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Afarquis Wellesley to J. S. Smith, Esq.
Your letter of the 23d ultimo has been under the consideration sf his royal highness, the prince regent, and has received all the attention to which it is entitled.
I am commanded by his royal highness to acquaint you, that he has thought fit to postpone the answer to your letter until advices, which are hourly expected, from Mr. Foster shall have been received. I have the honour to be, with great respect and consideration, sir, your most obedient and humble servant.
(Signed) WELLESLEY. J. S. Smith, Esq. &C.
Lord Wellesley to J. S. Smith, Esq.
Since the date of my last letter, I have the honour to inform you, that I have received a letter from Mr. Foster, his majesty's minister in America, by which it appears that he had actually commenced a negotiation with the government of the United States, respecting the British orders in council. His despatches containing the particulars of the negotiation, have not yet reached me. Under these circumstances, I have transmitted a copy of your letter, together with its inclosure, to Mr. Foster, in order that those documents may receive full consideration in the progress of the discussions now depending in America. I have the honour to be, &c.
(Signed) WELLESLEY. J. S. Smith, Esq. &c.
Mr. Foster to Mr. Monroe.
I had the honour to receive your letter of 17th instant, together with its three inclosures, on the road between Batimore and this city; I had that of receiving, at the same time, your letter dated October 1, in answer to mine of the 26th of last July.
Not having had any despatches from his majesty's government lately, I have not as yet received the copy of the recent communication from Paris, in regard to the supposed repeal of the French decrees, which the charge d'affaires of the United States at London has intimated to you that he understood the marquis Wellesley intended to transmit to me, and which I conclude is the same as that contained in the letter of Mr. Russell, the American charge d'affaires in France. 1 am, however, in daily expectation of the arrival of his majesty's packet boat, when it will, in all probability, reach me, and when, if I should receive any fresh instructions in consequence, I will not fail immediately to acquaint you. In the mean while, however, I beg you will permit me to make some remarks in reply to your letter of October 1, being extremely anxious to do away the impression which you seem to have received relative to the demand I had made for the repeal of the non-importation act of the present year.
It is, I assure you, sir, with very great regret that I find you consider that demand as involving in any degree propositions tending to degrade your nation. Such an idea certainly never existed with his majesty's government, nor would it be compatable with the friendly sentiments entertained by them for the United States; neither could I have suffered myself to be the channel of conveying a demand which I thought had such a tendency. However you may view the demand made on the part of Great Britain, I can safely say that it was made in consequence of its appearing to his majesty's government on strong evidence that the chief of the French nation had really deceived America as to the repeal of his decrees, and in the hopes that the United States' government would therefore see the justice of replacing this country on its former footing of amicable relations with England; nothing appearing to be more natural than such an expectation, which seemed a necessary consequence of the disposition expressed by America te maintain her neutrality, and desirable in every other point of view. I cannot, indeed, bring myself to think, sir, that your candour would allow you, on a reconsideration, to put any other construction on the matter, and had my arguments had sufficient weight with you in showing that the French decrees were still in force, I cannot doubt but you would have agreed with me in the conclusion I drew. It would seem therefore only owing to your not viewing the deceitful conduct of the French government in the same light that it appears to his majesty's government, that a difference of opinion exists between us as to the proposal I made, w hich, under the conviction entertained by them, was surely a very j ust and natural one.
From the earnest desire of vindicating myself and my government from the charge of making any degrading or unjust demands on that of America, I have taken the liberty to trouble you so far, and I will now proceed to show why I thought you had misunderstood the passage of my letter which related to the extent in which the repeal of the French decrees was required by Great Britain. In the explanation which you desired on this point, I gave you that which the marquis Wellesley gave to Mr. Pinkney, in answer to his letter of August 25, 1810, and I beg to refer you to the message of the president of the United States on the opening of congress in December, 1810, for a proof that the demand of Great Britain, in the extent in which I have stated it, was known to your government several months ago; how was I, therefore, to suppose, in the term innova-ions as applied to the explanation given by me, that you could mean otherwise than some really new pretension on the part of Great Britain, such as that France should suffer British property to be carried into her ports for the purposes of trade. If the warmth I was betrayed into, in endeavouring to refute a supposed imputation of this sort, gave any offence, I sincerely regret it; and I will beg permission here to say, sir, that if unconsciously I have, by any of my remarks, led you to suppose they conveyed any improper insinuations, as one paragraph of your letter would appear to imply, I am most unfeignedly sorry for it, as I entertain the highest respect for you personally and for your government, and could only have meant what I wrote in the way of argument, or for the purpose of contrasting the proceedings of France in her conduct towards the United States with that of Great Britain.
In reverting to the extraordinary and unprecedented situation of things that have arisen out of the war in Europe, it would seem needless to repeat the evidence there is that the lawless and unbounded ambition of the ruler of France has been the origin of it, and it cannot be a secret to the United States' government, that his plan has been, and avowedly continues to be, not to scruple at the violation of any law, provided he can thereby overthrow the maritime power of England. Is it not, therefore, reasonable in Great Britain to distrust an ambiguous declaration of his having suddenly given up any part of a system which he thought calculated to produce such an effect? You say, however, that the decrees of Berlin and Milan are revoked. America, as not being at war, and, therefore, not seeing so nearly into the views of France, may be less scrupulous as to the evidence necessary to prove the fact; but, sir, it surely cannot be expected that Great Britain, who is contending for every thing that is dear to her, should not require more proof on a point so material to her. It is undoubtedly a very desirable thing for the United States to have a free and unrestricted trade with both belligerents, but the essential security and most important interests of America are not involved in the question as are those of Great Britian. France has levelled a blow which she hopes will prove deadly to the resources of Great Britain, and before the British government can, with safety, give up the measures of defence in consequence adopted by them, very strong proof must exist of the cessation, by France, other novel and unprecedented measures.
