Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Upon the commencement of the second paragraph, I must observe, that the forbearance which it announces might have afforded some "gratification, if it had been followed by such admissions as my government is entitled to expect, instead of a further manifestation of that disregard of its demands, by which it has so long been wearied. It has never been my practice to seek discussions, of which the tendency is merely to irritate ; but I beg your lordship to be assured, that I feel no desire to avoid them, whatever may be their tendency,when the rights of my country require to be vindicated against pretensions that deny, and conduct that infringes them.

If I comprehend the other parts of your lordship’s letter, they declare in effect, that the British government will repeal nothing but the orders in council, and that it cannot at present repeal even them, because in the first place, the French government has required, in the letter of the duke of Cadore to general Armstrong, of the 5th of August, not only that Great Britain shall revoke those orders, but that she shall renounce certain principles of blockade (supposed to be explained in the preamble to the Berlin decree) which France alleges to be new; and, in the second place, because the American government has (as you conclude) demanded the revocation of the British order of blockade of May 1806, as a practical instance of that same renunciation, nr, in other words, has made itself a party, not openly indeed, but indirectly and covertly, to the entire requisition of France, as you understand that requisition.

It is certainly true, that the American government has required, as indispensable in the view of its acts of intercourse and non-intercourse, the annulment of the British blockade of May 1806 ; and further, that it has, through me, declared its confident expectation that other blockades of a similar character (including that of the island of Zealand) will be discontinued. But by what process of reasoning your lordship has arrived at the conclusion, that the gov. ernment of the United States intended by this requisition to become the champion of the edict of Berlin, to fashion its principles by those of France while it affected to adhere to its own, and to act upon some partnership in doctrines, which it would fain induce you to acknowledge, but could not prevail upon itself to avow, I am not able to conjecture. The frank and honorable character of the American government justifies me in saying that, if it had meant to demand of Great Britain an abjuration of all such principles as the French government may think fit to disapprove, it would not have put your lordship to the trouble of dis overing that meaning by the aid of combinations and inferences discountenanced by the language of its minister, but would have told you so in explicit terms. What I have to request of your lordship, therefore, is that you will take our views and principles from our own mouths, and that neither the Berlin decree, nor any other act of any foreign state, may be made to speak for us what we have not spoken for ourselves.

The principles of blockade which the American government pro

fesses, and upon the foundation of which it has repeatedly protested against the order of May, 1806, and the other kindred innovations of those extraordinary times, have already been so clearly explained to your lordship, in my letter of the 21st of September, that it is hardly possible to read that letter and misunderstand the m. Recommended by the plainest considerations of universal equity, you will fir.d them supported with a strength of argument and a weight of authority, of which they scarcely stand in need, in the papers which wil' accompany this letter, or were transmitted in that of September. I will not recapitulate what I cannot improve ; but I must avail my. self of this opportunity to call your lordship's attention a second time, in a particular manner, to one of the papers to which my letter of September refers. I allude to the copy of an official note of the 12th of April, 1804, from Mr. Merry to Mr. Madison, respecting a pretended blockade of Martinique and Guadaloupe. No comment can add to the value of that manly and perspicuous exposition of the law of blockade, as made by England herself in maintenance of rules which have been respected and upheld in all seasons and on all occasions by the government of the United States. I will leave it, therefore, to your lordship’s consideration, with only this remark, that, while that paper exists, it will be superfluous to seek in any French document for the opinions of the American government on the matter of it.

The steady fidelity of the government of the United States to its opinions on the interesting subject is well known to every body. The same principles which are found in the letter of Mr. Madisun to Mr. Thornton, of the 27th of October, 1803, already before you, were asserted in 1799, by the American minister at this court, in his correspondence with lord Grenville, respecting the blockade of some of the parts of Holland; were sanctioned in a letter of the 20th of Sep. tember, 1800, from the secretary of the United States to Mr. King, of which an extract is enclosed ; were insisted upon in repeared in. structions to Mr. Monroe and the special mission of 1806 ; have been maintained by the United States against others as well as against England, as will appear by the enclosed copy of instructions, dated the 21st of October, 1801, from Mr. secretary Madison to Mr. Charles Pinkney, then American minister at Madrid; and finally, were adhered to by the United States, when belligerent, in the case of the blockade of Tripoli.

