John] 1793-1863 [Russell.

The history of the war, betwee the United States and Great-Britain, which commenced in June, 1812, and closed in Feb. 1815 .. online

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justice and the principles and usages of all civilized
nations. The French government did not |)relend to
say that any one of the regulations contained in those
Decrees was a regnlatioti which France had ever
been in the previous practice of.

They were consequently to be considered, ami were
mdeed allowed by France herself to be, all of liiem,
parts of a newsystjm of warfare, unauthorised by the
established laws of nations.

It is in this light in which Fiauce herseU has placed
her Decrees ; that Great-Britain is obliged to consid-
er them.

The submission of tieatrals to ^.\\\ rogidations made
by France, authorised by the laws of nations, and
practised in former wars, will never be comphiincd


of by Great-Britaiu ; bat the reg-ulationsof the Berlin
and Mian Decrees do, and are declared to violate
the laws of" nations, and the rights of neutrals, for the
purpose of attacking throug-h them the resources of
Great-Britain. The ruler of France has drawn no
distinction between any of them, nnr has he declared
the cessation of any one of them in the speech which he
so lately addressed to the deputation from the free
Imperial Hanse Towns, which was on the contrary a
confirmation of them all.

Not until the French Decrees therefore shall be
effectually repealed, and thereby neutral commerce
be restored to the situation in which it stood previous-
ly to their promnlo;'alion, can his royal highness con-
ceive himself justified, consistenlly wilh what he owes
to the safety and honour of Great Britain, in forego-
ing the just measures of retaliation which his JMajesty
in his defence was necessitated to adopt against them.

I trust, sir, that this explanation in answer to your
enquires will be considered by you sufficiently satis-
factory ; should you require any furlher, and which
itmaybein my power to give, I shall \\\\h the
greatest cheerfulness afford it.

I sincerely hope, however, that no iiirlher delay
will be thought necessary by the Piesident in restor-
ing the relations of amity which s'jould ever subsist be-
tween America and Great-Britnin, as tiie delusions
attempted by the government of France have now
been made manii'est, and the perfidious plans of its
ruler exposed ; by which, while he adds to and agra-
vates his system of violence against neutral trade, he
endeavours to throw all the odium of his acts upon
Great Britain with a view tii engender discord be-
tween the neutral countries, and the only power
which stands uo as a bulwark, aafainst his efiorts at
universal tyranny and oppression.

Excuse me, sir, if I express my wish as early as
possible to dis[ ate h his Majesty's packet bo;it with
the result of our communications, as his MajestYS
g'overnment will necessarily be most anxious to heay


from me. Any short period of time, however, which
may appear to you to be reasonable, I will not hesi-
tate to detain her.

I have the honor to f)e with the highest considera-
tion and respect, sir, your most obedient humble


1^0 the hon. James Monroe, ^c.

Mr. Monroe to 3Ir. Foster.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, July 23d, 1811.


I have submitted to the President your several let-
ters of the 3d and 16th of this month relative to the
British Orders in Council and the blockade of May,
18U6, and I have now the honor to communicate to
you his sentunents on the view which you have pre-
sented ol those measures of your g-overnme-it.

It was hoped that your communication would have
led to an immediate accommodation of the differences
subsisting between our couiitries, on the ground on
which alone it is possible to meet you. It is regretted
that you have confined yourself to a vindication of the
measures wliich produced some of them.

The United States are as little disposed now as
heretofore to enter into the question concerning the
priority of aggression bv the two belligerents, which
oould not be justified by either, by thj priority of
Ihoscof the other. But as you bring forward that
plea in support of the Orders in Council, I nmst be
permitted to remark that you have yourself furnished
a conclusive answer to it, by admitting that the block-
ade of May 1806, which was prior to the first of the
I^'rench Decrees, would not be legal, unless supported
througii the whole extent of the coast, from the Elbe
to Brest, by an adequate naval force. That such a
naval force wasactualy applyed and contiinied in the
requisite strictness ttntil tliat blockade was comprised


m and superceded by the Orders of November of the
following'year, or even uiitd the French Decree of
the same year, will not I presume be alleged.

