History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson/Second/II:9

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Chapter 9: Measures of Defence[edit]

All winter Congress waited for the result of Rose's negotiation. The huge majority, without leadership, split by divergent interests, a mere mob guided from the White House, showed little energy except for debate, and no genius except for obedience.

The first political effect of the embargo was shown in the increased virulence of debate. The Act of December 22, passed on the spur of the moment, was powerless to prevent evasions in the seaports, and left untouched the trade with Canada and Florida. A supplementary Act was necessary; but to warrant a law for stopping all commerce by sea and land, the Government could no longer profess a temporary purpose of protecting ships, merchandise, and seamen, but must admit the more or less permanent nature of the embargo, and the policy of using it as a means of peaceable coercion. The first Supplementary Act passed Congress as early as January 8, but applied only to coasting and fishing vessels, which were put under heavy bonds and threatened with excessive penalties in case of entering a foreign port or trading in foreign merchandise. Finding that this measure was not effective, and that neither England nor France showed a sign of relaxing the so-called system of retaliation, Government was obliged to complete its restrictions. February 11 the House instructed its Committee of Commerce to inquire what further legislation was necessary "to prevent the exportation of goods, wares, and merchandise of foreign or domestic growth or manufacture to any foreign port or place." The committee instantly reported a bill; and as Rose's negotiation broke down, February 19 the House went into committee to debate a second supplementary Embargo Act, which was to stop by land and sea all commerce with the world.

The next day, February 20, Barent Gardenier of New York, who surpassed Josiah Quincy in hatred of the Administration, attacked the new bill in a speech which showed much rough power and more temper. He said with force that between the original embargo and this Supplementary Act no connection existed. The one was an embargo, the other was non-intercourse; and he charged that the original embargo was a fraud, intended to trick the country into a permanent system of non-intercourse:—

"The more the original measure develops itself, the more I am satisfied that my first view of it was correct; that it was a sly, cunning measure; that its real object was not merely to prevent our vessels from going out, but to effect a non-intercourse. Are the nation prepared for this? If you wish to try whether they are, tell them at once what is your object. Tell them what you mean. Tell them you mean to take part with the Grand Pacificator. Or else stop your present course. Do not go on forging chains to fasten us to the car of the Imperial Conqueror."

Interrupted by a dozen Republican members who leaped to their feet in anger, Gardenier for a time returned to his argument and dropped the assertion of subservience to Napoleon:—

"I ask the intelligent and candid men of this House whether to prevent the farmers of Vermont from selling their pigs in Canada is calculated to increase or diminish our essential resources; whether the object which the President professed to have in view is counteracted by a traffic of this kind. . . . I could wish gentlemen would, instead of bolting at me in the fulness of their rage, endeavor to satisfy my poor understanding by cool reasoning that they are right; that they would show me how this measure will prepare us for war; how the weakening by distressing every part of the country is to increase its strength and its vigor."

Had Gardenier stopped there, his argument would have admitted no answer; but he had the defect of a Federalist temper, and could not control his tongue.

"Sir, I cannot understand it. I am astonished,—indeed I am astonished and dismayed. I see effects, but I can trace them to no cause. Yes, sir, I do fear that there is an unseen hand which is guiding us to the most dreadful destinies,—unseen because it cannot endure the light. Darkness and mystery overshadow this House and this whole nation. We know nothing; we are permitted to know nothing; we sit here as mere automata; we legislate without knowing—nay, sir, without wishing to know—why or wherefore. We are told what we are to do, and the Council of Five Hundred do it. We move, but why or wherefore no man knows. We are put in motion, but how I for one cannot tell."

