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Samuel Taggart, Speech Opposing the War 24 June 1812 - Lance Banning, Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle 
Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle, ed. and with a Preface by Lance Banning (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
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Samuel Taggart, Speech Opposing the War 24 June 1812
Most of the Federalists in Congress, including twenty of the thirty delegates from New England, voted against the war. Among them was congressman Samuel Taggart of Massachusetts. Congress made the decision for war in closed session, and Taggart decided not to deliver the speech he had prepared, but it was published in the Alexandria Gazette on 24 June and then in the Annals of Congress.
I consider the question now before the House as the most important of any on which I have been called upon to decide since I have been honored with a seat in this House, whether it can be considered in relation to its principles or consequences. It is no less than whether I will give my vote to change the peaceful habits of the people of the United States for the attitude of war and the din of arms, and familiarize our citizens with blood and slaughter. … I cannot contemplate my country as on the verge of a war, especially of a war which to me appears both unnecessary and impolitic in the outset, and which will probably prove disastrous in the issue, a war, which, in my view, goes to put not only the lives and property of our most valuable citizens, but also our liberty and independence itself, at hazard, without experiencing the most painful sensations. Believing, as I most conscientiously do, that a war, at this time, would jeopardize the best, the most vital interests, of the country which gave me birth and in which is contained all that I hold near and dear in life, I have, so far as depended upon my vote, uniformly opposed every measure which I believed had a direct tendency to lead to war… .
… I wish it to be kept in view, that I have no intention, neither do I entertain a wish, to vindicate the Orders in Council. Every neutral, and especially every American, must view the principles contained in these orders as injurious to his rights. … I shall barely consider the Orders in Council on the footing in which we have placed the subject in dispute by the law of the first of May, 1810, in which the Congress of the United States declares, that in case either Great Britain or France shall, before the first day of March next, so revoke or modify her edicts that they shall cease to violate the neutral commerce of the United States, and the other does not, in three months thereafter, revoke and modify in like manner, certain enumerated sections of the former non-intercourse law of 1809 shall be revived. … I have always doubted whether a repeal in the proper and literal sense of the term, or whether anything like a substantial or even a virtual repeal has taken place.
Sir, if there had been ever anything like a formal explicit act of the French Government, officially communicated, declaring these decrees repealed; if this supposed repeal had been communicated to the ordinary tribunals of justice in France, and they had received directions to act accordingly; if these ordinary tribunals had declined to take cognizance of cases of capture and condemnation under these decrees, for the express reason that they no longer existed; if similar orders had been given to the commanders of French cruisers on the high seas; but more especially if the effects of these decrees had ceased, and American commerce was now no longer subject to vexation or to capture and condemnation under their operation, this would have afforded such evidence of their repeal as would have been satisfactory to my mind, and it is such evidence as the nature of the case required and was reasonably to be expected. We would then have to complain of no other infringement of our rights on the ocean only what arose from the Orders in Council, and we might with propriety insist upon their repeal, on the grounds which we have set up… .
I do not urge these observations with a view either to justify or palliate the Orders in Council, but merely to show that, on the foundation on which we have chosen to place the controversy by our law of May 1st, 1810, they are no cause either of war or of non-importation. France has never in good faith complied with the proposal held out by the United States in that law. … I shall not at present attempt to take a comparative view of the degree of injury and vexation which we receive in our lawful commerce from the decrees and orders. I will admit that the orders have been more vexatious, and more rigorously carried into effect, during the last twelve or eighteen months, and that captures under them have been both more numerous and more valuable than for the same space of time previous to that period. One cause of this may be found in the attitude which we have assumed. So long as we placed both the belligerents upon an equal footing, the Orders in Council were not very rigorously carried into effect. By our non-importation law we have departed from our neutral ground and have no longer considered the different belligerents as on an equal footing. The consequence has been that the Orders in Council have been more rigorously carried into effect on the part of Great Britain. And since the additional hostile attitude assumed during the present session of Congress has been known in Great Britain, I understand, from the public prints, that orders have been given for their still more rigid execution. Unless she saw fit to rescind them, this was naturally to be expected. In proportion as we assume a more hostile attitude towards her and show a disposition to embrace her enemy in the arms of friendship and affection, it was to be expected that she would either relax and accede to our demands or adhere more rigorously to her own system. She has chosen the latter.
