Page images

From Mr. Madison, to Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney. De

partment of State, Dec. 3, 1806. GentleMEN,—The President having this day complied with the recommendation in your letter of September 11, by a special message to Congress, on the subject of the non-importation act of the last session, I lose not a moment in forwarding to Mr. Merry's care, the enclosed copy; hoping that it will either find him still at Alexaneria, or overtake him before the vessel gets out of reach. I remain, &c.


From Mr. Madison to Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney. De

partment of State, Dec. 6, 1806. GENTLEMEN, — The detention of the Leonidas enables me to enclose a copy of the bill, suspending the non-importation act of the last session, as it was passed by the House of Representatives, this day, with only five dissenting voices.

In the object, the house is supposed to have been unanimous, the difference of opinion being produced by a disagreement about the time to which the suspension should be limited. As the bill passed with unusual celerity, it is not improbable that the suspension may be further extend. 1 ed by the Senate, especially as a proposal 10 suspend, till the 30th December next, was lost, by a majority of sixty. to forty, in the house.

Enclosed I transinit a copy of the documents referred to in the President's message, respecting the approaches of the Spaniards upon the Orleans territory, and a few printed copies of the special message recommending a suspension of the non-importation law. I have the honour to be, &c.


From Mr. Madison to Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney. Dea

partment of State, Dec. 20, 1806. GENTLEMEN,—You will have seen by my letter of the 6th, which went by sundry other conveyances, that the bill suspending the non-importation act had passed the House of Representatives. I now enclose it in the form of a law, with an amendment, providing for a further suspension by the Executive, in case the state of things between the two countries should require it. In the Senate, the vote for the bill was unanimous. I add a continuation of the newspapers, and refer to them for the current information of a publick nature. I have the honour to be, &c.


From Mr. Madison to Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney. De

partment of State, Feb. 3, 1807. GENTLEMEN,—The triplicate of your communications of November 11th has just been received. Those of September 11th had been previously received in due time.

The turn which the negotiation has taken was not expected, and excites as much of regret as of disappoint. ment. The conciliatory spirit manifested on both sides, with the apparent consistency of the interest of Great Britain, with the right of the American flag, touching impressments, seemed to promise as much success to your efforts on that subject as on the others, and notwithstanding the perseverance of the British cabinet in resisting your reasonable propositions, the hope is not abandoned that a more enlightened and enlarged policy will finally overcome scruples which doubtless proceed more from habits of opinion, and official caution, than from an unbiassed regard to all the considerations which enter into the true merits of the question.

In the mean time, the President has, with all those friend. ly and conciliatory dispositions which produced your mission, and pervade your instructions, weighed the arrangement held out in your last letter, which contemplates a formal adjustment of the other topicks under discussion, and an informal understanding only on that of impressment. The result of his deliberations which I am now to state to you, is, that it does not comport with his views of the national sentiment or the legislative policy, that any treaty should be entered into with the British government which, whilst on every other point it is either limited to, or short of strict right, would include no article providing for a case which, both in principle and in practice, is so feel. ingly connected with the honour and sovereignty of the nation, as well as with its fair interests; and indeed with the peace of both nations. .

The President thinks it more eligible, under all circumstances, that if no satisfactory or formal stipulation on the subject of impressment be attainable, the negotiation should be made to terminate without any formal compact whatever; but with a mutual understanding, founded on friendly and liberal discussions and explanations, that in practice each party will entirely conform to what may be thus informally settled. And you are authorized, in case an arrangement of this kind shall be satisfactory in its substance, to give assurances that, as long as it shall be duly respected in practice by the other party, more particularly on the subjects of neutral trade and impressments, it will be earnestly and, probably, successfully recommended to Congress by the President, not to permit the nonimportation act to go into operation. You are also authorized to inform the British government that the Presia dent, adhering to the sentiments which led him to recommend to Congress at the commencement of the session a suspension of that act, and trusting to the influence of mutual dispositions and interests in giving an amicable issue to the negotiations, will, if no intervening intelligence for. bid, exercise the authority vested in him by the act of continuing its suspension from the 1st day of July to the time limited by the act, and which will afford to Congress, who will then be in session, the opportunity of making due provision for the case.

