Page images
PDF
EPUB

prevent

BOOK XI. dred yards, I hailed, “What ship is that?"-tothis could not discern any other particular ing

inquiry no answer was given, but I was bailed by had done, or how far be was in a situation Char. I. her commander, and asked, "What ship is that ?” us farther harm; I nevertheless embraceu

Haviug asked the first question, I of course con earliest moment to stop our fire, and 1811,

sidered myself entitled, by the common rules of further effusion of blood. Here a pause of halı politeness, to the first answer; after a pause of minute or more took place, at the end of which fifteen or twenty seconds, I reiterated my first en our adversary not shewing a further disposition to quiry of “ What ship is that?" and before I bad fire, I halted, and again asked, “ What ship is time to take the trumpet from my mouth, was ani

that I learned, for the first time, that it was a swered by a shot, that cut off one of our maintop- ship of his Britannic majesty's; but, owing to its mast breast back-stays, and went into our maid blowing rather fresher than it had done, I was inast. At this instant Captain Caldwell (of ma- unable to lean her name. After having informed rines) who was stauding very near to me on the

her commander of the name of this ship, I gave gangway, having observed, “Sir, she has fired at orders to wear, run under bis lee, and haul by the us," caused me to pause for a moment; just wind on the starboard-tack, and heave-to under as I was in the act of giving an order to fire a topsails, and repair what little injury we had susslot in return, and before I had time to resume the tained in our rigging, which was accordingly exerepetition of the intended order, a shot was actually cuted, and we continued lying-to on different fired from the second divisior of this ship, and was tacks, with a number of lights displayed, in order scarcely out of the gun before it was answered that

our adversary might the better discer, our from our assumed enemy by three others, in a position, and command our assistance, in case he quick succession; and, soon after, the rest of his found it necessary during the night. broadside and musketry. When the first shot was “ At day-light on the 17th, he was discovered fired, being under an impression that it might several miles to leeward, when I gave orders to possibly have proceeded from accident, and with-' bear up and run down to him under easy sail; out the orders of the commander, I had determined after hailing him I sent a boat on-board with Lieuat the moment to fire only a single shot in return;, tenant Creighton, to learn the navne of the strip but the inmediate repetition of the previous un and her commander, with directions to ascertain provoked outrage, induced me to believe that the the damage slie had sustained, and infurm ber insult was premeditated; and that, from our ad- commander, how much I regretted the necessity. versary being at the time as ignorant of our real on my part, which led to such an unliappy results force as I was of his, he thought this, perhaps, a and at the same time to offer all the assistance favorable opportunity of acquiring promotion, al that the ship under my command afforded, in rethough at the expence of violating our neutrality, pairing the damages his had sustained. At nine and insulting our flag: 'I accordingly, with that d. m. Lieutenant Creighton returned, with infor degree of repugnance incident to feeling equally mation that it was bis Britannic, niajesty's ship determined neither to be the aggressor, or to suffer

Little Belt, commanded by Captain Bingham, the flag' of my country to be insulted with impu- who in a polite manner declinedthe acceptance nity, gave a general order to fire ; the effect of of any assistance, saying, at the same time, that which, in from four to six minutes, as near as I can

he had on-board all the necessary requisites to judge, having produced a partial silence of his repair the damages, sufficiently to enable him to guns, I gave orders to cease firing, discovering, by return to Halifax. the feeble opposition, that it must be a ship of very

Tbis, however, was not the most unpleasant inferior force to what I had supposed, or that some part of Captain Bingbam's communication to untoward accident had happened to her.

Lieutenant Creighton, as he informed bim, that in “My orders in this instance, however, (although addition to the injury his ship had sustained, be.. they proceeded alone from motives of humanity, tween twenty and thirty; of bis crew had been and a determination not to spill a drop of blood killed and wounded. unnecessarily) I had in less than four minutes some “ The regret that ibis information caused me. reason to regret, as he renewed his fire; of which was such, you may be sure, as a ma might be. two 32-pound shot cut off one of our fore-shrouds expected to feel, whose greatest pride is to prove, and injured our fore-mast. It was now that I without ostentation, by every, public as well as found myself under the painful necessity of giving private act, that be possesses a humane and geneorders for a repetition of our fire, against a force rous heart; and with these sentiments, believe which

my forbearance alone had enabled to do me, Sir, that such a communication would cause us any injury of moment: our fire was accordingly me the most aeute pain, during the reinainder of renewed, and continued from three to five minutes my life, bad I not the consolation to know that longer, when perceiving our opponent's gaff and there was no alternative left me between such a colours down, his maintop-sail-yard upon the cap, sacrifice, and one which would have been still and his fire silenced, although it was so dark that I greater, namely, to have remained a passive spec

