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peals of the other offensive Edicts, might abolish the whole system on both sides. This inviting opportunity for accomplishing an object so important to the U. States, and professed so often to be the desire of both the belligerents, was made known to the British government. As that government admits that an actual application of an adequate force is necessary to the existence of a legal blockade; and it. was notorious, that if such a force had ever been applied, its long discontinuance had annulled the blockade in question, there could be no sufficient objection on the part of G. Britain to a formal revocation of it; and no imaginable objection to a declaration of the fact that the blockade did not exist. The declaration would have been consistent with her avowed principles of blockade, and would have enabled the U. States to demand from France the pledged repeal of her Decrees; either with success, in which case the way would have been opened for a general repeal of the belligerent Edicts; or without success, in which case the U. States would have been justified in turning their measures exclusively against France. The British government would, however, neither rescind the blockade, nor declare its nonexistence; nor permit its non-existence to be inferred and affirmed by the American Plenipotentiary. On the contrary, by representing the blockade to be comprehended in the Orders in Council, the U. States were compelled so to regard it in their subsequent proceedings.
There was a period when a favorable change in the policy of the British cabinet was justly considered as established. The minister Plenipotentiary of his Britannic majesty here proposed an adjustment of the differences more immediately endangering the harmony of the two countries. The proposition was accepted with a promptitude and cordiality, corresponding with the invariable professions of this government. A foundation appeared to be laid for a sincere and lasting reconciliation.-The prospect, however, quickly vanished. The whole proceeding was disavowed by the British government, without any explanation which could at that time repress the belief, that the disavowal proceeded from a spirit of hostility to the commercial rights and prosperity of the U. States. And it has since come into proof, that at the very moment when the public minister was holding the language of friendship, and inspiring
confidence in the sincerity of the negociation with which he was charged, a secret agent of his government was employed in intrigues, having for their object a subversion of our government, and a dismemberment of our happy Union. In reviewing the conduct of G. Britain towards the U. States, our attention is necessarily drawn to the warfare just renewed by the savages on one of our extensive frontiers; a warfare, which is known to spare neither age nor sex, and to be distinguished by features peculiarly shocking to hu manity. It is difficult to account for the activity and combinations, which have for some time been developing themselves among the tribes, in constant intercourse with British traders and garrisons, without connecting their hostility with that influence; and without recollecting the authenticated examples of such interpositions, heretofore furnished by the officers and agents of that government.
Such is the spectacle of injuries and indignities which have been heaped on our country; and such the crisis which its unexampled forbearance and conciliatory efforts have not been able to avert. It might at least have been expected, that an enlightened nation, if less urged by moral obligations, or invited by friendly dispositions on the part of the U. States, would have found in its true interest alone, a sufficient motive to respect their rights, and their tranquility on the high seas; that an enlarged policy would have favored that free and general circulation of commerce, in which the British nation is at all times interested, and which in times of war is the best alleviation of its calamities to herself, as well as to other belligerents and more espe cially that the British cabinet would not, for the sake of a precarious and surreptitious intercourse with hostile markets, have persevered in a course of measures which necessarily put at hazard the invaluable market of a great and growing country, disposed to cultivate the mutual advantages of an active commerce.
Other Councils have prevailed. Our moderation and conciliation have had no other effect than to encourage perseverance, and to enlarge pretensions. We behold our seafaring citizens still the daily victims of lawless violence, committed on the great common highway of nations, even within sight of the country which owes them protection. We behold our vessels freighted with the products of our soil
and industry, or returning with the proceeds of them, wrested from their lawful destinations, confiscated by prize courts, no longer the organs of public law, but the instruments of arbitrary Edicts; and their unfortunate crews dispersed and lost, or forced or inveigled in British ports into British fleets; whilst arguments are employed, in support of these aggressions,which have no foundation but in a principle equally supporting a claim to regulate our external commerce in all cases whatsoever.
We behold, in fine, on the side of G. Britain, a state of war against the U. States, and on the side of the U. States a state of peace towards G. Britain.
Whether the U. States shall continue passive under these progressive usurpations, and these accumulating wrongs; or opposing force to force, in defence of their natural rights, shall commit a just cause into the hands of the Almighty disposer of events; avoiding all connections which might entangle it in the contests or views of other powers, and preserving a constant readiness to concur in an honorable re-establishment of peace and friendship, is a solemn question, which the constitution wisely confides to the legis lative Department of the government. In recommending it to their early deliberations, I am happy in the assurance that the decision will be worthy the enlightened and patriotic Councils of a virtuous, a free, and a powerful nation.
