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Translation of a Letter from M. Champagny to General Armstrong. Paris, Jan. 15, 1808.
SIR, The different notes which you have done me the honour to address to me, have been laid before his majesty. The proceedings of England towards all governments are so contrary to the law of nations, and to all the rules constantly observed, even among enemies, that no recourse against this power is any longer to be found in the ordinary means of repression. In order to annoy her, it is become necessary to turn against her the arms which she makes use of herself; and if transient inconveniences result therefrom, it is to her alone they are to be imputed. Since England respects no laws, how could they be respected with regard to her? The maritime laws which she violates, ought they still to be a protection to her? And if some powers tolerate the infractions committed on their independence, could they have the right to require, that France alone should restrain herself within limits which her enemy has every where overleaped?
The United States, more than any other power, have to complain of the aggressions of England. It has not been. enough for her to offend against the independence of her flag, nay, against that of their territory, and of their inhabitants, by attacking them even in their ports, by forcibly carrying away their crews; her decrees of the 11th November have made a fresh attack on their commerce, and on their navigation, as they have done on those of all other powers.
In the situation in which England has placed the continent, especially since her decrees of the 11th of November, his majesty has no doubt of a declaration of war against her by the United States. Whatever transient sacrifices. war may occasion, they will not believe it consistent either with their interest or dignity to acknowledge the monstrous principle, and the anarchy which that government wishes to establish on the seas. If it be useful and honourable for all nations to cause the true maritime law of nations to be re-established, and to avenge the insults committed by England against every flag, it is indispensable for the United States, who, from the extent of their commerce, have oftener to complain of those violations. War exists, then,
in fact, between England and the United States; and his majesty considers it as declared from the day on which England published her decrees. In that persuasion, his majesty, ready to consider the United States as associated with the cause of all the powers, who have to defend themselves against England, has not taken any definitive measure towards the American vessels which may have been brought into our ports. He has ordered that they should remain sequestered, until a decision may be had thereon, according to the dispositions which shall have been expressed by the government of the United States.
OF THE COMMITTEE TO WHOM WAS REFERRED THE CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN MR. MONROE AND MR. CANNING, &c. &c. &c. IN SENATE, APRIL 16, 1808.
MR. ANDERSON, from the committee to whom was referred, on the 4th instant, the correspondence between Mr. Monroe and Mr. Canning, and between Mr. Madison and Mr. Rose, relative to the attack made upon the frigate Chesapeake, by the British ship of war Leopard ; and also the communications made to the Senate, by the President of the United States, on the 30th day of March last, containing a letter from Mr. Erskine to the Secretary of State, and a letter from M. Champagny to general Armstrong, reported :
That on a review of the several orders, decrees, and decisions of Great Britain and France, within the period of the existing war, it appears, that previous to the measures referred to in the letters from Mr. Erskine to the Secretary of State, and from M. Champagny to general Armstrong, various and heavy injuries have been committed against the neutral commerce and navigation of the United States, under the following heads:
1st. The British order of June, 1803, unlawfully restricting the trade of the United States, with a certain portion of the unblockaded ports of her enemies, and con
demning vessels with innocent cargoes, on a return from ports where they had deposited contraband articles.
2d. The capture and condemnation, in the British courts of admiralty, of American property, on a pretended principle, debarring neutral nations from a trade with the enemies of Great Britain, interdicted in time of peace. The injuries suffered by the citizens of the United States, on this head, arose, not from any publick order of the British council, but from a variation in the principle, upon which the courts of admiralty pronounced their decisions. These decisions have indeed again varied, without any new orders of council being issued; and in the higher courts of admiralty, some of the decisions which had formed the greatest cause for complaint, have been reversed, and the property restored. There still remains, however, a heavy claim of indemnity for confiscations, which were made during the period of these unwarrantable decisions, and for which all negotiation has hitherto proved unavailing.
