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TWELFTH CONGRESS.... FIRST Session.
IN SENATE, DEC. 17, 1811. MR. GILES' SPEECH. The Bill for raising an additional Military Force being under con
sideration ; on motion of the Hon. Mr. Anderson to strike out the word“ ten,” for the purpose of inserting a smaller number of reg. iments, Mr. GILES rose, and submitted, in substance, the follozing observations.
MR. GILES said he found himself in a very unprepared state, called upon to oppose a very unexpected motion. The object of the mover had not been very precisely expressed, but he had mentioned the number of 12,000 infantry as preferable to twenty thousand, about the number provided for by the bill. Mr. Giles said it was also understood, that a force of ten thousand men of every defcription would more correspond with the executive views, and fully answer the executive requisition. This, he believed, was the fact. Notwithstanding this circumstance, howev. er, considering the late occurrences on our western frontiers, and the feelings of the western people so justly excited thereby, &c. he acknowledged that the motion had come from the most unexpec. ed quarter of the union, and from a gentleman the most unex. pected to him of all those who represent the western portion of the United States; because, from the long course of military services honorably rendered by that gentleman during the revolutionary war, he must have become well acquainted with the absolute ne. ceflity of a due degree of momentum in military affairs.
Mr. Giles laid he did not propose to go into a full exposition of our foreign relations at this time, yet the motion furnished a moft extensive scope for obfervation, because if it should unfortunately succeed, it would essentially derange, as he conceived, the whole views of the committee, who had reported the bill. He would therefore present to the Senate, the most prominent and important considerations, which he presumed had operated on the com. mittee,and had certainly on himself, to induce the recommenda. tion of twenty-five thousand men, as the smallest possible quantum of force demanded by the crisis, and to demonstrate the advan. tages of a force at least to that extent, over that which seemed to be contemplated by the honorable mover, and still more over that which is said to consist with the executive project.
In the consideration of this subject, it is inuportant to turn our attention to the objects for which a military force is demanded, to enable us the better to apportion the means to the objects inten
ded to be effected. For this purpose he begged the most serious attention of the Senate to the President's Message at the commencement of the fefsion.
“I must now add, (observes the President,) that the period has arrivecl, wkich claims from the legislative guardians of the national rights a system of more ample provisions for maintaining them. -Notwithstanding the fcrupulous justice, the protracted moderation, and the multiplied efforts on the part of the United States to fubftitute for the accumulating dangers to the peace of the two countries, all the mutual advantages of re-established friendship and confidence; we have seen that the British cabinet perfeveres, not only in withholding a remedy for other wrongs so long and fo loudly calling for it : but in the execution, brought home to the threshold of our territory, of measures which, under existing cir. cumstances, have the character as well as the effect, of WAR on our lawful commerce.
With this evidence of hoftile inflexibility, in trampling on rights which no independent nation can relinquish, Congress will feel the duty of putting the United States into an armour and atti. tude demanded by the crisis, and corresponding with the national spirit and expectations.
“I recommend, accordingly, that adequate provision be made for filling the ranks and prolonging the enlistments of the 'regular troops ; for an auxiliary force to be engaged for a more limited term ; for the acceptance of volunteer corps, whose patriotic ardor may court a participation in urgent services; for detachments, as they may be wanted, of other portions of the militia, and for such a preparation of the great body as will proportion its usefulness to its intrinsic capacity."
Here we find, in the first place, the most folemn and imperious call upon Congress in the character of the “ legislative guardians of the national rights for a system of more ample provisions for maintaining them.” The President then very properly and emphatically proceeds to tell us why he makes, this folemn call upon the legislative guardians at this time. He tells us in substance, that notwithstanding the scrupulous justice, the protracted modera. tion, and the multiplied efforts on the part of the United States," to induci Great Britain to recede from her hostile aggressions upon their effential sovereign rights, fo far from yielding to thefe polite and pathetic invitations, she had increased her aggreffions, and had adopted “ measures which under existing circumstances, have the character as well as the effect, of war on our neutral commerce ;” and that these measures are, in their execution, "brought home to the threshold of our territory." Could the President have chosen language more emphatic to fhew the im. perious character of the call made upon Congress to furnish him with adequate physikal means to retreive the honor and redress the wrongs of the nation ? Left there might be fome possible mistake on the part of Congress, he tells us explicitly, that the aggreflions of Great Britain have the character, as well as the effect,of war upon our lawful commerce, and that this war is brought home to the threshold of our territory.
But the President does not stop here. He tells us that notwithstanding our protracted moderation, &c. &c. Great Britain, with hostile inflexibility, perseveres in trampling on effential sove. reign rights ; rights, at least,“ which no independent nation can relinquilh.” Here then, it is evident that the President conceives, that our independence, as a nation, is brought into quel. tion, and put at hazard. Can any object present a more awful and imperious call upon Congress to exert and apply the whole energies of the nation, than a question of INDEPENDENCE ? The plain English of all this communication, he understood to be, that all the inefficient measures, which have been adopted in relation to the belligerents for three years past had not answered the expectations of their projectors; but instead of the expected reaffion, had produced, on the part of Great Britain at least, inflexible hostility. This was a very natural result, and one which he had always anticipated, as was well known to this honorable body. But the administration, having learnt wisdom by these teeble experiments, had now determined to change its course, and for the purpose of rendering this hostility more flexible, had at length resolved, instead of commercial restrictions, to try the ef. fect of physical force. An adequate force is therefore demanded by the executive ; and the adequacy of that force is very proper. ly referred to Congress where the responsibility is placed by the conftitution; where it ought to reft; and, for one he was willing to take his fúll share of it. But the President goes further. Af ter designating the objects, he points out the standard for afcer. taining the adequacy of the force demanded for their effi Etuation. In his official responsible message, he tells us that “Congress will · feel the duty of putting the U. States into an armor, and an atti. tude demanded by the crisis, and corresponding with the national fpirit and expectations.” The standard here pointed out for calculating the quantum of force to be supplied is “ The Crisis, (which had been previously described in the most folemn and imposing terms) and “the national spirit and expectations." Whether the committee had reported too great a force for fubdu. ing the crisis, he was willing to submit to the verdict of the na. tional spirit and expectations.
