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Art. I. The Orders in Council, and the American Embargo, beneficial to the Political and Commercial Interests of Great
Britain. By Lord Sheffield. 1809. Message of the President of the United States, communicated to
Congress 5th Nov. 1811. Report in part of the Committee, to whom was referred that part
of the President's Message which relates to Foreign Affairs. A View of the State of Parties in the United States of America; being an Attempt to account for the present Ascendancy of the French or Democratic Party in that Country, in two Letters
to a Friend. Edinburgh, Ballantyne. 1812. TN the message of the President of the United States, communi
cated to Congress on the 5th November last, Mr. Madison concludes a long string of complaints against Great Britain, with a recommendation that they should assume an armour and an attitude demanded by the crisis. Whether any or all of these complaints are well or ill grounded, one thing at least must be quite obvious to those who have paid any attention to the proceedings of the American government, namely, that, ever since the accession of thật stout republican and stern philosopher of the new school, Thomas Jefferson, there has existed a strong disposition on the part of the American executive to quarrel with Great Britain ; to seize every occasion of exciting a hostile feeling between two nations, whom their relation to each other in point of origin, of language, and of habits, to say nothing of ommon interest, ought to predispose to amicable intercourse, and mutual good will; and whom it is equally obvious that it is the interest of France to disunite and to array against each other.
Of the origin of this spirit in the American government, we shall say a few words hereafter. At present it will be our business to examine into the truth of the allegations of the President's message, and the object of those menaces held forth in the report of the committee, to whom that part of it relating to foreign affairs was referred. Setting aside some points of minor importance,
VOL. VII. NO. XIII.
the wrongs complained of by Mr. Madison may, we conceive, be comprehended under the three following heads :
1. The assumption of new principles of blockade, and, on the part of Great Britain, the rigorous execution of certain orders in council, in violation of neutral commerce and neutral rights.
2. The right of search claimed by Great Britain, and the wrongs sustained by America in the execution of it.
3. The impressment of American seamen.
The first point, however, it would seem, embraces the heaviest of their grievances. The member of the senate who brings up the Report of the committee, is stated to say that, in the opinion of the committee, the 'orders in council were of themselves a sufficient cause of war;' that · British encroachments were such as to demand war, as the only alternative to obtain justice;' and that it was the determination of the committee to recommend open war to the utmost energies of the nation. The report, to be sure, is sufficiently warlike. It states that France, availing herself of the proffers made equally to her and her enemy by the non-importation law of May, 1810, announced the repeal, on the 1st of the following November, of the decrees of Berlin and Milan;' and that in cousequence thereof, 'it was confidently expected that this act, on the part of France, would have been immediately followed by a revocation on the part of Great Britain of her orders in council;' but that, “in this reasonable expectation, however, the committee had been disappointed;' and it goes on to say, it affords a subject of sincere congratulation to be informed, through the official organs of the government, that those decrees are, so far at least as our rights are concerned, really and practically at an end.' The President, however, in his message, not venturing to go the whole length of this assertion, expresses only a ' hope that the successive confirmations of the extinction of the French decrees, so far as they violated the neutral commerce of the United States, would have induced the governinent of Great Britain to repeal her orders in. council.'
The “hope' and the expectation' held out by the President and his committee, would have been reasonable' enough provided the grounds of them had been true. But Mr. Madison knew perfectly well, and his committee also knew, if they knew any thing of the subject, that during the whole of last summer, French privateers, in the Baltic and Mediterranean, took every American vessel they fell in with, and carried them for condemnation into the ports of Italy, Dantzig, and Copenhagen. He knew that every week American ships and cargoes had suffered sequestration in the ports of France, which woeful experience had taught him to consider as pretty nearly the same thing with confiscution. Nay, at the very
· moment moment when the committee were making their report, a small squas dron of French frigates that had escaped from the Loire, were pillaging and plundering American vessels in the Atlantic. In fact, all America knew that no decree por proclamation had ever been issued.. by Buonaparte, announcing the revocation of the Berlin and Milan decrees; and that Mr. Madison had availed himself of a mere cons ditional communication made to General Armstrong, which, from its nature, must have been nugatory, as the condition was one which no person could expect to be performed. The President, indeed, is compelled to acknowledge that no proof whatever had yet been given by France, of any intention to repair the other wrongs done to the United States, and particularly to restore the great amount of American property seized and condemned under edicts, which, though not affecting their neutral relations, and therefore not entering into questions between the United States and other belligerents, were nevertheless founded in such unjust principles, that the reparation ought to have been prompt and ample. This, being only a French aggression, is kindly taken on the part of Mr. Madison: and though he cannot conceal that the United States have much reason to be dissatisfied with the rigorous and unexpected restrictions to which their trade with the French dominions has been subjected ;) yet, against England only and her hostile inflexibility,' he thinks it necessary to recommend to Congress to put the United States into 'an armour, and an attitude demanded by the crisis. .