Sir, your

tator of insult to the flag of my country, whilst it the more violent, and as it better squared with the BOOK XI. was confided to my protection, and I would have popular prejudices, upon the ground of the old you to be convinced, Sir, that however much in- grudge against England, it was unfortunately Chap. 1, dividually I may previously have had reason to the stronger faction. The president himself was

1811. feel incensed at the repeated outrages committed not totally free from suspicion of secretly favoon our flag by British ships of war, neither my ring its views, but his disposition had been hipassions nor prejudices had any agency in this therto checked by his knowledge of the compaaffair.

ratively inferior means of England and America. “ To my country, I am well convinced of the Under all these circumstances, that is to say, importance the transaction which has imposed the adverse mind of the president, the contest with upon me

cessity of making you this com the Spanish American government, and the munication · must, therefore, from motives of ancient grudge against England still fermenting delicacy, connected with personal consideration, in the popular mind, there was certainly too much solicit that you will be pleased to request the cause to apprehend that the affair of the President president to authorise a formal enquiry to be in- frigate and the Little Belt would be shortly folstituted into all the circumstances, as well as into lowed up by more decisive measures. There was every part of my conduct connected with the something, however, very ridiculous in the high same.

and pompous language of the American editors. “ The injury sustained by the ship under my The congress fleet amounted to about seven fricommand is very trifling, except to the fore and gates. These frigates, with Commodore Rodgers main-masts, which I before mentioned. No per at their head, were to be instantly sent out with son killed, and but one (a boy) wounded. positive orders to bring in all British ships, and

“ For further particulars I refer you to Captain to teach the British government that they were Caldwell, who is charged with the delivery of not to be insulted with impunity. They were to this communication.

be instructed to attack all English ships, whether “ I have the bonor to be, with great respect, of war or trade, which they might find within the

obedient servant, waters of the United States, and to bring them (Signed) “ John RODGERS. into the American ports for condemnation. Who « Hon. Paul Hamilton, secretary of the navy." would imagine that the Americans were using

this language against a power, which, to oppose The National Intelligencer (an American paper) their seven frigates, had a fleet of nearly 200 ships added, that Commodore Rogers's orders required of the line ? A force almost sufficient to blow him to proceed to sea immediately from Anna- New York into the air ! polis, and resume his former station, cruising The French emperor did all in his power to along the coast, as before, for the purpose of compel the Americans to take the positive chaguarding their maritime jurisdiction from viola racter of allies or enemies : he amused them with tion by foreign cruizers.

a promise of releasing whatever property was This unpleasant breach between England and held in sequestration; but the promise of this America became more difficult to settle tban was faithless despot was confined to such American at first imagined. Mr. Madison and the French vessels as arrived in France subsequent to the party at Wasbington bad determined upon a line 1st of November, and which had been so forof measures, and a tone of language, which the tunate in their passage as not to become obnoxious dignity of Great Britain could not permit. It ap to the operations of the Berlin, Milan, and Baypeared, by all private letters brought by the ves onne decrees : nor did this promise include the sels then arrived from America, that the president restoration of what was seized under the Ramhad adopted the resolution of supporting Captain bouillet decree, or any compensation for the many Rodgers in his outrage upon the Little Belt. A valuable vessels and cargoes burnt and sunk kind of set-off was brought forwards. It was to under his orders. be considered, it seemed, as an act of retaliation The Britisb orders in council were declared to against the proceedings of some British cruisers, have been issued (and after eighteen months frank and the search of the Tamahamah, a pitiful tra and open notice to the United States, they were ding sloop, and the stoppage of her (pursuant to unquestionably issued) only in retaliation for the the orders in council) was to be the only answer previous French Berlin decrees; the revocation to the complaint of the British government re of the latter was of course to precede the British specting this positive act of hostility.

orders in council, and then indeed the British There had long, indeed, existed two parties in government stood ready, and pledged itself to reAmerica, the one in favor of French interests, and voke them. The French emperor promised the the other attached to the American federal con Americans he would revoke bis obnoxious destitution, and therefore moderately well-disposed crees after the 1st of November 1810, on condition towards Great Britain. The former party was that the orders in council were revoked by the

[ocr errors]

BOOK XI. English. At the approach of that period the has oppressed the commerce, corrupted the mo

French minister stated, in a letter to General rals, insulted the dignity, and violated the rights CHAP. I.

