« PreviousContinue »
of the abuses and malversations which it points out as the sources of those injuries.
It is, therefore, the duty of the undersigned formally to declare, that the government of the United States cannot rest satisfied with such a mode of treating rights which it holds sacred, and will never sacrifice, and with such a rejection of the just claims of its, injured citizens which it will never cease to assert and to protect.
The President will certainly receive with satisfaction the sentiments of particular friendship towards the United States, and of esteem for himself, which bis Danish majesty has been pleased to profess; sentiments which he will readily reciprocate. Such sentiments he was eager and sincere in advancing ; but he will, at the same time, receive with surprise as well as with peculiar concern, the declaration with which these professions are accompanied, refusing a reparation for the wrongs which he has complained of; wrongs which, unredressed, cannot but be considered as being but little in accord with such sentiments.
These, his impressions, must be rendered still more forcible by the recollection that a suitable redress for similar wrongs has never been altogether withheld by any of the belligerent powers with which the United States have occasionally found themselves in collision ; but, on the contrary, that each of the chief belligerents has, heretofore, furnished a signal example wherein the firm and temperate voice of justice has prevailed over an erroneous policy; each has attended to, and respected, the remonstrances of the United States, satisfied their de. mands, and amply compensated the losses which the temporary adoption of false principles, or the misconstruction or malapplication of acknowledged principles, had brought upon their citizens ; thus recognising the sovereignty of just laws and the indefectibility of the neutral rights which spring from them : nor can the President be now reconciled to any infringement of these, to the cruising regulations of Denmark in those points which may offend them, or to the decisions of any tribunals, in as far as they may have the same tendency, by the only apology which his majesty has authorized the minister of state to offer for the wrongs complained of, viz, that these regulations and these decisions are founded upon the same principles which direct the conduct of Denmark towards neutral European powers, and that in cases wherein those powers have been thereby affected, no revision or retrospect has taken place : for, without entering into the inquiry whether there does or does not exist an European power neutral with regard to Denmark, and with which she can possibly come into collision on such subjects, without pointing out the difference between the neutral position of the United States and that of any European power, or examining in any degree the conduct of Denmark towards the European powers, neutral or otherwise, , it is sufficient to observe that the United States have not made common cause with any other neutral power; they have not bound up their fate with, nor do they mean to submit their rights to the arbitration of, or to pare them down so as to suit the convenience of any power whatever, these rights are clear, pronounced, and unequivocal : they are found in the great code of publick law. If other powers have not the same interest in defending ; if they find it convenient to relinquish, or, for any other reasons whatever cease to assert such rights, no obligation to abandon them is thereby imposed on America ; but to the contrary, standing alone amidst the great struggle of nations, her obligation to protect that sacred deposit is strengthened, and she becomes doubly responsible to posterity for this great inheritance; since she is not deficient in the power
and means of preserving it. His excellency, the minister of state, seems to suppose that the principal object of the undersigned is to obtain the " revision" of the sentences of the tribunal specified in his note of Nov. 4th. It is proper, therefore, to consider this part of the subject, though he must premise by observing, and he begs his excellency to understand, that the object of that note, which embraced various subjects of complaint, was to obtain satisfaction and compensation, leaving the “mode" and the means” to be adjusted by mutual accord; for, he is entirely unwilling to rest the claims of the United States, or to make them in any wise dependent on an abstract discussion as to the course which may be taken to produce the satisfaction required. The undersigned, in his note of November 4th, has shewn, as he trusts, most clearly and indisputably, that the rights of the United States, as a neutral nation, have been violated by the decisions therein referred to; if not, he has invited the minister of state to discuss the principles on which his reclamation is founded. Can it be deemed to be a satisfactory answer to such a reclamation, that other nations have submitted to similar decisions ? Can it be imagined that the term “ definitive," as applied to such decisions, is conclusive against the United States ? Can it be expected that they will acquiesce in a decision as just, because it is termed “ definitive ?" The constitution, the faculties, and the police of admiralty tribunals in this as in every other country are formed by and depend on the will of the sovereign, and he is strictly responsible to foreign nations, in all cases affecting their rights, for a correct administration of justice on the principles of publick law, which forms the basis of those rights. No foreign nation submits its cause to the arbitrary or capricious decision of such tribunals, or respects their decisions in any degree further than as these may be found to conform to its own sense of its own rights. The tribunal is the mere instrument of the sovereign with which he operates, and it is his duty so to direct and use it, that it may not do injury to the rights of others. The foreign nation, therefore, looks with reason to the tribunal only as indicative of the temper of the sovereign by whom it is appointed, and under whose authority it acts, and not as to the arbitrator of its own destiny. When a foreign government complains of the conduct of such tribunals, it calls upon the good faith of the sovereign to repair the wrong which he ought to have restrained. Shall it be competent to the sovereign to refer the offended party for satisfaction to the very cause of complaint ? What is this but to adopt the injustice complained of? Since when has it been agreed that the belligerents shall give law to neutral nations? Does the "ancient faith," which in peace augmenting confidence, removed the probabilities of war, and in war mitigated its horrours, does it no longer subsist? Or in a merely political calculation does it not occur that the belligerent may hereafter become neutral ? However these questions may be answer
ed, it is certain that there is a self-conserving principle in truth and right which ensures their vindication, so that a nation may be said to be deceiving itself when it refusés what is due to the just demands of others.
