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IN our first volume, we have given a succinct account of the
circumstances which tended to excite jealousy and animosity
between America and the maritime nations of Europe. We
have dwelt upon the various points of controversy necessarily
arising between neutral nations and nations at war with each
other. We have traced the manner in which the extent of
the American trade, and the total want of a navy to protect it,
on the one hand, and the commercial spirit, together with the
formidable naval power of Great Britain, on the other, tended
to sow distrust and dissention between them. The dissen-
tions originating in the sameness of their language, manners,
and origin, and the spirit of the British laws, respecting the
right of a native of the British islands to transfer his allegiance
to a foreign state, have been fully explained. We likewise
expressed our expectations that another year would bring to a
close, either warlike or pacific, the intricate negotiations to
which these differences had given rise. More than a year,
however, has since elapsed, but, though the controversy has
been embittered by new and unthought-of injuries since that
period, the two nations are still in an ambiguous state.
They are not at open war, but their mutual resentment has
been raised to a high pitch, by offences on one side and pre-
cautions on the other. The animosity of parties, both in Bri-
tain and America, has been greatly inflamed by the conse-

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quences of these measures, and the feelings and opinions of
the public have, in an extraordinary degree, been affected by

The irresistible power of Britain at sea has given birth to a
peculiar and glaring kind of vexation with regard to America.
In order to obstruct the commerce of the United States with
France, she finds it easy to place squadrons, or even single fri-
gates, along our coasts, and at the mouths of our harbours,
where they remain perfectly secure from all hostile molesta-
tion, and may stop and examine all ships, as they pass in or
out, at their leisure. The jurisdiction of a state is supposed
to extend to a certain distance beyond its coast; but this limit
cannot be defined and fixed by walls or mounds, and the foreign
ship will naturally chuse the safest station. Hence will una-
voidably arise constant provocations to resentment and occa-
sions of complaint. A nation at war cannot exercise the
least of those rights which custom has given them over the
trade of a neutral state, without great loss and vexation to the
neutral: a loss that cannot be adequately reimbursed, and vex-
ations that cannot be atoned for by the concessions of reluctant
ministers, and the decrees of dilatory judges. The exercise
of these rights being intrusted to commanders of ships, whom
habit has rendered arbitrary, whom distance from controul has
rendered insolent, and whose interest incites them to abuse
their power, and who, in the present case, have no opposition
to dread from either the neutral or the enemy, it is impossible
that great injustice and oppression should not be incessantly
perpetrated. One of these rights is that of taking seamen
from vessels at sea, when their place cannot be supplied, when
the whole number is barely sufficient for the voyage, and
when the right itself is denied by the neutral state, and conti-
nually, in practice, stretched beyond the bounds by which the
warring nation itself confesses that it ought to be circum-
scribed; and when we consider that these rights have been ex-
erted by ships placed at the mouths of our harbours, within the
bounds of our own territory, within sight of the inhabitants,
we shall not be surprised at the indignation and resentment
which the American nation has felt towards Great Britain.
An impartial observer would, indeed, be astonished to find
that these insults and injuries were borne for so many years,
without any hostile effort to resist or prevent them. If man-
kind were governed by a due regard to consequences; if a
state forbore to go to war with its neighbours, whenever its
real and solid interests would be more impaired by war than
by peace, the forbearance of America towards Great Britain

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and France, under so many provocations, would not be won-
derful, since war with either of these powers would be infi-
nitely more pernicious than the repetition of any injury hitherto
inflicted by them; but as men, collectively, are even more un-
der the influence of their passions than individuals, it is truly
wonderful that hostilities had not long ago commenced.

That the American coast should be almost perpetually be-
set by armed ships of Great Britain, arises not only from the
desire of restraining the commerce with France, but from the
supply of provisions of which these ships, in their cruises, con-
tinually stand in need, and especially from the circumstance
of French ships occasionally taking refuge in the American
harbours. A few frigates and squadrons occasionally make
their escape from the ports of France, and, after accomplishing
their purpose in the West Indian seas, seek repairs, or provi-
sions, or safety from indefatigable pursuers in some port of the
United States. While they lie within these ports, they are
sufficiently protected by the neutrality of the states, but they
are carefully watched by their enemies stationed near at hand;
and these being enabled to keep their prey in view, and, by the
same means, to recruit their store of provisions, to intercept
the commerce with France, and augment their crews by im-
pressments from vessels as they pass to and fro, it is no won-
der that British ships almost continually hover near the
mouths of our bays and harbours. The rights of a warring
nation over neutrals, all of them unjust in themselves, and
founded solely on superior power, and some of them disputed,
are thus exerted in a manner in the highest degree provoking
and humiliating. The neutral is thus continually reminded
that he is helpless and powerless, and has no remedy against
indignity and injury but patience.

The reasons why the United States are more annoyed on
the verge of their own territory by British than by French
ships, are sufficiently obvious. That the latter are naturally
disposed to exercise power with more equity and moderation
than the former, cannot be believed; but, in the present war,
they have visited us almost wholly for the sake of protection.
The arrogance natural to men with arms in their hands is re-
pressed by their dread of their powerful enemy, and they en-
deavour to secure a welcome, so necessary to their safety,
by greater caution and forbearance. It is not to be imagined,
however, that America has not similar motives of complaint
against the French; but the injuries committed by the British
as much exceed those with which the French are chargeable,
as the naval power of the former exceeds that of the latter, and

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this difference in their power is not only the measure, but the
cause of the difference in their behaviour.

The port of New York, in consequence of the greatness of
its commerce, and its defenceless condition, together with its
vicinity to Halifax, the chief naval station of the British in
North America, has been more exposed than any other Ame-
rican harbour to vexations of this kind. Ships of war have ge-
nerally hovered at its mouth, and anchored within the strict
territorial limits. Here they have boarded, detained, and
captured vessels, or deprived them of their mariners, at their
pleasure, and in doing this have necessarily overstepped those
bounds, ambiguous and fluctuating as they are, by which bel-
ligerent rights are circumscribed. In one case, however, mi-
litary violence was carried to such a pitch, and, in another, was
attended with such fatal consequences, as to excite extraordi-
nary indignation.

In the year 1804, several British frigates entered the har-
bour of New York. A merchant vessel arriving at the same
time, the commander of the Cambrian, one of these frigates,
thought proper to enter her, to take out several of the crew
and passengers, and compel them to perform service on board
the British ships. In impressing the men, he exercised a
right openly claimed by the British government, though openly
denied by America. In the wrong itself, therefore, there
was nothing peculiarly outrageous or enormous; but being
committed within the harbour, and consequently within the
known limits of the American territory, it was altogether
lawless and hostile.

This conduct being considered as an offence against the
laws, and the perpetrators within their proper jurisdiction, le-
gal process was issued, and attempted to be executed on those
who committed it. That the process should be resisted was
matter of course. It cannot be believed that any hope of its
being submitted to was entertained by those who appealed to
it. The first violent step would necessarily be maintained and
vindicated at all hazards, and therefore the true offence lay in
the first step; yet the subsequent conduct of the officers, in re-
sisting the agents of the law, tended to exasperate the minds
of the people, and evince more strongly the presumption of
their guests and their own impotence.

Due complaints were made to the British government of
this outrage; but the offender, so far from being punished, or
even subjected to a trial, found his conduct on this occasion no
obstacle in the way of his promotion. He was advanced to
the command of a ship of the line. The American government

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thought proper to submit patiently to this injury, in the hope
of finally extorting from Great Britain the renunciation of the
privilege of impressing men from neutral vessels. This claim
being abolished, most of the wrongs complained of would be
effectually prevented. But though this claim continued to be
the topic of hopeless controversy between the two states, the
public indignation, excited by the conduct of the British com-
mander, had probably some tendency to prevent a repetition
of the same offence. These hostile rights were no longer
exercised within the harbour of New York, but they continued
to be exercised as formerly at the mouth of the harbour.
The Leander, a ship of war, occupying this station, attempted,
some time after, to arrest a passing vessel. The first signal
being slighted or unnoticed, a shot was fired, which killed
one man. The vessel was suffered to pass, and proved to be
a coaster. The ball entered the vessel when within half a
mile of the shore.

In this case every circumstance tended to exasperate the in-
jury. The vessel being, in reality as well in appearance, a
coasting vessel, and therefore affording no pretext for interrup-
tion or suspicion; her being unquestionably within those limits
to which the jurisdiction of a maritime state extends; and a
citizen being killed by this lawless exertion of foreign power,
in the pursuit of his proper business, could not fail to awaken
the deepest indignation. The mangled and lifeless body
was carried to New York, and exposed to the view of the peo-
ple. The popular rage threatened to break out into danger-
ous excesses; and though the factions within the city, just then
contending at an election, endeavoured to outvie each other
in zeal and clamour, with a view each to its own advantage, yet
this high provocation was productive of less violent effects
than were to be expected. The British ships were prevented,
for a time, from obtaining the usual supplies from the shore,
but the popular rage was restrained from any further exertions
by the prospect of redress in a legal manner. The govern-
ment readily promised to lay the matter before the British
court, and demand the trial of the British commander. The
demand was readily complied with, and witnesses were sent
to Great Britain, at the public expence, to support the charge.

The conduct of an officer, in the army or navy of Great Bri-
tain, can in general only be arraigned before judges selected
from the body to which he belongs. This tribunal is eminently
favourable to justice, in all cases where both parties are officers,
or where one party is the government charging an officer with
breach of discipline. In this new and unexampled case, how-

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ever, where a foreign state charges a naval officer with over-
stepping the due bounds of his authority, the cause of the cul-
prit becomes that of the whole class to which he belongs. The
offender is accused, not of pusillanimously remitting or forego-
ing any national claim, but of boldly stretching it beyond the due
bounds. The pride, therefore, of the government is concerned
rather in acquitting than in punishing, and the passions of his
judges, who feel that their conduct would resemble his in the
same situation, assure him of impunity. In the present case,
likewise, where the culprit is charged with murder, and can
only be legally convicted by being proved to have directly
ordered, or knowingly concurred in the deed, the facility of his
escape is obvious, since the witnesses could prove nothing but
that the gun which did the mischief was fired from his ship:
an event which might have taken place, with equal certainty,
had the captain been absent or asleep. That the captain was
answerable for all the consequences of an action, unauthorized
in itself, was an unavailing plea, since the guilt, in this case, if
admitted, must be transferred to the admiral by whose orders
he acted, and especially since this tribunal were not authorized
to decide whether the territorial jurisdiction of the United
States were violated or respected. It is hardly necessary to
add that captain Whitby was acquitted; nor is it easy to con-
ceive that this particular charge could meet with any other fate,
either from the passions or the justice of the court before
which he was brought. That an American citizen was killed
by a shot fired from a British frigate within the American ter-
ritory, was certain. This was a gross outrage; but the injured
party was a foreign state in relation to Great Britain. Its
wrongs, therefore, could awaken no sympathy, nor could an
inclination to repair these wrongs be excited by any thing but
a terror of vengeance or reprisal. The vain offer of a trial, on
a charge which could not be technically proved, and before a
tribunal whose authority extended not to the true point in con-
troversy, it was safe and easy to make. The popular resent-
ment was suspended by the offer, and the final acquittal of
Whitby took place after an interval sufficient to efface the
first impression, and divert the public attention to new ob-

Another case occurred, in September, 1806, in which
there was little to excite the popular indignation, but which af-
forded adequate ground for complaint. A French ship of
war, while aground on the coast of North Carolina, and within
a few hundred yards of the shore, was attacked by a British
squadron and destroyed. If the jurisdiction of any state ex-

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tend beyond its own shores into the open sea, the narrowest
limits which can be assigned to it would have been sufficient
for the protection of this vessel. It is not possible that any li-
mits purely maritime would have been regarded by an assail-
ant in these circumstances; and though France has more reason
to complain of this infraction of neutral territory, than of any
other that has recently occurred, it is evident that, to Ame-
rica, it is one of the slightest provocations. Though a rea-
sonable topic of complaint, through a diplomatic medium, the
evil seemed susceptible of no precise remedy beyond a cere-
monious acknowledgement of misconduct. The feelings of
the nation were not sufficiently interested in this case to make
this atonement indispensible, and the want of it was accord-
ingly unheeded. Widely different, however, were the conse-
quences of the deed we are about to relate.

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AS long as mankind are endowed with the same passions,
there never will occur a quarrel between individuals or na-
tions, in which either party is wholly blameless. Where their
treatment of each other relates to many successive particulars,
and is spread, if we may so speak, over a wide surface, the
first injury, which, however, it is seldom possible to trace, is
always immediately repaid, either in reproach or injury; either
completely or partially. The original sufferer exerts his inge-
nuity in tormenting his oppressor, and to gratify his rage by
petty insults or indirect retaliations. The original injurer
pursues his injurious practices with animosity, awakened by
these retalations, and, in each particular instance of hostility,
vengeance for an injury previously received becomes wholly,
or partly, the incitement.

The British ships, on the American coast, encounter, from
magistrates and private persons, every difficulty which ingenu-
ity or resentment can devise. The least offensive part of their
conduct, the capture of hostile property, excites the deepest re-
sentment in those Americans who have an interest, as sailors or
ship owners, in its safety. The means, therefore, naturally
employed to elude or resist these captures are regarded by the
captors as a species of hostility, which adds to their future
conduct the impulse of resentment, as well as that of interest
or of duty.

As the right of taking natives of Britain from American
vessels at sea is not acknowledged by America, and is highly
detrimental to its trade; as the taking of natives of America
from its vessels is, at the same time, highly detrimental to its
interests, and not maintained to be legal, even by Great Bri-
tain, the conduct of British officers, in both respects, must
meet with every obstruction from American ships, that is con-
sistent with their own safety. An evil to which they are not
rightfully exposed, the American commanders will, through
both interest and resentment, endeavour to elude, and make a
source, to the perpetrator, of as much vexation and embarrass-
ment as possible. This awakens resentment in the other par-
ty, and the injury is accompanied with insults or aggravations,
from which, otherwise, it would have been free. The feel-

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ings and habits of enemies are thus engendered in the hearts
of all parties, and in no case is it possible to ascertain the ex-
act degree of injustice or of cruelty in the injurer, or of inno-
cence or merit in the injured.

A British ship of war is, with regard to most of its inhabit-
ants, a prison. Whether they originally entered it by compul-
sion or voluntarily, they remain only by compulsion. When
they approach the American shore, they view it as a paradise to
people of their own class. It has to them all the charms of land,
where it comes into view after a long voyage; it ten-
ders all the blessings of liberty to those who groan under
the harshest constraint; it offers all the affluence of high
wages to those who may be said to toil for nothing, since their
actual pay hardly defrays their meagre subsistence. In many
cases, therefore, the British sailor succeeds in gaining the
shore, but the moment he lands he is surrounded by friends.
He is looked upon as one escaped from hateful and iniquitous
bondage. It is virtue to harbour, and patriotism to protect
him. If official application be made to ministers or magis-
trates for authority to apprehend the fugitive, it is granted
with reluctance and studied delay; it is executed remissly and
without zeal, and the victim easily eludes a search, in which
they who make it would be sorry to meet with success. If the
deserter produces legal proof that he is an American citizen, it
meets with ready acquiescence, and the inclination to restore
him to bondage is supplanted by rage and resentment at his
ever having been reduced to that state. The British comman-
der acknowledges no rights in one born in the British territo-
ry; and, even in a native of America, these rights he imagines
to be wholly suspended by a voluntary enlistment. The limits
between choice and compulsion are not easily traced, and will
be enlarged or contracted, as present interest dictates. We
can only be surprised, therefore, that open hostilities were not
long ago produced by such plentiful and prolific seeds of dis-

It is evident that no full assent can be given by an impartial
observer to an account of any particular transaction of this na-
ture, not accompanied with written and official proofs. The
prevalence of mutual complaint sufficiently proves the exist-
ence and the nature of the evil; but to repeat anonymous tales,
or record oral rumours, would be unworthy of historical vera-
city or dignity. Till the events which occurred in the month
of June, 1807, and which outstripped the expectations of the
most fearful, there was nothing eminently to endanger the

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peace of the two nations, or to awaken a general sense of in-
dignation in the minds of one of them.

The transaction which took place at that time, originated in
the desertion of certain seamen from the British ship Melam-
pus. In the month of February preceding, this vessel was
lying in Hampton roads, a station just within the entrance of
the bay of Chesapeake. The officers were engaged at an enter-
tainment, and all the boats, except the captain's gig, were taken
on board. Five persons, William Ware, Daniel Martin, John
Strachan, John Little, and Ambrose Watts, seized this oppor-
tunity of escape, took possession of the gig, and rowed towards
the shore. Their departure was immediately noticed, and, on
refusing to return, a fire of musketry commenced from the
ship. They continued, however, to ply their oars, in defiance
of the balls, and speedily gained the shore. They then care-
fully hauled up the boat on the beach, and, leaving the boat and
the oars behind them, gave three cheers, in token of their joy,
and hastened away.

In this transaction there was nothing unusual; nor, had these
fugitives prized, at its due value, the liberty they had earned
with so much danger, would this occurrence have ever gained
the public attention, or disturbed the public tranquillity. Had
they withdrawn into the interior country, or, if their necessi-
ties and habits compelled them to return to a seafaring life, had
they gone to some distant port, or had they even entered, any
where, on board of a merchant ship, they would have either
entirely escaped animadversion, or been taken anew by
some British vessel, at sea, without any general complaint or
disturbance. The magistrates, when their interference was re-
quired, might have restored them to their former bondage, or
connived at their escape, or even openly protected them, on the
score of their political rights, without hazard to the public
safety: unfortunately, however, every subsequent event
tended to exasperate the passions on both sides, and to make
partial hostilities almost unavoidable.

About this time the American frigate Chesapeake was at
Norfolk, a port in the vicinity of the British ship, with which
the officers had constant intercourse, and where a British agent
resided: a town likewise so small, that the actions of individu-
als are easily noticed by those whose curiosity is sharpened by
either interest or duty. This vessel was preparing for sea, and
men were enlisting for her service. Unfortunately, three of
the deserters already mentioned, William Ware, Daniel Mar-
tin, and John Strachan, offered themselves at the rendezvous,
and were admitted, in less than a month after their escape from

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the Melampus. The British consul at Norfolk, Mr. John
Hamilton, being apprized of this circumstance, wrote a letter
to the American naval officer, requesting these men to be re-
turned. This demand likewise related to two other persons,
deserters from a British merchant ship, and one of whom was
an apprentice to the captain. The officer refused to comply
with this demand, except in relation to the apprentice, plead-
ing that he was not justified in delivering any men who were
not apprentices, and who had voluntarily entered the Ameri-
can service, unless claimed by the magistracy.

Much has been said with regard to the prudence of enlisting
men who were previously known to have been deserters from
foreign ships; but though it is much to be lamented that this
was done, we must reflect that the actual consequences were
impossible to be foreseen, and that the enlistment was perform-
ed by a subordinate officer, who had scarcely a right to exer-
cise any option in such case. That they were not given up on
this demand was merely an adherence to duty in that officer.
The direction of his superiors was absolutely necessary, to jus-
tify the surrender of men, who professed themselves American
citizens, and who would have been capitally punished by their
former masters.

The British agent appears to have lost no time in endeavour-
ing to procure an order for their surrender, from the govern-
ment. In consequence of an application to the secretary of
the navy, that minister, about the first of April, wrote a letter
to captain Barron, the commander of the Chesapeake, requir-
ing from him the necessary information with regard to the
characters and claims of these men. The due examinations be-
ing made, it appeared that three of the five had actually enlist-
ed for the Chesapeake. These were Ware, Martin, and
Strachan: all of them were natives of America. Ware had
the visage of an Indian, and Martin was a mulatto, or coloured
man. Ware was born in Maryland, had been apprenticed to a
miller, and was for several years a driver of a waggon between
Hagerstown and Baltimore. He had afterwards served eigh-
teen months on board the Chesapeake. Martin was a native
of Massachusetts, had served an apprenticeship to the sea, in a
New York trader. Both Ware and Martin were pressed, at
the same time, from on board an American ship, in the bay of
Biscay, by the Melampus, in which they had since compul-
sarily served fifteen months. They had both of them protec-
or notarial certificates of their being American citizens.
Strachan's history was by no means equally satisfactory. He
was a native of Maryland, but he had voluntarily shipped on

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board an English merchant vessel at Liverpool, and, on being
taken from this ship, by the Melampus, consented to enter: he
could produce no protection, pleading that he had lost it previ-
ous to his escape.

