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We can, upon the whole, discover no obstacles which stand opposed to way in which the claims of the catho- them, we must fairly own, that we lics can be reconciled with the natural can see no prospect of their speedy feelings, or just demands of the protes- removal. tants ; and much as we regret the
Affairs of America. Retrospective Piew of the Disputes betwixt the Britio
and American Governments.
The relations subsisting betwixt Great Britain and the United States of America, had for many years exhibited a very singular aspect. The nations were not indeed in a state of open war with each other; but the conflict of opposite pretensions, the angry discussion of many intricate questions of international law, the charges and recriminations which had for a series of years formed the only subject of their diplomatic intercourse, had diffused over both countries a spirit of distrust and animosity, which could find in war alone its natural gratification. As this unhappy result was actually produced in the course of the present year, it may not be uninteresting to take a hasty retrospect of the causes which led to an event so much lamented by the enlightened men of both countries. It seems to be generally thought that the Americans, whether right or wrong in the principles of public law, on which they so obstinately insisted, (a point which shall be afterwards examined) might have brought matters to an amicable arrangement, without any material sacrifice even of the questionable maxims for which they contended—for never was the spirit of conciliation carried farther than by the
Progress of the Differences.
British government in its intercourse with the ministers of the United StatesEngland had many obvious reasons for endeavouring to avert the calamities of an American war at this period ; she was engaged in a very arduous contest in Europe, she had the most numerous and formidable enemies to contend with,-she had the interests of her commerce to maintain, which are always dependent in some degree on a friendly connexion with America; and she had, moreover, a natural and a generous aversion to conquer, before she could bring herself to draw the sword against a people connected with her by a resemblance in language, laws, and institutions. These were motives sufficiently powerful to have restrained the intemperance of the English ministers, even if they had not been otherwise remarkable for mildness and forbearance. Had the principles of international law advanced by the Americans been as sound as an impa tial examination of them may perhaps shew that they were unreasonable, still it would have been in the power of America, had she sincerely desired peace, to have preserved it by an honourable compromise on those points which had created the greatest difference of opinion, or almost by any thing short of an absolute surrender of the rights and honour of Great Britain, which it was rather too much in any people to expect. But if there be any point in recent history which even the arts of faction cannot involve in doubt, it is this,that the government of America was not sincerely desirous of peace with Great Britain, that it took all possible means to disturb the moderation and provoke the anger of the British ministers; and that upon all occasions it betrayed symptoms of the most unaccountable partiality to the despotism of France. Those who have studied the history of American affairs for the last three or four years, will be well aware of the grounds on which this opinion has been formed; and a curious enquiry, thus suggests itselfhow it should have happened that the only republican government in the world should, at the greatest crisis of affairs, have combined with the most odious of despotisms against a country which has always been recognised as an illustrious model of practical freedom, and which was at this very moment engaged in a grand effort to vindicate the independence of nations. In attempting to account for this singular phenomenon in politics, something must, no doubt, be allowed for the yet unextinguished animosity produced by our unfortunate colonial war. It may be thought that prejudices so antiquated must long since have become the exclusive property of the vulgar; and must have given way, in the minds of enlightened men, to considerations more recent in point of time, and more important in their ractical influence on American afirs. It is a common belief in Europe, however, that the government of America is, to a more than ordinary degree, under the discipline and controul of the rabble; and if indeed there be any truth in the common spe
culations as to the motives of its hostility towards Great Britain, it must be very far #. in vulgar absurdity. National prejudices so indiscriminating and so mischievous, are every where but in America confined to the lowest ranks;–they have been long banished out of the more respectable circles even of private life, and could never find their way into the councils of a great European state without devoting it to the unsparing ridicule and contempt of its neighbours. With the narrow prejudices of the American mob, other causes combined to hasten a rupture with England.— The commercial system,--that miserable tissue of blunders which had so long kept down the growing prosperity of Europe, had been wisely exY. by the most enlightened of the uropean states before the French revolution. The enlarged views and fine talents of the political philosophers who cast a lustre round the close of the last century, had triumphed over every obstacle which ignorance and prejudice could oppose; and England and France at last discovered that they had a mutual interest in the commercial greatness of each other. The did more than this ; they reduced their principles to practice, and embodied them in a treaty which, if not unexceptionable in all respects, was at least a great step towards the triumph of genuine philosophy over the errors and absurdities of the old political school. The French revolution, however, deranged all the plans of enlightened men,-it engendered a rancour and animosity betwixt the nations more violent and pernicious than the ancient jealousies of the commercial system, and terminated at last in a despotism which threw France and her dependencies far back in the scale of improvement. The commercial system was revived by the new French government with a barbarous and destructive fury which had never been even contemplated at any former period; the refined and generous principles which so many great men had contributed to establish, were forgotten; their works were neglected or proscribed; the progress of human