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Holland and Lord Auckland on the one side, and Mr. Monroe and Mr. Pinckney on the other. A treaty was concluded on just and liberal principles of reciprocal benefit, and sent over to America for ratification; which Mr. Jefferson thought fit to refuse, unless this country should consent to admit into it new principles of maritime law, correspondent with those soon afterwards declared by the French, and contrary to those long established by the law of. nations.
The whole tenour of Mr. Jefferson's administration had excited strong suspicions.of a secret understanding between him and France; and these suspicions were considerably strengthened by this rejection, and suggested alteration of the treaty concluded by his authorized minister here, at the very moment of the notification in that country of the Berlin decree. It happened also that this decree was contemporaneous in its operation with the non-intercourse act against England; which, though passed in May, was not to take effect until November. The very language employed by America in her remonstrances and negociations with England, was exactly similar to that made use of by France. Every step she took seemed to confirm the existence of collusion between Mr. Jefferson and Buonaparte.
England however continued to bear the ill humour, and even the menaces of America, not indeed with indifference, but with that calm and dignified moderation which is naturally inspired by consciousness of rectitude combined with consciousness of power. Even the Berlin decree of the 21st November, 1806, appeared to make no change in her system of legal blockade, as it regarded France, or of concession and relaxation in favor of America. By this decree, the British islands were declared in a state of blockade. All British subjects, found in countries occupied by French troops, were ordered to be seized and made prisoners of war; all British property to be confiscated; all trade in British produce and manufactures was prohibited; and all neutral vessels, which had touched in England or any of her colonies, were made liable to confiscation.
There were, we think, two obvious ways of treating this declaration of war against all commerce, but more particularly against British commerce.--Either to consider it as one of those empty menaces so frequently fulminated against us in those moments of temporary insanity to which the present ruler of the French is subject; and to take no notice of it whatever, at least till it had clearly been ascertained what its operation would be, and to what extent neutral powers would acquiesce in so odious a decree;
or, to make him feel at once the full force of our naval power; to put forth the strength of this mighty arm, and lay waste the whole line of coast
from Ostend to Bayonne ; to keep his armies perpetually on the march to the various points of attack; to spread terror and alarm among the inhabitants; to drive the French fishermen within the mouths of their rivers, and compel their master to supplicate, as Henry IV. of France had done before him, for permission to eatch a few soles on the banks in the Channel for his own table. Unfura tunately our government did neither. It contented itself with issuing an orier in council on the 7th January, 1807, by which, after stating bis Majesty's unwillingness to follow the example of his enemies, by proceeding to an extremity so distressing to all nations not engaged in the war, yet urging the necessity he felt to restrain this violence and to retort upon them the evils of their own injustice, it was ordered that no vessel shall be permitted to trade from one port to another, both which ports shall belong to, or be in possession of France or her allies, or shall be so far under their control, as that British vessels may not freely trade thereat.'
This feeble effort at retaliation totally failed in restraining the violeace of the enemy, while the restrictions it imposed on neutral commerce served as a pretest for a grievance on the part of America In point of fact, America not only evaded the orders, but turned them greatly to her advantage; while the commerce of England became every month more languid and prostrate, till reduced, as justly observed by a member of the House of Commons, to a state of suspended animation.'
If America had any ground of complaint on this occasion, it was that oil, a few days before the issuing of the order in council Mr. Monroe bad been told that his Majesty's government could not believe that the enemy would ever seriously attempt to enforce such a system; but that if ihe enemy should carry these threats into execution, and if neutral nations, contrary to all expectation, should acquiesce in such usurpations, his Majesty might probably be compelled, however reluctantly, to retaliate in his just defence, &c.
she Berlin decree, which had been held by many as “ an en yt menace,' was soon discovered by the administration which caine mto power about April 1807, to bear a very different character ; that' uations in alliance with France, and under her control, were resuired to give, had given, and did give effect' to that decree. They i wd that the order of the 7th January issued by their predecesors,' did not answer the desired purpose either of compelling the enemy to recal those orders, or of inducing Deutral nations to interi ose with effectt. obtain their revocation, but, on the contrary, the same had been recently euforced with increased rigour. It was therefore ordered, on the lith November, 1807, that all the ports and places of France and her allies, or of any other country at war with his Majesty, and all other ports and places in Europe from which, although not at war with his Majesty, the British flag is excluded, and places in the colonies, belonging to his Majesty's enemies, shall, from henceforth, be subject to the same restrictions, in point of trade and navigation, (with certain exceptions,) as if the same were actually blockaded by his Majesty's naval forces, in the most strict and rigorous inanner.'
As soon as this order in council reached Buonaparte, at Milan, he issued his decree of the 17th December, 1807, by which every ship, to whatever nation it may belong, that shall have submitted to be searched by an English ship, or paid any tax to the English government, is declared to be denationalized, and to have become British property-that such ships are good and lawful prizes---that every ship, of whatever nation, and whatsoever its cargo may be, sailing from England, or the English colonies, or countries occupied by the English troops, is good and lawful prize--these measures to cease to have effect with respect to those nations who shall have the firmness to compel the English government to respect their flag.
