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ends of tyranny. It is a power vested in a majority, to forbid at their sovereign will and pleasure, every member not of that majority, from making known either his own sentiments, or the wishes or complaints of his constituents, in relation to any subject under consideration, or from attempting to amend what is proposed as a law for the government of the whole nation." Mr. Gaston continued in this impassioned and vehement manner to the end, and at once excited the astonishment and admiration of the House.
After his retirement from Congress until 1834, he was generally engaged in the duties of his profession; but, during the same time, was for a long period a member of the North Carolina assembly. In that body, it is said, he delivered many of his ablest and most brilliant speeches; two of which are mentioned with peculiar approbation: one, on the currency of the State, delivered in 1828; the other in defence of the constitution of North Carolina. Of the latter, one of his contemporaries says:—“That speech will long be remembered. The Constitution of the State is a venerable instrument. It came down to the present generation, from the sages of the Revolution, and is loved and venerated in North Carolina for its very antiquity. It was a fit subject for the exhibition of his learning, eloquence and patriotism, and these resources of his mind he poured forth with the most brilliant profusion.
In 1834, Mr. Gaston was elevated to the bench of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, where he remained until his death. His judicial decisions evince the most profound acquaintance with the science of the law, and are ranked, by competent authority, among the ablest legal arguments of the United States. In the prosecution of his duties as judge he was affable, patient and devoted. On the day of his death, January the twenty-third, 1843, he took his seat as usual, though he had for several days experienced quite severe illness. He remained on the bench until nearly two o'clock in the afternoon, giving attention to a case then under consideration, when he was attacked with faintness, and other violent symptoms. He was then taken to bis room, and soon relieved; he became quite cheerful, and conversed freely with his friends. In the course of the evening he related several anecdotes, and gave a description of a party he attended in Washington many years previous. Speaking of one whom he met on that occasion, who declared himself a free-thinker in matters pertaining to religion, he said, “From that day I always looked on that man with distrust. I do not say that a free-thinker may not be an honorable man, or that he may not, from higher motives, scorn to do a mean act; but I dare not trust him. A belief in an All-ruling Divinity, who shapes our ends, whose eye is upon us, and who will reward us according to our deeds, is necessary. We must believe and feel that there is a God; all-wise and almighty.” As he was uttering the last sentence, he rose to give it greater emphasis, when he suddenly fell back and expired.*
SPEECH ON THE LOAN BILL.
This speech, on a bill to authorize a loan of wish was not to be effected but by a competitwenty-five millions of dollars, was delivered by tion for the floor, and I thought such a compe
tition not justified by the nature of the remarks Mr. Gaston, in the House of Representatives of
which I had to submit. Under these impresthe United States, on the eighteenth and nine- sions I had made up my mind to wait until some teenth days of February, 1814.
favorable unoccupied interval should be pre
sented; and I should not now have presumed to Mr. CHAIRMAN : I fear I am about to engage anticipate other gentlemen who seem disposed to in a very injudicious attempt-I fear that the address you, but for some extraordinary observapatience of the committee is exhausted, and tions which have just been uttered, and which in that it would be idle to hope for their attention. my opinion demand immediate animadversion, It was originally my wish to claim their notice. The gentleman from Tennessee, who has this at an early stage of the debate; but I found this moment resumed his seat, (Mr. Grundy,) seems
a little sore that his doctrine of Moral Treason, • National Intelligencer, 1843: American Almanac, 1843: which he promulgated at the last session, should MS. Letter of J. S. Eustace in the possession of the editor. I have been so vehemently oppugned by the per.
