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considered it inexpedient to legislate on the subject, and therefore recommended that the petitions, with the accompanying documents, be referred to the secretary of the treasury.
On the tenth of December, the house, in committee of the whole, negatived by a majority of three the resolution recommended by the committee of ways and means, to refer the petitions to the secretary of the treasury. A motion was made for unconditionally remitting the penalties, which was negatived by a majority of eight. Resolutions were also offered for discriminating between purchasers before and after the passage of the non-importation law, enforcing in the latter case, and remitting in the former, which were negatived by large majorities. A resolution was then offered declaring that the law ought to be rigidly enforced. This motion was also negatived, 17 members only rising in favour of it. The committee of the whole then rose, and reported their disagreement to the report of the committee of ways and means, without having come to any other determination.
On the 15th a bill was received from the senate, on the passage of which only five voted in the negative, directing the secretary of the treasury to remit, on payment of the costs, in all cases in which shipments of American property had been made between the 23d of June (the date of the revocation of the orders in council) and the 15th of September (the time limited by the British government for obtaining protecting licences), excepting in cases in which the goods were purchased after a knowledge of the war. This bill was passed in the house by a majority of three, on the 23d, with two amendments, which were concurred in by the senate, one of which excluded from the operation of the bill the cases of goods brought from Canada and other British dependencies, the other related to the securing the duties on the forfeited goods.
A bill was subsequently introduced in the house of representatives, for the remission of bonds, on payment of costs and securing duties, in cases where the goods had been imported from the dependencies of Great Britain (which had been excluded from the former bill); provided that the goods had not been clandestinely imported, were bona fide American property, had been imported since the declaration of war, and shipped from Great Britain or Ireland previous to February 2d, 1811. This bill was, on its third reading, negatived by a small majority; but a similar one was a day or two after received from the senate, and concurred in by the house. By the non-intercourse bill of March 2, 1811, it was provided, that nothing therein contained should be construed to affect any ships or vessels or their cargoes, I
VOL. I. PART I.
the property of American citizens, which had cleared out for the Cape of Good Hope, or any port beyond, prior to November 10, 1810. Shortly after the declaration of war, an act was passed admitting to entry all other American vessels which had been laden in any of the ports of India, for which bonds* had been given for the landing of their cargoes in the United States, provided that the duties on such cargoes should be secured or paid, and the cargoes be deposited in the public stores, subject to the decision of congress. On the 27th of January, 1813, an act was passed remitting all forfeitures in such cases.
3. The committee to whom was referred so much of the president's message as related to our foreign affairs made a long report to the house on the 29th of January, accompanied with a bill for the regulation of seamen on board public vessels and in the merchant service of the United States. The report is confined to the subject of our dispute with Great Britain relative to impressment. After approbating the conduct of the execu tive in regard to the pacific advances made to Great Britain, the committee state, that it now remains for the United States to take their final attitude, and to maintain it with consistency, and with unshaken firmness and constancy.
"With the British claim to impress British seamen, "" say the committee," the United States have no right to interfere, provided it be in British vessels or in any other than those of the United States. That American citizens should be exempted from its operation is all that they demand. Experience has shown that this cannot be secured otherwise than by the vessel in which they sail. Take from American citizens this barrier, which ought to be held sacred, and there is nothing to protect them against the rapacious grasp of the British navy. This then is the extent of the demand of the United States; a demand so just in itself, so consistent and inseparable from their rights as an independent nation, that it has been a cause of astonishment that it should ever have been called in question. The foundation of the British claim is, that British seamen find employment in the service of the United States: this is represented as an evil affecting essentially the great interests of the British nation. This complaint would have more weight, if sanctioned by the British example. It is known, on the contrary, that it is in direct repugnance to it. Great Britain does not scruple to receive into her service all who enter into it voluntarily. If she confined herself within that limit, the present controversy
• By the commercial regulations of the British settlements in the East Indies, all foreign vessels are obliged to give bond for the landing of their cargoes in the country to which they respectively belong.
would not exist. Heretofore the subjects of even the most despotic powers have been left at liberty to pursue their own happiness, by honest industry, wherever their inclination led them. The British government refuses to its seamen that privilege. Let not this then be a ground of controversy with Great Britain. Let it be distinctly understood, that in case an arrangement should be made between the two nations, whereby each should exclude from its service the citizens and subjects of the other, on the conditions and principles above stated, that this house will be prepared, so far as depends on it, to give it effect, and for that purpose to enact laws, with such regulations and penalties as will be adequate. With this pledge, it is not perceived on what ground the British government can persist in its claim. If British seamen are excluded from the service of the United States, as may be effectually done, the foundation of the claim must cease. When it is known that not one British seaman could be found on board American vessels, it would be absurd to urge that fact as a motive for impressment. In declaring a willingness to give effect to the proposed arrangement, your committee consider it equally the duty of the house to declare, in terms the most decisive, that should the British government still decline it, and persevere in the practice of impressment from American vessels, the United States will never acquiesce in that practice, but will resist it unceasingly with all their force."
