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Mr. Canning to Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney. Foreign
- Office, October 17, 1807. GENTLEMEN,— The mutual understanding, by which, on the receipt of the first accounts of the unfortunate encounter between the Leopard and the Chesapeake; we agreed to confine our official discussions to that single subject, antil it should be finally adjusted, has alone prevented me from returning long ago an official answer to your note of the 24th of July.
The nature of Mr. Monroe's instructions has unfortu. nately precluded that settlement which his majesty's government so anxiously desired, of the question respecting the Chesapeake by negotiation between that gentleman and myself. But that question being now put into a train of separate adjustment, by the appointment of a minister on the part of his majesty to proceed to America for that special purpose, and the return of Mr. Monroe to America making it necessary that you should be apprized of the sentiments of his majesty's government, as to the state in which the treaty signed by you and his majesty's commissioners, on the 31st of December last, is left by the refusal of the President of the United States to ratify that instrument, I have to request a conference with you for that purpose, previous to Mr. Monroe's departure. I have the honour to be, &c.
Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney to Mr. Canning. London,
October 18, 1807. Sir, In our interview of yesterday you requested that we would explain the ground of the opinion which is expressed in our letter to you of July 24, that the occasion which induced the British commissioners to present to us the note of the 31st of December preceding, had ceased to exist. We hasten to comply with that request, as we shall do to give an explanation of any other passage in that letter which you may desire. We were of opinion, at the time when the British commissioners presented to ns that paper, that the decree of the government of
France, to which it related, ought not to be considered applicable to the United States, because such a construction was plainly repugnant to the treaty subsisting between the United States and France, and likewise because the decree might be understood to relate only to France, and the dominions subject to her arms. We alluded, how. ever, in our letter of July 24, to circumstances which bad occurred since the date of the decree, as fixing unequivocally an interpretation of it which we at first supposed to be reasonable.
Great anxiety having been excited by a different construction, which many believed the decree to be susceptible of, the minister of the United States at Paris requested of the minister of marine, who was charged with its execution, an explanation of the sense in which it was understood by his government, who assured him that it was not intended that it should in any degree interfere with the provisions of the treaty of 1800, between the United States and France.
We relied also upon the fact, not only that no countenance had been given by any practice or judicial decision in France to a different construction, but that the practice was in precise conformity with the view above suggested ; and that in a cause, in which the question had been formally brought into discussion, the court had sanctioned the conclusion, that the treaty between the two nations was to be exactly fulfilled, and that the decree was to be so construed as not to infringe it.
We think it proper to confine ourselves to the explanation which you have desired of the passage alluded io in our former letter, and not to enter in this communication, in any other respect, on the subject of the paper with which it is unnected. We have the hononr to be, &c.
Mr. Canning to Messrs. Monroe and Pinkney. Foreign
Office, Oct. 22, 1307. GENTLEMEN,—The considerations which have hither. to suspended our communication on the subject of the 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 declar· ed 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 praciice, 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 partics 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 considcration 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.
Letter from Mr. Monroe to the Secretary of State. Rich
mond, Feb. 28, 1908. 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 bad 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 2012,