Page images
PDF
EPUB

ranted by any of the letters which I had the honor to ad.
dress to you, and which, at a time when discussions are
continuing so important to the two countries, might, if left
unrectified, produce an effect highly to be lamented by
both the American and British governments, in as much as
by creating unnecessary irritation, they might throw obsta-
cles in the way of a restoration of a friendly understanding
between them.
· I find it asserted, in the statement referred to, that I
have, in the name of my government, demanded that the
U.States' government should pass a law for the introduc-
tion of British goods into the American ports, and also that
the U. States should undertake to force France to receive
into her harbors British manufactures.

I beg permission, sir, to declare that neither of these demands have been made by me, and that my meaning must not have been understood, if such was conceived to have been its import. I could not have demanded the passage of such a law as above stated, because my government does not pretend to interfere with the internal government of a friendly power, nor did I mean to demand that America should force France to receive our manufactures.

All I meant to say, was, that the admission of French commerce, while that of England has been excluded from the U. States' ports, was regarded by G. Britain as highly unfriendly in America, and that a continuation of such policy would be retaliated upon by G. Britain with similar restrictions on her part, which was so far merely an offering of like for like. But while the American non-importation act excludes British trade from the U. States' ports, it must be recollected that it goes still further and excludes also British armed ships from American ports, while it admits those of the enemies of G. Britain. • A neutral nation is responsible for the equality of its rules of conduct towards the belligerent powers ;' (to use the words of an American Secretary of State in the year 1796,) and therefore that part of the law which establishes an inequality was justly an object of more serious complaint on the part of G. Britain. You are aware, sir, of the advantage which his majesty's enemies have derived from this state of ineqnality, which enables them, though possessing no port in this hemisphere, continually to prey on the trade of his majesty's subjects, cecure of a refuge for their cruizers and their prizes.

[ocr errors]

The prohibition of entry to his majesty's ships under these circumstances might perhaps justify G. Britain in asserting, that whatever reason she may have for repealing or modifying her Orders in Council

, so as to lessen, or entirely remove the pressure now unavoidably laid on the trade of America, as a neutral nation, she might yet refuse to enter into any discussion on that subject with the U. States, until either by the revocation of the prohibition above stated, or the placing all the belligerents under the same probibition, America should cease to violate the duties of a neutral nation,

With respect, however, to the supposed demand that America should force the entry of British manufactures into France, it is most particularly necessary that I should explain myself, as a total misconception appears to have taken place upon this point. The question of retaliation on the French Decrees, is directly one between England and France. In consequence of the extraordinary block

. ade of England, we have in our de ence been obliged to blockade France, and prohibit all trade in French articles, in return for the prohibition by France of all trade in English articles. This measure of retaliation, it is wished, should operate on France alone, but from the trade carried on with France by America, it unavoidably operates also on her; it is a measure to destroy the French trade in return for the similar measure of France on which it is retaliatory, and its acting on neutrals is an incidental effect of it, conse, quent upon the submission of neutrals to the original measures of the enemy against G. Britain. It is indeed melancholy that the unnatural situation of Europe should produce such a result, but I cannot see how this can be considered as war ou American commerce, when all other American trade but that which is carried on with our enemy's ports in defiance of a blockade authorized by the laws of retaliation is unaffected by i.. We complain that America does not resist the regulations of the Berlin and Milan Decrees, and object to permitting the French to trade with her during their continuance against the commerce of England; but this is not exacting, is has been represented, that America should force British manufactures into France; it is pursuing only a just course of retaliation on our enemy. If America wishes to trade with France, if French coma

a

a

merce is of importance to her--we expect she should exact of France to trade with her as she has a right to demand in her quality of neutral; but if she does not choose to exercise this right, all we ask is, that she should abstain from lending her assistance to the trade of France, and not allow her commerce to be a medium of undermining the resources of G. Britain.

I have thought it necessary thus to endeavor to set ihese two points in their true light: the repeal of the law was asked, as being an unfriendly measure, j artial in its operation against G. Britain, and a prospect of retallation was held out on its commercial operation, if continued. This is no demand on the U. States to admit British manujactures; they are at liberty to coutinue that law, only as it is of an untriendly nature, some restriction of a similar kind was to be expected from England ; and with respect to the alleuged demand for forcing British goods, the property of neutrals, iuto French ports, if the U.States are wilnog to acquiesce in the regulations of the French Decrees onlaufully atferuing England through ihem, ihey cannot surely be surprised if we consider ourselves as at liberty to refuse permission to the French to profit by that acquiescence.