You will perceive that this explanation of the views of the President requires, that if, previous to the receipt of it, a treaty not including an article relating to impress. ments should have been concluded, and be on the way, ihe British commissioners should be candidly apprized of the reason for not expecting its ratification; and that on this ground they be invited to enter anew on the business,

YOL, yn

with an eye to such a result as has just been explained and authorized.

Having thus communicated the outline assigned by the President as your guide in the important and delicate task on your hands, I proceed to make a few observations which are suggested by the contents of your last despatches, and which may be of use in your further discussions and your final arrangements.

Impressments. The British government is under an egregious mistake in supposing that “no recent causes of complaint have occurred," on this subject. How far the language of Mr. Lyman's books may countenance this errour, I cannot say, but I think it probable that, even there, the means of correcting it may be found.'

In the American seas, including the West Indies, the impressments have, perhaps, at no time been more numerous or vexatious. It is equally a mistake therefore to suppose “ that no probable inconvenience can result from the postponement of an article” for this case.

The remedy proposed in the note from the British commissioners, however well intended, does not inspire the confidence here which gave it so much value in their judg. ment. They see the favourable side only of the character of their naval commanders. The spirit which vexes neutrals in their maritime rights is fully understood by neutrals only. The habits generated by naval command, and the interest which is felt in the abuse of it, both as respects captures and impressments, render inadequate every provision which does not put an end to all discretionary power in the commanders. As long as the British navy has so complete an ascendency on the high seas, its commanders have not only an interest in violating the rights of neutrals within the limits of neutral patience, especially of those whose commerce and mariners are unguarded by fleets, they feel moreover the strongest temptation, as is well known from the occasional language of some of them, to covet the full range for spoliation opened by a state of war. The rich harvest promised by the commerce of the United States, gives to this cupidity all its force. Whatever general injuries might accrue to their nation, or whatever surplus of reprisals might result to American cruisers, the fortunes of British cruisers would not be the less certain in the event of hostilities between the two nations.

Whilst all these considerations require in our behalf the most precise and peremptory security against the propensities of British naval commanders, and on the tender subject of impressment more than any other, it is impossible to find equivalent or even important motives on the British side for declining such a security. The proposition which you have made, aided by the internal regulations which the British government is always free to make, closes all the considerable avenues thrcugh which its seamen can find their way into our service. The only loss consequently which could remain, would be in the number at present in this service, with a deduction of those who might from time to time voluntarily leave it, or be found within the limits of Great Britain, or of her possessions : and in the proportion of this reduced number who might otherwise be gained by impressment. The smallness of this loss appears from the annual amount of impressments, which has not exceeded a few hundred British seamen ; the great mass consisting of real Americans, and of subjects of other neutral powers. And even from the few British seamen ought to be deducted those impressed within neutral ports, where it is agreed that the proceeding is clearly unlawful.

Under this view of the subject, the sacrifice which Great Britain would make, dwindles to the merest trifle ; or rather there is just reason to believe, that, instead of a loss, she would find an actual gain, in the excess of the deserters who would be surrendered by the United States, over the number actually recoverable by impressment.

In practice, therefore, Great Britain would make no sacrifice by acceding to our terms; and her principle, if not expressly saved by a recital, as it casily might be, would in effect be so by the tenour of the arrangement; inasmuch as she would obtain for her forbearance to exercise what she deems a right, a right to measures on our part, which we have a right to refuse; she would, consequently, merely exchange one right for another; she would also, by such a forbearance, violate no personal right of individuals under her protection. The United States, on the other hand, in yielding to the claims of

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »