in rising to call the attention of the House to a most important subject, namely, the negociations which had preceded the present state of our relations with the United States of America, thought it necessary to remark, that it was not the ordinary practice of the ministers of the crown to bring before parliament documents for the purpose of showing that they were entitled to the approbation of the legislature; and if those now laid before the House had that tendency, it would be recollected that the production of them had been frequently requested, and pressed by gentlemen on the other side. His Majesty's ministers were generally disposed to be satisfied with the pleasing reflections which arose from the consciousness of duties fulfilled and zeal employed to promote the public welfare; it would savour of arrogance to obtrude, themselves, the details of their services, however meritorious they might be, upon the notice of parliament, and challenge the approbation of that high tribunal, how fervently soever they might desire to obtain it. The correspondence now submitted to the House comprehended a period of two years and a half, and the perusal of these various papers would 594 sufficiently show how little ministers were disposed to withhold any information that could be in the least satisfactory to the House or to the public, or refuse to furnish lights by which their own conduct might be subjected to the most rigid scrutiny. The question which he should ground on the production of those papers, was one in the decision of which the character of the country was at issue; and as it was therefore of the utmost consequence that such decision should be the result of the most patient and cautious deliberation, he would cheerfully supply, by unreserved answers to any interrogatories that might be put to him, such information as might tend to elucidate the documents on the table, and render the result of inquiry as full and mature, as it would be beneficial to the community. The chief point to which the attention of the House would be directed was, whether it had been in the power of ministers, by any exertion, to have prevented the much-to-be-deprecated war in which we were now engaged; and here he hoped to have credit from the House, when he said, that no one more sincerely lamented the necessity of that war than he did. War, in its most favourable aspect calamitous to a country, was, in this instance, rendered by peculiar circumstances doubly calamitous. Most sincerely grieved was he that he could but too well make out for the satisfaction of the House the necessity there was for extending that evil; for exchanging, in our relations with the United States, that peaceful intercourse, which was so beneficial to both nations, for all the ills which a state of hostility involves; and he trusted, that in the sentiment by which he was actuated, his colleagues, the parliament, and the nation at large, most cordially participated. That justice was obviously on our side, was, indeed, a mighty consolation, but certainly not all-efficient to subdue the sense of the calamity in which the severe pressure of necessity had involved us. But was a feeling of this nature to lay us at the feet of an enemy who had met every act of conciliation on our part with augmented hostility? He trusted that we would be found actuated by a far different spirit, and that, after having deplored the infatuation in the government and population of the United States which had forcibly drawn us into the contest, we should turn our attention to every means by which unjust aggression could be most effectually repelled. In the course of 595 what he should have to submit to the House, and from the documents before them, it would appear very plainly that ministers had not wantonly plunged the country into a war which there were so many motives if possible to avoid; and in having at length recourse to it that they were compelled to the step after they had by repeated attempts to promote a pacific temper in the enemy, endeavoured to avert the evil. They felt confident that they had carried into it with them the feelings of the country with so full a tide, that it would be prosecuted with a vigour and firmness of spirit such as would be most likely to promote the only legitimate end and object of all war—a secure and honourable peace. Nor, indeed, was it to be despaired that a wise and firm line of policy on our part, together with a candid and temperate discussion of the differences which had arisen between the two nations, might have a more extended effect than that of confirming our own people in a resolution to maintain their rights unimpaired. It was difficult to suppose the people of America so deaf to the voice of reason as to be utterly unconscious that in the intercourse which had taken place between the governments of the two countries their's had not been the party which had held justice cheapest, and sought the most eagerly for war; and if their eyes were once opened to this fact, it would not be an unreasonable expectation if we looked to their calling on their rulers to desist from hostilities, in which they were likely to reap neither honour nor profit. The question now before the House was simply this, whether the country was or was not engaged in war with the United States, having justice on the side of Great Britain? And the proposition which he meant to ground on their decision in the affirmative was, that an Address should be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, calling on him to direct a vigorous prosecution of the war with the United States; and praying him to repose the fullest confidence in the support of his parliament and people. Of the negociations now before the House, he had to observe that many points had on former occasions occupied much of their attention, and given rise to discussions of no inconsiderable length. The points, therefore, to which he would more particularly draw their attention in the present instance were those which were to be found of any importance in the latter stages of the correspondence. 596 They would, he was satisfied, easily collect from them the necessity of the stand which the government was now disposed to make, and would consequently acquiesce cheerfully in the proposition with which he should conclude to call on the crown to engage with spirit in the contest, confident of finding in the people a determined resolution to repel the attacks which had been so wantonly made on them, and which they could not have prevented but by a sacrifice of rights acknowledged and maintained by every nation whose intercourse with her neighbours is regulated by any reference to a code of international law. They would ascertain that every possible attempt on our parts had been made to bring the American government to reason, and that every such attempt had failed, merely because there was to be found in that government, supported by a part of the population entrusted to their rule, an inordinate and insolent spirit of encroachment which would have made protracted forbearance appear like imbecility, and would have committed the honour of the country, the government of which could seem insensible to insult so frequently repeated. This was a spirit which had seemed to gain strength from every fresh concession, and had at length risen to a height which imperiously called for resistance from this country, if the preservation of her rights and her honour were dear to her children. We had gone perhaps as great lengths as ever nation had gone, to evince our anxiety to be on a friendly footing with a people, with whom no doubt we had the strongest incentives to remain on such terms, it was now high time to substitute the spear for the olive branch, and show the perverse enemy we had to cope with, that in our humility no principle of fear had mingled, and that we could be as terrible in the conflict they had provoked, as we had been mild in the negociation by which we had sought to avoid it. The Address which he should this night propose to the House, he trusted, would lay the foundation of such a peace as it would alone be desirable to obtain.—The noble lord then proceeded to take a view of the documents which had been published by the American government, contending, that an adequate notion could be collected from them of the unreasonable spirit of hostility by which that government was actuated against this country. He referred in particular to the exposition 597 of the President of the motives which had induced the declaration of war, and to the paper which had been published by the Secretary of Foreign Legations after the commencement of it. He asserted that these papers would be found to contain a full and complete disavowal of all the points on which it had been supposed in this country that concessions had been made, and amity thereby assured; those very points were what the American government had chosen to press as affording just grounds for hostility, arguing on them in precisely the opposite direction to what any reasonable man would have supposed them likely to do. They had extracted matter of offence out of every negociation, however amicably it appeared to have terminated, and not unfrequently even from those in which injury had been alleged on the side of America, and actual and apparently complete atonement made on ours. The war which had thus commenced had been followed up by an armistice; but if this armistice had been meant as an indication of a wish for peace, the tone and temper of the American government towards this country would have undergone a revolution, and far different grounds of adjustment would have been assumed from those on which they now stood. The great questions between the countries were, the Orders in Council, which it was customary in America to call an illegal blockade, and the impressment of our seamen. They might, perhaps, think that the former of these was taken out of the question by the armistice—that might be true; he would not pledge the American government further than they were disposed to commit themselves; but they ought not to have closed up every avenue to conciliation but those by having recourse to which we should make a surrender of our rights. Their ministers had even laid in a claim to indemnity for the vessels captured under the Orders in Council. Not satisfied with the forbearance manifested by this country in the revocation of these Orders, and the relinquishment of the blockade of 1806, the American government claimed the abandonment by that of Great Britain of the future exercise of the rights involved in those Orders and that blockade. With respect to the Orders in Council, that question had undergone repeated discussions in the British parliament, and a variety of opinions had certainly been entertained and expressed on the subject; 598 but he would venture to say, that those opinions bore on the commercial expediency of the measure rather than on any doubts as to the right and competency of this country to retaliate and throw back on the enemy the injuries and inconveniences which their Decrees were calculated to inflict upon us. This was a discussion, the renewal of which he wished to waive at that moment; but he trusted, no individual would suppose, that his Majesty's government could be so dead to their duties, and so insensible to the genuine interests and rights of the country, as not to be anxious at the very moment they modified the measures which had been previously adopted, with the expectation of conciliating America, and inducing her to embark with Europe in the general cause against France, so to guide their conduct as to leave the rights and claims of this country on the subject as clear and untouched as if no relaxation whatever had taken place. Unquestionably, he was prepared to contend, that his Majesty's government had an undoubted right to issue the Orders in question, and that their justice and necessity at the particular moment at which they were issued, when the previous conduct of France was considered, must appear still more evident, as well as their foundation in the true and sound policy of the British empire. For whatever inconvenience a portion of the manufacturing interest of this country might have sustained in consequence of the interruption of the communication with the American market, he had no hesitation in stating it as his decided opinion, that had not the British government opposed to France measures similar to and retaliatory of the measures that France had adopted in hostility to this country, the commerce of France would have been as triumphant on the continent, as, until recently, had been her military career; and the commerce of Great Britain would have sunk to the lowest state of depression. He begged therefore to be always considered as one of the most steady and faithful admirers of that system in which the Orders in Council originated. When any relaxation of those Orders took place, it had always been on the principle of accommodating neutral powers as far as was consistent with the preservation of the system of coercing France to the abandonment of that unjust and unjustifiable system by which she was endeavouring to exclude British commerce from the whole world. 599 With respect to the blockade of 1806, now contended against by America, the fact was, that for a long period after its institution, it was wholly uncomplained of by the government of the United States; it existed for three years, not only without an adverse representation respecting it on the part of that government, but actually with a special representation in its favour, made by the American minister at the court of London. It was a measure on the legitimate nature of which all political parties in this country agreed. Originating in Mr. Fox's administration, the justice of it had been maintained by every government down to the present day. It rested on the ordinary and acknowledged principle of maritime law, viz. that the power by which it was instituted, possessed a force capable of maintaining it. He felt it to be due to the character of Mr. Fox to state that he did not institute that blockade until he had written to the Admiralty to know if they could support it by an adequate naval force, and it was only upon their answer in the affirmative that the measure was resorted to. He might also add, that in its execution a sufficient number of ships were employed to redeem it from any question even on the principle admitted by America herself, and by every other nation in the universe. On this point, therefore, he trusted that the character of this country stood on a ground wholly unimpeached. The question which remained to be considered, and indeed by far the most important question, was, that which related to the right of this country to impress British seamen found on board American merchant ships. He was sure that the House must be sensible that no question could be more closely interesting to the country, touching as it did upon one of the main features of our security, the support of our naval power. He would consider the general course adopted by the government of the United States on this subject, and would refer to the several overtures made by them upon it, in one point of view. In doing this, he should have occasion to advert to two letters from Mr. Russell, followed by one from the American agent at Bristol, and to the further discussions on the subject which took place in America between sir J. B. Warren and the American Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and the House would determine, on a view of the whole together, whether or not the course adopted by his Majesty's government 600 was entitled to their approbation. In looking at this most important question (and certainly a more important question to this country was never agitated), it might not be inexpedient to enter into a comparative examination of the claims of the two nations, and of the temper in which those claims had been respectively urged. He would be the last man in the world to under-rate the inconveniences which the Americans sustained, in consequence of our assertion of the right of search. All neutral nations must suffer more or less from the exercise of such a right on the part of a belligerent. But while he admitted that America unquestionably suffered this inconvenience, and while he allowed that the government of the United States was perfectly justifiable in endeavouring to preserve American citizens as much as possible from the pressure of it, he maintained that that government ought to have recollected, that the exercise of the right itself was not merely a convenience to Great Britain, but belonged to her very conservation as a state; and that the abandonment of it would not have been merely inconvenient, but would have proved vitally dangerous if not fatal to her security. As a nation, therefore, Great Britain was amply justified in insisting upon that, the relinquishment of which would have shaken the foundations of her power. We had an undoubted right to consider the question with other feelings, and with greater tenacity than America, towards whom it did not threaten the loss of freedom or safety, but merely the inconvenience of a small portion of her citizens, from the just exercise of the right of a belligerent during the continuance of the war. In another point of view also, the American government ought to have been assured that this object was pursued by Great Britain in her own defence, and not with any objects of inordinate ambition. He trusted that he should not be considered illiberal in declaring, that, in his opinion, the American government