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CAUSES OF THE WAR WITH ENGLAND; ORDERS IN COUN CIL-IMPRESSMENT INDIAN HOSTILITIES.
THE United States assumed a rank among the nations of the world, in one of the most stormy periods of its history. All Europe was convulsed by the direful effects. of the French revolution. The combined efforts of Austria, of Germany, of England to curb the power of France produced a convulsive struggle on her part which had well nigh crumbled their thrones in the dust. The mighty warrior called into political life by this elemental war, seemed to move as the genius of the tempest. One of his ruling maxims was never to tolerate a neutral; all therefore within the reach of his arm were either allies, vassals, or foes. England, whose erroneous policy had in the first instance given rise to this distempered energy, chose to adopt the same maxim. She moreover appealed to the world as the defender of the liberties and rights of nations, and plainly denounced as traitors, those who declined a participation in her quarrels.
Fortunately for this country, the waves of the Atlantic rolled between it and the fury of the European belligerents. However desirous they might be of engaging ́us in their mad contest, it could only be done through insidious arts, by which the inexperienced are entrapped, or by repeated provocations, calculated to producé a state of mind favorable to their designs. For twenty five years, these designs were resisted with unshaken firmness. The advice of Washington, to keep aloof from
the dangerous contest, was strictly observed. The nation was repeatedly exasperated beyond endurance, but the government opposed itself to the imprudent, effects of wounded feeling. It appeared to be a contest between France and England which could injure us most, and on our part how long we could forbear. But there is a point at which this forbearance must become not onły imprudent, but unjust. As in common life, where a tame submission to injuries invites a repetition of them: so a youthful nation, like a young man, will find some ruffian desirous of putting its courage to the test, and if found wanting, it is then with impunity insulted by the most arrant coward. The pains we had taken to keep aloof from the European wars, at last came to be taken for pusillanimity, or at least for a want of energy in the structure of the government. It became fashionable to represent us as a mean and sordid race, incapable of any generous feeling, and exclusively devoted to self interest, whom no insult, no injury, could provoke to strike, in short, that we could not be "kicked into a war." The practices at first resorted to for the purpose of engaging us to share their battles, were now converted into the ordinary means of supplying their coffers or recruiting their strength. France confiscated and plundered our ships, Spain and some of the petty states followed the example, as though our pacific policy had rendered us lawful prey to all nations. England seemed to think that she had a right to transfer our seamen to her service at her pleasure. Thus situated, it became no longer à matter of choice with this country, whether to remain at peace or not; war sooner or later was inevitable; the difficulty was in the choice of the enemy, or whether to contend with both.
From Britain we had experienced great provocation. This haughty power seemed to harbour a dislike to us for having so bravely declared and maintained our independence. Her conduct towards us was uniformly disrespectful and contemptuous. She had called us rebels, she still considered us but as successful rebels, whose destitution of principle must in the end, cause to fall together by the ears and thus make room for the restoration of their expelled sovereign. Little did she know of the real spirit of American liberty. Her first transactions with us, were marked by faithlessness. The settling down of this mighty republic into that sober order and beautiful symetry which at present it possesses, appeared to her a state of anarchy. The conditions of the treaty of 1783, were shamefully slighted; nay, more, although at peace, she smote us with a concealed hand; she instigated a dreadful Indian war, in which thousands of American citizens were barbarously murdered. It will be long before the people of the western country can forget the defeats of Harmar and Sinclair, or the massacrees of the frontier settlers. If there existed any particular desire for war on the part of the Union, this is surely enough to account for it. When the Indian hostilities were at last happily terminated by the bravery and prudence of General Wayne, and a treaty of peace in 1794, concluded with England, it was thought that we might at last indulge the first wish of our hearts, and live at peace: but we were greatly mistaken. growing prosperity could not be seen by her without envy; as she was at war with France the carrying trade fell into our hands and greatly enriched our merchants. Britain resolved to put a stop to this by renewing what is called the rule of '56, established by her at that peri
od, in order to embarass the French commerce. It was founded ostensibly, upon the idea that neutrals ought not to alleviate the sufferings of war to a belligerent, by keeping up an intercourse between its different ports or colonies; but it was in reality, the result of a flagrant usurpation of the sovereignty of the seas. It was followed up by orders of council which restricted the American commerce, and exposed many of our ships to capture and condemnation. Britain not satisfied with these violations of the sacred laws of nations, established a new rule of blockade, but which she affected to consider as merely retaliatory: this was, placing her enemy's ports in a state of blockade by mere proclamation, and without stationing any efficient force. Under these and many other pretexts, the American flag could only be said to float on the ocean at her will and pleasure.
'There was another grievance which she practised upon us, even more insupportable than those enumerated. Very soon after our commercial enterprise began to spread its wings, it was found that our seamen were exposed to be taken on the high seas, from underneath the flag of their country, and dragged on board the Britishmen of war, where they were compelled to serve for years. No Algerine servitude could be worse than this. The abuse was very soon so severely felt as to become a cause of indignant remonstrance, on the part of Pres't. Washington, and afterwards of every successive statesman, to whom was entrusted the safety of the commonwealth. The British alleged in excuse, for it was nothing more, the difficulty of distinguishing between her subjects, and the citizens of this country. It appeared however, that very little care was taken on her part to avoid the abuses which must necessarily result; for this
investigation was usually entrusted to a petty officer, who was either not disposed or incapable of proceeding fairly to work; and people of every colour, and of every nation, were equally liable to be impressed, or more properly speaking, kidnapped. This distressing outrage, was the constant theme of complaint on the part of the American government; but instead of redress we had the mortification of seeing it augmented. American ships on the high seas, were sometimes left without a sufficient number of men to navigate them, exposing the lives of the remainder and ruining the voyage. Indignities notto be borne, were heaped upon our unfortunate countrymen; the certificates of their nativity with which they had provided themselves, a kind of humiliation to which no other people had ever been exposed, was taken from them, torn in pieces and scattered to the winds. To so great an extent had this violation of all human rights been carried, that it was estimated that in the year 1810, there were not less than seven thousand American seamen who had been dragged on board the British ships of war, serving against their will, and consequently in a barbarous state of slavery. All this was heightened by the unparalleled insolence of the British naval commanders in our waters. The patience of the people of this country was almost exhausted, when the climax of insult was offered in the attack on the Chesapeake, where five American citizens were taken from on board a national vessel, after attacking the vessel in the most unexpected manner. Finding at last, that war would be the inevitable consequence of this wanton act, they humbled themselves so far as to offer a reparation, which was made in an ample manner, in the return of the seamen to the deck of their ship; but this was not done promptly