What do they imply? That Great Britain has a right
to seize all who are not provided with them.
From their very nature, they must be liable to abuse
on both sides. If Great Britain desires a mark,
by which she can know her own subjects, let her give
them an ear-mark. The colors that float from
the mast-head should be the credentials of our seamen.
There is no safety to us, and the gentlemen have shown
it, but in the rule that all who sail under the flag
(not being enemies), are protected by the flag.
It is impossible that this country should ever abandon
the gallant tars who have won for us such splendid
trophies. Let me suppose that the genius of Columbia
should visit one of them in his oppressor’s
prison, and attempt to reconcile him to his forlorn
and wretched condition. She would say to him,
in the language of gentlemen on the other side:
“Great Britain intends you no harm; she did
not mean to impress you, but one of her own subjects;
having taken you by mistake, I will remonstrate, and
try to prevail upon her, by peaceable means, to release
you; but I cannot, my son, fight for you.”
If he did not consider this mere mockery, the poor
tar would address her judgment and say: “You
owe me, my country, protection; I owe you, in return,
obedience. I am no British subject; I am a native
of old Massachusetts, where lived my aged father,
my wife, my children. I have faithfully discharged
my duty. Will you refuse to do yours?” Appealing
to her passions, he would continue: “I lost
this eye in fighting under Truxton, with the Insurgence;
I got this scar before Tripoli; I broke this leg on
board the Constitution, when the Guerriere struck.”
* * * I will not imagine the dreadful catastrophe
to which he would be driven by an abandonment of him
to his oppressor. It will not be, it cannot be,
that his country will refuse him protection. * * *
An honorable peace is attainable only by an efficient
war. My plan would be to call out the ample resources
of the country, give them a judicious direction, prosecute
the war with the utmost vigor, strike wherever we
can reach the enemy, at sea or on land, and negotiate
the terms of a peace at Quebec or at Halifax.
We are told that England is a proud and lofty nation,
which, disdaining to wait for danger, meets it half
way. Haughty as she is we triumphed over her
once, and, if we do not listen to the counsels of
timidity and despair, we shall again prevail.
In such a cause, with the aid of Providence, we must
come out crowned with success; but, if we fail, let
us fail like men, lash ourselves to our gallant tars,
and expire together in one common struggle, fighting
for free trade and SEAMEN’S rights.
IV. — THE RISE OF NATIONALITY.
In spite of execrable financial management, of the
criminal blunders of political army officers, and
of consequent defeats on land, and quite apart from
brilliant sea-fights and the New Orleans victory, the
war of 1812 was of incalculable benefit to the United
States. It marks more particularly the point
at which the already established democracy began to
shade off into a real nationality.