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readers, we shall endeavour to give a condensed and impartia! sketch of the grounds on which we think it ought to be determined.
The facts in the case are few ; and liable to no dispute. la November 1806, Bonaparte issued a decree at Berlin, by which he declared the British islands to be in a state of blockade, and announced his intention to capture all vessels trading to these countries. He also shut the ports of the countries under his are thority, against all vessels which had last cleared out from Grez: Britain ; and subjected to confiscation all cargoes of British produce or manufacture. In aid of this last regulation, he afterwards declared that all neutral vessels coming into any port in his dominions, should bring with them what is called a certificate of orgin;' being a certificate under the hand of the French consul at de port of shipment, that the cargo wąs not of British produce or manufacture; and that all vessels met at sea without such a cer. tificate, should be liable to capture.
This was the French decree, issued, as we have seen, in No vember 1806. From the state of their naval force, it will each be understood, that it could not be enforced in its most materia, points; and it shall be shown immediately, that no attempt w made to enforce it, even where such attempt might have been efectual. It was probably intended chiefly to alarm or to provok: us; and it seems to have answered that purpose sufficiently in the end. In January 1807, the late Ministry issued an order, subjectis; to seizure all neutral vessels trading from one hoftile port in E rope to another with hostile property; or interdicting, in ther. the coasting trade of the enemy to neutrals. Ten months elaples without any other movement in either cabinet; till, at laft, : November 1807, just a year after the publication of the Berts decree, our Orders in Council appeared, containing these two fub ftantial propofitions. First, that France, and all its tributan ftates, should be held to be in a state of blockade ; and all veel seized which attempted to trade from any neutral port to thole countries, or from them to any neutral port: and, fecondly, that all vefsels should be liable to seizure whic: should have aboard any such certificate of origin as was required by the Berlin decte. Neutral veffels intended for a French or hostile port, are directed, at all events, to touch first at Great Britain ; from which, after paying certain duties, they may, in some cases, be allowed to proceed, and in all cases they are permitted, and indeed enjoinec, to come to Great Britain, when clearing out with a cargo fros any port of the enemy.
Such is the decree which has been ifsued and enforced by ce Government for the last fix months. There are only two que
tions which arise with regard to it; but they include every thing which can affect the merits of any public measure. Had we any right to make such a decree? and will it do us good or harm, now that we have made it? Is it just in short and is it expedient ? If the answer to the last question were clearly favourable, we fear that the other could scarcely obtain a very fair hearing. As it is, we believe, it will not be disputed that they must both be answered in the same manner. The justice and legality of the Orders stand exactly upon the same ground with their expediency; and the reader, who is satisfied that they are indefensible upon principle, certainly will have no occasion to regret this conclusion, from any consideration of their consequences.
That they go near to annihilate the commerce of neutrals, is the first feature in these new measures of policy. Taken in combination with the Berlin decree, they interdict the whole foreign trade of all neutral nations : they prohibit every thing which that decree had allowed; and they enjoin those very things which are there made a ground of confiscation. France, it is true, wants the power to enforce the greater part of her own enact, ments; but what she can enforce, our Orders compel her to make effectual. We take all the vessels that attempt to pass between the ports of the enemy and neutrals; and the enemy, of course, seizes and detains all that attempt to come to him from us. Ben tween the two, the trade of the neutral with the enemy is totally destroyed, and our blockade of the whole Continent of Europe carried into complete and vigorous effect. Our own direct trade with the neutral indeed may remain ; but prodigiously limited in its extent, both by our no longer having occasion for any of those commodities which we formerly took to reexport to the Continent, and by the neutral being obliged, in like manner, to limit his imports to such articles as he can consume at home, and pay for from his own produce ;-to say nothing of the risk of capture for want of a certificate of origin—and the hazard, or rather the certainty, of open war from the enemy, in consequence of submitting to our decree of blockade, and disregarding his.
Here, then, is an enormous injury done to the neutral, under pretence of a blockade, and of retaliation on the enemy. That ageneral blockade of ports not actually watched or invested, is contrary to the law of nations, and totally ineffectual as against neu, trals, is settled by the uniform decisions of our own courts, even in the present war ; * and will not be disputed by the fiercest advocates of the Orders in Council. But the defence is, that our blockade was but a retaliation of that which had been imposed by
* Robinson's Reports, Vol. I. p. 154, &c.
the enemy; and that the neutrals, having fubmitted to the one, have no right to complain of the other. The whole question, therefore, on the ground of justice and principle, comes merely to this, whether the French decree of blockade had been enforced or not, and whether the neutrals had submitted to it. .
