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the principal islands in the West India seas; he had been compelled to abandon his project of invading England; and, as a final blow, the battle of Trafalgar had destroyed his own navy, and the flower of that of Spain. He undertook, then, to subdue the ancient, deadly rival of his country, by subduing the continent. The price of the victories of Austerlitz, Jena, Friedland, and Eylau, was to be far greater, either than the glory of the French arms, or the conquest of the most powerful states of the old world. It was to be attended with the downfall of the commerce of the English, and the ruin and bankruptcy of that rich nation. Again the scheme failed. There is a limit to power, even at the very moment when it appears to have transcended all the bounds that human efforts can set to it. There is a principle, always at work, to preserve some sort of balance in the world. These projects of universal dominion have never entirely succeeded; and, we presume, never will, while nations retain any portion of civilization.
France has produced all the great conquerors of modern times; no country, indeed, is better situated for conquests. But none of the conquerors of that remarkable people, have appeared under more favourable auspices, to acquire a universal dominion, than Napoleon. He returned from Egypt, at a time when the revolution was just brought to a close. He appeared then before the world, and with vast applause. Those who were in France, at the time the question was publicly proposed, whether Napoleon should be consul for life— or, as it was placarded on the walls of all the great cities, "Bonaparte sera-t-il consul à vie"-have often described the unbounded enthusiasm that prevailed in his favour. In six years, he attained to a height of power, that speedily threatened a universal empire. He then began the continental system. He became the head of it; and a refusal, on the part of any government, to adopt it, was tantamount to a declaration of war. Prussia, Russia, Austria, Denmark, the states of the new confederation of the Rhine, the kingdom of Italy,
Naples, Holland, and Spain, formally became members of the league. French troops took possession of the Pontificate, of Etruria, and of Portugal, where it was, of course, enforced. There did not remain a state on the European continent, with the exception of the Ottoman Porte, that did not enter into this system. Napoleon had, undoubtedly, made preparations to compel a compliance from Turkey,-but he became occupied and embarrassed with his Spanish war. Thus, at one time, was this system generally, and, to all appearance, firmly established.
To speak with precision, America was the only neutral in the civilized world at this period; and no evils have ever fallen on her so heavily, as the measures of the two great belligerents, commencing with the Berlin decree of November 1806. This measure awakened, in the outset, little attention; and it does not appear, at first, to have been thought of serious importance even in England. It was considered in the United States as a municipal regulation. There were captures made under the decree shortly after it was announced, but no actual condemnation took place till the case of the Horizon in November 1807-nearly a year after the promulgation. The American minister at Paris, Mr. Armstrong, regarded this act as municipal, till October 1807; and he assured his government, there was no ground for uneasiness or apprehension. The decree had the appearance of being issued in a moment of great triumph and conquest; and the expressions, upon a careful and attentive perusal and examination, do not indicate any precise or definite object, though, in general terms, the British Islands were declared to be in a state of blockade, and all commerce and correspondence with them were forbidden. But the decision in the case of the Horizon was very alarming. The delay of a year to put the decree into operation had justly satisfied America, that the vessels of this country were not included in the provisions of it. They relied for their protection on the acknowledged principles of public law, on the rights of neutral commerce, urged by France since the year '80, with as much vehemence and steadiness as by
any other government whatever, and especially on the 12th and 14th articles of the convention of Paris of 1800. We can only account for the delay in enforcing this decree from an expectation entertained by France, that the United States would join her in the continental system against England. All the difficulties, observed Mr. Champagny, in Nov. 1807, "which have given rise to your reclamations, would be removed with ease, if the government of the United States, after complaining in vain of the injustice and violations of England, took with the whole continent the part of guaranteeing itself therefrom. England has introduced into the maritime war an entire disregard for the rights of nations; it is only in forcing her to a peace, that it is possible to recover them. On this point the interest of all nations is the same. All have their honour and independence to defend." But the terms, on which it was proposed to America to enter into this league, or armed neutrality, were not such as inspired confidence or discovered consistency. They asserted, in an extreme degree, the same principles of blockade against which America had constantly protested; principles that the report of the French minister of November 1806, declared to be "monstrous and indefensible." In January and November of the next year, (1807) England issued retaliatory orders in Council.* These were followed by the Milan decree of December 1807.† England and
* See Chapter-Treaty of Ghent.
