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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nor is it founded in any recognized principle of war,
or in any semblance of reason or right. The United
btates could not maintain such a chiim in their
t/wn favor, though neutral — v^hen advanced in fa-
vor of an enemy, it would be the most preposterous
kud extravagant claim ever heard of. Kvery power
wlien not restriuned by treaty, has a right to regulate
its trade with other nations, m such a manner as it
finds it most consistent with its interest; to admit,
andon its own conditions, cr to prohibit the importation
of such articles as are necessary to supply the wants, or
encourage the industry of its people. In what light
would Great- Britain view an application from the
United States for the repeal of right of any act of her
parliament, which prohibited the importation af any
article from the United States, such as their fish, or
their oil P Or which claimed the diminution oi'the du-
ty on any other, such as their tobacco on which so
great a revenue is raised ? In what light would she
view a similar application made ..t the instance of
France, for the importation into England, of any arli-

iirsTORY or the war. * 41

cle the growth or manufacture of that power which it
was the pohcy of the British government to prohibit.

If delays have taken place in the restitution of A-
merican property, and in placing the American com-
naerce in the ports of France on a fair and satisfac-
tory basis, they involve oiiestions, as has already been
observed, in which the United States alone are inter-
ested. As they do not violate the revocation by
France, of her Edicts, they cannot impair the obliga-
tion of Great- Britain to revoke hers ; nor change the
epoch at which the revocation ought to have taken
pJace. Had that duly followed, it is more than prob-
able that those circumstances, irrelative as they are^
which have excited doubt in the British government
of the practical revocation of the French Decrees,
might not have occurred.

Every view which can be taken of this subject in-
creases the painful surprise at the iimovatioiis on all
the principles and usages heretofore observed, which
are so unreservedly contended for, in your letters of
the dd and IGth inst. and which, if persisted in by
your government presents such an obstacle to the
wishes ot the United States, for a removal of the diffi-
culties which have been connected with the Orders in
Council. It is the interest of belligerents to mitigate
the calamities of war, and neutral powers possess am-
ple means to promote that object, provided they sus-
tain with impartiality and hrmnesslhe dignity of their
station. It" belligerents expect advantage from neu-
trals, they should leave them in the full enjoyment of
their rights. The present war, has been oppressive
beyond example, by its duration, and by the desolation
which it has spread throughout Europe. It is highly
important that it should assume, at least, a milder
character. By the revocation of the French Edicts,
so far as they respected the neutral commerce of the
United States, some advance is made towards that
most desirable and consoling result. Let Great-^
Britain follow the example. The ground thus gain-
ful will soon be enlarged by the concurring and prcjs-


sing interest of all parties, and whatever is gaiijed, will
accrue to the advantag-e of afflicted humanity.

I proceed to notice another part of your letter of tlie
3d inst. which is viewed in a more favorable light-
The President has received with great satisfaction the
communication that should the Orders in Council of
1807, be revoked, the blockade of May of the preced-
ing year, Mould cease with them, and that any block-
ade which should afterwards be instituted, should be
duly notified and maintained by an adequate force.
This frank and explicit declaration, worthy of tlie
prompt and amicable measure adopted by the Prince
Regent in coming into power, seems to remove a ma-
teriid obstacle to an accommodation of differences
between our countries, and vheu followed by the re-
vocation of the Orders in Council, will, as I am
authorised to inform you, produce an immediate ter-
mination of the non-importation law, by an exercise
of the power vested in the President for that purpose.

I conclude with remarking that if I have confined
this letter to the subjects brought into view by yours;
it is not because the United States have lost sioht in
any degree of the other very serious caust s of com-
plaint, on which thc-y have received no satisfaction,
but because the conciliatory policy of this g<jvernnient
has thus far separated the case of the Orders in Coun-
cil from others, and because with respect to these
others, }our communication has not aflbrded any
reasonable prosfiect of resuming them, at this time,
with success. It is presumed that the same liberal
view of the true interests ot Great-Britain, and friend-
ly disposition towards tlie United States, which in-
duced the Prince Regent to rcmo\e so material a
difficulty as had ari.sen in relation to a repeal of the
Orders in Council, wdl lead to a more favorable
turlher consideration of the remaining difficulties on
that subject, and th;it the advantages of ar amicabie
a<ijusklDuent of every question, depending between


the two countries, will be seen by your ^OTernment,
ill Ihe sains light, as they are by that of the United

i have the honor to be, &:c.


