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ment, not of denunciation; stigmatize not opposition to your notions with offensive epithets. These prove nothing but your anger or your weakness, and are sure to generate a spirit of “ moral resistance," not easily to be checked or tamed. Give to presidential views constitutional respect, but suffer them not to supersede the exercise of independent inquiry. Encourage instead of suppressing fair discussion, so that those, who approve not, may at least have a respectful hearing. Thus without derogating a particle from the energy of your measures, you will impart a tone to political dissentions which would deprive them of their acrimony, and render them harmless to the nation.
The nominal party distinctions, sir, have become mere cabalistic terms. It is no longer a question whether, according to the theory of our constitution, there is more danger of the federal encroaching on the state governments, or the democracy of the state governments paralyzing the arm of federał power. Federalism and democracy have lost their meaning. It is now a question of commerce, peace and union of the states. On this question, unless the honesty and intelligence of the nation shall confederate into one great American party, disdaining petty office keeping and office-hunting views, defying alike the insolence of the popular prints, the prejudices of faction, and the dominion of executive influence I fear a decision will be pronounced fatal to the hopes, to the existence of the nation. In this question, I assuredly have a very deep interest; but it is the interest of a citizen only. My public career I hope will not continue long. Should it please the disposer of events to perinit me to see the great interests of this nation confided to men, who will secure its rights by firmness, moderation and impartiality abroad, and at home cultivate the arts of peace, encourage honest industry in all its branches, dispense equal justice to all classes of the community, and thus administer the government in the true spirit of the constitution, as a trust for the people, not as the
property of a party, it will be to me utterly unimportant by what political epithet they may be characterized. As a private citizen, grateful for the blessings I may enjoy, and yielding a prompt obedience to every legitimate demand that can be made upon me, I shall rejoice, as far as my little sphere may extend, to foster the same dispositions among those who surround me.
SPEECH OF WILLIAM PINKNEY,
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
UNITED STATES, JANUARY 10, 1816.*
MR. CHAIRMAN, I INTENDED yesterday, if the state of my health had permitted, to have trespassed on the House with a short sketch of the grounds upon which I disapprove of the bill. What I could not do then, I am about to endeavor now, under the pressure, nevertheless, of continuing indisposition, as well as under the influence of a natural reluctance thus to manifest an apparently ambitious and improvident hurry to lay aside the character of a listener to the wisdom of others, by which I could not fail to profit, for that of an expounder of my own humble notions, which are not likely to be profitable to any body. It is, indeed, but too probable that I should best have consulted both delicacy and discretion, if I had forborne this precipitate attempt to launch my little bark upon what an honorable
* A commercial convention between the United States and Great Britain, was signed at London, in July, 1815, and subsequently ratified by the President and Senate, by which it was stipulated that the discriminating duties on British vessels and their cargoes, then subsisting under certain acts of Congress, should be abolished, in return for a reciprocal stipulation on the part of Great Britain. On this occasion, a bill was brought into the House of Representatives to carry the convention into effect, specifically enacting the stipulations contained in the convention itself. This bill was opposed by Mr. Pinkney, in a speech containing a full discussion of the whole subject, both as connected with the law of nations and our own municipal constitution. Wheaton's Life of Pinkney, p. 139.
member has aptly termed · the torrent of debate' which this bill has produced. I am conscious that it may with singular propriety be said of me, that I am noves hospes here; that I have scarcely begun to acquire a domicil among those whom I am undertaking to address; and that recently transplanted hither from courts of judicature, 1 ought for a season to look upon myself as a sort of exotic, which time has not sufficiently familiarized with the soil to which it has been removed, to enable it to put forth either fruit or flower. However, all this may be, it is now too late to be silent. I proceed, therefore, to entreat your
indulgent attention to the few words with which I have to trouble you upon the subject under deliberation.
That subject has already been treated with an admirable force and perspicuity on all sides of the House. The strong power of argument has drawn aside, as it ought to do, the veil which is supposed to belong to it, and which some of us seem unwilling to disturb; and the stronger power of genius, from a higher region than that of argument, has thrown upon it all the light with which it is the prerogative of genius to invest and illustrate every thing. It is fit that it should be so; for the subject is worthy by its dignity and importance to employ in the discussion of it all the powers of the mind, and all the eloquence by which I have already felt that this assembly is distinguished. The subject is the fundamental law. We owe it to the people to labor with sincerity and diligence, to ascertain the true construction of that law, which is but a record of their will. We owe it to the obligations of the oath which has recently been imprinted upon our consciences, as well as to the people, to be obedient to that will when we have succeeded in ascertaining it. I shall give you my opinion upon this matter, with the utmost deference for the judgment of others; but at the same time with that honest and unreserved freedom which becomes this place, and is suited to my babits.
Before we can be in a situation to decide whether
this bill ought to pass, we must know precisely what it is; what it is not is obvious. It is not a bill which is auxiliary to the treaty. It does not deal with details which the treaty does not bear in its own bosom. It contains no subsidiary enactments, no dependent provisions, flowing as corollaries from the treaty. It is not to raise money, or to make appropriations, or to do any thing else beyond or out of the treaty. It acts simply as the echo of the treaty.
Ingeminat voces, auditaque verba reportat. It may properly be called the twin brother of the treaty; its duplicate, its reflected image, for it re-enacts with a timid fidelity, somewhat inconsistent with the boldness of its pretensions, all that the treaty stipulates, and having performed that work of supererogation, stops. It once attempted something more, indeed; but that surplus has been expunged from it as a desperate intruder, as something which might violate, by a misinterpretation of the treaty, that very public faith which we are now prepared to say the treaty has never plighted in any the smallest degree. In one word, the bill is a fac-simile of the treaty in all its clauses.
I am warranted in concluding, then, that if it be any thing but an empty form of words, it is a confirmation or ratification of the treaty; or, to speak with a more guarded accuracy, is an act to which only, (if passed into a law,) the treaty can owe its being. If it does not spring from the pruritas leges ferendi, by which this body can never be afflicted, I am warranted in saying, that it springs from a hypothesis, (which may afflict us with a worse disease.) that no treaty of commerce can be made by any power in the state but Congress. It stands upon that postulate, or it is a mere bubble, which might be suffered to float through the forms of legislation, and then to burst without consequence or notice.
That this postulate is utterly irreconcileable with the claims and port with which this convention comes before you, it is impossible to deny. Look at it! Has it the air or shape of a mere pledge that the President