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treaty returned from America, having ceased by the termination of the discussion between Mr. Monroe and myself, respecting the encounter between the Leopard and the Chesapeake, I have now the honour to transmit to you the answer which I have been commanded by his majesty to return to your note of the 24th of July. I have the honour to be, &c. GEORGE CANNING. Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney, &c. &c. &c.
THE undersigned, his majesty's principal secretary of state for foreign affairs, in returning an answer to the official note, with which Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney have accompanied their communication of the copy of the treaty, which has been sent back unratified from America, is commanded, in the first place, to inform the American commissioners, that his majesty cannot profess himself to be satisfied that the American government has taken any such effectual steps with respect to the decree of France, by which the whole of his majesty's dominions are declared in a state of blockade, as to do away the ground of that reservation which was contained in the note delivered by his majesty's commissioners at the time of the signature of the treaty; but that, reserving to himself the right of taking, in consequence of that decree, and of the omission of any effectual interposition on the part of neutral nations to obtain its revocation, such measures of retaliation as his majesty might judge expedient, it was nevertheless the desire and determination of his majesty, if the treaty had been sanctioned by the ratification of the President of the United States, to have ratified it on his majesty's part, and to have given the fullest extent to all its stipulations.
Some of the considerations upon which the refusal of the President of the United States to ratify the treaty is founded, are such as can be matter of discussion only between the American government and its commissioners: since it is not for his majesty to inquire whether, in the conduct of this negotiation, the commissioners of the United States. have failed to conform themselves, in any respect, to the instructions of their government.
In order to determine the course which his majesty has to pursue in the present stage of the transaction, it is sufficient that the treaty was considered by those who signed it as a complete and perfect instrument. No engagements were entered into on the part of his majesty as connected with the treaty, except such as appear upon the face of it. Whatever encouragement may have been given by his majesty's commissioners to the hope expressed by the commissioners of the United States, that discussions might thereafter be entertained with respect to the impressment of British scamen from merchant vessels, must be understood to have had in view the renewal of such discussions, not as forming any part of the treaty then signed, (as the American commissioners appear to have been instructed to assume) but separately, and at some subsequent period more favourable to their successful termination.
But the alterations proposed by the President of the United States in the body of the treaty, thus formally concluded, appear to require more particular observation.
The undersigned is commanded distinctly to protest against a practice, altogether unusual in the political transactions of states, by which the American government assumes to itself the privilege of revising and altering agreements concluded and signed on its behalf by its agents duly authorized for that purpose, of retaining so much of those agreements as may be favourable to its own views, and of rejecting such stipulations, or such parts of stipulations, as are conceived to be not sufficiently beneficial to America.
If the American government has a right to exercise such a revision, an equal right cannot be denied to others; and it is obvious, that the adoption of such a practice by both parties to a treaty would tend to render negotiation indefinite, and settlement hopeless, or rather, to supersede altogether the practice of negotiation through authorized commissioners, and to make every article of a compact, between state and state, the subject of repeated reference, and of endless discussion. The alteration of particular articles in a treaty, after the whole has been carefully adjusted and arranged, must necessarily open the whole to renewed deliberation. The demands of one party are not to be considered as absolute, nor the concessions of the other as unconditional.
What may have been given on the one hand in consideration of advantage to be derived, in return, from accompanying stipulations, might have been refused, if those stipulations had been less favourable, and must necessarily be withdrawn, if they are changed.
It cannot be admitted that any government should hold those with whom it treats to all that has been granted by them in its favour, relaxing at the same time, on its part, the reciprocal conditions for which its own faith has been engaged, or that, after having obtained by negotiation a knowledge of the utmost extent of concession to which the other contracting party is prepared to consent in the conclusion of a treaty, it should require yet farther concession, without equivalent, as the price of its ratification.
The undersigned is, therefore, commanded to apprize the American commissioners, that, although his majesty will be at all times ready to listen to any suggestions for arranging, in an amicable and advantageous manner, the respective interests of the two countries, the proposal of the President of the United States for proceeding to negotiate anew, upon the basis of a treaty already solemnly concluded and signed, is a proposal wholly inadmissible. And his majesty has, therefore, no option, under the present circumstances of this transaction, but to acquiesce in the refusal of the President of the United States to ratify the treaty signed on the 31st of December, 1806.