Mr. Foster to Mr. Monroe.

\\'*iSHiNGTON, July 24th, 1831.

Having- been unable to ascertain distinctly from
your letter to me of" yesterday's date, whether it was
the determination of the President to rest satisfied
with the partial repeal of the Berlin and Milan De-
crees, svhich you believe has taken place, so as to sec
no reason, in the conduct of France, for altering the
relations between this country and Great-Britain, by
exercising his power of suspending the operation of
the non-iuiportation act, allow me to repeat my ques-
tion to you on this point, as contained in my letter of
the 14th inst. before I proceed to make any com-
ments on your answer.

1 have the honor to be, with distinguished consid-
eration, sir, your most ohedieut hmnble servant,


Mr Foster to Mr. Monroe.

WASHINGTON, July 2()th, 1811.


I have had the honor to receive your letter of July
23d, in answer to mine of the Sd and 14th inst. which
you will permit me to say were not merely relative
to his Majesty's Orders in Council, and the blockade
of May 180(5, but also to the President's proclama-
tion ot^lasl November, and to the coasuquent act ot


Congress of Marcli 2d, as well as to the just com-
plaints which his Royal Highness, the Prince He-
gent, had commanded me to make to your govern-
ment, with respect to the proclamation and to that

If the United States' government had expected
that I should have made communications which
wr>uld have enabled them to come to an accommo-
dation with Great-Britain on the ground on which
alone you say it was possible to meet us, and that you
mean by that expression a departure from our system
of defence against the new kind of warfare still prac-
tised by France, I am at a loss to discover from what
source they could have derived those expectations -y
certainly not from the correspondence between the
Marquis Wellesly and Mr. Pinkney.

Before I proceed to reply to the arguments which
are brought forward by you to show that the Decrees
of Berlin and Milan are repealed, I must first enter
into an explanation upon some points on which you
have evidently misapprehended, for I will not suppose
you could have wished to misinterpret my meaning.

And first, in regard to the blockade of May, 1806,
I must avow that I am wholly at a loss to find out
from what part of my letter it is that the President has
drawn the unqualified inference, that should the Or-
ders in Council of 1807, be revoked, the blockade of
May, 180(), would cease with them. — It is most mate-
rial that, on this point, no mistake should exist be-
tween us. From your letter it would appear, as if on
the question of blockade which America had so un-
expectedly connected with her demand for a repeal
of om- Orders in Council, Great-Britain had made the
concession required of her ; as if, after all that has
passed on the subject, after the astonishment and re-
gret of his Majesty's government at the United Slates
having taken up the view which the French govern-
ment presented, of our just and legitimate principles
of blockade, which are exemplified n\ the blockade of
iVIay, 1806, the whole ground taken by his Majesty's


government was at once abandoned. ^A' lien I had
tlie honor to exhibit to you my instructions, and to
draw ujj as 1 conceived, according to your wishes and
those of the President, a statement of the mode in
which tiiat blockade would probably disappear ; I
never meant to authorise such a conclusion, and t
now beg most unequivocally to disclaim it. The
blockade of IVIay 1806, will not continue after the
repeal of the Orders in Council, unless his Majesty's
government shall think tit to sustain it by the special
application of a sufficient naval force, and the fact of
its being so continued or not, will be notified at the
time. If, in this view of the matter, which is certain-
ly presented in a conciliatory spirit, one of the obsta-
cles to a complete understanding between our coun-
tries can be removed by the United States govern-
ment waving all further reference to that blockade
when they can be justified in asking a repeal of the
Orders, arid if I may communicate this to my govern-
ment, it will undoubtedly be very satisfactory ; but I
beg distinctly to disavow having made any acknowl-
edgement that the blockade would cease merely in
consequence of a revocation of the Orders in Coun-
cil ; whenever it does cease, it will cease because
there will be. no adequate force to maintain it.