But waving- this question of priority, can it be seen
without both surj»rise and regret, that it is still con-
tended, ihat the Orders in Council arejustifii^d by the
principle of retaliation, and that this principle is
strengthened by the inability of France to enforce her
Decrees. A retaliation is in its name, and its essen-
tial character, a returning like lor like. Is the dead-
ly blow of the Ortlers in Council against one half of
our commerce, a return of like for like to an empty
threat in the French Deci-ees, against the other half 1*
It may be a vindicative hostility, as far as its eftects
falls on the enemy. But when falling on a neutral
who on no pretext can be liable for more than the
measure of injury received through such neutral it
would not be a retaliation, but a positive wrong by
the plea on which it is founded.

It is to be further remarked that the Orders in
Council went even beyond the plea, such as this has
appeared to l>e, in extending its operation against the
trade of the United Slates, with nations which, like;
Russia, had not adopted the French Decrees, and
with all nations which had merely excluded the Brit-
ish Hag ; an exclusion resulting as a matter of course
with respect to whatever nation Great-Britain might
happen to be at war.

I am far from viewing the modification originally
contained in these Orders, which permits neutrals to
prosecute their trade with the continent, through
Great-Britain, in the favorable light in which you i*e-
present it. It is impossible to proceed to notice the
effect of this modification without expressing our as-
tonishment at the extravagance of the political preten-
sion set up by it : a pretension which is utterly incom-
patible with the sovereignty and independance of oth-
er states. In a commercial view, it is not less objec-
tionable, as it cannot fail to prove destructi\e to neu-
tral coumuTce. As an enemv, Great-Britain cannot


trade with France. Nor does France |)erinit a neu-
tral to come into her ports from Great- Britain. The
attenipt of Great-Britain to force our trade through
her ports, would have therefore the commercial effect
of depriving the United States altogether otthe mark-
et of her enemy for their productions, and of destroy-
ing their value in her market hy a surcharge of it.
Heretofore it has been the usayfe of hellisferent na-
lions to carry on their trade thiough the intervention of
neutrals ; and this had the beneficial effect of extend-
ing to the former tlie advantages of peace, while suf-
fering under the calamities of war. To reverse the
rule, and to extend to nations at peace, the calamities
of war, is a change as novel and cxtraorditiary as it is
at variance with justice and public hiw.

Against this unjust sys'.em, the United States en-
tered, at an early period, their solemn protest. They
considered it their duty to evince to the world their
high disapprobation of it, and I hey hare done so by
such acts as were deemed most consistent with the
rights and the policy of the nation. Remote from the
contentious scene which desolates Euroje, it has been
their uniform object to avoid becon)ing a party to the
war — With this view they have endeavored to culti-
vate friendship with both I'arties, by a system of con-
duct which ought to have produced that effect.
They have done justice to each party in ^very trans-
action in which they have been separately engaged
with it. They have observed the impartiality which
was due to both as belligerents standing on equal
■>n)nnd, having in no instance given a preference to
•Mtiier at the expense of the other. They have borne
too with C(pKd indulgence injuries IVont both, being
willing whde it was p<)ssible, to impute them to casu-
aiitics mseparaltle from a cause of war, and not to a
doli!>criitc intention to violate their rights, and even
\^h< n that intention could not be mistaken, they have
nol lost sight of the ultimate object of their policy.
In IhiMneasures to which they have been coujpelhd
I't resort, ihov have in all respects maintained pacitic


relations with both parties. The alternative present-
ed by their late acts, was offeretl equally to both, and
could operate on neither, no longer than it should
persevere in its agressions on our neutral riohts.
The enibarg-o and noii-interconrsc, were peaceful
measures. The regulations which they imposed on
our trade were such as any nation might adopt in
peace or war, without offence to any other nation.
The non-impoHation is of the same character, and if
it makes a distmction at this time, in its operation be-
^ween the belligerents, it necessarily results from a
compliance of one with the offer made to both, and
which is still open to the compliance of the other.

