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only, and disclaimed, as it was my duty to do, all authority to say more upon the nature and origin of the embargo, than I had some time before communicated to you, in obedience to the orders of the President. The purpose of my observations was chiefly to show that there was no inducement for embarking in formal discussions upon this point; and I assured you that it was not in my power, either as respected instructions from my government, or knowledge of facts to do so. My opinion was, and I spoke accordingly, that it was one of those questions which might be left completely at rest, without the least injury to the wisdom or the justice of our conclusions, upon the great object of our conferences. There could be no objection, however, to my giving you on this head, such conjectural information as I was able. On the contrary, by fully disclosing to you my own materials for forming an opinion upon it, you would be enabled more distinctly to see that I could take no part in any discussion which you might propose to apply to it. And I could not but be assured that any anxiety you might feel to obtain a knowledge of the facts in question, sprung from considerations which had every claim to my respect; for I knew that your mind was far above the reach of prejudices, which would ascribe the American embargo to participation in the councils or views of your adversary, or of any foreign power whatsoever.
My suggestions were to the following effect: that I believed that no copy of your orders of November had arrived in the United States at the date of the President's message; that a recent change in the conduct of France to our prejudice did appear to be known; that intelligence had been received, and a belief entertained, of your intention to adopt some further measure, as a measure of retaliation against France, by which our commerce and our rights would be affected; that there was reason to conclude that you had actually adopted such a measure; that, (as I collecied from American newspapers) this had appeared from private letters, and the newspapers of this country, received in the United States some days before the message of the President, and probably known to the government; that, in a word, various information concurred to show that our trade was likely to be assailed by the combined efforts of both the belligerent parties; and that the embargo was a mea
sure of wise and peaceful precaution adopted under this view of reasonably anticipated peril.
You observe, in another part of your letter, " that you have always rather wished to refer the argumentative dis. cussion of the subject of the orders in council to the official correspondence which you have more than once been taught to expect me to open upon it.” If I should object to any part of this statement, of which the substance is undoubtedly correct, it would be to the words “ more than once." Your wish has always appeared to be such as you now represent it, and you had reason to expect that I would commence a written discussion of the orders of November, soon after their publication. I had told you that I should do so, and you had said that there could be no objection to it. But you were afterwards informed, that upon reflection I had determined to leave the subject where it was until I should know the pleasure of my government.
The orders had been officially communicated not to me, but to Mr. Madison, through the British minister at Washington. It seemed therefore, to be proper (unless my instructions should make it otherwise) that the view which the government of the United States took of them, should find its way to you through the same channel ; and accordingly, the letters of Mr. Madison to which I have referred in my note of the 23d of August, did open at great length, a discussion, which I could have no inducement to shun, although I did not continue to think myself authorized to commence it.
It only remains to add that your share in our several conversations was, what you represent it to have been, not considerable, and that your manner, although reserved, was as it always is, perfectly friendly.
I need not say that, if in this letter written under the influence of sincere concern that the proposal I had the honour to lay before you has been unsuccessful, any thing is to be found which you could wish to be otherwise than it is, I shall be the first to regret that I have not been able to do justice to my own feelings and intentions.
I have the honour to be, with the highest consideration, &c.
WM. PINKNEY. The Right Hon. George Canning, &c. &c. &c.
FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES TO CONGRESS,
JAN. 30, 1809. I TRANSMIT to Congress a letter recently received from our minister at the court of St. James's, covering one to him from the British secretary of state, with his reply.
These are communicated, as forming a sequel to the cor· respondence which accompanied my message to both houses, of the 17th instant.
Mr. Pinkney to Mr. Madison. London, November 25,
1808. Sir-I have the honour to send enclosed a copy of a letter received last night from Mr. Canning, in answer to .my letter to him of the 10th of last month.