3d. Blockades notified to the minister of the United States at London, and thence made a ground of capture, against the trade of the United States, in entire disregard of the law of nations, and even of the definition of legal blockades, laid down by the British government itself. Examples of these illegitimate blockades will be found in the notifications of the blockade of May 16th, 1806, of the coast from the river Elbe to Brest inclusive-blockade of 11th May, 1807, expounded 19th June, 1807, of the Elbe, Weser, and Ems, and the coast between the same-blockade 11th May, 1807, of the Dardanelles and Smyrnablockade of 8th January, 1808, of Carthagena, Cadiz, and St. Lucar, and of all the intermediate ports between Carthagena and St. Lucar, comprehending a much greater extent of coast than the whole British navy could blockade, according to the established law of nations.
4th. To these injuries immediately authorized by the British government, might be added other spurious blockades by British naval commanders, particularly that of the island of Curracoa, which for a very considerable period, was made a pretext for very extensive spoliations on the commerce of the United States.
5th. The British proclamation of October last, which makes it the duty of the British officers to impress from American merchant vessels, all such of their crews as
might be taken or mistaken for British subjects-those officers being the sole and absolute judges in the case.
For the decrees and acts of the French government, violating the maritime law of nations, in respect to the United States, the committee refer to the instances contained in the report of the Secretary of State, January 25th, 1806, to the Senate, in one of which, viz. a decree of the French general Ferrand, at St. Domingo, are regulations sensibly affecting the neutral and commercial rights of the United States.
The French act next in order of time is the decree of November 21, 1806-declaring the British isles in a state of blockade, and professing to be a retaliation, on antecedent proceedings of Great Britain, violating the law of nations.
This decree was followed, first by the British order of January, 1807, professing to be a retaliation on that decree, and subjecting to capture the trade of the United States, from the port of one belligerent, to a port of another; and secondly, by the orders of November last, professing to be a further retaliation on the same decree, and prohibiting the commerce of neutrals, with the enemies of Great Britain, as explained in the aforesaid letter of Mr. Erskine.
These last British orders again, have been followed by the French decree of December 17th, purporting to be a retaliation on the said orders, and to be put in force against the commerce of the United States, as stated in the aforesaid letter of M. Champagny.
The committee forbear to enter into a comparative view of those proceedings, of the different belligerent powers, deeming it sufficient to present the materials, from which it may be formed. They think it their duty, nevertheless, to offer the following remarks, suggested by a collective view of the whole.
The injury and dangers resulting to the commerce of the United States, from the cause and increase of these belligerent measures, and from similar ones adopted by other nations, were such as first to induce the more circumspect of our merchants and ship owners, no longer to commit their property to the high seas, and at length to impose on Congress the indispensable duty of interposing
some legislative provision, for such an unexampled state of things.
Among other expedients out of which a choice was to be made, may be reckoned—
1st. A protection of commerce by ships of war. 2d. A protection of it by self armed vessels. 3d. A war of offence as well as of defence. 4th. A general suspension of foreign commerce. 5th. An embargo on our vessels, mariners and merchandise.
This last was adopted, and the policy of it was enforced, at the particular moment, by accounts quickly after confirmed, of the British orders of November, and by the probability that these would be followed, as has also happened, by an invigorated spirit of retaliation, in other belligerent powers. The happy effect of the precaution is demonstrated by the well known fact, that the ports of Europe. are crowded with captured vessels of the United States, unfortunately not within the reach of the precaution.
With respect to a protection of our commerce by ships of war, it must be obviously impracticable, in any material degree, without a lapse of time, and an expense which amounts to a prohibition of that resort; besides that it would necessarily involve hostile collisions with one or more of the belligerent powers.
Self armed merchantmen would have the same tendency, at the same time, that they would be utterly inadequate to a security against the multiplied fleets and cruisers to be encountered.
An entire suspension of foreign commerce, as the resort in the first instance, would evidently have produced some inconveniences, not incident to the embargo, as it was modified. But the committee do not suppress their opinion, that after a reasonable time, it may not improperly take the place of the embargo; in case of a protracted adherence of the belligerent powers, to their destructive proceedings against our neutral commerce.
With respect to a resort to war, as a remedy for the evils experienced, the committee will offer no other reflection, than that it is in itself so great an evil, that the United States have wisely considered peace and honest neutrality, as the best foundation of their general policy. It is not for the committee to say under what degree of aggravated in