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If, as I propose, your orders should be rescinded as to the United States, and our embargo rescinded as to Great Britain, the effect of these concurrent acts will be that the commercial intercourse of the two countries will be im- . mediately resumed; while, if France should adhere to maxims and conduct derogatory to the neutral rights of the United States, the embargo, continuing as to her, will take the place of your orders, and lead, with an efficacy not merely equal to theirs, but probably much greater, to all the consequences that ought to result from them.
On the other hand, if France should concur in respecting those rights, and commerce should thus regain its fair immunities, and the law of nations its just dominion, all the alleged purposes of the British orders will have been at once fulfilled.
If I forbear to pursue these ideas through all the illustrations of which they are susceptible, it is because the personal conferences to which I have before alluded, as well as the obvious nature of the ideas themselves, render it unnecessary.
I cannot conclude this note, without expressing my sincere wish, that what have now suggested, in conformity with the liberal sentiments and enlightened views of the President, may contribute, not only to remove the more immediate obstacles to the ordinary intercourse of trade between your country and mine, in a manner consistent with the honour of both, but to prepare the way for a satisfactory adjustment of every question important to their future friendship. I have the honour to be, &c.
WILLIAM PINKNEY. The Rt. Hon. George Canning, &c. &c.
Mr. Canning to Mr. Pinkney. Foreign Office, September
23, 1808. The undersigned, his majesty's principal secretary of state for foreign affairs, had the honour to receive the offi. cial letter addressed to him by Mr. Pinkney, minister ple. nipotentiary of the United States, respecting the orders in council issued by his majesty on the 7th of January and 11th of November, 1807.
He bas laid that letter before the king : and he is commanded to assure Mr. Pinkney, that the answer to the proposal, which Mr. Pinkney was instructed to bring forward, has been deferred only in the hope that the renewed application, which was understood to have been recently made by the government of the United States to that of France, might, in the new state of things which has arisen in Europe, have met with such a reception in France, as would have rendered the compliance of his majesty with that proposal consistent, as much with his majesty's own dignity, and with the interests of his people, as it would have been with his majesty's disposition towards the United States.
Unhappily, there is now no longer any reason to believe, that such a hope is likely to be realized; and the undersigned is, therefore, commanded to communicate to Mr. Pinkney the decision, which, under the circumstances as they stand, his majesty feels himself compelled, however unwillingly, to adopt.
The mitigated measure of retaliation, announced by his majesty in the order in council of the 7th of January, and the further extension of that measure (an extension in operation, but not in principle) by the orders in council of November, were founded (as has been already repeatedly avowed by his majesty) on the “unquestionable right of his majesty to retort upon the enemy the evils of his own injustice;" and upon the consideration, that “if third parties incidentally suffered by these retaliatory measures, they were to seek their redress from the power, by whose original aggression that retaliation was occasioned."
His majesty sees nothing in the embargo, laid on by the President of the United States of America, which varies this original and simple state of the question.
If considered as a measure of impartial hostility against both belligerents, the embargo appears to his majesty to have been manifestly unjust, as, according to every principle of justice, that redress ought to have been first sought from the party originating the wrong. And his majesty cannot consent to buy off that hostility, which America ought not to have extended to him, at the expense of a concession made, not to America, but to France.
If, as it has more generally been represented by the government of the United States, the embargo is only to be considered as an innocent municipal regulation, which affects none but the United States themselves, and with which no foreign state has any concern; viewed in this light, his majesty does not conceive, that he has the right, or the pretension, to make any complaint of it, and he has made none. But, in this light, there appears not only no reciprocity, but no assignable relation, between the repeal, by the United States, of a measure of voluntary self restriction, and the surrender, by his majesty, of his right of retaliation against his enemies.
The government of the United States is not now to be informed, that the Berlin decree of November 21st, 1806, was the practical commencement of an attempt, not merely to check or impair the prosperity of Great Britain, but utterly to annihilate her political existence, through the ruin of her commercial prosperity; that in this attempt, almost all the powers of the European continent have been compelled, more or less, to co-operate ; and that the American embargo, though most assuredly not intended to that end, (for America can have no real interest in the subversion of the British power, and her rulers are too enlightened to act from any impulse, against the real interests of their country) but by some unfortunate concurrence of circumstances, without any hostile intention, the American embargo did come in aid of the “blockade of the European continent,” precisely at the very moment, when, if that blockade could have succeeded at all, this interposition of the American government would most effectually have contributed to its success.
