Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"It is also lawful for them to carry with them any quantity of provisions, arms, and ammunition"

   "Governor Shelby, in his answer to the letter of the secretary of state of the 29th August ,dated the 5th of October, referring to the supposed enterprise from Kentucky, says 'I think it my duty to take this early opportunity to assure you, that I shall be particularly attentive to prevent any attempts of that nature from this country. I am well persuaded at present, none such is in contemplation in this state. The citizens of Kentucky possess too just a sense of the obligations they owe to the general government, to embark in any enterprise that would be so injurious to the United States.' After these assurances of co-operation, what must have been the surprise of the president, on receiving the following letter from the same governor, dated the 13th of January, 1794. 'After the date of my last letter to you,' he says to the secretary of state, 'I received information that a commission had been sent to general Clarke, with powers to name and commission other officers, and to raise a body of men; no steps having been taken by him, (as far as come to my knowledge) to carry this plan into execution, I did not conceive it was either proper or necessary for me to do any thing in the business.
   "'Two Frenchmen, La Chaise and Depeau, have lately come into this state; I am told they declare publicly, they are in daily expectation of receiving a supply of money, and that as soon as they do receive it, they shall raise a body of men and proceed with them down the river. Whether they have any sufficient reason to expect to get a supply, or any serious intention of applying it in that manner, if they do receive it, I can form no opinion.' After requesting the president to give him full and explicit directions as to the steps he wished taken, to prevent the contemplated expedition, he added, 'I have great doubts, even if they do attempt to carry their plan into execution, (provided they manage their business with prudence,) whether there is any legal authority to restrain or punish them, at least before they have actually accomplished it. For if it is lawful for any one citizen of this state to leave it, it is equally so for any number of them to do it. It is also lawful for them to carry with them any quantity of provisions, arms, and ammunition; and if the act is lawful in itself, there is nothing but the particular intention with which it is done that can possibly make it unlawful; but I know of no law which inflicts a punishment on intention only, or any criterion by which to decide what would be sufficient evidence of that intention, if it was a proper subject of legal censure.

   "'I shall, upon all occasions, be averse to the exercise of any power which I do not consider myself as being clearly and explicitly invested with, much less would I assume a power to exercise it against men who I consider as friends and brethren, in favour of a man who I view as an enemy and a tyrant. I shall also feel but little inclination to take an active part in punishing or restraining any of my fellow-citizens for a supposed intention only, to gratify or remove the fears of the minister of a prince, who openly withholds from us an invaluable right, and who secretly instigates against us a most savage and cruel enemy.

   "'But whatever may be my private opinion as a man, as a friend to liberty, an American citizen, and an inhabitant of the western waters, I shall at all times hold it as my duty to perform whatever may be constitutionally required of me as governor of Kentucky, by the president of the United States.' ..." [THE AMERICAN QUARTERLY REVIEW. VOL. VI. SEPTEMBER & DECEMBER, 1829. PHILADELPHIA: CAREY & LEA--CHESNUT STREET. (Pitkin's History of the United States, Dec. 1829). Pgs. 396-97]

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