Gardenier was believed to be the author of a letter written during the secret session, December 19, and published in the "New York Evening Post," which began the cry of French influence.[1] His speech of February 20, insulting to the House, disorderly and seditious, resting on innuendo but carrying the weight of a positive assertion, outraged every member of the majority. Even John Randolph had never gone so far as to charge his opponents with being the willing and conscious tools of a foreign despot. The House was greatly exasperated, and at the next session, Monday, February 22, three members—Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky, George W. Campbell of Tennessee, and John Montgomery of Maryland—rose successively and declared that Gardenier's expressions were a slander, which if not supported by proof made their author an object of contempt. Gardenier challenged Campbell, and March 2 a duel took place at Bladensburg. Gardenier was severely wounded, but escaped with life, while the bitterness of party feeling became more violent than before.

Yet no member ventured fairly to avow and defend the policy of non-intercourse as a policy of coercion. Campbell, the leader of the majority, admitted that the embargo was intended to distress England and France, but treated it mainly as a measure of defence. No full and fair discussion of the subject was attempted; and the bill passed both Houses and was approved by the President March 12, without calling from the Government a hint in regard to the scope of its policy or the length of time during which the system of seclusion was to last. Even Jefferson kept silence upon what was uppermost in his mind, and defended the embargo on every ground except that which with him, if with no one else, was strongest. In private he said that the measure was intended to last until the return of peace in Europe, or as long as the orders and decrees of England and France should be maintained:—

"Till they return to some sense of moral duty we keep within ourselves. This gives time. Time may produce peace in Europe; peace in Europe removes all causes of difference till another European war; and by that time our debt may be paid, our revenues clear, and our strength increased."[2]

With such reasoning the opponents of the embargo were far from pleased. Nevertheless, Jefferson carried his point, and could for the moment afford to disregard criticism. His experiment of peaceable coercion was sure of a trial. His control over Congress seemed absolute. Only twenty-two members voted against the Supplementary Embargo Act, and in the Senate no opposition was recorded.

With such influence Jefferson might promise himself success in any undertaking; and if he had at heart one object more momentous than the embargo, it was the punishment of Chief-Justice Marshall for his treatment of Burr. As early as Nov. 5, 1807, Senator Tiffin of Ohio began his career in the Senate by moving, as an amendment to the Constitution, that all judges of the United States should hold office for a term of years, and should be removed by the President on address by two-thirds of both Houses. Governor Tiffin's motion was not an isolated or personal act. The State legislatures were invoked. Vermont adopted the amendment. The House of Delegates in Virginia, both branches of the Pennsylvania legislature, the popular branch in Tennessee, and various other State governments, in whole or in part, adopted the principle and urged it upon Congress. In the House, George W. Campbell moved a similar amendment January 30, and from time to time other senators and members made attempts to bring the subject forward. In the Senate, Giles aided the attack by bringing in a bill for the punishment of treason. February 11 he spoke in support of his proposed measure, advancing doctrines which terrified Democrats as well as Federalists. Joseph Story was one of his audience, and wrote an account of this alarming speech:—

"Giles exhibits in his appearance no marks of greatness; he has a dark complexion and retreating eyes, black hair, and robust form. His dress is remarkably plain and in the style of Virginia carelessness. Having broken his leg a year or two since, he uses a crutch, and perhaps this adds somewhat to the indifference or doubt with which you contemplate him. But when he speaks, your opinion immediately changes. . . . I heard him a day or two since in support of a bill to define treason, reported by himself. Never did I hear such all-unhinging and terrible doctrines. He laid the axe at the root of judicial power, and every stroke might be distinctly felt. His argument was very specious and forensic, sustained with many plausible principles and adorned with various political axioms, designed ad captandum. One of its objects was to prove the right of the Legislature to define treason. My dear friend, look at the Constitution of the United States and see if any such construction can possibly be allowed! . . . He attacked Chief-Justice Marshall with insidious warmth. Among other things he said, 'I have learned that judicial opinions on this subject are like changeable silks, which vary their colors as they are held up in political sunshine.'"[3]

Had Giles's proposed definition of treason become law, it would in another half-century have had singular interest for Virginians of his school. According to this bill any persons, without exception, "owing allegiance to the United States of America," who should assemble with intent forcibly to change the government of the United States, or to dismember them or any one of them, or to resist the general execution of any public law, should suffer death as a traitor; and even though not personally present at the assemblage or at the use of force, yet should any person aid or assist in doing any of the acts proscribed, such person should also suffer death as a traitor.[4] Fortunately for Southern theories the bill, although it passed the Senate by means of Southern votes, was lost in the House, where John Randolph had introduced a bill of his own more moderate in character.[5]

