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The immense debt of Great Britain, and the ex. penses of a war carried on for nearly twenty years with hardly any intermission, having exhausted the ordinary sources of her riches, while the war continued to rage with greater fury than ever, she found herself compelled to create new resources to enable her to persevere in the arduous struggle in which she was engaged. For this purpose the rights of neutral nations, founded on the principles of natural equity, established for many ages by the unanimous consent of civilized nations, and secured by the faith of a long succession of treaties, were openly violated by the English government, which, prompted by its inordinate ambition, wished to appropriate to itself the lives and fortunes of their peaceable citizens. To accomplish this purpose, it became necessary to set aside those principles which, until then, had been universally acknowledged, and to substitute new political axioms in their stead. By the mere arbitrary declaration of the British cabinet, the right of blockade was extended over the most extensive coasts, which all the maritime power of the world combined
could not have blockaded with effect.* The obsolete right of searching neutral ships for enemy's property, this absurd remnant of the barbarous jurisprudence of the dark ages, justly rejected by the more enlightened policy of later times, was revived and enforced with in
* The pretended right of blockade never appeared in so ridiculous a light as immediately after the departure of the emperor Napoleon from the island of Elba. It was then strongly surmised, and not without some probability, that the British government had connived at his escape, and to refute this charge, lord Liverpool was compelled to declare in the house of lords, on the 7th of April, 1815, (see the newspapers of the times) that the whole British navy would be insufficient to blockade the island of Elba; it is true, he added the qualifying sentence: so as to prevent the escape of an individual who chose to leave it. But when we consider the manner in which Napoleon sailed from that island, with several armed vessels, and a considerable body of troops, who will not laugh at the blockading pretensions of Great Britain, if it is true, as lord Liverpool clearly meant to intimate, that the whole British navy was insufficient to prevent such an escape from a small island?
Mathematical truth is not to be looked for in the speeches of British ministers; the blockade of the port of Rochefort by a single squadron, which afterwards so effectually prevented the same individual from escaping, even in an open boal, is an incontestible proof of lord Liverpool's exaggeration; but it is not the less true, that his assertion, exaggerated as it is, will ever remain the most cutting satire against the absurd claims of his government on the subject of blockade.
creased severity, and the right of pressing seamen on board of neutral vessels was claimed as a consequence of the same principle, while, by a further extension of the rights of belligerents, the trade of neutrals with the colonial possession of enemies, was at times entirely prohibited, and at others partially tolerated, by decrees which the belligerent government could construe at pleasure, and which only served to allure the unwary, and secure a certain prey to the hungry swarm of British cruisers. Thus the plunder of neutrals, and the impressment of their seamen, were erected into a system, the true principles of which could only be discovered from its effects.
The United States of America, whose industrious citizens carried on a regular and immense commerce with all the nations of the globe, which had long excited the jealousy of their powerful rival, experienced more than any other nation the pernicious effects of the new system, conceived and executed by this overbearing state; and indeed it appeared to have been established principally with a view to check their commercial pursuits. The American vessels were plundered, detained, or confiscated. The mariners were impressed upon the most frivolous pretences, put on board the ships of war of His Britannic majesty, and subjected to the most rigorous treatment, in order to compel them to shed their blood in a cause in which they were not interested. On the high seas, in neutral har. bours, upon the coasts, and even in the waters exclu. sively subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, the American seamen were seized by the petty offi. cers of the British navy, who constituted themselves judges, de facto, of the most sacred prerogatives of man, and from the mere similarity of names, or, as their caprice dictated, transformed a free citizen into a slave, without regard to the place of his birth, or to the natural and unalienable right, that all men have to choose their country. The sacred flag of the government itself was no longer a sufficient protection; the sanctuary of a ship of war was violated-freemen were dragged by force and carried away, in savage triumph, from an American frigate sailing quietly, in the midst of a profound peace;—the most ignominious punishmentBut I forbear.--This unheard of outrage, which then, for the first time, astonished the world, has been since sufficiently avenged.
The American government at first only opposed to these enormous violations of the law of nations mild and conciliating representations, and pacific measures, which produced only some partial and momentary disavowals and reparations. With the humane view of saving the country from the horrors of war, and in hopes of inducing England to adopt principles of equity and moderation, by making her government perceive
that the people of America would never submit to measures so tyrannical and degrading, the national legis. lature resolved to interdict every sort of foreign commerce, and laid an embargo on all the ports of the United States.
This measure received the approbation of the whole nation. The citizens no longer deceived themselves with respect to the views and motives of the Bri. tish government. They preferred submitting for a time to the inconveniences which the stagnation of commerce would naturally produce, to seeing their country exposed to endless humiliations, or compelled to engage in a war, the effects of which could not be calculated. For it was believed by many, that the constitution of the United States was only suited for a state of peace, and that war would infallibly produce a dissolution of the union. These considerations were weighty, and might well induce a nation to pause before it involved itself in a contest which seemed to threaten such a fatal issue.--The embargo was then a wise measure, as there appeared no alternative between it and war. Indeed it is probable that if it had been continued, we might have avoided a recourse to arms, and compelled Great Britain to return to the practice, if not to the principles of justice.
But it was not so ordered, and after little more than one year the embargo was removed. Let us throw 2