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was the opinion of one of the few able men* which America has
produced, that in framing the republican government, too much influence was given to the people, and too little to the executive officer ; who, stripped as he was of the externals of sovereign authority, and liable to revert to the condition of a subject, and to resume his station among the mass of the people, could only command respect by extraordinary talent, or great personal influence; that a weak or a wicked man, presiding in troublesome times over the councils of the nation, without the requisite personal qualifications--with too much ambition and too little virtue to retire from a situation which he could neither fill with credit to himself, nor advantage to the nation-would have no other resource than to call in the aid of the mob for his support. Mr. Madison has furnished the first practical proof of the soundness of this doctrine; and this defect of power, must be his apology. Gibbon has somewhere observed, that the world has been willing to grant to statesmen, under the name of policy, a very liberal indulgence of falsehood, craft and insincerity in all public transactions. The American President has, we think, ventured to draw upon the world for his full share of this indulgence. His war manifesto is an accumulated repetition of all the injurious falsehoods which have so often been advanced by him against Great Britain, and as often refuted; and, as to his craft and insincerity, we must beg leave to refer our readers to the “ New England farmer.'
In assigning to Mr. Madison the merit of having first practically exposed this radical defect in the American constitution, we by no means wish to deprive his predecessor of the honour of being the first who publicly appealed to the passions and the prejudices of the mob. We have not forgotten the two occasions on which he publicly called upon the citizens and inhabitants' of the United States to commit acts of hostility and outrage against British officers, which would disgrace any civilized society; nor the terms in which he extols the tumultuous proceedings of the rabble of Norfolk, as being pronounced with an emphasis and unanimity never before exceeded.'+ What says this virtuous republican' to the 'emphasis' of the proceedings at Baltimore?
We have no doubt that the sole cause of Mr. Jefferson's having retired from the presidency was a conviction that the little power granted to him by the constitution was gradually slipping from his hands. Mr. Madison, with fewer qualities to retain that power, is about to make the desperate experiment of throwing himself into the hands of the populace, always capricious and inconstant towards their votary; but, in the present case, the mob to which he appeals is composed of the dregs and outcasts of all nations. They are necessary however for his views. The puerile, but not less injurious, measures of embargo, non-intercourse, and non-importation had disgusted the merchants and farmers of the northern states. They were not to be convinced that the British Orders in Council called for
* The late Colonel Hamilton.
any such measures on the part of America. They were told, however, by the person (we forget his name) who in 1811 brought up the report of the Committee on foreign relations, that these Orders in Council were alone a sufficient cause for war; and we verily believe that, at that time, Mr. Madison had completely made up his mind to go to war with Great Britain, * on the sole ground of the Orders in Council.
Why then, it may be asked, is this main grievance, which has employed a five years' negociation, been thrown so completely in the background in Mr. Madison's war manifesto? We think it admits of an easy explanation. Having determined on war, it was necessary to shew some strong cause to render the measure palatable and popular. Now it was just possible that the Orders in Council, which last year were alone sufficient cause of war, would be revoked. It was known in America that they were conditionally, and it was conjectured they might be absolutely, repealed. If they were not repealed, they would always tell among the justifiable causes of war; but if they were, and the President had pushed them forward as the “ head and front of our offending,' as they were till now considered to be, the ostensible cause of war would thus have been removed, and all minor grievances mere points for future adjustment. It was safer, therefore, at any rate, as his pledge to France must be redeemed, to bring forward something, better calculated than the Orders in Council, to come home to the business and the bosoms of the multitude: the starving wives and helpless children of their enslaved citizens;' the blood spilt by British cruizers" hovering on their coasts;' the daily victims of lawless violence committed on the great and common highway of nations': these were topics which every seafaring man could understand; they were suited to inflame the passions, and work on the feelings, of every mother, wife and child, who had a son, or a husband, or a father on the common highway; they were the best of all possible warwhoops for the women and children, (those essentially constituent parts of all efficient mobs,) to vociferate; and no one will deny the efficiency of Mr. Madison's mob, when he reflects on the late proceedings of the American Septembrizers at Baltimore, worthy of the worst days of the worst man who ever presided over revolutionary France. Had he really wished for some event, that might place his government on a parallel with that of Robespierre, the wanton and atrocious murder of a general officer of seventy-three years of age, who had 'done the state some service, the friend of Washington who created that state,-night set his heart at rest on this pomt.
