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Mr. Russell to Mr. Monroe. Sir,
London, 19th September, 1812. Since writing you this morning, fearing that this government should infer from my silence, an acquiescence in the strange and unwarrantable view which lord Castlereagh has in his last note thought fit to take of the overtares which I have submitted, and of the powers under which I acted, I have considered it my duty to return an answer, of which the enclosed is a copy. With great consideration and respect, I am, sir, &c. (Signed)
JONA. RUSSELL. The honourable James Monroe, &c.
Mr. Russell to Lord Castlereagh. (Copy.) My lord,
London, 19th September, 1812. Í had the honour to receive last evening your lordship's note of yesterday, and have learnt with great regret and disappointment, that his royal highness the prince regent has again rejected the just and moderate propositions for a suspension of hostilities which I have been instructed to present on the part of my government.
After the verbal explanations which I had the honour to afford your lordship on the 16th instant, both as to the object and . sufficiency of my instructions, I did not expect to hear repeated any objections on these points. For itself, the American government has nothing to disguise, and by varying the proposition as to the manner of coming to a preliminary understanding, it merely intended to leave to the British government that which might be most congenial to its feelings. The propositions presented by me, however, on the 24th August, and 12th instant, are distinguishable by a diversity in the substance, as well as in the mode of the object which they embraced; as by the former the discontinuance of the practice of impressment was to be immediate, and to precede the prohibitory law of the United States, relative to the employment of British seamen; when by the latter both these measures are deferred, to take effect simultaneously hereafter. Having made a precise tender of such law, and exhibited the instructions which warranted it to your lordship, I have learnt with surprise, that it does not appear to your
lordship, that I am authorised to propose any specific plan on the subject of impressment. I still hope that the overtures made by me, may again be taken into consideration by his Britannic majesty's government; and, as I leave town this afternoon for the United States, that it will authorize some agent to proceed
thither, and adopt them as a basis for reconciliation between the two countries, an event so devoutly to be wished. I have the honour to be, &c. (Signed)
Mr. Russell to Mr. Monroe. [Private.] Sir,
On board the Lark, 7th November, 1812. I have the honour to inform you that I am now passing the Narrows, and expect to land at New York this day. I conceive it to be my duty to repair to the seat of government, and shall set off as soon as I can obtain my baggage. In the mean time I am sorry to inform you, that the second proposition for an armistice was rejected like the first, and a vigorous prosecution of the war appears to be the only honourable alternative · I have the honour to be, with great consideration and respect, sir, your very obedient servant, (Signed)
JONA. RUSSELL. Honourable Fumes Monroe, &c. &c. &c.
left to us.
Message from the President of the United States, transmitting
copies of a communication from Mr. Russell to the Secretary of State, connected with the correspondence communicated by his message of the twelfth instant, relative to the pacific advances made on the part of this Government, to that of Great Britain.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States.
I transmit to congress copies of a communication from Mr. Russell to the secretary of state.
It is connected with the correspondence accompanying my message of the 12th instant, but had not at that date been received. November 18th, 1812.
Mr. Russell to Mr. Monroe. Sir,
Washington, 16th Nov. 1812. I have the honour to hand you herewith an account of the conversation alluded to in a postscript to my letter of the 19th of September, and which I had not sufficient time then to copy.
I have the honour to be, with great consideration and respect, sir, your obedient servant, (Signed)
JONATHAN RUSSELL. The Hon. James Monroe, &c. &c. &c.
Mr. Russell to the Secretary of State, dated Sir,
London, Sept. 17, 1812. On the 12th instant, I had the honour to receive your letter of the 27th of July last, I called immediately at the Foreign Office to prepare lord Castlereagh, by imparting to him the nature and extent of my instructions, for the communication which it became me to make to him. His lordship was in the country, and I was obliged to write to him without previously seeing him. I however accompanied my official note (A*) with a private letter (B*), offering explanation, if required, and soliciting despatch.
I waited until 2 o'clock, the 16th instant, without hearing from his lordship, when I was much surprised at receiving a note (C*) from Mr. Hamilton, the under secretary, indefinitely postponing an official reply. To give more precision to the transaction, I instantly addressed to him an answer (D*), and a little before 5 o'clock, on the same day, I received an invitation (E*) from lord Castlereagh to meet him at his house that evening at 9 o'clock.
I waited on his lordship at the time appointed, and found him, in company with Mr. Hamilton, at a table loaded with the records of American correspondence, which they appeared to have been examining.
I was courteously received, and after a conversation of a few minutes on indifferent subjects, I led the way to the business on which I came, by observing that I had once more been authorised to present the olive branch, and hoped it would not be again rejected.
