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A day or two after this conversation took place, Mr. Russell received a note from the British minister, in which he stated, that the prince regent did not feel himself enabled to depart from his former decision.
97. In the beginning of August the repeal of the orders in council was communicated to the American government by the British authorities in Canada and Nova Scotia, and an armistice by land was proposed by them, to be accompanied by a suspension of the condemnation of prizes, to await the decision of both governments. To this proposal the president declined to accede. The following are stated as the principal reasons which produced this decision.
“ 1st. The president has no power to suspend judicial proceedings on prizes. A capture, if lawful, vests a right, over which he has no controul. Nor could he prevent captures
otherwise than by an indiscriminate recal of the commissions granted to our privateers, which he could not justify under existing circumstances.
“2d. The proposition is not made by the British government, nor is there any certainty that it would be approved by it. The proposed arrangement, if acceded to, might not be observed by the British officers themselves, if their government, in consequence of the war, should give them instructions of a different character, even if they were given without a knowledge of the arrangement.
“3d. No security is given, or proposed, as to the Indians, nor could any be relied on. They have engaged in the war on the side of the British government, and are now prosecuting it with vigour, in their usual savage mode. They can only be restrained by force, when once let loose, and that force has already been ordered out for the purpose.
“ 4th. The proposition is not reciprocal, because it restrains the United States from acting where their power is greatest, and leaves Great Britain at liberty, and gives her time to augment her forces in our neighbourhood.
“ 5th. That as a principal object of the war is to obtain redress against the British practice of impressment, an agreement to suspend hostilities, even before the British government is heard from on that subject, might be considered a relinquishment of that claim.
"6th. It is the more objectionable, and of the less importance, in consideration of the instructions heretofore given Mr. Russell, which, if met by the British government, may have already produced the same result in a greater extent and more satisfac5 8. Early in October the expected communication was receive.. by government from the British admiral on the American station, admiral Warren. In this he stated that he was commanded to propose
the immediate cessation of hostilities on the ground of the repeal of the orders in council, and to arrange with government as to the revocation of the laws interdicting the ships of war and the commerce of Great Britain from the harbours and waters of the United States, intimating, that if that proposition was not acceded to, the orders in council, being only conditionally repealed, would be revived against the commerce of the United States.
In the answer of the American government it was stated, that experience had evinced that no peace could be durable without an adjustment of the subject of impressment. That an armistice could not be agreed to without a clear and distinct understanding upon this subject. But that if there was no objection to an accommodation of the difference relating to impressment other than the suspension of the British claim during the armistice, there could be none to proceeding without the armistice to an immediate discussion and arrangement of an article on that subject; and that this great question being satisfactorily adjusted, the way would be open for an armistice, or any other course leading to a general pacification. Thus ended the correspondence on this subject.
99. The message next takes a cursory view of the relations of the United States with other foreign nations. The state of the military and naval establishments is strongly pressed on the earliest attention of Congress, together with a revision of the militia laws. The subject of British licenses and improper intercourse with the enemy is likewise recommended to their attention.
10. A number of American vessels, which were in England when the revocation of the orders in council took place, were laden with British manufactures, under the impression that the non-importation act would immediately cease to operate. These vessels were seized by the collectors on their arrival in the United States, and some of them were even captured at sea, and sent in as prizes by the American privateers. This subject was recommended by the president to the consideration and decision of congress, it not appearing to him proper to exercise, “ on unforeseen cases of such magnitude, the ordinary powers vested in the treasury department to mitigate forfeitures, without previously affording to congress an opportunity of making on the subject such provision as they may think pro
9 11. The receipts into the treasury, during the year ending September 30, are stated to have exceeded sixteen and a half millions of dollars, including near 85,850,000 received on account of the loan of eleven millions. These receipts were sufficient to discharge all the demands on the treasury to that date, including a necessary reimbursement of near three millions of the principal of the public debt. The residue of the loan, together with the current revenue, are stated to be sufficient to defray the expenses of the remainder of the year, and the duties on the late unexpected importations of British manufactures to render the revenue of the ensuing year more productive than could have been anticipated,
§ 12. The president concludes his message as follows: “The situation of our country, fellow citizens, is not without its difficulties; though it abounds in animating considerations, of which the view here presented of our pecuniary resources is an example.“ With more than one nation, we have serious and unsettled controversies ; and with one, powerful in the means and habits of war, we are at war. The spirit and strength of the nation are nevertheless equal to the support of all its rights, and
it through all its trials. They can be met in that confidence. Above all, we have the inestimable consolation of knowing, that the war in which we are actually engaged is a war neither of ambition nor of vain glory ; that it is waged, not in violation of the rights of others, but in the maintenance of our own; that it was preceded by a patience without example, under wrongs accumulating without end ; and that it was finally not declared until every hope of averting it was extinguished, by the transfer of the British sceptre into new hands clinging to former councils; and until declarations were reiterated to the last hour, through the British envoy here, that the hostile edicts against our commercial rights and our maritime independence would not be revoked ; nay, that they could not be revoked, without violating the obligations of Great Britain to other powers, as well as to her own interests. To have shrunk, under such circumstances, from manly resistance, would have been a degradation blasting our best and proudest hopes : it would have struck us from the high rank, where the virtuous struggles of our fathers had placed us, and have betrayed the magnificent legacy which we hold in trust for future generations. It would have acknowledged, that on the element which forms three-fourths of the globe we inhabit, and where all independent nations have equal and common rights, the American people were not an independent people, but colonists and vassals. It was at this moment, and with such an alternaVOL. I. PART I.
