Page images

apology for his conduct. Nor did the British ministry think proper to send another envoy to the United States until some months had elapsed after the return of Mr. Jackson to England.

Mr. Pinkney, the American minister to Great Britain, was continued at that court, but his efforts at negotiating proved unavailing, and early in 1811 he was instructed to return home. The British government, the same year appointed Mr. Foster minister to the United States, who effected a settlement of the affair of the Chesapeake frigate in November, 1811, and remained at Washington until the declaration of war against Great Britain, in 1812.

Congress again assembled on the 27th of November, 1809, and continued in session until the 1st of May, 1810-but during this period of more than five months, few acts of general importance were passed; among them were several respecting the public lands; also laws respecting the postoffice establishment and postroads, the territories, lighthouses, compensation to ministers to foreign countries, consuls, &c.; providing for taking the census in 1810; for payment of a portion of the public debt, by creating a new loan, &c. The non-intercourse with Great Britain and France was continued by a new act, and a joint resolution was adopted in relation to the controversy between the executive and Francis James Jackson, the British envoy to the United States; the language of whose official letters to Mr. Smith, the secretary of state, was declared to be highly indecorous and insolent, the conduct of the executive toward him approved, and Congress solemnly pledged to stand by the executive government, in its refusal to receive any further communication from said Jackson, and to call into action the whole force of the nation, if it should become necessary, to repel such insults, and to assert and maintain the rights, the honor, and interests of the United States.

In the early part of the year 1810, the French decree of Rambouillet was made known, and alleged by the emperor Napoleon to have been issued in retaliation of the non-intercourse act of the United States. All American vessels which, since the 20th of March, 1808, had entered any French port, or the ports of any French colony, or of any country occupied by the French, or which should thereafter enter, were declared forfeit, and were to be sold for the benefit of the national treasury of France. In addition to the numerous condemnations under this decree, the French privateers committed various depredations on American com


By the new non-intercourse act already referred to, which was passed by Congress in May, 1810, it was provided, that if either Great Britain or France would repeal her obnoxious orders or decrees, and the other na tion did not, within three months thereafter, repeal hers, that then intercourse should be renewed with the nation repealing her acts, while tow

ard the other belligerent, the provisions of the non-intercourse act should operate and be in force.

The French government were informed of the passage of this act, by General Armstrong, United States minister at Paris; and the French minister for foreign affairs, the duke of Cadore, immediately addressed a note to General Armstrong, dated August, 1810, stating that "the Berlin and Milan decrees, issued by the emperor, were revoked, and would cease to have effect after the first of November following." He added that "his government had adopted this measure because the Congress of the United States had retraced its steps, and had engaged to oppose the belligerent (Great Britain) which refused to acknowledge the rights of neutrals. It being understood (or on condition) that the English shall revoke their orders in council, and renounce the new principles of blockade which they have wished to establish; or that the United States shall cause their rights to be respected by the English."

Although the language of the note of the duke of Cadore was somewhat equivocal and indefinite, it was received by our government in good faith, and the president issued his proclamation on the first of November, 1810, declaring that the French decrees were in fact revoked, and that the non-intercourse law would be revived and in force as to Great Britain, unless her orders in council should be revoked in three months after that date. Subsequent events served to prove that the emperor of France did not intend to revoke his decrees, in fact, unless Great Britain should also withdraw her orders affecting neutral commerce, or the United States should declare war against that nation. Indeed, after the first of November, American vessels and their cargoes were seized and held for sequestration; and several months later, in March, 1811, the French emperor declared, that "the decrees of Berlin and Milan were the fundamental laws of his empire." A new envoy from France, who arrived in the United States about this time, gave official notice to the administration that no remuneration would be made for the property sequestered.*

The president, in the meantime, urged on the British government a revocation of the orders in council, assuming that the French decrees were repealed. But the British government resisted the demand, on the ground that no sufficient evidence was furnished that the Berlin and Milan decrees had actually been repealed, and they insisted that the president's proclamation, and the subsequent law of Congress, passed in March, 1811, interdicting all commercial intercouse with England, were partial and unjust. Thus the unfriendly feelings between the United States and Great Britain were continued and increased. The British government was tenacious of the policy it had adopted relating to neutrals; and pleaded that its interests rendered it peculiarly necessary to be pursued at that time,

• Bradford.

American vessels and their cargoes, therefore, continued to be seized by British cruisers, and condemned in their admiralty courts.

During the third session of the 11th Congress, from the 3d of December, 1810, to the 3d of March, 1811, the subject of our foreign relations attracted much attention. The president's course toward France, and his proclamation, were approved by Congress, and the non-intercourse act was revived against Great Britain. Certain parts of the former act had been repealed, so as to induce mercantile enterprise with Great Britain and dependencies, but now the goods imported from British dominions were made liable to seizure; and bonds were required of the importers, to await a legal decision. The prices of British goods in the United States were then so high as to induce the merchants to take the risk of bonding the goods for the full amount of their invoice value.

At the same session of Congress, the people of Louisiana were authorized to form a constitution and state government, preparatory to being admitted into the Union.

The charter of the bank of the United States, which institution was incorporated in 1791, expired, by limitation, on the 4th of March, 1811, and a bill having been introduced into Congress to renew the charter, was indefinitely postponed, in the house of representatives, on the 24th of January, 1811, by a vote of 65 to 64. In the senate, a similar bill was rejected by the casting vote of the vice-president, George Clinton, on the 5th of February, 1811-the senate being equally divided on the question, 17 to 17. The provisions of the bill were said to have been, in a great measure, conformable to the views of the secretary of the treasury, Mr. Gallatin.


