Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 4.djvu/48

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Ch. 2.

count of the attack of his Majesty's ship 'Leopard' on the United States frigate 'Chesapeake,' it would have the most powerful effect not only on the minds of the people of this country, but would render it impossible for the Congress to bring on a war upon the other points of difference between his Majesty and the United States at present under discussion."

A single blow, however violent, could not weld a nation. Every one saw that the very violence of temper which made the month of July, 1807, a moment without a parallel in American history since the battle of Lexington, would be followed by a long reaction of doubt and discord. If the President, the Secretary of State, and great numbers of their stanchest friends hesitated to fight when a foreign nation, after robbing their commerce, fired into their ships of war, and slaughtered or carried off their fellow-citizens,—if they preferred "peaceable means of repressing injustice" at the moment when every nerve would naturally have been strung to recklessness with the impulse to strike back,—it was in the highest degree unlikely that they would be more earnest for war when time had deadened the sense of wrong. Neither England, France, nor Spain could fail to see that the moment when aggression ceased to be safe had not yet arrived.

The people were deeply excited, commerce for the moment was paralyzed, no merchant dared send out a ship, and the country resounded with cries of war when the "Revenge" sailed, bearing instructions to