreaded invaders, became the task of James Monroe. From the peculiar circumstances of the times, this task was difficult in the extreme.

The state of our financial concerns was deplorable. There had always been a deficiency of funds for the vigorous prosecution of the war, and the national credit had been progressively degraded. When the war began, the rivalry of opposing interests and political prejudice had prevented the renewal of the charter of the first bank of the United States, and the most dismal consequences ensued. The public credit was almost ruined, and the currency of the country tallen into frightful disorder “ Banks with fictitious capital,” says an able financier, “swarmed throughout the land, and spunged the purse of the people, often for the use of their own money, with more than usurious extortion. The solid banks were unable to maintain their integrity, only by contracting their operations to an extent ruinous to their debtors and to themselves. A balance of trade, operating like universal fraud, vitiated the channels of intercourse between vorth and south; and the treasury of the union was replenished only with millions of silken tatters, and unavailable funds; chartered corporations, bankrupt, under the gentle name of suspended specie payments, and without a dollar of capital to pay their debts, sold, at enormous discounts, the very evidence of those debts; and passed off upon the government of the country, at par, their rags, purchasable, in open market, at depreciations of thirty and forty per cent."

At this period when, from the low state of the national credit, and from the exhausted condition of the treasury, it was impossible to raise funds to meet the pressing necessity of the preparations for the defence of New Orleans, then it was that the subject of this memoir, with a noble gene. rosity of soul and a patriotic devotedness to the cause of his country, which was worthy of the brightest epoch of Grecian renown, performed an act, which, if it stood solitary and alone, should embalm his name in the grateful remembrance of every votary of freedom. As subsidiary to the credit of the nation, he pledged his own individual credit.

It is to be deeply regretted, as we shall soon have occasion to show, that the conduct of our Congress, after Mr. Monroe's retirement into private life, was such as to strengthen the impression, which has long and falsely prevailed, and which the friends of arbitrary power have endeavored to keep alive, concerning the ingratitude of republics. In making so great a personal sacrifice, the Secretary probably believed that there could arise, in future, no hesitation in recognising his claim of remuneration ; but we feel convinced, upon considering other noble and disinterested actions of his life, that he would have performed the same generous deed, even if he had anticipated the pecuniary difficulties which it was, conse

quently, his lot to encounter. Besides offering up his private interests on the shrine of his country's freedom, he did not hesitate to relinquish that which must have been far dearer to him, the prospects of a reasonable and praiseworthy ambition.

The acts of Congress had already authorized an army which numbered sixty thousand men. The first proposition of Mr. Monroe was to raise forty thousand more, and his plan was to levy upon the whole mass of the people. If this had been carried into effect, there would, probably, have been no bounds to the resentment of the people against its projector. He would have lost, by one severe though necessary measure, all that deserved popularity, which he had been so long acquiring; for it was a resort, seemingly opposed to the genius of our institutions, and assimilated, in the minds of the people, to the conscriptions of the French government. Our sturdy yeomanry would have deemed such a course an encroachment on their rights as freemen; and, though many were willing to volunteer, few would have submitted tamely to be dragooned into service by the forcible arguments of a recruiting officer. Such an officer would, doubtless, have been authorized, as in foreign countries, to take the farmer from his plough, the weaver from his loom, the mechanic from his shop, and the clerk from his desk, as well as to intrude, unquestioned and unforbidden, upon the retirement of the scholar, and into the halls of the wealthy. Mr. Monroe was conscious of those consequences which would attend the prosecution of such a plan; and he determined, in his own mind, to withdraw his name from the presidential canvass, as the friends of the opposing candidates would doubtless seize upon this event to make his name unpopular. To two or three individuals, in his confidence, he disclosed his feelings upon the subject, and had authorized them to publish his intention of declining his nomination, as chief magistrate of the union, when the conclusion of peace rendered the increase of the army unnecessary, and therefore removed the objections which would have influenced such a resignation.