Although the attack on the Supreme Court was more persistent and was carried further than ever before, it met with passive resistance which foreshadowed failure, and probably for this reason was allowed to exhaust its strength in the committee-rooms of Congress. The chief-justice escaped without a wound. Under the shadow of the embargo he could watch in security the slow exhaustion of his antagonist. Jefferson had lost the last chance of reforming the Supreme Court. In another six months Congress would follow the will of some new Executive chief; and if in the full tide of Jefferson's power Marshall had repeatedly thwarted or defied him with impunity, the chance was small that another President would meet a happier fate.

The failure of his attack on the Supreme Court was not the only evidence that Jefferson's authority when put to the test was more apparent than real. If in the President's eyes Marshall deserved punishment, another offender merited it still more. Senator Smith of Ohio was deeply implicated in Burr's conspiracy. The dignity of the President and of Congress demanded inquiry, and an investigation was made. The evidence left no reasonable doubt that Smith had been privy to Burr's scheme; but the motion to expel him from the Senate failed by a vote of nineteen to ten, two thirds being required for this purpose. In the House, John Randolph brought charges against General Wilkinson which could neither be admitted nor met. The Administration was obliged to cover and ignore the military scandals brought to light by Burr's trial.

Even in regard to more serious matters the Government could hardly feel secure. In February, Sloan of New Jersey offered a motion that the seat of government should be removed from Washington to Philadelphia. The House, February 2, by a vote of sixty-eight to forty-seven, agreed to consider the resolution, and a debate followed which proved how far from stable the actual arrangement was supposed to be. Republicans and Federalists alike assailed the place in which they were condemned to live. Fifteen million dollars, it was said, had been spent upon it with no other result than to prove that a city could never be made to exist there. One day they were choked with dust; the next they were wallowing in mire. The climate was one of violent changes and piercing winds. Members sickened and died in greater numbers than ever before, but in case of illness they could find no physician except by sending to the navy yard some miles away. At the last session the House had been driven from its old hall by the wind breaking its windows. The new hall, however magnificent was unfit for its purpose; to hear was impossible; its ventilation was so bad as to have caused the illness of Jacob Crowninshield, one of its leading members, then lying at the point of death. The prices of everything in Washington were excessive. Butter was fifty cents a pound; a common turkey cost a dollar and a half; in Philadelphia members would save one hundred and fifty dollars a day in hack-hire alone. Even these objections were trifling compared with the inconvenience of governing from a wilderness where no machinery existed to make administration easy. As an example of the absurdities of such a system, members pointed to the navy yard, only to be reached by following the windings of the shallow Potomac, while the Navy Department was obliged at extravagant cost to bring every article of use from the seaboard, besides recruiting seamen at the commercial ports for every ship fitted out at Washington.

Sloan desisted from his motion only after the House had shown itself strongly inclined toward his opinion. On another point the divergence of ideas became more marked, and Jefferson found himself obliged to strain his influence.

In the Republican party any vote for a standing army had been hitherto considered a crime. The Federalists in 1801 had left a force of five thousand men; Jefferson reduced it to three thousand. The Republican party believed in a militia, but neglected it. Throughout the Southern States the militia was undisciplined and unarmed; but in Massachusetts, as President Jefferson was beginning to notice, the Federalists took much care of their State soldiery. The United States fort at Newport was garrisoned only by goats, and the strategic line of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, which divided New England from the rest of the Union, lay open to an enemy. In view of war with England such negligence became wanton. Jefferson saw that an army must be raised; but many of his truest followers held that militia alone could be trusted, and that the risk of conquest from abroad was better than the risk of military despotism at home.

