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[Documents---Continued from No. 7.]
Mr. Monroe to Mr. Foster. Sir,
Department of State, October 11, 1811. I have the honor to transmit to you a copy of the proceedings of a court of enquiry, held by order of the President, on the conduct of commodore Rodgers, in the late encounter between a frigate of the United States, the President, and his Britannic majesty's ship the Little Belt.
The result of this enquiry, which was conducted in public, in a manner the most fair and impartial, and established by the concurrent testimony of all the officers of the American ship, and of others whom it was proper to summon, cannot, it is presumed, leave a doubt in the mind of any one that captain Bingham made the attack, and without a justifiable cause.
That commodore Rodgers pursued a vessel which had at first pursued him, and hailed her as soon he approached within a suitable distance, are circumstances that can be of no avail to captain Bingham, The United States have a right to know the national character of the armed ships which hover on their coast, and whether they visit it with friendly or illicit views. It is a right inseparable from the soyreignty of every independent state, and intimately connected with
All nations exercise it, and none with more rigor, or at a greater distance from the coast, than Great-Britain herself, nor any on more justifiable grounds than the United States. In addi. tion to the considerations which have recommended this precau. tion to other powers, it is rendered of the more importance to the United States, by the praetice of armed vessels from the West Indies, in visiting our coast for unauthorized and even piratical purposes. Instances have also occurred, in which the commanders of British ships of war, after impressing seamen from American vessels, have concealed their names, and the names of their ships, whereby an application to their government for the reparation due for such outrayes, with the requisite certainty, is rendered impracticable. For these reasons, the conduct of commodore Rodgers in approaching the Little Belt to make the necessary enquiries,and exchange a friendly salute, was strictly correct.
The President, therefore, can regard the act of captain Bingham no otherwise than a hostile aggression on the flag of the United States, and he is pursuaded that his Britannic majesty, viewing it in the same light, will bestow on it the attention which it merits. I have the honor to be, &c. &c.
(Signed) JAS. MONROE,
Mr. Foster to Mr. Monroe. Sir,
Washington, October 24, 1811. I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 11th instant, inclosing a copy of the proceedings of a court of enquiry held by order of the president of the United States on the conduct of commodore Rodgers, in the late encounter between a frigate of the United States, the President, and his majesty's ship the Little Belt, fixing on captain Bingham the charge of having commenced the engagement, and claiming in consequence the attention of his majesty's government towards it, as to an act of hostility on the part of the British officer.
I may be permitted to remind you, fir, that after I had alcertained from you, that no hostile intentions on the part of the government of the United States were connected with the proceedings of captain Rodgers, ail I asked in the first instance was, that the President of the United States would be pleased to order an inquiry into his conduct, which had tended fo feriously to interrupt the harmony fubfifting between our two countries, and which, having hitherto received no palliation whatever from any evidence in contradiction to captain Bingham's statement, as officially transmitted to his majesty's government, must have continued to appear to them to be utterly incapable of receiving any.
The document you have now done me the honor to communicate to me, with the copy annexed of captain Rodgers' letter (for the first time officially before me,) is, however, fo far fatisfactory, as it shews that captain Rodgers has endeavored to exculpate him felf, exhibiting the ground on which he refts his defence, and I shall without delay transmit it to be laid before his royal highness the prince regent. It certainly proves an unaccountable difference to exist between the statement of the commander and officers of the Little Belt, and those of the Prefident, as to the firing of the first gun; but I must remark, that from the concurrent teftimony of several of the officers of ite U. States' ship, as to the orders given by captain Rodgers on nearing the Little Belt, there appears to have been an impreffion on his mind, that an encounter was to ensue; and, as the Little Belt was evi. dently endeavoring to avoid him, such an idea, it would seem, could only have arisen from the opinion he entertained of his own proceedings as being likely to bring it on.
I take this occasion to acknow ledge the receipt of your letter dated September 14th, in answer to mine of the 2d, a copy of which I immediately forward d to my government.
I have the honor to be, with the highest confideration and respect, sir, your most obedient humble servant, (Sighed)
AUG. J. FOSTER.
Correspondence between Mr. Monroe and Mr. Foster, rel
ative to the Floridas.
Mr. Foster to Mr. Monroe. Sir,
Washington, July 2, 1811. The attention of his majesty's government has of late been called to the measures pursued by the United States, for the military occupation of West Florida. The language
held by the president, at the opening of the late session of congress, the hostile demonftrations made by the Ainerican forces under captain Gains, the actual summoning of the fort of Mobile, and the bill fubmitted to the approbatice of the American legislature, for the interior adminiftration of the province, are so many direct and positive proofs that the government of America is prepared to subject the province of West Florida to the authority of the United States.
The Spanish minifter in London addreffed a note, in the month of March last, to his majesty's secretary of state for foreign affairs, expressing in sufficient detail the feelings of the govern. ment of Spain, respecting this unprovoked aggreflion on the integrity of that monarchy.
