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SPEECH OF GOUVERNEUR MORRIS,

ON THE

RESOLUTIONS OF MR. ROSS, RELATIVE TO THE FREE

NAVIGATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI:

DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES,

FEBRUARY 25, 1803.*

MR. PRESIDENT, I RISE with reluctance on the present occasion, The lateness of the hour forbids me to hope for your patient attention. The subject is of great importance, as it relates to other countries, and still greater to our own: yet we must decide on grounds uncertain, because they depend on circumstances not yet arrived. And when we attempt to penetrate into futurity, after exerting the utmost powers of reason, aided by all the lights, which experience could acquire, our clearest conceptions are involved in doubt. A thousand things may happen, which it is impossible to conjecture, and which will influence the course of events. The wise Governor of all things hath hidden the future from the ken of our feeble understanding. In committing ourselves, therefore, to the examination of what may hereafter arrive, we hazard reputation on contingencies we cannot command. And when events shall be past, we shall be judged by them, and not by the reasons which we may now advance.

There are many subjects which it is not easy to understand, but it is always easy to misrepresent, and when arguments cannot be controverted, it is not difficult to calumniate motives. That, which cannot be confuted, may be misstated. The purest intentions may be blackened by malice; and envy will ever foster the foulest imputations. This calumny is among the sore evils of our country. It began with our earliest success in '78, and has gone on, with accelerated velocity and increasing force, to the present hour. It is no longer to be checked, nor will it terminate but in that sweep of general destruction, to which it tends with a step as sure as time, and fatal as death. I know, that what I utter will be misunderstood, misrepresented, deformed and distorted; but we must do our duty. This, I believe, is the last scene of my public life; and it shall, like those which have preceded it, be performed with candor and truth. Yes, my noble friends, [addressing himself to the federal senators near him,] we shall soon part to meet no more. But, however separated, and wherever dispersed, we know, that we are united by just principle and true sentiment-a sentiment, my country, ever devoted to you, which will expire only with expiring life, and beat in the last pulsation of our hearts!

* See page 236.

Mr. President, my object is peace. I could assign many reasons to show, that this declaration is sincere. But can it be necessary to give this senate any other assurance than my word ? Notwithstanding the acerbity of temper which results from party strife, gentlemen will believe me on my word. I will not pretend, like my honorable colleague, (Mr. Clinton,) to describe to you, the waste, the ravages, and the horrors

, of war. Í have not the same harmonious periods, nor the same musical tones; neither shall I boast of christian charity, nor attempt to display that ingenuous glow of benevolence, so decorous to the cheek of youth, which gave a vivid tint to every sentence he uttered; and was, if possible, as impressive even as his eloquence. But, though we possess not the same pomp of words, our hearts are not insensible to the woes of humanity. We can feel for the misery of

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plundered towns, the conflagration of defenceless vila lages, and the devastation of cultured fields. Turning from these features of general distress, we can enter the abodes of private affliction, and behold the widow weeping, as she traces, in the pledges of connubial affection, the resemblance of him whom she has lost forever. We see the aged matron bending over the ashes of her son. He was her darling; for he was generous and brave; and therefore his spirit led him to the field in defence of his country. We can observe another oppressed with unutterable anguish; condemned to conceal her affection; forced to hide that passion, which is at once the torment and delight of life: she learns, that those eyes, which beamed with sentiment, are closed in death; and his lip, the ruby harbinger of joy, lies pale and cold, the miserable appendage of a mangled corse. Hard, hard indeed, must be that heart, which can be insensible to scenes like these; and bold the man, who dare present to the Alinighty Father, a conscience crimsoned with the blood of his children!

Yes, sir, we wish for peace; but how is that blessing to be preserved? I shall repeat here a sentiment I have often had occasion to express. In my opinion, there is nothing worth fighting for, but national honor: for, in the national honor, is involved the national independence. I know, that a state may find itself in such unpropitious circumstances, that prudence may force a wise government to conceal the sense of indignity. But the insult should be engraven on tablets of brass, with a pencil of steel. And when that time and chance, which happen to all, shall bring forward the favorable moment, then let the avenging arm strike home. It is by avowing and maintaining this stern principle of honor, that peace can be preserved. But let it not be supposed, that any thing I say, has the

, slightest allusion to the injuries sustained from France, while suffering in the pangs of her revolution. As soon should I upbraid a sick man for what he might have done in the paroxysms of disease. Nor is this a new sentiment: it was felt and avowed at the time when these wrongs were heaped upon us, and I appeal for the proof to the files of your secretary of state. The destinies of France were then in the hands of monsters. By the decree of heaven she was broken on the wheel, in the face of the world, to warn mankind of her folly and madness. But these scenes have passed away.

On the throne of the Bourbons, is now seated the first of the Gallic Cæsars. At the head of that gallant nation is the great, the greatest man, of the present age. It becomes us well to consider his situation. The things, he has achieved, compel him to the achievement of things more great. In his vast career, we must soon become objects to command attention. We too, in our turn, must contend or submit. By submission we may indeed have peace, alike precarious and ignominious. But is this

, the peace which we ought to seek? Will this satisfy the just expectation of our country? No. Let us have peace, permanent, secure, and, if I may use the term, independent-peace, which depends not on the pity of others, but on our own force. Let us have the only peace worth having-a peace consistent with honor.

A gentleman near me, (Mr. Jackson.) has told us the anecdote of an old courtier, who said, that the interest of his nation, was the honor of his nation. I was surprised to hear that idea from that gentleman. But it was not his own. Such is that gentleman's high sense of his personal honor, that no interest would induce him to sacrifice it. He would not permit the proudest prince on earth to blot or soil it.' Millions would not purchase his honor, and will he feel less for the honor of his country? No, he will defend it with his best blood. He will feel with me, that our national honor is the best security for our peace and our prosperity: that it involves at once our wealth and our power. And in this view of the subject, I must contradict a sentiment which fell from my honorable colleague, (Mr. Clinton.) He tells us, that the principle of this country is peace and commerce. Sir, the avowal of such principle will leave us neither commerce nor peace. It invites others to prey on that commerce, which we will not protect, and share the wealth we dare not defend. But let it be known, that you stand ready to sacrifice the last man, and the last shilling in defence of your national honor, and those, who would have assailed, will beware of you. Before I go into a minute consideration of this sub

I ject, I will notice what the gentlemen, opposed to me, have said on the law of nations. But I must observe, that, in a conjuncture like the present, there is more sound sense, and more sound policy in the firm and manly sentiments, which warm the hearts of my friends from Delaware, than in all the volumes upon all the shelves of the civilians. Let us, however, attend to the results of those logical deductions which have been made by writers on the law of nations. The honorable member from Kentucky, (Mr. Breckenridge) has told us, that sovereigns ought to show a sincere desire of peace, and should not hastily take offence; because it may be, that the offensive act was the result of mistake. My honorable colleague has told us, that among the justifiable causes of war, are the deliberate invasions of right, and the necessity of maintaining the balance of power. He has told us further, that attempts should always be made to obtain redress by treaty, unless it be evident, that redress cannot be so obtained. The honorable member from Georgia, near me, informs us, that the thing we would obtain by war should be important, and the success probable, and that war should be avoided until it be inevitable. The honorable member from Maryland, (Mr. Wright) has explained to us the case cited by the gentleman from Kentucky, as being that of a wrong, done by a private citizen. Under the weight of all this authority, and concurring with gentlemen in these their posi

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