I confess, sir, with the sincerest disposition to discover on the part of the ruler of France, a return to the long established practice of warfare as exercised in civilized Europe, I have been unable to succeed: and if the French government had really meant to withdraw their obnoxious decrees, it is inconceivable why, instead of allowing their intention to be guessed at or inferred, they should not openly and in plain language have declared so: the decrees themselves having been clearly enough announced on their enact- » ment, why should not their revocation be equally explicit.
While, however, numerous declarations have been made on the part of France, of the continued existence of the decrees, and captures made under them of neutral ships have occurred, a few of the American vessels seized since November 1, have been restored,
Vol. III. App. tF
and the foregoing, a very small part of his plunder, is desired by Bonaparte to be considered as a proof of the sincerity of his revocation by America; but it must be recollected that besides the object of ruining the British resources, by his own unauthorized regulations, he has also that of endeavouring to obtain the aid of the United States for the same purpose, and herein you will, as I had the honor to remark in a former letter, be able to observe the cause of the apparently contradictory language held both by himself and his ministers.
I should be extremely happy to receive from you, sir, the information that in a frank and unambiguous manner the chief of the French government had revoked his decrees. Why he should not do so is inexplicable, if he means to revert to the ordinary rules of war; but while he exercises such despotic sway wherever his influence extends, to ruin the resources of England, it cannot be expected that Great Britain shall not use the means she possesses for the purpose of making him feel the pressure of his own systemThere is every reason to believe that ere long the effects on the enemies of Great Britain, will be such as irresistibly to produce a change which will place commerce on its former basis. In the mean time, sir, I hope you will not think it extraordinary if I should contend that the seizure of American ships by France, since November 1, and the positive and unqualified declarations of the French government, are stronger proofs of the continued existence of the French decrees, and the bad faith of the ruler of France, than the restoration of five or six vessels, too palpably given up for fallacious purposes, or in testimony of his satisfaction at the attitude taken by America, is a proof of their revocation, or of his return to principles of justice.
I will only repeat, sir, in answer to your observations on the late condemnation of the ships taken under his majesty's orders in council, what I have already had the honor to state to you, that the delay which took place in their condemnation, was not a consequence of any doubt existing in his majesty's government, as to whether the French decrees were revoked, as you seem to imagine, but in consequence of its being thought that the American government upon its appearing that they were deceived by France, would have ceased their injurious measures against the British commerce. A considerable time elapsed before the decision took place on those ships, and there is no doubt, but that had the United States' government not persisted in their unfriendly attitude towards Great Britain, on discovering the ill faith of France, a spirit of conciliation in his majesty's government would have caused their release.
In reply to your observations, on these pretensions of Great Britain relative to the revocation of the French decrees, I beg to repeat that the sum of the demands made by England is, that France should follow the established laws of warfare as practised in former wars in Europe. Her ruler, by his decrees of Berlin and Milan, declared himself no longer bound by them; he has openly renounced them in his violent efforts to ruin the resources of Great Britain, and has trampled on-the rights of independent nations to effect his purpose. If the French government make use of means of unprecedented violence, to prevent the intercourse of England with unoffending neutrals, can it be expected that England should tamely suffer the establishment of such a novel system of war without retaliation, and endeavoring in her turn to prevent the French from .enjoying the advantages of which she is unlawfully deprived.
Having explained, already, the situation in which the question of the blockade of May, 1806, rests, according to the views of his majesty's government, and the desire of Great Britain to conduct her system of blockade according to the laws of nations, I will only advert to it on this occasion, for the purpose of taking the liberty of acknowledging to you the very great pleasure I received from the highly honorable mark of respect which you have taken the occasion to express for the illustrious statesman from whose counsels that measure emanated.
I need not repeat to you, sir, what sincere satisfaction it would , give me if, without the sacrifice of the essential rights and interests of Great Britain, all the points in discussion between our two countries could be finally adjusted. I have the honour to be, &c. (Signed)' AUG. J. FOSTER.
To the honourable James Monroe, &c.
Mr. Monroe to Mr. Foster.
I have had the honour to receive your letter of the 22d of this month, and to lay it before the president.
The assurance which you have given of your disposition to reciprocate, in our communications on the important subjects depending between our governments, the respectful attention which each has a right to claim, and that no departure from it was intended in your letter of the 26th July, has been received with the satisfaction due to the frank and conciliatory spirit in which it was made.
I learn, however, with much regret, that you have received no instructions from your government, founded on the new proof of the revocation of the Berlin and Milan decrees, which was communicated to the marquis of Wellesley, by the American charge d'affaires at London, in a document of which I had the honour to transmit to you a copy. It might fairly have been presumed, as I have before observed, that the evidence afforded by that document, of the complete revocation of those decrees, so far as they interfered with the commerce of the United States with the British dominions, would have been followed by an immediate repeal of the orders in council. From the reply of the marquis of Wellesley, it was at least to have been expected that no time hud been lost in transmitting that document to you, and that the instructions accompanying it would have manifested a change in the sentiments of your government on the subject. The regret, therefore, cannot