These particulars must have rested for their credibility, at
least during this examination, entirely on the assertion of the
seamen themselves. It does not appear that any measures
were pursued to verify their testimony. With regard to two
of them, their certificates, if genuine, were legal evidence of
their political rights, but this was wanted by the third; but, as
to all other particulars, except their nativity, their mere asser-
tion was all that, in the actual circumstances, could be pro-
duced. Strachan, however, by his own confession, was
taken from an English ship, in which his entry had been volun-
tary, and had afterwards entered on board the frigate. The
government refused to surrender the men under these circum-

It is easy to imagine that both parties had much to say, one
in favour of demand, and the other of refusal. That these men
were guilty of desertion, was admitted on all sides. That de-
serters, when legally demanded, should be arrested and given
up, was no less clear. What then hindered the government
from complying with so regular a claim? The men were na-
tives of America, and had been unlawfully detained, against
their inclination and their privileges as Americans, on board
of British ships. They had a right, therefore, to make their
escape when they were able, and this escape, by enabling them
to prove the wrong suffered, merely added a new article to that
list of charges against the humanity and justice of Britain, on
which the nation had so long, but so vainly, claimed redress.

The British officers, on the other hand, urged that the deser-
tion being evident, even from the confession of the culprits,
and the right to reclaim them being undeniable, to refuse them
on any pretext could not be justified. But on what pretext
were they refused? Merely because they averred themselves
to be Americans, and to have been pressed from American
vessels; as if the simple declaration of a sailor, in his own be-
half, and where his interest was so nearly concerned; a sailor
whose contempt even of oaths is so notorious, was equal to the
strongest testimony. Two of them, indeed, produced certi-
ficates; but these certificates being always given on the oath of
the parties and their friends, and being paid for, were an end-
less topic of complaint to some, and ridicule to others; and
nothing was more notorious than the falsehood of most of
them. But even these lame pretexts could only serve two out

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of the three. Strachan had no protection, was, according to
his own narrative, taken from a foreign ship, and been since
regularly entered on board the Melampus. Surely it was not
sufficient to justify retaining this man, to repeat after him that
he had lost his certificate, and that, though indeed he consent-
ed to enter, he yet secretly determined to desert on the first
opportunity. But the injustice of the conduct, if it were capa-
ble of aggravation, has been deeply aggravated by admitting
them into the American service. This was adding defiance
to injustice, and insult to injury, and was such an open encou-
ragement to mutiny and desertion, that, if some effectual reme-
dy were not immediately adopted, it would be impossible for
British ships to remain with safety on the American coast.

An impartial observer cannot but perceive the weakness of
the evidence given by these men of their American na-
tivity, and of their compulsive service. Considering the mo-
tives of the parties, and the character and habits of sailors,
their mere assertion, or even their mere oath, in a case like
this, is as little worthy to influence our belief as their total
silence *. Retaining them on board the Chesapeake in spite
of charges of mutiny, not regularly disproved, had certainly an
aspect of defiance and contempt for the claimants, which had
no tendency to heal the differences which had already taken
place. That the govenment had no inclination to deliver
these men, whatever were their offence; that it greedily em-
ployed every pretext to retain them, cannot be doubted: but
this reluctance can be a subject neither of surprise nor of cen-
sure. When we consider that the grossest outrages had been
committed, for years, by British ships of war, on the privile-
ges and the territory of the American states; that all com-
plaints and remonstrances had hitherto been unavailing, and
now that a claim was made of two or three wretched fugi-
tives from the hardships of British discipline; fugitives who
pleaded that they were natives of the country, and, if their plea
were just, were entitled to protection; to have restored them,
even if rigidly just, would have argued a dispassionate indiffer-
ence of temper, neither to be expected from human beings,

  * The truth of their assertions as to their birth place, might have been
ascertained in time, by making due inquiries at the places mentioned,
and of the persons referred to by them. Whether this was done, or not,
we are not officially or publicly informed, unless such further inquiries
may be inferred from that passage in a subsequent address of the presi-
dent to congress, in which he says, that “the seamen taken from the
Chesapeake had been ascertained to be native citizens of the United

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nor to be applauded when it is found. The consequences
that followed this event may make us deeply regret the retain-
ing of these men on board the Chesapeake; but these consequen-
ces cannot throw discredit on the wisdom or prudence of re-
taining them, since they could not have been suspected or fore-
seen *.

It is not easy to account for the conduct pursued on this
occasion by the British admiral Berkley, at Halifax. To re-
solve it into the blind impetuosity engendered by military ha-
bits, seems scarcely allowable. Revenge, which, in every pa-
cific code, is a crime, becomes a duty with soldiers, and to en-
trust their vindication to any other tribunal than pride, or any
other agency than that of their own right arm, is disgraceful to
men with arms in their hands: but though a conduct suitable
to these notions may always be expected in ordinary cases, and
from common soldiers, some degree of self-controul and a lit-
tle discreet forbearance may, with some reason, be expected
from commanders. Berkley may possibly have interpreted
his general orders, with regard to mutineers, into a justifica-
tion of the mode he meant to adopt. To have sought redress
through the medium of the ambassador, was thought perhaps
to be all that the occasion required. This redress being refu-
sed, and the interests of the service being so much concerned
in this case, even violence might appear just, since it was evi-
dently necessary. To the importance of these interests, he
probably trusted for his acquittal to the government, and on
the sympathy of his fellow-officers he might confidently rely
for a favourable verdict in that trial, which was the worst con-
sequence to be dreaded. There is likewise reason to believe
that he took care to procure the hearty sanction of the officers
under his command.

Be that as it may, admiral Berkley transmitted to his cap-
tains an order that the vessels of his squadron should take, by
force, if they could not be obtained by other means, any British
deserters found on board the Chesapeake. To qualify the
boldness of this command, he added that his own ships should
submit to a search for American deserters, whenever it was
thought proper to make one. As the Chesapeake was expected
soon to sail, the squadron waited patiently for an opportunity

  * We have no satisfactory information how far the government were
apprized of the hostile intentions of the British admiral before the sailing
of the Chesapeake; or, if they were apprized on whom the imprudence
of keeping the men is chargeable. The rumours current at the time are
not worthy of a place here, as they necessarily take their shape and co-
lour from the party of him who circulates them.

 image pending 17

to execute this order. On the 22d of June, she weighed an-
chor and proceeded to sea. She passed the British ships Bel-
lona and Melampus, lying in Lynhaven bay, whose appear-
ance was friendly. There were two other ships that lay off
Cape Henry, one of which, the Leopard of fifty guns, captain
Humphreys, weighed anchor, and came in a few hours along
side the Chesapeake. A British officer immediately came on
board, and presented the commander, captain Barron, with a
copy of the order just mentioned, in a letter from captain Hum-
phreys. Barron immediately wrote in answer, that the officers
recruiting for his ship were particularly instructed by the go-
vernment, through him, not to enter any deserters from Bri-
tish ships, nor did he know of any being there. As Barron
could not be unapprized of the enlistment of the men named
in Humphreys's letter, he must have justified this denial by
the disputed meaning of the word deserter. He added that
his duty forbade him to allow of any muster of his crew, ex-
cept by their own officers. During this intercourse, Barron
noticed some proceedings of a hostile nature on board the ad-
verse ship, but he could not be persuaded that any thing but
menace was intended by them. After the messenger de-
parted with his reply, he gave orders to clear his gun deck,
and, after some time, he directed his men to their quarters, se-
cretly, and without beat of drum, still, however, without any
serious apprehension of an attack. Before these orders could
be executed, the Leopard commenced a heavy fire.
This fire unfortunately was very destructive. In about thirty
minutes, the hull, rigging, and spars were greatly damaged;
three men were killed, and sixteen wounded: among the lat-
ter was the captain himself. Such was the previous disorder,
that, during this time, the utmost exertions were insufficient to
prepare the ship for action, and the captain thought proper to
strike his colours.

The British captain refused to accept the surrender of the
Chesapeake, but, sending an officer to muster the crew, four men
were taken out. Three of them, Strachan, Martin, and Ware,
were the men formerly demanded as deserters from the Me-
lampus, and the fourth, John Wilson, had been claimed as a
runaway from a merchant ship. He then returned quietly to
his former station, while the Chesapeake proving to be unfit,
in consequence of the damage received, for her intended
voyage, returned to Hampton roads.

The circumstances of this contest were extremely humiliat-
ing to America. That, in this first fray, a frigate should sur-
render without firing a gun, and consequently without the

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smallest expence, except that of ammunition, to an assailant of
equal or of little more than equal force, was much to be re-
gretted. A successful resistance was indeed hopeless, as the
whole British squadron was at hand, and ready to come to
the aid of their companion: but, had this assistance been
rendered necessary, we should have had an early and welcome
proof that there was one nation to whom Britain was not supe-
rior, except in brute force, at sea. The event, though reflect-
ing no disgrace on the courage, was highly discreditable
to the discipline of our navy. A ship of war is re-
quired, by the rules of this discipline, to be, when at sea, in
constant readiness for action; but, on this occasion, a ship
laden with merchandize, and without arms of any kind, was
not less qualified for defence than the frigate Chesapeake, du-
ring half an hour after she was actually attacked.

 image pending 19


THE influence of this occurrence on the popular feelings in
America, may be readily imagined. An act of greater vio-
lence, mixed with greater contempt and insult, could scarcely
be committed by an open enemy. The Leopard, imme-
diately after, joined the rest of the squadron, who lay within
the waters of the United States, and arrested every vessel pass-
ing in or out, though none were detained longer than was ne-
cessary to the examination of their papers. This act was the
consummation of that series of injuries of which the nation had
so long and so bitterly complained. The honour of the na-
tion, the guardianship of which is entrusted to its ships of war
and its soldiers, had suffered the deepest wound of which it was
capable. On this occasion, there appeared to be no room for
the operation of those passions which had hitherto severed the
people into parties, and led each party to view the conduct of
foreign nations through an enlarging or diminishing medium,
according to the dictates of its peculiar interest. Neither was
there room for those doubts and inquiries which had hitherto
distracted the faith or checked the proceedings of the nation,
with regard to the privileges claimed by Great Britain; for,
though it were possible to hesitate on the propriety or pru-
dence of retaining these men, when peaceably demanded, the
violence committed on the Chesapeake could be justified, or
even excused, by no pretext whatever.

Intelligence of this event flew, with wonderful rapidity,
from one end of the United States to the other. It every
where produced a loud and unanimous burst of indignation.
Those who were actuated by a bias unfavourable to Great Bri-
tain, derived either from prejudice or reason, had hitherto
been compelled, by the ambiguous nature of the topics in con-
troversy, to resort either to argument or railing, in order to
confirm adherents or gain converts. On this occasion, how-
ever, the violence committed could be justified on no pretext,
and all reasoning on the subject was precluded, since no one
pretended to excuse it. Those whose reason or prejudices
had hitherto induced them to defend the claims of Britain, and
to palliate the abuses which accompanied the exertion of these
claims, either partook of the general indignation, or went, in
prudent silence, with the crowd. Both parties were loud and

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vehement, but that which had been charged, by its enemies,
with undue partialities to Britain, was loudest and most vehe-
ment, because, on so critical an occasion, to be lukewarm or in-
different would have strengthened these suspicions. As soon
as the news arrived, the people every where, without distinction
of party or profession, hastily assembled in popular meetings.
In their resolutions, they exhausted all the powers of language
in declaring their rage at this indignity, and their zeal to
avenge it. The attack upon the Chesapeake was stigmatized
with the harshest epithets which ingenuity could furnish.
It was styled unprovoked, piratical, assassin-like, murder-
ous, cowardly, inhuman, savage; a breach of the faith of na-
tions and the laws of war; a fit object for the highest de-
testation and horror; an occasion indispensible for the last ex-
tremes of anger and vengeance. This was the language of
every meeting; nor was there any dissenting voice among
their members. No one was heard to palliate, to suggest
doubts, to recommend inquiry, or encourage delay. A more
entire unanimity, and absolute extinction, or, at least, suspen-
sion of feuds and faction, was probably never witnessed. The
flame of this zeal burnt as vehemently in the remote, rural,
and inland districts, on the shores of the Alleghany and Ohio,
as in the maritime stations, the great cities, and even the towns
upon the Chesapeake, the immediate scene of this transaction.
With regard to the means and measure of reparation, they re-
signed themselves implicitly to the wisdom and patriotism of
the government, avowing their concurrence with the most vio-
lent and precipitate of these measures. A war with Great
Britain, with all its ruinous effects, rendered doubly ruinous by
being entered into without delay, and without the smallest pre-
paration, appeared to be no more formidable, or at least an evil
to be cheerfully encountered, preferably to submission to the
present insult. The enormous losses of property hitherto in-
curred awakened no indignation like the present attack on the
national dignity. Former injuries could be argued about, and
submission, if the alternative were unavoidable, was better than
war; but this injury admitted of no dispute or palliation, nor
any consequence but ample and immediate reparation on the
one hand, or open war on the other.

Those who deliberately reflected on the probable conse-
quences of this event, were struck with the deepest consterna-
tion. That a British admiral should perpetrate a violence like
this, without secret orders from his government, was hardly
credible; but these orders argued a hostile disposition which
would be sure to be seconded by a sudden blow, directed

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against the American shipping and trade in all parts of the
world. But even this was not the utmost or severest evil.
Several of our richest sea ports were entirely unfortified. The
hostile squadrons were already at hand, and could enter and
destroy them, without the possibility of any effectual resistance.

If the admiral acted without instructions from his superiors,
the case was no wise mended, since the pride of the British
government would never permit them to make such atonement
as the pride of ours would demand. A war would ensue, but
with a new and deplorable inconvenience. The unanimity which
wanton and undisguised hostility produces would be destroy-
ed. Ancient divisions would have a breathing-time, and re-
vive afresh. A numerous party would urge the acceptance of
any terms of reconciliation, and misery would fall upon the peo-
ple with double and intolerable weight, because one party would
think it wantonly incurred by the warlike, and the other perfi-
diously aggravated by the peaceable doctrines of its adver-

Those who regarded the scene with a larger view; who re-
flected on that security which we, as a weak nation, derive from
the jealousy and contentions of our powerful neighbours
among themselves; who regarded the final ascendancy of one
of them as more probable now than at any former period; who
thought that Great Britain stood in need of all possible expe-
dients and resources to enable her to make head against the
French, and that, by disgusting her only remaining friend, she
promoted her own destruction directly, and indirectly the ruin
of America, by exposing us to the whole power and ambition
of France, found a source of the deepest dismay in the present
political prospects.

The wiser part of the people found considerable difficulty
in restraining the fury of the populace. This class, who are al-
ways prone to take vengeance into their own hands, were every
where eager to fall upon property and persons that were known
to be English. The public agents of that nation were for some
time in great danger, but the efforts of the more discreet were
successful in maintaining order. The most earnest remonstran-
ces on this head were diligently dispersed among the turbulent
spirits. They were tranquillized by exhortations to rely upon
the vigour and patriotism of their government, and they were
gratified by concurrence with some measures not strictly order-
ly or legal. The principal incident of this nature which oc-
curred was the destruction of 200 casks of water, by the peo-
ple of Hampton, on board a schooner ready to sail for the

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British ships of war, as soon as the conduct of the Leopard was
known at that place.

Immediately on the return of the shattered frigate into port,
the citizens of Norfolk and Portsmouth assembled. They fra-
med and published resolutions, without delay, expressive of their
horror and indignation at what had happened; they resolved to
discontinue all communication with the ships of war, and declar-
ed infamous all persons who should persist in this intercourse.
Those who supply these ships with provisions or necessaries,
after this interdict, are pronounced enemies of their country.
The pilots are enjoined to refuse their services to all British
ships of war. The officers of the militia are required to hold
their troops in readiness to defend the coast, and the comman-
der of the fort is requested to contribute all in his power to the
enforcement of this interdict. The conduct of the people of
Hampton is warmly applauded, and an imitation of their conduct
is recommended to the inhabitants of all the other American
ports. Resolutions similar to these were adopted throughout
all the maritime districts of the United States, and there is rea-
son to believe that they were punctually executed by the zeal
of the people.

The presence of the British ships, and the uncertainty of
their future conduct, led the people of Norfolk, Portsmouth,
and Hampton to make preparations, as if hostilities had actual-
ly taken place. Most of the inhabitants enrolled themselves
as volunteers, and marched to those places which were most
liable to molestation. Rumours of threats from the British
commanders flew through the country, and strengthened the
general persuasion that the attack on the Chesapeake was the
commencement of concerted war. These rumours were con-
firmed by a letter from commodore Douglass to the mayor of
Norfolk, in which he dwells on the inconveniences arising
from the late resolutions, especially as affecting the communi-
cation between the squadron and the British agents on shore,
and declares, that if this interdict be not immediately removed,
he will prohibit the passage of any vessel belonging to that town.
It is probable that a seasonable caution from the British minis-
ter deterred this commander from prosecuting his first design,
as all vengeful intentions were disavowed, and his letter was at-
tempted to be amicably explained to the bearer of an answer to
it. Assurances were then given that no hostilities of any
kind should be committed, that no communication with the
shore should be maintained, except with the British agents,
and no supplies required.

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As soon as the Chesapeake returned to Hampton roads, all
the principal officers, except the captain, joined in a petition to
the secretary of the navy, that their conduct on the late occa-
sion might be subjected to judicial scrutiny. They complain-
ed that the ship was surrendered without their previous know-
ledge or consent, and with unjustifiable precipitation. They
charged their commander with neglecting, on the probability
of an engagement, to prepare his ship for action, and for do-
ing less, when the engagement began, than his duty enjoined
and circumstances permitted. An inquiry was immediately
ordered, and meanwhile captain Barron was superseded in
the command of the Chesapeake, by Stephen Decatur. The
new commander received orders to repair the ship with all
practicable expedition. He had scarcely taken possession
when the people of Norfolk applied to him to aid them in their
measures of defence against a threatened attack. There were
only four gunboats in this quarter capable of being fitted up
with expedition. These were soon put in a serviceable state,
and manned with volunteers. Since the return of the frigate,
the British ships had anchored within the capes, and brought
to, by firing at, every vessel that passed. We are, however,
informed, that no vessel was detained; and, in a few days, the
general apprehensions were so far allayed, that the volunteers
disbanded, and the gunboats were laid up again.

The officers appointed to examine the conduct of the late
commander had now leisure to execute their commission. They
closed their examination on the fourth day of November, and
reported to the government, among other particulars, that the
Chesapeake had a crew of 370 men, and was thoroughly equip-
ped at the time of her sailing; that commodore Barron visited
this ship only twice while in Hampton roads, and on neither
occasion made any particular inquiry into her condition; that
the guns of the ship were never exercised previous to her sail-
ing; that her crew were quartered only a few days before, and
been called to quarters only three times; that the threats of the
British commanders to take their deserters by force from the
Chesapeake, was generally known on board the Chesapeake;
that the commander was apprized of the obnoxious sea-
men being on board his ship, and of their having been demand-
ed, ineffectually, by their former masters, but there was no
evidence that he was acquainted, before he sailed, with the
threats that had been employed; that the Chesapeake, in pro-
ceeding from Hampton roads to sea, passed a squadron of ships
at anchor in Lynhaven bay, which, at the time of her passing
them, were making signals to each other, which was not only

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reported to the commodore by one of his officers, but actually
observed by himself; that the Leopard, one of the squadron,
weighed immediately after these signals, and stood to sea;
that at this time there was no vessel in sight, nor any other ob-
ject to induce her to go to sea, but the Chesapeake; that, when
the Leopard got under weigh, the wind was fair for her proceed-
ing to sea, but that, instead of availing herself of this to clear
the land, she hauled by the wind close round cape Henry, and
stood southward under easy sail, thereby showing no intention
to get off the land speedily; that after this the wind became light
and baffling, and likely to shift, and come out from the east-
ward; that when this happened the Leopard shortened sail,
and stood to the eastward; that after this the wind did come
out from about S. S. E., and that the Leopard then having thus
got the weather-guage, preserved it by tacking in shore when
the Chesapeake did so in order to get off her pilot; and after
the Chesapeake again stood off to the eastward, that the Leo-
pard wore, and bore down for her; that, when the Leopard
tacked and stood in shore, on the same tack with the Chesa-
peake, her lower deck ports were all triced up; that when
the Leopard ran down for the Chesapeake, she rounded to on
her starboard quarter, and to windward of her, and that at this
time her tompions were out of her guns; that commodore
Barron was on deck observing the Leopard, while these man-
œuvres were practising and these appearances exhibited; that
these furnished sufficient warning, to a prudent officr, of the
hostile designs of a ship of war, and ought to have induced
commodore Barron to prepare his ship for action, especially
with the information he possessed of the situation of his crew
in general, of those who had been demanded by the British go-
vernment particularly, and of the general state of the ship at
that time; that commodore Barron nevertheless did not order
his ship to be cleared for action, and that he did not call his
men to quarters; that when the Leopard came alongside of the
Chesapeake, an officer was sent from her, with a communica-
tion from the captain to commodore Barron, which the latter
could not and did not misunderstand, but justly concluded to
be a demand with which he ought not to comply, but which,
if refused, would, if possible, be enforced; yet that he did not
order his ship to be prepared for action, though ample time
was allowed for that purpose, the British officer being detained
on board the Chesapeake from thirty-five to forty-five minutes;
that the neglect of commodore Barron to prepare his ship for
action, under such circumstances, was a direct breach of the
rules of the navy of the United States; that after the British

 image pending 25

officer left the Chesapeake, bearing a positive refusal to the de-
mand which had been made, and after commodore Barron was
himself convinced that an attack would be made, he did not
take prompt, necessary, and efficient means to prepare his ship
for battle; that his first order was merely to clear his gun
deck, and the second, given after the lapse of some time, was
to get his men to quarters secretly, without beat of drum,
though, with such a crew, and in such a situation, such orders
could not be effectually accomplished *; that the conduct of the
commodore during the attack manifested great indecision, and
a disposition to negotiate, rather than bravely to defend his
ship; that he repeatedly hailed the Leopard during her attack
upon him; that he drew his men from their guns to employ
them in lowering down boats, to send on board of the attacking
ship; and that he ordered his first lieutenant from his quarters
during the attack, to carry a message to the Leopard, while
firing upon him; that during the attack he used language, in
the presence of his men, calculated to dispirit them, by order-


* The commodore's own account of this unfortunate transaction is
given in a letter to the government to this effect:

“At 6, P. M., June 22, we weighed from our station in Hampton roads
and stood to sea. In Lynhaven bay we passed two British men of war,
one of them the Bellona, the other the Melampus, their colours flying
and their appearance friendly. Some time afterwards, we observed one
of the two line of battle ships that lay off cape Henry get under weigh
and stand to sea. At this time the wind became light, and it was not until
near four in the afternoon that the ship under weigh came within hail, cape
Henry then bearing north-west by west, distance three leagues. The
communication, which appeared to be her commander's object for speak-
ing the Chesapeake, he said he would send on board, on which I ordered
the Chesapeake to be hove to for his convenience.”