Having presented this view of the relations of the U. States with G. Britain and of the solemn alternative growing out of them, I proceed to remark that the communications last made to Congress, on the subject of our relations with France, will have shown that since the revocation of her Decrees as they violated the neutral rights of the U. States, her government has authorised illegal captures, by its privateers and public ships, and that other outrages have been practised on our vessels and citizens. It will have been seen also, that no indemnity had been provided, or satisfactorily pledged, for the extensive spoliations committed under the violent and retrospective orders of the French government against the property of our citizens seized within the jurisdiction of France. I abstain at this time from recommending to the consideration of Congress definitive measures with respect to that nation, in the expectation, that the result of unclosed discussions between our Minister
Plenipotentiary at Paris and the French government will speedily enable Congress to decide, with greater advantage, on the course due to the rights, the interests, and the honor of our country. JAMES MADISON.
Washington, June 1, 1812.
The Committee on Foreign Relations to whom was referred the Message of the President of the U. States of the 1st of June, 1812,
That after the experience which the U. States have had of the great injustice of the British government towards them, exemplified by so many acts of violence and oppression, it will be more difficult to justify to the impartial world their patient forbearance, than the measure to which it has become necessary to resort, to avenge the wrongs, and vindicate the rights and honor of the nation. Your committee are happy to observe on a dispassionate reveiw of the conduct of the U. States, that they see in it no cause for censure.
If a long forbearance under injuries ought ever to be considered a virtue in any nation, it is one which peculiarly becomes the U. States. No people ever had stonger motives to cherish peace-none have ever cherished it with greater sincerity and zeal.
But the period has now arrived, when the U. States must support their character and station among the nations of the earth, or submit to the most shameful degradation. Forbearance has ceased to be a virtue. War on the one side, and peace on the other, is a situation as ruinous as it is disgraceful. The mad ambition, the lust of power, and commercial avarice of G. Britain, arrogating to herself thecomplete dominion of the ocean, and exercising over it an unbounded and lawless tyranny, have left to neutral nations an alternative only, between the base surrender of their rights, and a manly vindication of them. Happily for the U. States, their destiny, under the aid of heaven, is in their own hands. The crisis is formidable only by their love of peace. As soon as it becomes a duty to relinquish that situation, danger disappears. They have suffered no wrongs, they have received no insults, however great, for which they cannot obtain redress.
More than seven years have elapsed, since the com mencement of this system of hostile aggression by the British government, on the rights and interests of the U. States. The manner of its commencement was not less hostile, than the spirit with which it has been prosecuted. The U. States have invariably done every thing in their power to preserve the relations of friendship with G. Britain. Of this disposition they gave a distinguished proof, at the moment when they were made the victims of an opposite policy. The wrongs of the last war had not been forgotten at the commencement of the present one. They warned us of dangers, against which it was sought to provide. As early as the year 1804, the minister of the U. States at London was instructed, to invite the British government to enter into a negociation on all the points on which a collision might arise between the two countries, in the course of the war, and to propose to it an arrangement of their claims on fair and reasonable conditions. The invitation was accepted. A negociation had commenced and was depending, and nothing had occurred to excite a doubt that it would not terminate to the satisfaction of both the parties. It was at this time, and under these circumstances, that an attack was made, by surprise, on an important branch of the American commerce, which affected every part of the U. States, and involved many of their citizens in ruin.
The commerce on which this attack was so unexpectedly made, was between the U. States and the colonies of France, Spain, and other enemies of G. Britain. A commerce just in itself sanctioned by the example of G. Britain in regard to the trade with her own colonies-sanctioned by a solemn act between the two governments in the last war; aud sanctioned by the practice of the British government in the present war, more than two years having then elapsed, without any interference with it.
The injustice of this attack could only be equalled by the absurdity of the pretext alledged for it. It was pretended by the British government, that in case of war, her enemy had no right to modify its colonial regulations, so as to mitigate the calamities of war to the inhabitants of its colonies. This pretension, peculiar to G. Britain, is utterly incompatible with the right of sovereignty, in every independ ent state. If we recur to the well established and univer