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quested to inform this house whether the minister of France, near the United States, ever informed this government of the existence of the said decree of the 28th of April, 1813, and to lay before the house any correspondence that may have taken place with the said minister relative thereto, which the president may not think improper to be communicated.
Resolved, That the president of the United States be requested to communicate to this house any other information which may be in his possession, and which' he may not deem it injurious to the public interest to disclose, relative to the said decree of the 28th of April, 1811, and tending to show at what time, by whom, and in what manner, the said decree was first made known to this government, or to any of its representatives or agents.
Resolved, That the president be requested, in case the fact be that the first information of the existence of said decree of the 28th of April, 1811, ever received by this government or any of its ministers or agents, was that communicated in May, 1812, by the duke of Bassano to Mr. Barlow, and by him to his government, as mentioned in his letter to the secretary of state of May 12, 1812, and the accompanying papers, to inform this house whether the government of the United States hath ever required from that of France, any explanation of the reasons of that decree being concealed from this government and its ministers for so long a time after its date ; and if such explanation has been asked by this government, and has been omitted to be given by that of France, whether this government has made any remonstrance, or expressed any dissatisfaction to the government of France, at such concealment.
§ 2. On the 16th, at the instance of Mr. Webster, the house proceeded to the consideration of his resolutions.
In the debate that arose out of this subject, a very extensive range was taken on both sides of the house. The opponents the resolutions objected principally to the novelty of their form, which they contended was disrespectful and unprecedented in such cases,
An amendment was proposed, calling for information generally on the subject.
This amendment, however, was withdrawn on its being stated, that a similar call had been made at the end of last session, the answer to which consisted merely of extracts of letters from Mr. Barlow, without any explanation or declaration on the part of the executive, in one of which it was expressly said, that the duke of Bassano stated that the repealing decree had been communicated to our government through two channels, at as early a date as May, 1811.
If this decree, it was contended, had been made known to the British government at the time it was issued, the orders in council would have been repealed, and we should have avoided the ruinous war under which we are now suffering. The declaration of the duke of Bassano, then, affixes a serious charge on the American government, which well merited an examination of the grounds whereon it rested. Either our government was guilty of concealing the decree, or the French government was guilty of the concealment, with the full addition of duplicity and falsehood. It was to arrive at truth in relation to this dark and mysterious transaction, that these resolutions were offered.
For the purpose of showing that the concealment of this decree had brought on the war with England, a view was taken of the course pursued by the American government in relation to the belligerents after the abandonment of the embargo. The report of the committee of foreign relations of November, 1808, and the non-intercourse law of 1809, were cited to show the intentions of government, and their opinion that, while the decrees of both belligerents were in force, neither nation could, with honour and justice, be selected for hostility.
The non-intercourse law contained a provision, that if France or England should so far repeal or modify her edicts, as that they should cease to violate our neutral rights, the fact should be proclaimed by the president, and the act was to cease as to that nation. This provision, it was contended, had been taken advantage.of by Bonaparte, for the purpose of shamefully duping the president. By the law, the president was bound not to issue his proclamation until France should have in good faith repealed or modified her decrees. But he waited for no such repeal or modification. In the language of Mr. Russell, then our minister in France, the president was shuffled into the lead, where national honour and the law required him to follow." Το prove
the correctness of the assertion of Mr. Russell, an order of the French government to the council of prizes, and the French repealing decree of April, 1811, were read as follows :
“ In consequence of this engagement entered into by the government of the United States to cause their rights to be respected, his majesty orders that all causes that may be pending in the council of prizes, of captures of American vessels, made after the 1st of November, and those that may in future be brought before it, shall not be judged according to the principles of the decrees of Berlin and Milan, but that they shall remain suspended; the vessels captured and seized to remain only in a state
of sequestration, until the 2d of February next, the period at which the United States having fulfilled the engagement to cause their rights to be respected, the said captures shall be declared null by the council, and the American vessels restored, together with their cargoes, to their proprietors.”
Palace of St. Cloud, 28th April, 1811. Napoleon, emperor of the French, &c. On the report of our minister of foreign relations:
Seeing, by a law passed on the 2d of March, 1811, the congress of the United States has ordered the execution of the provisions of the act of non-intercourse, which prohibits the vessels and merchandize of Great Britain, her colonies and dependencies, from entering into the ports of the United States:
Considering that the said law is an act of resistance to the arbitrary pretensions consecrated by the British orders in council, and a formal refusal to adhere to a system invading the independence of neutral powers and of their flag; we have ordered and decreed as follows:
The decrees of Berlin and Milan are definitively, and to date from the 1st November last, considered as not existing in regard to American vessels. (Signed)
NAPOLEON. By the emperor, the minister secretary of state. (Signed)
THE COUNT DARA. The conclusion drawn from these acts of the French government was, that if the decree had been made known to congress in the spring of 1811, the war would have been prevented, as it would have clearly shown that the president had issued his proclamation on false grounds, being required by law to be consequent and not precedent of the French repeal, and that thereby congress would have been forced to retrace its steps, and, agreeably to the intent of the law, again place the belligerents on an equal footing
But, even supposing that had not been the case, it was urged, is there not every reason to believe, that if the French repealing decree had been made known to England, she would have modified her orders in council, and continued peace would have been the consequence, as it was preposterous to pretend that war would have been declared had the orders been revoked? Impressment, though always a subject of difference between the two nations, had never been by our government for a moment considered as sufficient cause of war. VOL. I. PART I.