After mentioning the receipt of a letter, and his answer, he proceeds
to say: “About this time I observed some appearance of a hostile nature,
and said to captain Gordon that it was possible they were serious, and re-
quested him to have his men sent to their quarters with as little noise as
possible, not using those ceremonies which we should have done with an
avowed enemy, as I fully supposed their arrangements were more me-
nace than any thing serious. Captain Gordon immediately gave the or-
ders to the officers and men to go to quarters, and have all things in rea-
diness; but before a match could be lighted, or the quarter bill of any
division examined, or the lumber on the gun deck, such as sails, cables,
&c., could be cleared, the commander of the Leopard hailed. I could
not hear what he said, and was talking to him, as I supposed, when she
commenced a heavy fire, which did great execution. I found the advan-
tage they had gained over our unprepared and unsuspicious state did not
warrant a longer opposition, nor should I have exposed this ship and
crew to so galling a fire, had it not been with a hope of getting the gun
deck clear, so as to have made a more formidable defence: consequently
our resistance was but feeble. In about twenty minutes after, I ordered
the colours to be struck, and sent lieutenant Smith on board the Leopard
to inform her commander that I considered the Chesapeake her prize.”

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ing them to keep down, and by averring that they would be all
cut to pieces; that he ordered his colours to be struck, and
that they were struck before a single gun of any kind was fired
from her, and when her main deck battery would have been
able to return a broadside in a very short time; that the Chesa-
peake was surrendered at a time when she was nearly prepar-
ed for battle, and when the injuries sustained, either on the
ship or crew, did not make such a surrender necessary; that
though the conduct of commodore Barron, before and during
the attack, evinced great inattention to his duty and want of
decision, yet that during that attack he exposed his person, and
did not manifest, either by his orders or actions, any personal
fear or want of courage; that though the Chesapeake might have
been better defended than she was, yet that she was not in a
situation, at the time of the attack, qualified to make effectual
resistance: some of her guns were not securely fitted in their
carriages; some of her spunges and wads were too large; but
few of her powder horns were filled; her matches were not
primed; some of her rammers were not in their proper places;
her marines were neither supplied with enough of cartridges,
nor were those which they had of the proper size. None of
these circumstances, however, could have influenced com-
modore Barron in striking his colours, because they were not
known to him at the time.

As this verdict of the court of inquiry laid to the charge of
the commodore many breaches of the laws regulating the dis-
cipline of the navy, it was necessary to subject his conduct to a
trial before a court martial. This tribunal was accordingly esta-
blished at Norfolk, in the ensuing month of January, and,
after sitting a little more than a month, pronounced their sen-
tence. The charges exhibited before this court, against captain
Barron, were in substance as follows:

That he performed his duty negligently, in not visiting the
frigate, before she sailed, as often as was proper; and that, du-
ring his visits, he made not the suitable inquiries into her con-

That he neglected, on the probability of an engagement, to
clear his ship for action. This probability was founded on the
threats of the British commanders, which were known to the
American captain, and on the conduct of the Leopard, when
following and approaching the Chesapeake. The conduct
which sufficiently indicated hostile purposes consisted, first, in

  * This court was composed of captains Rodgers, Bainbridge, Campbell,
Decatur, and Shaw; masters Smith and Porter; lieutenants Tarbell,
Jones, Laurence, and Ludlow.

 image pending 27

her putting to sea, after certain signals, distinctly observed
from the Chesapeake, when there was no other vessel in sight,
or any other object to induce her to put to sea but the Chesa-
peake; secondly, in her ports being triced up, and her tompi-
ons out, a considerable time before the attack; thirdly, in her
commander's message to the American captain, openly declar-
ing, that, if certain men were not delivered to him, force
would be resorted to; and, lastly, on the terms of this demand
being believed, by Barron, to be such as would be strictly exe-

That he failed to encourage his officers and men to fight
courageously, by not ordering his men to quarters as soon as
the intentions of the British commander were reasonably to be
suspected, nor even after the receipt of the message made them
absolutely known to him: that this order was given in an un-
becoming manner, since it required them to go to quarters se-
cretly, and without beat of drum: that he was not at his pro-
per station during the attack, but for a considerable time at the
gangway, as if imploring the enemy's forbearance; that he
drew some of his men, especially his first lieutenant, from their
guns, in order to lower down boats and carry messages;
and that, during the attack, he discouraged his men, by telling
them to keep down, and that they would be all cut to pieces.

That he did not perform his utmost to take or destroy the
Leopard, since he failed to repel her attack in a suitable man-
ner; since he surrendered his ship before the injuries received
made it necessary; since the Chesapeake's flag was struck
when her guns were loaded, and her main deck battery was
qualified to return a broadside in a short time; and since the
flag was struck without consulting his officers, and before a
gun of any kind was fired from the Chesapeake.

On these successive charges the court decided, that a com-
mander is not regulated by law, but left at his own discretion
as to the number of visits to be paid to the ships of his squad-
ron, and that, on this occasion, Barron exercised his discretion
without deserving censure; that his office being that of a com-
mander of a squadron, and this ship being provided with a spe-
cial captain, or master, it was not his duty to inquire into her
condition; that there is not adequate proof that any threats were
used by the British commanders, except that contained in
the written message of Humphreys; that as to the signals ex-
changed by the British ships, the Leopard putting to sea, in
obedience to these signals, and tricing up her ports, the cap-
tain was warranted, by the friendly relations then generally
believed to subsist between the two nations, by the long previ-

 image pending 28

ous continuance of the British squadron in the Chesapeake,
and by the warm and quiet state of the weather at that time, in
not putting a hostile construction on these appearances; but
that the tompions of the Leopard being out clearly indicated
a hostile disposition; that this appearance, however, produced
a suitable effect upon the American commander, since it in-
duced him to order his men to quarters.

That, on the receipt of a message, threatening the use of
force, in case of the refusal of the persons claimed, and not-
withstanding the full belief of Barron that force would be em-
ployed, he neglected to clear his ship for action, and was culpa-
ble for such neglect.

That the manner of ordering his men to quarters, though
not usual, was, in the actual circumstances of the two ships, in
no respect censurable, nor did it disprove a determination
bravely to defend his ship.

That custom makes his upper deck the proper station of a
commander during an engagement, but does not confine him
to any particular spot on that deck; that the commodore remain-
ed a considerable time at the gangway, for useful and neces-
sary purposes.

That he did not draw any of his men, and particularly the
first lieutenant, from their guns, in order to lower down boats,
but that some were drawn from other stations for this purpose:
a proceeding, however, which merited no censure.

That the discouraging words, imputed to Barron, were not
employed by him, but that what was said by him on the occa-
sion had a different import, and were uttered at a time when
no ill effect could be produced by them.

That his conduct in ordering his men, secretly and silently,
to quarters, evinces coolness and deliberation; and that his
exposing himself, in an open gangway, to a close and heavy
fire, his remaining, though wounded, on his deck during the
whole attack, and giving his orders coolly and distinctly, fully
disprove the charge that he failed to encourage his men to
fight courageously.

That the attack of the Leopard was not suitably repelled;
that the ship was surrendered before circumstances made it
necessary, when her guns were all loaded, before any of
them were fired, and without the advice being required of the
officers; but that the main deck battery was not qualified, at
the time of the surrender, to have speedily returned a broad-

That, notwithstanding these facts, captain Barron and his
officers did all that was practicable to prepare the guns for ac-

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tion; that to repel the attack by boarding, or any otherwise
than by her battery, was not expedient; that the flag was not
struck till all reasonable hope of an effectual defence was lost;
and that the advice of officers is at no time necessary, nor, in
the actual situation of the Chesapeake at that time, possible to
be taken.

Finally they pronounce, that, as captain Barron was guilty
of the charge of neglecting, on the probability of an engage-
ment, to clear his ship for action, and this neglect was a
breach of the law for the regulation of the navy, passed in
1800, they punish him by suspending him from all command
in the navy for five years, without any kind of pay or emolu-
ments. This sentence was confirmed by the president.

We have been thus particular in detailing the charges
against captain Barron, and their consequences, from the re-
gard due to the reputation of an officer of some rank, and of
the navy in general, which cannot be unaffected by the conduct
of any of its members. We now see the sentence and the
grounds of it. We cannot forbear to pronounce it very severe.
An error of judgment is all that is proved or allowed; but an
error of such a kind, and in such circumstances, is not only
the most venial in itself, but the most harmless in its conse-
quences, that can be easily imagined. The captain, in his let-
ter to the secretary, declares that he could not believe the ad-
versary to be in earnest, and that more than menace was in-
tended, till the firing actually commenced; and that his order-
ing his men to quarters was a provision against consequences,
not, in his opinion, probable, but barely possible. The court
martial declares that evidence had been produced sufficient to
prove the commander's full belief, after the receipt of the mes-
sage, that hostilities were really intended, and on this fact rests
wholly the guilt of the commodore. The evidence on this
point not being published, we know not its due weight.

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THE public curiosity, which had been so powerfully excit-
ed by the transactions on the coasts of the Chesapeake, was
still more anxiously fixed upon the measures which would be
adopted by the American government at this crisis. The
grossest outrage which one nation can commit against another,
had been perpetrated against the American states. To resent
the injury was indispensible, provided the offending govern-
ment refused to atone for and repair the wrong. The proba-
bility was very strong, that the government had directed and
would sanction the conduct of the admiral; but this was not
absolutely certain. To make, therefore, a direct and immedi-
ate appeal to the British government; to complain of the
wrong done, and demand ample reparation, was the obvious
course which the president could not fail to pursue. All par-
ties demanded and expected this proceeding; but this was not
all which this important occasion demanded.

The conduct to be pursued, on receiving the decision of the
British government, must originate from the whole legislative
body, and no effectual provision could be made against the in-
conveniences which would arise from the hostile resolutions of
that government, but by the same authority. To convoke
congress immediately was likewise, therefore, an obvious and
necessary proceeding, and this necessity was evident to men
of all political parties.

What other measures could be safely and properly adopt-
ed by the executive government, was a topic of much doubt
and controversy. To remain perfectly inactive; to refrain
from all projects of retaliation or revenge, appeared, in one
view, to be no more than just, as long as the violence was
not sanctioned by the British government, and till opportu-
nity was offered to that government for disowning and aton-
ing for it. And yet, in another view, a total inactivity seem-
ed unworthy of that resentment so naturally, unavoidably,
and justly felt. The people had already every where shown
their resentment, by refusing all supplies to British ships of
war. This conduct was unsuitable to a state of absolute peace
between the two nations, and, if confined to British ships alone,
was such a breach of neutrality between the two great rivals,
as would amount to actual vengeance for the wrong, and would

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unavoidably awaken a disposition to commit new injury, in
place of repairing old ones. The logic which self-love dic-
tates to nations, as well as individuals, would be sure to ex-
claim: The outrage you complain of we never directed, and
would willingly have punished; but you distrusted our justice,
took vengeance in some degree into your own hands, and have
given us a right to complain in our turn. That every pretext
would be eagerly employed, to evade the concessions demand-
ed, was to be expected from that pride which is reluctant to
accuse itself; but there were likewise peculiar difficulties in
the present case.

It is but justice to the British government to allow their
due weight to the real difficulties of its situation, as well as
to the suggestions of its pride and arrogance. The naval of-
ficers of that nation have a strong interest in enforcing every
harsh order of their government, and all their own imagi-
nary rights, with as much rigour as can possibly be recon-
ciled with their own safety, not only from its immediate effect
upon their own interest, in completing the crews of their ships
with the men whom they kidnap, and filling their purses with
the produce of captures, but even in its tendency to produce
war. As military men, war is their element; without which
their existence is, in some sort, suspended. As authorized to
plunder wherever they light upon property, and to share this
plunder among themselves, war is their harvest. How rich
must be that harvest, which is afforded by a commercial and un-
armed nation, like America, and how eagerly must every Bri-
tish commander long to put his sickle into this field! With what
zeal will he execute every order which tends to irritate or
disgust this nation! How carefully will he avail himself of
every circumstance that occurs to light up the brand of na-
tional discord! With what ingenuity will he stretch the fetters
of discipline, and rush through the openings afforded him by
contingent, ambiguous, or indefinite instructions! How many
temptations, from the nature of the theatre of naval war,
are afforded to licence and abuse, not only from the ne-
cessary latitude of official orders, but from the chances of
concealment and impunity *! The government, besides the

  * The British sea officers fare much better than their rivals, the French
land officers. The latter are said to subsist and enrich themselves on
plunder alone, plunder collected and disposed of with much difficulty and
inconvenience; but the former subsist upon their pay, and grow rich by
plunder, collected and disposed of with all possible advantages. By these
remarks we intend no particular censure against either the British or
French system. Unfortunately for the reputation of human nature, war
is the parent of the same evils and depravities every where, and navies
and armies are every where the same frightful and pernicious monsters.

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difficulty of restraint and punishment, arising from these cir-
cumstances, together with the constitution of that court where
all naval offences must be tried, are checked and awed by the
importance of their navy to their national safety, and the jea-
lous pride of its members. When we duly reflect on these
circumstances, we have reason to wonder at the degree of
authority which the government maintains over this unchain-
ed tyger, in its remotest excursions, and to be less surprised at
the licences in which it indulges, than at those from which the
salutary curb of habitual discipline restrains it.

It is obvious that a foreign nation is not bound to temper its
complaints, or moderate its vengeance against an obnoxious
government on this account. It is neither possible nor neces-
sary to distinguish nicely between the guilt of the head and
the members, or between the ability, as modified by domestic
causes, and the inclination of a government to repair a public
injury; but when our conduct has relation to the public welfare,
and the gratification of a just resentment will be infinitely
calamitous to the injured party himself, it is our duty to com-
prehend and consider the whole case, and come to our conclu-
sion through all the avenues which absolutely lead to it.

There were other circumstances which made an amicable
issue to the present quarrel, with the use of all possible
caution and forbearance on the side of the injured nation,
exceedingly hopeless. The violence committed on the
Chesapeake was so enormous, and so glaringly unwarrant-
able, that the adequate atonement must be signally great.
A formal or diplomatic disavowal could only be proved to
be sincere by the punishment of the immediate agent of the
wrong and the restitution of the prisoners; but the punishment
of Berkley could only be accomplished judicially, through the
medium of a court martial. Of such crimes, however, and by
such a tribunal, that officer was as sure to be acquitted as Whit-
by was before him; and the restitution of the men taken from
the Chesapeake would be such a triumph of sailors over naval
discipline, that no consideration would have justified the go-
vernment to its established policy in making it. To avoid,
therefore, with the utmost care, every act of immediate ven-
geance, and thereby deprive the British government of every
pretext for refusing justice, was deemed the wisest policy by
those who were anxious for a pacific termination to the present
scene. To effect this end, it would, however, be necessary to
condemn, by a formal proclamation, all the measures hitherto
taken by the people in order to debar the British ships from
supplies, to prohibit such measures in future, and, perhaps,

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even to make good spontaneously and forthwith the damage
already suffered by these ships. The difficulties attending
this conduct are evident.

The public had almost universally approved of these un-
friendly interdictions. Could the government safely or pru-
dently set itself in open opposition to the people in this parti-
cular? By what rhetoric could it possibly reconcile the harsh-
ness of such commands with the popular feelings, which seem-
ed absolutely universal? If resentment is the natural conse-
quence of injury, what could resentment dictate to the people
or the government less than this? And less than this might
indeed be laudable discretion to the hermits and philosophers
of the nation, whose voice is never heard, but would be cow-
ardice or treachery in the eyes of the bustling and active many,
who, being the virtual, always pass for the real whole.

The actual expectations or wishes of observers, with regard
to the conduct of the executive government, derived their
colour from the party to which each one belonged. A nume-
rous party in the nation were certainly actuated by a strong
antipathy, whether well or ill-grounded we do not at present
venture to say, to Great Britain. The members of the go-
vernment belonged to this party. That therefore their re-
sentment at the recent outrage should rather exceed than fall
short of the occasion, and outstrip rather than shrink within
the boundaries of discreet forbearance and far-looking caution,
was expected by its political adversaries with terror, and by
its adherents with exultation. That the government would
impute hostile purposes to the British government merely
from the conduct of its agents, and, leaving the task of appeas-
ing our resentment to their voluntary efforts, should retaliate
immediately as far as the constitution permitted, was wished
for by many and expected by all. With these anticipations,
every eye was anxiously turned towards the seat of govern-
ment, and the public expression of its sentiments waited for
with painful impatience. They waited not long, for, on the se-
cond day of July, less than a week after regular intelligence
had been received of the conduct of the British squadron, a
proclamation was issued by the president.

The president in this paper begins with insisting on the just
and equitable conduct of the United States towards both the
parties at war, ever since the commencement of their quarrels.
Taking no part, he affirms, in the questions which animate these
powers against each other, nor permitting ourselves to enter-
tain a wish but for the restoration of general peace, we have ob-
served with good faith the neutrality we adopted, nor can any

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instance of a departure from its duties be justly imputed to us
by any nation. A free use of our harbours and waters, the
means of refitting and refreshment, of succour to their sick
and suffering, have, at all times, and on equal principles, been
extended to all, and this too amidst a constant recurrence of
acts of insubordination to the laws, of violence to the persons,
and of trespasses on the property of our citizens, committed by
officers of one of the belligerent parties. In truth, these abuses
of the laws of hospitality have, with few exceptions, become
habitual to the commanders of the British armed vessels ho-
vering on our coasts, and frequenting our harbours. They
have been the subject of repeated representations to their go-
vernment. Assurances have been given that proper orders
should restrain them within the limit of the rights belonging,
and of the respect due to a friendly nation: but these orders
and assurances have been without effect; no punishment of
past wrongs has taken place. At length, a deed, transcending
all we have hitherto seen or suffered, brings our forbearance
to a necessary pause. A frigate of the United States, trusting
to a state of peace, and leaving her harbour on a distant service,
has been surprised and attacked by a British vessel of superior
force, one of a squadron then lying in our waters and covering
the transaction, and has been disabled from service, with the
loss of a number of men killed and wounded. This enormity
was not only without provocation or justifiable cause, but was
committed with the avowed purpose of taking by force, from a
ship of war of the United States, a part of her crew; and that
no circumstance might be wanting to aggravate the injury, it
had been previously ascertained that the seamen demanded
were native citizens of the United States. Having effected
his purpose, he returned to anchor with his squadron within
our jurisdiction.

