MVB, Report on assembly resolutions relating to the creation of a navy, 17 March 1813

MVB, Report on assembly resolutions relating to the creation of a navy, 17 March 1813

Mr. Van Buren, from the select committee to whom were referred certain resolutions, with the recitals preceding the same, adopted by the honorable the Assembly, on the second day of March, 1813, relating to the creation and support of a Navy. To the high sense which the hon. the Assembly entertain of the valour and heroism, displayed by our seamen; to the justice and propriety of rewarding that valour, as particularly displayed in the capture of the British frigates the Guerriere and Java, the sloop of war the Frolic; censuring the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States for refusing to do so; and requesting them and the Senators of this state, in the Congress of the United States, to “use their efforts to procure the necessary compensation to be made;” reports as follows, to wit:

That they have had the same under consideration, and in pursuance of the object of the reference, report, as well the facts relating to the same, as the opinion of your committee, as to the course proper to be pursued by the Senate in relation to them.

Your committee fully coincide with the honorable the Assembly, in their just appreciation of the distinguished honor to which the officers and seamen of our Navy have entitled themselves, on every occasion which has been furnished them, during the present war to evince their superior prowess, and so natural and irresistible to the American heart, do your committee feel this sentiment to be; that they cannot indulge a belief that there is among us a single American whose heart is not cheered by the contemplation of those deeds of heroism, which have distinguished the conduct of our brave tars, which have arrested the attention and fixed the admiration of an astonished world.

If, therefore, it was competent for the Senate, to separate that part of the said resolutions and recitals, from other parts thereof, with which your committee can never advise the Senate to concur; it ought, in the opinion of your committee, to meet the united approbation of the Senate; but this their rule and practice will not permit; and the Senate are bound to concur or non-concur, with the resolutions of the Assembly, without the power of amendment.

Your committee would the more regret that the resolutions and recitals of the hon. the Assembly, combined matter, which will be seen, is, in the opinion of your committee, highly objectionable, with such as is in an eminent degree laudable, had not an opportunity been afforded, and embraced by the concurrent resolution of the Senate and the hon. the Assembly, of the 27th day of February last, relating to the great exploits of our brave seamen, and officially promulgating the distinguished consideration in which they were and ought to be held.

Your committee further report, that although they are fully impressed with a conviction of the dangers which may arise to a free government, from the maintenance of large naval or military establishments, of the strong incentives which the possession of the means gives to the exercise of them; although they feel and admit the wisdom and propriety of the various attempts which have been made by our government, to prevail on the belligerents of Europe to stay their aggressions and to subdue their hostilities, by acts of justice on our part; by appeals to what was the law of nations, and to their justice and magnanimity; still your committe are bound to admit, that the course which has been pursued by those belligerents, since the years 1806, and 7; since their decrees and orders in Council, which have, in effect, prostrated that code, which heretofore regulated and controlled the conduct of civilized nations, and substituted power for right; which in their effects destroyed our commerce; and to which, although their rigour is at this moment, somewhat mitigated, we may again be subjected in the fullest extent; at such a time and under such circumstances, your committee would advise the Senate, if the course and practice of the Senate would admit of it, to concur with the hon. the Assembly in an expression of their sense of the propriety of a reasonable increase of our naval strength.

With such parts of the resolutions and recitals of the hon. the Assembly, as have for their object, (as in the judgment of your committee they have) to censure the House of Representatives, of the Congress of the United States, for refusing to make the provisions therein stated, and as contain a request or instruction to the Representatives and Senators of this state, in the Congress of the United States, to use their efforts to procure such provisions to be made, your committee cannot advise the Senate to concur, for reasons, in their opinion, the most obvious and conclusive.

First, Because although the practice of instructing their representatives in the general government, on matters which are to be acted upon, has been heretofore followed by our State Legislature, their right to which, your committee think it unnecessary to consider, or discuss, upon this occasion; yet that practice has not, to their knowledge, been extended to the right of censuring them for their conduct in matters, on which they have acted, and to call on them to vary that conduct; and in the best judgment of your committee, that extension would not only lead to frequent and hostile collisions between the general and state governments, but would moreover be incompatible with the spirit and genius of our government.

Secondly, Because the resolution in its terms only embraces our Representatives in the twelfth Congress, whose powers, by the provisions of our constitution ceased on the third of March, while the resolutions of the hon. the Assembly, were passed on the second of March, leaving an intervening period of such short duration, as that by no human possibility, they could be made to reach them before their power became extinct. And, notwithstanding your committee are bound to admit, distinctly, the purity of the views which must have actuated the hon. the Assembly, they could not advise the Senate, to subject themselves to the inference, which the illiberal and the censorious might draw from these facts: viz. that they had so early begun to prostitute that sacred spirit, which has been produced by the prowess of our sailors, to the support of the political divisions and dissentions, which, unfortunately, distract, and, at this time, highly dishonor the American people.

Thirdly, Because on the twenty-third day of February last, the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States passed, and the Senate of the United States have subsequently agreed to it, the same law; as for a refusal to pass which the hon. the Assembly, on the second of March, inst. censure them. That they not only made the provisions sought for, but to the utmost extent which any one Representative thought it ought to be made. That if therefore, as the hon. the Assembly appear justly to suppose, “justice required and public policy demanded” the provisions to be made, that justice has been satisfied, and that policy attended to. If, as they truly say, the provision would afford “the strongest proofs of a sincere determination, on the part of our national government, to reward daring enterprizes, to encourage naval exploits, and to promote the establishment of a navy adequate to protect our commerce,” that proof has been afforded, and the result which the hon. the Assembly, with propriety apprehend, might have been produced by an opposite course, viz. “weakening the confidence of our sailors in the justice and liberality of our government,” has been wisely avoided by the final passage of the law we refer to.

For these reasons, your committee, disclaiming all intention to impeach the motives which have actuated the hon. the Assembly, and anxious to support and maintain that mutual respect and courtesy, between the two legislative branches of our government, which a due sense of propriety dictates, and parliamentary usage enforces, but equally anxious to preserve the dignity and respectability of the Senate, respectfully advise the adoption of the following resolution.

Resolved, That the Senate cannot, consistently with justice or sound principles, concur with the recitals and resolutions of the hon. the Assembly, of the second of March instant.


Ordered, That the said resolution and report be the order of the day for Saturday next.

Ordered, That the said resolutions, with the recitals and report, be printed.

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