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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cil, on which event alone the President has the pow-
er, I am instructed to inform you that he will, without
delay, exercise it by terminating the operation of this

It is presumed that the communications which I
huNe had the honor to make to you, of the revocation
by France of her Decrees, so far as they violated the
neutral rights of the United States, and of her con-
duct since the revocation, will present to your gov-
ernment a dillerent view of the subject, from that


which it had before taken, and produce in its coun-
cils a correspondent effect.

I have the honor to be, &c.

Augustus J. Foster Esq. ^c.

Mr. Monroe to Mr. Foster.


I have had the honor to receive your letter of the
26th of July, and to submit it to the view of the

In answering- that letter, it is proper that I should
notice a complaint that I had onntted to reply in
mine of the 2od of July, to your remonstrance against
the proclamation of the President, of INovember last,
and to the demand which you had made, by order of
your government of the repeal of the non-importation
act of March 2d, of the present year.

My letter has certainly not merited this imputation.

Having shewn the injustice of the British govern-
ment in issuing- the Orders in Council on the pretext
assigned, and its still greater injustice in adhering to
theui after that pretext had failed, a respect for Great-
Britain, aj well as for the United States, prevented
my placing in the strong light in which the sulyect
naturally presented itself, the remonstrance alluded
to, and the extraordinary demand founded on il, that
while your government accouiuiodated in nothing,
the United States should relinquish the ground, which
by a just regard to the public rights and honor, they
had been compelled to take. Propositions tendmg
to degrade a nation can never be brought into discus-
sion by a government not prepared to submit to the
degradation. It was for this reason that I confined
my reply to those passages in your letter, which in-
volved the claim of the United States, on the princi-
pltis ©r justice, to the revocation of the Orders in


Council. Your demancl, however, was neither nn-
noticed or unanswered. In laying before you the
complete, and as was believed, irresistible proof on
which the United Stales expected, and called for the
revocation of the Orders in Council, a very explicit
answer was supposed to be given to that demand.

Equally unfounded is your complaint that I mis-
understood that passage which claimed, as a condi-
tion of the revocation of the Orders in Council,
tnat the trade of Great-Britain with the continent
should be restored to the state in which it was before
the Berlin and Milan Decrees were issued. As this
pretension was novel and extraordinary, it was neces-
sarv that a distinct idea should be formed of it, and
w ith that view, I asked such an explanation as would
enable me to form one.

In the explanation given, you do not insist on the
right to trade in British property, with British vessels,
directly with your enemies. Such a claim, you ad-
mit, would be preposterous. But you do insist by
necessary implication, that France has no rig-ht to
inhibit the the importation into her ports of British
manufactures, of the produce of the British soil, when
the property of neutrals ; and that, until France re-
moves that inhibition, tlie United States are to be
cut off by Great-Britain from all trade whatever, with
her enemies.

On such a pretension it isalmost impossible to rea-^
son. There is I believe, no example of it in the hts-
torv of past wars. Great-Britain, the enemy of France
undertakes to regulate the trade of France ; nor is that
all ; she tells her that she must trade in British goods.
If France and Great- Britain were at peace, this pre-
tension would not be set up, nor even thought of.
Has Great-Bntam then acquired in this respect by
war, rights which she has not in |ieace ? And does
she announce to neutral nations, that unless they con-
sent to become the instruments of this policy, their
commerce shall be anniliilaled, and their vessels
aiiall be shut up in then- own poi'ts ?


I might ask whether French g-oods are admited in*
to (j real-Britain, even in peace, and if they are, whe-
tlier it be of ^ig^)t, or by the consent and policy of
the British government ?

That the propeity woiild \ye neutralized does not
effect the question. If the United States have no right
to carry their own productions into France without
the consent of the French government, how can they
undertake to carry there those of Great-Britain ? h\
all cases it must depend on the interest and tne
will of the party.