sons for whose benefit he had compiled it. I itself in actual war against the nation. It was am not of the number of those, Mr. Chairman, altogether unnecessary, if there had been any who have deemed this doctrine worthy of ex- common law applicable in the courts of the amination. As originally understood, it was so United States; for in every government under preposterous and so repugnant to the principles Heaven the acts which it describes are made of our constitution, that every intelligent free-punishable. A doubt whether the common law man found its refutation in the consciousness of had a federal existence alone occasioned the his own liberty. By subsequent explanations passing of the law. Yet we are gravely asked and definitions it has been so attenuated and if, in the year 1798, men had combined together subtilized, that what was never very distinct to dissuade persons from lending money to the now almost eludes perception. According to the government, or from enlisting in the army; last attempt at exposition, if it have any mean-whether they could not have been punished ing, it would seem to embrace systematic efforts under this law ? No, sir.—No, sir. There was to persuade capitalists not to lend money, and not a prosecuting officer in the United States so the unthinking youth not to enlist as soldiers to ignorant of his duty as to dare to bring forward carry on the war against Canada. His denun- an indictment upon such a pretext. ciations of such a system of the existence of To the next sectica of this abused act the genwhich I know nothing; and which, if it exist, tleman has given an interpretation as destitute is innocent or criminal according to the motives of plausibility even as his exposition of the first from which it springs—pass by me altogether section. To find a warrant for his doctrine of unheeded. But his unfounded imputations upon moral treason, or to lessen its odium by casting some of the best men and truest patriots of the reproach on others, the gentleman has charged country, and his attempt to support his doctrine that this section subjected to indictment and punby their example, ought to be repelled, and a ishment the publication of scandalous and malivery short notice will soffice for that purpose. cious writings against the government, althongh
The gentleman has referred to the act of 14th they might be true—and that had it not been July, 1798, the much misrepresented and abused for the third section of the act, which his presedition law. It is difficult for me to express decessor moved in the House of Representamy astonishment at the construction which he tives after the bill had passed the Senate, the affixes to the first section of this act. Need we truth would have afforded no defence on an wonder at any error, however gross, at any indictment for a libel against the government. prejudice, however irrational, prevailing in re- Sir, this position is utterly untenable. No part spect to party measures and party opinions, of it is true. The gentleman must be presumwhen we find a professional gentleman assign-ed to know, and ought to recollect, that when ing to a law a meaning which, but for what we an offence is created by statute, every word of have heard, would have been pronounced impos- the description of the offence is material and sible on the part of any man of ordinary good essential. What are the words describing the sense? The first section of this law declares, offence? “If any person shall write, print, or that if any persons shall conspire together with publish any false, scandalous and malicious wriintent to oppose any measures of the government ting against the government, &c." It is a neof the United States, and in pursuance of such cessary part of the offence that the writing intent shall counsel, or attempt to procure, insur- should be false. If it be not false, then the rections, riots, &c., they shall be deemed guilty crime has not been committed, the law has of a misdemeanor punishable by fine and impris- not been broken, and punishment cannot be inonment. Can it be necessary to ask what was flicted. Why then, I may be asked, was the meant in this law by the expression “with in- third section, moved by the gentleman's predetent to oppose any measures of the govern cessor, inserted in the law? The answer is, ment?" To oppose, in its plain original sense, to avoid all cavil, all real or pretended doubt, necessarily implies physical resistance—the ex- all foundation for the charge that would have ercise of force. It is metaphorically used, in- been made had it been rejected. It might have deed, to signify dissuasion, as the word to com been pretended that on an indictment for libel bat is applied to denote a controversy in argu-) at common law, the truth or falsehood of the ment; and a law prohibiting single combats charge was not a matter of inquiry before the might as well be interpreted to forbid contro-ljury, so on an indictment for libel under this versies in discourse, as a law prohibiting oppo- | act, notwithstanding its plain words, the falsesition to the measures of government construed hood of the publication was not material to to interdict the expression of honest opinions constitute the offences and had the proposed that may retard their operations. But the act amendment been rejected, from the specimen is still more explicit. To constitute crime, it we have this day had of the course of legal requires not only that the persons should com- thinking of one of the bar of Tennessee, there is bine “with intent to oppose the measures of a moral certainty, that the law would have been government," but that in pursuance of such in- there stigmatized as designed to prohibit the tent they should proceed to “counsel or attempt publication of truth. To adopt the amendment to procure insurrections, riots," &c. The design removed all pretext for such a misrepresentaof the act is unequivocal-it is to check and tion. It was accordingly incorporated into the punish incipient treason before it has manifested | law; and to show that it was not introductory
of any new principle, it was expressed as declar- | do will avail nothing; but, sir, representing a atory of the preceding section, “And be it en- respectable portion of the American people who acted and declared, that it shall be lawful for are suffering with peculiar severity from the the defendant, on trial, to give in evidence, in pressure of this unfortunate and mismanaged his defence, the truth of the matter charged as war, who, with me, believe no good is to grow a libel." No, sir—the idea of punishing truth out of it, and who apprehend, from its continwhen published against the officers of the gov- uance, evils, compared with which all they have ernment was reserved until more recent times yet suffered are but trifles light as air-I should -until the abused sedition law had expired, be unfaithful to them and myself, if I did not and the champions of a free press were safely interpose my best efforts to arrest the downhill fixed in power. Surely the gentleman has not career of ruin. In performing this duty I shall been so inattentive to the course of public pro- certainly say the things I do think. Endeavorceedings as never to have heard of the case of ing to use such language only as is consistent Harry Croswell. He, for an alleged libel on Mr. with self-respect and decency towards those Jefferson, was indicted at common law, not un- who differ from me in opinion, I mean freely to der the horrible sedition act; he was not per- exercise the right which belongs to my station. mitted to prove the truth of his publication, and Right! did I say, sir ? The expression is inwas thus convicted!