As it respects the impressment of seamen, this is a delicate and a difficult subject, and if it is ever adjusted to mutual satisfaction it must be by war; and whenever there is mutually a disposition to accommodate, it will be found necessary to concede something on both sides. With respect to the practice of impressments generally, as it respects the citizens or subjects of the country adopting that method of manning her ships, it may be, and doubtless is, in many instances, attended with circumstances of real hardship. The practice may be oppressive, but it is founded upon a principle which is adopted and more or less practiced upon by every nation, i.e. that the nation has a right, either in one shape or another, to compel the services of its citizens or subjects in time of war. The practice of drafting militiamen into actual service, which is authorized by our laws, the conscription of France for the purpose of recruiting her armies, and the impressment of seamen to man a navy, are all greater or less extensions of the same principle. It is vain to contend against the principle itself, since we have sanctioned it by our laws and daily practice upon it, however hardly we may think of some of the particular modes in which it is applied. I feel satisfaction, however, in the reflection that it has never had the sanction of my vote. The principle then being admitted, the only ground of complaint is the irregular application of it to Americans. Great Britain does not claim, she never has claimed the right of impressing American citizens. She claims the right of reclaiming her own subjects, even although they should be found on board of American vessels. And in the assertion of that claim, many irregularities have without doubt been committed by her officers, on account of the similarity of language, manners, and habits. American citizens have been frequently mistaken for British subjects; but I do not know of any instance in which a real American has been reclaimed, where sufficient testimony of his being an American has been adduced, in which his liberation has been refused. No person would, I presume, wish to involve this country in a war for the sake of protecting deserters, either from British vessels or the British service, who may choose to shelter themselves on board of our ships, allured by the prospects of gain. No, sir, we do not want their services. They are a real injury to the America seamen, both by taking their bread from them and exposing them to additional perils of impressment on the high seas. But it is a fact which can easily be substantiated, and will not be disputed by any one having a competent knowledge of the subject, that thousands of men of that description have been and still are employed on board our ships, and have been by some means furnished with all the usual documents of American seamen. Could an efficient plan be devised to prevent men of this description from assuming the garb, personating the character, and claiming the privileges of Americans, I presume the difficulties which occur in settling the question about impressments might be easily surmounted. But so long as such a large number of foreign seamen are employed on board our vessels, and so long as American protections for these foreigners can be obtained with such facility, and are mere matters of bargain and sale, and English, Scotch, and Irish sailors are furnished with them, I pretend not to say by what means, indiscriminately with American citizens, it will be difficult to adjust that subject by treaty, it will be impossible to settle it by war. Only let us adopt a plan whereby a discrimination can be made, and the controversy may be amicably settled. But to say that the flag of every merchant ship shall protect every foreigner who may choose to take refuge on board of it, is the same as to say that we will have no accommodation on the subject, because it is a point which, it is well known, never can be conceded. There is another description of citizens about which there may be some difficulty, I mean naturalized foreigners. These, however, are few in number, it being rarely found that seamen take the benefit of our naturalization laws. There are still some. It is I believe a truth that neither Great Britain nor any other European nation admits of expatriation, and that the United States both admit the expatriation of their own citizens and, on terms sufficiently liberal, naturalizes foreigners. But we cannot expect, with any color of reason, that our natu-ralization laws will make any alteration in the policy of foreign nations, any more than the European doctrine of perpetual allegiance will influence us. Both are municipal regulations, which can be executed only in the respective territories of the parties and make no part of the law of nations, which is alone binding on the high seas. And every nation claims a right to the services of all its citizens or subjects in time of war. If the United States protect these naturalized foreigners in all the rights and privileges of American citizens, so long as they choose to continue among us, it is a protection sufficiently ample and as much as they can reasonably claim from the government. As long as they continue in the quiet pursuits of civil life on shore, they are in no danger of being remanded back into the service of the country they have abandoned. But when they chose to abandon the land for the ocean, and place themselves in a situation in which it is entirely optional with them whether they return or not, or whether they continue or renounce their allegiance, to attempt to afford protection to them in this situation, at the risk of a war, is to extend to them the privileges of citizenship much farther than they have a right either to expect or claim. If our protections were thus limited to the proper subjects, it would be easy to render them sufficient. This would narrow down the difficulty in adjusting the affairs of impressments and would greatly diminish the numbers of supposed impressed Americans, which are said to be contained in these floating hells, as they have been called. They would be found to be comparatively few, probably not so many hundreds as they have been estimated at thousands, the obstacles in the way of their release would be removed, and impressments probably prevented in future. None of these objects will be obtained by war, but rather by grasping at too much, we will fail of obtaining what we have a right to demand. I do not make these observations with a view to excuse the practice of impressments as generally conducted. But when we are insisting on this as one cause of war, it is proper to view the subject as it is and not through a magnifying mirror which represents every object as being tenfold larger than the life.
I shall say no more of the causes of war as they respect the aggressions of foreign nations. I must now beg the attention of the House for a few minutes to an inquiry, what there is in the present situation of the United States which so imperiously calls for this war. It is said to be necessary to go to war for the purpose of securing our commercial rights, of opening a way for obtaining the best market for our produce, and in order to avenge the insults which have been offered to our flag. But what is there in the present situation of the United States which we could reasonably expect would be ameliorated by war? In a situation of the world which is perhaps without a parallel in the annals of history, it would be strange, indeed, if the United States did not suffer some inconveniences, especially in their mercantile connections and speculations. In a war which has been unequaled for the changes which it has effected in ancient existing establishments and for innovations in the ancient laws and usages of nations, it would be equally wonderful if, in every particular, the rights of neutrals were scrupulously respected. But, upon the whole, we have reaped greater advantages and suffered fewer inconveniences from the existing state of things than it was natural to expect. During a considerable part of the time in which so large and fair a portion of Europe has been desolated by the calamities of war, our commerce has flourished to a degree surpassing the most sanguine calculations. Our merchants have been enriched beyond any former example. Our agriculture has been greatly extended, the wilderness has blossomed like a rose, and cities and villages have sprung up, almost, as it were, by the force of magic. It is true that this tide of prosperity has received a check. The aggression and encroachments of foreign nations have set bounds to our mercantile speculations; heavy losses have been sustained by the merchant; and the cotton planter of the South and West can no longer reap those enormous profits, those immense golden harvests, from that species of agriculture which he did a few years ago. But if the shackles which we have placed upon commerce by our own restrictive system were completely done away and the enterprise of the merchant was left free to explore new channels, it is probable that it would at this moment be more extensive and more gainful than in times of profound peace in Europe. During the operation of the war a much greater proportion of the commerce of the world was thrown into the hands of the Americans than in times less turbulent would have fallen to their share… .