Nor is it material to what extent, or by ^^hat pow-
ei's, the trade to the contment is prohibited. If the
powers who prohibit it, are at war with Great Britain,
the prohibition is a necessary consequence of that
state. If at peace, it IS their own act; and whether
it be volunt;»rv, or compulsive, they alone are answer-
able for it. It the act be luken at the instio^ation
and under the influence of France, the most that can
be said, is, that it justifies reprisal agaifist them, by a
similar measure On no principle whatever can it
be said to give any sanction to the conduct of Great*
Britnin towards neutral nations.

The United Stales can have no objection to the
employment of their commercial capital in the sup-
ply of France, and of the continent generallv, with
manufactures, and to comprise in the supply those of
Gi'ent-Britain, provided those powers will consent to
it. But they cannot nndertake to force such
supplies on France or on any other power, in com-
pliance with the claim of the British government, on
principles incompatible with the rights of every imle-
pemient nation, and they Mill not demand in favor of
another power, wiiat they canuot claim for them-

All that Great-Britain could with reason complain
of, was the inhil)ition by the French Decrees, of the
lawful trade of neutrals, with the British dominions.
As soon as that inhibition ceased, her inhiltition ot
our trade with France ouglkl in like .nanner to have


ceased, Having- pledged herself to proceed part
passu with France, in the revocation of their respective
acts viohiting' neutral rights it has afforded just cause
of complaint, and even of astonishment, to the Unit-
ed States, that the Bntish government shouhl have
sanctioned the seiz.ure and condemnation of Ameri-
can vessels under the Orders in Council after the revo-
cation of the French Decrees was a?inounced, and
even in the very moment when your mission, avowed
to be conciliatory, was to have its effect.

I will only add tliat had it a])peared finally, that
France had failed to perform her engagements, it
might at least have been expected, that (ireat-Bri-
tain would not have molested such of the vessels of the
United States as mightbe entering- the ports of France,
on the faith of both governments, till that failure was
clearly proved.

To many insinuations in vour letter I make no re-,
ply, because they sufficiently suggest the only one
that would be proper.

If it were necessary to dwell on the impartiality,
which has been observed by the United States tow-
ards the two belligerents, I nnght ask, whether if
Great-Britain had accepted the eo)idition which \vas
offered equally to her and Fiance, by the act of May.
1st, 1810, and PVance had rejected it, there is cause
to doubt that the non-importation act would have been
carried into effect against France ? IVo such doubt
can possibly exist because m afonner instance, when
this government, trusting to a tulfilment l)y yours of
an arrangement which put an end to a non-inter-,
course with Great-Britain, the non-intercourse was„
continued against France, who had not then repe. ltd
her Decrees as it was not doubted England had done.
Has it not been repeatedly declated to your govern-
ment that if Grtat-Britain would re\oke her Orders
in Council, the President would immediately cause
the non-imporlation to cease ? You well know that,
the same declaration has often bten made to yourself, .
f»nd th:it iHvlhinir more is waulintr to the removal of


the existing obstructions to the commerce between
the two countries, than a satisfactory assurance, which
will be received with pleasure from yourself, that the
Orders in Council are at an end.

By ihe remark in your letter of the 3d of July, that
the blockade of May, 180G, had been included in the
more comprehensive system of the Orders in Council
of the following } car, and that, if that blockade should
be continued in force after the repeal of the Orders in
Council, it would be in consequenceof the special ap-
plication of a sufficient naval force, I could not but in-
fer your idea to be, that the repeal of the Orders in
Council vvould necessarily involve the re|)eal of thti
blockade of May. J uas the more readily induced to
make this inference, from the consideration that if the
blockade was not revoked by the repeal of the Orders iii
Council, there would be no necessity for giving notice
that it would be continued ; as by the further considera-
tion, that according' to the decision of your court of ad-
miralty, a blockade instituted by proclamation does not
cease by the removal of the lorce applied to it, nor
without a formal notice by the government to that

It is not, however, wished to discuss any question
relative to the mode by which that blockade may be
terminated. Its actual termination is the material ob-
ject for consideration.