There can be no doubt that these two orders of the belligerents bore hard upon the only remaining neutral. The British orders in council, however, contained many exceptions in her favour ; while the decree of Milan was calculated to sweep every ship of hers from
Not only were the British orders in council modified and mitigated in their original conformation, for the purpose of relaxing, in favour of America, that general prohibition of all trade with the enemy, which a strict retaliation would have justified; but when it was found that some of the relaxations which were intended for this object were more obnoxious to America than the prohibition itself, those relaxations were repealed. It had been permitted to neutrals, by the original orders in council, to trade with the enemy, on condition of previously touching at a British port, and paying a trifling duty. The object of this duty was not to collect revenue for this country, still less to impose a tribute on America, as was vehemently and angrily contended in that country. It was simply a mean of ensuring and registering, with respect to each vessel, the. fact of its so touching at an English port.
The principle of the orders in council was this. Our enemy says there shall be no trade with England. We hạve a right to say in return—there shall be none with our enemy:-and this prohibition, if we had thought fit to adopt it in its full extent, we had the power of enforcing. If the neutral had thus been excluded from all trade whatever, the fault would have been so obviously in the original aggressor, France, that against that original aggressor, the complaints of America must have been directed at least, as loudly as against this country. It is a whimsical fact, that Great Britain became
exposed to that most unequal share of obloquy which has been poured upon her by America, only by having mitigated the strictness of a principle ipon which France continued to act without mitigation. And it is really edifying to observe with what ingenuity Mr. Madison has contrived io represent all such relaxations on the part of Great Britain in favour of neutral trade, of the exercise of a right by the strict enforcement of which it must have been crushed and extinguished, as 'badges of humiliation, as regulations violating equally the neutral rights and national sovereignty of America, as measures not only • stabbing her interests, but superadding, under the name of indulgencies, a blow at their national independence, and a mockery of their understandings.'
But while all the instructions of Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison to their minister in London, teem with violent and opprobrious expressions, those to Mr. Armstrong at Paris are, to be sure, querulous enough, but gentle and supplicatory, without one expression of indignation at the original aggressors and authors of all the ills of which they bad to complain. Nay, Mr. Madison tinds even an apology for the French decrees; they are merely municipal regulations, not affecting, by their operation, the neutral rights of Ames rica. He lent a willing ear to the deception practised upon him by the French minister, that the placing of the British islands in a state of blockade made no alteration in the existing French laws concerning maritime captures. The seizure and contiscation of American ships on the high seas and in the ports of France, made it indeed impossible long to remain deceived: yet even then ber minister was instructed to be particularly careful to leave the way open for friendly and respectful explanations, if there should be a disposition to offer them. The burning of their ships at sea Mr. Madison is pleased to designate as the most distressing of all the modes by which belligerents exert force contrary to right; yet provided hos-. tility of intention' be disproved, he seems to think that the offence would be wiped off by an indemnitication to the injured individuals.' And at the rery moment that he represents the decree afterwards issued at Bayonne as a sweeping stroke at all American vessels on the high seas,' he directs General Armstroug' to avoid a stile of procedure which might co-operate with the policy of the British government, by stimulating the passions of the French.' The return for this tame and submissive conduct was precisely what might have been foreseen.—So far from indemnification being made to injured individuals' for the property destroyed by the incendiaries, the plunder sared out of the ship, was condemned as good and lawful prize.
But the climax of French rapacity and American endurance was yet to come. A decree was issued at Rambouillet in March, 1910,
by which all vessels sailing under the flag of the United States, or owned wholly or in part by any American citizen, which, since the 20th May, 1809, had entered, or which should thereafter enter any of the ports of France or her colonies, or countries occupied by French armies, should be seized. This act was carried into immediate execution ; the number of sequestered ships amounted to one hundred and sixty, the value of which was calculated at one hundred millions of franks, "a sum,' says Mr. Armstrong to Mr. Madison, whose magnitude alone renders hopeless all attempts at saving it. If I am right,' he continues, in supposing the Emperor has definitively taken his ground, I cannot be wrong in concluding that you will immediately take yours. '
General Armstrong knew very little however of the enduring temper of his government so far as France was concerned. To England its insolence seemed to increase with the increasing aggressions of France. Every adventitious occurrence, every little collision between British and American officers, was laid hold of to enflame the minds of the rabble against Great Britain. In all the discussions on the orders in council, matters wholly irrelevant thereto were artfully introduced to check the progress of negociation. The shot from the Leander, the affair of the Chesapeake, the search of neutral ships, the impressment of American seamen, were all brought forward, and on all occasions. All the papers which are before the public, evince the decided partiality of Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison towards France, notwithstanding the robberies and insults they have invariably suffered from that government, which has even gone so far as to stigmatize them as men without policy, without honor and without energy, who would rather fight (if they could be brought to fight at all) for interest than for honour.'
At length however Buonaparte thought fit, obviously in the hope of deciding the angry, yet timorous government of America to a war with us, to change his tone towards that country; and he did it with a sudden and impudent consistency truly French. "His Majesty,' says Champagny, ' loves the Americans. A proposal of marriage to a desponding damsel, could not be more acceptable than this declaration of the imperial lover was to Mr. Madison. It was altogether amusing to observe with what eagerness and joy he threw himself into the arms of France; and with what an air of triumph he announced to his subjects the happy tidlings of the revocation of the Berlin and Milan decrees. This pretended revocation was to take effect on a future day, the 1st of November, 1810. Without waiting to see whether their operation had actually ceased on that day, and whether threre appeared to be any disposition in the French government to redress the other wrongs and restore the vast