« ZurückWeiter »
nation of their first magistrate. So far as history affords us light, it leads us to this point: that, in times of difficulty and peril to a nation, when it is in the utmost need of superior talent for its high stations, no tribunal is more competent to discern and select it than the people. Intrigue, turbulence, and corruption, may have some sway in quiet times, when all is tranquillity in regard to the general situation of the country; but when the ship of state is in peril and danger, turbulence ceases, and the best men are by an instinctive power fixed on by the people for their governors. That has been wonderfully illustrated by history; and the best designations of magistrates have been produced in this way. My sober view is, said Mr. King, that as to the election of chief magistrate of this nation, no body is so competent as the great body of the freemen to make a proper selection. Whether, on this question, their first impression should be taken, was, Mr. King said, a question of great importance. There would be great difficulty in making the returns of the votes; those who collected and compared the votes might defeat the choice of the people, &c. Not, he said, that these objections were insuperable. He was persuaded that the course of things under the present mode of choosing a president was in its nature pernicious; and that it had a tendency to prevent the object intended by the constitution, of a pure elective magistracy. Men now live, said he, who will probably see the end of our system of government as we now go on: terminate when it will, that termination will not be favourable to public liberty. For five years past, Mr. King said, he had seen a character developing itself, the predominance of which he feared. Not a people on earth, he said, were more capable of high excitement than this people. During the excitement of the passion to which he referred, if a contested election occurs, the gownsmen must stand aside; another character supersedes them; and there can be little difficulty in judging what will be the result. The march from military rule to despotism is certain, invariable. Those who think they see the probable tendency of our present system should interpose something remedial. The people in this particular are the best keepers of their own rights; and any device to remove that power from them weakens the security of it. Mr. K. said, he was anxious that the senate should come to this question without the feelings of party: it was one involving all their interests, and those of their families and descendants. He knew, he said, that this proposition, if agreed to, would break down the power of the great states. He had no objection, if in curtailing their power, the same measure regulated the rights of the whole nation equally. He was willing to let the election for the presidency rest wholly on the people.
MR. FROMENTIN, of Louisiana, said, that although in favour
of the principle of the original proposition for an uniform mode of election, there was such a disposition to run away with the question, he could not but regret it had been proposed at all. It was now proposed to refer the election of chief magistrate of the United States to the people at large. He could not conceive how, in the spirit of the government in which we live, it would be possible to ascertain the result of such an election. The honourable gentleman from New York had hinted at some of the possible consequences and difficulties of it. I am, said Mr. F. as fully persuaded as the gentleman from New York, that the people are the source of all power; that, as long as they are uncorrupted, their liberties are in no danger. In reference to the cases of ancient republics, it had been said, that the people had never been mistaken in their choice, in the hour of danger, of a proper character for their chief magistrate. But, is our situation to be compared to that of those republics? What were Greece and Rome to the United States? Although the choice there nominally fell on the people, it was on those of a few ad. jacent cities, who exercised the whole authority, and pointed out some man on the spot qualified for the exigency of the moment. Look at the vast expanse of our country, from Maine to Louisiana-no such election could here be made in case of emergency: before it could be consummated we should be devoured by the monster which threatened us. It is not possible to suppose such a state of things in this country, as that from which the gentleman has drawn his analogy. However the practice of electing clectors by state legislatures might have prevailed, Mr. F. said, he could find nothing in the constitution which sanctioned what he should, with due deference, call this usurpation of power by the state legislatures. There was but a single step from one usurpation to another, and it was time a just construction should be given to the constitution. If no other good results from this discussion but the establishment of an uniform mode of election by all the states, the senate would be abundantly compensated thereby for all the time they had consumed in the discussion of this subject. The officer to be elected was the officer of the whole community, as much of Massachusetts as of Georgia, of Connecticut as of Kentucky. Why then should a different mode of election prevail in different states? Mr. F. examined the progress of elections under the present system. The legislatures of some states may keep back their election until the day before the election of president is to take place, and may appoint electors out of their own body too; and those electors, having ascertained the opinion of other electors, (which the constitution, by fixing the same day for the election in every state, meant to guard against) decide which ever way they can make the best bargain, or their interest inclines. It was with a view to remedy this and similar evils which have existed and do exist, that he was in favour of the proposition to amend the constitution, but against the motion to refer it.
The question on Mr. Lacock's motion to refer the proposed constitutional amendment to a committee, with instructions to enquire into the expediency of so amending it as to refer the presidential election in the first instance to the whole people, was decided as followsi
Yeas.-Messrs. Bibb, Brown, Campbell, Daggett, Dana, Gaillard, Goldsborough, King, Lacock, Roberts, Sanford, Tait—12.
Nays.-Messrs. Barbour, Barry, Chace, Condit, Fromentin, Horsey, Howell, Hunter, Macon, Mason of N. H. Mason of Va. Morrow, Ruggles, Talbot, Thompson, Tichenor, Turner, Varnum, Wells, Williams, Wilson-21.
So the motion was negatived.
The question was then taken on Mr. Barbour's motion to strike out of the proposed article so much as requires an uniform election of electors by districts:Which motion was decided in the negative as follows:
reas.-Messrs. Barbour, Barry, Bibb, Dana, Gaillard, Lacock, Mason of Va. Roberts, Ruggles, Sanford, Tait, Wilson-12.
