MVB Senate speech on bill to supress piracy, 31 January 1825
Mr. VAN BUREN said that the subject under consideration was justly considered by the gentlemen who had spoken before him, as one of the utmost importance, requiring prompt, zealous, and efficient attention of the government. It was one in which a great portion of his immediate constituents, from their situation and pursuits, had a deep interest, and thinking so, partook largely of the general solicitude which was every where felt in relation to the proceedings of Congress in the matter. That circumstance must be his apology for prolonging a discussion which had been conducted with so much ability. At the commencement of the session, this subject was referred to the committee on Foreign Relations; they had given to it their early and zealous attention, and the bill on the table was the result of their deliberations. Although he might not be able to approve all its provisions, he was led, by inclination as well as duty, to give them a liberal and candid examination-to aid in their improvement, if that should be in his power, and support such as he could, consistent with obligations of an equally imperative character.
Although the immediate question before the Senate was to strike out the third section, authorizing, in certain cases, a blockade of the ports of the Spanish Islands in the West Indies, the discussion had embraced the whole subject. He thought this course justifiable, and would himself follow the example which had been set. As early as the year 1822, piracies in the Gulf of Mexico and West India seas, had arrived at so great a height, and assumed a character so alarming, as to call for the most rigorous exertion of the Government for their suppression. The call was not made in vain. In December, 1822, a law was passed, “authorizing an additional naval force for the suppression of piracy;” making an ample appropriation for the object, and placing the means provided at the disposal of the Executive. Those means had been put in prompt and effectual requisition, under his direction. In February, 1823, a squadron, consisting of seventeen vessels, of different sizes, besides barges, was prepared for sea, and despatched upon the service authorized by the act, under the command of the most gallant and meritorious officer of the navy, Captain David Porter. The success which crowned the exertions of Capt. Porter, and the gallant men under his command, was fresh in the recollection of all. Although driven from the station by pestilence, in the latter part of the season, such had been the destruction, and such the impression made on the pirates, that Captain Porter, in his letter to the Secretary of the Navy, of Nov. 19, 1823, declared “that he had no knowledge of the existence of an piratical establishment, vessel, or boat, or of a pirate afloat in the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico. That they had all been burnt, taken, destroyed, and driven to the shore, where the latter had, in most cases, been speedily captured by the local military.” And the Secretary of the Navy, in his report to the President, of the 1st of December, 1823, which accompanied his message to Congress, stated that “piracy, as a system, had been suppressed in the neighborhood of the Island of Cuba, and now required only to be watched by a proper force, to be prevented from afflicting commerce any further in that quarter.” Such were the results produced by the exertions made for the suppression of piracy in 1823. Let us now, (said Mr. V. B.) direct our attention, for a few moments, to those of past year. The Secretary of the Navy, in his communication of the 12th of January last, informs us, that all the vessels, making the squadron of 1823, (except four small schooners, two of which had been lost, and two abandoned, as unfit for service,) “had been uniformly employed in the object, so far as their size, and the necessity of occasional returns into port for stores and repairs, would permit; that the effect produced had fallen far short of that of the preceding season, was most apparent. From the month of July down to the last accounts, the horrid practice had been gradually extending and assuming new features of atrocity, until it had arrived at a height not only ruinous to our commerce in those seas, but, in an unprecedented degree, destructive of the lives of our citizens, and distressing to the cause of humanity.”
