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confidence that the British government would revoke its orders and renounce its new principle of blockade, or that the United States would cause their rights to be respected, conformably to the act of May I, 1810.
This measure of the French government was founded on the law of May 1, 1810, as is expressly declared in the letter of the duke of Cadore, announcing it. The edicts of Great Britain, the revocation of which was expected by France, were those alluded to in that act; and the means by which the United States should cause their rights to be respected in case Great Britain should not revoke her edicts, were likewise to be found in the same act. They consisted merely in the enforcement of the non-importation act against Great Britain, in that unexpected and improbable contingency.
The letter of the 5th August, which announced the revocation of the French decrees, was communicated to this government; in consequence of which, the President issued a proclamation on the 2d November, the day after that on which the repeal of the French decrees was to take effect, in which he declared, that all the restrictions imposed by the act of May 1, 1810, should cease and be discontinued in relation to France and her dependencies. It was a necessary consequence of this proclamation also, that if Great Britain did not revoke her edicts, the non-importation would operate against her at the end of three months. This actually took place. She declined the revocation, and on the 2d February last, that law took effect. In confirmation of the proclamation an act of congress was passed on the 2d March following.
Great Britain still declines to revoke her edicts on the pretension that France has not revoked hers. Under that impression she infers that the United States have done her injustice by carrying into effect the non-importation against her.
The United States maintain that France has revoked her edicts so far as they violated their neutral rights, and were contemplated by the law of May 1st, 1810, and have on that ground particularly claimed and do expect of Great Britain a similar revocation.
The revocation announced officially by the French minister of foreign affairs to the minister plenipotentiary of the United States at Paris, on the 5th August, 1810, was in itself sufficient to justify the claim of the United States to a correspondent measure from Great Britain. She had declared that she would proceed paripaiau in the repeal with France, and the day being fixed when the repeal of the French decrees should take effect, it was reasonable to con-> elude that Great Britain would fix the same day for the repeal, of her Orders. Had,this been done, the proclamation of the President would have announced the revocation of the edicts of both powers at the same time; and in consequence thereof, the non-importation would have gone into operation against neither. Such too is the natural course of proceeding in transactions between independent states; and such the conduct which they generally observe towards each other. In all compacts between nations, it is the duty of each to perform what it stipulates, and to presume on the good faith of the other, for a like performance. The United States having made a proposal to both belligerents, were bound to accept a compliance from either, and it was no objection to the French compliance, that it was in a form to take effect at a future day, that being a form not unusual in laws and other public acts. Even when nations are at war and make peace, this obligation of mutual confidence exists, and must be respected. In treaties of commerce, by which their future intercourse is to be governed, the obligation is the same. If distrust and jealousy are allowed to prevail, the moral tie which binds nations together in all their relations, in war as well as in peace, is broken.
What would Great Britain have hazarded by a prompt compliance in the manner suggested? She had declared that she had adopted the restraints imposed by her orders in council with reluctance, because of their distressing effect on neutral powers. Here then was a favourable opportunity presented to her, to withdraw from that measure with honour, be the conduct of France afterwards what it might. Had Great Britain revoked her orders, and France failed to fulfil her engagement, she would have gained credit at the expense of France, and could have sustained no inju. ry by it, because the failure of France to maintain her faith would have replaced Great Britain at the point from which she had departed. To say that a disappointed reliance on the good faith of her enemy, would have reproached her foresight, would be to set a higher value on that quality than on consistency and good faith, and would sacrifice to a mere suspicion towards an enemy, the plain obligations of justice towards a friendly power.
Great Britain has declined proceeding pari passu with France in the revocation of their respective edicts. She has held aloof, and claims of the United States proof not only that France has revoked her decrees, but that she continues to act in conformity with the revocation.
To show that the repeal is respected, it is deemed sufficient to state that not one vessel has been condemned by French tribunals, on the principle of those decrees, since the 1st November last. The New Orleans Packet from Gibraltar to Bourdeaux, was detained, but never condemned. The Grace Ann Green, from the same British port, to Marseilles, was likewise detained, but afterwards delivered up unconditionally to the owner, as was such part of the cargo of the New Orleans Packet, as consisted of the produce of the United States. Both these vessels proceeding from a British port, carried cargoes, some articles of which in each, were prohibited by the laws France, or admissible by the sanction of the government alone. It docs not appear that their detention was imputable to any other cause. If imputable to the circumstance of passing from a British to a French port, or on account of any part of their cargoes, it affords no cause of complaint to Great Britain, a"j a violation of our neutral rights. No such cause would be afforded, in even a case of condemnation. The right of complaint would have belonged to the United States/ •
In denying the revocation of the decrees, so far as it is a proper subject of discussion between us, it might reasonably be expected that you would produce some examples of vessels taken at sea, in Voyages to British ports, or on their return home, and condemned under them by a French tribunal. None such has been afforded by you. None such are known to this government.
You urge only as an evidence that the decrees are not repealed, the speech of the emperor of France to the deputies from the free cities of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck; the imperial edict dated at Fontainbleau, on the 19th of October, 1810; the report of the French minister of foreign affairs dated in December last, and a letter of the minister of justice to the president of the council of prizes of the 25th of that month.
There is nothing in the first of these papers incompatible with the revocation of the decrees, in respect to the Uuited States. It is distinctly declared by the emperor in his speech to the deputies of the Hanse towns, that the blockade of the British islands shall cease when the British blockades cease; and that the French blockade shall cease in favour of those nations in whose favour Great Britain revokes hers, or who support their rights against her pretension, as France admits the United States will do by enforcing the non-importation act. The same sentiment is expressed in the report of the minister of foreign affairs. The decree of Fontainbleau having no effect on the high seas, cannot be brought into this discussion. It evidently has no connection with neutral rights.