For a people naturally brave, Americans often showed themselves surprisingly unwilling to depend upon their own strength. To defy danger, to rush into competition with every foreign rival, to take risks without number, and to depend wholly on themselves were admitted characteristics of Americans as individuals; but the same man who, when left to his own resources, delighted in proving his skill and courage, when brought within the shadow of government never failed to clamor for protection. As a political body the American people shrank from tests of its own capacity. "American systems" of politics, whether domestic or foreign, were systems for evading competition. The American system in which the old Republican party believed was remarkable for avowing want of self-confidence as the foundation of domestic as well as of foreign policy. The Republican party stood alone in refusing, on principle, to protect national rights from foreign outrage; but it defied imitation when the sacrifice of national rights was justified by the argument that if American liberties were not abandoned to foreign nations they would be destroyed by the people themselves. War, which every other nation in history had looked upon as the first duty of a State, was in America a subject for dread, not so much because of possible defeat as of probable success. No truer Republican could be found in Virginia than John W. Eppes, one of Jefferson's sons-in-law; and when the House debated in February a Senate bill for adding two regiments to the regular army, Eppes declared the true Republican doctrine:[6]

"If we have war, this increase of the army will be useless; if peace, I am opposed to it. I am in favor of putting arms into the hands of our citizens and then let them defend themselves. . . . If we depend on regular troops alone, the liberty of the country must finally be destroyed by that army which is raised to defend it. Is there an instance in which a nation has lost its liberty by its own citizens in time of peace? It is by standing armies and very often by men raised on an emergency and professing virtuous feelings, but who eventually turned their arms against their country. . . . I never yet have voted for a regular army or soldier in time of peace. Whenever an opportunity has offered I have voted them down; and so help me God! I will as long as I live."

One week after Eppes spoke these words, President Jefferson sent to Congress a Message asking for an immediate addition of six thousand men to the regular army.[7] No such blow had ever been given to the established practices of Republican administration. Ten years before, every leader of the party had denounced the raising of twelve regiments at a time of actual hostilities with France, although the law limited their service to the term of the expected war. The eight regiments demanded by Jefferson were to be raised for five years in a time of peace. The Southern Republicans saw themselves required to walk, publicly and avowedly, in the footsteps of their monarchical predecessors; while John Randolph stood by and jeered at them.

The House waited until Rose had fairly sailed and the session drew near its end, with embargo fastened upon the country, and no alternative visible but war; then slowly and unwillingly began its recantations. April 4 John Clopton of Virginia[8] admitted that in 1798 he had voted against the army. His excuse for changing his vote was that in 1798 he thought there was no ground for fearing war, while in 1808 he saw little ground for hoping peace. Yet he voted for the new regiments only because they were so few; and even in the event of actual war "he could scarcely imagine that he could be induced to admit the expediency of increasing the regular forces to a number much greater than they would be" under the present bill. Clopton was answered by Randolph, who warmly opposed the new army for the same reasons which had led him to oppose the old one. Randolph was followed by George M. Troup of Georgia,—a young man not then so prominent as he was destined to become, who declared that no one had more confidence than he felt in militia; but "it is well known that the present defective system of militia in our quarter of the country at least is good for nothing;" and a small standing army was not dangerous but necessary, because it would preserve peace by preparing for war.[9] Smilie of Pennsylvania added another reason. He argued that John Randolph had favored raising troops in the year 1805 to protect the Southern frontier "from Spanish inroad and insult." Smilie had then opposed the motion and the House had rejected it, but to Smilie the argument that Randolph had once favored an increase of the army, seemed decisive.

