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America on the table, he should call for a distinct negative to the motion, but as they were not, so he did not wish to extract from the House any vote which might imply their approbation of the conduct of his majesty’s government in that negociation.”—In consequence of the above intimation, the motion for a repeal of the orders in council was withdrawn, on the understanding, that an official instrument on the subject should appear in the Text Gazette. The promised declaration accordingly appeared. It stated, that by a prior declaration of the 1st of April, 1812, the repeal of the orders in council was to take place so soon as the French decrees were formally revoked; that a communication had been made by the American chargé des affaires to Lord Castlereagh, of a copy of the alleged instrument of repeal by the French government; and although this revocation was not such as to satisfy the conditions required by the British declaration, yet as Great Britain was anxious to replace the commerce of neutrals on its ancient basis, the orders of council of 7th January 1807, and 23th April 1809, were suspended as far as regarded American property, from the 1st of August following. As the armed vessels of
Great Britain were excluded from the
harbours of the United States, while those of France were admitted, and as all commercial intercourse with . had been suspended, it was declared, that if the American government should not, after the regular communication of the present document, alter its policy, then the repeal of the orders in council should not take effect. Provision was also made, that American ships, seized since the date of the communication relating to the French decrees, should not be condemned; and an express reservation was made of the right of the Bri.
tish government to revive the orders in council, and to adopt such measures of retaliation as it might deem expedient, when circumstances should demand such a course of proceeding.— Thus were the belligerent and maritime rights of Great Britain preserved, while her promise was faithfully kept of advancing pari passu with the French government, in the repeal of the anti-commercial edicts. The orders in council, which were at one period considered as of great political importance, were thus in some measure abandoned; and although the most enlightened men were of opinion, that this concession would not satisfy the desires of America, or ensure her friendship, yet was it expedient, perhaps, to manifest that anxiety for relieving the distresses of the country,
which is the peculiar characteristic
of a wise and humane government. It was predicted, indeed, that the Americans would not repeal the nonimportation act; that they would insist on many other points besides the orders in council,to which they had originally confined themselves; and that, profiting by the spirit of concession and the love of peace which had been shewn by England, they would venture to bring forward claims, which every British statesman would consis der as inadmissible. The concession was at all events of the nature of an experiment; but the impetuosity of the American factions did not afford time for trying which of the theories on this important subject was well founded. The event so long anticipated at last arrived, and on the 18th of June, the president of the United States
intimated his approval of an act of
congress, by which war was declared against Great Britain. This act was preceded by a long message from the
president, on which some stormy de
bates arose in both houses of congress.
—The message accused the British government of having, since the year 1803, persisted in a series of acts hostile to th United States, as an indeendent nation. It asserted, that ritish cruizers had violated the honour of the American flag, and seized persons sailing under it; that the seizure even of British subjects, without trial or enquiry, was contrary to the law of nations; but under pretence of searching for them, thousands of American citizens had been torn from their country, and compelled to fight for their oppressors. That to all the complaints made by America on this subject, no satisfactory answer had been given; and although she had been willing to have entered into arrangements, such as might have attained every useful end, if the recovery of British subjects had been the sole object, her communications had produced no effect. That British cruizers had violated the rights and the peace of the American coast; that the blood of American citizens had been wantonly spilt in the very harbours of the United States, and instead of punishment, the highest rewards had been bestowed by the British government, on the persons who had committed such atrocities. That by means of a nominal blockade without the presence of an adequate force, the commerce of America had been plundered on every sea; that the orders issued by the English government, had been tyrannically executed from their date, and before American vessels could be aware of their existence, and that Great Britain had at length resorted to a sweeping system, under the name of orders in council, which had been so contrived, as to suit the political views and commercial jealousy of England, and satisfy the avidity of her citizens. That the pretence of retaliation which had been used in defence of these orders was altogether
groundless; that edicts executed against American property could not be a retaliation on those decrees of France, which it was manifestly impossible to execute, and that retalia. tion to be just, should fall only on the guilty. That England had recently declared her determination to insist on these measures until the markets of her enemy should be laid open to British commerce; that she had demanded a formality in the revocation of the French decrees by no means exemplified even by her own usage; and had declared that the would not rest satisfied with the re
