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protection of Mr. Baker. The object of that letter, and of the next preceding one, of the 26th of June, was to invest you with power to suspend by an armistice, on such fair conditions as it was presumed could not be rejected, the operation of the war, which had been brought on the United States by the injustice and violence of the British government. At the moment of the declaration of war, the president, regretting the necessity which produced it, looked to its termination and provided for it, and happy will it be for both countries, if the disposition felt, and the advance thus made on his part, are entertained and met by the British government in a similar spirit.
You have been informed by Mr. Graham of what passed in my late absence from the city, in an interview between Mr. Baker and him, in consequence of a dispatch from the British government to Mr. Foster, received at Halifax, just before he sailed for England, and transmitted by him to Mr. Baker, res lating to a proposed suspension or repeal of the British or. ders in council. You will have seen by the note forwarded to you by Mr. Graham, of Mr. Baker's communication to him, that Mr. Foster had authorized him to state, that the commanders of the British forces at Halifax would agree to a suspension, after a day to be fixed, of the condemnation of prizes, to await the decision of both governments, without, however, preventing captures on either side. It appears also that Mr. Foster had promised to communicate with sir George Prevost, and to advise him to propose to our government an armistice.
Sir George Prevost has since proposed to general Dearborn, at the suggestion of Mr. Foster, a suspension of offensive operations by land, in a letter which was transmitted by the general to the secretary at war. A provisional agreement was entered into between general Dearborn and col. Baynes, the British adjutantgeneral, bearer of gen. Prevost's letter, that neither party should act offensively, before the decision of our government should be taken on the subject.
Since my return to Washington, the document alluded to in Mr. Foster's dispatch, as finally decided on by the British government, has been handed to me by Mr. Baker, with a remark, that its authenticity might be relied on. Mr. Baker added, that it was not improbable that the admiral at Halifax might agree likewise to a suspension of captures, though he did not profess or appear to be acquainted with his sentiments on that point.
On full consideration of all the circumstances which merit attention, the president regrets that it is not in his power to accede to the proposed arrangement. The following are among the principal reasons which have produced this decision.
1st. The president has no power to suspend judicial proceedings on prizes. A capture, if lawful, vests a right, over which he has no controul. Nor could he prevent captures otherwise than by an indiscriminate recal of the commissions granted to our privateers, which he could not justify under existing circumstances.
2d. The proposition is not made by the British government, nor is there any certainty that it would be approved by it. The proposed arrangement, if acceded to, might not be observed by the British officers themselves, if their government, in consequence of the war, should give them instructions of a different character, even if they were given without a knowledge of the arrangement.
3d. No security is given, or proposed, as to the Indians, nor could any be relied on. They have engaged in the war on the side of the British government, and are now prosecuting it with vigour, in their usual savage mode. They can only be restrained by force, when once let loose, and that force has already been ordered out for the purpose.
4th. The proposition is not reciprocal, because it restrains the United States from acting where their power is greatest, and leaves Great Britain at liberty, and gives her time to augment her forces in our neighbourhood.
5th. That as a principal object of the war is to obtain redress against the British practice of impressment, an agreement to suspend hostilities, even before the British government is heard from on that subject, might be considered a relinquishment of that claim.
6th. It is the more objectionable, and of the less importance, in consideration of the instructions heretofore given you, which, if met by the British government, may have already produced the same result in a greater extent and more satisfactory form.
I might add, that the declaration itself is objectionable in many respects, particularly the following.
ist. Because it asserts a right in the British government to restore the orders in council, or any part thereof, to their full effect, on a principle of retaliation on France, under circumstances of which she alone is to judge; a right which this government cannot admit, especially in the extent heretofore claimed, and acted on by the British government.
2d. That the repeal is founded exclusively on the French decree of the 28th of April, 1811, by which the repeal of the decrees of Berlin and Milan, announced on the 5th of August, 1810, to take
effect on the first of November, of that year, at which time their operation actually ceased, is disregarded, as are the claims of the United States arising from the repeal on that day, even ac, cording to the British pledge.
3d. That even if the United States had no right to claim the repeal of the British orders in council prior to the French decree of the 28th of April, 1811, nor before the notification of that decree to the British government on the 20th of May, of the present year, the British repeal ought to have borne date from that day, and been subject to none of the limitations attached to it.