To what cause, he asked, are we to attribute this unfortunate and distressing disparity in the results of the service of the two successive seasons? He put the question, not with a view to implicate any one, but to be informed, by those more capable, and who had better means of information: To the end that, if in the power of Congress, the appropriate remedy might be applied. He knew too well, and prized too highly, the gallantry, fortitude, and perseverance, of our naval officers and seamen, to believe, for a moment, that they could be deficient in any thing which duty required at their hands; and he did not feel himself at liberty, from all the information before us, to say that there had been dishonor or misconduct upon the part of those to whose control the force employed was entrusted. In the communications made to the Department of State by the commercial agents at the Havana, (Mr. Randall and Mr. Mountain,) and laid before the Senate, in pursuance of their call, the explanation is attempted to be given. In their several letters, from July to late in November, they complain of the withdrawal of the squadron from that station. They put this matter strongly before the Government-they say, “that, since the spring, the vessels have been dispersed on various services remote from the Island; that they have merely made it a touching point, in transitu, without remaining long enough to make any permanent impression on the system.” They do not question, but, on the contrary, highly applaud the zeal, enterprise, and courage, of our officers and seamen actually engaged in pursuit of the pirates, but attribute the consequence to the diversion of the force to other and incompatible objects; of which, the chief one, they say, is the employment of the vessels, destined for the suppression of piracy, to the transportation of specie from ports in the Gulf of Mexico to the United States. They are very explicit on this subject, and as he (Mr. VAN BUREN,) had already observed, expressed themselves very strongly. On the other hand, Commodore Porter repelled the complaints which had been made to the Government by merchants and others, with great force, attributing the revival of piracy to causes other than those spoken of by Randall and Mountain. It was not, Mr. VAN BUREN said, for the Senate to decide whether there was blame any where, or if there was, where it lay. The act of 1822 did not (as its title would seem to indicate,) confine the appropriation exclusively to the suppression of piracy, but provides “for affording effectual protection to the citizens and commerce of the United States, in the Gulf of Mexico and the seas and territories adjacent.” Under it, Commodore Porter had been charged by the Navy Department, in his first instructions, in addition to the suppression of piracy, not only to extend his attention to the suppression of the slave trade, to the system of privateering on our commerce, carried on from Porto Rico and Porto Cavello, but also to the protection of the convoy of specie from Vera Cruz and the Mexican coast generally to the United States. There was, Mr. V. B. said, no complaint from the Department, that any greater attention had been paid to the latter branch of duty than was warranted by its instructions.
But he thought there was reason to apprehend, that the main object, the suppression of piracy, had been seriously affected by the multiplication and variety, and supposed incompatibility of the duties he had spoken of. He advanced this suggestion, however, with diffidence. His inexperience in these matters might lead him into error-but if there was ground for the apprehension he entertained, he respectfully submitted whether measures ought not now to be taken to prevent a recurrence of the evil. Mr. VAN BUREN said, he would not detain the Senate longer on that branch of the subject, but proceed to the consideration of the different sections of the bill. (He then adverted to the provisions of the bill authorizing the building of ten sloops of war, the privileges given and rights secured to merchant vessels who should arm for their own defence, and the authority to place on the pension list those seamen in the merchant service who should be wounded by the pirates, and the widows or children of the slain, explaining the grounds on which they rested, and his ideas of their propriety.) These, said Mr. V. B. are all the provisions recommended by the committee looking to attacks upon the pirates on the ocean. They are appropriate, and, as far as such measures can go, will doubtless be found sufficient. But it is supposed that, in consequence of the changed condition of things on the Island of Cuba, other measures, and of a different character, are called for.
In 1823, Commodore Porter ultimately received efficient aid from the local authorities of the Island. It is now said, that that aid has been withheld during the last season, and that, instead thereof, there has been criminal confederacy with the pirates on the part of the great body of the inhabitants of the Island, and a participation in their plunder-that, with the exception of the Captain General, and some of the higher officers, there has not only been a total remissness on the part of the local authorities in the use of means for the detection and destruction of the pirates; but that they have received countenance and protection from most of the officers of the Government. It is on the assumption of those positions, that the committee have recommended measures which are intended to bear upon the inhabitants themselves. That these measures, or others of the same tendency, may change the existing relations between Spain and our Government, is understood; and the consequent propriety of looking well to the facts on which they are predicated, has been duly appreciated. The Executive has been called upon for information. He has furnished it. Of the credibility of the sources from which it