The undersigned requests Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney to accept the assurances of his high consideration. GEORGE CANNING.
Letter from Mr. Monroe to the Secretary of State. Richmond, Feb. 28, 1808.
SIR,-It appears by your letter of May 20th, 1807, which was forwarded by Mr. Purviance to Mr. Pinkney and myself, at London, and received on the 16th July, that you had construed several articles of the treaty, which we had signed with the British commissioners, on the 31st of December, 1806, in a different sense from that in which they were conceived by us. As the course we were instructed to pursue, by your letter of February 3d, with regard to that treaty, which was confirmed in that of May 20th,
was in no degree dependent on our construction of any of its articles, or on the political considerations which induced us to sign it, we deemed it unnecessary to enter into any explanation in reply, either of our construction of its articles, or of the political considerations alluded to. We thought it more consistent with our duty to look solely to the object of our instructions, and to exert our utmost efforts to accomplish it; and we acted in conformity to that sentiment. The result of those efforts was made known by the documents which I had the honour to present to you, when I was lately at Washington, being copies of a joint despatch, which Mr. Pinkney and I had forwarded by Mr. Rose. We had flattered ourselves, that it might have been practicable to obtain the amendments of the treaty which the President desired, as the state of affairs in Europe had become more favourable to such a result; but in that we were disappointed. We found no difficulty in accomplishing the other object, of setting it aside, as we were instructed to do, in case the proposed amendments were not acceded to.
At this time there is no objection to such an explanation, that I am aware of, and there are many reasons why it should be given. You will be sensible that, so far as an unfavourable estimate is entertained of that transaction, it must, in the degree, tend to injure those who gave it the sanction of their names; and you will be equally sensible that, if the United States are in any degree interested in it, at this time, it must consist in its being viewed in a just, rather than an unfavourable light. In retiring from the station which I have lately held, this is the last act of publick and private duty, which I have to perform in relation to it. It is to me, in many views, a painful duty, but still it is one which it is highly incumbent on me to
It is far from being my desire to compromit Mr. Pinkney, in this letter, in the slightest circumstance. In the management of the business which was entrusted to us jointly, we acted with the greatest harmony, and exerted our best efforts to accomplish the object of our instructions. I am not aware that, in speaking of any part of the treaty, I shall give it a construction in which he would not concur; but that presumption is founded altogether on what took place between us in the, course of the negotiation. To
this communication he is not a party, nor indeed does he know that such a one will be made. In every view, therefore, it is improper, and would be unjust, that he should be considered as having any concern in it.
The impressment of seamen from our merchant vessels is a topick which claims a primary attention, from the order which it holds in your letter, but more especially from some important considerations that are connected with it. The idea entertained by the publick is, that the rights of the United States were abandoned by the American commissioners in the late negotiation, and that their seamen were left by tacit acquiescence, if not by formal renunciation, to depend, for their safety, on the mercy of the British cruisers. I have, on the contrary, always believed, and still do believe, that the ground on which that interest was placed by the paper of the British commissioners of November 8, 1806, and the explanations which accompanied it, was both honourable and advantageous to the United States; that it contained a concession in their favour, on the part of Great Britain, on the great principle in contestation, never before made by a formal and obligatory act of the government, which was highly favourable to their interest; and that it also imposed on her the obligation to conform her practice under it, till a more complete arrangement should be concluded, to the just claims of the United States. To place this transaction in its true light, and to do justice to the conduct of the American commissioners, it will be necessary to enter at some length into the subject.
The British paper states that the king was not prepared to disclaim or derogate from a right on which the security of the British navy might essentially depend, especially in a conjuncture when he was engaged in wars which enforced the necessity of the most vigilant attention to the preservation and supply of his naval force; that he had directed his commissioners to give to the commissioners of the United States the most positive assurances that instructions had been given, and should be repeated and enforced, to observe the greatest caution in the impressing of British seamen, to preserve the citizens of the United States from molestation or injury, and that immediate and prompt redress should be afforded on any representation of injury sustained by them. It then proposes to postpone the arti