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560

THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH.

[CHAP. VII. them. He suggests the propriety of indemnifying the Inspector and others who had been injured in the late disturbances. He finds consolation for this political disaffection in the proof it has afforded that the true principles of government and of civil liberty are well understood by the citizens of the United States, and that they will ever be as ready to sustain the civil authority against licentious invasions of it as against usurpations: that a patriotic spirit has been equally manifested by the least, and the most wealthy classes.

The attention of Congress is called to the militia laws, and some of their defects are specially noticed. A definitive plan for the redemption of the public debt is also earnestly recommended.

Some expressions in this speech invite criticism, of which the opposition in both Houses readily availed themselves. He said that, from a belief that certain selfcreated societies had assumed the tone of condemning the excise laws, in allusion to the "Democratic Societies," which, in imitation of the Jacobin clubs of Paris, were established in various parts of the United States; and, in another part of the speech, he remarked, "when they [the citizens] have retraced the origin and progress of the insurrection, let them determine whether it has not been fomented by combinations of men who, careless of consequences, and disregarding the unerring truth that those who rouse cannot always appease a civil convulsion, have disseminated, from an ignorance or perversion of facts, suspicions, jealousies, and accusations of the whole Government.

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In the Senate, an answer to the speech having been prepared by a committee, on the following day Mr. Burr of New York, seconded by Mr. Jackson of Georgia, moved to expunge the following passage:

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SELF-CREATED SOCIETIES.

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"Our anxiety, arising from the licentious and open resistance to the laws in the western counties of Pennsylvania, has been increased by the proceedings of certain self-created societies, relative to the laws and administration of the Government; proceedings, in our apprehension, founded on political error; calculated, if not intended, to disorganize our Government, and which, by inspiring delusive hopes of support, have been influential in misleading our fellow-citizens in the scene of insurrection."

But the motion was negatived, and the reported answer adopted.

In the present day it may seem strange that the proceedings and publications of a few voluntary associations should have been worthy of notice to the Legislature, or that the President should conceive that he had a right thus to denounce any portion of his fellow-citizens for exercising their right of speaking or printing, even though they had, in his opinion, greatly abused that right; and still more strange, perhaps, that one branch of the Legislature - that branch to which men would be most likely to look for moderation and wisdom - should have fallen into the same error. If the Democratic Societies had been actuated by the motives ascribed to them; if their publications had been attended by the mischievous consequences alleged (both of which are highly probable), it ought to have been recollected that they were amenable to no law which could be constitutionally passed by Congress for any thing which they should speak or write.' It seemed, therefore, not accordant with dignity or propriety to notice publications to a Legislature which had no power of punishing them; and

'First amendment to the Constitution. VOL I.—36

562

PARTY DISCUSSIONS.

[CHAP. VII. supposing their attacks on the administration to have been false or unwarranted, the proper course towards them was to bring them before the same forum to which they themselves had appealed. The power and authority of the Government is here to be exerted only against the violations of law.

The two parties being nearly balanced in the House, their contest for the ascendency generally, and on the subject of the Democratic Societies in particular, was vehement and obstinate.

In this state of things, insignificant questions acquired an undue and unwonted importance. Thus, the President having spoken of his "policy, in foreign transactions, to cultivate peace with all the world, to observe treaties with pure and absolute faith, to check every deviation from the line of impartiality," Mr. Madison, who had prepared the reply of the House, proposed the following amendment:

"Solicitous also, as we are, for the preservation of peace with all nations, we cannot otherwise than warmly approve of a policy in our foreign transactions which never loses sight of that blessing.

But the Federal party insisted that the words "a policy," instead of "your policy," was an implied censure on the President. The alteration was opposed by Mr. Madison; but after a discussion of the question by both parties, he put an end to the debate, on the suggestion of a member, by withdrawing his amendment.

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Mr. Fitzsimmons proposed, as an amendment to the answer to the President's speeeh reported by the committee, a censure on "the self-created societies, which, by deceiving and inflaming the ignorant and weak, may be naturally supposed to have stimulated the insurrection."

Mr. Giles, in his reply, opposed the amendment; and,

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SELF-CREATED SOCIETIES.

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after expressing his high respect for the President, and entire confidence in him, he objected to the sweeping censure on self-created societies, remarking that there was scarce a man in the United States who did not belong to some self-created society: that the term would apply to the Methodists, Baptists, Friends, and other sects that the Republican Society of Baltimore were among the first who marched against the insurgents; and that some of the Democrats of Philadelphia had done the same thing. In answer to the remark, that as these Societies had censured the administration, the Legislature might justifiably in turn censure the Societies, he denied that as legislators they had any right to censure, but only in their private capacity.

This amendment, after having been warmly debated by Messrs. Lyman, M'Dowell, and Nicholas, in its favor, and by Messrs. Smith, Tracy, Dayton, and Murray, was the next day withdrawn by its mover, Mr. Fitzsimmons.

The debate was, however, renewed, and continued for three days, during which the ablest members of the House took part — Messrs. Madison, Giles, Nicholas, and Baldwin against the insertion of the obnoxious words; and Messrs. Hillhouse, Sedgwick, Boudinot, Dexter, Scott, and Ames, in favor of it.

Mr. Scott, who lived in the western part of Pennsylvania, bore testimony to the mischievous influence of the Democratic Societies; and Mr. Ames greatly distinguished himself by his eloquent denunciations of those societies, founded on a reference to their intemperate doctrines and proceedings in various parts of the United States.

Several successive amendments were made, and the contest of the two parties seemed to hinge upon the introduction of the words "self-created societies," which were alternately adopted and rejected. At length, on the

564

THANKS TO WAYNE AND OTHERS. [CHAP. VII.

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twenty-eighth, they were struck out of the response to the speech, and the following passage was adopted:

"We learn, with the greatest concern, that any misrepresentations whatever of the Government and its proceedings, either by individuals, or combinations of men, should have been made, and so far credited as to foment the flagrant outrage which has been committed on the laws."

From this small triumph obtained by the opponents of the administration, the Democratic Societies appeared to derive new vigor; but after the downfall of Robespierre and the Jacobin Clubs in France, which took place during this year, the American Societies fell also into general disrepute, and gradually died away.

It was deemed prudent to pass an act authorising the President to station a detachment of militia in the four western counties of Pennsylvania which had taken part in the insurrection. Provision was also made to indemnify those whose property had been destroyed by the insurgents; and an appropriation of more than a million of dollars was made to defray the expenses of quelling the insurrection.

Votes of thanks to General Wayne and General Scott, and the officers and soldiers under them respectively, were objected to by several of the members, as setting a bad precedent, but were finally adopted by an unanimous vote. The thanks of the House to the militia of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, who, "on the late call of the President, had rallied round the standard of the laws," were also voted with the same unanimity.

The redemption of the public debt was among the first of those subjects recommended by the President on which Congress acted. It was referred to a select committee, of

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