improvement was arrested, and all seemed about to become a sacrifice to the rude genius of an overwhelming despotism. Even during the short interval of repose which succeeded the treaty of Amiens, the maxims of the new government were sufficiently indicated in the impolitic restraints and prohibitions by which the commercial intercourse of the countries was fettered. England did not indeed pretend that such measures af. forded a legitimate ground for hostilities, since every nation being supreme within itself, has a right to determine whether it shall receive the commodities of foreign states; but if the commercial animosity of France could not have justified England in declaring war, it certainly afforded her a solid ground for entertaining jealousy against a power thus hostile to her interests, and called upon her to watch all the pro. of that power with the most scrupulous vigilance. The unrivalled commercial greatness of England at this period, surpassing all that history records, and all that even the most flattering visions of her statesmen had contemplated, was an object of bitter and unceasing mortification to the politicians of France,— her naval supremacy, which was founded on the prosperity of her commerce, and promised for it an indefinite duration, filled their minds with jealousy and apprehension. These feelings rose to the highest pitch after the peace of Amiens. Europe seemed to learn, for the first time, that the commercial grandeur of England possessed a stability which had never been supposed to belong to this species of power. It had withstood the shock of the most
extended and desolating warfare; and at the close of a contest of long duration and unparalleled fury, in which the empire É. sometimes contended with the combined energies of Europe, it not only remained untouched, but had mightily extended itself duing every year of hostility. The war had terminated in the establishment of a naval power which had gathered strength by all the efforts made to weaken it; and had now risen so high as to bid defiance to all rivalry. The rulers of France reflected on these matters with bitterness corresponding to the disappointment of their hopes; they despaired of being able to meet this enormous power by any ordinary efforts; and could think of no way of checking its further growth, but by the entire sacrifice of their own commerce and resources. They hoped, that by excluding all the productions of British industry from their ports, and by prohibiting the use of British commodities throughout France and her dependencies, they might gradually undermine this overgrown power; while their depraved policy at the same time sought to inculcate a belief among their subjects, that such measures would promote the industry of France. Thus was a system established (if indeed so rude and impolitic a thing deserve the name) in direct op
position to all the views of modern
science; a system which was in truth but a barbarous extension of the old theories, which so many enlightened men had endeavoured to banish for ever from the world. The measures thus adopted by
France had a twofold connection with
the affairs of America. In the first place, the American statesmen entertained much the same feelings with respect to the commercial and naval greatness of England with their friends in France; their understandings were in general of the same character, and their tempers quite as violent. They, as well as the French politicians, wished to make their country great by commerce ; and as the established ascendency of England appeared to them to stand in the way, they scrupled not about the means which might be employed to remove it. Their minds were not susceptible of a generous emulation; envy was the only feeling which a near view of the naval and commercial greatness of England could excite in their breasts. They had no dread of France, who had in the course of the war lost her commerce, her colonies, and her ships; whose power never came into contact with their own ; whose resources of all kinds were devoted to the prosecution of a war, in the issue of which they vainly thought that America had no interest. But they hated England, her commerce and her power, as cordially even as the members of the French government did : and had America been as little dependent on commerce as France, had her citizens been as indifferent to its real interests, or had her rulers possessed the same despotic sway over their fortunes which the French government had assumed over those of its own subjects, it is probable that Mr Maddison and his friends would at once have followed the example of Buonaparte, by prohibiting all commercial intercourse with the British empire. But the Americans had not yet been wholly overawed by their rulers; and it became necessary therefore to pursue a more indirect and insidious course with
for gratifying their animosity against j he commercial hostility of France during the peace, although never considered by Great Britain as a ground for war, was not however forgotten when hostilities were renewed: and the English ministers therefore determined to employ the naval power which was at their command, to the annihilation of the foreign commerce of their enemy. Their measures were such as the interests of England demanded, and which a state of hostility fully justified; and they completely succeed. ed in accomplishing the object which they had in view. The foreign commerce of France was annihilated—her industry checked—her resources was. ted; and her ruler discovered, when it was too late, how gross were the errors which he had committed. It was impossible, however, to retract; and he resolved on carrying his commercial war to the utmost pitch of fury. In this temper did Buonaparte issue his famous Berlin decree, which renewed all the old prohibitory regulations, and ludicrously declared the British islands to be in a state of blockade, at the very moment when the fleets of Great Britain actually blockaded all the ports of France and her dependencies. Neutral vessels bound to or returning from a British port were made liable to capture by this singular decree.—Matters remained for some time in this state, the French ruler being unable to execute his decree, and the British government being averse to advance further in so barbarous a warfare. But having again proved successful in his northern campaign, Buonaparte resumed with fresh vigour his prohibitory system; he confirmed all the provisions of the Derlin decree ; excluded the merchandise of Great Britain and her colonies from the ports of France and her dependencies, and accompanied these prohibitions with the severest penalties. Every article of British produce