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In recommending to the national legislature this resort to additional taxes, I feel great satisfaction in the assurance, that our constituents, who have already displayed so much zeal and firmness in the cause of their country, will cheerfully give every other proof of their patriotism which it calls for. Happily no people, with local and transitory exceptions never to be wholly avoided, are more able than the people of the United States, to spare for the public wants a portion of their private means, whether regard be had to the ordinary profits of industry, or the ordinary price of subsistence in our country, compared with those in any other. And in no case could stronger reasons be felt for yielding the requisite contributions. By rendering the public resources certain, and commensurate to the public exigencies, the constituted authorities will be able to prosecute the war the more rapidly to its proper issue ; every hostile hope founded on a calculated failure of our resources, will be cut off ; and by adding to the evidence of bravery and skill, in combats on the ocean and on the land, an alacrity in supplying the treasure necessary to give them their fullest effect, and thus demonstrating to the world the public energy which our political institutions combine, with the personal liberty distinguishing them, the best security will be provided against future enterprizes on the rights or the peace of the nation.
The contest in which the United States are engaged, appeals for its support to every motive that can animate an uncorrupted and enlightened people; to the love of country; to the pride of liberty; to an emulation of the glorious founders of their independence, by a successful vindication of its violated attributes; to the gratitude and sympathy which demand security from the most degrading wrongs, of a class of citizens who have proved themselves so worthy the protection of their country, by their heroic zeal in its defence; and finally, to the sacred obligation of transmitting, entire, to future generations, that precious patrimony of national rights and independence, which is held in trust by the present, from the goodness of Divine Providence.
Being aware of the inconveniences to which a protracted session at this season would be liable, I limit the present communication to objects of primary importance. In special messages which may ensue, regard will be had to the same consideration,
Washington, May 25, 1813. JAMES MADISON,
Remonstrance of the Legislature of the State of Massachusetts,
against the war with Great Britain ; and Protest of the minority of said legislature against said remonstrance.
To the honourable the senate, and the honourable the house of
representatives of the United States, in congress assembled.
The legislature of Massachusetts, deeply impressed with the sufferings of their constituents, and excited by the apprehension of still greater evils in prospect, feel impelled by a solemn sense of duty to lay before the national government their view of the public interests, and to express with the plainness of freemen, the sentiments of the people of this ancient and extensive commonwealth.
Although the precise limits of the powers reserved to the several state sovereignties have not been defined by the constitution, yet we fully coincide in the correctness of the opinions advanced by our venerable chief magistrate, “ that our constitutions insure to us the freedom of speech, and that at this momentous period it is our right and duty to inquire into the grounds and origin of the present war, to reflect on the state of public affairs, and to express our sentiments concerning them with decency and frankness, and to endeavour, as far as our limited influence extends, to promote, by temperate and constitutional means, an honourable reconciliation.
If, then, such are the rights and duties of the people, surely those who, at this solemn crisis, are selected by them, and who are specially honoured with their confidence, may venture respectfully, but frankly, to express the sentiments and feelings of those whom they have the honour to represent.
The states, as well as the individuals composing them, are parties to the national compact, and it is their peculiar duty, especially in times of peril, to watch over the rights and guard the privileges solemnly guaranteed by that instrument. Certainly then this expression from the legislature of the free and independent commonwealth of Massachusetts, will not be disregarded by the present congress of the United States. For although the
numerous petitions and remonstrances of the people of this state in relation to such measures as they deemed dangerous to their rights and ruinous to their interests, have heretofore been received in a manner little calculated to produce that harmony, and to cement that union, which ought to be the permanent aim of the general government, yet we cannot but indulge the hope that new councils and a more conciliatory spirit will distinguish the several branches of the present national legislature; that they will endeavour,by the exercise of justice and impartiality, to allay the apprehensions and restore the confidence of the eastern and commercial states ; to remove their actual sufferings, and to replace them in the happy and prosperous condition from which they have been driven, by a succession of measures hostile to the rights of commerce, and destructive to the peace of the union.
It is not to be expected that a hardy and industrious people, instructed in the nature of their rights, and tenacious of their exercise, whose enterprize was a source of individual wealth and national prosperity, should find themselves obliged to abandon their accustomed employments, and relinquish the means of subsistence, without complaint ; or, that a moral and christian people should contribute their aid in the prosecution of an offensive war, without the fullest evidence of its justice and necessity.
The United States, from the form of their government, from the principles of their institutions, from the sacred professions which, in all periods of their history, they have made, from the maxims transmitted to them by patriots and sages, whose loss they can never sufficiently deplore, as well as from a regard to their best and dearest interests, ought to be the last nation to engage in a war of ambition or conquest.
