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SPEECH OF JOSIAH QUINCY,
BILL PROPOSING THAT TWENTY THOUSAND MEN
SHOULD BE ADDED TO THE EXISTING MILITARY
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE L'NITED
STATES, JANUARY 5, 1813.
MR. SPEAKER, I FEAR that the state of my health may prevent my doing justice to my sentiments, concerning this bill. I will, however, make the attempt, though I should fail in it.
The bill proposes, that twenty thousand men should be added to the existing military establishment. This, at present, consists of thirty-five thousand men. So that the effect of this bill is to place, at the disposal of the executive, an army of fifty-five thousand. It is not pretended, that this addition is wanted, either for defence, or for the relief of the Indian frontier. On the contrary, it is expressly acknowledged, that the present establishment is sufficient for both of those objects. But the purpose, for which these twenty thousand men are demanded, is the invasion of Canada This is unequivocally avowed, by the chairman of the committee of foreign relations, (Mr. D. R. Williams,) the organ, as is admitted, of the will and the wishes of the American cabinet.
The bill, therefore, brings, necessarily, into deliberation the conquest of Canada; either as an object, in itself, desirable, or consequentially advantageous, by its effect, in producing an early and honorable peace.
Before I enter upon the discussion of those topics,
which naturally arise from this state of the subject, I will ask your indulgence, for one moment, while I make a few remarks upon this intention of the American cabinet, thus unequivocally avowed. I am induced to this from the knowledge, which I have, that this design is not deemed to be serious, by some men of both political parties; as well within this House, as out of it. I know that some of the friends of the present administration do consider the proposition, as a mere feint, made for the purpose of putting a good face upon things, and of strengthening the hope of a successful negociation, by exciting the apprehensions of the British cabinet for the fate of their colonies. I know, also, that some of those, who are opposed, in political sentiment to the men, who are now at the head of affairs, laugh at these schemes of invasion, and deem them hardly worth controversy, on account of their opinion of the imbecility of the American cabinet, and the embarrassment of its resources.
I am anxious that no doubt should exist, upon this subject, either in the House or in the nation. Whoever considers the object of this bill, to be any other than that, which has been avowed, is mistaken. Whoever believes this bill to be a means of peace or any thing else; than an instrument of vigorous and long protracted war, is grievously deceived. And whoever acts, under such mistake or such deception, will have to lament one of the grossest, and perhaps, one of the most critical errors of his political life. I warn, therefore, my political opponents; those honest men, of whom Í know there are some, who, paying only a general attention to the course of public affairs, submit the guidance of their opinions to the men, who stand at the helm, not to vote for this bill, under any belief that its object is to aid negociation for peace. tlemen recur to their past experience on similar occasions. They will find that it has been always the case, whenever any obnoxious measure is about to be passed, that its passage is assisted by the aid of some such
Let such gen
collateral suggestions. No sooner do the cabinet perceive that any potion, which they intend to administer, is loathed by a considerable part of the majority, and that their apprehensions are alive, lest it should have a scouring effect upon their popularity, than certain under-operators are set to work, whose business it is to amuse the minds, and beguile the attention of the patients, while the dose is swallowing. The language always is, “ trust the cabinet doctors. The medicine will not operate as you imagine, but quite another way.” After this manner the fears of men are allayed, and the purposes of the administration are attained, under suggestions very different from the true motives. Thus the embargo, which has since been unequivocally acknowledged to have been intended to coerce Great Britain, was adopted, as the executive asserted, “ to save our essential resources.” So also, when the present war was declared against Great Britain, members of the House were known to state, that they voted for it under the suggestion that it would not be a war of ten days; that it was known that Mr. Foster had instructions to make definitive arrangements, in his pocket; and that the United States had only to advance to the point of war, and the whole business would be settled. “And now, an army, which, in point of numbers, Cromwell might envy, greater than that with which Cæsar passed the Rubicon, is to be helped through a reluctant Congress, under the suggestion of its being only a parade force to make negociation successful; that it is the incipient state of a project for a grand pacification!
I warn also my political friends. These gentlemen are apt to place great reliance on their own intelligence and sagacity. Some of these will tell you, that the invasion of Canada is impossible. They ask, where are the men—where is the money to be obtained? And they talk, very wisely, concerning common sense and common prudence, and will show, with much learning, how this attempt is an offence against
both the one and the other. But, sir, it has been my lot, to be an observer of the character and conduct of the men now in power, for these eight years past : and I state, without hesitation, that no scheme ever was, or ever will be, rejected by them, merely on account of its running counter to the ordinary dictates of common sense and common prudence. On the contrary, on that very account, I believe it more likely to be both suggested and adopted by them. And, what may appear a paradox, for that very reason, the chance is rather increased, that it will be successful.
I could illustrate this position twenty ways. I shall content myself with remarking only upon two instances, and those recent;-the present war; and the late invasion of Canada. When war against Great Britain was proposed, at the last session, there were thousands in these United States, and I confess to you, I was myself among the number, who believed not one word of the matter. I put my trust in the old fashioned notions of common sense and common prudence. That a people, which has been more than twenty years at peace, should enter upon hostilities against a people which had been twenty years at war; that a nation, whose army and navy were little more than nominal, should engage in war with a nation possessing one of the best appointed armies and the most powerful marine on the globe; that a country, to which neutrality had been a perpetual harvest, should throw that great blessing away for a controversy in which nothing was to be gained, and every thing valuable put in jeopardy; from these, and innumerable like considerations, the idea seemed so absurd, that I never once entertained it as possible. And now, after war has been declared, the whole affair seems so extraordinary and so utterly irreconcileable to any previous suggestions of wisdom and duty, that I know not what to make of it, or how to believe it. Even at this moment, my mind is very much in the state of certain Pennsylvanian Germans, of whom I have heard it as.