Armstrong, “ I am authorised to declare to you, of this free and independent nation--which has

Sir, that the decrees of Berlin and Milan are re murdered our people, and carried thousands into 1811.

voked, and that after the 1st of November they the most odious of all bondage, at length as-
will cease to have effect; it being understood sumes an aspect less treacherous, because a more
that, in consequence of this declaration, the Eng- open and determined hostility.
lish shall revoke their orders in council, and re “ Great Britain at length avows her injustice,
nounce the new principles of blockade which and once more menaces our independence.
they have wished to establish." On the 2d of “ From the seat of the United States' govern-
November Mr. Madison proclaimed to the people ment, and from England, we at the same moment
of the United States that the French decrees have received advices which corroborate each
were revoked, though he hard abundant reason to other, and determine the fact, that Great Britain
know the previous acts required of Great Britain has resolved to make war upon us.
would not be performed. The French emperor “ Prior to the receipt of these advices, we had re-
succeeded in attaching the blame of the non-per ceived authentic information of the course already
formance of his promise to the British govern- pursued by Mr. Foster, at Washington. Upon his
ment, and of exasperating the United States first arrival we had suggested, that five or six
against that government.

weeks would determine whether the “intents" Mr. Foster having been commissioned to com of the British government were “ wicked or chamunicate the sentiments of Great Britain to ritable.” The youth and inconsequence of this America, he delivered them in a firm and deci- gentleman had induced an opinion, that he was sive language ; but his communication not cor intended to be one of those messengers whom responding with the expectations of the American Pope Sextus V. described, by the smoothness of government, the president issued the following their chins, better adapted to convey billet-doux proclamation for convening a congress :

than reseriptsto partake of a carnival than to

announce boisterous war; we supposed him sent, “ Whereas great and weighty matters, claiming like some of his predecessors, to intrigue, or, like the consideration of the congress of the United others, to amuse or abuse our government-HamStates, form an extraordinary occasion for con mond, Liston, Merry, Erskine, Rose, Jackson, vening them, I do, by these presents, appoint and Morier, had, in succession, been employed Monday, the 4th day of November next, for their upon this mission; and, upon considering their meeting at the city of Washington; hereby re course of conduct, it was not easy to believe, that quiring the respective senators and represen this young gentleman was to be the agent of a tatives then and there to assemble in congress, in policy more auspicious. The distresses in which order to receive such communication as may then the detestable nature of British policy had involbe made to them, and to consult and determine ved that nation, induced some to believe that neon such measures as in their wisdom may be cessity had taught her justice; and the coming of deemed meet for the welfare of the United States. Foster was, with a credulity which has never been

“ In testimony whereof, I have caused the diminished by disappointment or by reason, consi(L.S.) seal of the United States to be hereunto dered by thousands as the final measure wbich

affixed, and signed the same with my was to heal all former wounds, and put a stop to hand.

future injuries. “ Done at the city of Washington, the 24th day “ Others, and we among this class, believed, of July, in the year of our Lord 1811; and of the that as he could not have been the person selectindependence of the United States the 36th. ed, if any thing like substantial justice was to be

“ By the President, JAMES Madison. done, his mission was to be only a business of “ Secretary of State, JAMES MONROE. amusement and procrastination-ihat he was to

make no distinct promises, but to carry on a disPrevious to the meeting of congress the cussion of contingent propositions, and to give aid American papers were filled with scurrilous in to Messrs. Pickering and Co. in their undervectives against Great Britain, as the following takings. extracts from the Philadelphia Journal, dated " It appears that we had mistaken the characAugust 5, will evince :

ter of the mission, and that the minister's valet " The cup is full !-The long impending ire, the would have executed the service upon which Mr. smothered' batred, the disguised war, which as Foster was sent, with as much skill and as much sumed so many aspects, which has ultimately good manners as the diplomatist himself. plundered and promised redress, and professed " Mr. Foster has fallen nothing short of the injustice only to vary the forms of injustice, which solence of one of his predecessors, in the style

and port which he has assumed, and he has ex young gentleman with the equanimity of a sage, BOOK XI. ceeded him in personal indecorum, and even per for the rudeness of his manner and expressions. sonal rudeness.