had prostituted its character, by taking a tone on this question unfounded in reason and good sense, and only calculated to produce prejudices in America, incompatible with the future harmony of the two countries. Let the subject be fairly examined, and he was sure that no rational or unprejudiced mind would say that it was possible the object was such to us as to induce the British government to do any thing unjustifiable for 601 its attainment. The government of the United States contended that Great Britain had used every species of oppression towards the American seamen, assuming most wrongfully that every individual taken by the British cruisers out of an American ship must necessarily be an American subject. That this was not the fact would appear upon a prima facie view of the case. The Americans assumed, that Great Britain had impressed 15 or 20,000 American citizens. He entreated the attention of the House to that which he was about to state. He would not pretend to come exactly to the truth, but he would approach so near to it, as to enable parliament, and to enable America herself, to judge whether the actual and immediate value of the object in question was such, and whether that object was so imperatively necessary to the maintenance of the maritime power of Great Britain, as to induce the British government to risk all the soreness and irritation that had taken place between the two countries, on that account, instead of getting rid of that bone of contention which prevented the cordial friendship and co-operation so desirable. It was impossible to believe that for such a paltry and miserable object as that which he was about to state, the British government could have shewn themselves insensible to the great interests of the state, and plunged the country into a war for its attainment. Having premised this, he would proceed to inform the House, that so far from our having 15 or 20,000 American seamen in our service, it did so happen that at two distinct and recent periods the Admiralty ascertained how many of the 145,000 seamen actually employed in the British service professed themselves entitled to be discharged as American citizens. And here he must observe, that it was impossible to put the question at issue on a point of view more favourable to the assertion of the American government, because every individual who had the slightest pretext for doing so would make a claim, the immediate result of which might to him seem likely to lead to liberty, and to the means of engaging in a service more lucrative than that of the British navy. What were the returns? In January, 1811, the whole number out of the 145,000 who claimed to be American subjects (and let it be remembered that the justice of the claim rested on their simple declaration) was 3,500. When a 602 similar application was made at the commencement of the present year (a considerable number having been discharged in the mean time), the return was less by several hundreds. But although 3,500 individuals asserted their claim to discharge on the ground of their being citizens of America, the House must be informed, that on ordinary occasions, it was found that the proportion of those who could establish their claim on any tolerable ground whatever, in cases of examination, was about one in four. Let it be supposed, however, that one half of the number so claiming, really were, or established themselves, by proof, to be American citizens. It would follow, that in the great extent of our navy, there were 16 or 1700 individuals, who were there contrary to the wishes of his majesty's government, and who had some rational ground for demanding their liberation, on the ground of their being subjects of the United States. Now, could the House believe that there was any man so infatuated—or that the British empire was driven to such straits, that for such a paltry consideration as 1,700 sailors, his Majesty's government would needlessly irritate the pride of a neutral nation, or violate that justice which was due from one country to another? He trusted, that when America duly considered the subject, she would see that Great Britain could have no illicit reason whatever for her conduct; and that the object of Great Britain, in insisting upon the right of search, was not to acquire American seamen, but the much broader and more important one of guarding herself from being deprived of her own. He must be permitted to say (and in saying it he meant no undue offence to the American government), that nothing had appeared in the councils or conduct of the United States, with respect to the large interests of the world at this most important period, to inspire this country with confidence, or to justify his Majesty's government in putting the interests of Great Britain into the hands of the American government, with the expectation that they would be maintained with friendship and fidelity. Nevertheless, so mitigated had been the conduct of his Majesty's government on the point in question, that the Admiralty had always directed our officers not to press seamen professing to be American-born who were found on board American vessels with certificates signed by the collector of the 603 customs of an American port, and included in the certificated lists of the crew. It was, however, well known that these certificates were readily and fraudulently obtained, and granted to a degree perfectly inconsistent with any disposition on the part of the American government, and of the American officers, to counteract the abuse of which Great Britain complained. They were granted with a laxity which threw a deep stain on the character of the government of a country professing to rank among civilized nations. In two of the principal ports of America, New York and Philadelphia, the system of obtaining false certificates from the collectors was so disgracefully open, that in the former of those ports the collector one day allowed an old woman to qualify a whole host of seamen for receiving them, by swearing that she knew they were American citizens. The transaction proceeded to such a length that the very clerk remonstrated against its base ness, and appealed to the collector as to the possible credibility of the witness. The reply of the collector was, that it was no business of his, for that he was only ministerial in the affair; and the old woman continued during the whole of the day to receive her two dollars for every oath that she took, all who applied to her and through her means obtaining certificates. In Philadelphia, occurrences of a similar nature had taken place, but he would not fatigue the House by detailing them. Certificates were also frequently transferred from one individual to another, and became as much matter of sale as any other personal properly. So much so indeed, that after a transfer of this kind it was no unusual thing to see produced by a person of colour, a certificate for his protection, describing him to be of fair complexion, light hair and blue eyes! But the question did not rest on this view of the fraudulent mode of granting and obtaining certificates. Was there not something in the practice of the American government which laid them open to a jealous suspicion on our part, even if the system of certificates was as faithful as it was evidently fraudulent? Was there nothing to induce Great Britain not to part with the means of doing herself justice on the subject? Did America admit that the natural born subjects of this country were bound to give their aid and assistance to their natural sovereign? Her conduct distinctly denied it. She held that a British 604 subject, who by a false oath converted himself into an American citizen, or who naturalized himself in America in conformity to the American laws, ceased to owe allegiance to the king of his native country, and was entitled to be protected as an American citizen. Contemplating all these circumstances, looking at the general spirit manifested by the government of the United States, looking at the known frauds of the certificating system, looking at the pretensions of the American legislature to divest, by Naturalization Bills, British subjects of their allegiance to their sovereign, so far from being encouraged to throw the pointin question into the hands of the American government, it behoved this country to regard any such proposed surrender of their known and unalienable rights with jealousy, and to consult our own security before we gave op to America or to any other power the means which we possessed to defend ourselves, by the exercise of a right which never had been, and never could be, justly questioned. He would proceed to consider the mode in which America urged her pretensions; and would show, that the government of the United States allowed the war to continue to rage, not because Great Britain would not enter into a fair discussion of all points between the countries with a view to their amicable adjustment, but because Great Britain was not prepared to concede the question at issue as even a preliminary to an armistice. And here he must observe, that it was a singular fact in diplomacy, that a question which on former discussions had certainly been brought forward, but never, down to the declaration of war, in the tone of a war question by America, was unexpectedly placed in the front of the battle, being actually the first proposition in the American declaration of war. At the moment that America found this country, in the spirit of her usual amity, availing herself of the opportunity afforded her by France, to try whether the Orders in Council could not be put on such a footing as to cease to be injurious to American commerce—when the government of the United States found that we had revoked the Orders in Council, and that the blockade of 1806 was no longer in operation,—that these grounds, the only original grounds for hostilities, were removed from under her,—that government declared that unless Great Britain were prepared to concede the point in dispute between the two countries relative 605 to the impressment of seamen, they would persevere in war, on a ground which up to that moment had never been adduced as a threatened cause of hostility. This was evident from Mr. Russell's first note, and from the last and most authorised communication from Mr. Monroe to Sir J. B. Warren. Mr. Monroe declared that the right of impressment must be given up by the British government, and that any regulations to be substituted for it might be the subject of future regulations. Even were the two countries on an amicable footing, it would be strange for the one to ask the other to put it in possession of a disputed point, while the justice of that point was yet controverting. But here the two countries were hostilely engaged, and America declared that she would not suspend the war unless Great Britain marked her sense of her own injustice, by abandoning that which had been the subject of dispute! Never was there a more unreasonable attempt on the part of one power to dictate to another, and that too under circumstances of the most offensive nature. Adverting to the recent negociation with Mr. Russell, he observed, that his Majesty's government did not conceive it to be any sacrifice of the dignity of the country, not to allow any question of form to stand in the way of that negociation. Mr. Russell possessed no instrument which, in the ordinary course of diplomatic practice, entitled him to claim a hearing from the British government; but as he and his colleagues in office, had no doubt that the letter in the possession of Mr. Russell, from the American Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, although not professedly written by command of the President of the United States, was transmitted to Mr. Russell with his privity and consent, they were not disposed to object to treating with Mr. Russell on the score of informality. In the second communication received from that gentleman, he distinctly stated that he was authorised to come to an understanding with the British government on the points in dispute between the two countries. It was not too much to expect that he was furnished with the means of enabling the party to whom the communication was made to judge in what sense the term "understanding" was to be taken. The noble lord said, that in his conversations with Mr. Russell, however, he found that such information was not to be obtained. When that gentleman seemed to depart 606 from the ground of calling on the British government to suspend the right of impressment during the discussions on the subject, he (lord C.) was anxious to know the nature and extent of his instructions and authority, and this Mr. Russell avowed with the utmost fairness and candour. He stated that he was not directed by his government to insist on the suspension of the practice of impressment during the discussions, but that his government required to have a clear understanding with the British government, both on the subject of the impressment and on that of the Orders in Council, before they would consent to an armistice. When he asked Mr. Russell if he was clearly instructed as to the nature of the expected understanding, that gentleman confessed that he was only instructed to require a distinct understanding. Now what was the nature of this understanding?—nothing more nor less than that the British government should secretly admit that which was refused to be conceded openly, viz. that Great Britain should ultimately be tied hand and foot to the abandonment of the right of impressment. When he asked Mr. Russell what were his positions with respect to British subjects becoming American citizens, and whether he held that the allegiance of British subjects could be dissolved by the American government? the reply was, that there was not a word in his instructions on that point. On being questioned on other topics of the most ordinary nature, Mr. Russell stated that he had an opinion of his own upon them, but candidly admitted, that he was not instructed on the subject by the American Secretary of State, When he (lord Castlereagh) asked him, whether he had any projet of the understanding to which the government of the United States were disposed to come?—he replied, that he had no such projet. Did all this wear the semblance of a disposition for fair discussion? He felt himself therefore bound to say, that the British government was justified in viewing the conduct of the government of the United States with alarm; and, without shutting the door to negociation, in taking care that the ancient and undoubted rights of this country should not be called into question, and that the maintenance of those rights should not be entrusted to any other power. Such would have been the determination of his Majesty's present servants, had the subject been brought under their consideration for the 607 first time. But this was not the case; they had important previous lights by which to guide their judgment. He conceived that he did his duty no less to America than to Great Britain—he conceived that he was performing the part of a peace-maker, when he candidly apprised Mr. Russell of the relative situation of the two countries. Imagining that he perceived in the conduct of Mr. Russell, in the several discussions that had taken place in the American legislature, and in the protest entered by the minority in that legislature, a disposition to believe that the facilities for settling the question on our part were greater than they actually were, he thought it his duty to impress on Mr. Russell's mind, that, although the British government were ready to listen to any reasonable proposition from America, they deprecated the notion that it was not a question of great difficulty itself, or that it might be assumed that because the British government were disposed to concede, and anxious for the maintenance of a friendly intercourse with America, that therefore the slightest motion on the part of America would be equal to the accomplishment of peace. In fact in proportion to the number of times at which the question had been agitated, and to the disposition manifested by the British government to settle it, was the inference strengthened that it was a difficult question. In 1803, during lord Sidmouth's administration, the proposition of adopting some substitute for the impressment was discussed with such temper by the British government, that Mr. King wrote to his own government in the confident expectation that the affair would be arranged. Lord Liverpool and lord St. Vincent were favourable to the proposition; but when it was submitted to the law officers, their opinions precluded the government from carrying their intentions into effect. The proposition was renewed in 1807, under auspices which he (Lord C.) had strongly impressed on Mr. Russell's mind, for it was renewed when America believed (though it was unjust to imagine that any party in this country was inimical to America) that a party peculiarly friendly to her was in power. The negotiation proceeded between lords Holland and Auckland and Messrs. Monroe and Pinckney; and such were the hopes entertained of a favourable result, that the American commissioners were induced to lay no less than three 608 distinct projets before the British government. All these projets underwent separate deliberation. The result was, that notwithstanding the eager disposition of the British government, and the labour and good faith of lords Holland and Auckland, such were the difficulties that arose when the details came to be entered into, that the British government were obliged to declare to the commissioners that all their projets were inadmissible; and that the treaty must proceed to a conclusion without including any arrangements with respect to the impressment. He mentioned this, not to show any hostility against a modification of the existing system, but to prove that the problem was not of such easy solution as to warrant America in indulging the expectation that she should be able to dictate the abandonment of the principle under the menace of war. The various negotiations on the subject had been conducted with the utmost temper and moderation, but it seemed probable that it never could be settled with the complete relinquishment of the right of search. It was, therefore, that he endeavoured strongly to impress on Mr. Russell's mind, that so far from there being any probability of a settlement of the question under any angry relations between the two countries, it was one which would be difficult of determination under any circumstances; and that it was the evident policy of America to terminate the war as soon as she could, and not endeavour to drag on or force Great Britain into an acquiescence in her wishes which could never be allowed. Reverting to the assertion of the American government, that the impressment of seamen was the question on which the two countries were at war, he expressed his desire to know in what part of America the government would find a feeling correspondent with their own? If any such existed, surely it would be in the maritime states, who alone could suffer by being deprived of their seamen. But in fact, in what part of the Union was to be found a temper indignant towards Great Britain? Was it in the agricultural southern—in the more retired states of the Mississippi? Or was it in the eastern commercial and maritime states, possessing ships and sailors, and on whom consequently our practice operated in full force? So far was the war from being popular in these last, that it was most loudly cried out against; and particularly on that ground of supposed irritation! 