I will now, sir, take the opportunity of stating to you, that I have received from his majesty's Secretary of Siate, the correspondence of which you did me the honor to transmit to me a copy, in your letter dated Oct 17. My government have not been able to see in it satisfactory proof of the repeal of the French Decrees, and doubt whether the trade carried on by licences etween France and America, will not be regarded, even here, as proof of the continuation of them in their fullest extent, for if they were to any extent repealed, to that extent at least no licence should be necessary, a licence being given to allow what, but for that licence, would be prohibited.

The continued absence hitherto of any instrument by which the repeal has been effected, is a natter also of surprise, for if there were any fair dealing in the transaction, no reason can be given by France for not producing it; it is very desirable that it should be produced, if such an instrument be in existence, in order that we may know to what extent the Decrees have been repealed, if they reaily have been so in any respect. Mr. Russeil however, does Rot appear to have been in possession of it at the date of his letter of last July. It is indeed become particularly interesting, that we should see this instrument since the publication of Mr. Russell's correspondence with his own government, by which it appears that really, and in fact, the French government did not release any American ships taken after November 1, until they had become acquainted with the President's proclamation, and that vessels have been taken so late as December 21, in the direct voyage from this country to London; for until a copy of such an instrument is produced, it is impossible to know whether any other trade is allowed by France than that between her own dominions and the ports of the U. States. I have the honor to be, &c.

AUGUSTUS J. FOSTER

Mr. Monroe to Mr. Foster.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Jan. 14, 1812. SIR-I have had the houor to receive your letter of December 17th, and embrace the first moment that I could command, to make the observations which it suggests.

It would have afforded great satisfaction to the President, to have found in the communication, some proof of a disposition in the British government to put an end to the differences subsisting between our countries.- I am sorry to be obliged to state, that it presents a new proof only of its determination to adhere to the policy, to which they are iinputable.

You complain that the import of your former letters has been misunderstood in two important circumstances; that you have been represented to have dema:ded of the U. States, a law for the introduction of British goods into their ports, and that they should also undertake to force France to receive British manufactures into her harbors.

You state that on the first pomt, it was your intention only to remonstrate against the non-importation act, as partial in its operation, and unfriendly to G. Britain, on which account its repeal was claimed, and to intimate that if it was persevered in, G. Britain would be compelled to retaliate on the commerce of the U. States, by similar restrictions on her part. And on the second point, that you intended only to urge, that in consequence of the extraordinary blockade

of England, your government bad been obliged to blockade France, and to prohibit all trade in French articles, in return for the probibition by France of all trade in English articles.

It is sufficient to remark on the first point, that on what: ever ground the repeal of the non-importation act is required, the United States are justified in adhering to it. by the refusal of the British government to repeal its Orders in Council; and if a distinction is thus produced between G. Britain and the other belligerent, it must be reterred to the difference in the conduct of the two parties,

On the second point, I have to observe, that the explanation given cannot be satisfactory, because it does not meet the case now existing France did, it is true, declare a blockade of England, against the trade of the U. Staies, and prohibit all trade in English articles on the high seas, but this blockade and prohibition no longer exist.--It is true also, that a part of those Decrees, did prohibit a trade in English articles, within her territorial jurisdiction ; but this prohibition violates no national rights, or neutral commerce of the U. States. Still your blockade and probibition are continued, in violation of the national and neutral rights of the U. States, on a pretext of retaliation, which, if even applicable, could only be applied to the former, and not to the latter interdicts : and it is required that France shall change her internal regulations against English trade, before England will change her external regulations against the trade of the U. States. But you

still insist that the French Decrees are unrevoked, and urge in proof of it, a fact drawn from Mr. Russell's correspondence, that some American vessels have been taken since the 1st of November, in their route to England. It is a satisfactory answer to this remark, that it appears by the same correspondence, that every American vessel which had been taken in that trade, the seizure of which rested on the Berlin and Milau Decrees only, were, as soon as that fact was ascertained, delivered up to their owners. Might there not be other ground also, on which seizures might be made ? G. Britain claims a right to seize for other causes, and all nations admit it in the case of contraband of war. If by the law of nations, one belligerent has a right to seize neutral property in any case, the other

« PreviousContinue »