In the discussions which have taken place on the
subject of the Orders in Council and blockade of IMa}'^
1806, the British government in conformity to the
principle on which the Orders in Council are said to be
founded, declared that they should cease to operate as
soon as France revoked her Edicts. It was stated al-
so, that the British government would proceed pari
jyaasu, with ihe goxernment of Fiance, in the revoca-
tion of her Edicts. I will proceed to shew that the
obligation on Great-Britain to revoke her Orders is
complete, according to her own engagements, and
that the revocation ought not to be longer delayed.
.' By the Act of May 1st, 181U, it is provided, ♦ That
rff either Great-Bntain or France should cease to vio-
jate the neutral commerce of the United States, which
fact the President should declare by proclamation,
and the other party should not within three months
thereafter revoke or modify its Edicts m like m 'uner,
^Umt then certain sections in a former act interdicting
^^ commercial intercourse between the United States
and Great-Britain and France and their dependen-
cies, should from and after the expiration of three
months from the date of the proclamation, be revived
and have full force against theformeivits coloiiies and
dependencies, and against all articles the growth, pro-
duce, or manufacture of the same.'


The violations of neutral comnaerce alluded to in
this act, were such as weVe committed on the high
seas. It was in the trade between the United States
and the British dominions, that France had violated
the neutral rights of the United States by her bh)rk-
ading Edicts. Jt was with the trade of France and
her allies that Great-Britain had committed similar
violations by similar Edicts. It was the revocation
of those Edicts, so far as they conimitted such viola-
tions, which the United States had in view, when they
passed the law of May 1st, 1810. On the 5th of
August, 1810, the French minister of foreign attairs
addressed a note to the minister plenipotentiary of
the United States at Paris, informing him that the
Decrees of Berlin and Milan were revoked; the re-
vocation to take effect on the 1st of November fol-
lowing : that the measure had been taken by his gov-
ernment in coi fidence that the British government
would revoke its Orders, and renounce its new prin-
ciples of blockade, or that the United States would
cause their rights to be respected, conformably to the
act of May 1st, 1810.

This measure of the French government was
founded on the law of May 1st, 1810, as is expressly
declared in the letter of the Duke of Cadore announc-
ing it. The Edicts of Great-Britain, the revocation
of which were expected by France, were those allud-
ed to in that act; and the means by which the United
Stales should cause their rights to be respected, in
case Great-Britain should not revoke her Edicts, were
likewise to be found in the same act. They consist-
ed merely in the enforcement of the non-importation
act against Great-Britain, in that unexpected and im-
probable contingency.

The letter of the 5th of August, which announced
the revocation of the French Decrees, was communi-
cated to this government, in consequence of which
the President issued a proclamation on the 2d of No-
vember, the day after that on which the re[ieal of the
French Decrees was to take efl'ect, in which he de-
clared that all the restrictions imposed by the act of


l^lay 1st, 1810, should cease and be discontinued in
relation to France and her dependencies. It was a
necessary consequence of this proclamation, also, that
if Great-Britain did not revoke her Edicts, the non-
importation would operate on her, at the end of three
months. This actually took place. She declined the
revocation, and on the 2d of February last, that law
took effect. In confirmation of the proclamation, an
act of Congress was passed on the 2d of i\Iarch fol-

Great-Britain still declines to revoke her Edicts,
on the pretension that France has not revoked hers.
Under that impression she infers that the United
States have done her injustice by carrying into effect
the non-importation against her.

Tlie United States maintain that France has re-
voked her Edicts, so far as they violated their neutral
rights, and were contemplated by thelaw of May 1st,
1810, and have on that ground particularly claimed
and do expect of Great-Britain a similar revocation.

