Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

of those who would, without inquiry, take the words of a spy, traitor, and villain, as truth. It might be well to print a sufficient number for the House. but no more until they knew more about it. However gentlemen in the Eastern States might have been dissatisfied at particular measures, the embargo law for instance, their opposition to them had arisen from their operation on their particular interests, and not that they had any disposition to sever themselves from the Union. This business had been very correctly communicated by the Executive to Congress; but they ought to act on it with temper, prudence, and coolness. Mr. W. protested against considering any such disposition as it attributed to a certain party to exist, particularly in the spot which has been frequently and emphatically styled the cradle of the Revolution. He could not feel the same disposition which some appeared to do, to give consequence to this affair. Mr. TRoup did not consider these papers as involving the character of any portion of our people. They appeared to him to be calculated merely to put the people on their guard against foreign emissaries or agents employed for the purpose of effecting a dismemberment of this Union. As to the opinions this person expresses of parties. &c., they are merely the individual speculations of this man, and cannot have much weight. But the documents have a most important bearing. They establish the fact, that a foreign Government, on the eve of hostility with us, has for some time past employed an agent to foment divisions among us; and another fact, which, considered in connexion with other circumstances, is of great importance. They show the deep-rooted hostility of this foreign Power to our Republican Government and liberties—a hostility which could stop nothing short of a dismemberment of the country. After the affair of the Wabash, when it was said that the Indians had been instigated by the same enemy to hostilities against us, the British Minister's choler rose; he denied the whole. He avails himself of suggestions in public prints to deny their statements; to state that so far from a disposition to stir up the Indians against us, the contrary was the fact; that, indeed, Sir James Craig has been intent on diverting Indian hostilities. Sir, may we not reasonably believe him to have fomented Indian hostilities in one part of the country, while in another he was promoting disunion in the body of the people? These, sir, are the only facts disclosed of importance; the only facts which would justify the publication of more than the ordinary number of copies. Mr. RANDolph said, that although he was of opinion that the suggestion of the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. WRight) was entitled to greater weight than was allowed to it by the gentleman from Georgia, yet he would submit to the consideration of the gentleman from Maryland, and of the House, whether, in a Government like ours, documents of the nature of those read this morning publicly, audibly and articulately read, in the presence of several note-takers, to say 12th Cox. 1st Sess,—38

nothing of the notes taken by gentlemen themselves; whether it was possible, even if desirable, that the contents of these papers could be kept from the public eye? Was it not better that an authorized and correct transcript of them, under the sanction of the House, should be sent to press, than that they should be mutilated, and presented to the public with no more similitude to the original than the reports which passed to the great mass of the nation of the acts and proceedings of this House o Ours is a Government of the people, and ought to have no secrets. It is a Government, which, from the very nature of its origin, cannot use that despatch and promptitude of action, to the success of which, secrecy is so very valuable and favorable. On the whole, then, although he conceived the suggestions of the gentleman from Maryland entitled to the highest respect, because he thought they did honor at once to his heart and understanding, yet perhaps it would be as well to send these papers to press, although he believed that the opinion of a discreet and select committee of the House on the subject would not render the decision less mature or less safe. But there was another aspect in which these papers were to be viewed. If they were worth of being communicated to the House by the Executive, under the discharge of a solemn Constitutional obligation, they are, or ought to be, worthy of being acted upon by us. Although the author of this information had been, and perhaps justly, branded by gentlemen of all descriptions of party with the epithets of traitor and spy; and although the evidence of a person standing in his peculiar situation ought to be received with many grains, he might say even pounds, of allowance, it did not therefore follow that a committee would not have it in their power to extort from him, directly or indirectly, information which might be valuable to the community. If he could not give it himself, he might either intentionally or unintentionally lead a committee of this House to sources whence it might be procured. As a member of the Committee of Foreign Relations, he could not say that he had any particular anxiety to take his share of this burdensome, and, in some respects, invidious duty; yet, as a reference to that committee had been mentioned, he certainly should not shrink from the discharge of that portion of duty devolving on him in case the House should give that direction to the papers. In some respects, the character, he would not say of a portion, but of the whole nation, was implicated in this affair. The information was either of such a character as ought never to have been submitted to the House; such as was unworthy of notice; such as it would be a compromitment of the national character to act on; or else it was of a character which demanded that they should sift it, bolt it to the bran; that they should call the individual before them, if he was to be found within our jurisdiction; that he should be called upon to say to whom, in what manner, and in what character he had developed