| accurate; once indeed there did exist in this I have done, sir, with the gentleman from House the right of free discussion. It was once Tennessee, his moral treason, and his exposition deemed a constitutional privilege for every of the sedition law-- and will endeavor to call member to bring forward any proposition he your attention to subjects not altogether so for- deemed beneficial to the country, and support eign from the bill upon the table. The object it by whatever arguments he could adduce; to of the bill is to authorize a loan to the govern- offer amendments to the propositions of others, ment of the United States. The precise propo- so as to render them, in his judgment, more unsition before you is to declare what sum shall exceptionable ; and to state the reasons of his be borrowed ; "twenty-five millions of dollars." dissent from any measure on which he was Enormous as is the addition which is thus pro called to vote, and endeavor to impress his posed to be made to our debts, could it be opinion on others. No doubt a vast portion shown to be necessary to accomplish any pur- of the good people of this republic yet believe poses demanded by the honor and welfare of that such is the course of proceedings here. the country, it assuredly would meet with no Little do they dream of the complicated maopposition from me. Is a loan wanted, or rev- chinery, by means of which every privilege, enue required to enable the government to pay except that of thinking, is made to depend on off its just engagements? to give security and the pleasure, the courtesy, the whim of the maprotection to any part of our territory, or any jority. By certain interpolations into our pracportion of our citizens? to afford to our gallant tice, but which nowhere show their hideous navy (that precious relic of better days) such front in our written code, the system of supencouragement and extension as may enable it pressing the liberty of speech is brought to a more effectually to vindicate our rights on the degree of perfection that almost astonishes its element where they have been assailed? My authors. A gentleman wishes to bring forward voice and assistance shall be cheerfully render- an original proposition he must first state it, ed to obtain them. Let the present proposition and obtain permission from a majority of the be withdrawn, and let it be moved to fill the House to let it be considered, before he can blank with such sum as shall be adequate to show the propriety of adopting it, or ask even supply any deficiency of revenue wanted for for a decision upon it. Thus is annihilated the these purposes, and I will second the motion. right of originating a proposition. But a propoNay, sir, should the present proposition be re- sition is originated by others, it is passed through jected, (for while it is pending, a smaller sum the ordeal of consideration, and he is desirous cannot be moved,) and none of those who are of amending its defects or of exposing its immost conversant with the state of our finances, propriety. This is, perhaps, deemed inconvenshould come forward with a further proposition, ient by the majority. It may give them trouI will myself undertake to move the sum which ble, or bring forward a discussion which they shall appear competent to effect all these objects. do not wish the people to hear, or detain them But, sir, this enormous sum is wanted not for too long from their dinners-a new species of these purposes; it is avowedly not necessary, | legerdemain is resorted to. The previous quesexcept to carry on the scheme of invasion and tion, utterly perverted from its original and leconquest against the Canadas. To this scheme gitimate use, is demanded; the demand is supI have never been a friend; but to its prosecu- ported by a majority. In an instant all the tion now, I have invincible objections, founded proposed amendments disappear; every tongue on considerations of justice, humanity, and na is so fettered, that it can utter but aye or no, and tional policy. These objections I wish to ex- the proposition becomes a law without deliberplain and enforce, and thus avail myself of an ation, without correction, and without debate. opportunity of discussing some of the most in- | And this process is called legislation! And the teresting topics which grow out of the alarm- hall in which these goodly doings are transacting state of the nation. I fear that all I can ed is sometimes termed the Temple of Liberty!