A much respected member from South Carolina—David R. Williams, one of Randolph's friends—then took the floor.[10] He could not bring himself to vote for the bill, because no half-way measure would answer. War would require not six but sixty thousand men; defensive armies were worse than none, either in war or peace. Williams's argument was so evidently weak that it failed to convince even Macon, who had voted against the twelve regiments in 1798, but meant to change his ground and believed himself able to prove his consistency. In contradiction to the bill itself he maintained that the new army was not a peace establishment; that if it were so he would not vote for it. He condemned the maxim that to preserve peace nations must be prepared for war, and asserted that no analogy existed between 1798 and 1808, for that in 1808 America was attacked by foreign powers, while in 1798 she attacked them.[11]

Discordant as these voices were, the debate was the next day enlivened by a discord more entertaining. Richard Stanford of North Carolina, one of the oldest members of the House, a close ally of Randolph, Macon, and Williams, made a speech which troubled the whole body of Southern Republicans.[12] Stanford voted for the twelve regiments in 1798, but like the majority of Republicans he did so in deference to a party caucus, in order to ward off the danger of a larger force. He said it was the only Federalist vote he ever gave, and he promised his friends never again to be caught in the same mistake. With candor intended to irritate, he arrayed the occasions on which his party had refused to increase the military establishment: first, in a state of actual hostilities in 1798; again, when Spain defied and insulted the government in 1805; still again, on the brink of a Spanish war during Burr's conspiracy in 1806. He quoted Jefferson's first Inaugural Address, which counted among the essential principles of the government "a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war till regulars may relieve them;" and the Annual Message of 1806, which said, "Were armies to be raised whenever a speck of war is visible in our horizon, we never should have been without them; our resources would have been exhausted on dangers which have never happened, instead of being reserved for what is really to take place." He quoted also pungent resolutions of 1798, speeches of Eppes and Wilson Cary Nicholas, of Varnum and Gallatin; he showed the amount of patronage once abolished but restored by this bill; and when at last he sat down, the Southern members were ruffled until even Macon lost his temper.

Soon John Randolph rose again, and if Stanford's speech was exasperating in its candor, Randolph's was stinging in its sarcasm.[13] He treated the new defensive system with ridicule. The Navy Department, he said, had dwindled to a Gunboat Department. Congress built gunboats to protect shipping and coasts, and built forts to protect gunboats. The army was equally feeble; and both were at odds with the embargo:—

"When the great American tortoise draws in his head you do not see him trotting along; he lies motionless on the ground; it is when the fire is put on his back that he makes the best of his way, and not till then. The system of embargo is one system, withdrawing from every contest, quitting the arena, flying the pit. The system of raising troops and fleets of whatever sort is another and opposite to that dormant state. . . . They are at war with each other, and cannot go on together."

Even if not inconsistent with the embargo, the army was still useless:—

"My worthy friend from Georgia has said that the tigress, prowling for food for her young, may steal upon you in the night. I would as soon attempt to fence a tiger out of my plantation with a four-railed fence as to fence out the British navy with this force."

Randolph ventured even to ridicule the State of Virginia which was said to demand an army:—

"My friend and worthy colleague tells us that the State of Virginia, so much opposed to armies, has now got to the war pitch so far as to want one regiment for the defence of half a million of souls and seventy thousand square miles. . . . Yes, sir; the legislature of Virginia, my parent State, of whom I cannot speak with disrespect, nor will I suffer any man worth my resentment to speak of her with disrespect in my hearing, has been carried away by the military mania, and they want one regiment!"

Yet Randolph approved the embargo as little as he liked the army and navy.

"I am not one of those who approve the embargo," he said in another speech.[14] "It gives up to Great Britain all the seamen and all the commerce,—their feet are not now upon your decks, for your vessels are all riding safely moored along your slips and wharves; and this measure absolutely gives Agriculture a blow which she cannot recover till the embargo is removed. What has become of your fisheries? Some gentleman has introduced a proposition for buying their fish to relieve the fishermen. Indeed, I would much sooner assent to buying their fish than to raising these troops, except indeed we are raising the troops to eat the fish."

Randolph broke into shrill laughter at his own joke, delighted with the idea of six thousand armed men paid to eat the fish that were rotting on the wharves at Gloucester and Marblehead.

