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to step, may lead to the most unfriendly situation between the tw«
His majesty's government will necessarily be guided in a great degree by the contents of my first despatches, as to the conduct they must adopt towards America.
Allow me, then, sir, to repeat my request to learn from you -whether 1 may not convey to his royal highness what I know would be most grateful to his royal highness' feelings, namely, the hope that he may be enabled, by the speedy return of America from her unfriendly attitude towards Great Britain, to forget altogether that he ever was obliged to have any other object in view besides that of endeavoring to promote the best understanding possible between the two countries. I have the honour to be, Ecc.
(Signed) AUG. J. FOSTER.
The honourable James Monroe, &c. &c. 8cc.
Mr. Monroe to Mr. Foster.
The reasoning and scope of the two letters I have had the honour to receive from you, dated on the 3d and 14th instant, rest «. sentially on a denial that the French decrees of Berlin and Milan are repealed. These decrees comprise regulations essentially different in their principles; some of them violating the neutral rights of the United States, others operating against Great Britain without any such violation. .. .
In order to understand distinctly and fully the tenor of your communications, you will pardon the request I have the honour to make of an explanation of the precise extent in which a repeal of the French decrees is made a condition of the repeal of the British orders; and particularly whether the condition embraces the seizure of vessel and merchandise entering French ports in contravention of French regulations, as well as the capture on the high seas of neutral vessels and their cargoes, on the mere allegation that they are bound to, or from British ports; or that they have on board British productions or manufactures. I have the honour to be, &c. (Signed) JAS. MONROE.
The honourable Augustus J. Foster. &c. &c. &c.
Mr. Foster to Mr. Monroe.
I had the honour to receive the letter which you addressed to me under yesterday's date, requesting an explanation from me, in consequence of my letters of the 3d and 14th instant, of the precise extent in which a repeal of the French decrees is, by his majesty's government, made a condition of the repeal of the British orders, and particularly whether the condition embraces the seizure of vessels and merchandise entering French ports in contravention of French regulations, as well as the capture on the high seas of neutral vessels and their cargoes, on the mere allegation that they are bound to, or from British ports, or that they have on board British productions or manufactures; as also, stating that in your view of the French decrees they comprise regulations essentially different in their principles; some of them violating the neutral rights of the United States, others operating against Great Britain without any such violation.
You will permit me, sir, for the purpose of answering your questions as clearly and concisely as possible, to bring into view the French decrees themselves, together with the official declarations of the French minister which accompanied them.
In the body of those decrees, and in the declarations alluded to, you will find sir, express avowals that the principles on which they were founded, and the provisions contained in them, are wholly new, unprecedented and in direct contradiction to all ideas of justice and the principles and usages of all civilized nations.
The French government did not pretend to say that any one of the regulations contained in those decrees was a regulation which France had ever been in the previous practice of.
They were consequently to be considered, and were indeed allowed by France herself to be, all of them, parts of a new system of warfare, unauthorized by the established laws of nations.
It is in this light in which France herself has placed her decrees, that Great Britain is obliged to consider them.
The submission of neutrals to any regulations made by France, authorized by the laws of nations and practised in former wars, will never be complained of by Great Britain; but the regulations of the Berlin and Milian decrees do, and are declared to, violate the laws of nations and the rights of neutrals, for the purpose of attacking through them the resources of Great Britain. The ruler of France has drawn no distinction between any of them, nor has he declared the cessation of any one of them in the speech which he so lately addressed to the deputation from the free imperial Hanse Towns, which was, on the contrary, a confirmation of them all.
Not until the French decrees, therefore, shall be effectually repealed, and thereby neutral commerce be restored to the situation in which it stood previously to their promulgation, can his royal highness conceive himself justified, consistently with what he owes to the safety and honour of Great Britain, in foregoing the just measures of retaliation which his majesty in his defence was necessitated to adopt against them.
I trust, sir, that this explanation in answer to your inquiries will be considered by you sufficiently satisfactory; should you require any further, and which it may be in my power to give, I shall with the greatest cheerfulness afford it.
I sincerely hope, however, that no further delay will be thought necessary by the president, in restoring the relations of amity which should ever subsist between America and Great Britain; as the delusions attempted by the government of France have now been made manifest, and the perfidious plans of its ruler exposed, by which) while he adds to, and aggravates his system of violence against neutral trade, he endeavours to throw all the odium of his-acts upon Great Britain, with a view to engender discord between the neutral countries and the only power which stands up as a bulwark against his efforts at universal tyranny and oppression.
Excuse me, sir, if I express my wish as early as possible to despatch his majesty's packet-boat with the result of our communications, as his majesty's government will necessarily be most anxious to hear from me. Any short period of time, however, which may appear to you to be reasonable, I will not hesitate to detain her. 1 have the honour to be, &c.
(Signed) m AUG. J. FOSTER.
The honourable James Monroe, &c.
Mr. Monroe to Mr. Foster.
I have submitted to the president your several letters, of the 3d and 16th of this month, relative to the British orders in council and the blockade of May, 1806, and I have now the honour to communicate to you his sentiments on the view which you have presented of those measures of your government.
It was hoped that your communication would have led to an immediate accommodation of the differences subsisting between our countries, on the ground on which alone it is possible to meet you. It is regretted that you have confined yourself to a vindication of the measures which produced some of them.
