« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
blockade of May, 1806, being the first aggressor, was entirely precluded from setting up the plea of retaliation. And thirdly, it was cluded that America, though she might not chuse to submit to the French decrees, was not obliged to resist them.
With regard to the first point, we well remember the eagerness with which Mr. Pinckney contended for the innocent character of the French decrees from the inability of the enemy to execute them. Admitting this to be the case, their justification, on such grounds, would establish one of the most vague and uncertain rules, and the most unjust measure of right, that were ever pretended to be set up; would recognise a principle that never was, and never could be, admitted in any case, either of morals or legislation. To measure the criminality of an act by the degree of power of the perpetrator to execute it, would be to adopt a rule as capricious and uncertain, as it would be absurd and unjust.
If France,' he observes, from the superior force and vigilance of her enemy, has been enabled to burn, sink, and destroy only fifty of our ships, who have committed the deadly sin of trading with her enemy; and, if this degree of weakness renders the French decrees legitimate, or at least innocent, pray will any of the statesmen who condemn Great Britain on this ground, give us the arithmetical rule by which we are to know when such outrageous violations of national law become the fair subject of retaliation? Suppose, instead of the existing inequality as to naval power, France was able to keep a flying fleet of burning ships constantly on the ocean, and in place of fifty she should burn five hundred ships a year, for the enormous transgression of selling their surplus produce to the excommunicated English nation, would this vary the question of right? In the latter case, it is obvious that neutrals would be deterred from supplying Great Britain, and she would most essentially suffer. But can her rights depend upon so loose and vague a criterion? Do any rights repose upon so varying and shifting a foundation? "Great Britain reasoned as all men of prudence reason: this is a novel and most enormous pretension; this is no less than an avowed attempt to shut me out of the pale of civilised nations. She adopted the prudent maxim, principis obsta-oppose the first inroads on my rights. And, I would ask, where is the judicious and honest statesman, who will point out the precise mark at which she ought to have aimed? Ought she to have waited until the evil was brought home to her doors, until her deserted ports and ruined commerce should warn her that her case was without remedy?
France, from the commencement, and until the present time, has executed her decrees to the utmost extent of her power, and she at this moment boasts of their wisdom and efficacy in humbling and enfeebling her enemy, and still confides in their sufficiency to destroy him.' pp. 20,
If, however, from our decided naval superiority Buonaparte had only a very limited power of enforcing his decrees on the ocean, he
had ample scope for the exercise of it on the continent of Europe; and he was not tardy in letting it be understood that he meant not to confine their operation to France. By his arms, or his influence, they were enforced in Holland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Prussia, and Denmark. He not only declared that British goods should not enter France, but that every neutral ship, which had traded with Great Britain, should be denationalised; and, if caught within or without his ports, confiscated; and this novel and monstrous system, destructive of all free commerce, and worthy of dark and uncivilised ages -this system, kindly characterised by Mr. Madison as a mere municipal regulation, was contrived for the avowed purpose of destroying Great Britain.-Yet, if Mr. Madison's doctrine be worth any thing, it goes to this, that the belligerent against whom it was levelled has no cause for complaint, much less for retaliation; and that those denationalised neutrals have no right to resist or resent it.
This principle, more dreadful than the popish doctrine of excommunication, has been likened to the Navigation Acts of Great Britain, acts which simply limit the importation of British products to British bottoms; but you may search the history of Algiers, Morocco, and Tunis in vain for any example of the extended tyranny and profligacy of the decrees of France.
Put then their operation on the ocean out of the question, take them as they now are admitted to be enforced, even by Mr. Madison, they are the most enormous violations of all neutral rights, and the greatest invasion on the principles of modern civilised nations, which the world has ever seen-Yet this operation of the decrees has been justified by Mr. Madison, though it is tenfold more injurious to us than all their possible effect on the ocean. The captures in Denmark alone are more than five times as great in amount as all the captures under the British Orders in Council in the first four years of their operation. There is an end then to the argument that France could not enforce her decrees, because she has done it in a most extensive and calamitous degree.'