After thus recounting the injury, and urging our title to bet-
ter treatment, he proceeds to observe, that hospitality under
such circumstances ceases to be a duty; and a continuance of
it, with such violent abuses, would tend only, by multiplying
injuries, to bring on a war between the two nations. This
consequence is no less hostile to the interests of both nations
than inconsistent with the friendly assurances of the British
government, in the midst of which this outrage was com-
mitted. In this light the subject cannot but present itself to
that government, and strengthen the motives to an honoura-
ble reparation of the wrong which has been done, and to that
effectual controul of its naval commanders, which alone can

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justify the government of the United States in the exercise of
those hospitalities it is now constrained to discontinue.

He now comes to the delicate task of prescribing an imme-
diate remedy to these evils. The conduct he prescribes he is
careful to represent not as an effort of resentment for past, but
merely a preventive of future injuries. In consideration, he
says, of these circumstances, and of the right of every nation
to regulate its own police, to provide for its peace and for the
safety of its citizens, and consequently to refuse the admission
of armed vessels into its harbours or waters, either in such
numbers or of such kinds as are inconsistent with these, or
with the maintenance of the authority of the laws, he requires
all armed vessels bearing British commissions, now within
the harbours or waters of the United States, to depart imme-
diately, and interdicts the entrance of the same in future to all
British armed vessels. If they shall fail to depart, or here-
after enter in defiance of this interdict, he proceeds to forbid
all intercourse with them, and prohibits all supplies and aid
from being furnished to them. He threatens with the legal
penalties all who should afford any aid to any such vessel,
either in repairing her, or in furnishing her with supplies of
any kind, or in any manner whatsoever; all pilots particularly
are forbidden to assist in navigating any of these armed ves-
sels, unless for the purpose of carrying them beyond the limits
of the United States, or unless it be in the case of a vessel
forced by distress, or charged with public dispatches.

The proclamation concludes with making the necessary ex-
ceptions as to vessels that shall be forced into the harbours or
waters of the United States by distress, by the dangers of the
sea, or by the pursuit of an enemy, or shall enter them charged
with dispatches or business from their government, or shall be
a public packet for the conveyance of letters and dispatches.
In these cases the commanding officer, immediately reporting
his vessel to the collector of the district, stating the object or
causes of entering the said harbours or waters, and conforming
himself to the regulations in that case prescribed under the
authority of the laws, shall be allowed the benefit of such regu-
lations, respecting repairs, supplies, stay, intercourse and
departure, as shall be permitted under the same authority.

Thus we see that, by this proclamation, the government not
only tacitly approves of the conduct already, by resentment,
dictated to the people, but imposes the conduct upon all in
future, as a public and legal obligation. It was impossible for
the government to do less than this, in the actual circum-
stances in which it was placed, however adverse it may be

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thought to the dictates of scrupulous and cold-blooded cau-

Whether the formal orders to depart from our harbours and
coasts, which is given to all British vessels of war, be entitled
to the same applause or the same excuse, may be reasonably
doubted. Disobedience to this order could not fail to be con-
sidered, on a final settlement of disputes, as an additional in-
sult and outrage, yet disobedience was innocent, because obe-
dience was impossible. The captains of ships must conform
to the orders previously received from their admiral, as to the
place and time of their stay, and the admiral is bound to fol-
low the instructions of his government at home. These
orders and these instructions were given when the two nations
were on terms of mutual hospitality, and could not be revoked
but with at least half a year's delay*.

This command, being a species of hostility, of vengeance,
of self-compensation for the wrong complained of, would not
fail to wound the pride of the wrong-doer, to lessen his in-
clination to atonement, and to furnish him with specious pleas
for delaying or evading all concession. As likewise it was
one of those commands which could not execute itself, and
which, unlike the regulations respecting supplies, the govern-
ment or nation had it not in its power to enforce, the slight it
would necessarily meet with would be only a new and morti-
fying proof of our own imbecility. These considerations are
such as might have had their weight with the government,
without directly thwarting the tide of popular opinion at the
time; and yet, if we may judge from the universal approbation
with which the public received the whole proclamation, the
applauses which it met with from every faction, on account of
its imputed caution and temperance, we may perhaps be
allowed to conclude that the government did right. Its minis-
ters are beings of the same passions and views as the governed,
and, if they disagree in opinion, can seldom, with safety,
deviate in practice from the unanimous or general resolutions
of the people.

Such was the expedition with which, on this occasion, the
government acted, and such the local extent of the United

  * The return of Humphreys, after the fray, to his former station, had the
appearance of a new insult: the president, in his proclamation, mentions
it as such; and it was probably accompanied, in the minds of the British
officers, by hostile and contemptuous sentiments: but it was, in reality,
enjoined by the laws of discipline, and neither the captains could leave
the Chesapeake nor the admiral at Halifax authorize their departure,
whatever their private sentiments or inclinations might be, without a
ministerial mandate.

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States, that most of those popular assemblies, which convened
to express their detestation of the conduct of the Leopard,
took place after the resolutions of the government were known,
and consequently had, at the same time, an opportunity of
declaring their opinion on the propriety of these resolutions.

It is hardly necessary to repeat that the leaders of all parties,
on this occasion, zealously and unanimously concurred in
applauding the measures taken by the government, and in
promising to second and support it in every measure which
might hereafter be adopted, to obtain redress or avenge the
denial of it *. The present appeared to be one of those fortu-


* Those of Boston may serve as a specimen. A general assembly de-
clared that, Whereas it appears, by a proclamation issued by the president
of the United States, that a most wanton und cruel outrage has been com-
mitted upon the United States' frigate Chesapeake, by the British ship of
war Leopard, in which our citizens have been wounded and murdered,
and the flag of our nation insulted and violated. And whereas it is the
duty, as well as right, of the citizens of a free country to express their
readiness to support the constituted authorities in the measures they may
adopt for national redress of an injury so barbarous in its nature, and so
unprecedented in its execution: therefore,

Resolved unanimously, that the late aggression, committed by a British
ship of war on a frigate of the United States, for the avowed purpose of
taking from her by force a part of her crew, was a wanton outrage upon
the persons and lives of our citizens, and a direct attack on our national
sovereignty and independence; that the spirited conduct of our fellow-
citizens at Norfolk on this occasion, before the orders of government
could be obtained, was highly honourable to themselves and to the nation;
that the firm, dignified, and temperate policy adopted by our executive at
this momentous crisis is entitled to our most cordial approbation and sup-
port; that with all our personal influence and exertions we will aid and
assist the constituted authorities in carrying the proclamation of the pre-
sident of the United States, in every particular, into full and effectual exe-
cution; that though we unite with our government in wishing most
ardently for peace on just and honourable terms, yet we are ready cheer-
fully to co-operate in any measures, however serious, which they may
judge necessary for the safety and honour of our country, and will support
them with our lives and fortune.

In another assembly, convened in a more formal manner, but in which
all distinctions of party equally disappeared they say, Whereas, by the
communications from Norfolk, Portsmouth, and their vicinities, and the
proclamation of the president of the United States, it appears that the
sovereignty of our country has been insulted, and the lives of our citizens
sacrificed by the unjustifiable conduct of a British armed ship:

Resolved, that we consider the unprovoked attack made on the United
States' armed ship Chesapeake, by the British ship of war Leopard, a
wanton outrage upon the lives of our fellow-citizens, a direct violation of
our national honour, and an infringement of our national rights and sove-
reignty; that we most sincerely approve the proclamation, and the firm
and dispassionate course of policy pursued by the president of the United
States, and we will cordially unite with our fellow-citizens in affording

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nate occasions in which the people were entirely unanimous in
their conduct towards a foreign power. That long contest
between France and Great Britain, in the affections of the
American people, which had hitherto embittered their domes-
tic quarrels, seemed to expire as by magic. The various fac-
tions vied with each other in applauding the present measures
of the government, and in binding themselves to befriend and
enforce all its future measures. The enormity of this outrage
left no room for the strongest prejudice to hesitate or argue.
The injustice or temerity of the British government had de-
prived the warmest of its supposed friends, not only of the
power but the inclination to vindicate their cause, and the pre-
sent rulers of the state had the singular felicity of having all
hearts and hands enlisted on their side, in their hostile feelings
and measures with regard to Great Britain. It was easy,
however, to foresee that this unanimity was momentary. In-
veterate habits may give way, and customary enemies may
embrace for a moment, but time will be sure to restore the
empire to its old masters; enmities will gradually revive, and
the bickerings of party be as loud as ever.

It was easy to see the termination of this golden unanimity
in the peculiar circumstances of this case. Resentment, on all
hands, would have time to cool in the interval which would
necessarily elapse between the injury and the complaint. Re-
monstrances must be dispatched to the British court, nor could
any satisfactory information be obtained of their effects in less
than half a year. In that time the parties at home would have
leisure to resume their habitual suspicions of each other, and
the domestic causes of dissention, which are permanent and
are unaffected by foreign transactions, would gradually regain
that attention which had been diverted and absorbed by ex-
ternal considerations.

  effectual support to such measures as our government may further adopt,
in the present crisis of our affairs; that we shall remember with pride
and pleasure the patriotic and spirited conduct of the citizens of Norfolk,
Portsmouth, and their vicinities, before the orders of the government
were known, upon this momentous occasion; and that they are entitled to
the thanks and approbation of their fellow-citizens throughout the union.

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INTELLIGENCE of these transactions could not fail to
reach the British government, through its own officers, sooner
than through the representations of the American minister.
The admiral at Halifax having light and fast-sailing vessels
always at command and ready, may dispatch them without
delay, with the hasty productions of his own pen. The Ameri-
can government were obliged to collect and sift evidence, to take
counsel, and to draw up and revise its dispatches with the ut-
most caution and deliberation. Hence it happened that the
British ministers were apprized of these events, in less than a
month after they happened, though more than two months
elapsed before Mr. Monroe, the American ambassador, re-
ceived any official information on the subject.

The conduct of the British government, on receiving this
intelligence, was such as seemed to argue their total previous
ignorance of the measures of their admiral: but national affairs
are, in general, conducted with so much fraud and stratagem;
ends so distant and obscure are generally meditated and ef-
fected by means so circuitous and complex, that the common
laws of evidence are seldom of any avail in enabling us to lift
the curtain.

On the present occasion, it seemed, at first, glaringly inex-
pedient for Great Britain to provoke America, especially by so
inexcusable an outrage as that on the Chesapeake. The im-
probability of an admiral's acting thus without orders was very
great, but the impolicy of such orders was, in many minds, a
still greater weight in the adverse scale, and, in such minds,
the conduct of the minister, on receiving an account of these
transactions, even through the partial medium of the offender's
own letters, made his innocence certain. Men of deeper
views, however, or at least of tempers more suspicious, saw
in this conduct nothing but a link in a chain of artifices, whose
ultimate purpose was a war with America: a purpose to be
effected, first, by committing a violence which should suggest
complaint and demands of reparation; secondly, by the refusal
of that atonement which the pride of the British nation should
deem adequate, but which the supposed hostile spirit of the
ruling party in America would prompt them to reject.

 image pending 40

Time only can fully confute or vindicate these suspicions.
Meanwhile, the evidence within our reach ought to govern-
our convictions, and candour obliges us to examine it with ac-

On the 25th of July, Mr. Canning informed Mr. Mon-
roe, in a short letter, of the attack upon the American frigate.
With the wariness to be expected from a crafty minister, he
declares himself unable to communicate to Mr. Monroe the
particulars of this transaction, or the grounds of the justifica-
tion of the officer who executed, or the admiral who ordered
this violence: yet he must, at the same time, have been fully
apprized of all the circumstances of the case, and this inability,
to be consistent with truth, must be one arising, not from ig-
norance, as his terms imply, but from prudence. He con-
cludes his letter with professing his regret, not at the transac-
tion itself, but only “at its unfortunate result,” and promises
the most effectual reparation, on the safe and discreet condi-
tion, “that the British officer should prove culpable.”

Mr. Canning is the first British minister, since Addison,
who enjoys the reputation of a poet and classical writer. Un-
like his illustrious predecessor, however, his writings evince
the vivacity of his fancy more than the tenderness of his heart.
His wit is less simple and pure, but more brilliant and spark-
ling; and his satire is aimed, not, like Addison's, at moral de-
pravity, but political heresy. While the latter was fitted only,
by his genius and ambition, for privacy and study, the former
is eminently qualified for the turbulent and motley sphere of the
cabinet and parliament. His classical taste merely displays
itself in the force and correctness of his official compositions,
and his intellectual vigour, only in the address, penetration,
and subtilty of his ministerial conduct. A diplomatic contro-
versy is a scene exactly adapted to his genius, and if success
in this kind of warfare is allotted to the greatest master of
rhetoric, and the deepest proficient in stratagem, he may safely
count upon success.

In the letter just mentioned, there are all the evidences of
his character which could be disclosed by so brief and slight a
performance. The terms of it appear, at first, to be all that
innocence and candour could suggest; and yet, when carefully
reviewed, we perceive that no useful or rational regret is ex-
pressed, no fault is really avowed, and no satisfaction is ex-
plicitly promised.

Mr. Monroe, in his answer to this note, after declaring him-
self uninformed of the transaction in the Chesapeake, except
by Mr. Canning's own letter, expresses his satisfaction on Mr.
Canning's assurance that the violence was not authorized by

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the British government, and that suitable reparation be made
for the injury, on proofs that the British officer was the ag-

Mr. Monroe observes, in his subsequent dispatches to
his own government, that, being aware of the probability
that something had occurred to divide the blame between
the parties, he had satisfied himself with accepting this
conditional promise of reparation. The truth, however, is, that
though it might be laudable policy to put this interpreta-
tion on the secretary's letter, there is nothing in that letter
which, by any means, implies that the violence was not au-
thorized by that government: no regret is expressed for
any thing but that lives were lost on board the Chesapeake
in this attack; being fully informed of the affair, he still con-
siders the justification of the admiral as doubtful, and, by
promising to punish, if found guilty, he merely assures us
that such guilt is not already proved to his satisfaction.

In a very short time, the gazettes of the day detailed the
news from Halifax, and informed the American minister
that the outrage, even as recounted by the offenders them-
selves, was flagrant and inexcusable. The doubts express-
ed in Mr. Canning's letter, as to the guilt of the action,
Mr. Monroe naturally imputed to the part he had taken
in the dispute about the right of taking British subjects from
American ships. The American government, which could
give no countenance to this disinction between the rights of
natives and of foreigners, even with regard to merchant
ships, could be still less inclined to hearken to it in the
present case. A national ship of war was necessarily exempt
from visiting and search on any pretext whatever, and a
search, even if lawful, could not be prosecuted by force,
without intentions absolutely hostile. Mr. Monroe had,
therefore, sufficient reason to be alarmed at the dubious and
hesitating tone which the prudence of the secretary had
dictated to his pen, and lost no time in laying before him
his own views of the subject.

A subsequent interview between Mr. Monroe and Mr.
Canning sufficiently explained all that was doubtful and
obscure in the note of the latter. The American minis-
ter maintained that a ship of war protected all persons on
board without exception, and could not be entered by force,
on any pretext, without violating the sovereignty of the
state to which she belonged. The British minister for-
bore cautiously to admit this claim under any circumstan-
ces; he insinuated that the decision of his government must

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be influenced by the consideration whether the persons taken
from the Chesapeake were British subjects or not. With
regard to the authority under which the admiral acted, he
explicitly asserted nothing, but betrayed merely a desire to
persuade Mr. Monroe that the present ministry had issued
no new orders to the admiral at Halifax.

In a note, presented immediately afterwards by Mr. Mon-
roe, he details the circumstances of this outrage, as then
known through the public prints; he declares the pretext
alleged by Berkely to be wholly unjustifiable; and de-
mands of the government, first, an immediate disavowal of
the right of entering the national ship of a neutral on any
such pretext, and, secondly, an assurance that the officer
who is responsible shall suffer the merited punishment.

Mr. Monroe mentioned the previous station of the Bri-
tish squadron, within the bay of Chesapeake, as an aggra-
vation of this outrage, though this circumstance, properly
considered, neither magnifies nor lessens the offence, and
briefly alludes to the numerous other and recent indig-
nities and outrages, with which the British ships on the
American coast were justly chargeable, though he properly
observes that their inferior importance makes it improper
to combine them with the present cause of complaint.

This remonstrance produced, for the first time, an expli-
cit declaration, by the secretary, that the British govern-
ment neither does claim, nor has, at any time, maintained
a right to search ships of war in the public service of any
state for deserters, and that, if the conduct of the com-
manders in America rested on no other grounds than the
validity of this claim, the government will find no difficulty
in expressing its displeasure at their conduct.

The secretary betrays some anger at the tenor of the
American remonstrance, and insinuates that his first note
contains all the satisfaction which the case, as at present
known, required. Yet the cautious silence, the studied am-
biguity, and the conditional professions, both of that note,
and of the subsequent interview, so far from amounting to
such a disavowal as this, evidently betrayed an inclination
to justify the deed, and assert the claim.

We may easily imagine the alarm excited in the Bri-
tish nation, on receiving intelligence of the affray on the
American coast. The intimate and complex connections which
subsisted between Great Britain and America, more inti-
mate and more extensive than ever before subsisted between
independent states, were now in danger of being broken,

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and broken suddenly, contrary to expectation and without
warning. The trade of the United States supplies employ-
ment and subsistence to a vast number of merchants, manu-
facturers, and ordinary workmen in Great Britain. It prin-
cipally furnishes the raw materials of many of their most
lucrative and flourishing manufactories. The commercial
intercourse between them is so managed, that much of the
property of British merchants and manufacturers exists in the
form of debts, due from America. Millions are annually
paid, by America, to Europe; but the debt is only diminish-
ed on one hand, that it may be augmented on the other. A
war would probably suspend but little the payment of this
debt, and British manufactures would flow into the United
States in more covert and circuitous, but scarcely less copi-
ous channels, than during peace. This, however, is a pro-
bability not very strong or obvious; and war, when viewed
at a distance, will always drag in its train the formidable
images of confiscation and extinguished intercourse.

But if the prospect of war with America excited conster-
nation and alarm in many, those were by no means few in
number, or inconsiderable in importance, in whom it awaken-
ed very different sentiments. The present flourishing com-
merce of the United States being built on their neutrality,
and enjoyed, therefore, at the expence and to the exclusion
of Great Britain, those who do not immediately deal with
America, and are not visibly benefited, therefore, by the con-
tinuance of peace, regard themselves as injured by it. British
ships are rendered useless by the superior advantages which
neutrality bestows upon those of America. Europe is supplied
with the products of the East and West Indies brought from
these regions by American traders. They, therefore, partly
bereave the East India company of the benefits of its mono-
poly, and, by filling the European markets with the products
of the French and Spanish colonies, they limit the consump-
tion and diminish the value of those of Great Britain. The
claims of the American government on the subject of impress-
ment are naturally odious in the eyes of those in whom na-
tional pride is their ruling passion. The interests and well-
being of the British navy have become of the first importance,
since the French have grown all-powerful by land; but these
interests would be deeply impaired by admitting the claims
of America, and powerfully strengthened by a war with that
nation. The opportunities of pillage which such a war
would afford to the navy make it extremely desirable to that
body, and hence the prospect of a rupture with America, so

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far from being disagreeable to the whole nation, was rather
pleasing to that class whose rank and influence were likely to
regulate the decisions of the government.

Such were the circumstances which, in addition to the dif-
ficulty of suitably and acceptably atoning for the injury com-
plained of, made the issue of the present scene exceedingly
doubtful, and inspired the greatest apprehensions as to the
use which might be made by the British government of any
retaliating measures adopted by America. In this state of
things, a copy of the president's proclamation reached the
hands of the ministry, a few days after the last remonstrance
from Mr. Monroe, and before he had received any new in-
structions connected with the outrage on the Chesapeake.

This menacing paper could not fail to irritate the pride of
the British government. It placed the injury lately com-
plained of on a footing wholly new. It came in due season
to relieve them from an irksome and humiliating perplexity.
It rescued them from the necessity of disgusting the officers
of the navy by reprimands and punishments, or of shaking
the pillars of their maritime discipline by restoring deserters.
But it was in the first place necessary to ascertain the genu-
ineness of this paper. For that purpose, Mr. Monroe was
requested, by letter from secretary Canning, dated the 8th of
August, to inform him whether this proclamation was au-
thentic, and whether the American government intended to
enforce this interdict, without requiring or waiting for any
explanation on the part of Great Britain.

