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plaint stands at the head of Mr. Madison's statement of the grounds of war; it stands at the head of his manifesto against our Government. His own words will best speak his meaning: “Without going “beyond the renewal, in 1803, of the war ** in which Great Britain is o and ** omitting unrepaired wrongs of inferior “magnitude, the conduct of her Govern“ment presents a series of acts hostile to “ the United States as an independent and ** neutral nation.—British cruizers have “ been in the continued practice of violat“ing the American flag on the great high“way of nations, and of seizing and car“rying off persons sailing under it, not in “the exercise of a belligerent right, found“ed on the law of nations against an ene“my, but of a municipal prerogative over “British subjects. British jurisdiction is “ thus extended to neutral vessels in a si“tuation where no laws can operate but ** the law of nations and the laws of the ** country to which the vessels belong; and ** a self-redress is assumed, which, if Bri“tish subjects were wrongfully detained ** and alone concerned, is that substitution ** of force for a resort to the responsible ** Sovereign, which falls within the defini**tion of war. Could the seizure of Bri**tish subjects, in such cases, be regarded as * within the exercise of a belligerent right, ** the acknowledged laws of war, which * forbid an article of captured property to “be adjudged without a regular investiga“tion before a competent tribunal, would * imperiously demand the fairest trial, “ where the sacred rights of persons were “at issue. In place of such trial, these “rights are subjected to the will of every “ petty commander.—The practice, hence, “is so far from affecting British subjects “ alone, that under the pretext of searching ** for these, thousands of American citizens, “under the safeguard of public laws, and “of their national flag, have been torn “from their country, and from everything “dear to them,-have been dragged on “board ships of war of a foreign nation, “ and exposed, under the severities of their “discipline, to be exiled to the most dis“tant and deadly climes, to risk their lives “in the battles of their oppres.ors, and to “be the melancholy instruments of taking “away those of their own brethren.— “Against this crying enormity, which “Great Britain would be so prompt to
“avenge if committed against herself, the
“ United States have in vain exhausted re“monstrances and expostulations: and that
“no proof might be wanting of their con“ciliatory dispositions, and no pretext left “for continuance of the practice, the Bri“tish Government was formally assured of “the readiness of the United States to enter “into arrangements, such as could not be “rejected, if the recovery of the British sub“jects were the real and the sole object. “The communication passed without ef“ sect.” The grievance here complained of is certainly very great, and cannot be expected to be borne by any nation capable of resistance. If England were at peace and America at war, and if the latter were to assume the right of stopping our merchant vessels at sea, and taking out of them by force any men whom her officers might choose to consider as Americans, what should we say to the assumption ? And, would not your Royal Highness be ashamed to exercise the royal authority without the power instantly to punish such an affront to the dignity of the Crown and the honour of the Country? But, degrading as this impressment is to the national character of the Anericans, it cuts them still deeper by the real sufferings that it inflicts; by the ruin which it occasions to thousands of families; and by the deaths which it produces in the course of every year. I have before stated that the number of impressed American seamen is very great, or, at least, has so been stated in America, amounting to many thousands, constantly in a state of the most terrible bondage to them ; and, as some are daily dropping off, while others are impressed, the extent to which the evil has been felt in America must have been very great indeed, during so long a war. Our corrupt news-papers, with the Times at their head, are endeavouring to misrepresent the nature of the complaint of America, and thereby to provide the Ministers beforehand with a justification for war rather than afford her redress. Upon the part of the President's manifesto above quoted, the Times makes these observations:—“She “first complains of our impressing British “scamen, when found on board American “ vessels: but this is a right which we “now exercise under peculiar modifica“tions and restrictions. We do not at“tempt to search ships of war, however “inferior their force to ours: and as to “searching merchantmen, we do not even “do this, vaguely or indiscriminately; but “upon positive and accurate information. “And practically, we apprehend, that the “ criminal concealment on the part of Aue“rica, is a much greater nuisance to us, “ than a wanton search on our part is to “ her. Let her, however, propose “such “ arrangements” on this head, as are cal“culated to effect the recovery of British “subjects, and she will find Great Britain “far from averse to listen to her.” This, Sir, is a tissue of falsehoods and misrepresentations. The President does not complain that we impress British seamen: he complains, that, under pretence of taking British seamen, we take American seamen. This is what he complains of, which is precisely the contrary of what is here stated. As to our not taking men out of American ships of war, our Government knows well, that America has no ships of war worth speaking of, and that she has thousands of merchant ships. It is said here, that we do not search American merchantmen “vaguely and indiscriminately; “but, upon positive and accurate informa“tion.” One would suppose it impossible for any man, capable of writing a paragraph, to sit down coolly and state so perfect a falsehood as this. But herein we have an instance of the length to which the hirelings of the English press will go in supporting any thing which they are called on to support. It is a fact, and this writer