This unexpected occurrence delayed the depar- Chap. I. “ Mr. Foster, besides presenting some acri ture of Mr. Monroe for Virginia, for three days, monious representations on the subject of the and Mr. Barlow was also delayed for a like

1811. rencontre with the Little Belt, also undertook to period. demand, categorically, that the United States " Such is the state of affairs with Great Britain. should repeal, without delay, the non-importation The president, before his departure, is said to law; and that they should also demand of France have given directions to have every vessel bethe repeal of ber decrees, as they applied to Eng- longing to the United States put in a state of land.

complete equipment; and that all military works “On the subject of the Little Belt, our govern on the sea-board be completed without delay.” ment displayed an alacrity to give the most satis Hence it appears that America, feeling sore at factory explanations, and it is presumed did so ; the want of condescension in England, but still but on the subject of the non-importation law, it more at her dignified language, began to suspect was replied, that the acts of legislation belonged an insult where none was intended, and to regard to the congress of the United States, which would as an act of hostility what was merely a mistake, meet in November, and it would be with that or, giving it the worst name, the irregularity of an body to act in their provinces as wisdom and jus- individual. The trial of Commodore Rodgers, tice should direct. But that on the question, as which took place in a court of inquiry before it related to France, or any other nation, the congress assembled, was some act of satisfaction United States would not interfere but in concerns on the part of the American government for the of the United States alone. That the United outrage upon the Little Belt. Impartiality deStates had given to Great Britain, in common mands, that we should give a brief outline of the with France, a fair and liberal opportunity to ob evidence furnished to this court, on the oathis of tain not only an uninterrupted commercial inter the several witnesses exanined. The court of course with the United States, but if she had ac- inquiry consisted of Commodore Stephen Decepted the terms, an exclusion of France in her catur, president, Captain Charles Stewart, Capfavour ; that Great Britain had not chosen to pur- tain Isaac Chauncey, and W. Paulding, jun. esq. sue that path, consistent with justice and her judge-advocate. commercial interests, by leaving the flag of the The first witness examined was Charles LudUnited States with free possession of the neutral low, master-commandant, and acting captain of rights of an independent nation.—That France the President.--He was on board the ship at the had embraced the proposition, and that it had time of the action with the Little Belt, on the now become an engagement for which the na night of the 16th of May last. The Little Belt tional faith of the United States was pledged, so had her top-sails aback. From his position be long as great Britain chose to persist in her ag was uncertain which fired the first gun; but the gressions on neutral commerce ; that as it related second was from the President; and was instantto France, she had complied with the engage- ly followed by three cannon and musketry from ment, and the United States flag was, as to her, the Belt. Commodore, Rodgers ordered to fire unrestrained and uninterrupted on the high seas low, and with two round shot. After a short and the United States had no right to interfere pause the Belt recommenced firing, as did the in any matters of dispute between the two bel President. The Belt soon appeared ungovernligerents, in which she was not concerned, and able, and lay bow on towards the President, when could not, and would not, make any represent- Commodore R. observed, that some accident must ation on the subject.

have happened to her, and ceased firing. Her “ The conduct and menaces held forth by Mr. gaff was down, and her main-top-sail-yard on the Foster, on this occasion, we cannot give in ex cap; and mizen, too, he thinks. The action conpressions sufficiently forcible or characteristic; tinued fourteen or fifteen minutes, including the but to Mr. Monroe, personally, he is represented interval. There was nothing but round and grape as having demanded as we have above stated; shot fired, or on deck, on board the President. and upon the mild and tempered answer of Mr. The ship was not on fire, or any part of her, and Monroe, he assumed a tone of arrogance and in did not sleer oft' after the action. Another broadsult; and declared, that if the non-importation law side would probably have sunk the Little Belt. was not immediately set aside, a force beyond Did not know or believe any part of commodore's anything Mr. Monroe might expect, would appear official account was untrue or incorrect. on our coasts, and not only annihilate our foreign John Orde Creighton, first lieutenant.-Was but our coasting trade.

stationed at the fourth division of guns, on the “ It is stated that Mr. Monroe treated these upper deck. Commodore Rodgers bailed first,

[merged small][ocr errors]