The terms of this letter would naturally lead an impartial
observer to conclude that all regret for the late outrage, and
all disposition to atone for it, was swallowed up by resentment
at this attempt of the American government to avenge itself,
and that some hostile measure would probably be adopted in
return. Of these measures, the most obvious one was an
embargo on American vessels. Mr. Monroe was conscious
of this danger; but, being unfurnished with any official in-
telligences or instructions from his government, he could do
nothing to avert it. He could merely inform the minister of
the ignorance in which he still remained, express his expec-
tation of receiving very shortly the requisite instructions, and
promise to communicate them to the secretary, when receiv-
ed, without delay. This was accordingly done.

The ambassador and the public waited in anxious impa-
tience the next step. The American shipmasters hastened
to leave the country. The manufacturers discontinued that
labour which was to provide for future demands from the

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United States. The merchants trembled for the fate of the
debts still unpaid, and cautiously forbore to encrease them.
The American residents in Great Britain began to make all
the provision in their power against an order which they ex-
pected momently would be issued to depart the realm.
Those who had ships, which the American trade had hi-
therto made, or which an American war was likely to make
useless, began to meditate the fitting out of privateers. The
naval officers exulted in the expectation of immediate hosti-
lities, and prepared themselves to strike an early and lucra-
tive blow; but hope on one side, and apprehension on the
other, were equally mistaken: no hostile orders were issued;
no precautionary measures were adopted.

 image pending 46


EARLY in September, Mr. Monore was enabled, by re-
ceiving the necessary instructions from his government, to
explain the demands and expectations of his country on this
momentous and critical event. This was accordingly done,
in a letter to secretary Canning, transmitted on the 7th of

In this paper, the minister, after dwelling on the heinous
nature of the outrage committed by the Leopard, and guard-
ing against any extenuating pleas, arising from the previous
conduct or birth-place of the men taken, first, by confining
the view to the mere violence itself, and next by furnishing
proof that the men were American citizens, proceeds to con-
sider the mode and extent of the reparation due to the United
States. On this head, however, he merely appeals to the
sympathy of the British government, to those feelings which
would be experienced, and that reparation which would be
demanded by Great Britain, if placed in the same situation.
The kind or measure of atonement is not pointed out to those
who cannot fail to discover the dictates of justice and the
claims of national honour, by imagining the injury done to

Thus far the ambassador proceeded upon sure and simple
grounds. To resist or elude this demand, to disregard this
forcible appeal, without manifest hostility, required more
than ordinary ingenuity. The two circumstances in the case
which offered them some shelter, were the voluntary en-
listment of the men on board a British ship, and the muti-
nous violence committed by them in making their escape.
Under these circumstances, a ministerial advocate would be
sure to entrench himself; but this fortress was made useless
by insisting on the natal or acquired rights of the captives
merely as aggravations of a wrong, which, without their as-
sistance, was abundantly flagrant and glaring. This oppor-
tunity, however, for enforcing other claims, appeared too
favourable not to be improved.

Hitherto, the chief demand made by America on Great
Britain was the exemption of the crews of merchant vessels
from impressment. Natives of Great Britain were often to
be found on board these vessels. The commanders of Bri-

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tish ships are authorized to force such persons into their own

But they are found on board ships of a foreign and neutral

No matter. A native of Great Britain, her law says,
shall every where enjoy the privileges, and be every where
liable to the obligations of a British subject. One of these
obligations, if the subject be a sailor, is, to serve in the navy
when he is wanted.

But he has acquired, by conforming to certain conditions,
the rights of a citizen in a foreign state.

It may be so. He has, in consequence, doubled, in some
respects, his political privileges; since he cannot lose those
of a British subject. He has likewise, by so doing, doubled
his duties; since he has not by this act escaped the obligations
connected with the place of his birth. Here, then, is the per-
plexity: as a native of Britain, he is liable to be taken on
board of its ships of war; as a citizen of a foreign state, he
is entitled to protection and to liberty. The honour of both
states is equally concerned to maintain these incompatible
claims; and, what is of much more consequence, and gives the
debate all its real earnestness, the dictates of honour are enfor-
ced on both sides by those of interest. The naval service of
one is impaired and interrupted by granting the exemp-
tion; the trade of the other is impaired and interrupted by
yielding to the claim. How is the controversy to be decided?

Both parties appeal to the practice of foregoing times, as
if the antiquity of the claim, on one side, and of the ex-
emption, on the other, were the criterion of justice; as if it
were our duty to submit to an injury, and our right to inflict
an evil to-day, because we submitted to it, or inflicted it, yes-

Both parties appeal to the decisions of writers on national
law, as if the contests of nations were really to be decided, or
ever were decided, by the apophthegms of sages, who died
centuries ago.

Both parties appeal to those principles, which constitute
the independence and integrity of nations. One party ex-
claims, If you employ my subjects, or detain them when I
want their services, you are an enemy. You assail my inde-
pendence, and insult my dignity. With equal fervour retorts
the other, If you take away my subjects from my ships, and
compel them to fight your battles, you commit the grossest af-
front which one state can incur from the injustice and arro-
gance of another. You violate my independence in the most fla-

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grant and atrocious degree; and yet, all the while, this appeal
to past times, to musty volumes, to diplomatic rolls, to defini-
tions of national equality or political independence, is a futile
and nugatory parade. Usage and justice are in the mouths of
both, but in the hearts of neither. The principle which actu-
ates their conduct, and inspires their eloquence, and inflames
their zeal, is their own interest. In judging of their interest
they may be erring or infallible. No matter; their opinion
governs them, and governs them alone. Does any nation re-
nounce a claim? The victory has not been gained in argu-
ment. The concession is not made to justice. It is made to
necessity; it is enjoined by interest. The claim cannot be ef-
fectually maintained by arms: to assert it, would be attended
with more injury and inconvenience than the renunciation.

Does any nation insist upon a claim? Not because it is just
and equitable: they consider nothing but its benefits. Equity
and justice may be pleaded, but such is the peculiar quality of
national interest in its influence on human minds, that what
is beneficial will always appear to be just; to claim it will al-
ways appear to be duty; to die for it will always appear to be
virtue; but still the two views are eternally separate in the
mind of the king or the statesman. Though his claims will
always appear just in his own eyes, their justice is no motive
of his conduct. The impulse to his actions is derived from
the perception of national benefit alone.

Such is the unavoidable complexity of national questions,
that the statesman can never be at a loss for arguments. If we
please, we can limit our view to the arguments on one side of
any controversy; we can shut our ears against the adverse
arguments; but our convictions flow from the views, be they
broad or narrow, circumscribed or comprehensive, which are
actually present; and thus are adversaries, who are equal in
penetration and knowledge, equally zealous and sincere,
though directly opposite in their convictions. Statesmen, hav-
ing ascertained the dictates of national interest, have their
path traced out: they walk in it accordingly, whether justice
applaud or condemn: but justice is sure to applaud, and this
contributes to the firmness of their steps, and the fearlessness
of their brow, but neither turns their steps into this path, nor
impels them forward in it.

To pronounce upon the justice of the claims which have
been urged, for some years, by America against Great
Britain, would be equally arrogant and useless. The argu-
ments of the writer, and the convictions of the reader, are
settled by some arbitrary, capricious, or personal motive; or

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by the nation to which he belongs. He will never impair the
interests of his country, for the sake of a strange land. He
will never fail to combine the dictates of that interest with
those of duty and justice. His relative situation thus pre-
scribes his duty and moulds his opinions.

That a nation may rightfully settle the terms on which
strangers are enrolled among its citizens; that a citizen
should be protected by the state to which he belongs; that a
state is injured and insulted when its citizens are taken from
its ships by force, and compelled to fight for another state,
seem incontestible truths: but these truths avail nothing in the
regulation of national conduct. Great Britain conceives it to
be her interest to take such persons notwithstanding. They
will then be taken, while the taking will never want an argu-
mental or diplomatic vindication, deduced from the natural
and inherent duties of a subject, from which he cannot divest
himself at his own pleasure, and from which no municipal re-
gulations of another nation can, at any time, or in any
place, divest him *. If war with America follow the taking,
the British government will consider whether the consequen-
ces of this war will be more injurious than the giving up of
their claim, and decide accordingly. If more injurious, they
will submit to necessity. They will chuse the least of two
evils. But neither will they think it just, nor their duty as

  * When we read the volumes that have been written on the famous
propositions, that free vessels make free goods, and an independent flag protects
those who sail under it,
we are amused by the learning, industry, and in-
genuity, displayed by the writers: but when we ask, Why does this wri-
ter maintain that the goods of enemies may be taken even from the ship
of a friend? Because he is a Briton, and he sees his position to be just,
because the interest of his nation is concerned in enforcing it. Why does
that writer maintain the contrary? Because he is an American, and the in-
terest of his nation is concerned in the exemption. Reverse their situa-
tion, and their faith is reversed. Still more mortifying is the view, when
we reflect upon the end of argument. This end is to influence conviction,
and regulate conduct. But such arguments make no converts, produce
no actions. The motive which prompts me to argue, guards my adver-
sary from the influence of my arguments. Nothing that I can say about
the elements of political independence, or the tenor of past transactions,
can possibly induce a Briton to sacrifice the interest of his nation to mine;
can possibly make him believe, that justice and duty enjoin this sacrifice
upon him. In this point of view, therefore, the writer might just as pro-
fitably occupy himself in inditing sonnets to the moon, or recording the
adventures of giant-killing Jack. Each orator, however, is sure of an
audience, and of applause; he will be listened to by those who had pre-
viously adopted his opinion, have the same motives, and who will feel
a preposterous astonishment at those who have adverse interests, and
see no force in arguments, whose force a concurrent interest alone ena-
bles them to discover.

 image pending 50

Englishmen, to sacrifice the smallest interest of their own to
the greatest interest of another country; nor will they allow
a concession, which it is their interest to make at one time, to
be pleaded as a reason for repeating it at another, when their
interest prescribes a different conduct.

This, however, is not the whole of the controversy. Bri-
tish commanders are authorized to take British subjects from
neutral vessels. But there is no visible or manifest criterion,
by which a native of Britain can be distinguished from a na-
tive of America. In language, complexion, physiognomy,
and manners, they are alike. The commander, therefore,
will take the man whom he wants, because there is no exter-
nal difference, which proves him not to be British. He may,
indeed, produce a legal document to prove his rights, but the
genuineness of this document cannot be proved upon the spot.
The holder may be taken, nevertheless; the document may be
destroyed by the commander. No authority can supersede
his, on board his ship. The victim of this injustice has no
means of relieving himself. The vessel is a prison, stronger
and safer than a tower of iron or of adamant. When finally
released, no species of atonement can reach the size of the
wrong, and no atonement of any sort can, from the nature of
his case, be dispensed to him.

The American government complain, not only of the injus-
tice of taking any of the crew of a neutral vessel, but especi-
ally of the more flagrant injustice of taking seamen that are
natives of America. The British government acknowledges
the injustice, and disclaims any right to take them. Naval
commanders continue to take them. America continues to
complain. Great Britain continues to express regret, and of-
fers to adopt any practicable method of preventing the abuse.
The most obvious method is to renew, and render as clear and
strict as possible, the orders to naval commanders, to take no
natives of a foreign country from neutral vessels. These or-
ders avail nothing: they cannot furnish a criterion for distin-
guishing a subject from a foreigner. They cannot execute
themselves, and may be disregarded with impunity. The
abuse and the complaint continue as before. A strong incli-
nation to correct the abuse is avowed, and any effectual me-
thod that can be proposed will be adopted. The only effec-
tual method is to prohibit naval commanders from taking
away seamen from neutral ships, on any pretence whatever,
and this is, accordingly, required.

The British ministry, on the other side, do not deny
that this abuse exists: they readily condemn it, though they

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do not deny that there is no remedy but this: they allow this
remedy to be effectual, but it goes too far. It exempts not
only the native of America, but the subject of Great Britain,
from impressement. To prevent an abuse of the right, they
will not relinquish the right itself.

Such had been the state of the controversy, for some years,
between the respective governments, prior to the present trans-
action. They were employed, on one side, in explaining the
violence and extent of the evil; in pointing out the futility
and inefficacy of any remedy short of a total abolition of im-
pressment; in proving that the conduct of former times differ-
ed from the present practice; and that the desisting from im-
pressing men from neutral vessels was not only much less in-
jurious to Great Britain than the practice was hurtful to Ame-
rica, but that the injury in the first case was very small. On
the other side, the abstract right of impressment, and its con-
formity, not only to the strongest dictates of present interest,
but to the authority of ancient usage, was maintained with
equal earnestness.

The question had three branches, on two of which the par-
ties openly or tacitly agreed. The Americans were not ve-
ry earnest in denying the right of Great Britain to take her
own subjects, not subjects of the neutral state, from neutral
vessels. The British claimed no right to take the native ci-
tizens of a neutral state from its vessels. On the third
point, relative to seamen who were subjects by nativity of one
state, and by naturalization of another, they differed. The
same motives, however, the interest of the parties, which pro-
duced, likewise protracted the controversy. Each was un-
willing to go to war in defence of their claims, because the
remedy was worse than the disease; and each reflected that
the causes of dispute were connected with the war in Europe,
the duration of which was exceedingly uncertain. Hence,
the parties assumed an amicable tone, and letters, and confe-
rences, and ineffectual compromises, which brought the issue
nearer, merely because time would one day, by restoring
peace to Europe, infallibly decide it.

The occurrence in the Chesapeake put an end to this harm-
less warfare of paper and words. Here was a flagrant in-
stance of that abuse which had been so earnestly complained
of. Had the question been settled by the total abolition of
impressment in neutral vessels, this violence would not have
taken place. A recurrence of this violence could only be ef-
fectually prevented by this total abolition. If this connection
were doubtful, yet this was a favourable opportunity for ob-

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taining satisfaction on collateral points, and the American
minister was therefore charged to demand absolute security
against all impressments from American ships, as an essen-
tial part of the reparation due for the late insult.

The British government probably rejoiced at this deter-
mination. It opened a new door, in addition to that opened
by the proclamation, for their escape from the difficulties in
which their commanders had involved them. An official
disavowal of any right to search national ships was a form
of words that was easy; to send a minister across the sea to
make this disavowal was likewise easy; to pay the expences
of repairing the Chesapeake, and even to settle pensions on
the widows and orphans of those slain in the attack upon that
ship were no less easy. In doing all this, the praise of
moderation and equity were cheaply purchased, and pride
itself was as much gratified in offering as in receiving this
ceremonious retribution. But this was not all that justice and
a due regard to future consequences would demand. The
solid and genuine fruits of regret, and the only reasonable
pledge of good treatment in future, consisted in restoring the
impressed men, and in punishing the admiral who directed
the attack; and these the constitution of the navy and the
maintenance of discipline rendered impossible. To make,
therefore, the abolition of impressment an indispensible part
of the required satisfaction, was to rescue the adversary from
that dilemma in which his rashness had placed him. That he
would give up his claim the more readily in consequence of
this arbitrary conjunction of the two subjects, could not be
reasonably expected. That he would gladly excuse himself,
under this pretext, from making any solid and genuine repa-
ration, any atonement that would really incommode or embar-
rass him, was wholly unavoidable. Opposite opinions, how-
ever, must have been entertained by the American govern-
ment. In interdicting the supply of British ships on the
American coast the nation was unanimous, and the govern-
ment had no power to forbear, however defective this act
might be, when weighed in the scales of the most rigid pru-
dence. But the combining of the abolition of impressment
in general with the other atonements for the recent insult, had
not the same plea in its favour. The public opinion, on the
wisdom of this conjunction, was by no means unanimous, and
this brand was alone sufficient to kindle anew the flame of
faction, which had lately been almost extinguished *.

  * We are not to forget that the wisdom or folly of this conjunction is a
question of no practical consequence. The subsequent negotiation, as

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In the answer of the secretary to the remonstrance of Mr.
Monroe, he plainly hints at the importance of the president's
proclamation to the present controversy. A less compensa-
tion for the wrong is required when the sufferer repays injury
with injury, than when he practises a rigid forbearance, and
contents himself with simply appealing to the justice of the
injurer. He inquires whether the American government
purposes to recal this interdict, as soon as the right of search-
ing neutral vessels of war is disavowed, thereby intimating
that this recal will be necessary to any further step. He
affirms that the employment of British sailors on board of
foreign ships, without the king's consent, is unjust, and, there-
fore, that the full extent of the injury complained of on this
occasion will depend upon the country of the persons taken
from the Chesapeake. He then proceeds to protest against
conjoining the general question concerning the impressment of
persons from neutral merchant ships, with the affray between
the Leopard and the Chesapeake; he defends this practice as
conformable to usage, and as essential to the interests of Great
Britain, and expressly refuses to discuss them jointly. He
acquaints Mr. Monroe likewise, that if he is not authorized
to treat these subjects separately, it is designed to dispatch
a special minister to the United States, empowered to treat
concerning the particular injury complained of, but not to dis-
cuss the subject of impressing men from merchant ships.

In answer to this paper, Mr. Monroe enlarges with great
clearness and force on the propriety of blending the particu-
lar with the general wrong. The attack upon the Chesa-
peake was only the last and greatest in a series of wrongs,
not less unjustifiable than this; that the last violence was
greater than those preceding by no means justified delaying
redress for all former ones, as they were wrongs of the
same nature, and flowing from the same source. He defends
the equity and usefulness, and asserts the pacific nature of
the proclamation. Instead of repelling one hostile act with
hostilities, the purpose of this instrument was merely to pre-
serve order within the jurisdiction of the United States, to
which end the removal of the British squadron became ab-
solutely necessary. In this way we see the debate and deci-
sion which afterwards took place at Washington antici-

  we shall hereafter discover, was not impeded by this obstacle. The
proclamation put a stop to it. Where it stopped was of small conse-
quence, since it could not possibly, from the difficulties inseparable from
the case, arrive at an amicable issue.

 image pending 54

The effect produced by these representations remained to
be exhibited in the conduct of the minister dispatched to
America. Mr. Rose, a man celebrated for his penetration and
address, was selected for this purpose, and proceeded without
delay to embark for the United States. All further debate
between the agents of the two governments at London, either
on the terms of a general treaty, or on the particular trans-
action in the Chesapeake, was necessarily suspended till the
issue of this mission was known.

 image pending 55


CONGRESS had been summoned, by a proclamation, to
meet on the twenty-seventh of October, a period of more
than four months after the misconduct of the Leopard. It
was reasonably thought that the resolutions of the British
government would have been known in that time; but though
Mr. Monroe presented a formal remonstrance on this subject
early in September, it was more than a month afterwards
before Mr. Rose embarked for America, so that, at the meet-
ing of congress, the American government was still unin-
formed of the state of the controversy.

This session of the legislature was the most important, and
its proceedings excited a more lively attention in the public,
than any which had for a long time occurred. The neces-
sity of deciding between peace and war, and the probability
that their decision would be a warlike one, was never
more manifest since the formation of these states. All those
biases in respect to foreign states, all those causes of ancient
animosity which distinguished the parties in America, had
time, in this interval, to recover in some degree from the
shock occasioned by the attack upon the Chesapeake. Those
suspicions which the party denominated federalists had been
accustomed to entertain of the government, began to sup-
plant the temporary fit of confidence which they had lately
felt. It was thought by them, that the present opportunity
could hardly fail of drawing forth all that antipathy against
Great Britain which they imputed to the government: glad
of any pretence to quarrel with that nation, of any occasion
to display their good-will to France by ill offices to her formi-
dable rival, would they not be strongly tempted, by insisting on
indigestible terms, by urging injurious and provoking pleas,
by raising needless obstacles, to prevent a peaceable agree-
ment, and involve the states in the double evil of a war with
England and an alliance with France? By a progress natural
to the human mind, these suspicions and apprehensions inevi-
tably begat an inclination in this party to view the late event
in a less odious light. Their minds became less and less
averse to hearken to those pleas, which could not fail to arise
from so complex a subject, tending to extenuate if not to jus-
tify the conduct of the British admiral. Instead of solely

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meditating on the violence itself, they began to reflect on the
incidents that led to it. Doubts began to be entertained as
to the justice of detaining notorious deserters from British
ships. It began to be questioned whether the men taken
from the Chesapeake were not really subjects of Great Bri-
tain; and the violence committed on the American ship be-
gan to lose in their minds much of its atrocity, by reason of
the preceding provocations. These provocation were imput-
ed as crimes, flowing from antipathy to Great Britain, to
those who administered the government, while the subse-
quent proceedings began to be taken as indiscreet and hostile
retaliations, tending only to cancel our claims to reparation.
Setting out thus, they naturally arrived at the conclusion that
the terms offered by England would not be accepted, and that
the war that might follow would be chargeable only on the
rancour and hatred, on the hostile neglect or precipitate ven-
geance of the government.