is derived, we cannot judge; but we are to presume it good-the ability of its author is apparent. The statements made by Mr. Randall, and by Mr. Mountain, are full of, to us, the most distressing, and to the people and local government of Cuba, discreditable and even criminal facts. We are told, that there is not the least doubt, that many of the inhabitants are concerned in the equipment of the vessels employed by the pirates; and in the participation of their plunder-that the moment a prize to the pirates arrives on the coast, persons from the interior throng to the spot to share in or purchase the plunder; that the property soon finds its way into the cities, and tempts the cupidity of all by the advantage of the treasure; that large quantities of the plunder have been known to be introduced into Matanzas, and publicly sold, at prices which alone betray the nature of the property; that retailers of goods are seen travelling to the coast with pack horses, for the known purposes of purchasing from the pirates; that this was carried to so great an extent, that a respectable Englishman, who owned a ferry near the city, informed Mr. Randall that the returns from his ferry gave certain indication when prizes were on the coast, from the number of persons who resort from Matanzas to their rendezvous; that persons, known to be pirates, walk the streets of that city unmolested, wearing upon their persons goods known to have been obtained by violence. One case which is mentioned by Mr. Randall, will serve to illustrate, in the most striking manner, the extent of this evil. A large sum of money in doubloons, which had been plundered from a Boston vessel, had been traced to the village of Regla. The Captain General was informed of the fact, and his aid asked for its recovery. Having caused inquiry to be made, he sent for the claimant, and informed him that he feared all Regla would be implicated in the robbery, and that, in the then disturbed and critical condition of the island, he dared not push the investigation further. And, to give countenance to the practices enumerated, we are told that men of responsibility on the island, openly justify the conduct of the pirates, making it a political question, and urging the commission of what they call similar practices of the Americans, in capturing Spanish property, under the South American flag. To redress those atrocious disorders, frequent and unavailing applications have been made to the local government. Circumstantial and well authenticated accounts of them have been repeatedly laid before the Government of Spain by our Minister at that Court, and the attention of the Spanish Government to the subject, solicited with much eloquence and great force. The appeal thereto has been made in vain; on the contrary, all the indications we can derive from the documents, of the disposition of the Spanish marine, are of a character, evincing an indisposition to aid in the destruction of the pirates. A Spanish brig of war boarded a piratical vessel in the neighborhood of Cuba, received presents from, and exchanged civilities with her, and suffered her to pass, on being informed by the pirate that he cruized only against the enemies of Spain. In another case, a Spanish vessel of war was laying in Matanzas when the American brig Industry, from Baltimore, was attacked by pirates in the harbor without interference on the part of the Spaniard, although the attack was well known at Matanzas at the time of it.
It is from those and other facts, established by the documents on our tables, said Mr. V.B. that the committee have drawn the strong inference of a participation in the guilt of the pirates on the part of the inhabitants of Cuba-remissness, if not encouragement, on the part of the local government, and a total disregard of our complaint on the part of Spain. In his judgment, the committee were well warranted in the opinion they had formed and expressed. The case was one which he thought called for the exercise of the best means at the disposal of the Government. That the extermination of those atrocious robbers was due to the character of the country, to the cause of humanity, and to the rights and injuries of our oppressed citizens, was a sentiment in which all concurred. We have, said he, the physical power to effect it-we have the moral power-that is, the right to do it, and the duty of its accomplishment rests upon us. If they differed, it could only be as to the means to be employed, and the manner of their application. On that subject, he would submit his ideas with freedom, but with diffidence, and with an entire willingness to yield to the views of those who were better able to judge. The Executive, in his message, had suggested three expedients, in addition to the other and undisputed provisions of the bill, viz. “the pursuit of the offenders to the settled as well as unsettled part of the island, reprisals on the property of the inhabitants, and a blockade of the island from which the pirates issued.” The committee had adopted the first and last only.
Mr. V.B. said he complained of the provisions of the bill professing to give the right of pursuit, because it fell short of what it ought to be, and he was constrained, by obligations of the most imperative character, to oppose that which authorizes a blockade of the Spanish ports, as wholly unwarrantable. He would state the grounds on which his objection rested. The section confines the right to land and capture the pirates, to cases of fresh pursuit. That right existed to the full extent, by the law of nations, to which it was professed to be given by the bill, except, perhaps, the alternative of bringing the pirates to this country for trial, if they were captured in the inhabited parts of the Spanish territory. That such, too, was the opinion of our Government, would be seen on a reference to the instructions given Captain Porter by the former Secretary of the Navy.