But it is now said or intimated in substance, that this official ref. ponsible standard is only oftensible, and that the true standard for estimating the quantum of force demanded, must be derived from the decrepid state of the treasury, and the financial fame of the gentleman at the head of that department–This subject will require a distinct consideration ; but in the mean time it is fufficient to say, that the committee unanimously refused to be influ. enced by any considerations, but those resulting from the official responsible communication, and their own reflections upon the
ftate of the nation as disclosed thereby. They unanimously rejected informal inofficial communications,
It will be observed too, in the mcllage, the President, in his more specific recommendations, after designating the kinds of force fuited to the occasion, leaves the quantum of each to be judged of, and decided by Congress, where the responsibility did and ought to reft ; and Mr. G. was unwilling, by receding from his constitutional duty, to revert this responsibility upon the execurive.
It thus appearing, said Mr. G. that the force derhanded was for the purpose of wan,ifunfortunately we should be driven by G. Britain to that last'refort; and that although the war would be undertaken upon principles strictly defensive, yet in its operation it mult necessarily become offensive on our part; and that Congress was to determine exclusively upon the adequacy of the means for conducting it; he would now proceed to inquire more particularly, ift, whether the committee had recommended a force more than adequate to the purposes of the war ; and 2d, whether it was within the capacity of the U. States to supply the force thus recommended ?
Mr. G. faid that in estimating the quantum of force demanded by the existing crisis, it appeared to him, gentlemen had not giv. en sufficient confideration to the attitude assumed by the United States, in relation to the Floridas, to the extention of our southern and western frontiers, to the late hostile acts and threatenings in that quarter ; nor to the importance of Orleans, its exposed position and defenceless situation. These circumstances, however, entered deeply into the consideration of the committee, and induced it to conclude that the whole military establishment now authorised by law, if completed, would not be more than fufficient, perhaps insuffici nt, to answer the necessary objects of the gov. ernment in the fcenes juft defcribed; it was therefore intended that the whole of that force should be left free to act therein ac. cording to circumstances, and that the additional force now re. commended should act exclusively in the northern and eastern portion of the union. This force no gentleman will pretend can be too great for our objects in that quarter, in the event of war, unaided by the existing establishment--Hence it was matter of great surprize to hiin, that the western gentlemen should wish to diminish the number of men now proposed to be raised ; because he believed, that every man deducted from the proposed force, would take one from the force intended by the committee to protect our fouthern and western frontiers. These gentlemen, he prefumed, must be better judges than himfelf how many of these men they can generousls spare from thcir own protection; but for his part he thought there was not one to fpare from these objects, and the committee were willing to give the whole of shem that destination.
With respect to the protection of Orlcans, he knew it was the
expectation of the late administration, that in the event of war, Great-Britain would possess herself of that city; and it was not their intention to incur the expense of being constantly prepared to repel the first incursions of the enemy : He did not know the intention of the prefent administration in that respect, but prifum. ed it was acting on the same policy. In case the British Should take pofseffion of Orleans, the western people must necessarily be called on to drive them out, and he doubted very much whether it would be a very acceptable occupation or a very easy task. He had always dissapproved of this policy, and in the event of war, he thought it wilc, not only to be prepared for defence at all points, but to give the firit blow. He believed, in the end, it would be found, not only the wiseft, but the most economical policy, both in blood and treasure.
Having presented to the Senate the objects to which the exist. ing m litary establishment ought to be assigned, according to the vews of the committee, he would proceed to inquire, whether the additional force recommended would be more than competent to the objects to which it muft necessarily be assigned, and which ought unquestionably to be effected by it. In case of war, an event he deprecated as much as any gentleman present, the new army would have to man your fortifications on the fea board from Norfolk to the extremities of our territory north and east and to occupy Canada. These are the contemplatid and indis. pensable objects of this army, in the estimation of the Executive and the honorable mover, as well as of the committee. The que ftion will therefore turn upon the accuracy and correctness of their respective calculations as to the quantum of force necefsary to effect these objects.
Mr. G. said he had a converfation with the Secretary for the department of War, in his character of chairman of the committee of foreign relations, in which the Secretary did endeavor to demonstrate to him, that a smaller number of men than 25.000 would answer these objects; but so far from producing this conviction, it satisfied him that the number was too small. He thought that every inference drawn by the honorable Secretary, ought to have been inverted. For instance, he was asked, how many men were indispensably necessary to man the fortifications at New York. The honorable Secretary replied 2000s but he intended to make 1000 answer, and would rely for the rest of the complement on the local militia. Now, said Mr. G. he inferred, if 2000 men were necessary for that most ex. posed and important pofition, that 1000 could not answer with the precarious and accidental aid of the local militia ; that 2000 ought to be calculated on for that service ; and if with the aid of the local militia they could protect New York against the force Great-Britain might detach againft that city, they would perform their full share of the toils and perils of the war.
Two thousand men, completely furnished with all the means of annoyance, pof