On the return of peace, Mr. Monroe, having relinquished his office in the Department of War, reassumed those of the Department of State, which he continued to discharge till the close of Mr. Madison's administration. Indeed, Mr. Monroe has been justly said to have performed the duties of these high stations with untiring assiduity, with universally acknowledged ability, and with a zeal of patriotism, which counted health, fortune, and life itself, nothing in the ardor of self-devotion to the cause of his country. Until the expiration of President Madison's term of office, Mr. Monroe warmly co-operated with him in those measures which were necessary to restore the harmony of the government and to extricate the affairs of the country from the confusion into which they had been thrown by the misfortunes of the war.

On the 5th of March, 1817, Mr. Monroe was inaugurated as President of the United States. The President and Vice-President were escorted by a large cavalcade of citizens, to Congress Hall, where the Ex-President, the Judges of the Supreme Court, and the Senate were assembled; by whom the incumbent was attended to the portico, where he delivered a speech from which we have selected the most prominent and striking passages. After expressing his high sense of the confidence which his fellow citizens had shown towards him, and of the feeling of deep respon. sibility with which he entered upon the discharge of his arduous duties

, he took a rapid and general view of the prosperous condition of the Re public under the wise provisions of its venerated Constitution.

“ Other considerations of the highest importance admonish us to cherish our Union, and to cling to the Government which supports it. Fortunate as we are in our political institutions, we have not been less so in other circumstances, on which our prosperity and happiness essentially depend. Situated within the temperate zone, and extending through many degrees of latitude along the Atlantic, the United States enjoy all the varieties of climate, and every production incident to that portion of the globe. Penetrating, internally, to the great lakes, and beyond the sources of the great rivers which communicate through our whole interior, no country was ever happier with respect to its domain. Blessed, too, with a fertile soil, our produce has always been very abundant, leaving, even in years the least favorable, a surplus for the wants of our fellow men in other countries. Such is our peculiar felicity, that there is not a part of our Union that is not particularly interested in preserving it. The great agricultural interest of the nation prospers under its protection. Local inte rests are not less fostered by it. Our fellow citizens of the north, engag. ed in navigation, find great encouragement in being made the favored carriers of the vast productions of the other portions of the United States, while the inhabitants of these are amply recompensed, in their turn, by the nursery for seamen and naval force, thus formed and reared up for the support of our common rights. Our manufactures find a generous encouragement by the policy which patronizes domestic industry; and the surplus of our produce, a steady and profitable market by local wants, in less favored parts at home.

“Such, then, being the highly favored condition of our country, it is the interest of every citizen to maintain it. What are the dangers which menace us? If any exist, they ought to be ascertained and guarded against.

“ In explaining my sentiments on this subject, it may be asked, what raised us to the present happy state? How did we accomplish the revo lution? How remedy the defects of the first instrument of our Union, by infusing into the national government sufficient power for national purposes, without impairing the just rights of the States, or affecting those of individuals? How sustain, and pass with glory through the late war! The government has been in the hands of the people. To the people, therefore, and to the faithful and able depositories of their trust, is the credit due. Had the people of the United States been educated in diffc rent principles; had they been less intelligent, less independent, or less virtuous ; can it be believed that we should have maintained the same steady and consistent career, or been blessed with the same success! While then the constituent body retains its present sound and healthful state, every thing will be safe. They will choose competent and faithful representatives for every department. It is only when people become ignorant and corrupt; when they degenerate into a populace, that they

are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin. Let us then look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. Let us, by all wise and constitutional measures, promote intelligence among the people, as the best means of preserving our liberties.

"Dangers from abroad are no less deserving of attention. Experiencing the fortune of other nations, the United States may be again involved in war, and it may, in that event, be the object of the adverse party to overset our government, to break our union, and demolish us as a nation. Our distance from Europe, and the just, moderate and pacific policy of our government, may form some security against these dangers, but they ought to be anticipated and guarded against. Many of our citizens are engaged in commerce and navigation, and all of them are in a certain degree dependent on their prosperous state. Many are engaged in the fisheries. These interests are exposed to invasion in the war between other powers, and we should disregard the faithful admonition of experience, if we did not expect it. We must support our rights or lose our character, and with it perhaps our liberties. A people who fail to do it, can scarcely be said to hold a place among independent nations. National honor is national property of the highest value. The sentiment in the mind of every citizen is national strength. It ought, therefore, to be cherished.