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

his views. When he said this, he did not give any pledge, that upon his (Henry’s) testimony, he would condemn men of high minds and fair fame. You yourself, Mr. Speaker, are too much in the practice of sifting evidence not to know that we may reason from things false to things true; that the falsehood of a witness is not unfrequently an unerring clue to truth. If, sir, he (Henry) should have it in his power to bring into question the character of any individual in this country, it will be competent to the party thus implicated, either by fair presumption or direct testimony, to rebut any such implication; or presumption, or testimony still deeper will govery far to uphold and fix these imputations. You, sir, are too well read in the history of the country from which we spring, not to be conversant in all the plots, from the Popish treasons in the reign of James I, down to those of the Rye-house; and from thence perhaps to the plot of Colonel Despard. This witness, to be sure, stands before us in a most questionable point of view. dently undertook a service in its nature not by any means enviable, not generally esteemed most honorable, with a view to reward. He points out specifically the nature of the reward he expected. It was in the power of a Government, at once the most corrupt and most wealthy perhaps in the world, by not a very unreasonable douceur for the services performed, forever to have stopped the barking of this political Cerberus. That Government must have much underrated his services. But is this all ? Was it not his business to enhance to this Government, to magnify to a virtuous, and therefore credulous people, the importance of the mission with which he was charged, and the zeal and ability with which he discharged its duties? On whose testimony are we to take the account of the mighty deeds performed ? The place is pointed out; we have the where and the when, but that all-important fact, with whom, is studiously kept out of view. He has had it in his power to do great mischief to the United States. This is his story. In proportion to the mischief which he was able to inflict, Mr. R. said, ought his services to have been appreciated by the British Government, they entertaining the views which these papers ascribe to them. As they, for reasons best known to themselves, I suppose from that infatuation which sometimes attends the movement of governments, have refused to give him adequate recompense, he turns his attention to us. In proportion as his services were valuable to those to whom they were rendered, precisely in the same ratio must be the value of the disclosure made to us. Without going further, Mr. R. said he was decidedly of opinion that the Message should be referred to the Committee of Foreign Relations, with power to send for persons, papers, effects, and records; that everything which could be sifted out of this transaction be laid without reserve before the people. Nothing short of this would satisfy the public sentiment, nor did he think it ought. Mr. Fisk said that the remarks which had

He evi

been made by gentlemen, induced him to ask the indulgence of the House, to give some information and make a few observations relative to the subject now under consideration. This Mr. He nry was an Englishman, but had long resided in this country; so long, that he had obtained a captaincy in the Army raised in the year 1798; he was a man of gentlemanly deportment, and reputed good moral character; that he (Mr. Fisk) and his colleague (Mr. STRoNG) well remembered, when he passed through Burlington, in the Spring of the year 1808, and that his object was at that time much suspected to have been what he now states; but, as a politician, he was thought by the Republicans to have been a firm believer in the British maxim, “that the end sanctifies the means;” and the Federal party enjoyed the full benefits of his principles and labors while he lived in Vermont. Sir, gentlemen say that he is a traitor, a spy, and, therefore, what he here relates is not entitled to credit. However dish onorable a transaction like this may be deemed by our Government, whose motives and conduct are directed and squared by the principles of morality and justice, yet, I believe, it is not thought so very disgraceful in the British Government, as to be beneath her first characters to undertake. Sir, was the mission to Copenhagen to destroy that city, murder the innocent inhabitants, and rob the Danes of their fleet, a more honorable one than this 7 Certainly not. And yet, sir, the famous Mr. Jackson, who went on that mission, was considered worthy of being a Minister to this coun

try, where he was caressed and highly esteemed

by some; and performed both missions much to the satisfaction of his master. Why, sir, can gentlemen seriously doubt the truth of the facts stated by this Mr. Henry, when they have it from the highest authority, that the former British Minister, Mr. Erskine, while here, at this very time, was in the same business this Henry was sent to perform 7 In a letter written by that Minister to his Government, and published by its order, he tells them : “I have endeavored, by the most strict and diligent inquiries into the views and strength of the Federal party, to ascertain to what extent they would be willing and able to resist the measures of the party in power, and how far they could carry the opinions of this country along with them in their attempts to remove the embargo, without recurring to hostilities against both Great Britain aud France.” And again, he tells them, in his letter of the 15th February, 1809, when speaking of the divisions which then agitated this country, and the opposition made to the laws by the people of the Eastern States: “The ultimate consequences of such differences and jealousies, arising between the Eastern and Southern States, would inevitably tend to a dissolution of the Union, which has been for some time talked of, and has, of late, as I have heard, been seriously contemplated by many of the leading people in the eastern division.” Now, sir, when the British Minister was on this business, by order of his Government, is it

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »