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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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 7 of 38)
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partial in its operation against Great-Britain, and a
prospect of retaliation was held out on its commer-
cial operation if continued. This is no demand on
the United States to admit British manufactures ;
they are at liberty to continue that law, only as it is of
an unfriendly nature, some restiiction of a similar


kind was to be expected from England : and with
respect to the alledged demand for forcing British
goods, the property of neutrals, into French ports, if
the United States are willing to acquiesce in the regu-
lations of the French Decrees unlawfully aftecting'
England through them, tliey cannot surely be surpris-
ed if we consider ourselves as at liberty to refuse per-
mission to the French to profit by that acquiescence.

I will now, sir, take the opportunity of staling to you,
that I have received from his Majesty's Secretary of
State, the correspondence of which you did me the
honor to transmit to me a copy in }our letter dated
Oct. ]7. My govenmieut have not been able to see
in it satisfactory proof of the repealof the French De-
crees, and doubt whether the trade carried on by li-
cences between France and^Ainerica, will not be re-
garded, even here, as proof of ihe continuation of them
in their fullest extent, for if they viere to any extent
repealed, to that extent at least no licence should be
necessary, a licence being given to allow what, but
for that licCiice, would be prohibited.

The continued absence hitherto of any instrument
by which the repeal has been effected, is a matter also
of surprise, for if there were any fair dealing in the
tra; saction, no reason can be given by Fraiice for not
producing it ; it is very desirable that it should be
produced, if such an instrument be in existence, in
order that we may know to what extent the Decrees
have been repealed, if they really have been so in
any respect. Mr. Russell however, does not appear
to have been in possession of it at the date of his letter
of last July. It is indeed become particu arly inter-
esting, that we should see this instrument smce the
publication of Mr. Russell's correspondence with his
own government, bv which it appears that really, aiid
in fact the French government did not release any
American ships taken afser jNovember 1, until they
had become acquainted with the President's Proclama-^
tion, and that vessels have been taken so late as De-
cember 21, in the direct voyage irom this couiiliy tp


London ; for until a copy of such instrument is pro»
duced, it is impossible to know whether any other
trade is allowed by France than that between her owa
dominions and the ports of the United States.

I have the honor to be, with the hig^hest considera-
tion, sir, your most obedient humble servant,


To the hon. James Monrvet 6lc.

Mr. 3Ionroe to Mr. Foster.

Department of State Jan. 14, 1812.

1 have had the honor to receive your letter of De-
cember 17th, and I embrace the tirst moment that I
could command, to make the observations which it

It would ha^ve afforded great satisfaction to the
President, to have found in the communication, some
proof of a dispositionin the British governmentto put
ail end to the differences subsisting between our
countries. — I am sorry to be obliged to state, that it
presents a new proof only of its determination to ad-
here to the policy, to which they are imputable.

You complain that the import of your former letters
has been misunderstood in two important circumstan-
ces : that you have been represented to have demand-
ed of the United States, a law for the introduction of
British goods into their ports, and that tiiey should al-
so undertake to force France to receive British manu-
factures into her harbors.

You state that on the first point, it was your inten-
tion only to remonstrate against the non-importation
act, as partial \\\ its operation, and unfriendly to Great-
Britain, on which account its repeal was claimed, and
to intimate lliat if it was persevered in, Great-Britain
would be compelled to retaliate on the commerce of
the United States, by similar restrictions on her part.


And on the second point, that you intended only to
urge, that in consequence of the extiaordiiirry bh ck-
adeof England, your government had been obliged
to blockade France, and to prohibit all trade in
French articles, in return for the prohibition by
France of all trade in English articles.

It is sufficient to remark on the first point, that on
whatever ground the repeal of the non-impoilation act
is required, the United States are justitied in adher-
ing to it, by the refusal of the British government to
repeal its Orders in Council; and if a distinction is
thus produced between Great-Britain and the other
belligerent, it must be referred to the difl'erence in the
conduct of the two parties.

On the second point, I have to observe that the ex-
planation given cannot be satisfactory, because it does
not meet the case now existing. France did, it is true,
declare a blockade of England, against the trade of
the United States, and prohibit all tiade in English
articles on the high seas, but this blockade and prohi-
bition no longer exist. — It is true also, that a part of
those Decrees, did prohibit a tradein English articles,
within her territorial jurisdiction ; but this prohibition
violates no national rights, or neutral commerce of
the United States. Still your blockade and prohibi-
tion are continued, in violation of the national and neu-
tral rights of the United States, on a pretext of retalia-
tion, which, if even applicable could only be applied
to the former, and not to the latter interdicts : and it is
required that Finance shall change her internal regu-
lations against English trade, before England will
change her external regulations against the trade of
the United Stales.

But you sliil insist that the French Decrees are un-
revoked, cuid urge in proof of it, a fact drawn from
IMr. liusseli s correspondence, that some American
vessels have been taken since the 1st of November, in
their route to England. It is a satisfactory answer to
this remark, that it appears by the same correspon-
dence, that every American vessel whirh had bc^n


taken in that trade, Ihe seizure of whicb rtsted on the
Berlin and Milan Decrees only, were, as soon as that
fact was ascertained, delivered up to their owners*
Might there not be other gound also, on which seiz-
ures might be made ? Great-Britain claims a right to
seize for other causes, and all nations admit it in the
case of contraband of war. If bv the law of nations,
one belligerent has a right to seize neutral property
in any case, the other belligerent has the same right.
Nor ought I to overlook that the practice of counter-
feiting American papers in England, which is well
known to the continent, has by impairing the faith due
to American documents, done to the United States
essential injury. Against this practice the minister of
the United Stales at London, as will appear by refer-
ence to his letter to the Marquis Wellesley ot the 3d
of May, 1810, made a formal representation, in pur-
suance of instructions from his government, with an
offer of every information possessed by him, which
might contribute to detect and suppress it. It is pain-
ful to add that this communication was entirely dis-
regarded. That Great-Britain should complain of
acts in France, to which by her neglect, she was in-
strumental, and draw from them proof in sjipport of
her Orders in Council, ought certainly not to have
been expected.

You remark also, that the practice of the Frenclt
goveniment to grant licences to certain American
vessels, engaged in the trade between the United
States and France, is an additional proof that the
French Decrees still operate in their fullest extent.
On what principle this inference is drawn from that
fact it is impossible for me to conceive. It was not
the object of the Berlin and Mdan Decrees to pro-
hibit the trade between the United States and France,
They w ere meant to prohibit the trade of the United
States with Great-Britain, which violated our neutral
rights, and to prohibit the trade of Great-Britain with
the continent, with which the United States have
nothing to do. If the object had been to prohibit the


trade between the United States and France, Great-
Britain could never have found in them any pretext
for complaint. And if the idea of retaliation, could
in any respect have been a|)plioable, it would have
been by prohibiting- our trade with herself. To pro-
hibit it with France, would not have been a retaliation,
but a co-operation. If licencing by France the trade
in certain instances, prove any thing, it proves nothing
more than that the trade with France in other
instances, is under restraint. It seems impossible to
extract from it in any respect, that the Berlin and Mi-
lan Decrees are in force, so far as they prohibit the
trade between the United States and England. I
might here repeat the French practice of granting li-
cences to trade between the United States and France,
may have been intended in part, at least as a security
against the simulated papers ; the forging of which
was not suppressed in England. It is not to be in-
fered from these remarks, that a trade by licence, is
one with which the United States are satisfied. They
have the strongest objections to it, but these are found-
ed on other principles, than those suggested in your

It is a cause of great surprise to the President, that
your government has not seen in the corres[)ondence
of Mr. Russell, which I had the honor to commu-
nicate to you on the I7th of October last, and which
has been lately transmitted to you by your govern-
ment, sufficient proof of the repeal of the Berlin and
M.Ian Decrees, independant of the conclusive evi-
dence of the fact, which that correspondence afford-
ed ; it was not to be presumed from the intimation of
the Marquis of Wellesley, that if it was to be trans-
mitted to you, to be taken into consideration in the
depending discussions, that it was of a nature to have
no weight in these discussions.

The demand which you now make of a view of the
order given by the French government to its cruiz-
ers, in consequence of the repeal of the French De-
crees, is a new proof of its indisposition to repeal the


Orders in Council. The declaration of the French
o-overnmeut was, as has been heretofore observed, a
solemn and obligatory act, and as such entitled to the
TiotK e and respect Oi other governments. It was m-
cumbenton Great- Britain, therefore, ni iulhhnent ot
her engagement, to have provided that her Orders m
Cv>unnUliould not have effect, after the time fixed ior
the cessation of the French Decrees. A pretension
m Greal-Biitain to keep her Orders m lorce till she
received satisfaction of the practical compliance ot
France, is utterly incompatible with her pledge. A
doubt, founded on any smgie act, however unauthor-
ised, committeil by a French privateer, might, on that
principle, become a motive ior delay and refusal. A
suspicion that such acts would be committed might
have the same effect ; and in like manner her compli-
ance might be withheld as long at the war continued.
But let me here remark, that if there was room tor a
question, whether the French repeal did, or did not
take effect, at the date announced by France, and
required by the United States, it cannot be alledged
that the Decrees have not ceased to operate since the
2d of February last, as heretofore observed. And as
the actual cessation of the Decrees to violate our neu-
tral rights, was the only essential fact in the case, and
has long been known to your government, the Orders
in Council, from the date of that knowledge, ought to
have ceased, according to its own principles and

pledges. -,

But the question whether and when the repeal ot
the Berlin and Milan Decrees took effect in relation
to the neutral commerce of the United States, is super-
ceded by the novel and extraordinary claim of Great-
Britam to a trade m British articles, with her enemy ;
for supposing the repeal to have taken place, in the
fullest extent claimed by the United States, it could
according to that claim, have noeffect in removing the
Orders in Council.

On a full view of the conduct of the Bntish gov-
ernment in these transactions, it is impossible to see


in it any tiling short of a spirit of determined hostility to
the rights and interests of the United Stales.— It issned
the Orders in Council, on a principle of retaliation on
France, at a time when it admitted the French Decrees
to be ineifectual; it lias sustained those Orders in full
force since, notwithstanding* the pretext for them has
been removed, and latterly it has added a new condition
of their repeal, to be performed by France, to which the
United States in then" neutral character, have no claim;
and could not demand, without departing from their
neutrality, a condition which, in respect to the com-
merce of other nations With Great-Britain, is repug-
nant to her own policy, and prohibited by her own
laws, and which can never be enforced on any nation
without a subversion of its sovereignty and indepen-

I have the honor to be, Sec.

Augustus J. Foster, SCc.



To the Senate and House of Representatives of the
tuited States. '

I communicate to Congress certain documents, be-
ing a continuation of those heretofore laid before
them, on the subject, of our affairs with Great-Britain.

Without going back beyodd the renewal in 1803,
of the war in which Great-Britain is engaged, and omit-
ting unrepaired wrongs of inferior magnitude, the
conduct of her government presents a series of acts
hostile to the United States as an independent and
neutral nation.


British cruizers have been in the continued prac-
tice of violating- the American flag-, on the great
highway of nations, and ofseizingandcarrying-off per-
sons sailing under it: not in the exercise of a belli-
gerent right, founded on the law of nations against
an enemy, but of a municipal prerogative over Bri-
tish subjects. British jurisdictioii is thus extended to
neutral vessels in a situation where no laws can op-
erate but the law of nations and the laws of the coun-
try to which the vessels belong ; and a self redress is
assumed, which, if British subjects were wrongtully
detained and alone concerned, is that substitution of
force for a resort to the responsible sovereign, which
falls within the definition of war. Could the seizure
of British subjects, in such cases be regarded as with-
in the exercise of a belligerent right, the acknowl-
edged laws of war,^ which forbid an article of captur-
ed property to be adjudged, without a regular investi-
gation before a competent tribunal, would imperious-
ly demand the fairest trial wiiere the sacred rights of
persons were at issue. In place of such a trial, these
rights are subjected to the will of every petty com-