The revocation announced officially by the French
minister of foreign affairs, to the minister plenipoten-
tiary of the United States at Paris, on the 5th of
August, 1810, was in itself sufficient to justify the claim
of the United States to a correspondent measure from
Great-Britain. She had declared that she would
proceed pari passu in the repeal with France, and
the day being fixed when the repeal of the French
Decrees should take effect, it was reasonable to con-
clude that Great-Britain would fix the same day for
the repeal of her Orders. Had this been done, the
proclamation of the President would have announced
the revocation of the Edicts of both powers at the
same time and in consequence thereof the non-impor-
tation would have gone into operation against neither.
— Such, too, is the natural course of proceeding in
transactions between independant states ; and such
the conduct which they generally observe towards
each other. In all compacts between nations, it is the
duty of each to perform what it stipulates, and to pre-
sume on the good faith of the other for a like per-


formance. The [Jnited States having made a pro-
posal to both belligerents were bound to accept a
compliance from either, and it was no objection to
the French compliance, that it was in a form to takp
effect at a future day, that being a form not unusual
in other public acts ; even when nations are at war
and make peace, Ihis obligation of neutral confidence
exists and is respected. In treaties of commerce,
by which their fuiure intercourse is to be governed,
the obligation is the same. — If distrust and jealousy
are allowed to prevail, the moral tie which binds na-
tions together in all their relations, in war as well as
in peace, is broken.

What would Great-Britain have hazarded by a
prompt compliance in the manner suggested ? She
bad declared ihat she had adopted the restraints im-
posed by her Orders in Council with reluctance, be-
cause of their distressing effect on neutral powers.
Here then was a favorable opportunity presented to
her, to withdraw from that measure with honor, be
the conduct of France, afterwards, what it might.
Had Great-Britain revoked her Orders, and France
failed to fulfil her engagement, she would have gain-
ed credit at the expense of France, and couid have
sustained no injury by it, because the failure of
France to maintain her faith w ould have replaced
Great-Britain at the point from M'hich she had de{)art-
ed. To say that a disappointed reliance on the good
faith of her enemy, would have reproached her tore-
sight, would be to set a higher value on that quality
than on consistency and good faith, and would sacri-
fice to a mere suspicion towards an enemy, the plain
obligations of justice towar<ls a friendly power.

Great-Britain has declined \iroceed\iig patri pasm
with Fra^ice in the revocation of their respoclive
Edicts. She has held aloof, and claims of the United
States proof not only that France has revoked her
Decrees, but that she continues to act in conformity
•With the revocation.

To shew that the repeal is respected, it is deemed
sufficient to stale, that not one vessel has been con-


iJemned by French tribunals, on the principles of those
Decrees, since the 1st of November last. — The New-
Orleans packet from Gibraltar to Bordeauv, was de-
tained but never condemned. The Grace Ann
Green, from the same British port, to Marseilles, was
likewise detained, but afterwards delivered up uncon-
ditionally to the owner, as was such part of the cargo
of the New-Orleans packet as consisted of the pro-
duce of the United States. Both these vessels pro-
ceeding from a British port, carried cargoes, some
articles of which in each, were prohibited by the laws
of Prance, or admissible by the sanction of the gov-
ernment alone. It does not appear that their deten-
tion was imputable to any other cause. If imputable
to the cu'cumstance of passing from a British to a
French port, or on account of any part of their car-
goes, it aifords no cause of complaint in Great-Britain,
as a violation of her neutral rights. No such cause
would be afforded, even in a case of condemnation.
The right of complaint, would have belonged to the
United States.

In denying the revocation of the Decreess, so far
as it is a proper slibject of discussion between us, it
might reasonably be expected that you would pro-
duce some examples of vessels taken at sea, in
voyages to British ports, or on their return home, and
condemned under them by a French tribunal. None
such has been afforded by you. None such are
known to this government

You urge only as an evidence that the Decrees are
not repealed, the speech of the Emperor of France
to the deputies from the free cities of Hamburg, Bre-
men, ancf Lubeck ; the Imperial Edict dated at Fon-
tainbleau on the 19th of October, 1810; the report
of the French minister of foreign affairs, dated in De-
cember last, and a letter of the minister of Justice to
the President of the Council of prizes of the 25th of
that month.

