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passed after the arrival of the new French minister. He also notices the letters from the state department, of June and July, 1810, containing the protestation which was communicated to the French government that “
a satisfactory provision for restoring the property lately surprised and seized by the order, or at the instance of the French government, must be combined with a repeal of the French edicts, with a view to nonintercourse with Great Britain ;" yet, before the passage of the act, the French minister, Serrurier, had officially communicated to our government the fixed determination of the government of France not to restore the property that had been so seized. “Moreover,” adds Mr. Smith, “ from the information which had been received by Mr. Madison, prior to the date of the non-intercourse law, it was, at the time of passing it, clear to my mind, that the Berlin and Milan decrees had not been revoked, as had been declared by the proclamation."
Then follows a copy of the draft of a letter prepared (June, 1810) by Mr. S., to be sent to General Armstrong, after a letter had been received of the duke of Cadore, justifying the seizure of American property in the ports of France and her allies. This letter expressed the surprise of the president at the “disposition to represent the United States as the original aggressor.” It considered the seizure of American property as
an act of violence scarcely less than an act of war," for which the duke's letter “had not furnished even a plausible palliation or a reasonable apology.” To construe our resistance to the unlawful restrictions upon our commerce by France into “a cause of warlike reprisal,” he called "a species of dictation." The French decrees, the letter said, “had assumed a prescriptive power over the policy of the United States, as reprehensible as the attempt of the British government to levy contributions on our trade was obnoxious.
Had France interdicted to our vessels all the ports within the sphere of her influence, and had she given a warning of equal duration with that given by our law, there would have been no cause of complaint on the part of the United States. The French government would not then have had the opportunity of exercising its power in a manner as contrary to the forms as to the spirit of justice, over the property of the citizens of the United States."
The letter says farther : "Let him withdraw or modify his decrees; let him restore the property of our citizens so unjustly seized, and a law of the United States exists which authorizes the president to promote the best possible understanding with France, and to impose a system of exclusion against the ships and merchandise of Great Britain in the event of her failing to conform to the same just terms of conciliation."
Mr. Smith expressed to Mr. Madison his apprehensions that the
emperor would not fulfill our just expectations. But Mr. M. was confident that the decrees would bona fide cease on the 1st of November, 1810, and our commercial relations with France be encumbered with no embarrassments whatever. Mr. S. told him he would converse with Turreau (the French minister) on the subject. In the subsequent correspondence, he says he “was greatly checked by the evident indications of utter indifference on the part of Mr. Madison. Instead of encouraging he absolutely discouraged the making of any animadversions upon Turreau's letter of December 12, 1810.” The letter of Mr. S. was prepared after the receipt of a letter from the French minister of foreign affairs to our minister at Paris, in which the former had said: “ The American3 can not hesitate as to the part which they are to take. They ought cither to tear to pieces the act of their independence, and so become again, as before the revolution, the subjects of England.
Men without just political views, without honor, without energy, may allege that payment of the tribute imposed by England may be submitted to because it is light.
It will then be necessary to fight for interest, after having refused to fight for honor."
Notwithstanding this disrespectful and offensive language, and the outrages upon our neutral rights, Mr. Madison objected to the letter of Mr. Smith on account of its severity, and instead of the animadversions it contained, he directed the insertion of simply the following: "As the John Adams is daily expected, and as your further communications by her will better enable me to adapt to the actual state of our affairs of the French government, the observations proper to be made in relation to their seizure of our property, and to the letter of the duke of Cadore of the 14th of February, it is by the president deemed expedient not to make at this time any such animadversions. I can not, however, forbear informing you, that a high indignation is felt by the president, as well as by the public, at this act of violence on our property, and at the outrage, both in the language and in the matter, of the letter of the duke of Cadore, so justly portrayed in your note to him of the 10th of March.” Mr. Smith calls attention to the fact, that the last sentence was addressed to Gen. Armstrong personally, and not intended for the French government; showing he
" that our executive had at that time, but just resolution enough to impart to his own minister the sentiments of indignation that had been here excited by the enormous outrage of the Rambouillet decree, and by the insulting audacity of the duke of Cadore's letter."
Congress, Mr. S. said, had been, during the preceding session, embarrassed as to the course to be taken with respect to our foreign relations, from the defect in the communications to them as to the views of the emperor. And when the arrival of Serrurier, the French eüvoy, was
announced, congress suspended proceedings touching our foreign relations, in order to avail themselves of information from France since the 1st of November, the day fixed for the repeal of the decrees to take effect. Mr. Smith, to relieve the impatience of congress, prepared a letter to Serrurier, proposing the following questions :
“ ist. Were the Berlin and Milan decrecs revoked, in whole or in part, on the first day of last November ? Or have they at any time posterior to that day been so revoked? Or have you instructions from your government to give this government any assurance or explanation in relation to the revocation or modification of those decrees?
“ 2d. Do the existing decrees of France admit into French ports, with or without licenses, American vessels laden with articles the produce of the United States, and under what regulations and conditions ?