In support of the opinion that if the French decree had been known in England, the orders would have been repealed, quotations were made from the correspondence with Mr. Foster ; and though it was admitted that some paragraphs of the letters, abstracted from the residue, appeared to assert the contrary, even these, it was averred, are allowed by Mr. Monroe himself to be equivocal, and when viewed as a whole, that appearance would vanish. In the last letter which he wrote to Mr. Monroe, only four days before the final passage of the act declaring war, he avers that his preceding letters had been misunderstood and misconstrued, and finally declares-" I will now say, that I feel entirely authorized to assure you, that if you can at any time produce a full and unconditional repeal of the French decrees, as you have a right to demand it in your character of a neutral nation, and that it be disengaged from any connection with the question concerning our maritime rights, we shall be ready to meet you with a revocation of the orders in council.”
The order of revocation of the 23d of June, 1812, was likewise quoted in support of this opinion.
“And whereas the charge des affaires of the United States of America, resident at this court, did, on the 20th day of May last, transmit to lord viscount Castlereagh, one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state, a copy of a certain instrument, then for the first time communicated to this court, purporting to be a decree passed by the government of France on the 28th day of April, by which the decrees of Berlin and Milan are declared to be definitively no longer in force in regard to Ameri
The order then states, that although the “ tenor of said instrument” does not satisfy the conditions of his former declaration, yet, wishing to re-establish the intercourse between neutral and belligerent nations, he " therefore is pleased” to revoke his order's so far as they relate to American vessels and property. The prince regent does here expressly aver, that his revocation is founded on the French repealing decree.
The enquiries in the house of commons, it was averred, had no decisive effect in producing the revocation, for the pressure had been long felt by the people, and long known to the government; the loud clamours of the people had long been heard without the slightest effect. The delay of thirty-three days by the British in issuing their decree of revocation, was easily accounted for by the ministerial interregnum, which ensued on the murder of Perceval.
If the war would have been averted by the publication of the repealing decree at the time of its date, is it not, it was d, ef the utmost importance for congress to know who was charge
able with the guilt of suppressing it? And was it not the duty of every member of the house, and above all the friends of the administration, to afford the executive an opportunity to hurl back on the French government the imputation which it had thus cast on its character?
Mr. Grosvenor, one of the principal advocates of the resolutions in the original form, thus concluded his speech. “There are thousands and hundreds of thousands of this people, who do believe that your councils are contaminated by the influence and guided by the hand of France. For a series of vears they have beheld, or they think they have beheld, the hand of the despot in our affairs. They have seen, or they think they have seen, their government the unresisting dupe of French intrigue, the tame object of French insult and injury. If it so please you, call these men tories--call them the friends of England_call them the victims of delusion-call them what you will, still,
you “can rail their judgments from their minds," or until your councils change, such will continue their honest belief. By rejecting these resolutions you fix their opinions for ever. If they are deluded, you establish their delusion beyond the possibility of removal. On the other hand, if you pass these resolutions, and if, in consequence thereof, the president shall dissolve the darkness, shall step forth to the public pure and unspotted ; if he shall evince that he has felt and acted as it became the chief of a high minded and free people ; if he has repelled and resented the base imputation, happy, beyond measure happy will be the consequences of this proceeding.
On my conscience, I believe it will go farther to destroy all suspicion of French influence, it will go farther to restore confidence to the executive, than any other mean that could have been selected.”
The speakers on the other side of the house contended that these arguments were totally irrelevant. France and Great Britain, it was stated, after having carried on the present war for several years with all the rancour the human mind is susceptible of each struggling for the destruction of the other found their efforts unavailing by the ordinary course of warfare. France, inflated with, and wielding a power on the continent rarely witnessed, had been unable to conquer Great Britain by the direct operations of war: Great Britain, powerful on the ocean beyond all example, had been unable to bring France to terms by the ordinary course of war upon her ships, colonies, and commerce. In this state of things, they seem to have determined respectively that every thing should vield to their views of mutual destruction and self aggrandizement; that