609 That the conduct of Mr. Madison in embarking in the war was strongly disapproved in the eastern slates of America was evident by his rot having had a single vote from those states for again raising him to the presidency. Having thus endeavoured to show that in the whole course pursued towards America the British government were not chargeable with want of temper and due forbearance, he might, perhaps, hear it said that they were chargeable with not having pressed America with sufficient vigour, It would occupy too much of the time of the House were he on the present occasion to enter into any details on the subject, or to explain the views by which his Majesty's government were influenced in the apportionment and application of the military means of the country—This would be a fit subject for future discussion, and he professed himself to be ready to meet it whenever it should be regularly brought before the House. But, without wishing to provoke any observations on the present occasion, he might perhaps be permitted to make a few remarks which appeared to him to be of a satisfactory nature. His Majesty's government, down to the period of the commencement of hostilities, had certainly never drawn our military forces from other services, with a view of accumulating the means of war in America. They had merely thought it their duty to provide adequate means of defence in that quarter. The declaration of war on the part of the American government, was not more unexpected at the time it took place, than it was at several periods of the negociation. Our minister in America, in communicating that occurrence to the British government, declared that it was entirely unexpected by him and by the Americans themselves. As early however as May last, unwilling to deceive themselves with respect to the probable issue of the negociation, his Majesty's government gave the necessary orders to the various officers, and took measures to reinforce the army and navy in America, as far as was consistent with other services. If some might think, that subsequently a due degree of active hostility had not been exhibited, he should be ready, in all humility, to give his reasons for thinking the imputation unfounded, and for preferring the employment of our forces on certain, rather than on contingent objects. Persevering in the principle of conciliating rather than in irritating 610 the Americans, government adopted a defensive rather than an offensive warfare towards them. Without withdrawing any of our force from the peninsula, we had been able successfully to defend Canada, and to prevent any one of our valuable fleets from falling a victim to the sudden eruption of a war, the moment of the declaration of which was chosen by the enemy. If it were contended that the blockade of the American ports was not sufficiently early, he would reply, that it was not deemed an advisable policy to institute that blockade immediately after the declaration of war; first, because that would have been to punish our allies, who were obtaining their requisite supplies by those outlets; secondly, because there were many American merchants who had purchased goods in this country on the faith of their being allowed to import them into the United States. In contemplating the whole course of conduct adopted by government in this affair, he trusted he should not be accused of arrogance for declaring that he saw nothing of which he repented, or which he wished retracted. While they had manifested an anxious desire on all occasions to modify their measures in such a way as should be least offensive to neutral powers, he defied any one to lay his finger on any part of their conduct, by which they had sacrificed the rights and interests of the country. If they had been unable to avoid war, they had at least given the country a good cause of war, and had sacredly guarded all her privileges. For America, he confessed that he deeply lamented the injury which her character had sustained by the conduct of her government; it was conduct unworthy of any state calling itself civilized and free. The hostility of America towards the powers of Europe who were struggling to repress the ambition of France, had precipitated her from the eminence on which she had heretofore stood; and if any thing could lower her still more in the cool judgment of every reflecting mind, it was the moment which she had selected to throw her weight into the scale of French influence—it was on the eve of receiving, through the communication of the British government, that most offensive paper of the duke of Bassano's, which menaced every country that would not acquiesce in the designs of France. As far as Great Britain was concerned, it seemed as if America was impatient to get into 611 the war; otherwise, after waiting so long, she would assuredly have waited the result of the deliberations of that House, certainly sanctioned by a great portion of the community, on the expediency of persevering in the Orders in Council. It was no answer to say that it was in vain to wait for sentiments which had already been often and distinctly expressed; for although the British government might have still maintained the right in which the Orders in Council were founded, the question of commercial expediency might induce a different practice, reserving the right. The American government therefore had no reason to suppose that the agitation of the subject would not end in the revocation of the Orders; but if there was nothing else to be considered, let the House consider the situation of the rest of Europe at the moment when America threw her power (power in the sense of embarrassment) into the scale of France. It was at the moment when Buonaparté had declared his intention of invading and subduing by arms, every country that would not submit to receive his commercial regulations, and to become the instruments of his will—it was at the moment when a large French army was assembled on the confines of Russia, and when Buonaparté was proceeding to lead them, in the sanguinary expectation (an expectation so happily defeated) of compelling the whole world to adopt his measures—it was at that moment that the government of the United States, with an unexampled degeneracy of feeling, thought it consistent with the character and interests of America to associate herself with France in the base and violent attempts of the latter. Was this a country entitled to hold the language of independence, or to talk of abolishing the rights and privileges of others? Was this the standard of American principle and American practice on the great question whether the world should be governed by its ancient laws, or by the arms of France? Was the moment when the American vessels, burnt by the French, were yet seen smoking on their coasts, the moment for indulging in oblivion of all the insults and injuries that America had received from France, and of embracing France in the bonds of a strict amity? If ever there was an event to which the most pregnant circumstances gave a character of peculiar reprehensibility, the decision of America was that event. With respect to the delay in the 612 publication of the declaration of his Majesty, in answer to that of the American government, it was occasoned by the hope that America might still become sensible of her error. Thus, had he touched on all the points to be considered. He trusted the House would not suppose that it was merely the conduct of his Majesty's government on which they were to pronounce. Unquestionably he hoped that their conduct had been strictly honourable, and that parliament would so consider it. But the great question was, whether or not the war with America was justifiable on the part of this country, and whether or not the House would pledge themselves to maintain it with vigour. He had no hesitation in laying his hand on his heart, and declaring that as he was satisfied that every justifiable means had been resorted to in order to avoid hostilities, so he was no less persuaded that a vigorous prosecution of the contest would be the surest mode of bringing it to a speedy and successful termination. The noble lord concluded by moving,
"That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, to acquaint his Royal Highness that we have taken into our consideration the papers-laid before us by his Royal Highness's command, relative to the late discussions with the government of the United States of America:
"That, whilst we deeply regret the failure of the endeavours of his Royal Highness to preserve the relations of peace and amity between this country and the United States, we entirely approve of the resistance which has been opposed by his Royal Highness to the unjustifiable pretensions of the American government, being satisfied that those pretensions could not be admitted without surrendering some of the most ancient, undoubted, and important rights of the British empire:
"That, impressed as we are with these sentiments, and fully convinced of the justice of the war in which his Majesty has been compelled to engage, his Royal Highness may rely on our most zealous and cordial support in every measure which may be necessary for prosecuting the war with vigour, and for bringing it to a safe and honourable termination."
said, that though the noble lord had not quoted any expressions of his, yet as he stood in a very prominent situation, and had not unfrequently delivered 613 his opinions on American affairs, the allusions made to him by the noble lord appeared to be so direct, that he felt himself now bound to speak, lest he should be subjected to a charge of inconsistency. The House must remember, for they had often heard him speak on the subject, what his sentiments were on the Orders in Council. From the commencemencement of that system to its conclusion, he had ventured to foretel, that if persevered in, it would produce hostilities between the two countries. And, when his Majesty's ministers, in compliance with the wishes of that House and of the country, thought fit to revoke those Orders, he had expressed his conviction, however adverse he had been to them, and however pleased he was at their revocation, that the measure was too tardy to prevent the mischief and avoid the breaking out of war. He had also observed, that if it did not prevent hostilities, and if America manifested an angry and acrimonious spirit towards this country, or persevered in unreasonable demands, he would be as ready to oppose any unjustifiable encroachments attempted by her, as the firmest friend to those Orders in Council could possibly be. The noble lord had travelled much farther back into the history of the Orders in Council than he wished to go. There was now no question before the House, founded on them. They had been revoked, but they had not produced peace; we were at present in a state of war; and, from every thing he could collect, on a subject wholly distinct from, and unconnected with, the Orders in Council. The noble lord said, that, under all the circumstances of the case, he thought his Majesty's ministers were fairly entitled to the approbation of the House; but, whether that might be the fact or not, he conceived the House was bound, at present, to support the crown in the prosecution of the war; and he confessed, for his own part, that though he might animadvert on some of the observavations in the Address moved, and on some of the expressions used by the noble lord, he felt no disposition in his mind to vote against the general proposition. In the first place, the war was not of our making; the crown had not declared that war; the American government had declared it. And, therefore, there must be a strong case made out, for the power which sought war to induce them not to support their government in the situation in 614 which it had been placed, or refuse their best co-operation in aiding it to repel aggression. The papers which had been laid before the House, contained a variety of letters arising out of the negociaron which had recently taken place between the two countries. The most important subject which they comprised was the question of impressment; for, as to the Orders in Council, in a commercial or political point of view, they had been given up and were now entirely out of the case; they were given up, and constituted no ground of the war at present carried on between America and this country. From these papers, three particular stages of negociation were apparent, to which he thought the attention of the House ought to be directed; and on each of which he would offer a few observations and deliver an opinion in the perfect spirit of candour and fairness. The first stage was, the overture made by Mr. Russell to the noble lord for an armistice, with the understanding, that, "during its continuance, there was to be a negociation between this country and America, on the subject of impressment, and that, while it was pending, the right of impressment should be waived." Now, in his apprehension, this negociation, had the overture been agreed to, would have taken place under circumstances, which might have induced the American government to believe that this country was disposed to recede farther than, in his opinion, she ought, from her just rights; and therefore, if he had stood in the noble lord's situation, he would not have agreed to the overture, orconcluded the armistice on such terms. The next proposition was, that though no formal or regular recognition should take place between the two countries, as to the suspension of the disputed right, yet a secret understanding of that kind should be preserved on the subject by the respective governments, till the matter in controversy was decided. On this second overture, he was free to say, he would have acted, had he been so situated, exactly as the noble lord had done. He would not have consented to receive that overture. The secret understanding—the request for concealment—would, in the very first instance, have been a sufficient reason with him to reject it.—The third stage of the negociation presented a third overture, on which, he owned, he entertained considerable doubts. This, as he understood it from the papers, was the 615 overture made by Mr. Monroe to sir John Warren, and might be thus described. "There is now," said the American secretary of state, "no difference subsisting between the two countries, likely to lead to a continuance of warfare, except this question of impressment; and I think, if some agreement can be entered into on this point, all minor affairs may be easily settled, and a peace must be the consequence." The objections which were made to the two former overtures could not apply to this. The American government were willing to negociate flagrante bello—while this country was freely exercising its accustomed control. "We will," said Mr. Monroe, "give up both points; we will neither require an armistice nor a suspension of the right you claim, and, under these circumstances, we will enter into negociation." What objection could there be to this, if his interpretation of the papers was well founded, and he was inclined to think that he understood rightly the construction which was given to this part of the correspondence; for, in the Declaration afterwards published by the Prince Regent, it was observed, as a reason for its refusal:" It is true, Great Britain might have entered into negociation, without an armistice, or a suspension of the right to impress; but then she was required to do it on the basis of receiving a legislative provision, from a foreign state, in the place of a right which she had long been accustomed to exercise." Now, on this part of the subject, he entertained very considerable doubts. It did not appear to him, that Great Britain abandoned her right, merely by entering into a negociation on the question. Was it a general proposition, that a nation gave up a right, when she proceeded to negociate respecting its exercise? If such a proposition as this were true, there would be rip such thing as amicable negociation. Would it have followed, had the negotiation been proceeded in, that you must necessarily accept the security which America might offer? If you feared that the security would not be sufficient, you might have spoken thus in the commencement of the negociation, and guarded yourselves against it at the very entry—"We desire, of all things, the restoration of peace, on terms satisfactory to both countries; you propose to enter into a negociation on the subject of the right of impress—we are equally willing to do so; but, if you imagine, by our entering 616 into this negociation, that we are disposed to abandon the right in dispute, without the most perfect, and complete, and decided satisfaction; that, in giving it up, our interests and honour shall be as strongly secured as they now are, you are very much deceived; and therefore do not enter into the negociation with us, for we will not surrender our right without the fullest security."