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He was reminded that we had seen at different times and in different quarters, augmentations of British force in our neighbourhood, without any intimation of its object, or that it had no reference to the United States. But that there was, nevertheless, no hesitation in saying to him, that however desirous the United States might be of preserving peace, the situation in which they found themselves made it their obvious and indispensable duty to be prepared for War; that the perseverance of his Government and that of France in their respective Edicts, especially after the communications which had been made to them and the removal of the very pretexts for such aggressions indicated a spirit of hostility against which it would be the most culpable neglect not to provide; and finally that it would be frankly avowed as was indeed to be inferred from the sentiments expressed by the Legislature, that the time might not be distant when a longer adherence to those Edicts would give them the overt character, as they had long had the real effect of War, and impose on the United States the obligation of vindicating their honor and their rights by other means than had thus far been resorted to. With these observations were mingled explicit assurances of the solicitude of this Country to avoid such an extremity, and of the satisfaction that would be afforded, by any change in the conduct of the belligerent Governments and particularly of his own, which would lay the foundation for amicable adjustment. He signified that it did not lie with him to do more than to give information to his Government leaving to that the inferences and decisions proper to be formed. He expressed, however, his wishes and hopes that any hostile result might be avoided; and alluded, as he had repeatedly done on preceding occasions to the documents explaining what had passed between this Government and France, and to the effect of the proposed non intercourse Act, in sinking the nonimportation Act, and the proclamation of July 1807, pointed against G Britain alone, into regulations common to her and her Enemy, as furnishing grounds to which he could not under
take to say that his Government might not be disposed to give a favorable attention.
I have given you this sketch as at once apprizing you of the communication which will of course be made to Mr. Canning, and assisting you in any conversations with him which may
The impatience under the Embargo, more particularly in Massachusetts, is becoming extremely acute under the artificial excitements given to it; and a preference of war within a very limited period is every where gaining ground. Were it not for the chance of belligerent relaxations, under the influence of the known dispositions and determinations here, and of events in Europe, it is probable that letters of Marque and reprisal would at once be issued. For the present it seems to be in view, to provide for an extra Session of Congress in the Month of May, with an understanding that War will then be the proper course, if no immediate change abroad shall render it unnecessary. What other measures, provisional or positive, may be connected with or added to this extra call of Congress, I do not venture now to anticipate; the less so as the public mind is in a state too impressible to shew in its present temper, what its bias may become in the progress of the Session. It is not improbable that a time would be immediately fixed, at which hostilities should be commenced against the persevering aggression or aggressions, but for the apprehension that the menacing alternative presented by that course might be an obstacle with pride to relaxations not otherwise inadmissible.
I have the honor to be &c
TO WILLIAM PINKNEY.
D. OF S. MSS. INSTR.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, February 10th 1809.
I forward by the British Packet about to sail from New
York, the printed proceedings of Congress continued from my last communications which bore date on the 3d January.
From these and the antecedent indications, you will deduce the general spirit which actuates the Legislative Councils, under the perplexities incident to the unexampled state of things forced on the United States by the injustice of the belligerent nations.
What particular course may result from the several propositions now depending, cannot with certainty be pronounced; but it may be reasonably presumed that the resolution of the House of Representatives so nearly unanimous, not to submit to the foreign Edicts against our neutral commerce, will be kept in view; and consequently that if our Commercial property be again committed to the ocean, the measure will be accompanied with such regulations as will shew that it is not meant as an acquiescence in those Edicts, but as an appeal to the interest of the aggressors, in a mode less inconvenient to our own interest.
It is equally to be presumed that if the resumed exercise of our rights of navigation on the high seas should be followed by the depredations threatened by an adherence of the belligerents to their respective Edicts, the next resort on the part of the United States will be, to an assertion of those rights by force of Arms, against the persevering aggressor or aggressors.
It may be inferred from the language held by the British Minister here, that an avowal of such a determination in the form even of an Executive opinion, would probably be regarded by his Government as a ground on which it might revoke its orders in Council, consistently with the retaliating principle on which they are alleged to be founded. It must be observed, however, ist that no authoritative avowal could be made but by the branch of Government charged with the question of War; not to mention that the avowal itself might possibly be construed into a menace, opposing a greater obstacle to a change of policy than the Embargo was represented
to be; and 2d that it appears from the condition originally required by the present Cabinet, and repeated by Mr. Canning in his last letter to you of Novemr. 22, that nothing short of an unequivocal repeal of the French decrees, and consequently no course whatever of this Government, not actually producing that effect, will render a repeal of the British orders consistent with the policy which relates to that subject.
Should a policy so destitute of even a shadow of justice or consideration, be relinquished and an expression of the opinion of the Executive branch of our Government be deemed a ground for revoking the British Orders, you will be free to declare that opinion to be, that in case these orders should be revoked, and the Decrees of France continued in force, hostilities on the part of the United States will ensue against the latter, taking care not to attach to the opinion of the Executive any weight inconsistent with the Constitutional limits of his authority.
Whilst it is thought proper to furnish you with these explanations and observations, I am instructed at the same time, to remind you that in the actual posture of things between the two countries, particularly as resulting from the nature of the answer of Mr. Canning of Sept. 23 to the reasonable, candid and conciliatory proposition conveyed in your letter to him of August, it evidently lies with the British Government to resume discussions on the subject of revoking the Orders in Council. It is hoped that in so plain a case, that obligation will be felt. And it is only on a contrary manifestation, that it will be eligible for you to bring the subject into conversation; in doing which, you will not fail to let it be understood as a new and irresistible proof of the desire of the United States to avoid extremities between the two Nations, and to establish that complete reconciliation, towards which an ad justment of that particular difficulty would be so important a step. It is proper to add, that as the pledge of an Executive opinion in such a case, is of an unusual and very delicate character, it will be a reasonable and indispensable preliminary
to its being stated in writing, that a satisfactory assurance be given that it will not be without the expected effect.
You will notice that among the measures proposed to be combined with a repeal of the Embargo laws, is a non-intercourse with Great Britain and France, and an exclusion of all armed vessels whatever from our waters. The effect of the first will be to continue the Embargo, so far as it prohibits a direct exportation to the two principal offenders; and to discontinue the importation now permitted, of the productions and manufactures of those Countries, thereby merging for the time, the existing non-importation Act. An effect of the other will be to merge, in like manner, for the time, the exclusion of British ships of war, as a measure unfavorably distinguished between Great Britain and other belligerents. The latter effect may perhaps facilitate amicable arrangements on some of the points in question with that nation. The former will keep in force an appeal to its interest, against a perseverance in the orders in Council; inasmuch as it subjects the supplies from the United States to the expence and delay of double voyages, shuts our markets against her manufactures, and stimulates and establishes permanent substitutes of our own.
You will notice also the Message of the President communicating for publication, your correspondence with Mr. Canning on the subject of conversations preceding your letter to him of August. The message states the cause of the communication. This foreign appeal thro' the press, to the people against their own Government, has kindled the greatest indignation everywhere; the more so, as the time and place selected, leave no doubt that the object was to foster the discontents breaking out in the State of Massachusetts. But for the difficulty of obtaining from the printer the source from which Mr. Canning's letter was furnished, and an unwillingness to multiply topics of irritation, it is not improbable that the insult would have been taken up by Congress, in some such manner as the case of Palm, the Austrian Ambassador, in the