ARMING OF MERCHANTMEN.
COMMUNICATED TO THE SENATE, DECEMBER 28, 1804.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, the memorial of the Chamber of Commerce of the City of New York respectfully showeth:
"...A defence by means of private armed vessels, under proper regulations, is not only reasonable, but, from the nature of things, is that kind of defence which ought to excite the least suspicion; it being certain that the degree of force employed and exercised will never exceed the measure required by necessity, as it will be regulated by calculations of commercial advantage to individuals, and in no degree by views of political aggrandizement. Your memorialists might conclude their petition with these observations, but the great importance of the proposed law, not only in respect to the revenue and commercial prosperity of the United States, but as it may affect the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms, will, it is hoped, be their excuse for subjoining a few additional observations on the subject. The inhabitants of the United States have immemorially claimed the right of possessing arms for the defence of their houses, their lives, and property; this privilege has neither been surrendered, nor abridged: and every citizen, whether at home or upon the ocean, has believed that he might lawfully carry arms, in self defence. If this right be deemed important in the bosom of the State, where the laws and magistrates are ready to protect the citizen, how much more important must it be considered upon the high seas, where every nation has a common jurisdiction, but no nation an exclusive one; where every nation is bound to afford protection to the persons and property of its citizens, but no nation has magistrates to grant it; where aggression is most frequent, and the means of defence most necessary!"
"Your memorialists are duly sensible that Congress possesses the "power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;" but, with all deference, they presume to inquire, whether, under this power, a law may be enacted, by which the citizens of the United States shall be deprived of a right, which has been supposed to be secured to them by the constitutions of the several States?
"Your memorialists forbear to add, but humbly request, that no law may be passed to prevent private vessels from sailing in an armed condition; or, in case a law on this subject is deemed necessary, that its provisions may be conformed, to the principles contained in die present memorial. And as in duty they will ever pray.
By order of the Corporation of the Chamber of Commerce, JOHN MURRAY, President. New York, December 21, 1804.
[Class IV. Commerce and Navigation. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, FROM THE FIRST SESSION OF THE FIRST TO THE THIRD SESSION OF THE THIRTEENTH CONGRESS, INCLUSIVE: COMMENCING MARCH 3, 1789, AND ENDING MARCH 3, 1815. SELECTED AND EDITED, UNDER THE AUTHORITY OP CONGRESS, BY WALTER LOWRIE, Secretary of the Senate, AND MATTHEW ST, CLAIR CLARKE, Clerk of the House of Representatives. Volume VII. WASHINGTON: PUBLISHED BY GALES AND SEATON. 1832.]