—Had this language been used, Great Britain could not have been deceived; America would have known her situation; and the right would not have been weakened, in the event of the negociation proving unsuccessful. That the result of such a negociation would have been amicable, he was far from supposing; but, if America had formed any erroneous ideas as to the temper of this country, she ought to be told so. She ought to be told (although, he believed, there was no necessity for it) that Great Britain never would abandon her right of search of neutrals, for contraband of war, so essential to the maintenance of her dearest interests. If America conceived that she had the power of absolving men from the allegiance due to their lawful sovereign, and of making British subjects American citizens, she ought to be told that such a principle was unreasonable and unjustifiable, degrading to England, subversive of her interests, and therefore one which she would never cease to oppose. This was the language he would have held to the American government, had he been placed in the noble lord's situation—still thinking that it was possible to enter into some negociation ort the unfortunate subject of the impress, without any abandonment of the rights, interests, or dignity of the empire.—He would ask of those who were of a different opinion, Was there ever to be a termination of war between the two countries? Were they to be always in a state of hostility? He hoped not: he trusted they would very soon be reconciled to each other. But if they were to return to that state of amity which was so very desirable, by what means was the change to be effected? Was it not through the medium of negociation? But what was the conduct pursued? The noble lord, in the papers before them, said—"We are ready to receive any proposition America may have to make on this subject, but we cannot treat with her on this point, for we cannot admit her basis." Now, if the noble lord meant by this, that the mere 617 act of negociating with America, was a recognition of this basis—if it followed, that the legislative provision of a foreign state not to naturalize British subjects must be received as an equivalent for our giving up the right of impress, the moment the negociation was opened—then he would agree in the opinion of the noble lord, that it would not be right to treat. But did the noble lord mean to go this length; did he mean to refuse all negociation, although it might have the effect of producing an amicable settlement of the matter in dispute? The particular situation of the American government was worthy of peculiar attention, in reference to this part of the subject. That government was possessed of so little power, was so much weaker than in other states, that it could not do those acts of its own will, which in all other countries were performed by the executive body. Therefore, if you have any negociation with the American government, it must be, in a certain degree, through Congress, through the legislature of the state. The American President could not enter into the smallest agreement with any power, unless it was recognized, or conclude a treaty without its being ratified by two thirds of the Congress. You cannot, therefore, treat with America exactly as you do with other countries; for in her case, it is impossible to avoid having something of legislative enactment and interference. If the noble lord only understood the position in this defined and contracted view, that England was not to give up an important right, for the contingent legislative provision of another state; then he thought he was perfectly correct. For he would never bind down this country to a treaty with any nation in the world by which England should, even by implication, part with a valuable right for a promised legislative provision. But, if it were intended in a general and extensive sense, that no negociation would be entered into on the subject, then he disapproved entirely of the principle. For, when they came to negociate, it must be on this point, otherwise there never could be peace. They must go to discussion on the point or the war must be eternal.—The noble lord had touched on another subject, not exactly connected with this—namely, the conduct of the war. He said, the government were justified in the course they had pursued—that they were innocent at least, if not praise-worthy.—The right hon. gentleman 618 said, he was not going to pronounce any sentence of positive condemnation against his Majesty's ministers; but this he would say, that all he had heard, and seen, and read, of their conduct, seemed to have contributed more to the continuance than to the termination of the contest. The noble lord said, he did not expect a favourable conclusion to the negociation. If he did not, had he not a right to have been prepared to prevent those triumphs which the Americans had gained at sea? Did the noble lord believe that those successes, accidental in a great degree,—(Hear, hear! from the Treasury Bench.)—"Aye!" said Mr. Ponsonby, "accidental, but not in the sense which the hon. gentlemen mean." Did the noble lord, he repeated, believe, that those successes would not have the effect of strengthening the war party in America? Would they not exult when they saw our frigates made the prize of their marine? The noble lord might tell the House, that our fleets were employed elsewhere. But when it was recollected that America had but three or four frigates, and about as many sloops on the ocean, when they considered that that was her whole force, was the noble lord prepared to say, that government were not able to afford such a force from the British navy, as might not only cope with, but sweep the petty fleet of America from the ocean? If this were the fact, then France had reduced our navy to a state of decrepitude, which, on his conscience, he had never believed possible.—Having delivered these sentiments, it might be supposed that he ought, consequently, to oppose the Address. He did not feel it so; and he would briefly state the motives which determined his conduct. He thought the present state of things was produced by a variety of irritating circumstances, and blameable conduct, on the part of both governments. Neither government was free from censure on this subject; and, he believed, there were many persons in America, anxious to carry the war further than they ought—to continue and keep up this spirit of discord between the two countries—therefore, he feared, that if he, or any great number of gentlemen were to oppose the Address, it would have the effect of encouraging those persons to make demands on this country, inconsistent with our rights, and which he, himself, thought the government ought not to grant. He was desirous not to have his conduct misunderstood: if he were 619 placed in a predicament either to vote for an Address which he did not entirely approve, but from an opposition to which great mischief was likely to ensue—his duty bade him prefer the former course. The noble lord might depend upon it that wherever he had any influence or weight, he would support his king and the just maritime rights of England. But he expected, from the noble lord and his colleagues, that they should be ready to meet the American government amicably, on the points which occasioned the war, and when an opportunity arrived, that they would, if possible, immediately put an end to it.
said, he would not go into the subject of the Orders in Council. They were dead, and nothing need be offered to the House upon them. Neither would he enter upon the consideration of the Licence Trade, which had grown out of them, but was now abandoned, and given up as injurious to the country. He was aware the sentiments he was about to deliver were not very popular in that House; yet his sense of duty would not allow him to with-hold them. He then stated, that he did not believe the assertions of the noble lord were correct, that the American declaration of war was at all connected with the state of Russia and France, which had no influence on the American government. They looked little to European politics; and it was impossible to read the papers produced, and not see that the sole cause of the war was the Orders in Council. This was evident from one of the very last dispatches of the noble lord himself to Mr. Foster, which was to be communicated in extenso to the American government, and in which he was directed not to encourage the most distant expectations that these Orders were to be given up, while in fact they were repealed before the dispatch reached its destination. He would appeal to that hon. gentleman (Mr. Foster) who had fulfilled with so much ability the instructions he had received, and had now a seat in that House, whether it was not his opinion, from his knowledge of the sentiments of the American executive, that an earlier sacrifice of these Orders would have prevented hostilities? When war did ensue, it was true the Declaration did not set forth this point only, but recapitulated a great many other grievances, some of them old subjects of complaint, and others which perhaps 620 might have been considered as settled. This, however, was always the case on such occasions, and such declarations were rarely confined to the sole point at issue. He had heard of a Spanish declaration of war, in which one of the grounds of offence was, that the English Secretary had received their ambassador in boots. Yet no one went so far as to pronounce this to be the cause of the war. On the subject of blockade, the government of both countries agreed in opinion. The subject of impressment was now the only obstacle in the way of peace, and a most important one it was. He felt strongly that the safety of the country would be very much endangered by a compromise of this right, or a surrender of the principle, unless some substitute could be devised, and he was also aware of the very great difficulty of such substitute being found. But Mr. Russell's proposal ought to have been rejected with expressions more conciliatory, and the door ought not to have been shut so abruptly upon negociation, with a phrase about maritime rights, such as there were always plenty of ready for use in the Secretary of State's Office. What was the state of the impressment? The noble lord said there were about 1,600 American seamen in our service, but had not noticed that there were 16,000 of our seamen, in the service of America: at least ten to one. He stated this to shew that it was even more for our own interest than for the interest of America to call for and court negociation upon the subject of an arrangement upon this point. To shew that we ought not to shut the door upon it, but look anxiously for a settlement. With respect to the American certificates, he narrated a fact which had happened within his own knowledge, which shewed that in this also it was for our benefit to entertain negociation rather than exclude it. In an American ship, in which he arrived at Portsmouth harbour from America, a person came on board to search for British seamen. All the crew produced certificates but one, who was carried off in the boat, upon which the American captain burst into a laugh, and said, "there, they have taken a man who was never before out of Pensylvania in his life, and who, thinking nobody could doubt it, did not take the precaution of procuring a certificate, and have left three fellows who have not been six months out of a man of war, but have been wiser in this respect." This proved, that if America 621 did not call on us, it was our interest to call on America to come to a definitive and satisfactory arrangement on this head. Yet there being even 1,600 Americans in our navy, he conceived to be no captious ground of complaint to an independent slate. What would we say, if 1,600 of our men were shut up for life in the service of America? Would it not be a good ground for calling on that power for redress? This was a matter not to be settled by a balance of population, nor ought it to be looked at in that way; on the contrary, it loudly called for a settlement, by negociation and amicable discussion, for the quiet and benefit of both countries. America, in calling for reparation, in his opinion, only did that which every independent country ought to do for itself, and all the proceedings of the noble lord (Caslereagh) which had a tendency to stop the treaty in limine were injurious to both nations. He doubted extremely whether an act of congress could amend the matter, but even if no plan could be devised, discussion ought to be allowed, to shew that the evil was without a remedy. It was true that the two oaths of identity might be evaded, they had proof that they often were evaded, but still they ought to see what could be done—and he thought that even discussion, though unsuccessful in the issue, might now, as in the case of lords Holland and Auckland, have done much towards a settlement of the question. The difficulty was not only as to who were, but what were American citizens, and although it might be very fine to say, no man could shake off his allegiance, yet when they knew that many men were naturalized in America, that principle must be departed from. Various regulations might be adopted to lessen the evil. He conceived it would be right to abstain from impressing on the American coasts, and that when persons were taken elsewhere, the ship in which they were should on its return to port make a return of their names to the American consul, in order that proper enquiry might be made. On the other hand, he asked, supposing America was at war with France, and this country at peace, would we consent to all our citizens being impressed who could not produce certificates? He agreed that no proposal had been made to government which they could accept; but contended, that a more conciliatory spirit should have been shewn, which would have gone far to induce America to put an end to 622 the war. The hon. gentleman then adverted to the conduct of the war, which he condemned as not being sufficiently vigorous; which if it had been, it would have produced such a state of distress in America as would have led to an inclination for peace. The conduct of the war it could not be denied was intimately connected with the question of its continuance. All that had yet been done had a tendency to prolong the contest. The loss of our frigates, for instance, was a sore disappointment in this country, and might tend to the prolongation of hostilities on the part of America. Such circumstances strengthened the war party in that country and rendered the state of hostilities more popular than it would otherwise have been. Without going into detail, he would say that with 145,000 seamen (in spite of all that had been advanced by an official writer, who had maintained a news-paper controversy on the subject under the signature of Nereus), we ought to have blockaded the whole American force; for which there never was a coast more favourable than that of the United States. The Chesapeake and New York presented no obstacles to unremitted blockade; and the Delaware and Boston were equally assailable in this way, except for a short space during the winter months. He was sure no part of the coast of France presented such facilities. Government were not taken by surprise, and yet they had nothing on the seas to meet half a dozen American frigates.—(Hear, from ministers.) He did not know where the blame attached; they might throw it upon their officers, but he was sure censure was deserved somewhere. As for the excuse set up of our forces being so much employed elsewhere—these were military and not naval forces, and therefore furnished no excuse for inefficiency in the present instance. Of the latter we should have had a sufficiency disposable. In June the war commenced, and the American frigates cruized without interruption, till they assembled again altogether in Boston, whence commodore Rodgers sailed again with his squadron in the middle of October. There were also great complaints from the West Indies of the depredations committed by American privateers. For these things he censured ministers, but concluded by bestowing an unmixed tribute of applause on the sagacity and vigour displayed in the defence of Canada.