peal of the decrees, merely as they
affected America, unless they were wholly and unconditionally revoked. That the object of the measures adopt. ed by England, had not been so much to destroy the resources of her enemy, as to confirm her own monopoly; and although every effort had been tried by the United States to obtain an alteration of this iniquitous system,-although an offer had been made to interrupt all commercial in. tercourse with France, so long as the persevered in her injustice, yet the British government had been deaf to every remonstrance. That in the year 1810, the Ameriean minister in Lon. don had offered the British government a fair opportunity for concilia. tion; that he merely requested to know, whether the British blockade of 1806 was still considered as in force; and as this measure had as: forded the pretence for the decree of the French government, it was expected that the disavowal of it by Great Britain, would have immediate: ly led to the rescinding of the French edicts, and the restoration of neutral commerce. But the British govern" ment had persisted in refusing all explanation. That a fair prospect ap" peared again to present itself for the adjustment of all differences; but to acts of the British minister in America, who might have accomplished this desirable object, were disavowed by his government; and at the very moment when these amicable proceedings were going forward, a secret agent of Great Britain was employed to cherish disaffection in the subjects of the United States, and to dissolve the happy union.—England was last of all charged with exciting the Indians to carry on their atrocious warfare against the people of the United States, though even the animosity of Mr Madison ventured only to state this as matter of suspicion. “We perceive, in fine,” said Mr Madison, “on the side of Great Britain, a state of war against the United States, and on the side of the United States, a state of peace towards Great Britain.” Such were the heavy charges brought in this message against England, whose aggressions were thus pompously descanted on. But as to France, what were the conduct and language of the president 2 . He confessed, in a short paragraph at the conclusion of his message, that the most atrocious violations of neutral rights had been committed by order of the French government, against the citizens of the United States; but although he was ready to recommend a declaration of war against England, he contented himself with intimating, that he hoped an adjustment might yet be effected with her enemies, who had carried the spirit of outrage to such extremities. Such were the grounds on which the American legislature determined on resorting to hostilities against Great Britain; and how gross soever the mis-statements and futile the arguments of the American rulers, the act by which they had been followed, of course demanded from the British government the most prompt and vigorous measures. It had from the begin
ning been the anxious desire of the British government to conciliate America; it was the recorded opinion of the late chief minister, that more might be conceded to America than to any other country; and the same feelings seemed still to operate, in some measure, on those who now had the direction of public affairs. When the declaration of war was received, the only step taken at first was to issue instructions to the proper authorities, at home and abroad, to detain and send in all American vessels; an embargo being at the same time laid on all such vessels in British ports. It might have been a wiser policy at once to have adopted decisive measures; but the government and the people of England could hardly yet conceive that the Americans were serious in the hazardous enterprize which they had undertaken, and which had not been prompted by any proceedings in this country. The grounds for war urged in the president's message, were in the highest degree absurd : complaints which had been redressed, charges which had been refuted, were all pressed into the service of this manifesto, in order to meet the different feelings and opinions of all classes of the people. Yet to those who look into that strange document with care and penetration, it will be evident that the system of blockade, established by the administration of which Mr Fox was the head, was considered even by the Americans as the great cause of all the confusion which succeeded. The principle of this system, however, it was utterly impossible to concede without abandoning at once all the advantages of the maritime superiority of Great Britain. It is a singular circumstance also, and one which tends very much to prove the partiality of America towards France, that the declaration of war was issued immediately after the communication of the report of the French minister, by which the principle of the French decrees was declared to form the fundamental law of the empire. Whether, therefore, the people of England looked to the avowed pretensions of the American government, or to the circumstances in which war had been declared, it was evident that a determination had been formed to resist the just claims of England, and to unite the influence and resources of America with those of France. The precipitate and unwarrantable conduct of America, however, struck every one with astonishment : even the members of opposition, who had promoted the enquiry into the orders in council, were firmly convinced that by the repeal of these measures, America ought to have been satisfied; and they declared, that should any further concession be demanded, they would be the most forward to resist the claim, and to support the honour of their country. Government therefore had every reason to count on the hearty support of all orders of persons; and it is not a little wonderful, that, in such circumstances, the slightest hesitation should have been felt to resort to measures of the utmost vigour.