It may be useful to inquire how the fact really stands between the two belligerents and neutral America, and against which, as the original and principal aggressor, if she really be aggrieved, the hostility of the latter might be expected to be pointer. We have no intention to discuss over again the merits of the various orders in council. The question to be now considered is one of fact rather than argument. The circumstances, in which neutrals are placed by the peculiar character of the present war, are entirely novel. France has done her utmost to extinguish neutrality altogether; that of America has survived only by the intervention of the Atlantic. At an early period of the war, the skill and valour of our seamen had nearly swept from the face of the ocean every ship, whether of war or commerce, belonging to the enemy; but while her colonies in the eastern and the western hemisphere remained in her possession, she continued to enjoy the benefits of a commerce with those colonies without any of its risks, through the channel of neutral America. The French marine, it is true, was, in like manner, nearly driven from the sea in the war which coinmenced in 1756; and they had recourse then, as now, to the employment of neutrals for supplying their colonies, and bringing back their produce. Our prize courts, however, condemned this vew species of neutrality, A %
on the principle that a neutral has no right to carry on a trade with the colonies of one of the belligerent powers in time of war, in a way that was prohibited by that power in time of peace. On this principle We acted during that war. The same rule was adopted on the breaking out of the revolutionary war, when the ports of all the colonies of France were thrown open to every neutral flag. The Americans raised a clamour against the rule on the pretence of its having been abandoned during the American war. This, however, was not true : far from being abandoned, it was actually put in practice; and the temporary relaxations it underwent were owing, in the first instance, to the French being able, in a great measure, to carry on their own colonial trade; and, secondly, to their having falsely asserted that they had entirely changed the colonial system and meant to throw open that trade to foreign vations in time of peace. Mr. Madison goes a step beyond this, and asserts that the principle was, for the first time, introduced by the English in the war of 1756; that it has no pretension or title to an ancient rule; and that, instead of being an established principle, it is well known, he says, that Great Britain is the only nation that has acted upon or otherwise given a sanction to it. One might, in the first place, have expected that the date of the year 1756 would be sufficient to satisfy an American as to the rights of a country which was then his own. But, in the second place, it is to be observed, that the principle and the practice of capturing and condemning neutrals carrying on the colonial trade of a belligerent, were neither introduced for the first time in 1756, nor is Great Britain the only nation that has given a sanction to them. In the war of Queen Anne, ending in 1713, the French employed the Dutch to carry on their colonial trade; but five out of the six vessels so employed were captured and condemned by us ; yet, neither the French nor the Dutch complained of the practice or the principle, which are, therefore, at least a century old.* The same rule was acted upon, without any relaxation, in 1793. In 1794, it is true, an indulgence was granted, as to American intercourse with the West Indies: and a farther relaxation took place in 1798, allowing the produce of the West India colonies to be brought by neutrals to the ports of this country, or to some port of the neutral country. These spontaneous acts of indulgence, on the part of Great Britain, and the liberal construction put upon his Majesty's order by the prize courts, laid the foundation of the unexampled prosperity of American commerce. The same system of liberality was pursued on the renewal of hostilities in 1803. The commanders of his Majesty's ships of war and privateers were instructed' not to seize any neutral vessels which
* Appendix to Vol. VI. of Robinson's Admiralty Reports.
should be found carrying on trade directly between the colonies of the enemy and the neutral country to which the vessel belonged, and laden with property of the inhabitants of such neutral country; provided that such neutral vessel should not be supplying, nor should, on the outer voyage, have supplied, the enemy with any articles contraband of war, and should not be trading with any blockaded ports.'
The able and well informed writer of War in Disguise,' has laid open the enormous frauds and abuses to which this indulgence gave rise. It will be sufficient for our purpose to observe, that so far was the rule of 1756 relaxed, that the ports of the United States of America -became so many entrepôts for the manufactures and commodities, of France, Spain, and Holland, from whence they were re-exported, under the American flag, to their respective colonies; they brought back the produce of those colonies to the ports of America; they re-shipped them for the enemies' ports of Europe, they entered freely all the ports of the United Kingdom, with cargoes brought directly from the hostile colonies; thus, in fact, not only carrying on the whole trade of one of the belligerents, which that belligerent would have carried on in time of peace, but superadding their own and a considerable part of ours. Valuable cargoes of bullion and specie and of spices were nominally purchased by Americans, in the eastern colonies of the enemy, and wasted under the American flag to the real hostile proprietors. One single American house contracted for the whole of the merchandise of the Dutch East India Company at Batavia, amounting to no less a sum than one million seven hundred thousand pounds sterling. The consequence was, that, while not a single merchant ship belonging to the enemy crossed the Atlantic, or doubled the Cape of Good Hope, the produce of the eastern and western worlds sold cheaper in the markets of France and Holland, than in our own.
We defend our colonies,' says the writer to whom we have alluded, • at a vast expence; we maintain at a still greater expence, an irresistible navy; we chase the flag of every enemy from every sea; and, at the same moment, the hostile colonies are able, from the superior safety and cheapness of their new-found navigation, to undersell us in the continental markets of Europe.
Not satisfied with this unexampled state of prosperity, to which the commerce of America had attained, through the munificent concessions made in her favor, she practised still farther on the for. bearance of Great Britain, by sending large and numerous cargoes, which might fairly be considered as contraband of war, direct into the ports of France; such, for instance, as 'three and four-inch' deals, spars, iron and other materials employed in fitting out, and