The bill reported by the committee, after receiving various amendments in both houses, none of which, however, affected its principle, was finally enacted on the last day of the session. It passed in the house of representatives by a majority of 56, the votes being ayes 89, nays 33. This act being of great importance, as showing the attitude taken by the United States in the present war, it is thought proper to present the following abstract of its provisions.
After the termination of the war in which the United States are now engaged with Great Britain, it shall not be lawful to employ on board any of the public or private vessels of the United States any persons but citizens of the United States, or persons of colour natives of the United States; neither shall it be lawful to employ any naturalized citizen, unless such citizen shall produce to the commander of the public vessel, or to a collector of the customs, a certified copy of the act by which he shall have been naturalized; and no person who shall arrive in the United States after the time when this act shall take effect, shall be admitted to become a citizen of the United States, who shall not, for the continued term of five years next preceding his admission, have resided within the United States, without
being at any time during the said five years out of the territory of the United States.
In all cases of private vessels of the United States sailing from a port in the United States to a foreign port, the list of the crew, made as heretofore directed by law, shall be examined by the collector for the district from which the vessel shall clear out, and, if approved of by him, shall be certified accordingly. And no person shall be admitted or employed on board of any such vessel, unless his name shall have been entered in the list of the crew, approved and certified by the collector, who, before he delivers the list of the crew to the captain, shall cause it to be recorded, which record shall be open for the inspection of all persons, and a certified copy thereof shall be admitted in evidence in any court in which any question may arise, under any of the provisions of this act. Supplemental directions may be given by the president, provided they are not repugnant to the provisions of this act.
No seaman or other seafaring man, not being a citizen of the United States, shall be admitted or received as a passenger on board of any public or private vessel of the United States, in a foreign port, without permission in writing from the proper officers of the country of which such seaman or seafaring man may be a subject or citizen.
The consuls or commercial agents of any nation at peace with the United States shall be admitted (under such regulations as may be prescribed by the president of the United States) to state their objections to the proper commander or collector against the employment of any seaman or seafaring man on board of any public or private vessel of the United States, on account of his being a native subject or citizen of such nation, and not embraced within the description of persons who may be lawfully employed, according to the provisions of this act; and the said consuls or commercial agents shall also be admitted to be present at the time when the proofs of citizenship of the persons against whom such objections may have been made, shall be investigated by the commander or collector.
If any commander of a public vessel of the United States shall knowingly employ or receive, on board his vessel, any person whose employment or admission is prohibited by the provisions of this act, he shall on conviction thereof forfeit and pay the sum of one thousand dollars for each person thus unlawfully employed or admitted.
If any person shall, contrary to the prohibitions of this act, be employed or received on board of any private vessel, the master or commander, and the owner or owners of such vessel,
knowing thereof, shall respectively forfeit 500 dollars for each person thus unlawfully employed or received in any one voyage; which sums shall be recovered, although such person shall have been entered in the certified list of the crew, by the collector for the district to which the vessel may belong; and all penalties and forfeitures incurred by virtue of this act, may be sued for, and recovered, with costs of suit, by action of debt, one moiety to the use of the person who shall sue, and the other moiety to the use of the United States.
Nothing in this act shall be construed to prohibit any commander or master of a public or private vessel of the United States, whilst in a foreign port, from receiving any American seamen in conformity to law, or supplying any deficiency of seamen on board his vessel by employing American seamen or subjects of such foreign country, the employment of whom shall not be prohibited by the laws thereof.
This act is only to have effect with respect to seamen whose government shall adopt similar regulations as to the exclusion. of American seamen, and it is not to be construed so as to prevent any arrangement or treaty between the United States and any foreign power on the subject.
Such is the ground which the United States have taken in relation to the principal subject in dispute between them and Great Britain.
§ 4. An act was also passed, ordering the secretary of the treasury to provide new certificates of registry for American vessels, to be exchanged gratis by the collectors of the customs for the old ones, which were to be retained and defaced.
In the course of the session, a number of acts were passed for the increase and better organization of the army.
§ 5. In order to accelerate the completion of the present military establishment, an advance of $24 was authorized to each recruit on account of his pay, in addition to the existing bounty of $16, together with the bounty of 160 acres of land. The pay of the private soldier was likewise raised from six to eight dollars per month, and that of the non-commissioned officers, musicians, &c. in proportion. Non-commissioned officers and soldiers were also freed from arrest for debts contracted either before or after enlistment. The premium to recruiting officers was raised from two to four dollars for each recruit. Persons performing a tour of militia duty were authorized to enlist into the regular service, by which they would be exonerated from serving the remainder of their tour of duty,and the state to which they might belong was not to be required to furnish any persons in their stead. Recruits were to have the option of serving till