New York Senate, Answer to Daniel D. Tompkins' address, [4 October 1814]
To His Excellency Daniel D. Tompkins, Governor of the State of New-York.
The Senate at the close of their last session, indulged in common with their fellow-citizens, the pleasing expectation, that before this period the blessings of peace, upon just and honorable terms would have been restored to their country—they have thus far been disappointed; and although the mission to which they looked for its accomplishment has not yet terminated—the delay which has taken place in the commencement of negotiations, and the spirit of encreased hostility manifested by the enemy, in the prosecution of the war, combine to forbid any confident reliance upon the disposition professed by him in the communication which led to that mission.
If in the result, it shall appear that in those professions he was originally insincere; or that influenced by other circumstances, he delayed the negotiations proposed by himself, until he should have exerted against us the additional means of annoyance which recent occurrences in Europe had placed at his disposal—the world will not hesitate, in either case, to pronounce upon his conduct the sentence of strong and indignant reprobation.
The world have already seen, and they cannot but have seen with astonishment, that when ambassadors for peace, invited by himself, had already crossed the ocean, he has given a new and peculiar character to the contest—a character of violence and outrage, not only incompatible with the feelings of reconciliation, but in the highest degree disgraceful to civilized nations, and repugnant to the established rules of legitimate warfare.
Whether this conduct has proceeded from ancient animosities, now seeking their gratification in the infliction of injuries upon those who once defied and foiled his power—Whether from a desire of finding abroad employment for troops when it was not thought prudent to disband at home—Whether from hostility to our civil institutions, and the vain hope of subverting the fair fabric, which by wisdom, the virtue, and the valor of our fathers, has been reared and secured to us; or from a calculation, that by carrying his arms into the heart of the country, and marking his course with desolation and ruin he could make an impression on the government, which should avail him in the proposed negotiations; or on the people, which should be remembered to his advantage in any question which should hereafter arise between the nations—Whatever may have been his motives, or whatever his expectations, the Senate cannot but exult in common with your Excellency and the country, that thus far, "we have sustained the shock with firmness and gathered laurels from the strife." That although he has succeeded in penetrating to the capital, his momentary triumph, disgraced as it was by the destruction of public edifices and the subsequent plunder of a defenceless city, has before this time been embittered by the reflection, that by the conflagration of those monuments of art, which public spirit and munificence had erected, and which were consecrated by the name of their illustrious founder—he has kindled a flame of patriotism which pervades every section of the Union, which has already lit the way to his severe discomfiture, and which threatens his complete annihilation, at every assailable point of the Union, to which his ambition or his resentment may lead him.
The Senate have witnessed with the same admiration, evinced by your Excellency, the brilliant achievements of our army and navy during the present campaign, achievements, which, in their immediate effects, have been so highly and extensively beneficial to our frontier citizens—achievements which have pierced the gloom, that for a season obscured our political horizon and dispelled those fearful forebodings which past disasters had excited—exploits which will not suffer in a comparison with the most heroic efforts of the veterans of the old world, which have fully maintained, if not enhanced the proud and enviable fame of our gallant seamen—exploits which have covered the actors in those bright scenes with never fading laurels, and which will, until public gratitude ceases to be a public virtue, call forth the highest testimonials which a free people can yield to freemen—unceasing reverence for the memories of those who have died on the field of honor, and acts of unceasing gratitude to their heroic survivors.
The Senate have seen with great satisfaction, the prompt and efficacious measures adopted by your Excellency, to avert the dangers which threatened the state; and believing, as they do, that whatever executive authority may have been exercised for which no legislative provision existed, it has not only been intended for the promotion of the public good, but was rendered indispensable by the pressure of existing circumstances; they cannot doubt, that the measures to which your Excellency has referred, will be found to deserve their approbation and support.
The Senate cannot forego the opportunity afforded them, of uniting with your Excellency, in an expression of the high satisfaction with which they have witnessed the unanimity and patriotism displayed by all classes of the community in the present crisis, and the disposition which they have manifested to combine their efforts for the maintenance of national honor and common safety.
That on questions of general policy, or the fitness of individuals for particular stations, we should ever be exempt from differences of opinion, is not to be expected. Divisions like those are inseparable from the blessings of our free constitution; and although sometimes carried to an excess which all good men must deplore, they are notwithstanding, generally productive of much national good. But to suppose, that a people jealous of their rights and proud of their national character, would on a question of resisting the aggressions of an open enemy—aggressions which have polluted the soil and threaten the subversion of those inestimable political institutions which have been consecreated to freedom by the blood and sufferings of their fathers—that on a question of such vital interest, so well calculated to excite all the patriotism, to arouse all the spirit, and to call into action all the energies of the nation—they would waste their strength in useless collisions with each other, would be a reflection upon their discernment and their character which they can never merit.
The various other subjects submitted by your Excellency to the Legislature, will receive from the Senate, that prompt attention to which their importance entitles them.
The important interest which the state of New-York has in the successful termination of the controversy in which we are involved, and the high destiny to which her local situation, the extent and variety of her resources, and the valor and patriotism of her citizens, aided by a just and liberal policy may advance her, have been duly appreciated by your Excellency. The Senate cheerfully pledge their best exertions to realize those great and well-founded expectations; and relying on the patriotism and good sense of the American people, they confidently trust, that the rights and interests of the nation will be maintained, and that at no distant period the mild reign of peace will be restored to our bleeding country.