Nays.--Messrs. Brown, Chace, Condit, Daggett, Fromentin, Goldsborough, Horsey, Howell, Hunter, King, Macon, Mason, N. H. Morrow, Talbot, Thompson, Tichenor, Turner, Varnum, Wells, Williams.-20.
Mr. Barbour then moved to postpone the whole subject indefinitely.-Agreed, 18 to 14.
COMMERCIAL INTERCOURSE WITH FOREIGN
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
On the 5th of February, 1816, MR. King of Massachusetts, presented for consideration the following resolution:
Resolved, That the committee on foreign relations, be instructed to inquire into the expediency of excluding from the ports of the United States, all foreign vessels, owned in, coming from, bound to, or touching at, any of his Britannic Majesty's possessions in the West Indies, and in the continent of North
America, from which the vessels of the United States are excluded: And of prohibiting, or increasing the duties on, the importation in foreign vessels, of any articles, the growth, produce, or manufacture of such possessions.
This resolution underwent much discussion, but was finally laid upon the table, and the subject not again introduced during the same session. · January 27th, 1817.—There was introduced into the House “ A Bill to prohibit all Commercial Intercourse with ports or places, into or with which, the vessels of the United States are not ordinarily permitted to enter or trade.”
January 30th, The House in committee of the whole, Mr. BRECKENRIDGE in the chair, on the bill “ to prohibit all Commercial Intercourse with ports or places, into or with which, the vessels of the United States are not ordinarily permitted to enter and trade.”
Mr. King of Massachusetts, observed, that it was only necessary to suggest to the committee the great importance of the subject under discussion to insure to it all the attention it demanded. It was not a subject that respected particular classes in society, or particular sections of the country, but it had a direct bearing upon our national prosperity and national defence. Commerce and navigation were indeed indivisible, and their intimate connection with the agricultural and manufacturing interest was known to all. The regulations proposed by the bill bore no analogy to the restrictive system, commencing with the non-importation act of 1806, and ending with war in 1812: that was not to regulate commerce, but to convert it into an engine of war, which re-acted with greater force upon our citizens than it acted upon our enemy. The present regulations, if adopted, would be in self-defence to retaliate upon foreign nations some of their injurious impositions. It never has been the policy of this country to begin a system of this kind, but it is her true policy to countervail the regulations of other nations.
A free and fair commerce with all the world is what we wish-an absence of all restrictions; but if other nations will not pursue this course, we must retaliate, or sacrifice the best interests of the country.
We admit all the productions of England; she refuses, or lays prohibitory duties on many of ours: all our ports are open to her; one third of her ports are closed against us. She told our commissioners at Ghent, we had nothing to offer in exchange for her colonial ports:-Have we not a most extensive and lucrative commerce to offer for them, a commerce if not essential to their existence, at least necessary to their growth and prosperity?_Shall it be said we have nothing to offer for the trade VOL. II.
of these colonies, when they now receive in British bottoms three quarters of their supplies from us? No, sir, pass the laws on your table, and at your next negotiation, you will have in them stronger arguments than any of your commissioners had at the formation of the late convention, as it respects the colonial trade. In little more than two years that convention will expire; you will probably treat again upon the subjects embraced by it
these laws will aid you in obtaining a true reciprocity in commerce. All nations disposed to act on high and honourable principles will find America anxious to do the same. If they are disposed to remove all restrictions from commerce, America will do the same-such is the language of her statesmen-suck the language of her laws.
Permit me now, sir, to ask the attention of the committee to the principal features of the British navigation act. It is a wise and aged monitor; it has existed for more than one hundred and fifty years; the most profitable and best counsellor the British monarchy ever possessed. And I sincerely hope that our country will draw much profit and instruction from the same 'source. The following account of that act, greatly abbreviated, is taken from Chitty's law of nations; some of the additional acts have received modification since he wrote, particularly in relation to this country.
The great navigation act, as it is called, of Great Britain, passed before the restoration, viz. 9th Oct. 1651, and was intended “to cripple the Dutch trade.” The subsisting act of navigation, was passed 12 Charles 2d, c. 18. Its principal provisions are threefold.
1. Relating to the coasting trade of Great Britain. 2. Her trade with other independent states.
3. The trade she carries on herself, or permits other states to carry on, with her plantations and foreign possessions.
The first is confined solely to British bottoms--the master and three quarters at least of the seamen English-and is from one port or creek of England, Ireland, &c. to another port or creek in the same.
The second is restricted to English vessels, or vessels of the country producing the article the master and three quarters of the crew of that country: or to vessels of the place where the article is first shipped. By 6 Geo. 1st, c. 15. Timber from Germany confined to English vessels. Certain enumerated articles admitted from Europe. The trade with Asia, Africa and America, restricted to British colonial vessels of hers by 12 C. 2. c. 18. 3. Exceptions in favour of the Portuguese, 48 Geo. 3. C. 11-products direct from Brazil in Portuguese vessels, owned by subjects of that government resident in said country.
Exception as to the United States, 57 Geo. 3. C. 97-American products in American and British ships the master and