The practice, hence, is so far from affecting British
subjects alone, that under the pretext of searcliing for
these, thousands of American citizens, under the safe-
guard of public law, and of their national flag, have
been torn from their country, and trom every thing-
dear to them; have been dragged on board ships of
war of a foreign nation, and exposed under the sever-
ities of their discipline, to be exiled to the most dis-
tant and deadly climes, to risk their lives in the bat-
tles of their oppressoi-s, and to be the melancholy in-
struments of taking away those of their own brethren.

Against this crying enormity, which Great-Britain
would l)e so prompt to avenge if committed against
herself, the United Stales have in vain exhausted re-
monstrances and expostulations. And that no proof
might be wanting of their conciliatory dispositions,
and no pretext left for the continuance of the practice.


the British government was formally assured of the
readiness ot" the United Slates lo enter into arrange-
ments, such as could not be rejected, if the recovery
of British subjects were the real and the sole object.
The communication passed without effect.

British cruizers have been in the practice also of
violating the rights and the peace of our coasts. They
hover over and harrass our entering and departing
commerce. To the most insulting pretensions they
have added the most lawless proceedings in our very
harbors ; and have wantonly spill American blood
within the sanctuary of our territorial jurisdiction.
The principles and rules enforced by that nation, when
a neutral nation, against armed vessels of belliger-
ents hovering near her coasts, and disturbing her
commerce are well known. When called on never-
theless, by the United States to punish the greater
offences committed by her own vessels, her govern-
ment has bestowed on [hew commanders additional
marks of honor and confidence.

Under pretended blockades, without the presence
of an adequate force, and sometimes without the prac-
ticability of applying one, our commerce has been
plundered in every sea : the great staples of our coun-
try have been cut off from their legitimate markets;
and a destructive blow aimed at our agricultural and
maritime interests. In aggravation of these preda-
tory measures, they have been considered as in force
from the dates of their notification j a retrospective
effect being thus added, as has been done in other
important cases, to the unlawfulness of the course
pursued. And to render the outrage the more signal,
these mock blockades have been reiterated and en-
forced in the face of official communications from the
British government declarinoc as the true definition of
a legal blockade, * that particular ports must be ac-
tually invested, and previous warning given to ves-
sels bound to them, not to enter.'

Not content witli these occasional expedients for
laying waste our neutral trade., the cabinet of Great


Britain resorted, at Ien2:tb to the s\Aeeping system of
blockades, under the name of the Orders in Council,
which has been moulded and managed, as might best
suit its political views, its commercial jealousies, or
the avidity of British cruizei-s.

To our remonstrances ag-ainst the complicated and
transcendant injustice of this innovation, the tirMt re-
ply was that the Orders were reluctantly adopted by
Great-Britain as a necessary retaliation on Decrees
of her enemy proclaiming a general blockade of the
British isles, at a time when the naval force of that
enemy dared not to issue from his own ports. She was
reminded, without effect, that her own prior blockade,
unsupported by an adequate naval force actually ap-
plied and continued, were a bar to this plea : that ex-
ecuted Edicts against niHlions of our property could
Tjot be retaliation on Edicts confessedly impossible
to be executed : that retaliation, to be just, should
fall on the party setting the g^uilty exam[»le, not on an
innocent party, which Mas not even chargeable \> ilh
an acquiescence in it.

When deprived of this flimsey veil for a prohibi-
tion of our trade with her enemy, by the repeal of his
prohibition of our trade with Great-Britain, her cabi-
net, mstead of a corresponding repeal or a practical
discontinuance of its Orders, formally avowed a de-
termination to persist in them against the United
States, until tl.e mai ketir of her enemy should be laid
open to Briti>h products; thus assertmg an ohligation
on a neutral po\>er to require ore belligerent to en-
courage, bv its internal reijulations, the trade of
another be I lifferent ; contradiclmg her oMn practice
towards all nations in peace as well as in Mar; and
betraying the insincerity ot those protessions whuh
inculcated a beliet that, haNing resorted to her Or-
ders with regret, she was anxious to tind an occa-
sion for puttntg an end to them.