His excellency the minister of state has been instructed to ohserve, that if his majesty could consent to a revision of the sentences of his tribunals in favour of those whose property has been condemned, he ought to extend such revision to the sentences by which captured property has been acquitted.
The undersigned takes the liberty of remarking that the reclamation which he has made, is the reclamation of the American government against certain sentences of condemnation passed on American property by tribunals appointed by his Danish majesty, and acting under his authority. The American government finds itself aggrieved by such decisions. Is his majesty dissatisfied with the decisions of a contrary character, by which American property has been acquitted ? Certainly not: Yet only upon that ground could his majesty desire a revision of the sentences of acquittal; for no question now exists between the captor and the captured: the question is between government and government: nor is it readily to be conceived that tribunals whose decisions the government of the United States has found such ample and solid reasons to complain of, can in other cases have done injustice to his majesty's subjects. It is because the tribunals have been partial to his majesty's subjects, because they are not courts of arbitration in which the United States has its equal representation, and hence have acted on principles the justice of which the United States does not acknowledge, that a revision of their sentences against the property of American citizens may be reasonably proposed by the American government, and may be acceded to by his majesty, without this plan contemplating any injury to his subjects. These are the grounds on which similar revisions have been demanded in other countries, and have been granted, and compensation obtained without its ever having been proposed that sentences of acquittal, which have only tended to diminish the amount of the injuries complained of. should be also revised.
The undersigned cannot therefore but hope that his Danish majesty on a reconsideration of this important subject, will see fit to adopt some plan with respect to the matters complained of, which may satisfy the just expectations of the United States. He has thought that it best comported with the friendly and conciliatory dispositions of his government, not to propose any which should interfere with such arrangements as having due regard to the object it might be most convenient to his majesty to make, and therefore in his note of November 4th, stated, what he will here repeat—" that the mode, the means, and to a certain extent even the time may be subjected to considerations of mutual convenience and accord.” He requests that the minister of state will be pleased to lay this note entire before his majesty.
He renews to his excellency, the minister of state, assurances of his distinguished consideration.
GEORGE W. ERVING. His Excellency Mr. de Rosenkrantz, First
Minister of State, and Chief of the
No. 21. Mr. Erving to Mr. Monroe, Secretary of State. Copen
hagen, April 20, 1812. Sır,-With my despatch No. 8, (of September 8) I had the honour to submit to you copies of my correspondence with Mr. Desaugiers, than charge des affaires of France, which I had previously laid before the minister of state here, and which was also transmitted by Mr. Desaugiers to his government. In my notes to Mr. Desaugiers were particularized the various excesses of the French corsairs in these waters, which appeared to me contrary to the spirit and intention of that government, as well as injurious to our commerce. It is with great satisfaction that I now transmit to you the new instructions which Mr. Desaugiers bas been ordered to give to the captains of the corsairs. With the most perfect respect
and consideration, &c. GEORGE W. ERVING.