+ "Royal Palace at Milan, December 17, 1807. "1. Every ship, to whatever nation it may belong, that shall have submitted to be searched by an English ship, or to a voyage to England, or shall have paid any tax whatsoever to the English government, is thereby, and for that alone, declared to be denationalized, to have forfeited the protection of its king, and to have become English property.
"2. Whether the ships thus denationalized by the arbitrary measures of the English government, enter into our ports, or those of our allies, or whether they fall into the hands of our ships of war, or of our privateers, they are declared to be good and lawful prize.
France divided, by their several decrees, the civilized world between them-one held the land-the other the sea. And it did not lay in the quiet, well expressed remonstrance of a minister, in the cold, studied language of diplomacy, either to divert the belligerents from the great course of their policy, or to avert from the successful, unoffending commerce of the United States, the vast mischiefs of this accumulation of decrees and orders. The principal evils and devastation of the war had hitherto been confined to the land; but Napoleon having overthrown, on the plains of Germany, or of northern Prussia, all the coalitions England had been able to rally against him, from that time the contest took a new turn. And the United States, hitherto so prosperous, were now called to bear their part in the calamities Europe had so abundantly suffered. At this crisis, America withdrew her commerce from the ocean. A general embargo, without limitation as to time, was passed in December 1807. This was a great sacrifice; but the experiment was worth making, if it could prevent the necessity of hostilities. It was considered to be strictly a measure of precaution, and by no means intended to preclude any attempt, whatever, at negotiation. But this act of the American government certainly produced no effect on France. So far from leading to any conciliatory proposition, the first accounts of it in that country were succeeded by a very extraordinary
"3. The British Islands are declared to be in a state of blockade, both by land and sea. Every ship of whatever nation, or whatsoever the nature of its cargo may be, that sails from the ports of England, or those of the English colonies, and of the countries occupied by English troops, and proceeding to England, or to the English colonies, or to countries occupied by English troops, is good and lawful prize, as contrary to the present decree, and may be captured by our ships of war or our privateers, and adjudged to the captor.
"4. These measures, which are resorted to only in just retaliation of the barbarous system adopted by England, which assimilates its legislation to that of Algiers, shall cease to have any effect with respect to all nations, who shall have the firmness to compel the English government to respect their flag,"
edict. It goes by the name of the decree of Bayonne of April 1808. It directed all vessels then in the ports of France, or that should thereafter come in, to be seized. The pretence of this decree was, that as no American vessels could at that time be navigating the ocean without violating the embargo, they must, in every instance, be British property; though in truth many vessels were innocently in French ports, or did so arrive there, having left the United States on distant voyages; and at the time the embargo was laid, others were at sea, engaged in their usual commerce. As the law imposed no obligation on them to return, their absence was in no respect criminal. The embargo was a municipal regulation of the United States; and it was competent alone to that country to execute it. Some vessels left our ports during the continuance of that measure. This act was an offence against their own government; but it was none against a foreign one; it did not disfranchize or denationalize them. The embargo naturally belonged to the system of forbearance and neutrality, commenced under the first administration, after the adoption of the constitution. But we had fallen upon far different times; such assaults upon the rights of nations had never before been witnessed; nor had the world ever seen such a weight and concentration of power employed to enforce those aggressions.
The temper and disposition manifested at this time by the French Emperor were unfavourable and alarming. Mr. Madison, Secretary of State, in a letter of July 1808 to General Armstrong, remarks:
"If France does not wish to throw the United States into a war against her, for which it is impossible to find a rational or plausible inducement, she ought not to hesitate a moment in revoking, at least, so much of her decrees, as violate the rights of the sea, and furnish to her adversary the pretext for his retaliating measures. It would seem as if the imperial cabinet had never paid sufficient attention to the smallness of the sacrifice, which a repeal of that portion of its system would involve, if an act of justice is to be called a sacrifice."