§ Mr. F. T. H. Foster
(late ambassador 623 to the United States) declared he had at all times used his most zealous endeavours to promote peace and a good understanding between the countries, and he deeply regretted that the negociations had ended in hostility. There was one point in the speech of the hon. gentleman who last addressed them, which he felt called on to notice. The hon. gentleman had said, that if the Orders in Council had been repealed in time, hostilities would have been prevented. But, besides the Orders in Council, there were certainly various grievances dwelt on in a very odious manner by that country; (grievances many of which had been previously settled,) and other complaints raised about the conduct of the British legation, which he need not say to this House or this country were altogether unworthy of credit. They were the inventions of that party whose overwhelming influence was the source of all the differences between the countries. He was not therefore able to say that the revocation of the Orders in Council, previous to the commencement of hostilities, would have had the effect of averting them. Their repeal might have had some influence with the government, but he did not think the government was sufficiently master of the congress to be able to do what they might think most beneficial for the country. From the persons at the head of affairs, and from Mr. Monroe in particular, he had ever received the utmost civility and attention, and he believed there existed no indisposition on their parts to an amicable arrangement of all matters in dispute with Great Britain. He could not agree with the assertion of the hon. gentleman that there was no party in America friendly to France. The revolution had made a strong impression there, and numerous proselytes; and though the turn which affairs had taken in France might have detached the better part from them, they were yet a strong party. Nor were they the only party favourable to war, for there was also an Anti-Anglican party, who took every opportunity to embitter the feelings of the American people against this country, and foment hatred and animosity against us. The House might trace the workings of this inimical spirit, from a very early period. When we offered to renew the treaty of 1794, it was this spirit which caused that offer to be rejected, and the party who held it to be injurious prevailed against the other, although it 624 had at its head the great Washington. Again, the Treaty of Limits, of 1803, was rejected by Mr. Jefferson, from the prevalence of the same persons and principles; and he traced this to shew the antipathy so long and uninterruptedly entertained by some of the Americans against this country; The treaty of 1806, concluded between Messrs. Pinckney and Monroe, and an administration in this country, supposed to be very favourable to them, was not ratified, from the same cause. But the strongest proof that the American government, influenced by this spirit, were ever desirous of keeping grievances alive, was to be found in the matter of the Chesapeake in 1807. The moment that unfortunate affair was known in this country, reparation was offered to be made, but all that could be done was unavailing; the President rejected every atonement, and without inquiry issued a proclamation to exclude British shipping from the ports of the American States, and continued to act upon it, refusing all offers to repair the injury done.
With respect to the Orders in Council, and the doctrine of blockade, he might notice, that at one time, when there was a probability of the former being rescinded, as appeared from the letter of the marquis Wellesley, so far was America from meeting it with a corresponding feeling, her government only seemed anxious to keep alive another excuse for the Non-importation Act, and for this purpose they drew from the dust, where it had lain for three years, the blockade of 1806, which had never before been complained of, and which, at the moment it passed, was not considered as injurious to the interests of the United States by their minister in this country. Mr. Pinckney was the first to produce this notable expedient. He wrote to know if that blockade still existed, and was answered by lord Wellesley, that it was comprised in the Order of 1807. Not satisfied with this, he again wrote for a more explicit declaration, and received a more particular reply in 1810. From this, the blockade was brought out as a stumbling block, and the American government well knew that we could not sacrifice the principle on which it was founded, without subverting our dearest rights; and yet they instructed Mr. Pinckney to demand not only the repeal of the Orders in Council, but the relinquishment of the blockades of 1806–7 as indispensible to pacific agreement.
625 Even up to the present period, they found America always anxious to keep alive something of ill-will and ferment; and why she went to war in 1812, rather than in 1809, it was impossible to say! Indeed, they had declared then (1809,) that they considered themselves entitled to go to war without notice; and had since so incessantly kept up the cry of the "wolf," that no one would believe they were in earnest till the war really took place. This strange disposition he assigned to the party politics and party spirit which prevailed, and with which America had more to do than with her foreign relations Under Washington she was true to her own interests, and continued so while his influence subsisted, even after he had descended into the grave. Subsequently to this, however, his influence subsided and a new system ensued—the party at present in the controul of affairs obtained power, to the retention of which they had directed all their exertions ever since. For this they procured a majority in the representation, which, like their majority in the country, was fictitious. Their majority in the representation was founded on the slavish population, and this was well known to be a very great grievance to the Northern States, and the white people who inhabited them. But having got into power, this party were anxious to preserve it, which they did by creating new states, with new representatives of their own sort, and for senators, they had a return of them from the desert districts of the South. There were, he rejoiced to say, many men of honour, worth, and talents, in America, who were an honour to that or any other country. Witness, for example, the distinguished and celebrated orators of Virginia.
But, generally speaking, they were not a people we should be proud to acknowledge as our relations. He did not mean any disparagement to the native Americans, but alluded to the very numerous emigrants from Europe, among whom, he was sorry to say, those from the sister island were conspicuous, and there were no fewer than six United Irishmen in the American congress, remarkable for their inveterate hostility to this country, for the war With which they had all voted. With the exception of the capital, where men were well informed and sensible, the mass of the inhabitants of Pensylvania were ignorant and boorish in their manners. 626 But in the Northern States, an Englishman might travel with pride and pleasure; finding there, men endowed with uncommon affection for their country, and also with a natural affection for that country which was their parent stock. It was in that quarter, in New England, where they were most affected by the Orders in Council and the blockade; for out of 1,424,000, the whole tonnage of America, their share amounted to four-sevenths; and yet all to the north of Hudson's there was no cry against these Orders, but the cry was raised in the middle states which possessed a very small proportion of shipping. But for this cry raised in parts not at all affected by the naval grievance, the differences between the countries might have been settled. Whether the difference as to impressment could be settled, he was not aware, but this he could state—after the war had been declared a few days, he had a conversation with the American ministers, in which that subject was not mentioned as a paramount consideration, but in the usual way as a minor grievance, while the Orders in Council were held forth as the only great and ostensible obstacles to peace. Little did he think, that after their repeal, America, with so many inducements to be at peace, would continue at war. But he doubted the strength of the government to carry a beneficial and pacific measure against the party with many heads, who had determined on war. This party was indeed a singular one, so constituted, and so various in argument and action, that it was never possible to anticipate what would be their course in either. It was impossible to form an opinion of their future actions by any data of their part. At the beginning of the winter in December, when the Federal went over to the deluding party in a great body, war seemed inevitable; but then the matter ended in the production of six resolutions, of which only one was of a warlike nature, and that simply defensive for arming the merchantmen. When all this menacing attitude was relinquished, it was clear they were only engaged in a puerile attempt to frighten Great Britain. And who could have believed that after all this they would have gone to war, when they thereby exposed a commerce of 108 millions of dollars in exportation; when 600 sail of vessels which had sailed, after the embargo was taken off, for Spain, Portugal, the East Indies, &c. were 627 risked; when their whole naval force consisted of Tour frigates (the Constitution was not then finished;) when 1,000 recruits were all that were reported to be efficient for the regular army; when one thousand five hundred miles of coast was exposed to the greatest naval power in the world; when they were unable to raise a loan of about two millions and a quarter sterling, and their whole finances were in a slate of unproductiveness; could he suppose, that under such circumstances they would go to war? The language of congress might be one thing, but the interests of the country were another. The government were hurried into hostilities by a party they could not guide or controul, though evidently most injurious and dangerous to the interests of the country. The war was carried in congress by that rancorous faction against the English, who persuaded others to join them on this occasion, for fear a difference might break up the democratic party; and in the senate, the war measure was carried by the opponents of government, who were desirous of making them unpopular. The repeal of the Orders in Council might therefore have had no effect; and in truth the reports circulated relative to stirring up the Indians, was as great a cause of the war as any of its promoters had devised.
§ Mr. Whitbread
expressed himself obliged to the hon. gentleman who had just sat down for the statement he had made, as it was in his power to give an account of matters which no one else could have done. At the same time he observed that there were several parts of the hon. member's speech, which it was difficult to reconcile with each other, or with statements formerlymade in that House. It was a matter of much consolation to him to have heard from the hon. gentleman, that neither Mr. Monroe nor Mr. Madison, seemed to him to be actuated solely by a spirit of hostility towards this country. From this there was some reason to hope, that a conciliatory disposition on the part of the ministers of this country, might yet lead to an adjustment of the existing differences between the countries without any further loss of time. For himself, although he differed from those Who considered the American government as being wholly to blame in producing the war that now unhappily existed between the two countries, he could not but rejoice in that part of the hon. member's speech 628 which exculpated the person at the head of the American executive, from having hurried that nation into a war. He had been much and liberally reviled by the noble lord and others for his attachment to the politics of France, but it now appeared that war had been produced by causes beyond his controul. He wished, however, that one part of the hon. member's speech had been omitted, it was that part which merely contained his opinions of persons and motives, and a history of the state of parties among the people of America. As it was not likely to lead to conciliation, it would, in his opinion, have been much better, had it been altogether omitted. Such speculations upon parties in any country were subject to much error, for it was not possible always to catch the principles that guided the desultory proceeding of such assemblies as those of America, and which, as they would go forth to the world, could not have a very conciliating effect. He remembered that some of those friends with whom he acted, and some who were now dead, but in whose steps he had trod from the commencement of his political life, and he hoped he should tread in them to the end of it, had been much reviled in and out of that House, for speeches which they uttered, and which, it was said, were more likely to produce a war with America than any of those questions that were in discussion. Yet surely the course which had been arraigned in them was now followed by the hon. member on the other side. He did not, indeed, attribute much to the inferences drawn by the hon. gentleman as to what passed in the American senate, for all such inferences, attempted to be deduced from the motives that actuated a public assembly, were peculiarly fallacious. For his own part, he should abstain from any remarks on the personal character or views of men who had been elected to a representative assembly in another state. He did not wonder at the hon. gentleman's inability to follow the American government through all the changes and diversities of their policy, and to anticipate the issue of their various legislative proceedings. Such changes were not peculiar to America. To recur, for example, to our own proceedings, who could have anticipated the events that marked the close of the last session of the last parliament? In the course of that session (21st of April) it was loudly proclaimed that the Orders in Council would never be repealed but upon 629 certain conditions, then distinctly mentioned; yet the noble lord, who first talked of suspension, at last consented to a revocation, upon the pretext of a contemptible paper fabricated by France to answer her own political purposes, and as flimsy as that paper which was made the ground of the policy of the government. The hon. gentleman had expressed his surprise that America, particularly after submitting to all the injuries and indignities of that system which commenced in 1807, should with a commerce so increasing, and a navy so contemptible, tempt the strength and resentment of Great Britain. Yet the noble lord took no blame to himself for that insult which the British flag had sustained. He felt no compunction in the contemplation of that rebuff which our seamen had, received, for the first time, from the American navy—that contemptible navy of four frigates, which had captured two of our finest frigates. This was, indeed, an event to be deplored, it was long since English seamen had experienced a rebuff; but the influence which it produced on the minds of the American people in reconciling them to the war, he considered as a still more important and disastrous effect. Those triumphs had rivetted their affections to the war—all parties were elated with them, though all parties might not be agreed upon the prosecution of hostilities. Still, however, he did not mean to vote against the Address, though he did not concur in every thing that it expressed; because it pledged the House only to a vigorous prosecution of the war, and all wars when once entered into ought to be vigorously prosecuted—because he considered it as the duty of every Englishman to support the government by every means in his power in a war, when once it was declared; and because the Address recommended at the same time as speedy a termination of the contest, as the honour and the interests of the country would admit.