knew it to be a fact, that any commander of any ship in our navy, when he meets an American merchantman at sea, does, or may, go or send on board of her, and that he does, or may, take out of her any persons, who, IN HIS OPINION, are British subjects. That this is a fact no one can deny; where, then, is the “positive “ and accurate information?” It is also a fact, that the Americans have frequently asserted, that our officers have thus taken out of their ships at sea many thousands of American Citizens, under the pretence of their being British subjects. It is also a fact, which is proved by the books at our own Admiralty, that the American Government, through its Consul in London, has obtained the release from our fleet of a great number of American Citizens thus impressed, seized, and carried off upon the high seas. It is also a fact, proved by the same authority, that many of the Americans thus taken have lost their limbs in the compulsory service of England, a service which they abhorred. It is a fact that I take upon me to vouch for, that, amongst
the American Citizens, thus captured and
carried off, and forced into our service of
late years, were two grand nephews of Ge
*:tral Washington, and that one of the two
was released from our service by the Lords of the Admiralty, in consequence of an application from the American Consul, while. I was in prison for writing about the flogging of the Local Militia in the town of Ély, and about the employment of German troops upon that occasion. And yet, Sir, in the face of all these facts, has the hired writer the audacity, the the cool impudence, to assert, that we never search American vessels for seamen, “but “upon positive and accurate information." With this instance of falsehood; of wilful, shameless falsehood, before them, one would imagine, that the public would never after be in danger of being deceived by the same writer; but, alas! Sir, the cunning slave who sells his pen for this purpose knows well, that the public, or, at least, that that part of the public whom he wishes to deceive will never, till it be too late, be able to detect him; he knows that his falsehood goes where the exposure seldom comes, and, if it come at all, he knows that its arrival will be too late to prevent the effect, to produce which is his object. He next calls upon America to propose her arrangement, upon this subject; though in the very manifesto, upon which he is commenting, the President declares that an offer had been made to our Government to enter into an arrangement, but that “the “communication passed without effect.” It is going very far on the part of America to offer to enter into any arrangement upon the subject; for, why should not she say, as we certainly should say: “Take care of “your own seamen; keep them from us in “any way that you please; but, you shall, “on the seas, take nobody out of our vessels.” Nevertheless, she has offered to enter into arrangements, “such,” she says, “as could not be rejected, if the “recovery “of British Seamen was the sole object;” and yet this writer accuses her of the criminal concealment of our seamen! We have rejected this offer of an arrangement for the prevention of British seamen from taking shelter in American ships; and, yet this writer accuses America of a desire to injure us by making her ships an asylum for British deserters! Our Government say, that, if we do not exercise our power of searching American ships, and taking out our own seamen, our sea service will be ruined by the desertions to those American ships. For instance, a British ship of war is lying at Plymouth, and there are three or four American vessels in the same port. Numbers of the seamen get on board the American ships; they get out to sea; and, if they cannot be seized there, they go off safely to America or to any other part of the world, and are thus lost to our navy. There is no doubt, Sir, but this might become a very serious evil, if not counteracted. But, are the Americans to suffer because (for whatever reason) our sailors desert? And, above all, are real American Citizens to be exPosed to impressment, to be sent to be shot at, to be conveyed to the West or East Indies, to be made to end their days under the discipline of an English man of war; are real American citizens to be exposed to all this because British seamen desert, and because that desertion (a very serious crime) may become extremely dangerous to us? I am sure your Royal Highness is too just to answer this question in the affirmative. The case must be new, because the relative situation of the two countries is a novelty in the history of nations; but, while we have an undoubted right to recover our own seamen, if we can do it without violating the rights of other nations, we can have no right, in any case, to seize American Citizens. America says, “I do not ‘want your seamen. I would rather not * have them. Keep them by what means * you please. Take them wherever you * can find them in my ships; but, before * you do it, produce proof of their being “yours, and that, too, before a competent “tribunal.” Nothing can be fairer than this ; but this necessarily sets aside all impressments at sea, where there can be no proof given, because there can be no tribunal, or umpire, to decide upon the proof; and we contend, that, without the power of impressing at sea, our navy would be greatly injured by desertion, and our strength thereby materially weakened. This is the point upon which we are at issue with America. Supposing the Orders in Council to remain repealed, and the Dispute as to that matter to be settled, this is the point upon which, if not settled amicably, we shall have war with the American States. It is the point upon which the people of America, who are something, are more sore; and I am convinced that it is a point which they will not give up. They say, and they truly say, that it is a mockery for them to talk of their freedom and their independence, if the very bodies of their citizens are liable to be taken upon the high seas and forced into the service of a foreign sovereign, there to be treated according to the rules and regulations of that sovereign.
