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Livingston Minister in France-Turreau and Serrurier in this country-America very prosperous-Berlin Decree-Great calamityBeginning of Continental System-All Continent, except Turkey, in the League-America only neutral-Milan Decree-Canton, in China, only port not blockaded-Embargo-Bayonne and Rambouillet Decrees-Cause of War against France-Repeal of French Decrees-England refused to acknowledge the validity of the actAntedated Decree-French Spoliations-No indemnity--Angry correspondence with France.
NOTWITHSTANDING the vexations to which the American trade was exposed, in the West India seas, during the years 1804 and 5, the country was in a condition of great and increasing prosperity, and of perfect security, while Europe was bleeding at every pore.* But the eagerness and success, with which
* James A. Bayard, of Delaware, was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to France, in February, 1801. In June of the same year, Robert R. Livingston, of New-York, was appointed to the same court, with the same rank. The generals Turreau and Serrurier were the ministers of France, in this country, from 1804 to the war with England. Mr. Turreau published, in 1815, in Paris, a pamphlet, with this title, "Aperçu, sur la situation politique des Etats Unis d'Amérique.” It is a very unfavourable account of the political institutions of this
America drove her commerce, was soon disturbed, by a most extraordinary system of maritime legislation. The devastation, which had hitherto preyed upon the continent, extended itself to the ocean; and the ports of one of the most extensive empires in the world, were declared in rigorous blockade, by a nation, that had not a single armed vessel afloat. The decree, to which we allude, is a short one; it was issued immediately after the fatal and decisive victory of Jena.
"Imperial Camp, Berlin, November 21, 1806. Napoleon, Emperor of the French, and King of Italy, considering, &c. decrees:"Article 1. The British islands are in a state of blockade.
"2. All commerce and correspondence with them is prohibited. Consequently, all letters, or packets, written in England, or to an Englishman, written in the English language, shall not be dispatched from the post-offices, and shall be seized.
"3. Every individual, a subject of Great Britain, of whatever rank or condition, who is found in countries, occupied by our troops, or those of our allies, shall be made prisoner of war.
4. Every ware-house, all merchandize, or property, whatever, belonging to an Englishman, are declared good prize.
5. One half of the proceeds of merchandize, declared to be good prize, and forfeited, as in the preceding articles, shall go to indemnify merchants, who have suffered losses by the English cruisers.
"6. No vessel, coming directly from England, or her colonies, or having been there since the publication of this decree, shall be admitted into any port.
7. Every vessel, that, by a false declaration, contravenes the foregoing disposition, shall be seized, and the ship and cargo confiscated, as English property.
country, which, he thinks, cannot be permanent. Mr. Bayard did not accept the appointment. The French government had no minister in this country; but L. A. Pichon, (the individual already mentioned as having been at the Hague) was the Chargé, from March, 1801, to September, 1804, the period of the arrival of General Turreau, who had, however, been appointed in the preceding December, after the treaty of Louisiana. John Armstrong, of New-York, succeeded Mr. Livingston, in 1804.
"9. Communications of this decree shall be made to the Kings of Spain, Naples, Holland, Etruria, and to our other allies; whose subjects, as well ours, are victims of the injuries and barbarity of the English maritime code."
It is obviously matter of historical curiosity, whether this decree was retaliatory, or the beginning of that system, by which the commerce of neutrals was, in the end, so much harassed; though, in reality, it signifies very little, indeed, that the French Emperor had been provoked to it, by the unjust acts of other nations. At the same time, it does not appear, that any instruction, or order in council, issued by Great Britain, antecedent to the Berlin decree, though all violating the laws of nations, had been invested with the wide, unsparing reach of this measure. The order of Mr. Fox, of April and May, at the period the Prussians took possession of Hanover, included a great extent of coast; still, it had not the theatrical air of the Berlin decree, for it was local or limited in its operation; and the British navy was, in some degree, competent to the task of maintaining a partial blockade, along a line of six hundred miles. If the true origin of the commercial restrictions of the French revolution wars, is to be found in the first coalition of '92, the Berlin decree was still a full departure from the system, as it respects neutrals; for the United States had never acknowledged the principles, in relation to blockades, contended for by England. But in no case before, had a whole empire, distributed over the four continents of the earth, been made subject to the application of a principle, which, in the original strictness and purity of maritime law, was intended to be confined to a single haven or harbour. The result of this state of things was, that every portion of the habitable globe, with which nations traded, was in a state of blockade, with the exception of the port of Canton, in China.