In the preamble to the Orders in Council, it is stated, that' certáin orders, establishing an unprecedented system of warfare a
gainst this kingdom, had been some time since issued by the Go• vernment of France, and that the same have been recently enforced (with increafing rigour.! It is also stated in another part of the preamble, that countries not engaged in the war have acquieford
in these orders of France, and fubmitted to them as parts of the
new system of war,? &c.; and therefore, it is added, his Majesty, ? under these circumstances,' finds himself compelled to take measures for vindicating his just rights, &c. It is sufficiently im. plied in this preamble, that the justification of those measures must depend upon the truth of the facts which are set forth, as having compelled his Majesty's Government to adopt them. It is of confequence, therefore, to consider how far these facts have been established, since the very framers of the Orders evidently admit that they could not be defended, if the decrees of France should appear not to have been unprecedented, -not to have been enforced, -and not to have been acquiefced in. "That they were not unprecedented, is made out by Mr Brougham in the clearest manner, by reference to authorities which seem to have escaped all former investigators, though perfecily decisive of the question. "Şimilar decrees had been iffued in 1739, and in 1756, under the old government. ''Since the revolution, they had been many times repeated; once in 1796, when certificates of origin were first required; once in 1797;' and again, after the first formation of the Consular government, in 1800. In all these decrees, 'a vefsel, loaded in whole or in part with British produce, is declared lawful prize ; and the ports of France are shut against all ships' which had touched at a British harbour in the course of their voyage.'"; : : ..4 101. Do
None of these decrees, it is admitted, were either enforced, or subrnitted to, by neutrals; and as they were not backed by any measures of retaliation on our part, our commerce with neutrals went on, during their subfiftence, not only without interruption, but with prodigious increase. List of all comes the edict of November 18:6; and the question is, whether it was enforced or acquiesced in, more than those that had gone before it..
Now, with regard to these points, it is perfectly manifest, from the official correspondence on the subject, as well as from the evidence which has recently been laid before Parliament, that this
ediat never was enforced, nor expected to be enforced ; and that, so far from being submitted to by America (and there is no other neutral), the most positive assurances were given, that it would not be submitted to. In the first place, there is the note of Lords Auckland and Holland to the American commissioners on the 31st December 1806, more than fix weeks after that edict had been promulgated ; in which they say, that 'they cannot believe that * the enemy will ever seriously attempt to enforce such a system ; ' and that if he should, they are confident the good sense, &c. of • the American Government will prevent its acquiefcence in such • pretensions,' &c. The Orders in Council of the 7th January 1807, prohibiting the enemy's coafting trade by neutrals, is introduced by a preamble, reprobating the illegal decree of France, and is transmitted in a despatch to our minister in America, ftating, that " we rely with confidence on the firmness of that govern. inent in reffing pretensions, which, if suffered to take effect, • would prove so destructive to its commercé.' And, in answer to this, it appears that Mr Maddison, the American secretary, stated in his first letter to our ambassador,' that the honour, &c. ' of the United States, was a sufficient pledge that no culpable ac' quiescence on their part would ever render them accessary to the ' attack of one. belligerent on the commerce of its adversary, ' through the rights of neutrals.'
The most important document of all, however, is the answer of M. Decrés the Minister of Marine, to General Armstrong the American Ambassador, when, instead of acquiescing in the Berlin decree, he applied to learn, whether it was intende ed to be put in force against the vefsels of his country. That answer distinctly states, first, that it was not intended to make any alteration in the former commercial regulations of the two countries; and, secondly, that an American veffel could not be taken at sea, because it was going to an English port, or had cleared out from one. The blockading decree, in fhort, was not to be put in force against ships of that country. This was the positive official answer of the Minister of Marine to the American Ambassador; and though it is added in that document, that his answer cannot have that development which might be received from the Minister of the Exterior, still it is given without qualification; and having been followed by no opposite explana tion, must be taken as the authentic refcript of the French Government. It is known to have been communicated by General Armstrong to his Government, and if they were fatisfied without any more folemn or public declaration, it cannot be doubted that they thought they could rely in safety on the assurances they had received. It could not be very defireable for the Ruler of France to declare formally, that he had issued a decree which he had no