A people submitting to this cannot be called free, and their country cannot be called independent. Therefore, when the time comes for entering on a treaty of peace with America, I hope your Royal Highness will resist all advice tending to a pertinacious adherence to the exercise of the power of impressment; for, while that power is exercised, we shall, in my opinion, never have real peace with America. The other point in dispute, namely, the possession of the Floridas, or, at least, that part of them which belongs to Spain, is of inferior importance; but, I am of opinion, that that point will not be easily overcome, unless we are prepared to give it up. America sees the possibility of Old Spain becoming a mere puppet in the hands of England, and she sees the almost certainty of its becoming a dependent upon either England or France ; and, she wants neither France nor England for so near a neighbour. She has, in the adventures of Captain Henry, seen the danger of having a neighbour on her Northern flank; and, the Floridas are not divided from her by immense deserts and lakes as Canada is. While the Floridas were held by the sleepy old government of Spain, America saw little danger; but, she will not, I am convinced, suffer either England or France to be mistress of those provinces, This is a point, therefore, which, in my opinion, we should be forward in giving up, and not get into a war with America for the sake of Ferdinand, as we are continuing the war with France for his sake. The revolutions going on in South America it is the interest of the United States to encourage and assist to the utmost of their power; and, I should advise your Royal Highness to show an earnest desire to avoid interference therein; for if, upon the ground of supporting the authority of Ferdinand, or, upon any other ground, you show a disposition to take part against the republicans of South America, that alone will be sufficient greatly to retard, if not wholly defeat, all attempts at an accommodation with America. Nay, Sir, to speak freely my sentiments, I do not expect peace with America while we have an army in Spain, or, at least, while there is the smallest chance of our obtaining a settled ascendency in that kingdom; and 1 really think, that every mile of progress that we are making there puts peace with America at a greater distance. We, in this country, or, the greater part of us, see no danger in the increase of any power,
except the power of Napoleon, whose ter. ritories half envelop our coast, and whose armies are but at the distance of a few hours' sail. Not so the Americans. They see danger in the increase of our power, ours being that sort of power by which they are most annoyed. If they had their choice between us and France for a neighbour in South America, they would not hesitate a moment in preferring France; because her power is not of that sort which would be formidable to America. What she would wish, however, is to see South America independent of Old Spain, and, of course, of the masters of Old Spain: and she is not so blind as not to perceive, that the contest in Old Spain now is, who shall have it under her control, England or France. For these reasons every victory that we gain in Spain will be an additional obstacle to peace with America, unless we set out by a frank and clear declaration, leaving South America to itself and the Floridas to the United States. Before I conclude, I beg leave to notice that part of the Speech, recently delivered by your Royal Highness's order to the two Houses of Parliament, wherein mention is made of the dispute with America. The part I allude to is this : , “His Royal “Highness has commanded us to assure “ you, that he views with most sincere “regret, the hostile ineasures which have “ been recently adopted by the Govern“ment of the United States of America “towards this country. His Royal High“ness is nevertheless willing to hope, that “ the accustomed relations of peace and “ amity between the two countries may yet * be restored; but if his expectations in “ this respect should be disappointed, by “ the conduct of the Government of the “ United States, or by their perseverance * in any unwarrantable pretensions, he “will most fully rely on the support of “every class of His Majesty's subjects, in * a contest in which the Honour of His “ Majesty's Crown, and the best interests * of his dominions, must be involved.” : This part of the Speech has been thought, and with reason, to augur war; for, I am not aware of “any pretension” of America that she will not “persevere” in. If pretensions to be put forward, to be now originated, had been spoken of, there might have been more room for doubt; but, in speaking of pretensions to be persevered in, the speech, necessarily refers to pretensions already put forward; and, I repeat, Sir,
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that I do not know of any pretension that America has put forward, in which I do not believe she will persevere, to do which the conduct of your Royal Highness's ministers is eminently calculated to give her encouragement. As to support from the people of England in a war against America, your Royal Highness will certainly have it, if the grounds of the war be clearly just; but, it would be very difficult for your ministers to make the people perceive, or believe, that the impressment of American seamen, any where, and especially in the very ships of America, was necessary “to the honour “of His Majesty's Crown, and involved “the best interests of his dominions.” The people have now seen all the predictions of the hireling prints, with regard to America, falsified; they have been told, that America could not support hersels for a year without England, and they have seen her do it for a year and a half, and at the end of that time declare war. They are not now to be persuaded that this government can do what it pleases with America. It has been stated, with an air of