His lordship observed, that he had desired the interview to ascertain, before he submitted my communication of the 16th instant to the prince regent, the form and nature of the powers. under which I acted. To satisfy him at once on both these points, I put into his hands your letter of the 27th July. I the more willingly adopted this mode of procedure, as, besides the confidence which its frankness was calculated to produce, the letter itself would best define my authority, and prove the moderation and conciliatory temper of my government.
His lordship read it attentively. He then commented at some length both on the shape and substance of my powers. With regard to the former he observed, that all my authority was contained in a letter from the secretary of state, which, as my diplomatic functions had ceased, appeared but a scanty foundation on which to place the important arrangement I had
* The notes referred to will be found at pages 76~78.
been instructed to propose. With regard to the extent of my powers, he could not perceive that they essentially differed from those under which I had brought forward the propositions contained in my note of the 24th of August.. He considered that to enter with me into the understanding, required as a preliminary to a convention for an armistice, he would be compelled to act on unequal ground, as, from his situation, he must necessarily pledge his government, when, from the nature of my authority, I could give no similar pledge for mine. He could not therefore think of committing the British faith and leaving the American government free to disregard its engagements. Besides, it did not appear to him, that, at the date of my last instructions, the revocation of the orders in council, on the 23d of June, had been received at Washington, and that great hopes were entertained of the favourable effect such intelligence would produce there. The question of impressment, he went on to observe, was attended with difficulties, of which neither I nor my government appeared to be aware. “ Indeed,” he continued, there has evidently been much misapprehension on this subject, and an erroneous belief entertained that an arrangement, in regard to it, has been nearer an accomplishment than the facts will warrant. Even our friends in congress,
I (observing perhaps some alteration in my countenance) those who were opposed to going to war with us, have been so.confident in this mistake, that they have ascribed the failure of such an arrangement solely to the misconduct of the American government. This error probably originated with Mr. King, for, being much esteemed here, and always well received by the persons then in power, he seems to have misconstrued their readiness to listen to his representations and their warm professions of a disposition to remove the complaints of America, in relation to impressment, into a supposed conviction on their part of the propriety of adopting the plan which he had proposad. But lord St. Vincent, whom he might have thought he had brought over to his opinions, appears never for a moment to have ceased to regard all arrangement on the subject to be attended with formidable, if not insurmountable obstacles. This is obvious from a letter which his lordship addressed to sir William Scott at the time.' Here lord Castlereagh read a letter contained in the records before him, in which lord St. Vincent states to sir William Scott, the zeal with which Mr. King had assailed him on the subject of impressment, confesses his own perplexity and total incompetency to discover any practical project for the safe discontinuance of that practice, and asks for council and advice. “ Thus you see," proceeded lord Castlereagh," that the confidence of Mr. King on this point was entirely unfounded.”
The extreme difficulty, if not total impracticability of any satisfactory arrangement for the discontinuance of impressment, is most clearly manifested by the result of the negotiation carried on between Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney and lords Auckland and Holland. The doctrines of which these noblemen had been the advocates, when in opposition, bound them by all the force of consistency to do every thing under their commission for the satisfaction of America, relative to impressment, which the nature of the subject would possibly admit. There were many circumstances, on that occasion, peculiarly propitious to an amicable arrangement on this point, had such an arrangement been, at all, attainable. Both parties accordingly appear to have exhausted their ingenuity in attempting to devise expedients satisfactorily to perform the office of impressment; and nothing can more conclusively demonstrate the inherent difficulty of the matter, and the utter impossibility of finding the expedient which they sought, than that all their labours, pursued on that occasion with unexampled diligence, cordiality, and good faith, should have been in vain.
His lordship now turned to a letter in a volume before him, addressed at the close of the negotiation by these commissioners to the American ministers, conceived in the kindest spirit of conciliation, in which they profess the most earnest desire to remove all cause of complaint on the part of America, concerning impressment; regret that their endeavours had hitherto been ineffectual; lament the necessity of continuing the practice, and promise to provide as far as possible against the abuse of it.
If," resumed his lordship, “such was the result of a negotiation entertained under circumstances so highly favourable, where the powers and the disposition of the parties were limited only by the difficulties of the subject, what reasonable expectation can be encouraged that, in the actual state of things, with your circumscribed and imperfect authority, we can come to a more successful issue? I shall have to proceed in so weighty a concern with the utmost deliberation and circumspection; and it will be necessary for me to consult the great law officers of the crown.
You are not aware of the great sensibility and jealousy of the people of England on this subject; and no administration could expect to remain in power that should consent to renounce the right of impressment, or to suspend the practice, without the certainty of an arrangement which should obviously be calculated most unequivocally to secure its object.