MVB et al., Address to the electors of New York, 11 April 1814
To the People of the State of New-York.
At a time when our country is engaged in war with one of the most powerful nations on earth, in defence of our national rights and sovereignty; when opposition has reared her hydra form, and put at defiance the constituted authorities; when treason walks forth at noon-day, and, under the specious garb of patriotism, sounds the tocsin of alarm, and invites you to marshal yourselves under her standard—at such a time, and under such circumstances, we, your representatives, appeal to your justice, your good sense, and your patriotism.
We hold it to be the first duty of every American to love and serve his country. ls her territory invaded? It is his duty to repel the invader. Is her honor assailed? It is his duty to support and maintain that honor. Is she insulted? It is his duty to avenge the insult. Are her rights, as an independent nation, disregarded and trampled upon? It is his duty to cause those rights to be respected. Armed with these simple axioms, we boldly enter the field of argument with those who array themselves in hostility to the government of their country. Engaged in war, we are called upon to support, with vigor, this second struggle for freedom and independence, to exert the energies of the nation: thus to produce a successful war or an honorable peace. Many of you refuse, and justily yourselves by saying the war is unjust. Protesting against this principle, particularly in the present situation of our country, we ask, if war can ever be justifiable at any time, or under any circumstances, is not this war just on our part? Has not Great Britain, without even a specious pretext, plundered us of hundreds of our ships, and millions of our property? Has she not forcibly taken thousands of our fellow citizens, and reduced them to slavery? And has she not, by her emissaries, endeavored to excite rebellion and civil war?
When the Algerines enslaved our brethren, the sensibilities of the nation were awakened, and ransoms were soon provided; but when the British commit the same enormities, the tidings pass by us like the idle wind. Whence arises this wonderful apathy? Is opposition more tolerable, because your oppressor calls himself a christian? Is servitude more acceptable, because your master calls himself your brother? Are chains less galling when put on you by an Englishman, than when by a Turk? Are scourgings and hunger rendered innocent and harmless upon you, because you were mistaken for an Englishman? Is it any alleviation of human suffering, that it is inflicted by "the bulwark of our religion?" Is the American seaman. when incarcerated by G. Britain, consoled for the loss of his liberty, because she may thereby be the better able to "fight for the liberties of the world?" "Oh slavery! disguise thyself as thou wilt, still thou art a bitter draught."
But, admitting, for the sake of argument, (and for no other purpose can we admit it,) that the war is inexpedient, we deny that it is your duty to oppose and embarrass the government in its prosecution. We are at war, and the great desideratum is an honorable peace; we must either fight or submit to the terms of the enemy; we ask, emphatically, is an honorable peace to be obtained by submission? What were the doctrines and practice of the fathers of our liberties? When their rights could not be peaceably obtained, when they were driven to an appeal to arms, when they were struggling for independence, and the enjoyment of that liberty which was their birthright, did they think of obtaining their object by submission? Did they, when fighting against British oppression, hesitate about crossing the boundary line of the Canadas to annoy their enemies? Did they think it "unbecoming a moral and religious people" to attack the "unoffending Canadians" when they invaded that province, and carried their conquests to the walls of Quebec?
Reflect, we beseech you, for a moment, upon the effects of the opposition to our government, in its present circumstances. Opposition unnerves the arm of government when it most needs strength; it creates disunion, when union is not only desirable but unnecessary; it creates animosity when harmony is most essential; it creates distrust when confidence is required; and if not seasonably controlled by reason and patriotism, will finally end in anarchy and rebellion.
While such are the effects of this opposition upon ourselves, it essentially aids the enemy. In our weakness consists their strength: on our divisions, distrusts and animosities depend all their hopes of success. Do you doubt that such are the effects of such virulent opposition? The history of every nation furnishes proof: Division is the rock upon which all the ancient republics have split. During the days of French prosperity and conquest, their favorite motto was "divide and conquer;" and at this moment we see the allied powers of Europe, of which our enemy is one, attempting to conquer France, relying upon the divisions created by the Bourbon interest. We need not go abroad for evidence on this subject: Look at the history of our foreign relations for seven years past, and there you have it—listen to the declarations made in congress by a leading federal member, that "if the federal party had joined in supporting the war, Canada might have been taken in thirty days"—look at the conduct of those who create this opposition, and you have demonstration. In Massachusetts, where this opposition has always been most violent, you have marked it progress from newspaper discussion up to legislative threats of rebellion. You have seen her senate gravely resolving, that it was unbecoming a moral and religious people to rejoice at the success of their country's arms, unless in their own defence: You now see her legislature discharging the prisoners of war confined there by the general government, and deliberating upon the propriety of dissolving the union of these United States. But a few years ago, when we charged a section of the federal party with an intention to dissolve the union, the whole party declared us to be the propagators of detraction and falsehood; they disavowed any such intention, proclaimed their attachment to the union, and their determination ever to support it: Now they openly avow their intention to separate if the war continues, "peaceably if they can—forcibly if they must."— But why need we turn your attention to a sister state, when we have full and conclusive evidence at home? Within the walls of our own capitol, we have heard it proclaimed, and repeated, that "if the war continues, the union is dissolved," that "the eastern states will not submit, and that we ought to let Massachusetts know we think with her on this subject,"—that "the constitution of the United States is no longer obligatory on any individual state than that state conceives the object of it to have been effected"—and that "the responsibility of a separation will rest upon the majority and the government."