Keenly as Randolph enjoyed the pleasure of ridiculing his colleagues and friends, he could expect to gain no votes. George W. Campbell and the other Administration speakers admitted that the embargo might yield to war and that an army had become necessary. Even Eppes had the courage to defy ridicule, and in full recollection of having vowed to God February 17 that as long as he lived he would vote down a regular army, he rose April 7 to support the bill for raising eight regiments:—

"I consider it as part of the system designed to meet the present crisis in our affairs. . . . The period must arrive when the embargo will be a greater evil than war. When that period shall arrive it will be taken off."[15]

On the same day the bill passed by a vote of ninety-five to sixteen, and the Republican party found itself poorer by the loss of one more traditional principle. Events were hurrying the Government toward dangers which the party had believed to be preventable under the system invented by Virginia and Pennsylvania. In 1804 Jefferson wrote to Madison: "It is impossible that France and England should combine to any purpose."[16] The impossible had happened, and every practice founded on the theory of mutual jealousy between European Powers became once more a subject of dispute. On the day of Rose's departure Jefferson, abandoning the secrecy in which until that moment he had wrapped his diplomacy, sent to Congress a mass of diplomatic correspondence with England and France, running back to the year 1804. A few days later, March 30, he sent a secret message accompanied by documents which gave to Congress, with little exception, everything of importance that had passed between the governments. Only one subject was kept back:—the tenebrous negotiation for Florida remained secret.

From these documents Congress could see that the time for talking of theories of peace and friendship or of ordinary commercial interests had passed. violence and rapine marked every page of the latest correspondence. February 23 Erskine had at last notified the Government officially of the existence and purpose of the Orders in Council. His note repeated the words of Canning's instructions.[17] After asserting that America had submitted to the French Decrees, and had thereby warranted England in forbidding if she pleased all American commerce with France, Erskine pointed out that the Orders in Council, by not prohibiting but limiting this commerce, gave proof of his Majesty's amicable disposition. The Americans might still transport French and Spanish colonial produce to England, and re-export it to the continent of Europe under certain regulations:—

"The object of these regulations will be the establishment of such a protecting duty as shall prevent the enemy from obtaining the produce of his own colonies at a cheaper rate than that of the colonies of Great Britain. In this duty it is evident that America is no otherwise concerned than as being to make an advance to that amount, for which it is in her power amply to indemnify herself at the expense of the foreign consumer."

Further, the orders licensed the importation through England into France of all strictly American produce, except cotton, without paying duty in transit:—

"The reason why his Majesty could not feel himself at liberty, consistent with what was necessary for the execution of his purpose in any tolerable degree, to allow this relaxation to apply to cotton is to be found in the great extent to which France has pushed the manufacture of that article, and the consequent embarrassment upon her trade which a heavy import upon cotton as it passes through Great Britain to France must necessarily produce."

Erskine's note claimed credit for England because the orders were not abruptly enforced, but allowed time for neutrals to understand and conform to them. The concluding sentences were intended to soothe the suffering merchants:—

"The right of his Majesty to resort to retaliation cannot be questioned. The suffering occasioned to neutral parties is incidental, and not of his Majesty's seeking. In the exercise of this undoubted right, his Majesty has studiously endeavored to avoid aggravating unnecessarily the inconveniences suffered by the neutral; and I am commanded by his Majesty especially to represent to the Government of the United States the earnest desire of his Majesty to see the commerce of the world restored once more to that freedom which is necessary for its prosperity; and his readiness to abandon the system which has been forced upon him whenever the enemy shall retract the principles which have rendered it necessary."

From this note—a model of smooth-spoken outrage—Congress could understand that until the King of England should make other regulations American commerce was to be treated as subject to the will and interest of Great Britain. At the same moment Congress was obliged to read a letter from Champagny to Armstrong, dated Jan. 15, 1808, in defence of the Berlin and Milan Decrees.[18] Written in words dictated by Napoleon, this letter asserted rude truths which irritated Americans the more because they could not be denied:—