Sir, this procedure must be corrected, or free operations, and of consequence that its charac.. dom is ejected from her citadel and wounded ter is not defined by the nature of these operain her very vitals. Inconveniences also result tions. But, sir, he is incorrect in supposing to the majority from this tyrannical exercise of that its character is to be tested by the motive power, sufficient, perhaps, to counterbalance all which occasioned its institution. War is offenthe benefits which can be derived from it. Gen- sive or defensive, simply as it is instituted by or tlemen often complain that the minority do not against a nation. It is an appeal to force to pursue the practice which is adopted by minor decide controversies between sovereigns who ities elsewhere. In England, say they, the op- admit of no other tribunal to determine their position address the House and the nation only rights. There is a perfect analogy in this reon great fundamental questions involving dis- spect between nations at war, and individuals puted principles, and do not hang on the skirts litigating in a court of justice. He who comof every bill, fighting the ministry through all menoes the process is the actor-he who is the details of their measures. Why is not the summoned to the controversy, has the defensive same course pursued here? The answer is ob- part, and it is in this view immaterial whether vious. Here the minority are not allowed to the motive to litigation be found in an honest bring forward these great fundamental ques- desire to claim what is due, or in the malignant tions--they have no opportunity of showing wish to oppress and defraud. For the correcttheir views, except such as may be casually ness of these ideas, I rely not on my own judgafforded by some measure of the majority, on ment. This ought not without hesitation to be which they are good natured enough to allow opposed to that of the honorable gentleman debate. Unless they avail themselves of such a who, independently of his personal claims to atten bill in every stage of it, as a peg on which to tion as chairman of the committee of foreign hang their observations, they must be utterly relations, must be presumed to be particularly mute. Thus it happens, too, that there is fre- conversant with all questions connected with quently not any discernible connection between national law. Any person who has the curiosithe topics discussed, and the subject supposed ty to test these sentiments by the authority of to be under debate. Perhaps the very course I jurists, will find them explicitly recognized by am pursuing is an apt illustration of these facts. Burlamaqui, vol. 2. part 4. chapt. 3. $ 5., and Some weeks since I submitted to the House a by Vattel-b. 3. chapt. 3. $ 35 and 37. resolution which I thought eminently deserving Nor let it be deemed, sir, of no importance of attention-a resolution “that pending our whether this war be called defensive or offennegotiation with Great Britain, it is inexpedi- sive. It is always of moment that things should ent to prosecute a war of invasion and conquest be called by their right names. Many of the against the Canadas." This resolution could vices and most of the errors of men arise from not be discussed, for the House would not the misapplication of terms. The reasoner, who vouchsafe to it a consideration. But, as on the uses words to convey a meaning variant from proposition now before you, debate is indulged, their received signification, will probably occaand has assumed a latitude that seems to per- sion error, however precise his definitions. In mit every thing connected with the war, I am spite of definitions, the hearer appropriates to willing to embrace the occasion to support my his expressions the sense which usage has assofavorite proposition, to which a regular hearing | ciated, and a confusion of ideas fatal to truth is has been refused. Grateful even for this op- the unavoidable consequence. Many phrases, portunity, I acknowledge the courtesy which too, besides their primary meaning, convey & is shown me by the majority; sorely as I feel secondary sense of commendation or blame. By the degradation of indirectly using as a favor an artful use of these, the sophist is enabled to what, as a freeman and the representative of convert the honest prejudices of man, the guards freemen, I ought openly to enjoy as a right of his security, into the instruments of his de
It is very far from my design to enter into aception. The sagacious Mirabean, than whom particular inquiry as to the origin of this war, none better understood the arts which render or as to its causes whether technical or real. the human understanding and passions subserSuch an inquiry would present a theme too im- vient to the tyranny of fraud, he who so long portant and too extensive to be taken up as “rode in the whirlwind, and directed the storm" collateral or subsidiary to some other investiga- of the most furious of revolutions; compressed tion. At the present moment, too, it is not so the elements of his science into one sententious essential to know how this war has been pro- maxim, “words are things." But the distincduced, as it is to ascertain how it ought to be tion between offensive and defensive war has prosecuted, and how it may be speedily and peculiar claims upon our recollection. So fatal fairly brought to a close :-So far only as a I is war to the best interests of the human family, knowledge of the origin and causes of this war that a tremendous responsibility always rests may be useful in producing this result, is it my upon the nation that commences it. This repurpose now to consider them.
sponsibility attaches through all its stages, and An honorable gentleman from South Carolina is awfully increased into certain guilt, by the (Mr. Calhoun) claims for this war the character neglect of any fair opportunity to restore the of defensive. He has properly remarked that a relations of peace. Besides the consideration war defensive in its origin may be offensive in its that the war was offensive in its origin-that consideration which emphatically creates the exertion to vindicate the new religion of the obligation to terminate its horrors as speedily as flag, which like the superstition of the sanctuary justice will permit—will frequently be found to was to protect every fraud, and shelter every present the greatest obstacles to efforts at recon crime. Extravagant therefore, as the positions cilation.
