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American Affairs. Declaration by the British Government of the Causes and
Origin of the War with America. Discussions in Parliament on the Subject. Events of the War.
The British government had unwil- to destroy the power and independence lingly embarked in the war with Ame- of the British empire, as the chief ob. rica, and was still desirous of bringing stacle to the accomplishment of his the contest to a speedy and amicable ambitious designs ; that he first conconclusion. With this view negocia. templated the possibility of assembling tions had been opened during the last such a naval force in the channel, as, year ; but such were the pretensions of combined with a numerous flotilla, ihe American government, that every should enable him to disembark in attempt at conciliation was frustrated. England an army sufficient, in his conThe British ministers were anxious to ception, to subjugate this country; but justify their conduct, on this occasion, by the adoption of an enlarged and in the face of the world ; and to exhi- provident system of internal defence, bit a fair account of the origin and and by the valour of his majesty's 'causes of the war. On the 9th of Ja- Aeets and armies, this design was esnuary, therefore, they issued a Decla- tirely frustrated, and the naval force of ration on this subject, which contained France, after the most signal defeats, an excellent summary of the whole of was compelled to retire from the ocean. our transactions with America, and an That an attempt was then made to efample vindication of the conduct of fectuate the same purpose by other Great Britain.
means ; a system was brought forward, The Declaration stated, that no de- by which the ruler of France hoped to sire of conquest could be imputed to annihilate the commerce of Great BriGreat Britain ; that her commercial tain, to shake her public credit, and to interests were on the side of peace, if destroy her revenue ; to render useless war could have been avoided ; that her maritime superiority, and so she had throughout acted towards avail himself of his continental ascenthe United States of America with dancy, as to constitute himself, in a a spirit of amity, forbearance, and great measure, the arbiter of the ocean, conciliation. That it had been the in- notwithstanding the destruction of b: variable object of the ruler of France Aeets.
That with this view, by the decree retaliation, after which followed the of Berlia, followed by that of Milan, order of the 11th November, of the he declared the British territories to same year. At the same time his mabe in a state of blockade ; and all com- jesty intimated his readiness to repeal merce, or even correspondence, with the orders in council, so soon as France Great Britain was prohibited. He de. should rescind her decrees, and return creed that every vessel and cargo which to the accustomed principles of marihad entered, or was found proceeding time warfare ; and afterwards, the to a British port, or which, under any operation of the orders in council was, circumstances, had been visited by a by an order issued in April 1809, lie British ship of war, should be lawful mited to a blockade of France, and prize. He declared all British goods of the countries subjected to her im. and produce, wherever found, and mediate dominion – That systems of however acquired, subject to confisca- violence, oppression, and tyranny, can tion. He further denationalized the never be suppressed, if the power aflag of all neuiral ships which should gainst which such injustice is exercibe found offending against these his ed, be debarred from the right of full decrees; and he gave to this project and adequate retaliation. That the of universal tyranny, the name of government of the United States did " the Continental System."
not fail to remonstrate against the orThat under circumstances of unpa. ders in council of Great Britain. Apralleled provocation, his majesty had plying most unjustly the same measure abstained from any measure which the of resentment to the aggressor,
and to ordinary rules of the law of nations the party aggrieved, it adopted meadid not fully warrant. Never was the sures of commercial resistance against maritime superiority of a belligerent buth-a system of resistance which, over the enemny more complete and de. however varied in the successive acts cided than was that of Great Brie of embargo, non-intercourse, or nontain ; and France had already tram- importation, was evidently unequal in pled so openly and systematically on its operation, and principally levelled the most sacred rights of neutral pow. against the superior commerce and maers, as might well have justified the ritime power of Great Britain. placing her out of the pale of civilized That the same partiality towards nations. Yet, in this extreme case, France was observable in negociation Great Britain had so used her naval as in the measures of alleged resistascendancy, that her enemy could find ance.-Application was made to both so just cause of complaint; and in or. belligerents for a revocation of their der to give to these lawless decrees the respective edicts ; but the terms in appearance of retaliation, the ruler of which these applications were made France was obliged to advance princi- were widely different.-Of France was ples of maritime law, unsanctioned by required a revocation only of the Ber. any other authority than his own ar- lin and Milan decrees, although many bitrary will.