* The American farmer strongly insinuates that France knew before the repeal of her decrees would reach America, war would be declared by Mr. Madison against Great Britain ; that a copy of his war message went in the Wasp to France. There is a collateral fact,' he observes, ' which puts this question at rest. Mr. Barlow did tell an American gentleman in Paris, in May last, thirty days before the declaration of war in this country, that war was or would be declared immediately by America against Great Britain ; and advised him to regulate his concerns accordingly; and that gentleman did write to his friends in Salem to take measures for his exchange in case he should be taken prisoner on his return.' Preface, p. 8.
To this virtuous' mob and their antifederal leaders, the avowed friends of France, Mr. Madison looks for the regeneration of his political life, and the condition is-war with England. No wonder then that the revocation of the Orders in Council was received as a thankless boon. They do not even occupy the second place in the President's war manifesto. Next to the whining lamentation about enslaved citizens' comes the old story of British cruizers" hovering on their coasts,' and of American blood wantonly spilt within the sanctuary of our territorial jurisdiction. And why, we would ask, do British cruizers hover on their coast? Because, with that justice and impartiality which this virtuous republic' exercises between the two belligerents, British ships were interdicted its ports, while those of France were not only protected therein, but French privateers allowed to fit out for the purpose of making hostile excursions against our trade, and, happily, against that of their protectors also.
But would it be credited that, after the full and satisfactory atonement made and accepted for the affair of the Chesapeake, Mr. Madison should again bring forward this old grievance as the second cause of his war; with an additional charge against our government, as unfounded as it is illiberal, that, instead of punishing its officers when called upon, it heaped upon them marks of honour and confidence? What! is it no punishment to a brave and unoffending officer, invested with his sovereign's commission, to be arraigned and tried, as Captain Whitby was, on a charge of murder? Is it nothing for a flag officer to be reprimanded, and superseded in a high command, as Admiral Berkeley was, and that too before the American government had time to prefer a complaint? Is mortified pride—is wounded honour nothing? We can readily understand that Mr. Madison is not much alive to punishments of this nature;-had he indeed possessed those nice feel. ings of honour which ought always to distinguish men placed in high situations, he would not, as the farmer observes, have been
so perfectly insensible to the multiplied wrongs and insults, the kicks and cuffs, the robberies and plunders of France. Mr. Champagny told General Armstrong that the Americans were without honour, without energy, and less free than the colony of Jamaica.' The whole history of
the Chesapeake, the proffered atonement often repeated, and as often rejected on some frivolous pretence, the renewal of complaint after the acceptance of apology, betray a little and disingenuous mind, and forcibly prove with what reluctance the American President parts with a popular grievance, when directed against Great Britain.
The third complaint in point of order, in the President's war message, is comprehended under a long tirade against our pretended' or mock' blockades, as he is pleased to call them; after which, at length, comes hobbling on the sweeping system of blockades, under the name of Orders in Council.' These calumniated Orders, thus apparently almost forgotten, neglected, and thrust into the background-the ostensible cause of the whole quarrel the fruitful source of a five years' negociation-are now dwindled away into a collateral grievance not even of secondary importance. But we shall not thus suffer them to escape observation, as Mr. Madison is now disposed to do. There is a history appended to them which the ' New England farmer' has developed, and which, in our opinion, proves incontrovertibly the existence of a secret understanding between Mr. Madison and Buonaparte. We shall accompany the farmer through this part of the President's war message, as being both curious and important.
The Orders in Council, it seems, when first known in America, were received by all parties without surprize or emotion; all seemed to acquiesce in the justice and propriety of that measure of retaliation which, it was evident to all, Great Britain was at length reluctantly compelled to adopt. The American merchants soon accommodated themselves to a new state of things, which they justly ascribed to the anti-commercial and tyrannical principles of the French despot. The federal party at once avowed the justice and moderation of Great Britain in her retaliatory orders; the adıninistration even seemed to acquiesce for some time, till M. Turreau had received his dispatches from France and communicated to Mr. Madison the tone which it was expected America would adopt. Having thus got their cue, the friends of administration made the discovery that the decrees of France, from her want of power to enforce them, were only to be considered as empty threats; that they could not therefore consistently afford a reasonable excuse for the retaliatory orders of Great Britain which she had the power effectually to execute. They then discovered, in the second place, (though long afterwards,) that Great Britain, by her order of 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 sırplus 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 crite rion? Do any rights repose upon so varying and shifting a foundations
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, principiis 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, 21.
If, however, from our decided naval superiority Buonaparte had only a very limited power of enforcing bis decrees on the ocean, he