A few words will give a summary of those principles ; and when recalled to your remembrance, I am not without hopes, that the strong grounds of law and right, on which they stand, will be as apparent to your lordship as they are to me.

It is by no means clear that it may not fairly be contended, on principle and early usage, that a maritime blockade is incomplete with regard to states at peace, unless the place which it would affect is invested by land as well as by sea. The United States, however, have called for the recognition of no such rule. They appear to have

1

contented themselves with urging in substance, that poits not actually blockaded by a present, adequate, stationary force, emploved by the power that attacks them, shall not be considered as shut to neutral trade in articles not contraband of war; that, though it is not usual for a belligerent to give notice to neutral nations when he intends to institute a blockade, it is possible that he may not act upon his intention at all, or that ne may execute it insufficiently, or that he may discontinue his blockade, of which it is not customary to give a

any notice; that consequently the presence of the blockading force, is the natural criterion by which the neutral is enabled to ascertain the existence of the blockade at any given period, in like manner as the actual investment of a besieged place, is the evidence by which we decide whether the siege, which may be commenced, raised, re-commenced and raised again, is continued or not; that of course a mere notification to a neutral minister shall not be relied upon, as affecting, with the knowledge of the actual existence of a blockade, either his government or its citizens; that a vessel cleared or bound to a blockaded port, shall not be considered as violating in any manner the blockade, unless, on her approach towards such port, she shall have been previously warned not to enter it; that this view of the law, in itself perfectly correct, is peculiarly important to nations, situated at a great distance from the belligerent parties, and therefore incapable of obtaining other than tardy information of the actual state of their ports; that whole coasts and countries shall not be declared, (or they can never be more than declared) to be in a state of bockade, and thus the right of blockade converted into the means of extinguishing the trade of neutral nations; and la tly, that every blockade shall be impartial in its operation, or, in other words, shall not open and shut for the convenience of the party that institutes it, and at the same time repel the commerce of the rest of the world, so as to become the odious instrument of an unjust monopoly,instead of a measure of honorable war.

These principles are too moderate and just to furnish any motive to the British government for hesitating to revoke its orders in council, and those analogous orders of blockade, which the U. States expect to be recalled. It can be hardly doubted that Great-Britain will ultimately accede to them in their fullest extent; but if that be a sanguine calculation (as I trust it is not) it is still incontrovertible that a disinclination at this moment to acknowledge them, can suggest no rational inducement for declining to repeal at once what every principle disowns, and what must be repealed at last.

With regard to the rules of blockade which the French government expects you to abandon, I do not take upon me to decide whether they are such as your lordship supposes them to be, or not. Your view of them may be correct; but it may also be erroneous : and it is wholly immaterial to the case between the United States and Great Britain, whether it be the one or the other.

As to such British blockades as the United States desire you to relinquish, you will not, I am sure, allege, that it is any reason for

adhering to them that France expects you to relinquish others. If our demands are suited to the measure of our own rights, and of your obligations as they respect those rights, you cannot think of founding a rejection of them upon any imputed exorbitance in the theories of the French government, for which we are not responsible, and with which we have no concern. If, when

you have done justice to the United States, your enemy should call upon you to go farther, what shall prevent you from refusing? Your free agency will in no respect have been impaired. Your case will be better, in truth, and in the opinion of mankind; and you will be, therefore, stronger in maintaining it, provided that, in doing so, you resort only to legitimate means, and do not once more forget the rights of others, while you seek to vindicate your own.