Certainly he could not consider America as being wholly to blame in the production of the war. But in ascribing to the conduct of our own government the existing rupture between the two countries, he was justified by a review of the history and progress of the preceding negociations. What were the circumstances in which America was placed previously to war's being declared? The House would remember the Declaration of the Prince Regent, on the 21st April, stating, that nothing 630 but the unequivocal and absolute revocation of the Berlin and Milan Decrees, could induce the British government to rescind the Orders in Council. From the moment that Declaration reached America, she must have considered negociation as hopeless, and have made up her mind to war. The paper produced by Mr. Russell was but a pretext on the part of our government for revoking the Orders in Council: for that paper was not satisfactory upon all the grounds set forth in the Declaration of the Prince Regent: it did not contain the general and unconditional revocation required. But the real cause of our repeal of these obnoxious Orders, was well known here and in America. The real cause was the distresses of the country, exhibited, as they were proved at the bar of that House. Could America, however, suppose that we were actuated by a spirit of conciliation?—Certainly not; and that revocation came too late to prevent the evil it was intended to stop. He had the opinion of the chairman of the House of Representatives, that the law passed by Congress was adequately satisfied by the revocation of those Orders: and had it taken place at an earlier period, war might probably have been avoided. But the suspension, reserving a right to re-enforce, naturally gave offence, and was in itself perfectly nugatory. America was not eager for war.—After all the insults she had endured from this country, she still remained at peace, and he trusted reconciliation was still practicable. The war was the most difficult to make of any that history has recorded. It cost five years to produce; and now it was produced, he feared it would be most difficult; to end. With regard to the subject of impressment, he did not mean to vindicate the American government; but yet, when he considered the multitudinous commanders we had upon the ocean, it was impossible not to suspect that this right was sometimes exercised in a manner no less injurious to England than vexatious to America. He could discover on their part no sign of intemperance except perhaps in representing now the subject of impressment as the principal cause of war. This was perhaps going too far, still it could not be denied that it was a real grievance to an independent state. He knew that the blockade of 1806 had excited much jealousy and alarm, and that Mr. Monroe had remonstrated against it. Mr. Fox, however, in whom the American government 631 and every other foreign cabinet had the fullest confidence, clearly demonstrated the perfect conformity of that blockade to all the principles of international laws. The question of impressment was then canvassed, and had the councils of this country remained under the guidance of the same men, a different result would probably have followed. Mr. Pinckney was, indeed, then instructed to sign no treaty without an express stipulation on this head, and when it was considered, however respectfully he wished to speak of British officers, that we had numerous commanders all exercising an unlimited power in this respect, it was obvious that abuses must take place, and that the soreness which America felt was the natural effect of those abuses. As to what had been said by the noble lord about certificates, and the horrid perjuries and frauds to which they Jed, (equalled only by the perjuries and frauds committed under our licence system) it did not appear that they were, in any shape, the acts of the government, but of one individual, who might possibly act from himself without any connection with the government of America. If it appeared that the noble lord had remonstrated, and the remonstrance had produced no effect, the case would then stand upon a different footing. Much had been said about the naturalization of subjects British born, or of denationalizing them, to adopt the French expression introduced by the noble lord. But this was a practice not altogether peculiar to America, and consequently the more difficult of adjustment. There were two acts upon our statute books, by which every foreigner who served two years in any vessel, military or merchant, was entitled to every protection of a natural subject of this realm. One of these statutes was the 6th Anne, 20th clause. Now, how did the case stand under this Act? He apprehended, if an American had served two years in our navy, and the vessel in which he sailed were boarded by an American who claimed that individual, he would be entitled to the protection of this country, and the government would have a right to refuse his being given up. It appeared then that we ourselves acted on a still broader principle than America, for the Act required no oath, or any thing more than a simple statement of the fact of service. Why then quarrel with America for doing that which we ourselves had a law for 632 doing? It required a residence of six years in America to give a person the right of citizenship, while we could take all her subjects by a service of only two years in our navy. In whatever way, however, the question might be decided, he certainly saw no objection to a discussion of it, with a view to an amicable adjustment; and in that he agreed with his right hon. friend (Mr. Ponsonby), that even during the continuance of war, and the actual exercise of the right, his Majesty's government might negociate with the American government, and he should certainly conceive that the noble lord would be greatly to blame if he did not endeavour even now to open a negociation on the subject.
He could not help expressing his strong reprehension of the attempts which had been made to attribute the line which America had pursued, to the effects of French influence, and to insinuate that she had basely seized that moment when the power of France, antecedent to the attack on Russia, had arrived at the very acme of perfection, and at a moment when the total overthrow of the hopes of enslaved Europe was anticipated, to declare war against England. It was false and calumnious to assert that America had ever determined in favour of France. She had been ill treated by both belligerents, and after enduring a protracted series of injuries, although she had resolved on a war with England after these aggravated insults she had received, although she had declared against us she had not declared for France. (Hear, hear, from ministers.) Was it necessary for the information of the old, or even of the young members of the House, to recapitulate those insults, to quote the various enactments by which American ships were compelled to pay toll on entering British ports?—If truth must be spoken, he would say that America had always been in the right, (Hear, hear!) until, by the declaration of war she had changed her situation, and of this advantage he hoped Great Britain would avail herself. He wished never again to hear it stated, that the conduct of the American executive had been guided by any motives but those of American policy; and if our policy were truly English, the road to conciliation was plain and open. He should sit down in the fervent wish, that the opportunity of conciliation now offered would not be neglected. (Mr. Stephen offered to rise.) 633 He did not wonder at the impatience of the hon. and learned gentleman, and considering the part he had taken in previous debates, it was not more difficult to anticipate the arguments he would now employ, than to recollect those he had previously used. The Orders in Council had gone through no stage of life without his paternal regards and advice, and only at their death was his presence wanting. Excessive grief at that awful moment restrained him from being present at the premature dissolution of his darling child; but if any other cause induced him to he absent on that melancholy occasion, Mr. Whitbread hoped that he would this night not fail to explain it to the House.
Persuaded was he, that America was actuated by no such motives as had been alledged, and that she was aggravated and compelled by this country to pursue the course she had. America in her conduct towards this country, up to the last period, was right, but in her declaration of war she was wrong. There she gave the advantage to Great Britain; and he trusted this advantage would be used on our part with wisdom and discretion, and that the opportunity which he conceived was afforded for an adjustment of all difference would not be lost. In conclusion, the hon. gentleman expressed a strong hope that means might be taken, in the present disposition of America, for establishing lasting terms of amity and good will towards this country.
Mr. Canning and Mr. Stephen rose together; a general wish being expressed by the House, that the former should proceed, the latter gave way, and
addressed the House nearly as follows:
I should not have persisted, Sir, in claiming the attention of the House in op position to the learned gentleman to whom personal allusions have just been made, had not my opinions also been called in question in more than one sense, at an earlier period of the debate. I have been asked, from two different, indeed opposite quarters, whether I still persist in the opinions which I formerly stated on the subject of America. Those opinions were of two descriptions; the one relating to the justice of the war into which the United States have thought proper to plunge us, the other to the management of that war on our part. I retain both. But the noble lord has very properly said, that the 634 main question, indeed the only question for deliberation and decision to night, is whether we will uphold by our votes the justice of the cause of our country, laying aside all dispute upon the less important point of the practical management of the war. And agreeing with the noble lord in this view of our present, and most pressing duty; agreeing that our first object must be to inform our new enemy that we, the parliament of the British empire, think our country in the right, and that we are determined to stand by the executive government in maintaining that right against any power that may venture to dispute it, and thinking at the same time that any very anxious or angry discussion as to the vigour and effect with which the cause of the country has hitherto been maintained by the executive government might, if it impaired the unanimity of this vote, detract from its weight and consideration with the government and people of the United States of America, I confess that I am glad to postpone all such details, however important they may be in other views of the subject, or however fit for separate discussion hereafter; and I shall be much less solicitous to examine this night the conduct of administration since the war has began, than to vindicate the principles on which this and preceding administrations hare acted in the transactions from which "he war has sprung, and to establish those upon which it must be maintained, and upon which alone it can be concluded with safety and with honour.
The hon. gentleman who spoke last, observed at the outset of his speech, with regret, mingled with some consolation, that the differences with the United States were now reduced to a single point, and he recommended that the negociations should be revived with a view to an amicable conclusion on that point. I agree with the hon. gentleman that the grounds of dispute are ostensibly so much narrowed that if a negociation could be set on foot, which should have regard merely to the true interests of the republic of the United States, and should not be disturbed and diverted from its course by the influence of those passions by which its government has been agitated, then, indeed, we might hope for conciliation and tranquillity; but I cannot concur with him, either that the point in dispute is of such easy settlement; complicated as it has been in the course of the negociations with national feelings and animosities. 635 Still less do I think that so prompt a solution of the difficulty, as he seems to reckon upon, is afforded by his construction of the English Act of Parliament to which he has referred. If indeed the true meaning and intent of the statute of Anne were to give to foreign sailors, entering and serving on board the British navy, not only all those privileges here, but all that protection against their natural sovereigns and native governments, which the United States both claim the right of conferring, and in practice attempt to confer upon British sailors seduced, or deserting, into their service, then I admit that this country would have to make to America an equal concession for an equal infringement of national rights; and that as there would have been a parity in the infringement, there could be no difficulty in a parity of concession. Neither government could in that case have had any thing to reproach to the other: and instead of a question of violation of the law of nations on the one side, and of forcible and summary self-redress on the other, the whole matter would be one of mutual acknowledgment, as to the past, and of conventional arrangement for the future. There would be no difference of principle; and the point in dispute would be settled only on grounds of reciprocal convenience. But I acknowledge that my construction of the act of Anne was altogether different (Hear, hear!). I understood that by it this country professed to give that only which it is competent to bestow, without interfering in any degree with the rights or claims of other powers; that it imparted to foreigners on certain conditions certain municipal privileges; but leaves untouched and unimpaired their native allegiance. (Hear, hear!) The operation of this Act, as I understood it, before the hon. gentleman's commentary, was not to hold out to foreign seamen, that at the same time that they may become entitled to possess or to inherit property, and to participate in all the blessings of the British constitution, all the ties which bind them to their native country are loosened: not to assert that by any service to a foreign state he can relieve himself from that indelible allegiance which he owes to the government under which he was born. The enactments of this statute are a testimony of national gratitude to brave men of whatever country who may lend their aid in fighting the battles of Great Britain: but not an invitation 636 to them to abandon the cause of their own country when it may want their aid; not an encouragement to them to deny or to undervalue the sacred and indestructible duty which they owe to their own sovereign, and to their native soil. (Hear, hear!) Such being the real intention of the Act, what similitude, what analogy can be drawn between it and the pretensions of America? In the papers upon the table of the House it is asserted by our enemies, that British seamen once enrolled in the American service become the seamen of the United States of America, and the government of that country declares that it must protect them against the claims of their undoubted sovereign, even when he on their allegiance demands their service in war; in the present war for instance, which he is unwillingly compelled to wage. Taking the converse of the hon. gentleman's proposition, then, I should say that if the American government would adopt such a provision as that quoted by the hon. gentleman from the Act of queen Anne, in that case, if all differences were not instantly and altogether removed, at least the question in dispute would be greatly and advantageously narrowed.