As the ruling party was accused of undue favour to France,
their adversaries were of course driven into an opposite
sentiment with regard to that nation. The annals of com-
merce furnished plenty of cases, in which the French govern-
ment evinced an utter contempt for the rights of America,
and related numerous violations of her property. These
were magnified into outrages as heinous and unpardonable
as the misconduct of the Leander and the Leopard, and as
equally deserving of resentment. Such is the influence of
party zeal, that the transactions in the Chesapeake seemed to
be hastening to oblivion in the minds of one class of the peo-
ple, while a deeper animosity was expressed against France
than ever, though no very gross or flagrant injustice had
been recently committed by that state against us.

That the ruling party, or republicans, should feel its aver-
sion to Great Britain increased by the partiality to that na-
tion, and its bias in favour of France augmented by the un-
just aspersions, of its adversaries, was quite unavoidable.
That the offences of England should be aggravated beyond
their due size, and those of France unreasonably slighted or
palliated by this party, was agreeable to the principles of hu-
man nature: in one party, the healing influence of time, in
mitigating anger and in weakening the sense of injury and
insult, was aided and facilitated, while, in the other, it was
checked and obstructed, by their respective prejudices. That
each faction should not content itself with imputing mere
ignorance and error to their opponents, or even the illusions
of party and prejudice; that they should ascribe the conduct

 image pending 57

they arraigned as flowing from corruption, bribery, the influ-
ence of British and French gold, was a matter of course, at
which no impartial observer of human affairs could be sur-
prised. To censure and regret this is as useless and imper-
tinent as to blame the shower which should not stop at re-
freshing, but should proceed to inundate the harvest field, or
the winds which, not satisfied with adding wings to commerce
or bringing health to cities, should overwhelm the one and lay
waste the other.

As the ranks of the federal party could not fail to be aug-
mented by many of those who disapproved of the revolution,
and who still gloried in the feelings of British subjects, and
by such emigrants from Great Britain as still retained all the
feelings of national attachment, their adversaries gladly
seized the opportunity of stigmatizing them collectively with
the name, and imputing to them the prejudices of the ancient
tories, while they dubbed themselves whigs and republicans.

The adverse party were not so fortunate. The magic of a
name which so powerfully operated against them, they were
disabled by circumstances from exerting in their favour.
Formerly, when this party possessed the government, they
assumed the name of federalists, and stigmatized their ad-
versaries as jacobins. Their bias in favour of France, which
was ruled at one time by a party of that name, naturally sug-
gested this appellation. The opponents of the government
were charged with aiming at the destruction of the constitu-
tion itself. The domestic experience of eight years has ren-
dered these charges nearly obsolete, while the changes in
France reflect upon its friends the imputation of being mo-
narchists rather than jacobins; the latter name, therefore, has
fallen into disuse, and the more harmless, but unmeaning ap-
pellation of democrats continues to prevail, merely because an
apter, and, at the same time, a more opprobrious one is

The picture was by no means suited to the state of parties
previous to the opening of the session at Washington. The
seeds of these divisions were ripening slowly till this period,
when they suddenly expanded into blossom and fruit, and the
state of things just described was fully established before the
end of the year.

The president, in his first communication to congress, re-
lates, in general terms, the unsuccessful attempts that had
been made to obtain by treaty, from Great Britain, security
for our commerce and mariners. The singing of a treaty,
which he refused to ratify because some of its articles were

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highly disadvantageous, while no provision was made against
the principal source of the evils which we suffered, was men-
tioned, as well as the renewal of the negotiation. Allusion
is made to the attack on the Chesapeake, and the orders trans-
mitted to London on that account, and the president declares
his intention to communicate the answer as soon as it is re-
ceived, together with the rejected treaty, and the correspon-
dence and dispatches which followed and preceded, if the
public welfare would allow it. He then proceeds to complain
of the subsequent misconduct of the British commanders, in
remaining in our waters in defiance of the interdict, in vio-
lating the jurisdiction of the states, and, finally, in putting to
death one of the persons taken from the American frigate.
He states it as absolutely necessary to our own safety in fu-
ture, either to maintain a naval force in every harbour, or to
exclude from them all foreign armed vessels, and recom-
mends the latter measure as more agreeable to public frugality,
and more favourable to the preservation of peace.

He proceeds to observe, that, in addition to all their pre-
vious violations of maritime rights, the British government
had interdicted all trade by neutrals between ports not in
amity with them; and, being at war with almost every nation
bordering on the Mediterranean and Atlantic, our vessels had
been required to sacrifice their cargoes at the first port they
reached, or to return home without the benefit of seeking a
better market. He represents our trade in the Mediterra-
nean as being swept away by the operation of this new law.

On the nineteenth of February, about three months after
the issuing of the French edict at Berlin, prohibiting the
trade of any nation with England, and the admission of Bri-
tish manufactures into French ports, the Spanish government
was compelled, by the commands of its imperious confeder-
ate, to enact a similar law. The president communicates this
decree, as well as that just mentioned as having been promul-
gated by Great Britain, to congress, and observes, in relation
to the former, that due intelligence had not, at that time, been
obtained, as to the degree or extent in which this decree would
be executed.

When the attack on the Chesapeake became public, to-
gether with the spirit of general resentment which it natural-
ly awakened, the English commanders on the northern border
began to employ some precautions, and make some provision
against the war likely to take place. The Indian tribes are
too useful as friends and dangerous as enemies to be over-
looked or neglected on such occasions, and the president in-

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forms congress, that some suspicious movements had been
perceived among them, to check or allay which, proper mea-
sures had been employed, but had been less successful with
the ruder and more remote tribes, than with those nearer and
more civilized. These were the chief particulars in the state
of our foreign affairs communicated in this paper *.

The first step that was made to the consideration of the
external situation of the nation, in the house of representa-
tives, consisted in a motion by Mr. Dawson, of Virginia, “to
refer that part of the president's communication which relat-
ed to aggressions committed within our ports and waters by
foreign armed vessels, to the violations of our jurisdiction,
and the measures necessary to protect our ports and harbours,
to a select committee.”


* The tenth congress of the United States consisted of one hundred and
members, thirty-three composing the senate, and one hundred
and forty-five
the house of representatives. Perhaps there is no example
in any state, where the legislature is composed of many, of so small a
proportional body. In Great Britain, the two houses exceed nine hun-
dred, or are five times more numerous than ours, while the population is
less than triple. In France, the legislative bodies have been seven and
eight times more numerous, with a population only four or five times

The American senate was composed, at this time, of two from
each of seventeen states, except Rhode Island, in which there was one
accidental vacancy. The house of representatives consisted of twenty-
members from Virginia, eighteen from Pennsylvania, seventeen from
Massachusetts and New York respectively, eleven from North Caro-
lina, nine from Maryland, eight from South Carolina, seven from Connecti-
cut, six from Kentucky and New Jersey respectively, five from New
Hampshire, four from Vermont and Georgia respectively, three from
Tenessee, two from Rhode Island, one from Delaware, Ohio, Indiana,
Missisippi, and Orleans respectively.

In this great balance, the mechanical or numerical weight of each state
in the senate was equal, except Rhode Island, which had accidentally
only half the gravity of the rest. The five eastern states, which in
many respects have a common interest, weigh as ten, the four middle
states as eight, the five southern states as ten, the western states as six;
the western and southern are to the middle and eastern as sixteen
to eighteen, while the eastern and southern are equally ponderous.

In the house of representatives, the eastern states are as thirty-five, the
middle as forty-two, the southern as fifty-four, the western district as
thirteen. The southern not only exceeds all the others, but exceeds the
eastern and western jointly by six. The eastern and middle together
exceed the southern and western together by ten. Virginia alone is
equal to Massachusetts and New Hampshire taken together; it has four
votes above Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire
taken together; it has two votes more than Pennsylvania and Delaware
united, it has one vote more than the western district combined with
South Carolina.

Joseph B. Varnum, a representative from Massachusetts, was elected

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Mr. Quincy, of Massachusetts, proposed to refer to a
particular committee that part of the message which related
to the outrage on the Chesapeake, and to instruct this commit-
tee to inquire particularly into the circumstances of that trans-
action. He pleaded the great importance of the subject as
sufficient to require the attention of a particular committee;
and the advantage of obtaining accurate intelligence concern-
ing it, and of imparting this intelligence to the nation at large.

This motion was opposed by different members, on the
score of its informality; on a plea that an inquiry into this
subject was, at present, too early, the president having pro-
mised to impart further information as soon as he obtained
it; that all the information necessary to guide their present
resolutions was in possession of the house and of the public;
that the commander of the Chesapeake being then on trial, it
would be improper to form any resolution which would influ-
ence the issue of that trial; and that, at all events, the com-
mittee first proposed were, by the terms of their appointment,
sufficiently qualified to conduct this inquiry.

The chairman having declared the motion of Mr. Quincy
to be made in due form, the first of these pleas was unavail-
ing, and, to the objection founded on the trial then pending,
it was replied by Mr. Quincy, that his purpose was merely to
obtain full and exact information, and not to pass immediate
judgment on the conduct of any minister or officer. This
motion was rejected without a division, but was proposed
anew, on the fifth of November, by Mr. Quincy, in a less
obnoxious form. He moved that the committee, appointed
under Mr. Dawson's resolutions, be instructed to inquire into
the circumstances of the attack of the Chesapeake, and the
causes and pretexts assigned for making it, and re-urged the
great importance of the subject; the inaccuracy of that in-
formation which the papers of the day had communicated;
the advantage of having the truth explained to them, sup-
ported by the strongest evidence and the highest authority;
that by blending many subjects of inquiry together, and fail-
ing to demand a strict account of any one, a disposition to
evasion and concealment might be indulged with impunity;
that even if the present committee fulfilled the purpose of this
motion of their own accord, it was still more honourable to
the house to demand it from them, since a conduct that ar-
gued indifference or negligence in them, on a theme of such
moment, was highly culpable.

It was urged, by Dana, Alston, Gardenier, and Alexan-
der, that the committee were not authorized, by the terms of

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their appointment, to examine the affair of the Chesapeake,
which occurred, not within the waters of the United States,
but in the ocean, several leagues from the coast. They like-
wise urged the necessity of evincing their zeal, by charging
their committee expressly with the examination of this sub-
ject, even should they spontaneously attend to it; that the
present motion, if unnecessary, yet could not be injurious.

To this it was answered, by Blount, Smilie, Sloan, New-
ton, and G. W. Campbell, that this subject was included in the
objects of other committees already appointed, if not of this;
that this committee deemed it within their province, and had
already taken the proper steps to obtain the information
which this motion required; that, therefore, it was totally su-
perfluous, nor could be construed any otherwise than either
as an imputation on the zeal and diligence of the committee
already formed, or as an affectation of extraordinary patri-
otism, on an occasion where the patriotic zeal of the patrons
of the motion could not justly be supposed greater than that
of its adversaries.

The motion was rejected by ninety-three votes against

An impartial observer cannot perceive any importance in
this controversy. It is impossible to doubt the zeal and in-
clination of the opposing party to blazon the insult received
and avenge it. This zeal was earnestly avowed by their an-
tagonists. That the avowed purpose of both would be an-
swered by accepting or rejecting this motion was clearly seen
by both; yet they disputed with vehemence, and the great
parties in the nation ranged themselves on opposite sides.
The covert or secret causes which impelled one party to urge,
and the other to resist, it is not our business to explain on this

A report was made on the 23d of November, by the
committee whose powers were the subject of this debate,
declaring that the numerous violences committed within the
American waters, and the limits of our jurisdiction, whether
directed by the British government, or prompted by the un-
authorized insolence of the naval commanders, evince the
necessity of protecting the ports and harbours by an ade-
quate force; that the suitable means of defence against at-
tacks merely naval are land-batteries and gunboats; that the
ports which, from their importance and their open situation,
require the earliest attention and the greatest expence, are New
Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, Wilmington, Norfolk, Balti-
more, Philadelphia, New York, New London, Newport,

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Boston, Salem, Newburyport, Portsmouth, and Portland;
that the ports of less importance, and capable of being fortified
with less expence, are St. Mary's, Beaufort, George Town,
Ocracok, Albemarle sound, James river, York and Rappaha-
nock rivers, Potomack, Patuxent, Annapolis, and Eastern
shore, Delaware bay and river, Egg Harbour, Amboy, Long
Island, Connecticut shore, Yiverton, New Bedford, Marble-
head and Cape Ann, York, Kennebunk and Saco, Kennebeck,
Sheepscot, Damesescatta, Broad Bay and St. George's, Pe-
nobscot, Frenchman's Bay and Passamaquoddy; that these
fifteen greater and thirty-two inferior posts, being suitably for-
tified, would defend our maritime frontier from attacks made
by ships; that the president be authorized to raise these for-
tifications, and to build, equip, and distribute the necessary
number of gunboats.

On the 17th of November, the above-mentioned committee
made a report, in which they express their indignation at the
outrage committed on the Chesapeake; mention their apply-
ing to the government for information on the subject, and
their having obtained this information; they then recount all
the circumstances belonging to that transaction, and affirm it
as incontestibly proved, that Ware, Strachan, and Martin are
citizens of the United States. They decline detailing these
proofs, however, or determining whether the attack made
upon the Chesapeake took place within or without the local
jurisdiction of the states, because its iniquity remains the
same, equally flagrant and enormous on every supposition.
They likewise decline to propose any measures relative to
that enormity, till the answer of the British government, to
the remonstrances recently made, were known. They brand
with the strongest epithets of indignation the conduct of the
British ships, prior and subsequent to the great outrage, in
remaining within the bay of Chesapeake, after being warned
to depart, taking vessels, impressing seamen, and publishing
indecent menaces against the people for adhering to the legal
commands of their own government.

It would hardly be necessary to mention here a motion
made by Matthew Lyon to forbid, by law, all transfers of pub-
lic stock by subjects of Great Britain, and the payment of all
debts to them, were it not to remark and applaud the wisdom
and moderation of the house in treating this proposal with
contempt and neglect.

On the 20th of November, a committee of the senate had
proceeded so far as to present to that body a bill for defraying
the expence of building an additional number of gunboats.

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The government had previously notified them that, besides
stable fortresses and batteries, near two hundred and sixty
gunboats would be necessary, of which about seventy were
already provided. In distributing them, the greatest num-
ber, about fifty, was said to be required at New York. The
building of a gunboat is said to cost about five thousand
dollars, so that, deducting those already built, and the stores
already provided, a sum of eight hundred and fifty thousand
dollars was said to be required to raise this species of navy to
the force above mentioned.

A few days after, Mr. Adams reported a bill for maintain-
ing the authority of government in the ports and harbours of
the United States. It authorized them to allow or refuse at
pleasure admission to all armed foreign vessels, and to re-
move them, with certain exceptions, by force. All British
vessels of war are prohibited from entrance, but the president
is allowed to relax or annul this interdict, on receiving ade-
quate atonement for the injuries already received. On re-
fusing to depart, such vessels are to be treated as open ene-

The scene of political contest began more distinctly to un-
fold itself on the 27th of November, when a petition of some
of the merchants and traders of Philadelphia was presented
In this memorial they request that the commercial interests of
the United States may not be endangered by insisting, in our
negotiations with Great Britain, on claims dubious or unim-
portant; that the non-importation act of the 18th of April,
1806, might be repealed, because the execution of it would
not be favourable to a friendly settlement of the present con-
troversies with Great Britain, since, while it injured and em-
barrassed ourselves, it tended to disgust and irritate that na-
tion; and because this repeal would evince a magnanimous
and conciliating spirit on our part, and tend to reconcile the
nation more unanimously to the evils of war, if war, not-
withstanding, should ensue.

It is hardly necessary to remark, that hitherto the public
were wholly unacquainted with the state of the controversy
between America and Great Britain, and with the terms of
reconciliation offered by Mr. Monroe, or by the British mi-
nistry. Five months had now elapsed since the unfortunate
transactions in the Chesapeake, and no one could clearly pre-
dict the consequences, whether warlike or pacific, which were
likely to ensue. Some hints, enabling the people to form
some judgment of the future, might be derived from a know-
ledge of the terms of satisfaction demanded by Mr. Monroe,

 image pending 64

and this knowledge might help those whose property was
abroad in regulating their conduct. That party who suspect-
ed the inclinations of the government and its adherents to be
hostile to peace were greatly alarmed at the darkness which
rested on its proceedings, and began to exert themselves, as
in this memorial, to discover the true state of things, and to
counteract this imputed bias.

On behalf of referring this memorial to a committee of the
whole, it was urged by Clay, J. Randolph, Milnor, Bassett,
and others, that the non-importation act was essentially defec-
tive, full of contradictions and absurdities; incapable of being,
in many cases, carried into execution, and injurious to the very
purpose for which it was made; that an opportunity would
thus be gained of discussing the present state of our affairs,
which had hitherto been shamefully neglected; and that this
mark of respect was due to the character of those by whom
this memorial was presented. This motion was opposed by
Rowan, Crowninshield, Smilie, Rhea, Nelson, and others.
The law which the memorialists condemned was maintained
by some to be just, necessary, and, in the main, accurate and
efficacious, and, therefore, proper to be executed. Others
acknowledged the defects of the law, but that, though they
would not have approved of it when first passed, the repeal at
present would be injudicious and unreasonable; would argue
meanness and undue submission to Great Britain, and, in-
stead of reconciling, would merely serve to inflate her pride,
and prompt her tyranny. In this debate all the usual spirit of
party began to display itself. The memorialists were branded
as subjects and partizans of Britain, and their advocates ac-
cused of a traitorous disposition in favour of the same nation.
Similar imputations were retorted with equal vehemence by
their antagonists. The government was accused of aiming at
an unnecessary war, and the representatives of submitting
with servility to the mandates, and trusting with mischievous
devotion to the wisdom of the government *.

The motion was rejected by eighty votes against fifty.

The proceedings in England became known to the Ameri-
can government about the beginning of December. Though
no official communications respecting this subject were made,

  * When we analyze the debates of a public assembly, we are asto-
nished to find how much of idle repetition, verbose redundance and ob-
scurity, and efforts to explain which make the previous confusion worse
confounded, with personal altercation and abuse, compose the motley tis
sue of the controversy. The debate, on this occasion, would have filled
an ample volume, and yet it is difficult to extract more of argument from
it than is mentioned above.

 image pending 65

either to the congress or the public, they were sufficiently in-
formed, through certain newspapers *, of the actual state of
the negotiation at London. Certainty, however, was still
wanting, and the general solicitude to gain this certainty be-
came very great.

On the 1st of December, the senate adopted a bill, pre-
sented, as already mentioned, by Mr. Adams, to preserve the
authority of government in the ports and harbours of the
United States. Previous to the decision of the other house
on this bill, Mr. J. Randolph proposed, on the 3d, several
resolutions, of which the first, declaring that provision ought
to be made for the support of the indigent officers and sol-
diers of the revolutionary army, was adopted by sixty-three
against fifty-one. The second, that provision should be
made for arming and equipping the whole body of the Ame-
rican militia, was likewise adopted by a small majority. Se-
veral amendments were proposed, to modify the extent of
this provision, or evade it altogether, but failed. A third re-
solution, respecting the purchase of artillery, was unanimously

The objections made to the resolution for arming and
equipping the militia were founded on the injustice of making
those states, who had paid suitable attention to this subject,
contribute to the expence of supplying those who had been
deficient; on the impolicy of arming the citizens, on the
authority of the United States, when the usurpations of the
government might possibly justify resistance, and this resis-
tance, therefore, be precluded by the general government
withdrawing the arms furnished by itself; on the inefficacy
of every practicable mode of arming the militia, since the
arms furnished to the people, at the public expence, would
speedily be lost or made away with; and on the propriety of
employing all our money on the means of maritime defence.

In favour of the resolution it was urged that, in case of
war, the inland, as well as the maritime frontier, would be
exposed to the most dangerous attacks: attacks which forti-
fied posts would be insufficient to repel; that castles and
gunboats, however useful, were less so than armed men,
and, without an armed population, were useless; that, there-
fore, it was proper to attend to the most important purpose
first. This resolution was adopted by seventy-two against

  * The substance of the correspondence between Canning and Mon-
roe was published, early in December, in the National Intelligencer at
Washington, but merely as rumour.