The tone of this letter renders it impossible to reply to it with a view to a discussion of what it contains; although it is not without farther inadvertences as to facts, and many of the observations are open to exception. Iintend, however, to combine, with an acknowledgment of the receipt of it, two short explanations. The first will relate to the new and extraordinary conjecture 'which it intimates, that my authority was contingent; and the second will remind Mr. Canning that my letter of the 10th of October does not, as he imagines, leave unexplained the remark, that “ the provisional nature of my offer to make my proposal in writing, arose out of circumstances ;" but on the contrary, that the explanation immediately follows the remark.
The Union is not yet returned from France. Lieut. Gibbon arrived in London more than three weeks ago, and delivered your letter of the 9th of September, with duplicates of papers in the case of the Little William, and copies of letters which lately passed between the department of state and Mr. Erskine.
I have the honour to be, with the highest consideration, &c.
WM. PINKNEY. The Hon. James Madison, &c. &c. &c.
Mr. Canning to Mr. Pinkney. Foreign Office, Novembere
, 22, 1808. Sir-I regret exceedingly that an unusual and unintermitting pressure of official business has prevented me from finding an earlier opportunity to reply to your letter of the 10th of last month.
The observations which I have to offer upon some parts of that letter, are not, indeed, of such a nature as to make it matter of any great importance whether you receive them a week sooner or later; as they refer less to any point of publick interest to our two governments, than to what has passed personally between ourselves.
But I should have been much mortified if you could have been led to believe me deficient in attention to you; the manner, as well as the substance of the communication which I have had the honour to receive from you, entitling it to the most prompt and candid consideration.
Your understanding of the motives, which induced me to accompany my official note of the 23d of September, with my letter of the same date, is so far imperfect, as that you seem to imagine that the wish to guard against misrepresentation, was the only motive which induced me to write that letter, and that, from that motive alone, I should in any case have troubled you with it: whereas I must have expressed myself very incorrectly indeed, if I did not convey to you the assurance, that, if what had passed between us in conversation had not been referred to by you in your official letter of the 23d August, I certainly should not have thought it necessary or proper to preserve any written record of your verbal communications, which I understood at the time to be confidential, and which I certainly was so far from attempting or intending to “discountenance," that I have no doubt but I expressed myself (as you say I did) in favour of the “ course which you adopted as well suited to the occasion." But you state at the same time most correctly, that it was as a “preparatory course that I understood and encouraged this verbal and confidential communication.” I never did nor could understand it as being intended to supersede or supply the place of an official overture. I never did nor could suppose that the overture of your government, and the answer
of the British government to it were intended to be in. trusted solely to our respective recollections. Accordingly when the period arrived at which you appeared to be prepared to bring forward an official proposal, I did, no doubt, express my expectation that I should receive that proposal in writing.
It is highly probable that I did not (as you say I did not) assign to you as the motive of the wish which I then expressed, my persuasion that written communications are less liable to mistake than verbal ones : because that consideration is sufficiently obvious, and because the whole course and practice of office is in that respect so established and invariable, that I really could not have supposed the assignment of any specifick motive to be necessary, to account for my requiring a written statement of your proposals previous to my returning an official answer to them.
I had taken for granted all along that such would, and such must be, the ultimate proceeding on your part; however you might wish to prepare the way for it by preliminary conversations.
In framing your note I did not pretend to anticipate how much of what had been stated by you in our several conferences you would think it proper to repeat in writing. But whatever the tenour of your note had been, I should have felt it right to conform strictly to it in the official answer; avoiding any reference to any part of your verbal communications, except such as, by repeating them in writing, I should see that it was your intention to record as official.
I confess, however, I was not prepared for the mixed course which you actually did adopt, I am persuaded (I am sincerely persuaded) without any intention of creating embarrassment; that of referring generally to what had passed in our conferences, as illustrative of your official proposition, and as tending to support and recommend it, but without specifying the particular points to which . such reference was intended to apply; a course, which appeared at first sight to leave me no choice, except between the two alternatives of either recapitulating the whole of what you had stated in conversation, for the purpose of comprehending it in the answer, or of confining myself to your written note, at the hazard of being