Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

duty on carriages was a direct tax according to the meaning of the constitution. The difference between direct and indirect taxation he understood to be, that the direct tax was laid directly on property, the owner or possessor of which is immediately chargeable with the tax, and by which no other person whatever is affected; whereas the indirect tax affected principally the consumer, and not the possessor of the article at the time the tax accrued, the former indirectly paying the tax in the enhanced price. If this distinction were correct, the duty on carriages was certainly a direct tax. It had been stated that the commit. tee of ways and means considered carriages as articles of expence, and as such liable to this species of taxation. But were not slaves (one of the objects of the direct tax), in many instances, articles of expence also? Was the carriage an article of expence, and not the servant who drives the carriage ?

This objection was overruled on the ground of the tax having been formerly in operation, and solemnly sanctioned by the supreme court; that it was one of the best taxes that could be imposed, as it fell almost exclusively on the wealthy, and was really a tax on luxury.

$ 23. The following is a statement of the votes on the tax-bills on their final passage in the house of representatives : On the bill directing the manner of assessing and collecting the direct taxes

yeas 95 nays 63 On the bill laying a direct tax

97 70 Duty on stills

85 49 On refined sugars

94 53 Licenses to retailers

84

46 Sales at auction

102 51 Carriages

99 52 Stamps

81 46 24. In addition to the internal taxes, a law was passed laying a duty of twenty cents per bushel or fifty-six pounds, on the importation of salt, to commence on January 1, 1814. The term of credit on this duty was fixed at nine months.

No drawback is to be allowed, but instead thereof a bounty of twenty cents per barrel on the exportation of pickled fish of the fisheries of the United States, which have been cured with foreign salt on which the duty has been paid. The bounty, however, is not to be allowed, unless it shall amount to ten dollars at least upon each entry.

This act also grants a bounty on the employment of certain fishing vessels, the particulars of which will be given when we come to treat of the law for the regulation of the seamen employ, ed in those fisheries, in the next chapter.

1

CHAPTER V.

§ 1. Webster's resolutions. § 2. Debate thereon. § 3. Answer of the president. 4. Stenographers. § 5. Russian embassy. § 6. Mission to Sweden. § 7 Embargo. § 8. Massachusetts remonstrance. §9. Debate thereon. § 10. Distribution of arms. § 11. Amendments to the constitution. 12. Naturalization. § 13. British licenses. § 14. Girard's memorial. § 15. Seizure of East Florida. § 16. Measures for defence. § 17. Disabled militia and volunteers. 18. Reward of valour. § 19. Encouragement to privateers. § 20. Encouragement of the fisheries. 21. Loan. § 22. Appropriations. § 23. Conduct of the war. § 24. Barbarities of the enemy. § 25. Adjournment.

§1. PREVIOUS to the tax bills being taken up in the house of representatives, the house was principally occupied with contested elections, the accommodation of stenographers, and a motion of Mr. Webster, relative to the repeal of the Berlin and Milan decrees.

On the 10th of June, the following resolutions were submitted to the house by Mr. Webster, which were read and laid on the table.

Resolved, That the president of the United States be requested to inform this house, unless the public interest should, in his opinion, forbid such communication, when, by whom, and in what manner, the first intelligence was given to this government of the decree of the government of France, bearing date the 28th April, 1811, and purporting to be a definitive repeal of the decrees of Berlin and Milan.

Resolved, That the president of the United States be requested to inform this house whether Mr. Russell, late charge d'affaires of the United States at the court of France, hath ever admitted, or denied, to his government, the correctness of the declaration of the duke of Bassano to Mr. Barlow, the late minister of the United States at that court, as stated in Mr. Barlow's letter of the 12th of May, 1812, to the secretary of state, "that the said decree of April 28, 1811, had been communicated to his (Mr. Barlow's) predecessor there;" and to lay before this house any correspondence with Mr. Russell, relative to that subject, which it may not be improper to communicate; and also any correspondence between Mr. Barlow and Mr. Russell on that subject, which may be in possession of the department of state.

Resolved, That the president of the United States be re

quested to inform this house whether the minister of France, near the United States, ever informed this government of the existence of the said decree of the 28th of April, 1813, and to lay before the house any correspondence that may have taken place with the said minister relative thereto, which the president may not think improper to be communicated.

Resolved, That the president of the United States be requested to communicate to this house any other information which may be in his possession, and which he may not deem it injurious to the public interest to disclose, relative to the said decree of the 28th of April, 1811, and tending to show at what time, by whom, and in what manner, the said decree was first made known to this government, or to any of its representatives or agents.