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Much debate took place, on the 30th of November, on a
report from a committee recommending an indefinite sum to
be employed, first, in fortifying the ports and harbours of the
United States, and, secondly, in building and equipping gun-
boats, to assist in the defence of these harbours. All parties
concurred in the necessity of making a provision of this kind,
but they differed as to the sum itself to be thus applied, and as
to the time of applying it. One party proposed that the sum
should not be fixed till distincter views could be obtained as
to the probability of immediate war. The sum proposed, in
case of war, was near eight hundred thousand dollars; in case
of peace, or doubtful neutrality, three hundred thousand was
deemed sufficient. It was urged against the smallness of the
sum, and against delay in fixing it, the extreme probability of
war; the military preparation already made by Great Bri-
tain in Canada and Nova Scotia; that a season of peace was
evidently the proper time for raising fortresses, since they
could not be raised in a moment, and in war the danger was
at hand; that to place the nation in a defencible condition
was the best means of averting war, since it discouraged an
attack; and that the sums proposed were wholly insufficient
for their purpose, and would therefore be merely thrown

On the other hand it was pleaded, that, by information re-
ceived from the secretary at war, three hundred thousand
dollars would be as much as could be conveniently expended
in one year, in case of peace, and that, in case of war, large
sums must be expended on temporary defence merely; that
an effectual and permanent defence required the aid of gun-
boats as well as fortresses: a considerable sum, therefore,
ought to be devoted to the latter, while the former could not
be created in a single year, and would not, therefore, require
the fixing of the whole sum at the present moment; that the
sum proposed was not small or insignificant, because it
merely related to the walls of fortresses; and that the very
difference of opinion among them evinced the propriety of
postponing the fixing of the sum, until the bill itself was
brought on. Both resolutions were finally agreed to without
naming the sums, and without division.

The bill, for building an additional number of gun-boats,
received from the senate, was agreed to by the house of re-
presentatives, on the 10th of December. Much debate took
place on this bill; but, though the controversy entirely related
to the usefulness and efficacy of this mode of defence, the
votes were, in some measure, guided by considerations of

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party. It was carried by a hundred and eleven against nine-
teen. On the 14th of that month, the non-importation law,
hitherto suspended, began to operate. The legislature was
engaged, at the same time, in remedying some of its defects,
by a supplement, on which there was little room for any of
those systematic contests, to which the two parties in the pub-
lic councils were so prone.

On the 15th of December, the non-importation act under-
went a new discussion, in the house of representatives, in con-
sequence of a motion to refer the memorial of the merchants
of Philadelphia to a committee engaged in framing a supple-
ment to that law. The debate was long, and argument and
altercation abounded; but no fresh ground of any consequence
was opened by either party. The same uniformity prevailed
in the debate which took place the next day, on fixing the sum-
to be employed in fortifications. The committee who framed
the bill, and who may be deemed the party of the govern-
ment, proposed a million of dollars. Their adversaries en-
larged this sum to a million and a half, and to two millions
and a half, but the first was finally adopted by a large ma-

The attention of the legislature and the public were now
strongly engaged by the arrival of dispatches from England,
by the ship which carried out the complaints and demands
produced by the attack of the Chesapeake. This vessel ar-
rived at New York about the 12th of December, and on the
18th of that month a secret communication was made to con-
gress. The public naturally concluded that the answer of
Great Britain to the demands of America had been now re-
ceived, and that this answer was absolute. The outlines of
the negotiations with Great Britain were already generally
known. That the demands of America had been rejected
was likewise known. What measures were recommended
by the government to congress? what measures would con-
gress adopt? would war be immediately determined on? or,
as a preliminary expedient, by which some of the disadvan-
tages of war might be prevented, or as an expedient serving
as a substitute for war itself, would the shipping of the nation
be henceforth confined to our ports by a general embargo?
As every individual was concerned, indirectly or immediately,
in the decision of these questions, the universal solicitude,
the vehement impatience for further information, may be rea-
dily imagined.

The president, in communicating certain papers to con-
gress, observed that these papers would show the great and

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increasing dangers that attended the commerce of America,
in consequence of the lawless proceedings of the French and
English governments. It being of the greatest importance
to keep in safety our essential resources, he recommended a
law prohibiting the departure of all American vessels from
the ports of the United States. In pursuance of this advice,
a general embargo was proposed, and, notwithstanding all the
exertions of many eloquent and zealous opponents, was finally
passed by both houses, and ratified by the president, on the
22d of December.

The bill for this purpose originated in the senate. Many
amendments proposed in the house were adopted, and seve-
ral, tending to shorten its duration, or circumscribe its influ-
ence, were rejected. Mr. Quincy proposed to exempt from
embargo vessels engaged in the fisheries, provided they re-
turned with their fishing fare to the United States. He like-
wise proposed that the embargo should not contravene any
rights or privileges rising out of treaties between America
and foreign states. Mr. Mumford moved to limit its dura-
tion to sixty days: but all these motions failed, and the law
passed by eight-two votes against forty-four.

By this law an embargo is laid on all vessels within the
limits of the United States, cleared or not cleared, bound to
any foreign place, except all foreign armed vessels, such as
may sail under the directions of the president, and foreign
vessels, either in ballast, or with the cargo on board when no-
tified of this act; no loaded vessel is allowed to pass between
American ports, without a bond for double the value of vessel
and cargo, conditioned that the cargo shall be re-landed in
some port of the United States.

Thus was exerted, by the general government, the most
thorough and comprehensive power with which any govern-
ment can be vested. The wheels of foreign commerce, in
one of its most important branches, were commanded to stop;
all the capital and labour employed in producing or carrying
away the articles of foreign traffic, were forbidden to pursue
their customary direction. The chief or only source of the
subsistence of millions was sealed up by this decree; and yet
it was submissively received and patiently obeyed by the peo-
ple. That government, of whose stability and efficacy so
many doubts had been entertained; whose hold of the reve-
rence and affections of the people was imagined by some to
be so feeble and precarious, was now found to possess an
energy and authority equal to any which the world had ever

 image pending 69

These conclusions are, however, unhappily, more specious
than solid. An embargo or suspension of commerce is tri-
vial or important in its consequences, according to the season
and the permanence. An embargo of a week, or month, or
three months, is frequently produced in our most important
commercial cities, by a severe winter, or a summer pestilence.
To prohibit the sailing of vessels has no effect, or a beneficial
effect, upon the fate of vessels already sailed or returning. Ves-
sels in port form no considerable part of the shipping of a na-
tion, whose voyages are in general so long, whose vessels pene-
trate every corner of the globe, and who are in so extensive a
degree the carriers of other states. The prohibition, even when
absolute, can only operate by slow degrees. The commercial
stream is so long, divided into so many channels, so circuitous
in its windings, and previously supplied by so many and such
copious fountains, that the remoter channels will be full, and
the diminution of the current scarcely perceptible, long after
the fountains are shut up. If they are opened again in a
short period, the flow will continue without apparent interrup-
tion; or the augmentation at the source, occasioned by the
pause, will more than counterbalance the previous decline in
the distant channels, occasioned by the pause.

There is another circumstance of great importance in the
present case. Laws are not omnipotent. They cannot exe-
cute themselves, and their execution is thwarted and defeated
in proportion as they interfere with the usual occupations and
darling interests of a great number of the people. The com-
merce of a state which has fifteen hundren miles of sea-coast,
broken into innumerable rivers and inlets; a state whose in-
habitants are remarkably addicted to trade, and ingenious in
all its stratagems and artifices; whose moral principles are
not distinguished by any remarkable inflexibility; who are
apt to regard the evasion of legal restrictions on trade, as
more laudable for the dexterity it evinces, than blameable for
the guilt it incurs: the trade of such a people nothing less
than divine power can extensively or permanently controul.
The law, therefore, though unrepealed, though not openly re-
sisted, though externally submitted to, will yet probably be
so extensively eluded, that none or few of the evils imputed
to it will be found to take place, and little claim is made upon
the self-denial or loyalty of the people.

The embargo was a restraint, whose effects upon foreign
powers were expected to be very sudden and peremptory.
That conduct of the states at war which produced it, it was
imagined, would be changed by the mere terror it inspired.

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By withdrawing the stream wholly, because foreign states
had raised some impediments in the channel, it was thought
these states would suffer so much as to induce them sponta-
neously to clear it again; and this with so much expedition,
that little inconvenience to ourselves was dreaded from a
pause so brief. In these respects the people were guilty of a
double and complicated error. That the embargo, even if
punctually enforced, must be of long duration before all the
American shipping could be imprisoned in our harbours, be-
fore its effects on ourselves or others could be fully expe-
rienced, and that it could not be rigorously enforced at all,
and, consequently, that neither the direct evils to ourselves
nor the indirect advantages, which flowed from and were
proportioned to those evils, could ever accrue to us, occurred
but to few minds. Meanwhile the immediate injury being
necessarily small, and the worst that was dreaded being sup-
posed to be of short duration, the embargo was received by
the nation with submission.

Argument and altercation, both from the doubtful nature
of the subject, the impulse of adverse interests, and the instiga-
tion of party spirit, were loud and clamorous; yet a calm at-
attended the moment in which this edict was promulgated.
The people were thrown into a kind of astonishment and
terror. The embargo was suggested by the conduct and re-
solutions of France and Great Britain, but these were known
only to the government and legislature. The motives for
enacting this law were for some time kept out of sight.
Suspicion and conjecture had leisure to divine these mo-
tives, and for a time the adversaries of the government
were more busy in arraigning the motives of the movers,
than in questioning the legality or discussing the conse-
quences of this measure. By them it was imputed to the me-
naces of France; menaces affecting the pusillanimity, as well
as the affections of the ruling party. France had threatened
America with war, if she maintained her usual intercourse
with England. To interdict the trade with England alone
was not demanded by the French, because this would have
brought on open war with that power, and this war would, as
effectually as a general embargo, have stopped the commer-
cial intercourse with the French dominions. An open war
would have injured America more, and England less, than a
rigorous embargo. Therefore, a general embargo was per-
fectly consistent, they said, with the views and policy of
France, and to gratify the ambition, and humour the arro-

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gance of the haughty Napoleon, was it recommended and

When the real tendencies, both foreign and domestic, of
this law, became the topics of popular discourse, it appears
to have been attacked and defended, principally on the follow-
ing grounds.

 image pending 72


THE embargo was never represented as a measure con-
nected necessarily, with the attack upon the Chesapeake, or
with those injuries of a similar nature, lately in discussion be-
tween the ministers of the two nations in London. Its advo-
cates pleaded only the encroachments made by France and
Great Britain on the liberties of neutral commerce, flowing
from their arbitrary detentions and confiscations, their orders
and decrees.

Its opponents insisted on the inefficacy of the measure; on
the disproportion between the injury inflicted by it upon
others, and that accruing from it to ourselves. They main-
tained that it was more injurious to Great Britain than her
enemy, and proceeded from two motives, equally blameable,
an absurd and rancorous antipathy to Great Britain, and a
treasonable bias or submission to France.

To keep our property at home, said its advocates, is the
only way to prevent it from being pillaged by the nations at war.

No pillage, said its enemies, to which it can now be ex-
posed, is equal to the injury of keeping it at home to mould-
er and perish.

It will, said one, save our ships and sailors from the fangs
of France and Great Britain.

Ships unemployed, said the other party, are worse to the
owner than vessels captured or shipwrecked, because, while
laid up, they are productive of ceaseless expence, and no pro-
fit. Sailors cannot subsist without employment. If they
cannot find it at home, they will go abroad in search of it.
If, therefore, the injustice of foreign states interdicted our
whole trade, it would do us less, or, at least, not greater mis-
chief than is produced by a general embargo: but no such
universal interdiction exists. Many avenues are still open,
and must for ever remain open to our trade: avenues which
neither the power of any foreign state is able, nor their inte-
rest will permit them, wholly to close. They likewise urged
that the only ground on which an embargo can be justified,
the interests of the people, is totally wanting. Since the peo-
ple, in a case of this kind, are fully adequate to the care of
their own interests. By not imposing an embargo, the mer-
chant is left to act by his own knowledge and discretion. He

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is not compelled to send his property abroad, but only allow-
ed to do so, if his own prudence and sagacity permits it, in a
case, in which it is impossible that the state or any other in-
dividual can judge truly and accurately but himself.

Besides, said the friends of the embargo, the advantage of
rescuing our property from pillage, and our mariners from
servitude, this measure will powerfully tend, by the incon-
veniences to which it subjects the powers at war, to make
them alter their proceedings towards us, and do that from the
impulse of their interest, which equity and good faith are un-
able to extort from them.

It will impair the manufactures of Great Britain, by partly
depriving her of the rude materials employed in them; it
will undermine her naval strength, by holding back naval
stores, which she has been accustomed to receive from or
through us; it will injure her essential interests, in withhold-
ing the supplies essential to her colonies.

France will suffer in the loss of all those luxuries she has
been accustomed to receive from us, and her colonies will be
deprived of supplies, by the same means that block up all the
channels by which they have hitherto disposed of their pro-
ductions. Spain will likewise suffer in much larger measure.
Her colonies are equally dependent upon us for their sub-
sistence as those of France and Great Britain, while her Eu-
ropean empire, in consequence of bad tillage, frequently wants
the bread which we only can furnish: and while the embar-
go is a powerful weapon in our hands, it is such a one that
no nation can resent the drawing of it: it commences with
ourselves; it operates within our own limits; it is the exer-
cise of a territorial or internal jurisdiction, at which no nation
has a right to complain, and of which every state has occa-
ssionally set the example. It is a species of warfare less in-
jurious to ourselves, more hurtful to others, and at the same
time less likely to incur from others hostile returns, than any
which it is possible to pursue. It is a mere effort of precau-
tion, impartially extended to all nations, against which, there-
fore, no particular nation can reasonably take umbrage. It
will not obstruct the settlement of our present differences with
Great Britain, more than any other precaution against war.

These pleas received a double answer. It was first denied
that the injury would be essential or permanent to Great Bri-
tain. The raw materials of her manufactures she would be able
to procure from her empire in the east, from Canada and Nova
Scotia, from her own colonies, and from those of Portugal.
The soil and the hands are not wanting. All hitherto want

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ing is a market, at home, which America has hitherto sup-
plied more conveniently and cheaply. If this source be dried
up, another, even though attended with some disadvantages,
will infallibly be opened, and, when opened, will it not continue
to flow? The channel of commerce once changed, will the
stream ever revert? if it would spontaneously revert, will
the interests of the British government ever permit it to re-
vert? Being compelled by necessity to introduce new sub-
jects of culture, to open new channels of trade, her dearest
interests, both commercial and political, will prompt her to
foster and encourage them, and what we wantonly give
away, we shall never regain.

Her colonies receive from us at present fish and flesh,
bread and timber, but, if we deny these, will they necessarily
starve, or go houseless or naked? Can any one believe the
West Indian soil will not supply food to its inhabitants, or that
they bring it from a distance for any other reason than be-
cause on the whole it is cheaper to obtain it thus than to raise
it? If they cannot obtain it from us, they can obtain it from
the American provinces of Britain, from those of her allies,
from the British islands themselves. If none of these sup-
ply it, they must content themselves with those substitutes
which their own soil affords; which are wholesome and deli-
cious substitutes, and which nothing but habit has hitherto
caused to be neglected or despised. Their own woods and
their own fields will either supply them with what they pro-
cure from us, or furnish them with something better. They
cannot starve or suffer materially, and the worst that can be-
tide them is the necessity of employing more labour and
more ground than hitherto in raising provisions, and more
hands in cutting timber in their forests.

If the embargo injures Great Britain, so does it benefit them.
We have hitherto been the carriers of the world; will the wants
of the world remain wholly unsupplied, because we do not sup-
ply them? Will all Europe remain without the commodities of
China, India, the West Indian islands, and America, because
we carry them no longer? Cannot Britain furnish ships, sailors,
and is not every sea subjected to her empire? Can laws and de-
crees, without fleets to support them, shut out the necessaries
and luxuries of life from any country, and will they not, in
some measure, in a measure somewhat augmented by the
American embargo, be furnished by British ships?

But suppose the injury to be great, the end is not therefore
accomplished. Great Britain is not accustomed to bow to
threats, to relinquish a point of honour because her interests

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are impaired by adhering to it, to give up her just rights be-
cause the assertion may prove inconvenient. Her claims
with respect to her seamen, though iniquitous in our eyes, we
know to be sacred in her own, and her restrictions on our
commerce are, in her own opinion, but necessary and equita-
ble retaliations on her enemy.

But this measure is said to be impartial. If not the first, yet
the greatest provocation came from France. Her decree
issued at Berlin, if not the first, is yet the chief source of all
this bitterness; that must be revoked before the embargo can
be raised; that must be revoked before Great Britain will
recede from measures, justified in her own eyes only by the
existence of that decree, and the acquiesence of the neutral
states in its tyrannical and ridiculous injunctions. But will
the injury accruing to Great Britain from this embargo in-
cline the French to do what will occasion its removal? The
manifest and sole end of that decree was to extort similar
measures from the pride and resentment of Britain, and thus
embroil her with her friends; to produce an embargo in Ame-
rica, or measures still more hostile and injurious to her rival.
The purpose is obtained, and she will suffer cheerfully a four-
fold evil herself, in order to vex and embarrass Great Bri-

The impartial effects of the embargo are boasted. France
and Great Britain will both be straitened and distressed by
it. Here lies the irreparable evil, the invincible objection:
the benefit of one is the evil of the other; the injury to
France is the strongest reason why Britain should promote it;
the injury to Britain is a powerful inducement for France to
submit to it, to exert herself for its continuance.

But how small is the injury to France! How little is that
potent state influenced by such effeminate, such remote con-

The councils of Napoleon must give way, it seems, to the
passion of one in ten thousand of his subjects for sugar and
coffee! Much heavier disadvantages have not deterred that
ruler from the least of his ambitious projects; and much
heavier evils have not exhausted the patience of his subjects;
and what small space do the shattered fragments and poor re-
mains of his colonies occupy in his eye! Yet these colonies
are only incommoded and for a time impoverished, not lost
or dismembered from his empire, by the suspension of their
intercourse with the United States. Do not the French de-
sire to foment a war between Britain and America; and
would not such a war produce many of the consequences to

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themselves which this embargo is said to produce? But at
all events the French consider their decrees as extorted by a
just resentment at the illegal claims and pretensions of Bri-
tain, which the interest and pride of that nation will not allow
them ever to retract. France can hardly be expected to re-
tread her footsteps, and pull down her laws, merely because
America chuses to embargo her ships.

With regard to Spain, her weal or woe is well known to
make no weight in these scales. Under the name of an ally,
she is no more than the slave of France. It was not her sup-
posed interest that drove her into this war, that caused her
government to issue a prohibitory decree in imitation of that
of her neighbour, that prompts her to pour half of her an-
nual revenues into the coffers of France, to send her whole
military force under French generals, to spill their blood
among the woods of Lithuania or the bogs of Holstein.
Her sufferings will form no inducement with the French to
regulate their conduct by new principles, and certainly no
motive with Great Britain for the relaxation of the smallest
and most dubious of her rights.

The embargo is either harmless or injurious to the powers
at war. If harmless, it loses the strongest plea urged by its
advocates. If injurious, it cannot fail to excite the animosity
of those whom it injures. Even those who bless it, because
it injures their enemy more than themselves, will curse it, in-
asmuch as it hurts themselves, and seek vengeance against
those who intended it to hurt them. An embargo is said to
be a mere domestic regulation, in which foreign states have
no right, nor ever betrayed an inclination to interfere: but an
embargo of a fleet, or the arming of one, both equally do-
mestic measures, are hostile or friendly, or indifferent to our
neighbours, exactly according to the motives that dictated it,
and the tendencies it displays. The present embargo is oc-
casioned by a conduct in Great Britain and France, which is
stigmatized as a violation of justice and national law. Has
this no tendency to awaken displeasure or resentment in those
states, who deem themselves righteous and just in all their
deportment? When a solemn assertion of her rights, by
Great Britain, respecting the service of her native subjects, is
assigned as one cause of this measure; when its tendencies to
impair the manufacturing wealth and naval vigour of that na-
tion are mentioned as inducements to adopt it; will that go-
vernment feel as strong an inclination to reconcile or make con-
cessions, as if no vengeance had been meditated, and none of
this indirect coercion been attempted? Impossible. The

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difficulties of making an ample and suitable atonement for
the outrage on the Chesapeake, even with the strongest incli-
nation to make it, are sufficiently manifest; shall we stu-
diously diminish that inclination, and multiply these diffi-
culties, by adopting measures recommended expressly with a
view of extorting concessions by the mischiefs these measures
do to their manufactories and their navy?