These, fellow citizens, are the sentiments and declarations of men calling themselves disciples of Washington. Compare them with the legacy of that great and good man, and you will look in vain for this resemblance.
Federalists of the State of New-York, we call upon you to pause and reflect:—Are these your sentiments? Are you prepared to submit to the will of the majority, or to imbrue your hands in the blood of your brethren? Here let us call your attention to the probable consequence of such opposition.— Can such declarations and such conduct aid us in procuring an honorable peace? Could the authors of such sentiments aid the enemy so effectually in any other way, even by enlisting in her armies? But it is not by declarations only that the federalists of this state have shewn their hostility. They have in your legislature, refused to relieve the burthens of the people by refusing to assume this state's quota of the direct tax, and by refusing to organize a volunteer corps of militia, except under such restrictions as would completely defeat the object, and be in the highest degree disgraceful to a free people.
Who but the ingenious federalists of the house of assembly, could have proved that a saving of near $65,000 was an actual loss? That the true mode of defending our frontier is to recall and disband your troops? And that the best mode of obtaining a speedy and honorable peace, is to throw down your arms, and in the attitude of humble suppliants, ask Great Britain to be graciously pleased to grant you peace? Such we aver is the language of their conduct, and their declarations are nearly the same. They say, "ask for and obtain an armistice, and then in sincerity ask Great Britain for peace on terms consistent with her maritime rights, and she will grant it." Without stopping now to enquire what maritime rights Great Britain has more than every other independent nation, we appeal to your own observation and knowledge. Has not our government both before and since the declaration of war, honestly sought for peace? For six years we have borne, with a patience unparalleled in the history of nations, the destruction and plunder of our property. During that period the federalists, called aloud for war, and abused the government for not declaring it; but now when these depredations have greatly accumulated, you are told the war is unjust! Ever since we have had a political existence, the British have impressed our seamen, till the number has swelled to 6,257; and yet the federalists who were willing to go to war for the murder of Pierce alone in 1806, now tell you, and they publish it in your legislature, that the impressment of your seamen is not a justifiable cause of war!
Do we look abroad for the opinion of neutral nations on the justice of our cause, the Emperor Alexander, although the intimate friend and ally of Great Britain, furnishes authority: "The Emperor," says his minister. Mr. Daschkoff, "takes pleasure in doing justice to the wisdom of the government of the United States. He is satisfied it has done all it could do to avoid the present contest." While we speak of that illustrious personage, let us turn your attention to the mediation proposed by him. When report first published the account of the proffered friendship of Russia, the federalists abused the government for not accepting it; when ministers were appointed, the government were abused for sending ministers, "begging for a peace," before it was known whether Great Britain would accede to it. Such is federal consistency!— Great Britain declined the mediation of Russia, because, as she said, she did not wish to mingle the dispute with us with the affairs of the continent, and even persisted in this pretext after our minister there had given the most solemn assurances that nothing of that kind was intended, nor would be attempted. Great Britain knew too well what would be the decision of the emperor, and she knew that that decision would silence forever her friends in this country. The conduct of the Prince Regent on this occasion, in declining the friendship of Russia but, offering to treat directly at London or Gottenburgh, has been deemed cause of congratulation by the federalists in our assembly, while they stigmatize our own government for accepting the proposal. Such we repeat it, is federal consistency!
We have alluded to the conduct of our political opponents, in refusing to assume the payment of the direct tax. Remember, fellow citizens, that the republicans wished to have relieved you from that burthen, but the federalists would not permit it to be done; on them rests the awful responsibility of oppressing you for electioneering purposes. The state is abundantly able to pay; there is due from its own citizens, for money loaned, $1,037,762 41. Nothing could have been easier than to have made the application; but if it must have been raised by tax, besides the deduction of 15 per centum, other advantages would have resulted, the business would have been done by your own town offices, the tax would have been more equal, executive patronage would have been diminished, and the collection rendered more certain.