But it is alleged, in the second place, that Great Britain, by her blockade of May, 1806, was the aggressor, and was therefore precluded from setting up the plea of retaliation on the Berlin decree, which was itself, in fact, a retaliatory measure on the previous order of blockade. This,' says our New England Farmer, is one of the most affrontive arguments that was ever thrown in the face of an intelligent people:' for,' as he observes, the idea of this order of blockade of May, 1806, being a violation of neutral rights, or au infringement of the law of nations, never occurred to Mr. Jefferson or to Mr. Madison, or any of their party, until July, 1810, more than four years after the obnoxious order had been in full and continued operation- a singular sort of invasion of our rights,' he continues, which neither the fault-finding cabinet of France, nor the still more jealous and irritable council at Washing
ton, had for four years been able to discover-yet such is the fact.' He farther remarks, that when Mr. Q. Adams was brought over to defend Mr. Madison's administration by attacking the Orders in Council, he did not venture to trust himself on the newly discovered plea of the British aggression of May, 1806, but more prudently went back for a defence of France to the rule of the war of 1756. There were among us some,' says the farmer, who thought that he might as well have urged the invasion of France by Edward the Black Prince.'
'But what,' he adds, ought to set this question for ever at rest, and to crimson the faces of our administration and committees whenever they bring forward this argument, is this-that Mr. Monroe, our resident minister at St. James's, communicated this order with great satisfaction to our government, and expressed his conviction that it was a favorable measure, and indicative of the disposition of the British cabinet to conciliate this country. In truth, it was the measure of Mr. Fox, and was intended to give a proof to America of his disposition to reconcile, if possible, the commercial interests of America with the principles absolutely essential to the British power and existence. It is an order, very singularly expressed, but it was understood, and intended and executed, in such a manner as to leave open all our trade with. France and Holland, except such as the admitted principles of the law of nations forbade.'-p 24.
We can positively state, from our own knowledge, that the farmer is completely borne out in asserting that this blockade was as vigorously enforced, and as fully supported by actual investment, as the law of nations recognized by themselves requires.' We happen to know that Lord Keith, who then commanded the Downs station and in the north sea, had no less than 160 ships of war under his immediate orders, 90 of which were employed in the actual blockade of the ports from the Elbe to Cape la Hogue, which, including all the rivers, creeks, and harbours, do not exceed thirty, or one-third of the number of ships employed to watch them; and that all the harbours, from La Hogue to Brest, were effectually blockaded by the squadrons under the several admirals commanding at Portsmouth, Plymouth, Guernsey, and the Channel Fleet. Yet Mr. Madison has the effrontery to stigmatize it as a 'mock,' 'pretended,' and 'paper' blockade, and to assert that Great Britain, not content with occasional expedients' for laying waste their neutral trade, had resorted to the sweeping system of blockades,' under the names of Orders in Council,' which has been moulded and managed as might best suit its political views,' its commercial jealousies,' or the avidity of British cruizers.' Mr. Madison knows that the only modification which they have undergone was that of April, 1809, which was made expressly to favour America,
by opening to her the Baltic, the German Ocean, the foreign possessions of the French and Dutch, and part of Italy.
But what shall we say if it appear that this first aggression of 1806, which is now represented as the immediate cause of the Berlin decree, was, for the first time, suggested by Mr. Madison, in 1809, (through General Armstrong to Buonaparte,) as a justifiable cause of the French decrees?-that this blockade of 1806, which was approved by Mr. Monroe,-was not objected against by Mr. Jefferson in 1808,-was not even mentioned by Mr. Madison in the arrangement made with Mr. Erskine in 1809-but that this great and atrocious injury done to France and America, forgotten, neglected, and not once adverted to in a four years' negociation, was brought forward, for the first time, to make a principal figure in 1810, for the express purpose, as it would seem, of throwing in the way invincible obstacles to any adjustment with Great Britain? Let us hear the farmer' on this subject.