“3d. Do they admit into French ports, with or without licenses, American vessels laden with articles not the produce of the United States, and under what regulations and conditions ?
“4th. Do they permit American vessels, with or without licenses, to return from France to the United States, and upon what terms and conditions ?
“ 5th. Is the importation into France of any articles, the produce of the United States, absolutely prohibited ? And if so, what are the articles so prohibited ? and especially are tobacco and cotton ?
“6th. Have you instructions from your government to give to this government any assurance or explanation in relation to the American vessels and cargoes seized under the Rambouillet decree ?"
The sending of this letter, however, was interdicted by the president, as being in his opinion inexpedient. This refusal of the president to permit these inquiries to be made, when the revocation of the decrees was so much questioned, and when congress was so desirous for information, was pronounced by his opponents to have been dictated either by a fear of Bonaparte, or by an undue regard for the French nation,
Before the arrival of Serrurier, and in anticipation of the expiration of the three months from the 1st of November, allowed to Great Britain by the conditional non-importation law of May, 1810, a bill was introduced into the house to revive, as to Great Britain, the non-importation provisions of the acts of 1809 and 1810. Action upon the bill had for some days been suspended for information daily expected by the new minister from France, when a motion was made to take up the bill for the purpose of adding a provision against the forfeiture of goods already shipped and arriving from British ports after the 2d of March, as it was presumed that goods had been ordered, and shipped before the president's proclamation was known. A proposition was made by Mr. Randolph to
relinquish the whole restrictive system. To which it was objected, that our pledges to France required its continuance. Notwithstanding it was known that two vessels had been seized under the Berlin and Milan decrees since the 1st of November, and notwithstanding Serrurier came before the passage of the bill, without instructions to make any explanations of the seizures, but with instructions to refuse indemnity for seizures under the Bayonne and Rambouillet decrees; the bill was passed.
The 12th congress, having been convened by proclamation before the regular day of meeting, commenced its session the 4th of November, 1811. The principal topics of the president's message were those of our relations with Great Britain and France and of the public defense. Although he spoke of the French decrees as having been repealed, he complained that the measure had not been followed by such others as were due to our reasonable claims and the amicable professions of the French government; but no proof had yet been given of an intention to repair the other wrongs done to the United States, and particularly to restore the great amount of American property seized and condemned under her edicts. The United States had also much reason to be dissatisfied with the rigorous and unexpected restrictions to which their trade with the French dominions had been subjected, and which, if not discontinued, would require at least corresponding restrictions on importations from France.
Great Britain was complained of for persisting in her refusal to revoke her orders in council " after the successive confirmations of the extinction of the French decrees, so far as they violated our neutral commerce." The orders had been, “when least to have been expected, put into more rigorous execution;" and it had been "communicated through the British envoy just arrived, that while the revocation of the edicts of France, as officially made known to the British government, was denied to have taken place, it was an indispensable condition of the repeal of the British orders, that commerce should be restored to a footing that would admit the productions and manufactures of Great Britain, when
owned by neutrals, into markets shut against them by her enemy; the United States being given to understand, that, in the mean time, a continuance of their non-importation act would lead to measures of retaliation."
On the subject of defense, the president said “the period bad arrived which claimed from the legislative guardians of the national rights a system of more ample provision for maintaining them." And he considered it the duty of congress to put the United States into an armor and an attitude demanded by the crisis, and corresponding with the national spirit and expectations.'
On the 9th of March, 1812, the president communicated to congress certain documents disclosing a secret plot, on the part of Great Britain, to dismember the union, and to form the eastern states into a political connection with Great Britain.
In the winter of 1809, John Henry was employed by Sir James H. Craig, late governor-general of Canada, to undertake a secret mission to the United States with a view to this object. He was directed to proceed to Boston, from which place he was to keep governor Craig informed of “the state of public opinion with regard to their internal politics, and to the probability of a war with England; the comparative strength of the two great parties into which the country was divided; and the views and designs of that which might ultimately prevail." It was hoped, if the federalists should obtain sufficient influence to direct public opinion, they would, rather than submit to the continuance of the difficulties and distress to which they were then subject, exert their influence to bring about a separation from the general union.
Henry was advised not to appear as an avowed agent; but if he could obtain an intimacy with any of the leading men, he might insinuate, though with great caution, that if they should wish to enter into any communication with the British government, he might receive it and transmit it to him (Craig.) Henry proceeded through Vermont and New Hampshire to Boston, from which place most of his letters to Craig and his secretary, Ryland, were written. Having suggested in his last letter from this place, that, “in the present state of things in this country, his presence could contribute very little to the interest of Great Britain," he was recalled. It does not appear that Henry had conversation with any person in this country on the object of his mission.
As a compensation for his services, Craig had promised him an office worth a thousand pounds a year. The office not having been received, and a memorial to the British government on the subject having failed of securing relief, he made a disclosure of the plot to Mr. Monroe, secretary of state, for which the president paid him out of the secret