On another very material point, sir, you aj)pear to
have iniscoiiatrued my words; for in no one passage
of my letter can I discover any mention of innovations
on the pan of Great-Britain, such as you say excited
a painiul surprise in your government. There is no
new pretension set up by his Majesty's government.
In a .:>wer to questions of yours, as to what were the
Deci'ees or regulations of France which Great-Bri-
tain complained of, and against which she directs her
retaliatory measures, I brought distinctly into your
view the Berlin and Milan Decrees, and you have
not denied, because, indeed, you could not, that the
provisions of those Decrees were new measures of
war on the part of Fiance, acknowledged as such by
her ruler, and contrary to the principles and usages of


civilii!:ed nations. That the present war has been op-
pressive beyond example by its dnratioa, and the des-
olation it spreads through Europe^ I willingly awree
with vou, but the United States cannot surely mean
to attribute the cause to Great-Britaui. The question
between Great-Britain and France is that of an hon-
orable struggle against the lawless efforts of an am-
bitious tvrant, and America can but have the wish of
every independent nation as to its result.

On a third point, sir, I have a'so to regret that my
meaning' should have been mistaken. Great-Britain
never contended that British merchant vessels should
be allowed to trade with her enemies, or that British
property should be allowed entry into their ports, as
■you would infer ; such a pretension would indeed be
preposterous ; but Great-Britain does contend against
the system of terror put in practice by France, by
which usurping authority wherever her arms or the
timidity of nations will enable her to extend her influ-
ence, she makes it a crime to neutral countries as well
as individuals that they should possess articles, howev-
er acquired, which may have been once the produce
ofE;)gIish industry or of th(^ British soil. Against
such an abominable and extravagant pretension every
feeling must revolt, and the honor no less than the
interest of Great- Britain engages hertoo|)pose it.

Turning to the course of argument contained in
J on- let er, a low me to express my surprise at
the conciasion you draw in considering the question
of priority relative to the French Decrees or British
Orders in Council. It was clearly proved that the
blockade of May, 18>'J(>, was maintained by an ade-
quate naval force, and therefore was a blockade
founded on just and legitimate principles, and 1 have
not heard that it was considered in a contrary light
when notiiied as such to you by Mr. Secretary Fox,
nor until it suited the views of France to endeavor
to have it considered otherwise. Why America took
up the view the French government chose to give of
it, and could see in it grounds for the French De-
crees, was always matter of astonishment in England.


Your remarks on moditicatlons at various times of
oiu- system ot retaliation will require the less reply
from the circumstance of the Orders in Cotmcil of
April, 1800, having superceded them all. Tliey were
calculated for the avow ed j urpose of softenino- the eftect
of the original Orders 04i neutral commerce, the inci-
dental effect of those Orders on neutrals having been
ahva} s sincerely regreted by his Majt-sty's govern-
ment ; but whtn it was found that neutrals objected to
them they were removed.

As to the principle of retaliation, it is founded on
the just and natural right of self defence against our
enemy ; if France is unable to enforce her Decrees
on the ocean, it is not from the want of will, lor she
enforces tliem wherever she can do it ; htr threats are
only empty where her power is of no a\ail.

In the view you have taken of the conduct of
America, in her relations with the two belligerents,
and in the conclusion you draw with respect to the
mipartiality of your country, as exemplified in the non-
importation law, I lament to say I cannot agrte with
you. That act is a direct measure against the Bri-
tish trade, enactedat a time when all the legal authoi'i-
ties in the United States appeared ready to contest
the statement of a repeal; of the French Decrees, on
which was founded the President's prociaination of
November id, ajjd consequently t«* dispute the justice
©Ithe proclamation itself.

You urge, sir,thiit the British government promised
to ^VQiUded pari passu witii France in th.e repeal of her
Edicts. It IS to be wished you could point out to us any'
step France has taken in repeal of liets. Great-Bri-
tain has repeatedly declared that she would re, eal
w hen tlieFrench did so, and she meai>s to keep to that

I have slated to you that we cculd not consider the
letter of Anguyt -3, declaring the repeal of the French
Edicts, providMtg w^e revoked our Orders in Council,
or America resented our not doing so, as a step of that
mature; and the French iiovertimenl knew that '^e


could not ; their object was evidently while their sys-
tem was adhered to, in all its rigour, to endeavor to
persuade the American government that they had re-
laxed from it and to induce her to proceed in enfor-
cing the submission of Great- Britain to the inordinate
demands of France. It is to be lamented that they
have but too well succeeded ; for the United Slates
g-overnment appear to have considered the French
Declaration in the sense in which France wished it to
be takeo, as an absoUite repeal of her Decrees, without
adverting to the conditional terms which accompani-
ed it.