The mind is impressed with a singular sensation, in beholding a great conqueror, just reposing from one of his most signal victories, in the capital of the sovereign, whose army he had rather destroyed than defeated, issuing decrees, that em
braced, in their desolating effects, almost every sea of the civilized world. The power of Napoleon Bonaparte was scarcely bounded by any river on the continent of Europe. In gaining his great victories, in adding state after state to his dominions, in placing brother after brother upon the thrones of the old nations, whose dynasties he had thrown down, he seems to have been fulfilling his proper part,-to have been accomplishing the destinies of which, under Heaven, he was the humble instrument. Wherever he marched, he carried a force with him sufficient to effect his purposes. This was the legitimate exercise of the vast power, with which he was intrusted, by Providence, for objects which it is not yet altogether in the reach of man to comprehend. But, when he extended his ambition to the ocean,-when he undertook to overwhelm whole countries, by maritime decrees, we perceive that he has left the orbit, in which it was his destiny to move; and we feel, that the unity of his theatrical character is destroyed. The only weapon he could there use, was menace; he descended to an element, upon which his countrymen had, latterly, always failed-upon which he had, himself, always appeared in dread of an enemy-upon which he was never seen, except as a fugitive. There was one field, upon which he was always an inferior; and, to enter upon it, he left another, upon which he had never been conquered. In another point of view, it was the first act of a vast and magnificent project, to exclude the trade and navigation of Great Britain from the ports and rivers of the whole continent of Europe,-and to overwhelm her naval greatness, and infinite extent of commerce, by an irresistible accumulation of power and resources on the land. Perhaps, this idea was not original with Napoleon; for we have already seen a limited attempt of the same description, made by the Directory in
But the scheme failed then. The Berlin decree was the beginning of what has since been emphatically called, the "Continental System." Napoleon had not been able to approach his enemy on the ocean; he had lost St. Domingo, and
the principal islands in the West India seas; he had been compelled to abandon his project of invading England; and, as a final blow, the battle of Trafalgar had destroyed his own navy, and the flower of that of Spain. He undertook, then, to subdue the ancient, deadly rival of his country, by subduing the continent. The price of the victories of Austerlitz, Jena, Friedland, and Eylau, was to be far greater, either than the glory of the French arms, or the conquest of the most powerful states of the old world. It was to be attended with the downfall of the commerce of the English, and the ruin and bankruptcy of that rich nation. Again the scheme failed. There is a limit to power, even at the very moment when it appears to have transcended all the bounds that human efforts can set to it. There is a principle, always at work, to preserve some sort of balance in the world. These projects of universal dominion have never entirely succeeded; and, we presume, never will, while nations retain any portion of civilization.
France has produced all the great conquerors of modern times; no country, indeed, is better situated for conquests. But none of the conquerors of that remarkable people, have appeared under more favourable auspices, to acquire a universal dominion, than Napoleon. He returned from Egypt, at a time when the revolution was just brought to a close. He appeared then before the world, and with vast applause. Those who were in France, at the time the question was publicly proposed, whether Napoleon should be consul for lifeor, as it was placarded on the walls of all the great cities, "Bonaparte sera-t-il consul à vie”—have often described the unbounded enthusiasm that prevailed in his favour. In six years, he attained to a height of power, that speedily threatened a universal empire. He then began the continental sysHe became the head of it; and a refusal, on the part of any government, to adopt it, was tantamount to a declaration of war. Prussia, Russia, Austria, Denmark, the states of the new confederation of the Rhine, the kingdom of Italy,