of the gentleman from Pennsylvania may be The advocates for this war, vieing with thought by the far greater part of this com. each other in zeal for its justification and con- mittee, they may have more countenance from tinuance, do not precisely agree in opinion, as the administration than is generally suspected, to its causes, or as to the objects for which it is and on this account may deserve a rapid and to be prosecuted. The gentleman from Penn- transient examination. The assertion that by sylvania who presides over your judiciary com- the general law of nations the character of the mittee (Mr. Ingersoll), in an elaborate argument vessel gives a character to the goods, is unequiseems desirous to prove (I am not certain which) | vocally denied. The actual reverse of the aseither that the war is a consequence of the vio- sertion is maintained by jurists generally with lation on the part of Great Britain of his fa- a harmony that forbids doubt. vorite principle “ free ships make free goods," Instead of detailing their opinions separately, or is to result in the establishment of this prin- permit me to give the language of one who ciple. This comprehensive dogma the gentle-wished well to the gentleman's doctrine, who man contends to be a part of the original una- had often carefully explored the musty volumes dulterated code of national law, consecrated by of national law, and who was never apt to carry the treaty of Utrecht, strenuously asserted by his admissions beyond the line which candor Britain herself in her dispute with Spain, in prescribed. Mr. Jefferson in his letter to Genet, the year 1737, recognized in her commercial of the 24th July, 1793, expresses himself thus: treaty with France, in 1786, and vitally essen-“I believe it cannot be doubted but that by the tial to our maritime interests. The gentleman general law of nations, the goods of a friend from Virginia, whom I yesterday heard with found in the vessel of an enemy are free, and much pleasure (Mr. Jackson,) dissents from his the goods of an enemy found in the vessel of a political friend, and declares that this maxim has friend are lawful prize. It is true that sundry never been asserted by our government under nations, desirous of avoiding the inconveniences any administration, as founded on the common of having their vessels stopped at sea, ransacklaw of nations. Although the gentleman from ed, carried into port, and detained under preVirginia is, in this respect, unquestionably cor-tence of having enemy's goods on board, have rect, yet it is not certain that the chairman of in many instances introduced another principle the judiciary committee is altogether erroneous between them, that enemy bottoms shall make in attributing to the administration an expecta- | enemy goods, and that friendly bottoms shall tion of establishing, by this war, some such make friendly goods; a principle much less emtheory. That the neutral flag shall protect all barrassing to commerce, and equal to all parthat it covers from capture, is a very conven ties in point of gain or loss—but this is altogeient doctrine for a nation frequently at war with ther the effect of particular treaty controlling an adversary of decidedly superior maritime in special cases the general principles of the law strength. France, who, with occasional short of nations, and therefore taking effect between intervals, has been for centuries at war with such nations only as have agreed to control England, has very naturally wished to incorpo- it." If the gentleman will examine the treaties rate this doctrine into the law of nations. Her to which he has adverted, the commercial treaimperial master has adopted it as one of the ty of Utrecht, between England and France elementary principles of his new maritime code, (which by the bye the House of Commons rewhich he solemnly promulgated in his decree of fused to sanction), and the subsequent commerBerlin, of November, 1806, and in support of cial treaty of Mr. Pitt, in 1786, he will find the which he has used every violence and stratagem language on this head unequivocal. The arto array the nations of the world into one great rangement is declared to be made with a view maritime confederacy. At least, as early as the to prevent the embarrassments and dissensions infamous Turreau letter of June, 1809, the exe- that would arise without such an arrangement cutive of this country was perfectly apprised of —or in other words, from the application of the the existence of such a confederacy, of the pur- principles of the common law of nations. Nor poses which it was to uphold, and of the deter- is it at all strange that Britain, in a commercial mination of France to bribe or compel our ac-treaty, from which she expected to derive imcession to it. The decree of the great protector mense advantages, should acquiesce in such an of the confederacy, of the date of April, 1811, arrangement as between her and France. For though probably not issued till May, 1812, an it is obvious that no practical effect could renounced in language sufficiently distinct, that sult from it, except when one was at peace and this claim had been so far complied with on our the other at war. And such a state of things part as to exempt us from the further applica- has so rarely happened that its recurrence might tion of the penalties of disobedience-And our be numbered among political impossibilities. declaration of war against the sole recusant of The “no search" clamor in England of 1737, this imperial theory, was proclaimed by Napo- which the gentleman has produced the parlialeon to his Senate as a spirited and generous mentary debates to prove, had about as much