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that if the other government did accept such act with a knowledge of its antecedent violation, as the foundation of
any measure on its own part, such act must have been the ostensible only, and not the real motive to such measure.
The declaration of the prince regent of the 21st April, 1812, is in full confirmation of these remarks. By this act of the British government, it is formally announced, on the authority of a report of the secretary of foreign affairs to the conservative senate of France, that the French decrees were still in force, and that the orders in council should not be repealed. It cannot fail to excite considerable surprise that the British government should immediately afterwards, that is, on the 23d of June, repeal its orders in council, on the ground of the French decree of the 28th April, 1811. By this proceeding the British goyernment has involved itself in manifest inconsistency. It has maintained by one act, that the French decrees were in full force, and by another that they were repealed during the same space of time. It admits also, that by do act of the French government, or of its cruizers, had any violation of the repeal announced by the declaration of the French government of the 5th August, 1810, been committed, or, at least, that such violation had not had sufficient weight to prevent the repeal of the orders in council.
It was objected that the declaration of the French govern'ment of the 5th August, 1810, was not such an act as the British government ought to have regarded. The secretary of state is thoroughly satisfied that this objection is altogether unfounded. It was communicated by the emperor through his highest official organ, the secretary of foreign affairs, to the minister plenipotentiary of the United States at Paris. It is impossible to conceive an act more formal, authentic, or obligatory on the French government than that alluded to. Does one government ever ask or expect from another to secure the performance of any duty, however important, more than its official pledge fairly and fully expressed? Can better security be given for its performance ? Had there been any doubt on this subject, the conduct of Great Britain herself, in similar cases, would have completely removed it. The whole history of her diplomatic intercourse with other powers, on the subject of blockade, is in accord with this proceeding of the French government. We know that when her government institutes a blockade, the secretary of foreign affairs announces it to the ministers of other powers at London, and that the same form is observed when they are revoked. Nor was the authenticity of either act, thus announced, ever questioned.
Had a similar declaration been made by the minister of France in the United States to this government, by the order of his
own, would it not have been entitled to respect, and been respected? By the usage of nations, such respect could not have been withheld. The arrangement made with Mr. Erskine, is a full proof of the good faith of this government, and of its impartiality in its transactions with both the belligerents. It was made with that minister on the ground of his public charac-, ter, and the confidence due to it; on which basis the non-intercourse was removed as to England and left in full force against France. The failure of that arrangement was imputable to the British government alone, who, in rejecting it, took on itself a high responsibility, not simply in regard to the consequences attending it, but in disavowing and annulling the act of its mi. nister, without showing that he had exceeded his authority. In accepting the declaration of the French minister of foreign affairs, in proof of the French repeal, the United States gave no proof of improper credence to the government of France. On a comparison of both transactions, it will appear that if a marked confidence and respect was shown to either government, it was to that of Great Britain. In accepting the declaration of the government of France in the presence of the emperor,
the United States stood on more secure ground, than in accepting that of a British minister in this country.
To the demand made by the United States of the repeal of the British orders in council, founded on the basis of the French repeal of August 5th, 1810, the British government replied, by demanding a copy of the orders issued by the French government, for carrying into effect that repeal; a demand without example in the intercourse between nations. By this demand it ceased to be a question whether the French repeal was of sufficient extent, or was founded on justifiable conditions. The pledge of the French government was doubted; a scrutiny was to be instituted as to the manner in which it was to be discharged, and its faith preserved, not by the subsequent conduct of its cruizers towards the vessels of the U. States, but by a copy of the orders given to its cruizers. Where would this end? If the French government intended a fraud by its declaration of repeal, announced to the minister of the United States, and afterwards to this government, might it not likewise commit a fraud in any other communication which it might make? If credit was refused by the British government to the act of the French government, thus formally announced, is it probable that it would have been given by it to any document of inferior character, directed to its own people ? Although it was the policy, and might be the interest of the British government to engage the United States in such a controversy with the French government, it was far from comporting with their interests to do it. They considered it their duty to accept the repeal already made by the French government of its decrees, and to look to its conduct, and to that of its cruizers, sanctioned by the government, for the faithful performance or violation of it. The United States having been injured by both powers, were unwilling, in their exertions to obtain justice of either, to become the instrument of the other. They were the less inclined to it in the present instance, from the consideration, that the party making the pressure on them, maintained in full force its unlawful edicts against the American commerce, while it could not deny that a considerable advance, at least, had been made by the other towards a complete accommodation, it being manifest to the world, not only that the faith of the French government stood pledged for the repeal of its decrees, but that the repeal did take effect on the 1st of November, 1810, in regard to the United States; that several American vessels taken under them had been delivered up; and judicial decisions suspended on all, by its order, and that it also continued to give the most positive assurances that the repeal should be faithfully observed.