But a slight consideration of the subject was necessary to show that that opinion was well founded. Although pirates are not regarded as enemies in the sense in which we speak of the public wars of belligerants and neutrals, still, the inferences which have been drawn by the former Secretary, by analogy to the rights of a belligerant to follow his enemy in certain cases, into a neutral port or country, are founded in reason and good sense. That a belligerant has a right so to follow his enemy, is certain, but in what case can he (without fault on the part of the neutral) alone exercise this right-it is in case of eager pursuit, on account of some conflict or violence which has preceded and which is followed up, whilst the matter is warm. Otherwise, he has no right to seek his enemy in the port or country of his friend. So too, in regard to pirates, if a vessel is attacked by them, and in its defence, or if, knowing them to be such, and in a lawful attempt to arrest them, they fly any where, by land or water, you have a right to pursue them. If that pursuit was continued into the Thames, to the city of London, even to Westminster Hall itself, the act of the pursuer would not give just cause of complaint to the Government whose territory was so invaded. The motive and the object were laudable, and no offence or injury being intended, none would be considered as done. The truth and justice of this position, he said, might be illustrated by familiar allusion to the personal rights of individuals, and he made them.-There is, therefore no doubt, said Mr. V.B. that, if our vessels come in contact with the pirates at sea, and they fly, the right of pursuit to the land, settled or unsettled, attaches, and the bill upon the table gave no more. It was most evident that, unless Spain could be induced to interfere, or the mischief in some other form repressed, a further authority to our forces would become indispensable—the authority to land on the island in search of pirates, to exercise municipal authority there, to wrest the sword of justice from the hands of those who were unable or unwilling to wield it for the ends of justice. He would give the right to the President, to authorize the exercise of such powers, under the circumstances he would thereafter state.
Mr. VAN BUREN said, that the views he had thus far taken of the subject, brought him to the consideration of the immediate question before the Senate, the motion made by the gentleman from Virginia to strike out the third section, which authorizes the blockade of the Spanish ports upon the establishment of certain facts. Mr. V. B. said he fully concurred with the honorable gentleman who had made the motion, in considering the measure the section contemplated as utterly unwarrantable by the law of nations, and (if that view of it could be entertained) wholly inexpedient. Mr. V.B. said that the two gentlemen of the committee who had preceded him, and the gentleman from Massachusetts, who had last addressed the chair, (Mr. LLOYD,) had attempted to support the measure on various, but, in Mr. VAN BUREN’S opinion, untenable grounds. The gentleman last up had endeavored to do it in part on the score of the authority derived from the recommendation of the Executive, inferring from thence the opinion of his cabinet, composed, as it undoubtedly was, of men of learning and talents, in favor of the fitness of authorizing of blockades under the circumstances contemplated by the bill. The first we hear of the measure is from our agent at Havana; the next in the report of the Secretary of the Navy, accompanying the President’s message at the commencement of the session, as explained by the Secretary in his letter to the chairman of our Naval Committee; and, lastly, in the suggestion of the President in his late message to the Senate.
Mr. VAN BUREN said that he had reason to doubt the correctness of the inference of the honorable gentleman; that he had accidentally been possessed of the knowledge, that at least one of the persons alluded to, and him whom the honorable gentleman possibly referred to as the one who had spent a great portion of his life in the study of Grotius, Puffendorff, and Vattel, and other writers on national law, was not of the opinion supposed. But, waiving further remark on that head, what, said Mr. V.B. is the right of blockade? It is, said he, one of the highest acts of sovereignty which the law of nations allows to a belligerant, and, however well established the right is, its exercise is universally conceded to be most harsh and oppressive in its operation upon the rights of third parties of any that is contained in the code. By it a belligerant extends the hardships and sacrifices of war, from the parties concerned to their neutral friends, by interrupting their accustomed and otherwise lawful commerce. He does this when and where, on the coast of his enemy, he pleases, and to any extent his passions or supposed interests dictate, and his means can accomplish; all others must submit to it under heavy and well defined penalties.
It is a right of war, and it is in time of war only that it is, or ever was allowed by the laws of nations. No instance in which it was otherwise exercised, or the right to exercise it claimed, is to be found in the books. This is conceded. The recent blockade of Cadiz by the French, stands upon war ground. That matter has been demonstrated by the gentleman from Virginia, in the lucid argument he submitted the other day. War existed between France, as the ally of Spain, and that portion of Spain embraced by the blockade. If it did not, the blockade was a violation of the law of nations. Mr. V.B. said, he was, moreover, indisposed, in any view of the subject, to refer to acts committed in a war waged for the destruction of the liberties of one nation for evidence of the rights of others. Are we, (inquired Mr. VAN BUREN,) at war with Spain? Certainly not. Is it the design of the committee that the passage of the bill and the exercise of this power, under it, is to put us in that condition? The gentlemen say no. What then, he asked, are we about to do? To exercise, in a state of peace, a measure which is only allowable in a state of war. When it was admitted, said Mr. V.B. that the section contemplated a measure not authorized by the law of nations, he hoped that, in this country at least, no further argument could be necessary to dissuade from its adoption. Such, however, appeared not to be the case, We are told that the Governments whose trade will be affected by this blockade, will not complain, because it is necessary and proper to secure the suppression of piracy, and because the interests of all nations are, thereby, promoted.