But you assert that no violations of your neutral
rights by France occur on the high seas, and that
these were all the violations alluded to in the act of
Congress oi May, 1810. 1 readily believe indeed that
such cases ai'e rare, but it is owing to the preponde-
rance of the British navy that they are so, when scarce
a ship under the French flag can venture to sea with-
out beingtaken,it is not extraordinary that the) make
no captures. If such violations alone were within the
purview of your law, there would seem to have been
no necessity for its enactment. The Bri isii navy
might have been safely trusted for the prevention of
this occurrence. But I have always believed and
my government believed that the American
legislators had in view in the provision of their law
as it respects France not only her deeds of \iolence
on the seas, but all the novel and extraordinary pre-
tensions and j^ractices of her government which in-
fringed their neutral rights.

We have had no evidence as yet of any of those
pretensions being abandoned. To the amb.gnous de-
claration in Mr. Champagny's note is oi>j.osed the
unambiouous and personal <leclaralion ol Bonaparte
liimself. You urge that there is nollnng incompati-
ble with the revocation of the Decrees in respect to
the United Stales in his expressions to the deputies
from the free cities oi Hamburgh, Bremen, and Lu-
beck, that it is distinctly slated in that speech, that


t/ie hlochacle of the British Islands shall cease when
the British blockade shall cease, and that the French
blockade shall cease in favor of those nations in
whose favor Great-Britain revokes hers or who sup-
port their rights against her pretensions.

It is to be infered from lliis and. the corresponding'
parts of the declaration alluded to, that unless Great-
Britain sacrifices her principles of blockade, which
are those authorize<l by the established laws of nations,
France W'll still maintain her Decrees of Berlin and
Milan, which indeed, the speech in question declares
to be the fundamental laws of the French empire.

I do not, I confess, conceive how these avowals of
the ruler of France, can be said to he compatible with
the repeal of his Decrees in respect to the United
States. If the United States are prepared to insist ou
the sacrifices byGi^eat-Britain of the ancient and esta-
blished rules of maritime w ar practised by her, then
indeed they may avoid the operation of the French
Decrees, but otherwise, according- to this document,
it is very clear that they are still subjected to them.

The Decree of Fountainbleau is confessedly found-
ed on the Decrees of Berlin and Milan, dated the
19th October, 1810, and proves their continued exis-
tence. The reportof the French minister of Decem-
ber 8, announcing the perseverance of France in her
Decrees is still further in confirmation of them, and
a re-perusal of the letter of the minister of Justice, of
the 2.jth lust December, confirms me in the inference
I drew from it, for otherwise why should that minis-
ter make the prospective restoration of American ves-
sels, taken after the 1st of November, to be a conse-
quence of the non-importation, and not of the French
levocation. If the French government had been
sincere, they would have ceased infringing on th<:
neutral rights of America, after the 1st November. —
That they violated them, however, after that period,
is notorious.

Your government seem to let it be understood that
an ambiguous declaration from Great-Britain, similar


to that of the French minister, would have been ac-
ceptable to them. But, sir, is it consistei.t with the
ditrnity ot a nation that respects itselt, to speak in aro^
!S language? The subjects and crtizens of
.,,.,-. rounlrv would in tie end be the vielinis, as
many are aheady, in all probability, who fioma mis-
construction of the meaning oi the French govern-
meiit, have been ltd into the most imprudent s-jecu-
]atioi;S. Such conduct would not be to proceed /;ffri
passu wiih Fiance iu re\okii:g our Edicts, but to de-
scend to the of the j>er4i<iious and jug-alinij con-
trivances of her cabinet, i y which she fills her coders
at the ex{>ense of independent: natiois. A similar
conslrucl.on of proceeding- pari passu might lead to
such Decrees a^ those of Kanibouillet, or oi Bayonne,
to the system of exclusion or of licences, ail mea-ures
ot Fiai.ce figaintrt the ^American ccn merce, is noth-
ing short ot absolute host'ilitv.