To this universal combination, his majesty has opposed a temperate, but a determined retaliation upon the enemy; trusting, that a firm resistance would defeat this project; but knowing that the smallest concession would infallibly encourage a perseverance in it.
The struggle has been viewed by other powers, not without an apprehension that it might be fatal to this country. The British government has not disguised from itself, that the trial of such an experiment might be arduous and long; though it has never doubted of the final issue. But if that issue, such as the British government confidently anticipated, has providentially arrived much
sooner than could even have been hoped ; if " the blockade of the continent," as it has been triumphantly styled by the enemy, is raised even before it had been well established, and if that system, of which, extent and contiDuity were the vital pinciples, is broken up into fragments utterly harmless and contemptible; it is nevertheless important in the highest degree, to the reputation of this country, (a reputation which constitutes great part of her power,) that this disappointment of the hopes of her enemies should not have been purchased by any concession; that not a doubt should remain to distant times, of her determination and of her ability to have continued her resistance; and that no step, which could even mistakenly be construed into concession, should be taken on her part, while the smallest link of the confederacy remains undissolved, or while it can be a question, whether the plan devised for her destruction, has, or has not, either completely failed, or been unequivocally abandoned.
These considerations compel his majesty to adhere to the principles on which the orders in council of the 7th of January, and the 11th of November, are founded, so long as France adheres to that system, by which his majesty's retaliatory measures were occasioned and justified.
It is not improbable, indeed, that some alterations may be made in the orders in council, as they are at present framed, alterations calculated not to abate their spirit or impair their principle, but to adapt them more exactly to the different state of things which has fortunately grown up in Europe, and to combine all practicable relief to neutrals with a more severe pressure upon the enemy.
But of alterations to be made with this view only, it would be uncandid to take any advantage in the present discussion : however, it might be hoped, that in their practical effect, they might prove beneficial to America, provided the operation of the embargo were not to prevent her from reaping that benefit.
It remains for the undersigned to take notice of the last paragraph of Mr. Pinkney's letter. There cannot exist, on the part of Mr. Pinkney, a stronger wish, than there does on that of the undersigned, and of the British government, for the adjustment of all the differences subsisting between the two countries.
His majesty has no other disposition than to cultivate the most friendly intercourse with the United States.
The undersigned is persuaded, that Mr. Pinkney would be one of the last to imagine, what is often idly asserted, that the depression of any other country is necessary or serviceable to the prosperity of this. The prosperity of America is essentially the prosperity of Great Britain, and the strength and power of Great Britain are not for herself only, but for the world. When those adjustments shall take place, to which, though unfortunately not practicable at this moment, nor under the conditions prescribed by Mr. Pinkney, the undersigned, nevertheless, confidently looks forward; it will perhaps be no insecure pledge for the continuance of the good understanding between the two countries, that they will have learnt duly to appreciate each other's friendship; and that it will not hereaster be imputed to Great Britain, either on the one hand, that she envies American industry as prejudicial to British commerce, or, on the other hand, that she is compelled to court an intercourse with America, as absolutely necessary to her own existence.
His majesty would not hesitate to contribute in any manner in his power, to restore to the commerce of the United States, its wonted activity; and if it were possible to make any sacrifice for the repeal of the embargo, without appearing to deprecate it as a measure of hostility, he would gladly have facilitated its removal, as a measure of inconvenient restriction upon the American people.
The undersigned is commanded, in conclusion, to observe, that nothing is said in Mr. Pinkney's letter, of any intention to repeal the proclamation, by which the ships of war of Great Britain are interdicted from all those rights of hospitality in the ports of the United States, which are freely allowed to the ships of his majesty's enemies.
The continuance of an interdiction which, under such circumstances, amounts so nearly to direct hostility, after the willingness professed, and the attempt made by his majcsty, to remove the cause on which that measure had been originally founded, would afford but an inauspicious omen for the commencement of a system of mutual conciliation; and the omission of any notice of that measure in the proposal which Mr. Pinkney has been instructed to bring