… What is the particular achievement to be accomplished by this armament. … Canada must be ours; and this is to be the sovereign balm, the universal panacea, which is to heal all the wounds we have received either in our honor, interest, or reputation. This is to be the boon which is to indemnify us for all past losses on the ocean, secure the liberty of the seas hereafter, protect our seamen from impressments, and remunerate us for all the blood and treasure which is to be expended in the present war. Our rights on the ocean have been assailed, and, however inconsistent it may seem to go as far as possible from the ocean to seek redress, yet this would appear to be the policy. We are to seek it, it seems, by fighting the Indians on the Wabash or at Tippecanoe, or the Canadians at Fort Malden, at Little York, at Kingston, at Montreal, and at Quebec. … I shall say nothing of either the morality or the humanity, or of the reverse of both, which will be displayed in attacking an inoffensive neighbor and endeavoring to overwhelm a country which has done us no wrong with a superior military force alone. The conquest of Canada has been represented to be so easy as to be little more than a party of pleasure. We have, it has been said, nothing to do but to march an army into the country and display the standard of the United States, and the Canadians will immediately flock to it and place themselves under our protection. They have been represented as ripe for revolt, panting for emancipation from a tyrannical government, and longing to enjoy the sweets of liberty under the fostering hand of the United States. On taking a different view of their situation, it has been suggested that, if they should not be disposed to hail us on our arrival as brothers, come to emancipate and not to subdue them, that they are a debased race of poltroons, incapable of making anything like a stand in their own defense, that the mere sight of an army of the United States would immediately put an end to all thoughts of resistance; that we had little else to do only to march, and that in the course of a few weeks one of our valiant commanders, when writing a dispatch to the President of the United States, might adopt the phraseology of Julius Caesar: Veni,Vidi, Vici. This subject deserves a moment’s consideration. To presume on the disaffection or treasonable practices of the inhabitants for facilitating the conquest will probably be to reckon without our host. The Canadians have no cause of disaffection with the British government. They have ever been treated with indulgence. They enjoy all that security and happiness, in their connection with Great Britain, that they could reasonably expect in any situation. Lands can be acquired by the industrious settlers at an easy rate, I believe for little more than the office fees for issuing patents, which may amount to three to four cents per acre. They have few or no taxes to pay. I believe none, only a trifle for the repairs of highways. They have a good market for their surplus produce, unhampered with embargoes or commercial restrictions of any kind, and are equally secure both in person and property, both in their civil and religious rights, with the citizens of the United States. What have they, therefore, to gain by a connection with the United States? Would it be any advantage to them to have the price of vacant lands raised from a sum barely sufficient to pay office fees, say three or four dollars one hundred acres, to two dollars per acre? Have we any other boon to hold out to them which can ameliorate their condition? It cannot be pretended. Why, then, should they desire a revolution? They want nothing of us, only not to molest them, and to buy and sell on terms of mutual reciprocity. We, therefore, ought to calculate on every man in Canada as an enemy, or if he is not hostile at the moment of the commencement of the expedition, an invasion of the country will soon make him so, and when an enemy is in the heart of a country, ready to attack our homes and houses, it will inspire even a poltroon with courage… .
But, let us admit, for the sake of argument, that Canada is at length conquered, and everything settled in that quarter—Cui bono? For whose benefit is the capture of Canada? What advantages are we likely to reap from the conquest? Will it secure the liberty of the seas or compel Great Britain to rescind her Orders in Council? Did we ever know an instance in which Great Britain gave up a favorite measure for the sake of saving a foreign possession, perhaps of very little value to her? Will the advantages to be derived from the conquest of Canada be an equivalent for the loss and damage we may sustain in other quarters? What is Great Britain to be about all the time that we are wresting Canada out of her possession? Is it consistent with the vigor with which she usually acts to stand by and tamely look on? Either she will attempt a vigorous defense of Canada or she will not. If she does, some of the difficulties of the enterprise have been stated. If she does not, it will be that she may be the better able to inflict a severe blow in some other quarter. Admitting war to be sincerely intended, no course could be devised more inconsistent with the maxims of sound policy than that which appears to be pursuing by the United States… .