Whether France will be satisfied with what you may do, is not to be known by anticipation, and ought not to be a subject of inquiry. So vague a speculation has nothing to do with your duties to nations at peace, and, if it had, would annihilate them. It cannot serve your interests ; for it tends to lessen the number of your friends,without adding to your security against your enemies.

You are required, therefore, to do right, and to leave the consequences to the future, when by doing right, you have every thing to gain, and nothing to lose.

As to the orders in council, which professed to be a reluctant departure from all ordinary rules, and to be justified only as a system of retaliation for a pre-existing measure of France, their foundation (such as it was) is gone the moment that measure is no longer in operation. But the Berlin decree is repealed and even the Milan decree, the successor of your orders in council, is repealed also. Why is it, then that your orders have outlived those edicts, and that they are still to oppress and harrass as before ? Your lordship answers this question explicitly enough, but not satisfactorily. You do not alledge that the French decrees are not repealed; but you imagine that the repeal is not to remain in force, unless the British govern, ment shall, in addition to the revocation of its orders in council, a. bandon its system of blockade. I am not concious of having stated, as your lordship seems to think, that this is so, and I believe in fact that it is other vise. Even if it were admitted, however, the orders in council ought nevertheless to be revoked. Can " the safety and honor of the British nation" demand that these orders shall continue to outrage the public law of the world, and sport with the undisputed rights of neutral commerce, after the pretext which was first invented for them is gone? But you are menaced with a revival of the French system, and consequently may again be furnished with the same pretext! Be it so; yet still, as the system and the pretext are at present at an end, so, of course, should be your orders.

According to your mode of reasoning, the situation of neutral trade is hopeless indeed. Whether the Berlin decree exists or not, it is equally to justify your orders in council. You issued them before it was any thing but a shadow, and by doing so gave to it all the substance it could ever claim. ` It is at this moment nothing. It is revoked and has passed away, according to your own admission. You choose, however, to look for its re-appearance; and you make your own expectation equivalent to the decree itself. Compelled to concede that there is no anti-neutral French edict in operation upon the ocean, you think it sufficient to say that there will be such an edict, you know not when; and in the meantime you do all you can to verify your own prediction, by giving to your enemy all the provocation in your power to resume the decrees which he has abandoned.

For my part, my lord, I know not what it is that the British gov. ernment requires, with a view to what it calls its safety and its honor, as an inducement to rescind its orders in council. It does not, I presume, imagine that such a system will be suffered to ripen into law. It must intend to relinquish it, sooner or later, as one of those violent experiments for which time can do nothing, and to which submission will be hoped in vain. Yet, even after the professed foundation of this mischievous system is taken away, another and another is industriously procured for it; so that no man can tell at what time, or under what circumstances it is likely to have an end. When realities cannot be found, possibilities supply their place, and that, which was originally said to be retaliation for actual injury, becomes at last (if such a solecisin can be endured or imagined) retaliation for apprehended injuries, which the future may or may not produce, but which it is certain have no existence now!

I do not mean to grant, for I do not think, that the edict of Berlin did at any time lend even a color of equity to the British orders in council, with reference to the United States; but it might reasonably have been expected, that they, who have so much relied upon it as a justification, would have suffered it and them to sink together -How this is forbidden by your safety or your honor, remains to be explained ; and I am not willing to believe that either the one or the other is inconsistent with the observance of substantial justice, and with the prosperity and rights of peaceful states.

Although your lordship has slightly remarked upon certain recent acts of the French government, and has spoken in general terms of " the system of violence and injustice now pursued by France," as requiring “some precautions of defence on the part of Great Britain," I do not perceive that you deduce any consequence from these observations, in favor of a perseverance in the orders in council. not myself aware of any edicts of France, which, row that the Berlin and Milan decrees are repealed, affect the rights of neutral commerce on the seas. And you will yourselves admit, that if any of the acts of the French government, resting on territorial sovereignty, have injured, or shall hereafter injure, the United States, it is for them, and for them only, to seek redress. In like manner, it is for Great Britain to determine what precautions of defence those measures

« ForrigeFortsett »