It is easy lo shew, and it has already been abund-
antly shown, that the blockade of IMay, VS()6, is in-
consisltnt on any view that may be laken of it with
the law of nations. It is also easy to show that, as
now expounded, it was equally inconsistent with the
sense of your government, when the order w as issued ;
and this change is a sufficient reply to the remarks
which you have applied to me personally.

If you will exauiine the order, you will find that it is
strictly, little more than a blockade of the coast from
the Seine to Ostend. There is an express reserva-
tion in it in favor of neutrals to any part of the coast
between Brest and the Feihe, and between Ostend


and the Elbe. Neutral powers are permitted by it ic;
take from their own ports every kind of produce
without distinction as to its orig^in ; and to carry it to
the continent under that limitation, and with the ex-
ception only of contraband of war, and enemy's prop-
erly, and to bring thence to their own ports in return,
whatever articles they think fit. Why were contra-
band of war and enemy's property excepted, if a
commerce even in those articles would not otherwise
have been permitted under the reservation ? No or-
der was necessary to subject them to seizure. They
were liable to it according to the law of nations, as
asserted by Great-Britain.

Why then did the British government institute a
blockade which with respect to neutrals was not rig-
orous as to the greater part of the coast comprised in
it ? Il you will look to the state of things which then
existed between the United States and Great-Britain,
you will find the answer. A controversy had taken
place between our governments on a different topic,
which was still pending. The British government
had interfered wiih the trade between France and her
allies in the produce of their colonies. The just
claim of the United States was then a subject of ne-
gotiation ; and your government professing its wil-
Imgness to make a satisfactory arrangement of it, is-
sued the Order which allowed the trade, without
making any concession as to the principle, reserving
that for adjustment by treaty. It was in this light that
I viewed, and in this sense that I represented that or-
der to my government; and in no other did I make
any comment on it.

Whenyou reflectthat this order by allowing the trade
of neutrals, in colonial productions, to all that portion
of the coast which was not rigorously blockaded, af-
forded to the United States an acconmiodation in a
principal pointthen at issue between our governments,
and of which then- citizens extensively availed them-
selves that that trade and the question of blockade,
and every other question in which the United Stales


and Great-Britain were intereste<l, were tlien in a train
of amicable neg^otialion, you will I think, see th^
cause whv the minister who then represented the
United States with the British goveinment did not
make a formal complaint against it. You have ap-
pealed to me who happened to be that minister, and
urg"ed my silence as an evidence of my ap])rol)ation of,
or at least ac<(niesce in the blockade. — An explana-
tion of the cause of that supposed silence is not less
due to myself, than to the true character of tlie tians-
actibn. With the minister with whom I had tiie hon-
or to treat, I may add, that an official formal com-
plaint was not likely to be resorted lo, because fritnd-
ly communications were invited and prefered. The
want of such a document is no proof that the meas-
ure was approved by me, or that no complaint was
made. In recalling* to my mind as this incident na-
turally does, the manly character of that distinguisjied
and illustrious statesmen, and the contidence with
which he inspired all those with whom he had to treat,
I shall be permitted to express as a slight tribute of
respect to his memory, the very high consideration itl
which I have always held his g^reat talents and virtues.

The United States have not, nor can they approve
the blockade of an extensive coast. Nothing" certain-
ly can be infered from any thing that has passed rel-
ative to the blockade of May, 180G, to countenance
such an inference.

It is seen with satisfaction that you still admit that
the application of an adequate force is necessary to
give a blockade a legal character, and that it will lose
that character whenever that adequate force ceases to
be applied. As it cannot be alledged that the appli-
cation of any such adequate force has been continued,
and actually exists in the case of the blockade of May,
1806, it would seem to be a fair inference that the
repeal of the Orders in Council will leave no insuper-
able difficulty with respect to it. To suppose the contra-
ry would be to suppose that the Orders in Council said
to include that blockade, resting themselves ouaprin-


ciple of retaliation only, and not suslainetl by the ap-
plication of an adequate force, would have the effect
of sustaining a blockade admitted to require the ap-
plication of an adequate force, until such adequate
force should actually take the place of the Orders in
Council. Whenever any blockade is instituted, it*,
will be a subject for consideration, and if the blockr-i
ade be in conformity to the law of nations, there wilt
be no disposition in this government to contesit it.
[ have the honor to be. Sec.