"The United States, more than any other Power, have to complain of the aggressions of England. It has not been enough for her to offend against the independence of their flag,—nay, against that of their territory and of their inhabitants,—by attacking them even in their ports, by forcibly carrying away their crews; her decrees of the llth November have made a fresh attack on their commerce and on their navigation as they have done on those of all other Powers.
"In the situation in which England has placed the Continent, especially since her decrees of the 11th November, his Majesty has no doubt of a declaration of war against her by the United States. Whatever transient sacrifices war may occasion, they will not believe it consistent either with their interest or dignity to acknowledge the monstrous principle and the anarchy which that government wishes to establish on the seas. If it be useful and honorable for all nations to cause the true maritime law of nations to be re-established, and to avenge the insults committed by England against every flag, it is indispensable for the United States, who from the extent of their commerce have oftener to complain of those violations. War exists then in fact between England and the United States; and his Majesty considers it as declared from the day on which England published her decrees."

Two such letters could hardly have been written to the chief of an independent people and submitted to a free legislature in Europe without producing a convulsion. Patient as Congress was, the temper excited by Champagny's letter obliged the President, April 2, to withdraw the injunction of secrecy after the House had twice rejected a motion to do so without his permission; but the motive of the Federalists in publishing Champagny's letter was not so much to resent it as to divert popular anger from England to France. No outburst of national self-respect followed the appearance of the two letters. During the next week the House debated and passed the bill for raising the army to ten thousand men, but on all sides the friends and opponents of the measure equally deprecated war. The report of a special committee in the Senate, April 16, expressed on that point the general feeling of Congress:[19]

"With respect to a resort to war as a remedy for the evils experienced, the committee will offer no other reflection than that it is in itself so great an evil that the United States have wisely considered peace and honest neutrality as the best foundation of their general policy. It is not for the committee to say under what degree of aggravated injuries and sufferings a departure from this policy may become a duty, and the most pacific nation find itself compelled to exchange for the calamities of war the greater distresses of longer forbearance. In the present state of things the committee cannot recommend any departure from that policy which withholds our commercial and agricultural property from the licensed depredations of the great maritime belligerent Powers. They hope that an adherence to this policy will eventually secure to us the blessings of peace without any sacrifice of our national rights; and they have no doubt that it will be supported by all the manly virtue which the good people of the United States have ever discovered on great and patriotic occasions."

The Senate passed a bill authorizing the President during the recess to suspend the embargo in whole or in part if in his judgment the conduct of the belligerent Powers should render suspension safe. After a hot debate, chiefly on the constitutionality of the measure, it passed the House, and April 22 became law. April 25 the session ended.

As the result of six months' labor, Congress could show besides the usual routine legislation a number of Acts which made an epoch in the history of the Republican party. First came the Embargo, its two Supplements, and the Act empowering the President to suspend it at will. Next came the series of appropriation Acts which authorized the President to spend in all four million dollars in excess of the ordinary expenditures,—for gunboats, eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars; for land fortifications, one million; for five new regiments of infantry, one of riflemen, one of light artillery, and one of light dragoons, two million dollars; and two hundred thousand dollars for arming the militia. Such progress toward energy was more rapid than could have been expected from a party like that which Jefferson had educated and which he still controlled.


  1. Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 1251, n.
  2. Jefferson to John Taylor, Jan. 6, 1808; Works, v. 226.
  3. Story's Life and Letters of Joseph Story, i. 158-159.
  4. Bill for the Punishment of Treason and other crimes; Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 108.
  5. Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 1717.
  6. Annals of Congress, Feb. 17, 1808; Thirteenth Congress, pp. 1627, 1631.
  7. Message of Feb. 25, 1808; Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 1691.
  8. Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 1901.
  9. Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 1916.
  10. Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 1922.
  11. Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 1937.
  12. Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 1939.
  13. Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 1959.
  14. Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 2037.
  15. Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 2049.
  16. Jefferson to Madison, Aug. 15, 1804; Works, iv. 557.
  17. Erskine to Madison, Feb. 23, 1808; State Papers, iii. 209.
  18. Champagny to Armstrong, Jan. 15, 1808; State Papers, iii. 248.
  19. Annals of Congress, 1807-1808, p. 364.