tive, that war was chosen. The nation felt the necessity of it, and called for it. The appeal was accordingly made, in a just cause, to the just and all-powerful Being who holds in his hand the chain of events and the destiny of nations. It remains only, that, faithful to ourselves, entangled in no connections with the views of other powers, and ever ready to accept peace from the hand of justice, we prosecute the war with united counsels, and with the ample faculties of the nation, until peace be so obtained, and as the only means, under the divine blessing, of speedily obtaining it."
S 1. Prohibition of exports. $ 2. Merchants' bonds. $ 3. Seamen's bill.
§ 4. Certificates of registry. 5. Increase of army pay. $ 6. Twelve-months men. $7. Organization of the staff. 98. Army supplies. $ 9. Expresses from the seat of war. $ 10. Classification of the militia. sil. Increase of volunteer and militia pay. S 12. Report on the naval establishment. § 13. Increase of the navy. 14. Privateers. § 15. Regulation of prize causes. $16. Torpedoes. 8 17. Retaliation.
9 1. The first business of importance which occupied congress after the appointment of the usual standing and select committees, was a motion submitted by Mr. Harper, in the house of representatives, on the 6th of November, with closed doors, as follows:
Resolved, that the committee of commerce and manufactures be instructed to enquire into the expediency of prohibiting by law the exportation of flour and other bread stuffs from the United States and the territories thereof, and that they report by bill or otherwise.
This motion was the same day negatived by a large majority.
On the first of December Mr. Newton offered a resolution to the house, going to instruct the committee of commerce and manufactures to enquire into the propriety of restricting the export of provision and naval stores, so as to prevent those articles from being carried to the ports of the enemy. This resolution shared the fate of the former, being negatived by a majority of one vote. On the following day Mr. Harper moved a reconsideration of the resolution, on the ground of the thinness of the house the day before. The yeas and nays were called for, when, it being found that the votes were equally divided, the casting vote
was given by the speaker in the negative, and the house consequently refused to consider the resolution.
9 2. The next important topic that occupied the attention of congress was that of the merchants' bonds. From the singularity of the situation in which the merchants were placed, and the great amount at stake, upwards of eighteen millions of dollars, this subject excited an unusual degree of interest, not only
congress, but throughout the union. In order to present a clear view of the subject, it will be necessary to take a review of the acts of the United States as they respect Great Britain and France for the last three years. In doing this, we shall be as concise as perspicuity will allow.
On the first of May, 1810, a law was passed forbidding British and French armed vessels from entering the waters of the United States, on account of their numerous violations of our neutral commerce. The same law enacted, that, “ In case either Great Britain or France shall, before the third day of March next, so revoke or modify her edicts as that they shall cease to violate the neutral commerce of the United States, which fact the president of the United States shall declare by proclamation, and if the other nation shall not in three months thereafter so revoke or modify her edicts in like manner,” then certain sections of an expired law interdicting commercial intercourse with these nations were to be revived in relation to the nation refusing to revoke her obnoxious edicts. These sections forbid, under penalty of forfeiture of vessel and cargo, the importing into the United States, or the putting on board any vessel in a foreign 'port with intent thus to import, any merchandize of British or French growth or manufacture, from whatever port imported, and any merchandize whatever from a British or French port.
On the 5th of August following, the French minister of foreign relations wrote to Mr. Armstrong, then American minister at the court of France, that “ the Berlin and Milan decrees are revoked, and that from the first of November they will cease to be in force, it being understood, that, in consequence of this declaration, the English shall revoke their orders in council, and renounce the new principles of blockade which they have attempted to establish, or that the United States, conformably to the act* you have just communicated, shall cause their rights to be respected by the English.”
In pursuance of the powers vested in him by the law of the the first of May, the president, in consequence of this declaration of the French government, issued a proclamation on the
* Of the first of May, 1810.