Augustus J' Foster, Esq. ^'c.

Mr, Foster to Mr. Monroe,

WASHINGTON, October 22, 1811.

I had the honor to receive your letter of the 17th
inst. together with its three enclosures, on the road,
between Baltimore and this city ; I had that of re-
ceiving at the same time, your letter dated October 1,
in answer to mine of the 26th of last July.

Not having had any despatches from his Majesty's
Government lately, I have not as yet received the copy
of the recent communication from Paris in regard to
the supposed repeal of the French Decrees which the
charge'd'afFairs of the United States at London, l»as
intimated to you that he understood the Marquis
"Wellesley intended to transmit to me, and which J
conclude is the same as that contjiined in the letter of
Mr. Russell, the Anterican Charge d' affairs \\\
France. I am however in daily expectation of the
arrival of his Majesty's packet boat, when it will in
all probability reach me, and when if I should receive
any fresh instructions in consequence I will not fail
immediately to acquaint you. In the meanwhile,
boyvever, I beg you will permit me to make some re-
marks in reply to your letter of October 1, being ex>.


Iremely anxious to do away the impression wlilch yon
seem to have received relative to the demand I had-
made for the repeal of the non-imporlalion act of the
present year.

It is, I assure you, sir, with very great regret that
I liud you consider that demand as mvolving in any
degree propositions tendnig to degrade your nation.
Such an idea certainly never existed with his Majes-
ty's Government, nor would it be com;)atible with the
friendly sentiments entertained by lhcm,for the Unit-
ed States ; neitlier could I have suffered myself to be
the channel of co:.»>iying a demand which I thought
had such a tendency. — However you view the de-
mand made on the part of Great-Britain, I can safely
say that it was made iti consequence of its appearing
to his Majesty's Govermuent on strong evidence that
the chief of the French nation had really deceived
America as to the repeal of his Decrees and in the
hopes that the United States' Government would there-
fore see the justice of replacing this country on its
former footing of amicable relations with England,
nothing appearing to be more natural than such an ex-
pectation, which seemed a necessary' consequence of
the disposition expressed by America to maintain
her neutrality, and desirable in every other point of
view. I cannot indeed bring myself to think, sir,
that your candor would allow you, 0:1 a consideration,
to put any other construction on the matter, and had
my arguments had sufficient weight with you in
shewing that the French Decrees were still in force,
I cansiot doubt but you would have agreed with me
in the conclusion I drew — 'it would seem therefore
only owing to your not viewing the deceitful conduct
of the French government in the same light t!iat it ap-
pears to his Majesty's government, that a difference of
opinion exists between us as to the proposal [ made,
^vhich under the conviction entertained by them was,
surely a very just and nalural one.

From the earnest desire of vindicating myself and
rny government from the charge of making any de-


grading" or unjust demands on that of America,!
have taken the liberty to trouble you so far and I will
now proceed to shew why I thought you had misuh-
derstood the passage of my letter whicli related to the
extent in which the repeal of the French Decrees was
required by Great-Britain. In the explanation which
you desired on this point I gave you that which the
Marquis Wellesley gave to Mr. Pinkney in answer
to his letter of August 25, 1810, and I beg to refer
you to the message of the President of the United
States on the opening of Congress in December, 1810,
for a proof that the demand of Great-Britain in the
extent in which I have stated it was known to your
government several months ago — how was I there-
fore to suppose in the term innovations, as applied to
the explanation given by me, that you could mean
otherwise than some really new pretension on the
part of Great-Britain such as that France should suf-
fer British property to be carried into her ports for
the purposes of trade ? If the warmth I was betrayed
into in endeavoring to refute a supposed imputation
of this sort gave any offence, I sincerely regret it, and
I will beg permission here to say, sir, that if uncon-
sciously 1 have by any of my remarks led you to sup-
pose they conveyed any improper insrinuations, as one'
paragraph of your letter would appear to imply, I am
most unfeignedly sorry for it, as I entertain the high-
est resi>ect ibr you personally and for your govern-
ment, and could only have meant what I wrote in the
way of argument, or for the purpose of contrasting the.
proceedings of France in her conduct towards the
United States witii that of Great-Britain.

