Joshua Giddings called out Franklin Pierce in the House of Representatives over the latter’s apparent eagerness to go to war with Cuba over the seizure of the Black Warrior. He and others had already taken Pierce to task for his eagerness to spread slavery to Nebraska, and would continue to do so. Giddings opened with how the Spanish authorities had every right to enforce their revenue laws, which everyone agreed the ship had violated. Furthermore, Pierce did not even wait for the Spanish to give any kind of answer to American concerns before starting in with warmongering.
Giddings pressed on. Pierce declared
There have been in the course of a few years past many other instances of aggression upon our commerce, violations of the rights of American citizens, and insults to the national flag by the Spanish authorities in Cuba
Giddings would not have it:
Gentlemen of the House of Representatives, has this nation pocketed insults? Where-where are the Representatives of this nation; where is the former Executive who has pocketed an insult from Spain -that inert and decayed Government? When and where, sir, has the American flag been insulted by Spain? On what occasion? What officer of this Government has demeaned himself as so unworthy of the name of an American citizen? -and when did this Government sit silent under insult from the feminine majesty of Spain- that weak and powerless kingdom?
The man from Ohio’s Western Reserve knew no such person and no such insult. Did Pierce mean to pull one over on the House? Did he tease them like a playground bully about how they let a feeble girl on a throne far away push the United States around. Giddings would not hear his patriotism so impugned. More than that, the House could judge for itself just what an insult constituted, how to respond to it, and when:
coming from the people of the United States, and authorized and commissioned by them, we are authorized to act upon our own judgments -our own responsibility; and we are not to sit here and listen to lectures from the Executive upon the maintenance of national honor or our duties. We were not sent here to be dictated to from that or any other quarter; and I would that members of this Hall should feel the dignity of their position, and hurl back from this Hall such efforts to excite our indignation against the powerless Government of Her Most Christian Majesty of Spain.
Maybe Pierce’s democratic lackeys would take that lecture to heart, but Giddings and his fellow anti-Nebraska men would not. They knew their own business, thank you very much.