BOOK XI. believes, from the Little Belt, no gun having gun or provocation had been offered by Commo

been fired or provocation given on board the Pre- dore Rodgers. In six seconds a gun was fired Chap. I. sident. The orders of Commodore R. were to from the President, when instantly the Belt fired

keep the guns at balf-cock, and guard against three guns, and then her broadside and musketry. 1811,

accidents. After receiviog the Little Belt's broad Belt silenced in six or seven minutes. Firing
side, was ordered to fire. The Belt was silenced stopped in the President. In two or three mi-
in five minutes, and the President ceased. The nutes Belt renewed the action, and in four or
Belt renewed the fire, and Commodore R. return five minutes was again silenced; when Commo-
ed it, and silenced the Belt again in five minutes. dore Rodgers ordered his fire to cease, and ap-
Boarded the Little Belt the next morning ; Com- peared anxious to prevent damage. No firing or
modore Rogers sent a friendly message, expres- sheering off of the President. Commodore's re-
sing regret for the occurrence, and offers of as port confirmed.
sistance. Captain Bingham said he took the Captain Caldwell confirmed the account of the
President for a Frenchman. President was not first and second guns and broadside, as given by
on fire, and did not sheer off. Nothing but round the other witnesses.
and grape was fired or on deck. Another broad Jacob Mull, sailing-master.—Was on the quar-
side would probably have sunk the Belt. Com ter-deck. Commodore Rodgers hailed, and got
modore's account confirmed.

no answer, but “balloo." After sufficient time Henry Caldwell, commandant of marines. hailed again, and got no reply, but a shot, withHeard the hailing; was looking at the Little out provocation. In three or four seconds reBelt, and saw the first shot proceed from her ; turned the shot, and got a general fire from the on which Commodore Rodgers said, “What is Little Belt. Thought the Belt a heavy frigate that ?" and he answered, “ she has fired into us.” until next day. Action continued fourteen or Orders were then given to fire. Belt silenced in fifteen minutes, including three or four minutes' five minutes. Commodore R. was anxious to interval. Little Belt could have fired again, stop his fire, and did so. The Belt renewed the but President could have sunk her. Commodore's action, and in six or seven minutes was silenced official account is true. again, when Commodore R. was anxious to pre Lieut. Creighton thought the Little Belt a frivent mischief, and stop bis fire. No tire or sheer- gate (excepting her feeble defence,) until next ing off. Commodore's account confirmed. day. Capiain Bingham told him the President's

Raymond H. Y. Perry, junior lieutenant and colours were not hoisted, but he recollected the sigual-officer.-Was on the quarter-deck, near pendant. It is the usage, as before stated by Commodore Rodgers's elbow. . The commodore another witness, for the President to be prepared hailed ; got no reply-hailed a second time, and for action on coming alongside an armed vessel. got none. Heard a gun, and was looking at the Thought the Little Belt displayed bad manageBelt, wbich fired it, previous to any gun or pro- ment, or want of conduct, in her defence. vocation from the President. The Belt was si Joseph Smith, midshipman, acting as master's. lenced in five minutes, and orders were sent to mate.-Commanded the fourth division of guns. every division of guns on board the President to Heard Commodore Rodgers hail, and no reply for cease. The Belt renewed the fire, and the Pre- five seconds. Heard second hail, and was looking sident also. In six minutes the Belt was silenced at the Little Belt when the first gun was fired by again, and the commodore was very anxious to her, before a shot or any provocation was given stop the firing on board the President. No fire from the President. The commodore fired one or sheering off. The Belt was in a very danger- gun, then the Little Belt three, and action conous situation, and would, probably, have been tinued. Thought the Little Belt a frigate. The sunk by another broadside.' Heard hailing from duration of the action, and orders to cease, as bethe Best, and understood they said their colours fore stated. The last order to stop firing was were down ; and so reported. Commodore Rodge received by three different officers. Commodore ers hailed, * Have you struck your colours ?” R.'s statement confirmed. and was answered, “ I have, and am in great dis Heury Dennison, acting chaplain.-Was on tress.” Lights were on board the President du- the quarter-deck. Little Belt was seventy or ring the night. Commodore Rodgers's statement eighty yards distant. Heard Commodore R. hail, confirmed.

and the reply, and the second bail-then a gun, Andrew L. B. Madison, lieutenant of marines. he thinks from the Belt, as he felt no jar in the -Was on the gangway. Heard the commodore President, and no gun or provocation had been hail first, then waited fifteen or sixteen seconds, given by Commodore R. Account of Commodore time enough for a reply, but got none, and hailed R. confirmed. again ; when the Belt fired a gun from her gang Michael Roberts, boatswain.-Was on the fore. way. Saw the flash, and heard the report ; no castle, saw the flash and heard the gun from the

« PreviousContinue »