Abandoning still more, all respect for the neutral
rights of the United Slates, and for its own consisten-
cy, the British government now demands as prc-re-


qoisites to a repeal of its Orders, as thev relate to the
United States, that a formality should he ob>erv ed id
the repeal of the French Decrees nowise necesmry
to their termination, nor exemplified b? Bntish usag^e ;
and that the French repeal, besides uicluumg that
portion of the Decrees which operates \%ttbiD a terri-
torial jurisdiction as well as that which operates on
the hig^h seas affajust tlie commerce of the United
States, should not be a single special repeal in rtla-
tionto the United States, but should be extended to
whatever neutral nattuns unconnected with ihem may
be atfected b\ those Decrees. And as an additional
insult, they are call#d on for a formal disavowal of
condition and pretensions advanced by the French
gfovernmeiit, for which the United States are so far
from having; made themsehes responsible, that, in
official explanations, which havt been published to
the world, and in a correspondence, of the American
minister at London, with the British mmister for
foreign aflairs, such a responMbility was explicitly
and emphaticillv disclaimed.

It has become indeed sufficiently certain that the
commerce of the United Stales is to be sacnticed, not
as interferiiiar with the belligerent rights of Great-
Britain, not as supplving the wants other enemies,
which she herself supplies, but as interfering with
the raonoply which she covets for her own commerce
and navigation. She carries on a war against the
lawful commerce of a friend, that she may the better
carry on a commerce with an enemy, a commerce,
polluted bv tlie forgeries and perjuries which are for
the most part the only passports by w hich it can suc-

Anxious to make every experiment short of the
last resort of injured nations, the United States have
Withheld from Great-Britain, under successive modi-
fications, the benetils of a free intercourse with their
market, the loss of which couid not but outweigh tlie
profits accruing from her restrictions of our commerce
with other nations. And to entitle tbe>^ experiment?


to the more favcMable consideration, lley were so
framed as to enable her to ]»lare her adversary under
theexclusi^e operation of them. To these appeals
her government has been equally inflexible, as it wil-
ling to make sacrifices of every sort, rather than
yield to the claims ot justice, or renounce the errors
of a talse pride. IVay, so tar were the attempts car-
ried, to overcome the attachment of the British cabi-
net to its unjust Edicts, that it received every en-
couragement, within the competency of the Execu-
tive branch of our government, to exj^ect that a re-
peal of them v^ouid be followed bv a war between the
United .States and France, unless the French Edicts
should also be repealed. Even this communication,
although sdencing for ever the plea of a disposition
in the United States to acquiece in those Edicts, ori-
ginally the sole plea for them, received no attention.

If no other proof existed of a predetermination of the
British government against a repeal of its Orders, it
might be found in the corres|>ondence of the Minis-
ter Plenipotentiary of the United Stales at London,
and the British Secretary forForeijiu Aftairsin 1810,
on the question whether the blockade of May, iJ^^iAi,
was considered as in force, or as not in force. It had
been ascertained that the French government, which
urged this blockade as the ground of its Berlin De-
cree, was willing, in the event of itsrenioral,lo repeal
that Decree ; which being followed by alternate re-
peals of the other oftensive Edicts, might abolish the
whole system on both sides. This inviting oporluni-
ty for accomplishing an object so important to the
United States and professed so oiten to be the desire
ot both the lielligerents, was made known to the Bri-
tish gc\ ernment. As that government adunts that an
actual application of an adequate force is necessary
to the existence of a legal blockade : and it was no-
torious, that if such a force had ever been applied, its
kn:g discontinuance had annulled the blockade in
question, there could be no sufficient objection on the
part ot Greal-Britain 'o a fornial revocation of it ;

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 7 of 38)