It has also been urged that the French repeal was conditional, and for that reason could not be accepted. This objection has already been fully answered. It merits attention, however, that the acts of the British government relating to this subject, particularly the declaration of the 21st April, 1812, and the repeal of the 23d June, of the same year, are equally, and in like manner conditional. It is not a little surprising that the British government should have objected to a measure in another government, to which it has itself given a sanction by its own acts. It is proper, however, to remark that this objection has been completely waved and given up by the acceptance of the decree of the 28th April, 1811.
The British government has urged also, that it could not confide in the faithful performance by the French government of any engagement it might enter into relative to the repeal of its decrees. This objection would be equally applicable to any other compact to be entered into with France. While maintained, it would be a bar to any treaty, even to a treaty of peace, between them. But it also has been admitted to be unfounded by the acceptance of the decree of the 28th April, 1811.
The secretary of state presumes that these facts and explanations, supported as they are by authentic documents, provefirst, that the repeal of the British orders in council was not to be ascribed to the French decree bearing date on the 28th April, 1811; and, secondly, that in making that decree the
basis of their repeal, the British government has conceded that it ought to have repealeel them on the ground of the declaration of the French government of 5th August, 1810, so as to take effect on the 1st November following. To what cause the repeal of the British orders in council was justly attributable cannot now remain a doubt with any who have marked, with just discernment, the course of events. It must afford great consolation to the good people of these states to know, that they have not submitted to privations in vain.
The discussion of other wrongs, particularly that relating to impressment, had been closed some time before the period alluded to. It was unworthy the character of the United States to pursue
the discussion on that difference, when it was evident that no advantage could be derived from it. The right was reserved to be brought forward and urged again, when it might be done with effect. In the mean time the practice of impressment was persevered in with rigor.
At the time when war was declared against Great Britain, no satisfactory arrangement was offered, or likely to be obtained, respecting impressment, and nothing was more remote from the expectation of this government, than the repeal of the orders in council. Every circumstance which had occurred tending to illustrate the policy and views of the British government, rendered such an event altogether improbable. From the commencement of that system of hostility which Great Britain had adopted against the United States, her pretensions had gradually increased, or at least become more fully unfolded, according to circumstances, until, at the moment when war was declared, they had assumed a character -which dispelled all prospect of accommodation. The orders in council were said to have been adopted on a principle of retaliation on France, although at the time when the order of May, 1806, was issued, no measure of France had occurred on which it could be retaliatory, and at the , date of the next order, January, 1807, it was hardly possible that this government should have even heard of the decree of Berlin to which it related. It was stated at the time of their adoption, and for some time afterwards, that they should be revoked as soon as France revoked her decrees, and that the British government would proceed with the government of France pari passu in the revocation. After the declaration, , however, of the French government of the 5th August, 1810, by which the Berlin and Milan decrees were declared to be repealed, the British government changed its tone, and continued to rise in its demands, to the moment that war was declared. It objected, first, that the French repeal was conditional, and
not absolute ; although the only condition attached to it was, that Great Britain should follow the example, or the United States fulfil their pledge, by executing the non-importation act against her. It was then demanded that France should repeal her internal regulations, as a condition of the repeal of the British orders in council. Next, that the French repeal should be extended to all neutral nations, as well as to the United States; and lastly, that the ports of her enemies, and all ports from which the British flag was excluded, should be opened to British manufactures in American vessels : conditions so extravagant as to satisfy all dispassionate minds, that they were demanded not in the expectation that they would or could be complied with, but to terminate the discussion.
On full consideration of all circumstances, it appeared that the period had arrived, when it became the duty of the United States to take that attitude with Great Britain which was due to their violated rights, to the security of their most important interests, and to their character as an independent nation. To have shrunk from the crisis would have been to abandon
every thing valuable to a free people. The surrender of our seamen to British impressment, with the destruction of our navigation and commerce, would not have been its only evils. The desolation of property, however great and widely spread, effects an interest which admits of repair. The wound is incurable only which fixes a stigma on the national honour. While the spirit of the people is unsubdued, there will always be found in their virtue a resource equal to the greatest dangers, and most trying emergencies. It is in the nature of free government to inspire in the body of the people generous and noble sentiments, and it is the duty of the constituted authorities to cherish and to appeal to those sentiments, and to rely on the patriotic support of their constituents. Had they proved themselves unequal to the crisis, the most fatal consequences would have resulted from it. The proof of their weakness would have been recorded;
but not on them alone would its baneful effects have been visited. It would have shaken the foundation of the government itself, and even of the sacred principles of the revolution, on which all our political institutions depend. Yielding to the pretensions of a foreign power, without making a manly effort in defence of our rights, without appealing to the virtue of the people, or to the strength of our union, it would have been charged and believed that in these sources lay the hidden defects. Where would the good people of these states have been able to make another stand? Where would have been their rallying point? The government of their choice, having been dishonoured, its weakness and that