The recent establishment of their institutions, the pacific, moral, and industrious character of their citizens, the certainty that time, and prudent application of their resources, would bring a seasonable remedy for any transient wrongs, would have induced a wise and provident, an impartial and temperate administration, to overlook, if it had been necessary, any temporary evils, which either the ambition, the interest, the cupidity, or the injustice of foreign powers might occasionally, and without any deep and lasting injury, have inflicted.
With these maxims and these views, we cannot discern any thing in the policy of foreign nations towards us, which, in point of expediency, required the sacrifice of so many and so certain blessings as might have been our portion, for such dreadful and inevitable evils as all wars, and especially in a republic, entail upon the people.
But when we review the alleged causes of the war against Great Britain, and, more particularly, the pretences for its continuance, after the principal one was removed, we are constrained to say, that it fills the minds of the good people of this commonwealth with infinite anxiety and alarm. We cannot but recollect, whatever the pretences of the emperor of France may have been, pretences which have uniformly preceded and accompanied the most violents acts of injustice, that he was the
sole author of a system calculated and intended to break down neutral commerce, with a view to destroy the opulence and cripple the power of a rival, whose best interest and whose real policy were to uphold that commerce so essential to her own prosperity
It is not for us to decide whether the enemy of France did, or did not, adopt the most natural and efficacious means of repelling her injustice. It is sufficient that we are persuaded the United States might, by a firm and dignified, yet pacific resistance to the French decrees, have prevented the recurrence of any retaliatory measures on the part of Great Britain; measures not intended to injure us, but to operate on the author of this unjust and iniquitous system. And however honourable men may differ as to the justice of the British retaliatory orders in council, we do not hesitate to say, that France merited from our government a much higher tone of remonstrance, and a more decided opposition.
In reviewing the avowed causes of the present war, we would, if it were possible, pass over a series of transactions imperfectly explained, and calculated to excite our alarm and regret, at the hasty manner in which it was declared. But the history of the pretended repeal of the French decrees, which, if our government was sincere, we are bound to believe was the immediate cause of the war, is so well attested, and has been so often discussed, and is besides so important in this inquiry, that mere motives of delicacy cannot induce us to pass over it without notice.
If war could be justified against Great Britain exclusively, it must have been on the ground assumed by our government, that the French decrees were actually repealed on the 1st of November, 1810. The indiscriminate plunder and destruction of our commerce; the capture of our ships by the cruizers of France, and their condemnation by her courts and by the emperor in person; his repeated and solemn declarations that those decrees were still in force and constituted the fundamental laws of his empire, at a period long subsequent to the pretended repeal, seemed to furnish an answer sufficiently conclusive to this question; and we cannot but lament, that evidence so satisfactory to the rest of the nation, should have had so little weight with that congress whose term of service has lately expired.
But this important question is now definitively answered; and the American people have learned with astonishment the depth of their degradation. The French emperor, as if for the perfect and absolute humiliation of our government, and for the annunciation to the world that he held us in utter contempt, VOL. I.
reserved till May, 1812, the official declaration of the fact that these decrees were not repealed until April, 1811; and then, not in consequence of his sense of their injustice, but because we had complied with the condition he had prescribed, in the letter of the duke of Cadore, in causing “our rights to be respected," by a resistance to the British orders; and he has since added, that this decree of repeal was communicated to our minister at Paris, as well as to his own at Washington, to be made known to our cabinet. As the previous pledge of Great Britain
the fullest assurance that she would repeal her orders as soon as the decrees on which they were founded should cease to exist; and as her subsequent conduct leaves no doubt that she would have been faithful to her promise, we can never too much deplore the neglect to make known this repeal, whether it be attributed to the French government or our own.
If to the former belong the guilt of this duplicity and falsehood, every motive of interest, and every incitement of duty, call loudly upon our administration to proclaim this disgraceful imposition to the American people; not only as it would serve to develope the true character and policy of France, but to acquit our own officers of a suppression too serious to be overlooked or forgiven.
But whatever may be the true state of this mysterious transaction, the promptness with which Great Britain hastened to repeal her orders, before the declaration of war by the United States was known to her, and the restoration of an immense amount of property, then within her power, can leave but little doubt that the war, on our part, was premature, and still less that the perseverance in it, after that repeal was known, was improper, impolitic, and unjust.
It was improper; because it manifested, in this instance, a distrust in the good faith and disposition to peace of a nation, from which we had just received a signal proof of both.
It was impolitic; because it gave countenance to the charge of a subserviency to the views of France, and of an ulterior design of co-operating with her, in the profligate and enormous project of subjugating the rest of Europe.
It was impolitic; as it tended to unite all descriptions of people in England, in favour of the present war, and to convince them, however erroneously, that moderation and fairness, on her part, only laid the foundation of new claims and higher pretensions on ours.
It was unjust; because the evidence, afforded by the prompt repeal of the orders in council, ought to have satisfied us, that Great Britain was sincerely disposed to maintain and pre