Resolved, That the president be requested, in case the fact be that the first information of the existence of said decree of the 28th of April, 1811, ever received by this government or any of its ministers or agents, was that communicated in May, 1812, by the duke of Bassano to Mr. Barlow, and by him to his government, as mentioned in his letter to the secretary of state of May 12, 1812, and the accompanying papers, to inform this house whether the government of the United States hath ever required from that of France, any explanation of the reasons of that decree being concealed from this government and its ministers for so long a time after its date ; and if such explanation has been asked by this government, and has been omitted to be given by that of France, whether this government has made any remonstrance, or expressed any dissatisfaction to the government of France, at such concealment.

92. On the 16th, at the instance of Mr. Webster, the house proceeded to the consideration of his resolutions.

In the debate that arose out of this subject, a very extensive range was taken on both sides of the house. The

opponents

of the resolutions objected principally to the novelty of their form, which they contended was disrespectful and unprecedented in such cases.

An amendment was proposed, calling for information generally on the subject.

This amendment, however, was withdrawn on its being stated, that a similar call had been made at the end of last session, the answer to which consisted merely of extracts of letters from Mr. Barlow, without any explanation or declaration on the part of the executive, in one of which it was expressly said, that the duke of Bassano stated that the repealing decree had been communicated to our go ernment through two channels, at as early a date as May, 1811.

a

If this decree, it was contended, had been made known to the British government at the time it was issued, the orders in council would have been repealed, and we should have avoided the ruinous war under which we are now suffering. The declaration of the duke of Bassano, then, affixes a serious charge on the American government, which well merited an examination of the grounds whereon it rested. Either our government was guilty of concealing the decree, or the French government was guilty of the concealment, with the full addition of duplicity and falsehood. It was to arrive at truth in relation to this dark and mysterious transaction, that these resolutions were offered.

For the purpose of showing that the concealment of this decree had brought on the war with England, a view was taken of the course pursued by the American government in relation to the belligerents after the abandonment of the embargo. The report of the committee of foreign relations of November, 1808, and the non-intercourse law of 1809, were cited to show the intentions of government, and their opinion that, while the decrees of both belligerents were in force, neither nation could, with honour and justice, be selected for hostility.

The non-intercourse law contained a provision, that if France or England should so far repeal or modify her edicts, as that they should cease to violate our neutral rights, the fact should be proclaimed by the president, and the act was to cease as to that nation. This provision, it was contended, had been taken advantage of by Bonaparte, for the purpose of shamefully duping the president. By the law, the president was bound not to issue his proclamation until France should have in good faith repealed or modified her decrees. But he waited for no such repeal or modification. In the language of Mr. Russell, then our minister in France, the president was “ shuffled into the lead, where national honour and the law required him to follow." To prove the correctness of the assertion of Mr. Russell, an order of the French government to the council of prizes, and the French repealing decree of April, 1811, were read as follows :

“ In consequence of this engagement entered into by the government of the United States to cause their rights to be respected, his majesty orders that all causes that may be pending in the council of prizes, of captures of American vessels, made after the 1st of November, and those that may in future be brought before it, shall not be judged according to the principles of the decrees of Berlin and Milan, but that they shall remain suspended; the vessels captured and seized to remain only in a state

[ocr errors]

of sequestration, until the 2d of February next, the period at which the United States having fulfilled the engagement to cause their rights to be respected, the said captures shall be declared null by the council, and the American vessels restored, together with their cargoes, to their proprietors.”

TRANSLATION.

Palace of St. Cloud, 28th April, 1811. Napoleon, emperor of the French, &c. On the report of our minister of foreign relations:

Seeing, by a law passed on the 2d of March, 1811, the congress of the United States has ordered the execution of the

provisions of the act of non-intercourse, which prohibits the vessels and merchandize of Great Britain, her colonies and dependencies, from entering into the ports of the United States:

Considering that the said law is an act of resistance to the arbitrary pretensions consecrated by the British orders in council, and a formal refusal to adhere to a system invading the independence of neutral powers and of their flag; we have ordered and decreed as follows:

The decrees of Berlin and Milan are definitively, and to date from the 1st November last, considered as not existing in regard to American vessels. (Signed)

NAPOLEON. By the emperor, the minister secretary of state. (Signed)

THE COUNT DARA. The conclusion drawn from these acts of the French govern

that if the decree had been made known to congress in the spring of 1811, the war would have been prevented, as it would have clearly shown that the president had issued his proclamation on false grounds, being required by law to be consequent and not precedent of the French repeal, and that thereby congress would have been forced to retrace its steps, and, agreeably to the intent of the law, again place the belligerents on an equal footing

But, even supposing that had not been the case, it was urged, is there not every reason to believe, that if the French repealing decree had been made known to England, she would have modified her orders in council, and continued peace would have been the

consequence, as it was preposterous to pretend that war would have been declared had the orders been revoked? Impressment, though always a subject of difference between the two nations, had never been by our government for a moment considered as sufficient cause of war. VOL. I. PART I.

Ꭱ .

ment was,

« AnteriorContinuar »