“To secure us against these dangers, our coast and inland frontiers should be fortified, our army and navy regulated upon just principles as to the force of each, be kept in perfect order, and our militia be placed on the best practicable footing. To put our extensive coast in such a state of defence as to secure our cities and interior from invasion, will be attended with expense, but the work, when finished, will be permanent; and it is fair to presume, that a single campaign of invasion by a naval force superior to our own, aided by a few thousand land troops, would expose us to greater expense, without taking into the estimate the loss of property and distress of our citizens, than would be sufficient for this great work.

"Our land and naval forces should be moderate, but adequate to the necessary purposes. The former to garrison and preserve our fortifications, and to meet the first invasions of a foreign foe; and, while constituting the elements of a greater force, to preserve the science, as well as all the necessary implements of war, in a state to be brought into activity in the event of war. The latter, retained within the limits proper in a state of peace, might aid in maintaining the neutrality of the United States with dignity in the wars of other powers, and in saving the property of their citizens from spoliation. In time of war, with the enlargement of which the great naval resources of the country render it susceptible, and which should be duly fostered in time of peace, it would contribute essentially, both as an auxiliary of defence, and as a powerful engine of annoyance, to diminish the calamities of war, and to bring the war to a speedy and honorable termination.

"But it ought always to be held prominently in view, that the safety of

for war.

these states, and of every thing dear to a free people, must depend, in an eminent degree, on the militia. Invasions may be made, too formidable to be resisted by any land and naval force, which it would comport, either with the principles of our Government, or the circumstances of the United States, to maintain. In such cases, recourse must be had to the great body of the people, and in a manner to produce the best effect. It is of the highest importance, therefore, that they be so organized and trained, as to be prepared for any emergency: The arrangement should be such, as to put at the command of the Government the ardent patriotism and youthful vigor of the country. If formed on equal and just principles, it cannot be oppressive. It is the crisis which makes the pressure, and not the laws which provide a remedy for it. This arrangement should be formed too, in time of peace, to be better prepared

With such an organization of such a people, the United States have nothing to dread from foreign invasion. At its approach, an overwhelming force of gallant men might always be put in motion.

“Other interests, of high importance, will claim attention, among which the improvement of our country by roads and canals, proceeding always with a constitutional sanction, holds a distinguished place. By thus facilitating the intercourse between the States, we shall add much to the convenience and comfort of our fellow citizens ; much to the ornament of the country; and, what is of greater importance, we shall shorten distances, and by making each part more accessible to, and dependent on the other, we shall bind the Union more closely together. Nature has done so much for us, by intersecting the country with so many great rivers, bays, and lakes, approaching from distant points so near to each other, that the inducement to complete the work seems to be peculiarly strong. A more interesting spectacle was, perhaps, never seen, than is exhibited within the limits of the United States ; a territory so vast, and advantageously situated, containing objects so grand, so useful, so happily connected in all their parts.

“Our manufactures will likewise require the systematic and fostering care of the government. Possessing, as we do, all the raw materials, the fruit of our own soil and industry, we ought not to depend, in the degree we have done, on supplies from other countries. While we are hus dependent, the sudden event of war, unsought and unexpected, cannot fail to plunge us into the most serious difficulties. It is important, too, that the capital, which nourishes our manufactures, should be domestic, as its influence in that case, instead of exhausting, as it may do in foreign hands, would be felt advantageously on agriculture, and every other branch of industry. Equally important is it to provide at home a market for our raw materials, as, by extending the competition, it will enhance the price, and protect the cultivator against the casualties incident to foreign markets.

“With the Indian tribes it is our duty to cultivate friendly relations, and to act with kindness and liberality in all our transactions. Equally proper is it to persevere in our efforts to extend to them the advantages of civilization.

“The great amount of our revenue, and the flourishing state of the

« ZurückWeiter »