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spoliations? Was it not our duty to protect our commerce-our merchants-our revenue? The effect of your opposition will be to increase the demands of France, by contrasting her means and our weakness. The power to arm can be granted under such restrictions as will prevent its abuse, and all justifiable cause of quarrel. This bill was not to confer a privilege, it was to modify a right. It is said, the merchants were opposed to it, why had they not met and avowed their opposition? Why had they armed? Why had the President directed them to suspend arming? Why had they suspended? Was it not from an expectation that the Government would protect them? As to the alarm of war, a country which acts justly towards others and shows a desire of peace, and at the same time a resolution to defend itself, will always be the most safe from injury and aggression."
It was replied, that this measure would give real offence to France. Would she not tell us when we offered to negotiate, 'You have armed your vessels for conflict-peace you do not mean." "Indeed," a member declared, "he saw nothing in the French republic like a wish to injure the property of the citizens of the United States. She had cause for offence in the British treaty." "He was against this regulation," Gallatin observed, "not from fear of offending either power-but because it was calculated to draw us into hostility-because, if our vessels resisted search or capture, it would certainly lead to It would not only lead to war, but it was war." The resolution was lost by a majority of eight votes.
The two next resolutions proposed an increase of the existing military establishment, and to empower the President to raise a Provisional army, when the circumstances of the country should, in his opinion, render it necessary for the protection and defence of the United
States. No pay to be given until it was called into actual service. To prevent a debate upon this latter measure, and to avoid increased odium, a substitute was brought forward by the opposition to place eighty thousand of the militia in requisition, and to purchase arms in proportion to the white population. To this proposition the Federalists acceded, as part of a system of defence.
Influenced by this result, the consideration of the third resolution, authorizing the President, if he judged proper, to purchase frigates and sloops of war, was now resumed. It was denied, that any such discretion could be constitutionally confided to the President. The force was too small to give efficient protection. The expense of a larger force would be too great. Were the resolution so modified as to confine its employment within our harbors, it would be supported. The danger of depredation on our coast was diminished by the late prohibition of the exportation of arms. It was finally resolved to confine the purchase to galleys, for the defence of the sea-coast, and to act within the jurisdiction of the United States.
The defence of the ports and harbors was subsequently considered. The Secretary of War had reported that two hundred thousand dollars were requisite. Gallatin proposed to limit it to fifty thousand; and a provision was incorporated in the bill, by which the debtor States were to protect themselves by the application to this purpose of the moneys due by them to the Union!! After much debate a vote was given, appropriating about one-half the estimate of the War Department.
Thus far the opposition had either mutilated, or rendered nugatory, postponed, or defeated, every measure of protection which had been suggested. They were
soon after compelled to act definitively on the bills for this object which were received from the Senate. But, in the interval, an attempt was made, by urging a previous consideration of the ways and means, to alarm the Federalists.
Their opponents believed, that they would shrink from a resort to direct taxation. The reluctance which existed to a stamp act would, it was supposed, induce a total dereliction of the system of defence. But this supposition was erroneous. Sincere in their apprehensions of danger, and resolved in their purpose to avert it from the country, an act was immediately brought forward by them, to raise a revenue by the imposition of stamp duties; and another increasing the duty on salt. This was followed by a motion to authorize the establishment of a Naval yard, and the purchase of lands on which the live oak grew.
It was known, that the details of a Stamp act would give rise to much discussion; and it was desirable not again to encounter public suspicion by opposing the Senate bills. With this view a motion was made by Gallatin for an adjournment which would limit the Session to the duration of a week. This was rejected. An act was next proposed by the Federalists to provide for the more effectual collection of the internal revenue, as by a modification of the system, increased resources would be obtained, and a large recourse to new taxes be avoided. It was not considered.
The bill for an increase of the artillery and engineers was discussed. Its necessity was urged to preserve and defend the fortifications. The seaboard was defenceless. To the thirty forts on the coast, the present force, if distributed, would furnish only fourteen men each. In the interior, while the Spaniards were increasing their
strength, to withdraw the garrisons would be to encourage an Indian warfare. Was an increased expense of two hundred thousand dollars a sufficient ground to incur such a risk? When an increase of the Navy was asked, it was answered, "Let trade take care of itself, and let us attend to the internal defence of the country." When it is proposed to provide for that, the same persons tell us, "We are about to employ on this object what ought to be employed for the protection of commerce." The militia you pronounce the proper defence; but the Constitution limits the power to call them out to cases of insurrection or invasion. Thus our ports might be occupied by an enemy before this power could be exercised. The whole peace establishment would not exceed, thus augmented, four thousand men.*
Giles adverted to the expense of the war department from the commencement of the government; and, forgetting the victory of Wayne, and the quiet of the border, inquired what equivalent had been received for this vast expenditure? "Military establishments," he said, "were a sort of factitious strength. The militia were the the real strength of the nation." "As to the frontier, there was nothing new in our situation. More money and more troops was apt to be an increasing passion, always attending large delegations of power. To collect money to raise armies, and to raise armies to collect money, has been a wheel of fortune to them, and a wheel of rack to their subjects." By such arguments of the danger of a standing army, authority to raise ONE regiment was refused!
An act prohibiting American citizens from enlisting in foreign service was called up. Much debate arose on
* The whole corps of artillery numbered 1,000 men.
a clause providing the form in which a citizen may expatriate himself, which was expunged. Gallatin's opposition proceeded further. He had doubts whether the United States had a right to regulate this matter, or whether it should not be left to the States, as the Constitution spoke of the citizens of the States! A bill without the objectionable clauses was then introduced, but was lost by three votes.
A message had been received from the President giving reason to apprehend a controversy with Spain. This only confirmed the policy of the opposition. Another message was at this time transmitted containing a report of the depredations committed on the commerce of the country, a measure which Hamilton had long since urged. After this report was received, Giles moved, that a select committee be appointed to print such of the documents as would be useful to the House. The whole were ordered to be printed. He then called up the resolution to adjourn two days after. The House would have limited the Session to a week-but the Senate disagreed.
The following day, a bill from the Senate "for the protection of the trade of the United States" was considered. A clause authorizing the purchase of nine sloops of war was expunged, and revenue cutters were substituted. A motion was made by Giles to confine the use of the frigates within the jurisdiction of the United States. "If employed for any other purpose than the protection of the coast, it would," he feared, "hazard the peace of the country without any good." He objected entirely to their acting as convoys; and a motion was made that they should not be so employed. This amendment Giles defended on the ground, that if the object for which they were to be employed was defined, it would be a sufficient answer to France who had a right to inquire of our Com