triumph, by the partisans of your ministers, that the Opposition are pledged to support a war against America, unless she is satisfied with the repeal of the Orders in Council. But, the people, Sir, have given no such pledge; the manufacturers have given no such pledge; and, the war will not be a jot the more popular on account of its having the support of that set of men who are called the Opposition, and for whom the people have no respect any more than they have for their opponents. The Orders in Council were a grievance to America, but not a greater grievance than the imprisonment and captivity of her citizens; not a greater grievance than to see her citizens dragged by force into a service which they abhor, on so many accounts, however pleasant and honourable it may be to our own countrymen. This grievance was known to exist; and, therefore, if the Opposition have given a pledge to support a war against America, unless she be satisfied with the repeal of the Orders in Council alone, they have given a pledge to do that in which they will not have the support of the people. I am one of those, Sir, who do not regard a great extension of trade as a benefit; but, those who do must lay their account with seeing much of our trade destroyed
Jor ever by a war with America. Three or four years of war, would compel her to become a manufacturing country to such an extent as never more to stand in need of English goods ; so that, if your Royal Highness's ministers do insist upon exercising the power of seizing people on board of American ships at sea, those persons who manufacture goods for America must seek another market, for that is closed against them for ever, For many years, Sir, there has existed in this country, a faction perfectly desperate in their HATRED OF FREEDOM. They not only hate all free nations, but they hate the very sound of the word freedom. I am well satisfied that persons of this description would gladly hear of the murder of every soul in America. There is nothing that they hate so much as a man who is not a slave, and who lives out of the reach of arbitrary power. These persons will be sorely grieved to see peace preserved between the two countries on terms honourable to America; but, I am, for my part, ready to confess, that with me it will be a subject of joy; I am ready to declare, that I see less reason than ever for an Englishman's wishing to see the people of America humbled or borne down; and that it will grieve me exceedingly to reflect that England is taxed, and that English blood is shedy for the purpose of enforcing the power to impress Aumerican seamen; but this mortification I shall, I trust, be spared by the humanity and wisdom of your Royal Highness. - I am, &c. &c.
- WM. COBBETT. Botley, Tuesday, 4th August, 1812.
suMMARY OF POLITICS.
NortherN WAR. The war now going on in the North of Europe has, to a great degree, eclipsed the war in the South, and for this reason, that it must be pretty evident, that, if Napoleon be successful in the former, he will finally be successful in the latter. The grounds of the war in the North are to be seen in the correspondence between the French and Russian ministers, already inserted in the Register. The sole cause is, in fact, a refusal on the part of the Czar to shut English commerce out of his dominions, which English commerce the Emperor of France is resolved shall be shut out of every spot to which his influence extends, as long as he is at war with England.—The progress of this
war will be hereafter more fully dwelt upon, but I cannot refrain from noticing here, that the first effect of it appears to have been the rescuing of Poland from a foreign yoke. This is what we did not expect to see in our day; but, we have seen many things that were unexpected; and we have many more yet to see. The motive of Napoleon in doing this good act may be questioned. By me it shall not, as
I do not care a straw for his motive. The Polanders are likely to become free. The cause of it. I care very little about. Our
hired news-papers are taking infinite pains to make their readers believe, that the campaign is going on exceedingly well; that the Russians are doing just what they intended to do; and that the French are falling into a trap. So they told us in wars which ended at Austerlitz, Wagram, Tilsit, and Berlin. Napoleon was, in all these cases, going on into a trap; and so, it seems, he is now. The Russians have, we are told, resolved to act upon the “defensive;” and, in pursuance of this resolution, they have already retreated before the French for nearly 200 miles, leaving not only the towns and the whole country to their pursuers, but also vast magazines of warlike stores and provisions. And this is called acting upon the defensive ( ; Now suppose that Napoleon were to land at Southampton, with a view of marching to London by the way of Basingstoke, and that our army stationed at Winchester were to make off a few hours before his arrival, and get to Basingstoke, before him, and thence to make off again at his approach, and so on, should we call this acting upon the defensive 2 What a set of impudent ruffians are the conductors of the English hired press : And what a shame is it to the nation, that these ruffians should find readers . The Russians, according to their own account, have run away at the approach of the French nearly 200 miles; they have left every thing in the hands of the enemy; they have not stopped to look him in the face; Napoleon pursues them as a hound pursues a hare; and yet these English hirelings have the audacity to tell the people of England, that the Russians are doing just what they ought to do, just what they intended to do, and that, while they are surrendering a whole kingdom into the hands of the French without firing a shot, they are acting upon the defensive: To defend a country means to keep an enemy out of it; to act upon the defensive, means to defend merely, and not to sally out to