Mr.Morier, in his note to Mr.Smith of December, 1810, has already reminded the American government of the intimate alli. ance subsisting between his majesty and Spain, and has desired such explanations on the subject, as might convince his majesty of the pacific disposition of the United States towards Spain. Mr. Smith in his reply has stated, it was evident that no hostile or unfriendly purpose was entertained by America towards Spain ; and that the American minister at his majesty's court, had been enabled to make whatever explanations might comport with the frank and conciliatory spirit which has been invariably manifested on the part of the United States.
Since the date of this correspondence Mr. Pinkney has offered no explanation whatever, of the motives which have actuated the conduct of the United States in this transaction; a bill has been introduced into congress for the establishment, government, and protection of the territory of the Mobile, and the fortress of that name has been summoned without effect.
His royal highness, the prince regent, in the name and on the behalf of his majesty, is still willing to hope, that the American government has not been urged to this step by ambitious motives, or a desire of foreign conquest, and territorial aggrandize. ment. It would be satisfactory, however, to be enabled to as. certain that no consideration, connected with the present state of Spain, has induced America to despoil that monarchy of a valu. able foreign colony.
The government of the United States contends that the right to the pofTeffion of a certain part of West Florida, will not be less open to discussion in the occupation of America, than under the government of Spain.
But the government of the United States, under this pretext, cannot expect to avoid the reproach, which must attend the ungenerous and unprovoked seizure of a foreign colony, while the parent state is engaged in a noble contest for independence, against a most unjustifiable and violent invasion of the rights both of the monarch and people of Spain.
While I wait, therefore, for an explanation from you, sir, as to the motives which led to this unjust aggression by the United States, on the territories of his majesty's ally, I must consider it my duty to lose no time in fulfilling the orders of his royal highnefs, the prince regent, by which I am commanded, in the event of its appearing on my arrival in this city, that the United States ftill persevere by menaces and active demonftration to claim the military occupation of West Florida, notwithstanding the remon. strances of bis majesty's charge d'affairs, and the manifest injustice of the act, to prefent to you the folemn protest of his royal highness, in the name and on the behalf of his majefty, against an attempt so contrary to every principle of public justice, faith, and national honor, and so injurious to the alliance fubfisting between his majesty and the Spanish nation. I have the bonor to be, &c. &c. &c. (Signed)
AUG. J. FOSTER.
Mr. Monroe to Mr. Foster. Sir,
Department of State, July 8, 1811. I have had the honor to receive the note which you have presented, by the order of his royal highness the prince regent, to protest, in behalf of the regency of Spain, against the possession lately taken, by the United States, of certain parts of West Florida.
Although the President cannot admit the right of Great Britain to interfere in any question relating to that province, he is willing to explain, in a friendly manner, the considerations which induced the United States to take the step, against which you have been ordered to protest.
It is to be inferred, from your view of the subject, that the British government has been taught to believe, that the United States seized a moment of national embarrassment, to wrest from Spain a province to which they had no right; and that they were prompted to it by their interest alone, and a knowledge that Spain could not defend it. Nothing, however, is more remote from the fact, than the presumption on which your government appears to have acted. Examples of so unworthy a conduct, are unfortunately too frequent in the history of nations ; but the United States have not followed them.The president had persuaded himself that the unequivocal proofs. which the United States have given, in all their transactions with
foreign powers, and particularly with Spain, of an upright and liberal policy, would have shielded them from soʻunmerited a suspicion. He is satisfied that nothing is wanting but a correct knowledge of facts, completely to dissipate it.
I might bring into your view a long catalogue of injuries, which the United States have received from Spain, since the conclusion of their revolutionary war, any one of which would most probably have been considered cause of war, and resented as such, by other powers. I will mention two of these only; the spoliations that were committed on their commerce to a great amount in the last war, and the suppression of their deposit at New Orleans just before the commence. ment of the present war, in violation of a solemn treaty ; for nei. ther of which injuries has any reparation or atonement been made. For injuries like those of the first class, it is known to you that G. Britain and France made indemnity. "The Uited States, however, do not rely on these injuries for a justification of their conduct in this transaction ; although their claims to reparation for them are by no means relinquished, and, it is to be presumed, will not always be neglected.
When I inform you that the province of West Florida, to the Perdido, was a part of Louisiana, while the whole province formerly belonged to France ; that although it was afterwards separated from the other part, yet that both parts were again re-united, in the hands of Spain, and by her re-conveyed to France, in which state the entire province of Louisiana was ceded to the United States in 1803 ; that in accepting the cession, and paying for the territory ceded, the United States understood and believed, that they paid for the country as far as the Perdido, as part of Louisiana ; and that, on a conviction of their right, they included in their laws provisions adapted to the cession in that extent ; it cannot fail to be a cause of surprise to the prince regent, that they did not proceed to take possession of the territory in question as soon as the treaty was ratified. There was nothing in the circumstances of Spain, at that time, that could have forbidden the measure. In denying the right of the U. States to this territory, her government invited negociation on that, and every other point, in contestation between the parties. The United States accepted the invitation, in the hope that it would secure an adjustment, and reparation for every injury which had been receive ed, and lead to the restoration of perfect harmony between the two countries ; but in that hope they were disappointed.
[Remainder of this letter in the next number.]
[Documents to be continued.]