But why is it that we consider proceedings against the inhabitants of Cuba proper? It is on the ground of their participation in the guilt of the pirates. Of that we judge from information, which we have; but which they may not have. We judge of it under the influence of feelings excited by accumulated injuries; they are not entirely so situated-what is satisfactory to us, may not be so to them, and unless it be so, we have no reason to count on their acquiescence. If we had, still we would not stand justified in the eyes of the world, to attempt so flagrant an interpolation in the national code. If they do not acquiesce, then comes the question so emphatically asked by his honorable friend from Virginia, (Mr. TAZEWELL,) how will you enforce your blockade? For violations or attempted violations of a lawful blockade, the law of nations authorizes the blockading power to capture and confiscate the property of the neutral. This is on the principle that by the act the neutral takes part with the enemy in furnishing him with the means either of subsistence, escape, or information, and the measure of punishment for such interference, is what he had stated. Questions of prize, or no prize, are to be decided by the law of nations, subject to treaties. By that law it is conceded that condemnation for a violation of such a blockade as this, would not be allowed. The right is not given by the act. Why not? Because there is no authority or precedent for it. Are not gentlemen, he asked, aware, that, by thus abandoning the means of enforcing a blockade, they admit, substantially, the illegality of the measure? But we are told, said Mr. VAN B. by the honorable chairman, that he contemplates a resort to force, and to force only, to perform the blockade. What will be the inevitable consequence? A French or English vessel, or the vessel of any other nation trading with Cuba, approaches a port you have blockaded-she is warned off-denying your authority, as she well may, she keeps on. You fire into her, slay her crew, and sink their vessels, and war exists between you and the nation to which she belongs. You thus put it in the power, said Mr. VAN B. nay, you make in the duty of your officers on that station to involve you in embarrassments and war almost without limit.
Modifications of the measure have been spoken of today, so as to confine it to Spanish commerce. You cannot do it without involving yourselves in the assertion of another equally untenable right, the right of search, in time of peace, of vessels carrying on a lawful trade. In any point of view, therefore, the measure is ill advised, and should no longer be persisted in. It is to be regretted that it has obtained so far-it may hereafter be brought in judgment against us. We have interests as well as character involved in the question. In the wars which have heretofore ravaged Europe, we have occupied a neutral station—our situation, the tendency of our Government, and the temper of the people, will, it is to be hoped, continue us in the course we have hitherto so wisely and so hapily pursued. The interests of the neutral, therefore, seem emphatically our interests, and we should be careful how we tamper with them. We know well that this right of blockade is cherished and valued by our great maritime rival, as the firmest charter of her naval pre-eminence-a right which she has always manifested a wish to enlarge, and which we, in conjunction with other nations interested in the freedom of the seas, have struggled to confine to its ancient limits. Mr. VAN B. had said that we had character involved in this question; what we had said and done on this subject was before the world-our light had not been hid. We had, he said, principle to maintain, which it had been our pride to support, and which we should be ashamed to abandon. Allusion had been made, and properly made, by the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. T) to the collision which had existed in the question of blockade between England and this country at an early period; and he might, with equal propriety, have referred to others of a later date. We should be cautious how we exposed our conduct on occasions that are open to suspicion. Much of our greatness, and no small share of our strength, as had justly been observed, rested on our fidelity to principle and continued reverence and support of the great doctrines of public law in our intercourse with the world. Mr. VAN BUREN said he would further illustrate his idea upon this subject by a reference to a point of controversy between us and Spain, connected with the very subject under consideration. With no other force than a single frigate, a brig and a schooner, employed in transporting supplies from Curracoa to Porto Cabello, she had presumed to declare a blockade of more than twelve hundred miles of coast of the Republic of Colombia and the Government of Mexico, adding to the declaration the idle pretence that she had a right to interdict trade with those places, because the same had heretofore been forbidden by the Spanish colonial laws. On the strength of these principles, so entirely inadmissible, she had issued commissions at Porto Cabello and Porto Rico, to privateers, who had committed extensive depredations on our own commerce. We have inveighed loudly and justly against Spain for this outrage. We have said that the only difference between those privateers and the bucaniers of Cuba was, that the former acted under a commission to which the latter made no pretence. On what ground have we done so? It has been, because the idea of now enforcing the colonial law of Spain was ridiculous, and that by the law of nations their blockade could only be legal as far as their actual force will make it effectual. Will the Honorable Chairman inform me with what force we can complain of Spain on this inroad of the law of nations, if we appropriate this solemn right of war to mere municipal purposes, with full knowledge that the pretence of a right so to use it, is not to be found in that law; and that, in attempting it, we attempt a flagrant interpolation upon its principles? But he had done with this branch of the subject, and would conclude it by conjuring gentlemen to be cautious how they made innovations in the public law, and admonishing them that other nations might hereafter improve upon our decision in a form which might be the occasion of our lasting regret. Mr. VAN B. said that he would now state, in a few words, what the provisions were which he would substitute, for those of the bill; they were:
1st. Power to the President to authorize our forces to land on the Island of Cuba, in quest of the pirates, and there exercise all the power necessary to their suppression, of which he had already spoken.