The disasters which have befallen our troops during the preceding campaigns, afford a fruitful source of gratification to our opponents, and will be urged to you as a reason why you should abandon the republican standard. That our armies have in some instances been unfortunate we admit: that our government has in some instances been unfortunate, in the selection of their agents, is notorious: but how would these evils be remedied by abandoning the cause, and putting its enemies in power? If they are sincere, and we are bound to believe them so, they would make peace with Great Britain on her own terms; they would give up the point in dispute; the consequence of which must necessarily be, that American seamen must always be subject to British impressment, as they always have been. The government is censured for not prosecuting the war vigorously, and yet you are called upon to elect men who would not prosecute it at all.
To what causes can we impute the failure of our arms? In a great measure to the want of troops, and a want of unanimity among what troops we had. Whence have these obstacles to our success originated? Who have dissuaded men from enlisting? Who have sown the seeds of discord in your ranks? Who have prevented your militia from rendering efficient aid to the armies of the United States? Who have uniformly withheld pecuniary assistance when it might have been granted? We answer, federalists have done it.
But although our armies have been unfortunate in some instances, they have uniformly exhibited marks of personal courage, honorable to the American character; and in other instances have triumphed gloriously over the skill and experience of veterans. Turn your eyes to the water, and you will seek in vain for one solitary instance of want of skill or courage. American tars have added laurels to their own brows, and given to the American character a pre-eminent standing among the nations of the earth. They have taught Great Britain that, on equal terms, she is no longer mistress of the ocean. And you are told, that a war to protect these men is unjust.
Fellow Citizens, placed as watchmen upon the walls of your political citadel, we have warned you of approaching danger. Choose you now in whom you will place confidence. Republicans advocate the cause of our country; federalists that of the enemy—which of them will be most likely to procure an honorable peace? Republicans approve the war and support it: Federalists condemn it, and by every mean in their power prevent its vigorous prosecution. Which of them will conduct it to the most favorable issue? If you are willing to abandon the war, and with it your right to protect your own citizens on the ocean, go to the polls and vote for federalists: If you wish to support your government when fighting for those rights, support those who support the cause of our ycountry.
We congratulate you upon the prospect of a complete triumph at the approaching election. Many of those who have heretofore been foremost in the ranks of opposition, have abandoned the standard of party for that of their country. Nothing but union in the republican party is necessary to insure the victory. The election of governor Tompkins, at the last election, has proved, that there is a decided majority of republicans among the freeholders of the state; to what cause, then, can it be attributed, but our own schisms, that the federalists now have a majority in the assembly?
Republicans, remember that on our success depends the success of our country in the present war; we beseech you, therefore, to lay aside all minor considerations and distinctions, rally under the name and in the cause of republicanism, and success will certainly crown your efforts.
|Jonathan Dayton||Nicholas W. Angle,|
|Thomas S. Lester,||Francis A. Bloodgood,|
|Nathaniel Potter,||Henry Bloom,|
|Jonathan S. Concklin,||Arch'd. S. Clark,|
|Abraham Miller,||Henry Hager,|
|Nathan Sanford,||Reuben Humphreys,|
|Joshua Barnum, Jun||Perley Keyes,|
|Lucas Elmendorf,||Casper M. Rouse,|
|Morgan Lewis,||Farrand Stranahan,|
|Erastus Root,||Philetus Swift,|
|William Tabor,||William C. Bouck,|
|M. Van Beuren,||William Dietz,|
|Samuel G. Verbryck,||Aaron Hackley, Jun.|
|James W. Wilkin,||Jonas Cleland,|
|William Ross,||Christ. P. Bellinger,|
|Benjamin Strong,||Hascall Ransford,|
|Benjamin Webb,||James Houghteling,|
|Joshua Sayre,||John Noyes,|
|John Kiersted,||Barent Mooney,|
|Green Miller,||Moses Nash,|
|Conrad Bevier,||Silas Bowker,|
|Daniel Clark,||William Satterlee,|
|Peter S. Van Orden,||William C. Bennet,|
|Isaac Ogden,||William Mallery,|
|John T. More,||Chillis Doty,|
|John Savage,||James Gansen,|
|Henry Yates,||James M'Call,|
|Ruggles Hubbard,||Caleb Baker,|
|Paul Dennis,||David Sutherland,|
|Charles Starbuck,||Asabel Warner,|
|Samuel Gordon,||Joshua Vanfleet,|
|Samuel Young,||Stephen Phelps,|
|Avery Starkweather,||Daniel Cruger,|
|John Dunning,||J. Williams.|