These remarks on the declaration of the prince regent, which are not pursued with rigour, nor in the full extent which they might be, are applicable to it, in relation to the state of things which existed before the determination of the United States to resist the aggressions of the British government by war. Ву that determination the relations between the two countries have been altogether changed, and it is only by a termination of the war, or by measures leading to it, by consent of both governments, that its calamities can be closed or mitigated. It is not now a question whether the declaration of the prince regent is such as ought to have produced a repeal of the non-importation act, had war not been declared, because, by the declaration of war, that question is superseded, and the non-importation act having been continued in force by congress, and become a measure of war, and among the most efficient, it is no longer subject to the controul of the executive in the sense and for the purpose for which it was adopted.
The declaration, however, of the prince regent will not be without effect. By repealing the orders in council without reviving the blockade of May, 1806, or any other illegal blockade, as is understood to be the case, it removes a great obstacle to an accommodation. The president considers it an indication of a disposition in the British government to accommodate the differences which subsist between the countries, and I am instructed to assure you, that, if such disposition really exists, and is persevered in, and is extended to other objects, especially the important one of impressment, a durable and happy peace and reconciliation cannot fail to result from it.
Mr. Russell to the Secretary of State, inclosing a correspondence
with Lord Castlereagh, on the subject of an armistice.
Mr. Russell to Mr. Monroe. Sir,
London, 1st Sept. 1812. You will perceive by the enclosed copies of notes which have passed between lord Castlereagh and me, that the moderate and equitable terms proposed for a suspension of hostilities, have been rejected, and that it is my intention to return imme. diately to the United States.
My continuance here, after it has been so broadly intimated to me by his lordship, that I am no longer acknowledged in my diplomatic capacity, and after a knowledge that instructions are given to the British admiral to negociate an arrangement on the other side of the Atlantic, would, in my view of the subject, not only be useless, but improper.
It is probable, however, that the vessel in which I propose to embark, will not take her departure before the 15th or 20th of this month.
I have the honour to be, with great consideration, sir, your assured and obedient servant,
JONA. RUSSELL. To the hon. James Monroe, &c.
Mr. Russell to Lord Castlereagh. My lord,
London, August 24, 1812. It is only necessary, I trust, to call the attention of your lordship to a review of the conduct of the government of the United States, to prove incontrovertibly its unceasing anxiety to maintain the relations of peace and friendship with Great Britain. Its patience, in suffering the many wrongs which it has received, and its perseverance, in endeavouring, by amicable means, to obtain redress, are known to the world. Despairing, at length, of receiving this redress from the justice of the British government, to which it had so often applied in vain, and feeling that a further forbearance would be a virtual surrender of interests and rights, essential to the prosperity and independence of the nation confided to its protection, it has been compelled to discharge its high duty, by an appeal to arms.
While, however, it regards this course as the only one which remained for it to pursue, with a hope of preserving any portion of that kind of character, which constitutes the vital strength of every nation, yet it is still willing to give another proof of the spirit which has uniformly distinguished its proceedings, by
seeking to arrest, on terms consistent with justice and honour, the calamities of war. It has, therefore, authorized me to stipulate, with his Britannic majesty's government, an armistice, to commence at or before the expiration of sixty days after the signature of the instrument providing for it, on condition that the orders in council be repealed, and no illegal blockades be substituted to them, and that orders be immediately given to discontinue the impressment of persons from American vessels, and to restore the citizens of the United States already impressed: it being, moreover, well understood, that the British government will assent to enter into definitive arrangements, as soon as may be, on these and every other difference, by a treaty; to be concluded either at London or Washington, as, on an impartial consideration of existing circumstances, shall be deemed most expedient.
As an inducement to Great Britain to discontinue the practice of impressment from American vessels, I am authorized to give assurance, that a law shall be passed to be reciprocal) to prohibit the employment of British seamen, in the public or commercial service of the United States. -- It is sincerely believed, that such an arrangement would prove more efficacious, in securing to Great Britain her seamen, than the practice of impressment, so derogatory to the sovereign attributes of the United States, and so incompatible with the personal rights of their citizens.
Your lordship will not be surprised that I have presented the revocation of the orders in council, as a preliminary to the suspension of hostilities, when it is considered, that the act of the British government, of the 230 June last, ordaining that revocation, is predicated on conditions, the performance of which is rendered impracticable, by the change which is since known to have occurred, in the relations between the two countries. It cannot now be expected that the government of the United States will, immediately on due notice of that act, revoke, or cause to be revoked, its acts, excluding from the waters and harbours of the United States all British armed vessels, and interdicting commercial intercourse with Great Britain. Such a procedure would necessarily involve consequences too unrea. sonable and extravagant to be, for a moment, presumed. The order in council, of the 23d of June last, will, therefore, according to its own terms, be null and of no effect, and a new act of the British government, adapted to existing circumstances, is obviously required, for the effectual repeal of the orders in council, of which the United States complain.