The first notice of it, as far as we can find, is in a letter from General Arinstrong to Mr. Smith, our secretary of state, of January 28th, 1810, in which he details a conversation which he had held with Count Champagny, the French minister. In that letter Mr. Armstrong refers to a letter of December 1st, 1809, from Mr. Smith to himself, which has never been published, in which he is directed to demand of France" Whether, if Great Britain revoked her blockades of a date anterior to the decree commonly called the Berlin decree, His Majesty the Emperor would consent to revoke that decree?" To which the Emperor, falling into the views of our government, and foreseeing the snare which would be laid for Great Britain, inasmuch as, if she consented to repeal said orders, it would be an admission that she had been the aggressor upon neutral commerce, and further, it would be an admission that she had no right to exert her only force, her maritime power, for the coercion of her enemy, replied "That the ONLY condition required for the revocation of the decree of Berlin, will be a previous revocation by Great Britain of her blockades of France, or ports of France, of a date anterior to the aforesaid decree."
So far the plot went on prosperously; and if Great Britain had fallen into the project, it would have been made the pretext for preventing any future blockades of even single ports of France, in which armaments for her destruction, or the destruction of her commerce, should be formed; and she would have relinquished to an enemy, whom she cannot attack upon the continent on equal terms, the only weapons which God and her own valour had placed within her power.'-p. 29.
The next step was to transmit this project for swindling Great Britain out of her maritime rights, to Mr. Pinckney, the American minister in London, who accordingly demanded of Lord Wellesley, 'whether Great Britain considered any, and if any, what, blockades of the French coast, of a date anterior to the Berlin decree, in
force? Lord Wellesley briefly answered that the blockade of May, 1806, was comprehended in the Order of Council of January, 1807, which was yet in force.' A month afterwards, 7th March, 1810, Mr. Pinckney again asked whether the order of May, 1806, was merged in that of January, 1807?' to which Lord Wellesley replied that it was comprehended under the more extensive orders of January, 1807.'
Mr. Pinckney, though not quite satisfied with Lord Wellesley's answers, wrote to General Armstrong, that the inference from them was, that the blockade of May, 1806, is virtually at an end, being merged and comprehended in an Order of Council issued after the date of the Berlin decree.' This inference, however, did not suit any of the intriguing parties; and General Armstrong does not seem to have thought it necessary to ruffle the repose of his imperial majesty by submitting the point to M. Champagny; at least nothing farther appears till the extraordinary letter of the Duc de Cadore, in which the Berlin and Milan decrees are premised to be repealed, provided Great Britain will repeal her orders, and renounce her principles of blockade which she wishes to establish: terms,' says the farmer, which every man will perceive might be construed to amount to the surrender of all her maritime rights.'
That there was a secret understanding between our cabinet and that of France that Great Britain should be required to annul her blockades of a date anterior to the Berlin decree, and that this suggestion first came from our cabinet, will appear from the two following extracts of letters from our secretary Smith, to Mr. Pinckney; the one is dated in July, 1810, in which he says, "you will let it be distinctly understood that the repeal must necessarily include an annulment of the blockade of May, 1806; this is the explanation which will be given by our minister at Paris to the French government, in case it shall then be required." It seems it had not then BEEN required by France.'
That this was a concerted thing is apparent from another clause of the same letter, in which Mr. Smith says, that "should Great Britain not withdraw all her previous partial blockades, it is probable that France will draw Great Britain and the United States to issue on the legality of such blockades (that is, all partial blockades) by acceding to the act of congress, on condition that the repeal of the blockade shall accompany that of the Orders in Council."
Within one month after these dispatches arrived in France, Bona parte did bring us to issue with Great Britain on this very point; and yet Mr. Madison was no prophet, because it was he who first suggested the thought to Armstrong, and Armstrong to the ingenious cabinet of St. Cloud." In conformity to your suggestions in your letter of December 1st, 1809,' (says General Armstrong to Mr. Smith I demanded whether if Great Britain revoked her decrees of a date anterior to