There is nothing in the first of these papers incom-
patible with the revocation of the Decrees, in respect
to the United Stales. It is distincly declared by


the Emperor in his speech to the deputies of the
Hanse Towns, that the blockade of the British
Islands shall cease when the British blockades cease ;
and that the French blockade shall cease in favor of
those nations in whose favor Great Britain revokes
hers, or who support their ri^fhts against her preten-
sion, as France admits the United States will do by
enforcing the non-importation act. The same senti-
ment is expressed in the report of the ministers of
foreign affairs. — The Decree of Fontainbleau having
no effect on the high seas, cannot be broughtinto this
discussion. It evidently has no connection with neutral
rights. The letter from the minister of justice, to
the President of the Council of prizes, is of a different
character. It relates in direct terms to this subject
but not in the sense in which you understand it. Af-
ter reciting the note from the duke of Cadore of the
5th August last, to the American minister at Paris,
which announced the repeal of the French Decree's,
and the proclamation of the President in consequence
of it, it states that all causes arising under those De-
crees after the 1st of November, which were then be-
fore the court, or might afterwards be brought before
it, should not be judged by the principles of the De-
crees, but be suspended until the 2d February, when
the United States having fulfiled their engagement,
the captures should be declared void, and the vessels
and their cargoes delivered up to their owners. This
paper appears to afford an unequivocal evidence of
the revocation of the Decrees, so far as relates to the
United States. By instructing the French tribunal
to make no decision till the 2d of February, and then
to restore the property to the owners, on a particular
event which has happened, all cause of doubt on that
point seems to be removed. Tlie United States may
justly complain of delay in the restitution of the prop-
erty, but that is an injury which effects them only.
Great-Britain has no right to complain of it. She
was interested only in the revocation of the Decrees
by which neutral rights would be secured from future


violation ; or if she had been interested in the delay it
would have afforded no pretext for more than a delay
in repealing- her orders the 2d of February. From
that day at farthest the French Decrees would cease.
At the same day ought her Orders to have ceased. I
might add to this statement, that every communication
received from the French government, either through
our representatives there, or its representatives here,
are in accord with the actual repeal of the Berlin and
Milan Decrees, in relation to the neutral commerce of
the United States. But it will suffice to remark that the
best, and only adequate evidence of their ceasing- to
operate, is the defect of evidence that they do operate.
It is a case where the want of proof against the fulfil-
ment of a pledge is proof of the fulfilment. Every
case occurring, to which if the Decrees were in force,
they would be applied, and to which they are not ap-
plied, is a proof that they are not in force. And if
these proofs have not been more multiplied, I need
not remind you that a cause is to be found in the nu-
merous captures under your Orders in Council,
which continue to evince the rigour with which they
are enforced, after a failure of the basis on which thev^
are supposed to rest.

But Great-Britain contends, as appears by your last
letters, that she ought not to revoke her Orders in
Council, until the commerce of tl e continent is restor-
ed to the state in which it stood before the Berlin and
Milan Decrees were issued ; until the French Decrees
are repealed not only as to the United States, but so as
to permit Great-Britain to trade with the continent. Is
it then meant that Great-Britain should be allowed
to trade with all the powers with whom she traded at
that epoch ? Since that time France has extended her
conquests to the north, and raised enemies ag-ainsl
Great-Britain, where she then hnd friends. Is it pro
posed to trade wilh ihem notwilhstanding- the chati'rt
in their situation ? Between the enemies of one state
as.d those of another, no discrimination can be made.
There is none in reason nor cafi there be ;.inv of rinb! .


in practice. Or do you maintain the general princi-
ple and contend that Great-Britain ought to trade
with France and her Allies? Between enemies there
can be no commerce. The vessels of either taken by
the other are liable to confiscation and are always
confiscated. The number of enemies or extent of
country which ihey occupy, cannot affect the question.
The laws of war g^overn the relation which subsist be-
tween them, which especially in the circumstance un-
der consideration are invariable. They were the
same in times the most remote that they now are.
Even if peace had taken place between Great-Bri-
tain and the powers ot the continent she Mould not
trade with them without their consent. Or does
Great-Britain contend, that the United Slates as a
neutral power, ought to oj en the continent to her com-
merce, on such terms as she may designate ? Oil
what principle can she set up such a clauii ? No ex-
ample of it can be found \n iJie history of past wars,

Online LibraryJohn] 1793-1863 [RussellThe history of the war, betwee the United States and Great-Britain, which commenced in June, 1812, and closed in Feb. 1815 .. → online text (page 3 of 38)