But, coupled with the inordinate and unheard-of rights of citizenship which the United States pretend to confer, to the annihilation of the claims of nativity and allegiance, the practical abuses of which we have also a right to complain, in seducing or harbouring our seamen, even independently of the principles and pretensions by which they are defended, would be of themselves matter of serious grievance. Were these principles and pretensions once fairly given up indeed, the road would be opened to the discussion of the practice. It would be open to consider whether any adequate security could be provided by diplomatic arrangement, and municipal regulation, against a grievance which it is impossible that we should tolerate; such as should supercede the necessity of that summary and effectual method of doing ourselves justice; which we cannot relinquish, till some satisfactory substitute is found for it: but the exercise of which, it must be admitted, may be liable to some abuse or irregularity. Now, on a fair perusal of the documents I find nothing which proves any disposition in the English ministry, to shut the door against a consideration of that important question. The fact is, that different modes of entering upon the subject 637 have been suggested, but there is one preliminary demand on the part of America, which it is absurd to suppose that we could comply with. We are by ancient and unquestioned usage, and by the law of nations, as they are now understood, in the possession of the right of search. It has been, and is, of ancient and uninterrupted usage. It is proposed by both parties that a discussion should be commenced as to the more unexceptionable mode of exercising this right; but what does the American executive insist upon? That we should first abandon it, and trust for its restoration to the result of the negociation. We are required to trust to an act to be hereafter passed by the American legislature for the restoration of this right, or for the provision of an equivalent. Can any thing be more manifestly absurd and unjust? Is not the natural course not by the law of nations only, but by the rules of common sense, that we should retain that which we rightfully possess until the equivalent for which it is to be exchanged shall be fully discussed, and satisfactorily ascertained? The hon. gentleman says, that it will cost us a war to maintain the possession of it. I wish to ask him what wars would it not cost us to regain possession if it were once resigned? (Hear, hear!) At least, maintaining our right, we are safe until force compel us to resign it.
I am sure that gentlemen, upon reflection, must see, the proposed compromise is at least attended with difficulties which, if not absolutely insuperable, are extremely hard to be surmounted. The appointment of a tribunal similar to a prize court, as suggested by an hon. gentleman (Mr. Baring) in this debate, approaches nearest to my ideas of possibility; but is this likely to be found practicable or palatable to America, if the proposal of it should come from this country? Were it suggested by America, it might perhaps produce some beneficial result; but if proposed by Great Britain, would it not be repelled with innignation? Would America bear to see her citizens made subjects of judicature, like bales of contraband goods? Would she endure that a judge of our appointment should settle the fate of her natives, as we assign chattels to the right owner? Or would not such a proposal instead of tending to the settlement of differences, and the extinction of animosities, be employed by the demagogues on the other side of the Atlantic to inflame the public mind, to exasperate the jealousies 638 and hatreds of the enemies of Great Britain, and to make all amicable arrangement utterly hopeless?
I have, however, as I have said, no objection, and the British government has not shewn any, throughout the correspondence now under our consideration, to any attempt to make the exercise of this right the subject of diplomatic arrangement, provided the principle of the right itself be unequivocally acknowledged; provided the suspension, or tacit abandonment of it be not expected to precede the substitution, of some other effectual mode of securing the objects to which it applies; and provided it be distinctly understood that, failing the attempt to effect that substitution our right, and the practice of it are to continue not only unimpaired, but thenceforth unquestioned. The dispute relating to the impressment (as it is termed) or rather the recall of our own seamen, is not however as the hon. gentleman admits, the only point to be adjusted, before we can return to a good understanding with the United States. The American government also requires the renunciation of the system and principle of what they call paper blockades; that is to say, of the right which we claim and have exercised under the Orders in Council of 1807, and should, I trust exercise again, if again occasion arose for it, of retorting upon the enemy any attempt which he may make to wound us through the sides, or by the instrumentality of neutrals. With respect to blockades, the hon. gentleman has appealed to my recollection, whether the blockade of 1806 did not stand on different principles from those of 1807? The hon. gentleman is perfectly correct. The Order of 1806 established, or professed to establish, a blockade upon the old principles, by the application of a specific and competent force to particular ports. In January 1807, an Order was issued professedly of a retaliatory character. The Order of 1806 merged in it. What had intervened between the Order of May 1806, and that of January 1807? The French Berlin Decree. In retaliation, and avowedly in retaliation for that Decree, the Order of January 1807 was issued; doing away the strict legal blockade, and instituting what has been and may justly be described as a constructive blockade, not supported by an adequate specific force, but excluding neutrals from the coasting trade of the enemy by a prohibition retaliatory of that sweeping prohibition 639 of the Berlin Decree by which they were precluded from all trade with Great Britain. The Orders of November, 1807, extended the operation of the Order of January: but did not vary its principle. I have no wish to revive the differences which the hon. gentleman and I have so often discussed upon that subject, but I am equally prepared to contend now, as four years ago, that though there was some difference in degree between the Orders of November and that of January 1807, there was no difference in the principle; and certainly the hon. gentleman must own that the Americans have made no such distinction in their remonstrances.
The Orders in Council however both of January and November were abandoned: wisely or not, there is now no advantage in enquiring;—with little chance of satisfying America, as I thought at the time, and as must now be manifest to all mankind: and for this plain reason that the American government was not to be satisfied. They had an itch for war with this country, and they were determined to have it. Although therefore these are the only two points on which any practical discussion is pending, I cannot agree that they only entered the minds of the American executive when they declared war (for be it always remembered, that the war originated in their Declaration.) The spirit of animosity to this country indeed was not confined to the persons forming the cabinet of the United States; the gall of bitterness not only overflowed in Washington, but at the very court of London. The notes of the republican Chargé d'Affaires, Mr. Russell, contain abundant evidence not only of the predetermination to war, but of the real motives of that policy. In the month of August, he, with warning voice, pointed out to ministers the consequences of hostility; he told them "if concessions are not speedily made, the passions of the inhabitants of the United States will be roused, and conquests may be gained on terms that forbid restoration." When this sentence was penned, had not Mr. Russell Canada before his eyes? Was he not in the transport of his visions of success betraying incautiously the secrets of his employers, which were not to be divulged till the promulgation of the Declaration? [Hear! hear! hear!] Low as he was in the rank of diplomacy, he was intrusted with this grand and favourite design; and it is impossible for any man not to see from the commencement to the termination 640 of all the proceedings of the government of the United States an eager desire to gain possession of our North American territories: a plan long cherished, and not wholly, I fear, repugnant to the sentiments even of that party in the United States whom it is usual to designate as our friends. Even when their whole military establishment was 1,000 men, the American government and its partizans loudly proclaimed their sanguine hopes of victory in an expedition against British America, and delighted their fancies by imaginary conquests. I say, that even those who are called our friends in the United States are not averse from this enterprize, and would be won by the acquisition of Canada to the support and approbation of the war. But I use the expression "friends of this country"—as I do that of friends of France,—not as implying on the one hand a British influence, nor on the other hand imputing an actual conscious subserviency to Buonaparté: (though it must be owned that for the latter imputation there are appearances of but too probable grounds:) but simply as designating the two parties in the United States who respectively think the interests of their country best consulted, the one by a British, the other by a French connection.
And here I must confess that the censure of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Whitbread) upon that part of the noble lord's (lord Castlereagh's) speech which referred to the period chosen by the American government for declaring war, appears to me exceedingly ill-founded. The noble lord's remarks upon that subject did not appear to me unjust or unnecessary. Looking at the present state of the world, who shall say what America might not have achieved? Not by mixing in the contest, and involving herself in the complicated relations of European politics; (for I have never wished to see America involved in the war,) but merely by abstaining from the course which she has unfortunately taken, by refusing to administer to the passions, to flatter the hatred of the tyrant, to afford him that new hope of victory, and that consolation in defeat, which he boasts of deriving, from the diversion of our means, and the distraction of our efforts by the Amecan war? [Hear, hear!]—What assistance might she not have rendered to the late glorious struggle in the north, not by active concert, but merely in forbearing to aid Buonaparté's arms by 641 partly occupying ours? Who would have expected to have seen this favourite child of freedom leagued with the oppressor of the world?—[Hear, hear, hear!]—She who, twenty years ago, shed her blood for independence—she that, ever since that time, has boasted of the superiority of her citizens above all the nations of the globe—she that, watched over in her infancy by Great Britain, with parental tenderness and anxiety, nursed in the very lap of liberty, and educated in the school of republicanism, is now seen truckling to France, and condescending to become the tool of an ambition which threatens to lay prostrate at its feet the independence of every government, and of every people! Is this the same nation that we once remember to have heard shouting for emancipation? Is this the people that was to set an example of magnanimity to the world? I can scarcely believe it: I would willingly persuade myself that I am deceived; but facts cannot be discredited, and I behold the free republic of America lending her aid to crush those principles to which she owes her own existence, and to support the most desolating tyranny that ever afflicted the race of man.—[Hear, hear!]—It is impossible not to lament the loss to such a nation, of such an opportunity, which no combination of circumstances can ever restore. I do not say, that America should have been induced to assist us against France. I would not have asked her to risk her tender and unconfirmed existence in a war, and to endure all the dangers or to incur all the expences that must have ensued from her taking part in such an enterprize. She might have maintained a just and noble neutrality. But were it put to me indeed as matter of opinion,—supposing (what I do not suppose) that she could not avoid deciding one way or other, and that the risk of war on one side must be run,—which would best become her history, her character, and her constitution, to unite with England or to league with France;—I should not have hesitated in my determination. There was a time when I hoped that her choice, under such an alternative, would have required little deliberation; but though I should have applauded her option in such a case, I would not have forced nor even have solicited it. She was welcome to be neuter, could she but have persuaded herself to be impartial.
There is still something imposing in the name of a republic. The veneration for 642 that form of government is, even in this monarchical country, interwoven with our earliest impressions of honour, of liberty, and of virtue. But, I fear, that in the republic of America we look for the realization of our visions of republican virtue in vain. The sacred love of freedom, displayed in the annals of Greece and Rome, "made ambition virtue," and consecrated even the weapons of the conqueror. The modern republics of Europe polished mankind by their industry, and their arts. But I am afraid that neither the hardy valour, the ardent patriotism, and the lofty magnanimity of ancient Greece and Rome, nor the gentle manners and artificial refinements of Genoa or Florence, are to be traced in the hard features of transatlantic democracy. (Hear, hear, hear!) Would it were otherwise. The heartless and selfish policy pursued by America will lead her far astray from her real interest. The first consequence of it will be, the loss of much internal prosperity, and I am much deceived if she will compensate this loss by the acquisition of much military glory.