other edicts, grossly violating the neuThat against these decrees his ma- tral commerce of the United States, jesty protested and appealed; he call. had been promulgated by that power, ed upon the United States to assert No security was demanded, that the their own rights, and to vindicate their Berlin and Milan decrees, even if reindependence, thus menaced and at. voked, should not, under some other tacked. The order of January 1807, form, be re-established ; and a direct was then issued, as an act of mitigated engagement was offered, that upon such revocation the American go formity with its views, in a dispatch vernment would take part in the war dated the 5th of August 1810, and against Great Britain, if Great Bric addressed to the American minister tain did not immediately rescind her resident at Paris, stated that the Berlin orders. No corresponding engage- and Milan decrees were revoked, and ment was offered to Great Britain, that their operation would cease from of whom it was required, not only that the 1st day of November following, the orders in council should be repeal. provided his majesty would revoke ed, but that no others of a similar na- his orders in council, and renounce the ture should be issued, and that the new principles of blockade; or that blockade of May 1806 should be the United States would cause their also abandoned. This blockade, esta- rights to be respected ; meaning thereblished and enforced according to ac- by, that they would resist the retaliacustomed practice, had not been ob. tory measures of Great Britain.jected to by the United States at the That although the repeal of the French time it was issued. Its provisions decrees thus announced was evidently were on the contrary represented by contingent, either on concessions to the American minister resident in be made by Great Britain, (conces. London at the time, to have been so sions to which it was obvious Great framed, as to afford, in his judgment, Britain could not submit) or on meaa proof of the friendly disposition of sures to be adopted by the United the British cabinet towards the Uni- States of America, the American ted States.-Great Britain was thus President at once considered the recalled upon to abandon one of her peal as absolute. Under that premost important maritime rights, by tence the non-importation act was acknowledging the order of blockade strictly enforced against Great Briin question to be one of the edicts tain, whilst the ships of war and mer. which violated the commerce of the chant ships of the enemy were reUnited States, although it had never ceived into the barbours of America.been so considered in the previous ne. The American government assuming gociations, and although the president the repeal of the French decrees to be of the United States had recently con. absolute and effectual, most unjustly sented to abrogate the non-intercourse required Great Britain, in conformity act, on the sole condition of the orders to her declarations, to revoke her orin council being revoked, thereby ders in council. The British govern. distinctly admitting these orders to be ment denied that the repeal, which the only edicts, which fell within the was announced in the letter of the contemplation of the law, under which French minister for foreign affairs, he acted. --That a proposition so hos- was such as ought to satisfy Great tile to Great Britain could not but be Britain ; and in order to ascertain the encouraging to the pretensions of the true character of the measure adopted enemy; as, by thus alledging that the by France, the government of the blockade of May 1806 was illegal, the United States was called upon to proAmerican government virtually justi. duce the instrument, by which the alfied, so far as depended on them, the ledged repeal of the French decrees French decrees.
had been effected. If these decrees That after this proposition had been were really revoked, such an instru. made, the French minister for foreign ment must exist, and no satisfactory affairs, if not in concert with the X- reason could be given for withhold. enerican government, at least in con- ing it.
That at length, on the 21st of May belonging to one belligerent, whilst 1812, and not before, the American they admitted into their ports and har. minister in London did produce a bours the ships of war belonging to copy, or at least what purported to the other, in violation of one of the be a copy, of such an instrument. plainest and most essential duties of a It professed to bear date the 28th of neutral nation. April 1811, long subsequent to the That although the instrument thus dispatch of the French minister for produced was liable to the strongest foreign affairs of the 5th of August suspicions, yet as it was presented by 1810, or even the day named therein, the American minister, the British goviz. the 1st November following, when vernment conditionally revoked the the operation of the French decrees orders in council ; and in order to was to cease. This instrument ex. provide for the contingency of a depressly declared that these French claration of war on the part of the decrees were repealed in consequence United States, previous to the arrival of the American legislature having, by in America of the said order of revotheir act of the 1st of March 1811, cation, instructions were sent to his provided that British ships and mer. majesty's minister plenipotentiary acchandize should be excluded from the credited to the United States (the ports and harbours of the United, execution of which instructions, in States.