In reverting to the extraordinary and unprecedent-
ed situation of things that has arisen out of the war
m Europe it would seem needless to repeat the evi-
dence there is that the lawless and unbounded ambi-
tion of the ruler of France has been the origin of it,
aiid it cannot be a secret to the United States' govern-
ment that his plan has been and avowedly continues
to be, not to scruple at the violation of any law, pro-


viiled he can thereby overthrow the maritime pow-
er of Engrlaiul. Is it not tIw?refore reasonable in
Great-Britain to distrust an ambiguous declaration of
iis having- suddenly given up any part of a system
which he thought calculated to produce such an ef*
feet? You say however that the Decrees of Berlin
and Milan are revoked. America as not being at
war and therefore not seeing so clearly into the views
of France, may be less scrupulous as to the evidence
liecessary to prove the fact — but sir, it surely cannot
be expected that Great-Britain, who is contending for
everything that is dear to her, should not require more
proof on a point so material to her. It is undoubtly a
very desirable thing tor the United States to have a
free and unrestricted trade with both belligerents, but
the essential security and most important interests of
America are not involved in the question as are those
of Great-Britain. France has levelled a blow which
she hopes will prove deadly to the resources of Great-
Britain, and before the British government can witk
safety give up the mea.sures of defence in consequence
adopted by them, very strong proof must exist of the
cessation by France of her novel and unprecedented

I confess, sir with the sincerest disposition to discover
on the pait of the ruler of France a return to the long-
established practice of warfare as exercised in civiliz-
ed Europe, I have been unable to succeed; and if
the French government had really meant to with-
draw their obnoxious Decrees, it is inconceivable why,
instead of allowing their intensions to be guessed at or
inferred, they should not openly and in plain lan-
guage have declared so ; the Decrees themselves hav-
ing been clearly enough announced on their enact-
ment, why should not their revocation be equally ex-

While, however, numerous declarations have been
made on the partof France of the continued existence
ot the Decrees and ca[)tures made under them of neu-
tral ships have occurred, a few of the American vessels


seized since Novemljer 1, have been reslorecl, and the
loreofoing, a very small part of his plunder, is desired
by Bonaparte to be considered as a proof of the sin-
cerity of his revocation by America ; but it must be
recollected that besides the object of ruining the Bri-
tish resources by his own unauthorised regulations, he
hsis also that of endeavoring to obtain the aid of the
United States for the same purpose, and herein you
will, as I had the honor to remark in a former letter,
])e able to observe the cause of the apparently contra,
dictory language held both by himself and his min-

I shall be extremely happy, to receive from you,
sir, the information that in a frank and unambiguous
manner the chief of the French o•o^ ernment had re-
voked his Decrees. Why he should not do so is in-
explicable if he means to revert to the ordinary rules
of war, but while lie exercises such despotic sway
wherever his influence extends, to ruin the resources
of England, it cannot be expected that Great-Britain
shall not use the means she possesses for the pur[;ose of
making him feel the pressure of his own system.
There is every reason to believe that ere long the ef-
fects on the enemies of Great-Britain will be such as
irresistibly to produce a change wliich will place com-
merce on its former basis. In the mean time, sir, I
hope you will nut think it extraordinary if 1 should
contend that the seizure of American ships by France,
since November 1, and the positive and unqualified
declarations of the French government are stronger
proots of the continued existence of the French De-
crees and the bad iailh of the ruler of France, than the
restoration of five or six vessels, too palpably given
-up for fallacious purposes or in testimony of his satis
faction at tlie attitude taken by America, isa| roof of
their rev ocation, or of his return to the principles of

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 5 of 38)