The hon. gentleman (Mr. Foster) describes 1,000 soldiers, four or five frigates, to guard an extent of coast of 1,500 miles, and a revenue of only two millions and a half of dollars, I think, or thereabouts, as the means, physical and pecuniary, of which the United States were in possession, when they declared war against this country. Undoubtedly no man could hear the statement without exclaiming, "And could a nation so circumstanced venture upon a war with the mighty empire of Great Britain, with the most distant prospect of success?" Unluckily it did. The unwelcome truth cannot be concealed. Two out of these four or five frigates have captured two frigates from the British navy. I advert with unwillingness to this part of the subject, because, in my opinion (an opinion before expressed and still retained) vigorous measures becoming this great nation might have averted disasters which may have the effect of prolonging hostilities. It is no answer to say, that our navy is immense, but that it is proportionably extended on the different stations. I complain not of the naval department, but of the policy which controuled its operations. I complain that the arm which should have launched the thunderbolt, was occupied in guiding the pen: that admiral Warren was busied in negociating, when he ought to have been sinking, burning, and destroying. Admiral 643 Warren sails from this country in the middle of August, and on the 27th of September he reaches Hallifax with his squadron, where he employs himself in writing dispatches to the American government; while commodore Rogers, on the 10th of October, sails unmolested from Boston. But we waited, it seems, to be quite sure that we were actually at war? Granted, for argument's sake (for no other purpose could I consent to grant it) that in the first instance there might be not full conviction of the certainty of war; but even after the American Declaration was received in the end of July, no hostile measure was resorted to by this country till the 14th of October, when letters of marque were issued, upon the receipt here of the intelligence (and as might be not unfairly suspected, in consequence of that intelligence) that the Guerriere frigate had been captured by the Americans.—What is the next advance towards actual war? The blockade of the Chesapeake, and the Order in Council announcing that blockade was issued; when?—the day after the arrival of the intelligence that the Macedonian, another of our frigates, had fallen into the power of the republic. The loss of these two fine ships of war, produced a sensation in the country scarcely to be equalled by the most violent convulsion of nature. I do not attribute the slightest blame to our gallant sailors; they always do their duty; but neither can I agree with those who complain of the shock of consternation throughout Great Britain, as having been greater than the occasion justified; who would represent the loss as insignificant, and the feelings of shame and indignation occasioned by it as exaggerated and extravagant. That indignation was a wholesome feeling which ought to be cherished and maintained. It cannot be too deeply felt that the sacred spell of the invincibility of the British navy was broken by those unfortunate captures: and however speedily we must all wish the war to terminate, I hope I shall not be considered as sanguinary and unfeeling when I express my devout wish that it may not be concluded before we have re-established the character of our naval superiority, and smothered in victories the disasters which we have now to lament, and to which we are so little habituated.
Sir, I entered on these points reluctantly on the present occasion. Other occasions will arise for their discussion. I hasten 644 to quit them. But having been expressly called upon to declare if I retained the sentiments which I before expressed upon the conduct of the war, I felt bound in fairness not to decline the avowal that my opinion not only remains unaltered, but has received additional confirmation from subsequent events. If it be true (as I believe it to be) in general that indecision and delay are the parents of failure; that they take every possible chance of detriment to the cause in which they are employed, and afford every advantage and encouragement to the adversary; it was peculiarly true in the present instance, that promptitude and vigour afforded at once the surest pledge of success in the war, and the only hope of averting it altogether. If, while the elections were pending the result of which was to place Mr. Madison, the archenemy of this country, in the president's chair, a decisive blow had been struck by this country, the tide of popular opinion in America might have been turned, and the consequences of a long and ruinous war might have been avoided. I lament for the general happiness of mankind that no such vigorous exertion was attempted, and though I am not disposed to unnecessary cruelties, nor would countenance the wanton effusion of human blood, yet I cannot help thinking that if some signal act of vengeance had been inflicted on any part of the United States, exposed to maritime attack, but particularly on any portion of their territory where there prevailed the greatest attachment to the interests of France, it would have at least been a useful warning, and might have prevented the continuance of the contest, if they had not prevented its commencement. I protest against the doctrine of half-measures, and forbearance in war: for where vigour has a tendency to decide the contest, hesitation is cruelty. But with those topics I have done.
Whatever may be the result of the contest, after the declaration issued by the United States, this country will stand right in the eyes of the world and of posterity. Nay, it is not paradoxical to say that we shall stand right, at no distant time, in the eyes even of our enemies in the United States; for by a singular anomaly, upon the issue of this struggle in which America is attempting to cripple our resources, depends not only the independence of Europe, but perhaps ultimately, the freedom of America herself.
§ Mr. Croker
said, the right hon. gentleman who spoke last, had expressed deep regret at the neglect of the government, in not inflicting a terrible chastisement upon their American foes, immediately following the commencement of hostilities. A few plain facts which he would submit to the House might help the right hon. gentleman to understand the naval operations of Britain on the American coast more distinctly, and show him that his statement had partly proceeded from imperfect information. As soon as the discussions in America began to take a serious turn, which he conceived happened during the month of May last, the British government sent orders to their naval officers, not couched in doubtful terms, but in the plain good old English style, that as the American government had assumed a menacing attitude, they should put in force their standing orders to sink, burn, and destroy their enemy's ships. These orders had been issued on the 9th of May last. They had never been revoked, but had been in force, were in force, and were acted upon as they had been given, without any drag-chain upon them. On the very day that the Americans had declared war against Great Britain, commodore Rodgers put to sea, although it was supposed he had not received any instructions from his government to that effect. In a few days a British squadron was sent in pursuit of commodore Rodgers and his fleet, at an earlier time than could have been expected. The British admiral wisely thought that some blow was aimed at the commerce of this country; he therefore went to protect the West India fleet. It proved that he was right in his supposition, for while protecting the West India fleet, he fell in with commodore Rodgers, gave him chace, and immediately bore down to give him battle, and had he thought proper to stand an engagement, the war would have commenced with one of those brilliant achievements which the right hon. gentleman had so strongly recommended; but very unluckily he made his escape. The Guerriere had gone to sea in company with the Africa, 74, from which ship she was separated in a gale of wind; immediately after which she fell in with the American frigate of superior size, by whom she was most unfortunately taken.—When the hon. gentleman (Mr. Whitbread) had said, that admiral Warren had remained in Halifax, he was right, for although all the 646 ships, even the admiral's flag ship, had been sent to sea, that officer was himself detained by urgent business relative to negociations with the American government. His own knowledge was so limited that he was not competent to judge whether the arrangements which had been made by sir John Warren were or were not judicious; but from the high character of that officer, he was inclined to think that they were most judicious. It was certain that the officer had a sufficient force at his disposal; and he trusted that the details of the service would shew that the force had been properly disposed. When sir John Warren, he repeated, went to the American station, having arrangements to make concerning the province of Canada and other objects, he remained for some time, it was true, in harbour at Halifax. But did his ships remain there? No; not even his flag ship, as he hoisted his flag in some small ship in the harbour. He had no mitigatory orders, and whether or no the disposition he made of his force was, as he (Mr. C.) supposed it was, good, the government could incur neither merit nor blame on account of it. An hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Baring) had said that Chesapeake, Delaware, Boston, and New York, should have been blockaded. This, with regard to the two first of these harbours, was certainly practicable. But in the case of the two last it was not possible, in the opinion not only of British officers, but also of Commodore Rodgers, Captains Hull, Bainbridge, and other American seamen. Commodore Rodgers shewed this, as he had constantly endeavoured, with great risk, to get out of the Chesapeake, and to get into either of the two other ports. The right hon. gentleman had said, that the moment the news arrived of the loss of the Macedonian, the Chesapeake was shut up by a paper blockade. The right hon. gentleman had forgot that the same wind which brought intelligence of the loss of the Macedonian, also conveyed this news, that the Chesapeake was blockaded; and the very same post which brought that news, also mentioned an unpleasant report of the loss of the Poictiers, which ship had been two months blockading that harbour. The reason why this blockade had not been notified was in order to avoid the charge of a paper blockade. The whole question had latterly turned upon the right of impressment; and on this subject the hon. gentleman opposite had taken up the opinion 647 of Mr. Monroe, and quoted his expression, which was, that "we naturalized foreign seamen into our service analogously to the manner in which the Americans naturalized our seamen into theirs." It was needless for him to say any thing in refutation of that opinion, or of the argument founded by the hon. gentleman upon the statute of Anne, that two years service of foreign seamen in our ships gave them similar privileges, as the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Canning) had completely proved that there was no analogy between the cases of the two countries. All that he should add to the matter so eloquently expounded by the right hon. gentleman would be as to the practice of the Admiralty. In his own professional duty, he had every day occasion to discharge foreigners who had been two years in the British navy; and although they were discharged as foreigners, yet at that very moment, if they applied to the Admiralty, to assist them in recovering payment of any debts, their names were given in to the attorney as British subjects. Mr. Monroe had said, that there was no regulation in Great Britain for preventing the impressing of foreigners. This was a gross mistake; for there was such a regulation. There did exist regulations against impressing foreigners, and in case of a foreigner's entering into the navy, though the Admiralty would not grant his discharge at his own request, yet they never refused it to the consul of his nation, as they considered that his allegiance, which was due to his country, could not be avoided by any act of his own. It often happened, as he had said, that to these seamen sums of money were due for pay or prize, which they had made over to crimps or Jews; and the Admiralty desired their solicitor to sue these persons for that money as due to a British subject, by the same stroke of the pen with which they restored them to their native country's service. They were, in fact, considered as having two countries,—the voluntary service of the one being looked upon as unable to debar the natural allegiance to the other. And yet Mr. Monroe asserted that we impressed American seamen and kept them! Whereas, an American certificate of citizenship had, in spite of all the abuses which were known to be practised upon such documents, been always respected by the Admiralty. As to the frauds which were committed in the forging of certificates, the noble lord had mentioned 648 one instance, and the hon. gentleman opposite had asked for more. It was needless to multiply instances, as the matter was so notorious. It was carried on in Philadelphia to a great extent. This abuse was recognized by the American government, for although there was such damning proof against them, they still persisted. Not long since, a certificate had been presented by a mulatto, in which he was described as a person of fair complexion with light eyes. In another case, a certificate was presented at the Admiralty, only five days after the date on which it was purported to have been signed at New York and backed by the American consul at this port, Mr. Beazley. This was not an abuse of petty clerks; it was, he repeated, an act recognised by the American government. He mentioned that it had been proved that an American consul at London, of the name of Lyman, had sold a certificate to a man for a guinea, and had told him he could give as good a protection as any in England for that sum. When this was known at the Admiralty, a letter was written to Mr. Lyman, saying that no more of his certificates would be received. To this letter Mr. Lyman sent an angry reply, in which he expressed his confidence that he would meet with the support of the American government; but he (Mr. Croker) had never heard whether Mr. Lyman had carried his representation to the foot of the presidential throne. The hon. gentleman then went on to explain the circumstances which led to the letter from Mr. Monroe to Mr. Foster on the 8th of June last, on the subject of the Americans enticing British seamen into their service. These circumstances were as follows:—A cartel (the Gleaner) was sent from England with conciliatory propositions to the American government. The officer who commanded this vessel was ordered not to allow any of the seamen to land; notwithstanding which the Americans enticed so many of the English sailors to enter their service, that there was a danger of the vessel not being able to return with dispatches, for want of a sufficient number of men to navigate her. Mr. Foster having written to the American government, and having stated on evidence that 28 of these English sailors were on board the American frigate Constitution, Mr. Monroe replied to his letter, and stated, that the fact of these seamen being on board the American frigate could not 649 be admitted on the evidence which he (Mr. Foster) had given; and this because it was against the laws of the United States to admit English seamen on board of an American ship; that these seamen might probably have become American citizens, in which case no difference was admitted between citizens by birth and citizens by naturalization. This was a case of such enormity, and the nature of the American doctrines were so fully shewn, that it was needless for him to offer any comments upon it. He had risen to say, that there had been no order from the British government to confine the operations of their fleets. Thank God! that House was about to join unanimously on that night in a measure which would do much to teach the Americans a lesson which would probably induce them to bring the war to a speedy termination. Their unanimity on that occasion, would show to France and to America, that they had nothing to hope from divisions in the British councils. It was far from his desire to intrude on the lime of the House, or to say any thing that could prevent the question being carried unanimously, for it would do move than any thing that had occurred, to shew the Americans, that when our vital interests were threatened, they would go hand in hand to defend them, however they might differ in their political opinions.
After a few words from Mr. Rose junior and Mr. W. Smith,
briefly replied, and stated, that letters of marque had been issued in consequence of the failure of the attempt to conclude an armistice by admiral Sawyer and sir G. Prevost.
§ The question was then put and carried nem. con.