Mr. Madison and his cabinet made further efforts to conciliate the favor, or to prevent the hostile measures, of the emperor of France. In February, 1811, Joel Barlow was appointed minister to France, with instructions and full powers to negotiate a treaty of commerce with that governMr. Barlow was received with favor by the ministers of Napoleon, and they intimated a desire to form a treaty with the United States. But the policy of the emperor was to exclude British manufactures from the continent of Europe; in accomplishing which, he believed, the commerce of the United States must be restricted, or be under his control. Nothing, therefore, was effected by Mr. Barlow, with regard to a settlement of our difficulties with France.

The course of the administration with regard to the belligerent powers, England and France, was much censured by the opposition party. A distinguished senator of that party, from Connecticut, remarked, that "the path for the administration to pursue was as plain as a turnpike-the two belligerent nations should have been treated with strict impartiality; an embargo laid for a short and limited period; permission to merchants to arm their vessels, and such measures of defence, both on the land and on the VOL. II.-12

ocean, as the state of the country afforded, and as would, in a great measure prove efficient for the purposes of commercial protection; and the manifestation of a proper spirit to maintain the rights of the nation." The system of gunboats merely for the harbors and coasts of the United States, were declared by him, and in this opinion a great portion of the citizens of the Atlantic states agreed with him, to be but an apology for a proper naval force.

This protracted period of commercial interruptions and restrictions was attended, as might have been anticipated, by a great reduction in the trade and revenue of the United States. The exports were much reduced in 1808, 1809, and 1810; and the imports suffered corresponding depression; so that it became necessary to resort to loans to meet the demands on the public treasury.

The American minister, Mr. Barlow, long remained at the court of France; expostulating with its ministers, for unfriendly and injurious acts toward the United States; and importuning for justice, and for some proofs of really amicable intentions in favor of the American government. But no direct and satisfactory answer was given to these repeated applications of the American envoy. After several months of delay on the subject, the emperor was pleased to decree, that "so long as the British orders in council were unrepealed, and the principles of the treaty of Utrecht (1713) with respect to neutrals were in operation, his edicts of Berlin and Milan must remain in force, as to those nations which should suffer their flag to be denationalized." This was at once decisive as to the policy and views of the emperor, and as to the designed inoperativeness of the alleged repeal of those decrees, as stated and promised in August, 1810. And when the British government was urged a second time to withdraw their orders in council, on the plea, by the American minister, that the French edicts were repealed, they declared, that "whenever those edicts were absolutely and unconditionally repealed by an authentic act of the French government, publicly promulgated, their orders would be revoked."*

The congressional elections in 1810-'11, proved that the policy of Mr. Madison's administration was sustained by a large majority of the American people; the preponderance of the democratic party being kept up in both branches of Congress. The twelfth Congress assembled on the 4th of November, 1811, when Henry Clay, of Kentucky, an ardent supporter of the administration, was elected speaker of the house of representatives: it being the first time in which he had taken his seat in that body. He had previously been a member of the United States senate, at two short sessions, when he had acquired considerable reputation as a ready and eloquent debater, and exhibited some of those traits of character which have since distinguished him in the annals of the country, as a statesman. • Bradford.

The presence of Mr. Clay as speaker, and of Messrs. Calhoun, Cheves, and Lowndes, of South Carolina, with other active and spirited members of the house of representatives, aided by William H. Crawford, of Georgia, and a few others in the senate, infused new vigor into the ranks of the supporters of the administration. It was soon determined that inactivity and indecision should no longer be the policy of the democratic party. For several years, including the latter part of Jefferson's administration, war with England had been contemplated by the executive government of the United States, as a probable event; but we have already seen Mr. Jefferson carefully avoided war measures, and Mr. Madison endeavored to pursue a similar course. The non-intercourse laws and other restrictive measures, it was perceived, were becoming unpopular with the people, a great portion of whom were desirous that this policy should be changed. It was believed by the new leaders of the democratic party in Congress, that efficient measures were now demanded by the people, and that a war with Great Britain would be popular, particularly with the party which sustained the administration.

The first efforts of the members of Congress favorable to a declaration of war with Great Britain, were directed to measures preparatory to the expected contest with that powerful nation. The effects of the policy which had been pursued by Mr. Jefferson, in reducing the army and navy, were now severely felt. For several years preceding this period, the military peace establishment had stood at only about 3,000 men, and the navy consisted at this time of only twenty vessels-ten frigates, and ten sloopsof-war and smaller vessels. The gunboats which had been built in different parts of the United States, about one hundred and fifty in number, were only calculated for harbor defence.

The policy of the administration respecting a standing army and a navy, was now changed, principally through the advice and influence of Mr. Clay, Mr. Calhoun, and Mr. Lowndes, notwithstanding they met with opposition from many of their democratic associates. Bills were passed for augmenting the army, by providing for the enlistment of twenty thousand men ; also authorizing the president of the United States to accept of the services of volunteers to the number of fifty thousand men; and providing for the more complete organization of the army; authorizing the president to cause the frigates in ordinary to be repaired, equipped, and put into actual service; and appropriations were made for the purchase of timber and other materials for building additional frigates. The president was also authorized to require of the executives of the several states and territories, the organizing, arming, and equipment of their respective proportions of one hundred thousand militia, and to hold them in readiness to march at a moment's warning; and one million of dollars was appropriated toward defraying the expense of carrying the act into effect.

President Madison was, with much difficulty, brought to acquiesce in

« PreviousContinue »