Ii )s rrL^ed that i.o MSsel has been condemned by
the tribunals of France, oi. the pni:ci[les of her De-
crees since the 1st ol November. You allow, how-
ever, that there have oeci. some detained since that
f enod, aiio that such j art of the cargoes as consisted
ot gwids not the j>roduce of America, was seized, and
the oii;ei pa;t, together with the \es«^el it«elf, onlv re-
leased aber the President's proclamatic.n become
k owa in France. These circum;>tances sarel) , only
p o\e thediihculty that France is under in reconcil-
ing lier anti-f onjmercial and anti-neutral system, wilh
her desire to express her satistactioii at the intasores
t'dken ill America against the commerce of
Entaiii. bhe seizes in virtue of the Berlin and Milvin
Decrees, but she makes a partial restoration for the
j>nr^«oSe of deceiving America.

1 have now toilov*ed you, I believe, sir, through the
whole range ol your argument, and on reviewingthe
course oi it, 1 tLunk I may secuiely say that no satis-
fa<:tr>ry jjroot ha* yet been l^ou-^ht loiward of tl e re-
peal of the oIj noxious Decrees of France, but on the
contrary, that it ap[earj» thty continue m lull force.


consequently that no grounds exist on wliich vou can,
with justice, demancl of Great-Britain a revocation
of her Orders in Couiicil ;-r-that we have u right to
complain of the conduct of the American ofovernment,
in enforcing' the provisions of the act of May, l>ilO,
totlie exchision of tlie British trade, and aftei wards
ill obtaining a special hiw for the saint- purpt>se, tlioujih
it was notorious at the time that Fran«"e still continu-
ed her aggressions upon American commerce, and
had recentlv promulgated aijew her De<Tves, suffer-
ing no trade from this country, but ihiough licences
pubhcly sohl by her agent, a.jd that all the supposi-
tions vou have formt d of innovations on the part ot
Great-Britain, or of her pretensions to tra«le with
enemies are wholly groundless. I have aNo stated to
you the view his ^l.iiesty's goveriHueat has taken oi
the question of the lilockade of May, 180G, audit
now only remains that I urge afresh the injustice ot
tlie United States' go> eminent persevering in then-
union with the French system for the purpose of
crushing the commerce of Great-Britain.

From every co.isideration which t-quity, good poli-
cy or interest can suggest, there ap;iears to he snch
a cnll upon America to give up this system, wliich
favors France, to the injury of Great-Britain, that I
cannot, however little satisf iclory your communica-
tions are, as yet abandon all hopes thai even before
the Congress meet, a new view may i»e taken of the
subject by the President, which will lead to a more
happy result.

I have the h»>nor to be, with very high considera-
tion and respect, sir, your most obedient humble ser-


To the JioH. James Monroe, ^'c.


Mr, Monroe to Mr. Foster. '^ ^

DEPART3IENT OF STATE, July 27lll, 1811.


1 had the honor to receive your letter of yesterday *s
date, in time to submit it to the view of the President
before he left town.

It was my object to state to you in my letter of the
23d inst. that under existing circumstances, it was
impossible for the President to terminate the operation
of the non-importation law of the 2d of March last ;
that France having- excepted the proposition made
by a previous law equally to Great-Britain and to
France, and having revoked her Decrees, violating-
ourneulral rights, and Great-Britain having declined
to revoke hers, it became the duty of this government
to fultil its engagement, and to declare the non-impor-
tation law in force against Great-Britain.

This state of affan's has not been sought by the
United States. When the proposition, contained in
the law of May 1st, 1810, was offered equally to both
powers, there was cause to presume that Great-Bri-
tain would have accepted it, in which event the non-
importation law would not have operated against

It is in the power of the British government at this
time to enable the President to set the non-importa-
tion law aside, by rendering to the United States an
act of justice. If Great-Britain will cease to violate
ouriicutial rights by revoking her Orders in Coun-

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 4 of 38)