The conduct of England, with regard to the orders in council, was a subject which nearly interested the French government; and accordingly the instrument of conditional revocation no sooner appeared in the English prints, than it was laboriously commented upon in Buonaparte's official paper. The French government declared at once that the revocation of the orders in council was of little consequence; that France had contended chiefly for a disavowal of the principle of blockade established by the admimistration of Mr Fox; and that unless Great Britain should return to the principles recognised at the treaty of Utrecht, no change could take place
in the policy of France. The French ruler would acknowledge the blockade of such places only as might be attacked not merely by a naval force sufficient to reduce them, but surrounded also by land in such a manner as to preclude all safe access. This to be sure was an ingenious and convenient principle, as applicable to the situation of France; for although it was in the power of England at all times to blockade the towns on the coast by sea, it was no part of her policy at this moment to establish a blockade by land. According to the doctrine of the French government, then, the force of Great Britain must have been rendered totally ineffectual for the purposes of warfare against her enemy. Yet this intelligible declaration had a good effect, for it shewed with what contempt the French ruler treated the principles of those who advocated his cause in this country with so much earnestness. The admission of the principles of the French government on this subject, coupled with the other doctrines which it professed, must have rendered the naval superiority of England unavailing ; and where is the man who, in such circumstances, could have hesitated as to the measures which it was incumbent on England to adopt The predictions of those who had declaimed so much against the orders in council, were thus completely falsified; the revocation had not conciliated America, nor had it satisfied France ; and both powers rose in their demands, relying no doubt on the statements so industriously circulated, that England revoked the orders in council, because perseverance in them must have ended in her own ruin. The people of England were anxious to learn the effect which a knowledge of the repeal of the orders in council would produce on the American government.—It was soon known that
of its subjects; and that scarcely had a week elapsed after the declaration of war, before it was besieged by remonstrances couched in the most bitter terms of censure and reproach. The sentiments thus expressed had the effect of lowering the tone of the American official paper, which assured the citizens that their government was disposed to accommodate all differences on the most reasonable terms. From this it was inferred, that so soon as the repeal of the orders in council should be known, a change in the policy of the American rulers would be the inevitable consequence, and a test at all events would be afforded of the sincerity of their declarations.--Intelligence however was soon received, that the conduct of the republican or war faction had been ferocious to the highest degree. The federalists, or moderate party, had in several instances been treated with gross outrage for declaring their aversion to the war; and at Baltimore an affray of the most disgraceful kind had occurred, in which an old general, the friend of Washington, was murdered, and another severely wounded. These transactions displayed the character of the American mob, and extinguished in reflecting men every hope that the voice of reason and moderation might ultimately prevail. While the public mind was still in suspense as to the future policy of the American government, an appeal to arms had already been made; and the first military operations of the Americans were attended with the most signal disasters. Their general (Hull) who had undertaken to invade Upper Canada, had ended his short career by surrendering himself and the whole of his army, with the fort of Detroit, and forty-three pieces of cannon, to the
British Major-General Brock, who
obtained almost a bloodless victory, only eighteen of the British having been killed and wounded.—The cir. cumstances of this affair were extremely singular. ... On the 12th of July, General Hull, after crossing the river Detroit, arrived at Sandwich, a small open place, the capture of which was the first and last of his successes. He then approached Amherstberg, confident of victory; but by the rapid movement of the small British army opposed to him, a fort was taken which at once exposed his flank and rear to the attack of his enemy. He was still protected, however, by Fort Detroit; he had a force of 2,500 men, while that of the British amounted not to half the number; yet did they determine to storm the American camp. But General Hull was not prepared to resist this vigorous measure, and he at once surrendered at discretion to the conquerors. Such was the brilliant result of the first of the British military operations during the present American war. Yet was this success in some measure counterbalanced by an event which the people of England were little prepared to expect. A great anxiety had been expressed that the British and Americans might meet at sea; of the result of such an encounter no doubt was entertained. The Guerriere British frigate of 38 guns, fell in with the American frigate the Constitution, carrying 46 guns, much heavier than those of the Guerriere; the American seamen also were nearly double the number of the British. An obstinate action ensued. The mizen-mast of the Guerriere fell at the first broadside; the rest of her masts soon went overboard; yet with all these disadvantages—against the prodigious superiority in weight of metal, as well as in the numbers of men which the Americans possessed, she fought till she was ready to founder. Such was her state