2d. Power to the President, on being satisfied of the facts stated in the section; or some other of a similar character, to authorize reprisals upon the commerce and property of the inhabitants of the Island, or by way of contribution on the places, participating in the piratical acts upon our commerce, or both, or in such other form as those more acquainted with the matter should prescribe. He would give this power to the President now, because Congress must adjourn in a few days, not to meet again in nine months, and because, during that period, the exercise of such a power might become indispensable, and he would leave that question to the discretion of the Executive, by whom, he had no doubt, it would be wisely and safely exercised.
In that exercise, he had no doubt every thing belonging to the subject would be regarded, and in connexion with that part of the subject, he would take the liberty of suggesting what, in his humble opinion, might be done with profit and propriety, by the Executive, previous to the exercise of the strong power with which Congress would clothe him. There was, said Mr. VAN BUREN, not only something in the nature of the crime we seek to suppress, but in the place where our power is to be exercised, which not only authorize us to ask, but may perhaps be deemed sufficient to require that we should ask the co-operation of some, at least, of the other powers of Europe. From the present condition of Spain, depressed as she has been by her foreign and domestic wars, and pressed almost to the earth by her late inglorious conflict with her own subjects, the question of her ability to maintain her power in the Island of Cuba had for some years been entertained. It was now, he said, well known, that that circumstance, added to the extreme importance of the Island to several of the powers of Europe, and particularly to this country, had given rise to much jealousy among those nations in regard to it. Rumors of cessions, and apprehension of cessions, had been frequently heard and entertained. Such was the jealousy of the inhabitants themselves upon the subject, that when Captain Porter last arrived, orders were understood to have been given, refusing the admission of his squadron into their ports, avowing, as the reason, their apprehension that his object was conquest. That was, however, explained by the present Captain General, who knew, and was capable of appreciating our motives.
Is there not reason to apprehend that, if without consultation with England and France, the measures necessary to the entire extinction of this abhorred race, (on the assumption that Spain will do nothing,) may excite jealousies on the part of the Government to which he had alluded, that may lead to unpleasant embarrasments; and is there not, on the contrary, every reason to hope that on application made to them, they would cordially concur in uniting their exertions with our own, in a cause in which their interests and ours are identified? In conjunction with them, the Spanish Government might be addressed in a manner which could not fail of its effect. She might be told that she owed it to the world to suppress this odious practice; that her delinquency was palpable-that, if she desired its suppression, and had not the means to effect it, she ought to say so, and to consent to the occupation of such parts of her Islands as were necessary to that end. If she still refused, the necessary means might be used by the powers of which he had spoken, and a final end would be put to piracy. We have, said Mr. V.B., a right to count on their zealous and ready co-operation. But, if, contrary to all expectations, they should refuse, then the Executive could exercise the additional powers with which you invest him. To make these explanations, some longer time might be required than to obtain the evidence necessary to authorize this blockade-but there would be time enough.
In the mean time, our forces in those seas would not be idle-they would act with all the means and authority they had in 1823-and if, after taking such steps, the Executive should authorize measures, which it conceded might, and probably would, lead to a war with Spain-the nation would support, and all the world approve our course.