consequence of the discontinuance of That by this instrument, (the only Mr Foster's functions, was at a subdocument produced by America as a sequent period entrusted to admiral repeal of the French decrees,) it ap- Sir Joha' Borlase Warren) directing peared beyond a possibility of doubt him to propose a cessation of hostilior cavil, that the alledged repeal of ties should they have commenced ; the French decrees was conditional
, and further to offer a simultaneous as Great Britain had asserted; and repeal of the orders in council on one not absolute or final, as had been side, and of the restrictive laws on maintained by America; that they British ships and commerce on the were not repealed at the time they other. They were also respectively were stated to be repealed by the A empowered to acquaint the American merican government; that they were government, in reply to any enquiries not repealed in conformity with a pro- with respect to the blockade of May position simultaneously made to both 1806, that whilst the British governbelligerents, but in consequence of a ment must continue to maintain its leprevious act on the part of the A. gality, yet in point of fact this par. merican government in favour of one ticular blockade had been discontinued belligerent to the prejudice of the for a length of time, and that his maother. That the American govern- jesty's government had no intention ment having adopted measures restric- of recurring to this, or to any other tive upon the commerce of both bel. of the blockades of the enemy's ports, ligerents, in consequence of edicts is. without a new notice to neutral sued by both, rescinded these measures powers in the usual form. as they affected that power which was
That the American government, the aggressor, whilst it put them in before receiving intimation of the full operation against the party ag- course adopted by Great Britain, had grieved, although the edicts of both in fact proceeded to the extreme mea. powers continued in force; and, lastly, sure of declaring war, and issuing lethat they excluded the ships of war ters of marque, notwithstanding they
were previously in possession of the was under discussion in America, anreport of the French minister for fo.. other communication on the subject reign affairs of the 12th of March of an armistice was unofficially made 1812, promulgating anew the Berlin to the British government in this and Milan decrees, as fundamental laws country, by an agent who had no auof the French empire. That in a ma. thority to bind the government of the nifesto, accompanying their declara- United States, and whose proposition tion of hostilities, in addition to the was of course declined. former complaints against the orders That Great Britain now felt herof council, a long list of grievances self called upon to declare the leading was brought forward ; some trivial in principles by which her conduct had themselves, others which had been been regulated in the transactions conmutually adjusted, but none of them nected with these discussions. such as were ever before alledged by That she can never acknowledge the American government to be any blockade to be illegal, which has grounds for war. And that, as if to been duly notified, and is supported by throw additional obstacles in the way an adequate force, merely upon the of peace, the American congress at ground of its extent, or because the the same time passed a law, prohibit- ports or coasts blockaded are not at ing all intercourse with Great Britain, the same time invested by land. She and this law was declared unaltera. can never admit, that neutral trade ble until congress should reassemble. with Great Britain can be constituted
That the president of the United a public crime, the commission of which States didindeed propose to Great Bri- can expose the ships of any power to tain an armistice, but on the most extra- be denationalized., She can never ad. vagant conditions, viz.that the right of mit, that she can be debarred of her search to take from American merchant right of just and necessary retaliation, vessels, British seamen, the natural born through the fear of eventually affecting subjects of his majesty, should be a. the interest of a neutral. Or that, in bandoned, and that indemnity should the exercise of the undoubted and hibe given for all captures under such therto undisputed right of searching blockades as the American govern. neutral merchant vessels in time of war, ment was pleased to describe as ille. the impressment of British seamen, gal.—That the proposal of an armis. when found therein, can be deemed tice, and of a simultaneous repeal of any violation of a neutral Aag. the restrictive measures on both sides That there is no right more clearly subsequently made by the command. established, than that which a soveing officer of his majesty's naval forces reign has to the allegiance of his subon the American coast, was received jects, more especially in time of war. in the same hostile spirit by the go. If a similarity of language and manners vernment of the United States. The may make the exercise of this right right of search on the part of Great more liable to partial mistakes, and Britain, a right which she acknow. occasional abuse, when practised to. ledges on the part of America, was wards vessels of the United States, the to be abandoned as a preliininary, al. same circumstances make it also a right, though America had never explained with the exercise of which, in regard the nature of the regulations which to such vessels, it is more difficult to she proposed to substitute in its place. dispense. But, if to the practice of That while this proposition, trans. the United States to harbour British mitted through the British admiral, seamen, be added their assumed right