The letter from the minister of justice to the president of the council of prizes, is of a different character. It relates in direct terms to this subject, but not in the sense in which you understand it. After reciting the note from the duke of Cadore of the 5th August last, to the American minister at Paris, which announced the repeal of the French decrees, and the proclamation of the president in consequence of it, it states that all causes arising under those decrees after the 1st of November, which were then before the court, or might afterwards be brought before it, should not be judged by the principles of the decrees, but be suspended until the 2d February, when the United States having fulfilled their engagement, the captures should be declared void, and the vessels and their cargoes delivered up to their owners. This paper appears to afford an unequivocal evidence of the revocation of the decrees, so far as relates to the United States. By instructing the French tribunal to make no decision until the 2d February, and then to restore the property to the owners on a particular event which has happened, all cause of doubt on that point seems to be removed. The United States may justly complain of delay in the restitution of that property, but that is an injury which affects them only. Great Britain has no right to complain of it. She was interested only in the revocation of the decrees by which neutral rights would be secured from future violation; or if she had been interested in the delay, it would have afforded no pretext for more than a delay in repealing her orders till the 2d February. From that day, at furthest, the French decrees would cease. At the same day ought her orders to have ceased. I might add to this statement that every communication received from the French government, either through our representative there, or its representative here, are in accord with the actual repeal of the Berlin and Milan decrees, in relation to the neutral commerce of the United States. But it will suffice to remark that the best and .only adequate evidence of their ceasing to operate, is the defect of evidence that they do operate. It is a case where the want of proof against the fulfilment of a pledge is proof of the fulfilment. Every case occurring, to which, if the decrees were in force, they would be applied, and to which they are not applied, is a proof they are not in force. And if these proofs have not been more multiplied, I need not remind you, that a cause is to be found in the numerous captures under your orders in council, which continue to evince the rijjor with which they are enforced, after a failure of the basis on which they were supposed to rest. ,
But Great Britain contends, as appears by your last letter, that she ought not to revoke her orders in council, until the commerce of the continent is restored to the state on which it stood before the Berlin and Milan decrees issued; until the French decrees are repealed, not only as to the United States, but so as to permit Great Britain to trade with the continent. Is it then meant that Great Britain should be allowed to trade with all the powers with whom she traded at that epoch? Since that time France has extended her conquests to the north, and raised enemies against Great Britain, were she then had friends. Is it proposed to trade with them notwithstanding the change in their situation? Between the enemies of one date and those of another, no discrimination can be made. There is none in reason, nor can there be any of right,in practice. Or do you maintain the general principle, and contend that Great Britain ought to trade with France and her allies? Between enemies there can be no commerce. The vessels of either taken by the other are liable to confiscation,and are always confiscated. The number of enemies or extent of country which they occupy, cannot affect the question. The laws of war govern the relation which subsists between them, which, especially in the circumstance under consideration, are invariable. They were the same in times the most remote that they now are. Even if peace had taken place between Great Britain and the powers of the continent, she could not trade with them without their consent. Or does Great Britain contend, that the United States, as a neutral power, ought to open the continent to her commerce, on such terms as she may designate? On what principle can she set up such a claim? No example of it can be found in the history of past wars, nor is it founded in any recognized principle of war, or in any semblance of reason or right. The United States could not maintain such a claim in theirown favour. though neutral. When advanced in favour of an enemy, it would be the most preposterous and extravagant claim ever heard of. Every power, where not restrained by treaty, has a right to regulate its trade with other nations, in such manner as it finds most consistent with its interest; to admit, and on its own conditions, or to prohibit the importation of such articles as are necessary to supply the wants, or encourage the industry of its people. In what light would Great Britain view an application from the United States, for the repeal, of right, of any act of her parliament, which prohibited the importation of any article from the United States, such as their fish or their oil? Or which claimed the diminution of the duty on any other, such as their tobacco, on which so great a revenue is raised? In what light whould she view a similar application, made at the instance of France, for the importation into England, of any article the growth or manufacture of that power, which it was the policy of the British government to prohibit?
If delays have taken place in the restitution of American property, and in placing the American commerce in the ports of France on a fair and satisfactory basis, they involve questions, as has already been observed, in which the United States alone are interested. As they do not violate the revocation by France, of her edicts, they cannot impair the obligation of Great Britain to revoke hers, nor change the epoch at which, the revocation ought to have taken place. Had that duly followed, it is more than probable that those circumstances, irrelative as they are, which have excited doubt in the British government, of the practical revocation of the French decrees, might not have ocqurred.
Every view which can be taken of this subject, increases the painful surprise at the innovations on all the principles and usages heretofore observed, which are so unreservedly contended for in your letters of the 3d and 16th instant, and which, if persisted in by your government, present such an obstacle to the wishes of the United States, for a removal of the difficulties which have been connected with the orders in council. It is the interest of belligerents to mitigate the calamities of war, and neutral powers possess ample means to promote that object, provided they sustain with impartiality and firmness the dignity of their station. If belligerents expect advantage from neutrals, they should leave them in the full enjoyment of their rights. The present war has been oppressive beyond example, by its duration, and by the desolation which it has spread throughout Europe. It is highly important that it should assume, at least, a milder character. By the revocation of the French edicts, so far as they respected the neutral commerce of the United States, some advance is made towards that most desirable and consoling result. ,Let Great Britain follow the example. The ground thus gained will soon be enlarged by the concurring and pressing interests of all parties, and whatever is gained will accrue to the advantage of affVtcted humanity.