State Documents on Federal Relations/38

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38. Report and Resolutions of the Legislature of Rhode Island.

November 5, 1814.

The Legislature and the whole people of this State already but too well know how frequently and fruitlessly they have petitioned the Federal Government for some portion of those means of defence for which we have paid so dearly, and to which, by the Constitution, we are so fully entitled. Our most pressing petitions and representations to the head and various departments of the general government have often gone unanswered, sometimes have been answered by unmeaning professions and promises never performed, but generally by telling us to protect ourselves. The result is, that at this moment we have fewer means of defence, less show of protection afforded by that government, than we had ever at any period during a state of peace.


But while thus withdrawing from us all but the shadow of defence, and totally disregarding their duty and our just rights under the Constitution; that government is constantly demanding and taking from us those resources and revenues which, by the Constitution, we granted expressly to enable them to afford us that protection.

[Here follows an arraignment of the Federal Government for their neglect to defend their coast, declaring that:] for a long period we were left without any other evidence of the existence of a President or a government of the United States, than what we derived from the burthens imposed and the calamities brought upon us by them. And so perseveringly was this project against our rights pursued, that the President of the United States himself, in one of his public messages, openly, and with great chagrin, complained of the policy of the enemy in leaving this section of the country unassailed and unravaged. [The policy of the government in regard to the State militia is also severely censured.]

We are not alone in these calamities. Our sister States of the South have been almost equally oppressed and abused. They are beginning to assert their rights; and with us they will never suffer our common rights, under the constitution, to be prostrated by a government we have ourselves created.[1] Why should we dwell longer upon the unwarrantable treatment we receive, the unconstitutional attempts upon our constitutional rights. Our condition is stripped of all doubt and uncertainty. Our chief resources have been and still are to be taken as tribute; but for our defence we are to look to ourselves. *  *  * 


In General Assembly, October Session, A. D. 1814.

Whereas, this General Assembly, having long witnessed, with regret and anxiety, the defenceless situation of this State, did, at their last session, request his Excellency the Governor to communicate with the Executives of our neighboring sister States upon the subject of our common defence by our mutual co-operation:[2] And whereas, those States, feeling equally with us the common misfortunes, and the necessity of united exertions; have appointed, and invited us to appoint, Delegates to meet and confer upon our calamitous situation, and to devise and recommend wise and prudent measures for our common relief.

Resolved, That this General Assembly will appoint four Delegates from this State, to meet at Hartford, in the State of Connecticut, on the 15th day of December next, and confer with such Delegates as are or shall be appointed by other States upon the common dangers to which these States are exposed, upon the best means of co-operating for our mutual defence against the enemy, and upon the measures which it may be in the power of said States, consistently with their obligations, to adopt, to restore and secure to the people thereof their rights and privileges under the Constitution of the United States.

[Acts and Resolves of Rhode Island, October Session, 1814, 50–54.[3]]

  1. The Federalist Governor and House of Delegates of Maryland, during the year 1813 had repeatedly called attention to the defenceless condition of the State. Finally the House addressed a Memorial to Congress against the war. (Amer. State Papers, Misc. II, 231–233. See also Niles, IV, 219, 220; V, 260, 375–378; VII, 326–327.) It was communicated to Congress, Feb. 2, 1814, but a motion to print, after a sharp debate, was defeated in both Houses. Annals, 1813–14, 616–622, 1203–1228. For action of the House of Delegates, Dec. 17, 1814, on conscription bill, see McMaster, IV, 245.
  2. Niles, VII, 181.
  3. I am indebted to Mr. Clarence S. Brigham, Librarian of the Rhode Island Historical Society, for verifying the text of these resolutions.