The United States are as little disposed now as heretofore to enter into the question concerning the priority of aggression by the two belligerents, which could not be justified by either, by the priority of those of the other. But as you bring forward that plea in support of the orders in council, I must be permitted to remark that you have yourself furnished a conclusive answer to it, by admitting that the blockade of May, 1806, which was prior to the first of the French decrees, would not be legal, unless supported through the whole extent of the coast, from the Elbe to Brest, by an adequate naval force. That such a naval force was actually applied, and continued in the requisite strictness until that blockade was comprised in and superseded by the orders of November of the following year, or even until the French decree of the same year, will not I presume be alleged.
But waiving this question of priority, can it be seen, without both surprise and regret, that it is still contended that the orders in council are justified by the principle of retaliation, and that this principle is strengthened by the inability of France to enforce her decrees. A retaliation is in its name, and its essential character, a returning a like for like. Is the deadly blow of the orders in council against one half of our commerce, a return of like for like to an empty threat in the French decrees against the other half? It may be a vindictive hostility, as far as its effect falls on the enemy: but when falling on a neutral, who on no pretext can be liable for more than the measure of injury received through such neutral, it would not be a retaliation, but a positive wrong, by the plea on which it is founded.
It is to be further remarked, that the orders in council went even beyond the plea, such as this has appeared to be, in extending its operation against the trade of the United States with nations whi.;h, like Russia, had not adopted the French decrees, and with all' nations which had merely excluded the British flag; an exclur s-ion resulting as matter of course with respect to whatever nation Great Britain might happen to be at war.
I am far from viewing the modification originally contained in these orders, which permits neutrals to prosecute their trade with the continent, through Great Britain, in the favourable light in which you represent it. It is impossible to proceed to notice the effect of this modification without expressing our astonishment at the extravagance of the political pretension set up by it: a pretension which is utterly incompatible with the sovereignty and independence of other states. In a commercial view it is not less objectionable, as it cannot fail to prove destructive to neutral commerce. As an enemy, Great Britain cannot trade with France. Nor does France permit a neutral to come into her ports from Great Britain. The attempt of Great Britain to force our trade through her ports, would have, therefore, the commercial effect of depriving the United States altogether of the market of her enemy for their productions, and of destroying their value in her market by a surcharge of it. Heretofore it has been the usage of belligerent nations to carry on their trade through the intervention of neutrals, and this had the beneficial effect of extending to the former the advantages of peace while suffering under the calamities of war. To reverse the rule, and to extend to nations at peace the calamities of war, is a change as novel and extraordinary as it is at variance with justice and public law.
Against this unjust system, the United States entered, at an early period, their solemn protest. They considered it their duty to evince to the world their high disapprobation of it, and they have done so by such acts as were deemed most consistent with the rights and the policy of the nation. Remote from the contentious scene which desolates Europe, it has been their uniform object to avoid becoming a party to the war. With this view they have endeavoured to cultivate friendship with both parties by a system of conduct which ought to have produced that effect. They have done justice to each party in every transaction in which they have been separately engaged with it. They have observed the impartiality which was due to both as belligerents standing on equal ground, having in no instance given a preference to either at the expense of the other. They have borne too, with equal indulgence, injuries from both, being willing, while it was possible, to impute them to casualties inseparable from a state of war, and not to a deliberate tn
Vol. III. App. t C
tention to violate their rights. And even when that intention could not be mistaken, they have not lost sight of the ultimate object of their policy. In the measures to which they have been compelled to resort, they have in all respects maintained pacific relations with both parties. The alternative presented by their late acts was offered equally to both, and could operate on neither no longer than it should persevere in its aggressions on our neutral rights. The embargo and non-intercourse were pacific measures. The regulations which they imposed on our trade were such as any nation might adopt in peace or war without offence to any other nation. The non-importation is of the same character; and if it makes a distinction at this time in its operation between the belligerents, it necessarily results from a compliance of one with the offer made t» both, and which is still open to the compliance of the other.
In the discussions which have taken place on the subject of the orders in council and blockade of May 1806, the British government, in conformity to the principle on which the orders in council are said to be founded, declared that they should cease to operate as soon as France revoked her edicts. It was stated also that the British government would proceed pari pattu with the government of France in the revocation of her edicts. I will proceed to show that the obligation on Great Britain to revoke her orders is complete, according to her own engagement, and that the revocation ought not to be longer delayed.
By the act of May 1st, 1810, it is provided that if either Great Britain orFrance should cease to violate the neutral commerceof the United States, which fact the president should declare by proclamation, and the other party should not within three months thereafter revoke or modify its edicts in like manner, that then certain sections in a former act interdicting the commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain and France and their dependencies, should, from and after the expiration of three months from the date of the proclamation, be revived and have full force against the former, its colonies and dependencies, and against all articles the growth, produce or manufacture of the same.
The violations of neutral commerce alluded to in this act, were such as were committed on the high seas. It was in the trade between the United States and the British dominions that France had violated the neutral rights of the United States by her blockading edicts. It was in the trade with France and her allies that Great Britain had committed similar violations by similar edicts. It was the revocation of those edicts, so far as they committed such violations, which the United States had in view, when they passed the law of May 1, 1810.
On the 5th August, 1810, the French minister of foreign affairs addressed a note to the minister plenipotentiary of the United States at Paris, informing him that the decrees of Berlin and Milan were revoked, the revocation to take effect on the 1 st November following: that the measure had been taken by his government in