Such were some of the arguments by which the embargo
was attacked and vindicated. To enter more minutely into
its history would be unsuitable to this occasion, as it must
be considered as chiefly suggested by attacks and restrictions
upon neutral commerce, disconnected with the conduct of the
British commanders, in relation to the Chesapeake. It had
probably no influence on the subsequent transactions con-
nected with that violence, though that violence had some,
though, doubtless, a very small share, in producing the em-

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TWO events, which preceded the arrival of Mr. Rose in
America, had considerable influence on the consequences of
that event, and may be said, in a great measure, to have pre-
cluded any further prosecution of the controversy. The
American minister had been charged to demand reparation
and atonement for the outrage committed on the Chesapeake,
and to make the restitution of the seamen taken from that
ship, and the renunciation of all right to take seamen, of
whatever nation, from merchant ships, indispensible parts of
that atonement. Compliance with the first of these demands
was rendered impossible by the conduct of the British ad-
miral at Halifax. The seamen being retaken as deserters,
were liable to trial as such, and to this trial they were accord-
ingly brought without delay. Ware, Martin, and Strachan,
being found guilty, were liable to a capital punishment, but
were condemned to receive five hundred lashes, a punishment
which death could hardly fail to ensue, and which, whether
fatal or not, inflicts torments as cruel and protracted as any
engine which ingenious cruelty has ever invented. This pu-
nishment, however, was remitted, and the culprits pardoned,
while the fourth was condemned to death, and executed pur-
suant to his sentence.

With regard to the right of taking seamen from neutral
vessels, whether of trade or war, a renunciation of which
had been formally declared to be an indispensible condition
of reconcilement, the British government thought proper, on
the sixteenth of October, eighteen hundred and seven, to
avow its resolutions in the most public, solemn, and irrevo-
cable manner. By a proclamation, they declare, that since
many natural-born subjects of Great Britain have been enticed
into the service of the ships of foreign states, and since the
maritime rights on which its power and greatness mainly de-
pend * are disputed, it is necessary to require all such na-
tural-born subjects to leave, forthwith, the foreign vessels in
which they serve, and return home, or enter on board of any

  * Diplomatic sincerity is frequently practised by the British ministers
with more boldness than by any other state. On this occasion, necessity
or self-preservation could not have been truly pleaded, and some would
have hesitated to urge, on behalf of a disputed claim, the interests merely
of national power and greatness.

 image pending 79

British ship of war which they may chance to encounter, and
to authorize all British ships of war to seize and take away
any such seamen found on board a foreign vessel. In per-
forming this service, naval commanders are charged to em-
ploy discreet officers, and to forbear all unnecessary violence.
If such seamen are found on board a foreign ship of war, the
commander must be peaceably required to surrender them.
If he refuse, application must be made, without the least un-
necessary delay, to the foreign government, or intelligence
conveyed to the government at home, that redress may be
duly sought against this unwarranted injury in a formal man-

It further declares, that seamen are not discharged, by be-
coming citizens of a foreign state, of the allegiance incum-
bent upon natural-born subjects, and they, for entering on
board of foreign ships, or voluntarily continuing in foreign ser-
vice, after knowledge of this proclamation, shall be proceeded
against for that contempt; and, if they thus enter or continue
on board of vessels of a hostile state, they shall be deemed
guilty of high treason.

By this proclamation the right was asserted, in a manner
that left the asserter no possibility of recalling or explaining
it: a right, the renunciation of which had been indispensibly
required, as part of the atonement for the outrage on the
Chesapeake. The controversy, therefore, was decided by it:
the execution of one of the persons taken from the Chesa-
peake made it impossible to perform fully a branch of that
atonement, in the restitution of the seamen, still more indis-
pensible. How little hope could then be reasonably enter-
tained that the mission of Mr. Rose could be of any advan-
tage, or lead to a pacific issue.

This minister arrived in America on the twenty-fifth of
December. The proclamation, forbidding intercourse between
all British ships of war and the American people occasioned
considerable obstructions and delays to the arrival of this mi-
nister at the seat of government. Mr. Madison, secretary of
state, was appointed by the president to confer with him, and
several conferences accordingly took place. It was immedi-
ately discovered, that the authority under which Mr. Rose
acted was not only limited, agreeably to the intelligence con-
veyed in London by Mr. Canning to Mr. Monroe, to the
mere affair of the Chesapeake, but was further circumscribed
by another condition, and such as to bar all amicable settle-
ment. He was expressly forbidden by his government
to make any offer or proposal, with regard to the great subject

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of complaint, as long as the proclamation of the president
should be in force. This interdict must be recalled and an-
nulled before he was at liberty even to enter on the conside-
ration of that subject. The president at first refused to an-
nul this proclamation, till the atonement was not only so-
lemnly offered, but formally accepted, but, in order to elude
this difficulty, he finally agreed to revoke his proclamation on
the day of the date of the act, or treaty, by which reparation
should be made for the recent violence. This concession,
however, was built on two positive conditions: first, the terms
of reparation which the minister was charged to offer must
be previously made known, and, secondly, they must be such
as by the president shall be accounted satisfactory. These
preliminaries would be deemed a pledge that the British go-
vernment would effectually provide against the recurrence of
those injuries and insults which the proclamation was intend-
ed to prevent *. The British minister considered himself
bound by his instructions still to require a revocation of this
act, before any step whatever could be taken in the negotia-
tion, and to confine that negotiation intirely to the attack up-
on the Chesapeake. Any previous violence, or complaints, it
formed no part of his commission or duty to consider or com-

As the opposite views taken of this subject were unfold-
ed in a short correspondence between the ministers, we are
enabled to describe them, and, though the real motives among
statesmen are generally withheld from public curiosity, or at
most can only be suspected, it is of great importance to know
by what argument they openly vindicate their measures.

On the twenty-sixth of January, eighteen hundred and
eight, about a month after his arrival in America, Mr. Rose
wrote a letter to Mr. Madison, which the latter was prevent-
ed by sickness from answering till the fifth of March. A reply
was made by Mr. Rose, which closed the correspondence on
the seventeenth of the same month.

Mr. Rose begins his first letter with declaring, that he can-
not negotiate on the transaction between the frigates Leo-
pard and Chesapeake till the president's proclamation of the

  * Mr. Madison's terms are these: “He (the president) has authorized
me, in the event of your disclosing the terms of reparation which you
believe will be satisfactory, and on its appearing that they are, to consi-
der this evidence of the justice of his Britannic majesty as a pledge for
an effectual interposition with respect to all the abuses, against a recur-
rence of which the proclamation was meant to provide, and to proceed to
concert with you a revocation of that act, bearing the same date with the
act of reparation to which the United States are entitled.”

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second of July, then past, should be revoked. This con-
duct he then proceeds to attempt to justify, by insisting on
the detriment and inconvenience which resulted from the pro-
clamation to the military officers and diplomatic agents of
Great Britain, and on the nature of that act, as amounting, in
some degree, to avenging and redressing the injury by the
American government itself. When redress and reparation
was demanded from the injurer, it was evidently necessary to
consider in what degree the injury was already avenged and
redressed by the complaining party. Whether partly or
wholly, it was indispensible and proper to take it into the ac-
count. But this act of vengeance and self-redress was of
more importance, because it was maintained and upheld after
the knowledge of the early, unequivocal, and unsolicited disa-
vowal of an act not authorized, the disclaiming of the right
to search ships of war for deserters, and the promise of
effectual reparation. He then commented on the prompti-
tude and expedition with which the British government had
taken its conciliatory steps on this occasion. Of the repara-
tion he had to offer, he declared his full conviction that it
would be deemed fully satisfactory.

The proclamation being described by Mr. Madison as a
measure of precaution, he affects to consider this precaution
as merely relating to the taking of deserters by force from na-
tional ships; an evil from which he represents the British
orders, issued on the sixteenth of October, as affording ample
security. In separating the attack upon the Chesapeake from
all former grievances, he pleads the superior importance of
this event, and quotes an opinion to the same effect, as sug-
gested by Mr. Monroe to Mr. Canning; and, since the Bri-
tish government disavows, and is willing to redress the greater
grievance, it is but natural and reasonable to infer a willing-
ness to atone for, or, at least, to discontinue the practice of the
less, whence he argues that no precautionary edict was fur-
ther necessary.

This letter suggests many obvious remarks to an impartial
reader. It cannot but occur that the merit ascribed to the
British government of a prompt, unequivocal, and unsolicited
disavowal of this act, and of the right searching national
ships, and the offer of atonement, is quite imaginary. Such
conduct would, indeed, be quite inconsistent with the caution
and craft to be always expected from ministers of state in any
nation, and accordingly the acknowledgment here spoken of
was only wrung from Mr. Canning by the earnest remon-

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strances of Mr. Monroe *. No one can imagine that the
British government will not accept the homage or submission
of any state that chuses to offer it, or that any thing but the
firmest resolution to withhold would induce that govern-
ment to give up the right of searching ships of war, or any
other right by which the glory or dominion of that state is

The acknowledgment, therefore, was by no means prompt
and unsolicited. That it was far from unequivocal, is evident
from some clauses in the letter written in pursuance of a se-
cond remonstrance of the American ambassador, in which
the right of searching ships of war is virtually maintained,
but only the exertion of it, through the impulse of conveni-
ence, forborne.

The proclamation may, without much violence, be consi-
dered as a partial redressing of the injury committed by the
Leopard: but the ambassador does not content himself with
offering a satisfaction, limited and modified by that circum-
stance; with saying we will do thus much, and this, together
with the means you have employed to redress yourselves,
make up a sufficient satisfaction; but he insists that the


* The first letter of Canning to Monroe was couched in the follow-
ing terms: “But whatever the real merits and character of the trans-
action may turn out to be, Mr. Canning could not forbear expressing
without delay the sincere concern and sorrow at its unfortunate result, and
assuring the American minister, both from himself and on behalf of his
majesty's government, that if the British officers shall prove to have been
culpable, the most prompt and effectual reparation shall be afforded to
the government of the United States.” It is truly surprising that this
letter should ever be considered as an unequivocal disavowal of the act
complained of. The second letter, on this subject, was manifestly ex-
torted, but contains this passage: “His majesty does not hesitate in
commanding me to assure you, that he neither does, nor at any time has
maintained the pretension of a right to search ships of war, in the national
service of any state, for deserters.”


† “The right and the practice of which you are instructed to com-
plain, as irreconcileable with justice, and intolerable in all their parts,
have been exercised by Great Britain from the earliest ages of the Bri-
tish naval power, even without any qualification or exception in favour of na-
tional ships of war.

“The grounds on which such a distinction has been admitted in latter
times, and on which, for the course of nearly a century, the crown has
forborne to instruct
the commanders of its ships of war to search foreign
ships of war for deserters, I have already had the honour to explain to
you, and you will have perceived that those grounds are wholly inappli-
cable to ships in the merchant service.”

  ‡ This matter is put in as strong a light as possible by Mr. Canning.
“The whole of the question arising out of that transaction is, in
fact, no other than a question as to the amount of reparation due by his
majesty for the unauthorized act of his officer; and you will, therefore,
readily perceive that, in so far as the government of the United States

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American government shall renounce this imperfect species
of redress before any satisfaction is offered, assuring them,
however, that, in his private opinion, the atonement he is
charged to make will appear, in their eyes, quite satisfactory.

The weight to be allowed to this assurance is easily ascer-
tained. The proper and adequate atonement for this violence
included the restitution of the captives and the punishment
of the officer. The restitution of the captives had not taken
place. The death of one of them had rendered complete res-
titution impossible. No reasonable person could entertain a
belief that the rest would be restored. The admiral had not
yet been even brought to trial, though, had he committed any
breach of the naval laws of his country, this would have been
the immediate and spontaneous consequence. Every other
kind of redress was merely a delusive shadow and unmeaning
ceremony. Disavowals and acknowledgments, relative to
rights and claims, however sincere and explicit, afforded
merely grounds for expectations of the future. A promise of
forbearance for the future cannot possibly be construed into
redress or reparation for a past injury.

As Berkley was merely not authorized to attack the Che-
sapeake, in these circumstances, he committed no offence for
which he could be judicially punished. Had his orders, agree-
ably to the terms of the subsequent proclamation, forbid
him to commit a violence of this kind, he would have been lia-
ble to punishment; and if the American edict were merely
intended to prevent the repetition of this injury, the British
proclamation undoubtedly justified its revocation, by afford-
ing all the security which the nature of the case allowed.
But how an edict, prohibiting the ingress and stay of British
ships of war in American ports, could prevent, by its direct
influence, the search of national ships on the ocean, is difficult
to imagine. It only tended to prevent injuries within the
territorial limit; injuries of which the British ambassador
had been directed to avoid the discussion, and for which no
apology of any kind had hitherto been either made or pro-

The reason given by Mr. Rose, for confining his mission
to the single affray between the Leopard and the Chesapeake,

  have thought proper to take that reparation into their own hands, and to
resort to measures of retaliation, previously to any direct application to
the British government, or to the British minister in America, for re-
dress, in so far the British government is entitled to take such measures
into account, and to consider them in the estimate of reparation which
is acknowledged to have been originally due.”

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flows from the superior importance of this event, compared to
the injuries formerly complained of. This reasoning can
scarcely escape the imputation, from the coolest observers, of
folly and presumption. America had suffered and com-
plained of many injuries previous to this. This was ac-
knowledged by all to be superior to the rest. Of this, there-
fore, they complained most heavily. The American minister
at London acknowledged that this event was so much more
important than the rest, in his first unauthorized letter to the
British government on this subject, but, being speedily di-
rected to combine all their injuries into one demand of satis-
faction and atonement, and even to add to them the impress-
ment of seamen from merchant vessels, he performed this
duty without delay or ambiguity. When, therefore, a spe-
cial minister was sent to America, directed not only to ex-
clude the subject of impressment from merchant ships, but
even every injury but that commited on the Chesapeake,
they either meant a mere pageantry, intended and expected
to end in nothing, or they expected that America would
retract her most vehement assertions, and renounce her most
solemn claims.

That the American government should consider a simple
engagement not to repeat that species of violence committed
on the Chesapeake * as ample security against the other in-
juries complained of, is a demand made by one whose mas-
ters were apprized that the American government would not
be satisfied without full satisfaction, in the same act, for all
these provocations, and had solemnly claimed this satisfac-
tion. Yet, though fully apprized of this, they had dis-
patched a minister expressly charged to confine his attention,
and the atonement he should offer, merely to the single injury.

  * Mr. Rose says, “But if, upon this more recent and more weighty
matter of discussion, upon which the proclamation mainly and materially
rests, his majesty's amicable intentions are unequivocally evinced, it is suf-
ficiently clear, that no hostile disposition can be supposed to exist on his
part, nor can any views be attributed to his government, such as, requir-
ing to be counteracted by measures of precaution, could be deduced
from transactions which preceded that encounter.”

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IT will now be proper to explain the answer given to this
letter by the American secretary. In a letter, dated the fifth of
March, eighteen hundred and eight, he begins with review-
ing the chief occurrences which produced the proclamation
of the second of July. The conduct of the captains Bradley
and Whitby are particularly mentioned; the attack of a French
ship on the American coast, and that of the frigate Chesa-
peake by the Leopard, are then recounted.

He next recounts the misconduct of the squadron to which
the Leopard belonged, after that encounter, in remaining
within the unquestionable territorial limits of these states, and
bringing to, by firing at, vessels pursuing their regular course
of trade; in threatening the country with hostilities; in ap-
proaching it in a hostile manner; and in actually obstructing
the intercourse between different places, and thus subjecting
the ports within his reach to a regular blockade. He then
insists upon the seasonableness, equity, and moderation of
the interdict issued in these circumstances.

In demanding a redress for these wrongs, by which things
should be replaced in the same situation as before the outrage,
the secretary pleads not only the obvious dictates of justice,
but the conduct of the British government, in three impor-
tant and well-known cases, where the injuries were inflicted
on themselves. If precedents were of any inherent obliga-
tion in such cases, or if it were possible for either indivi-
duals or nations to treat others as they require to be treated
themselves, some of the cases quoted by the secretary must
be allowed to be apposite; but self-interest being the motive
which produced the demand, and the consciousness of power
to enforce it the motive for persisting in it, to urge them on
this occasion could not, any wise, effect the end for which
they were produced.

Mr. Madison next proceeds to vindicate the conduct of the
president, in uniting the demand of an exemption from im-
pressment of the crews of merchant ships, with that of re-
dress for the outrage of the Leopard, by insisting, that the
immunity of private, is, with certain well-known exceptions,
as well established by national law, as that of public ships.
The claim of the British government, to take those whom

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their law denominates their own subjects from neutral vessels,
is denied to be sanctioned by national law *; he represents,
as the motive for conjoining these subjects, the president's
desire of seizing so favourable an occasion as the present for
removing all causes of bickering and resentment between the
two nations, and that the generosity of the conditions propos-
ed would tend to reconcile the British government to a com-
plete and radical settlement.

Notwithstanding these reasons for blending these subjects,
the American government had finally consented to separate
them, and to accept of a due reparation for the outrage on the
Chesapeake alone; but this obstacle being removed, by the
moderation and forbearance of the injured party, another is
unexpectedly created, by the demand that the proclamation
shall be first revoked. To evince the impropriety of this
demand, he maintains that the disavowal of Great Britain,
with regard to the search of public ships, forms no part of
the required reparation, but was due to her own sense of ho-
nour and consistency; that a general promise to repair the
wrong will not justify that return which is due to the repara-
tion itself, and, indeed, conveys no confidence to those who
may probably differ with the promiser as to what amounts to
a just reparation. There is no example on a similar occasion
where a minister's private opinion of the redress, of which
he is the instrument, has been received by the adverse party
as the foundation of their conduct, when the nature and ex-
tent of that redress have been concealed. There was less
reason to rely on it on the present case, because, in the letter
of Mr. Canning, announcing to Mr. Monroe the intended
mission, there are tokens of terms and conditions to be offer-
ed, wholly unallowable.

He vindicates the proclamation, by ascribing it to a train of
events, terminating with the attack upon the Chesapeake. Se-
curity against a recurrence of all of them is absolutely neces-
sary to justify the revocation of an act, which rose, not out
of one, but all; but he denies that the greatest of those inju-
ries is discontinued, since the retention of the seamen taken

  * Mr. Madison is well versed in the law of nations; he is fond of
reasoning on the subject as a jurist, and is liberal of the technical terms,
phrases, and distinctions that belong to it. Unfortunately for us, we can
oppose Great Britain with no other arms than those of a logic altogether
nugatory and inefficacious. The powerful may listen to such arguments
with an affected gravity, and even deign to answer them, and the nature
of this science will always enable them to do this speciously, but their
interest will still guide them with as much force, as if it were the only
avowed impulse.

 image pending 87

from the American frigate can only be deemed a continu-
ance or aggravation of the injury. Finally, however, he
agrees that the proclamation shall be revoked on the same day
on which the act of reparation is dated, provided the presi-
dent is previously made acquainted with the terms of this
redress, and approves of them; and this reparation for a sin-
gle injury will be taken as a pledge that all the other injuries
complained of will be effectually prevented.

 image pending 88


TO this letter Mr. Rose replied on the seventeenth of
March, in which he declares himself unable to depart, in
the smallest degree, from his instructions. By these instruc-
tions he was bound to demand the recal of the proclamation,
as an indispensible preliminary to further discussion. That
interdict he continues to deem either a temporary redress of
the wrong complained of, or a measure employed to compel
the grant of such redress from Great Britain. As the first,
it precludes the necessity of any other atonement; as the
latter, it prevents reconcilement, because it is beneath the dig-
nity of his government to act upon compulsion. He then
takes a short review of the transactions which gave occasion
to his mission, with a view to justify the conduct he is direct-
ed to pursue.

He dwells upon the promptitude with which the British
government disavowed the right of search of public armed
ships, and promised reparation, notwithstanding the hostile
conduct of America, by which the attack upon the Chesa-
peake was provoked *; the surprise and displeasure reasona-
bly excited by intelligence of the president's interdict; by the
silence of the American minister, when applied to, on this
head; and by the conduct of that minister in combining,
with this occasion of complaint, the unwarrantable claims
previously urged and rejected. He dwells upon the persua-
sion of his government, that the simple disavowal, already so
often mentioned, required the recal of the interdict; and that
its continuance, notwithstanding the upright procedure of his
government, could only be ascribed to a spirit of wanton
hostility. In this part of his letter he pays no regard to the
disctinction, so carefully drawn and so earnestly insisted on
by Mr. Madison, that this interdict was produced by many
wrongs, of which the British government had offered to re-
dress only the last. Neither does he any where notice that
the last wrong had not been discontinued, but that, after this
boasted disavowal, the seamen taken were retained or exe-

  * He here forbears to call it an unsolicited disavowal, but only one con-
veyed to the American minister before he had made any representation,
by order of his government. It was, nevertheless extorted by a represen-
tation of the most earnest and arbitrary nature.

 image pending 89

cuted; but he affirms that no retaliating measures ought to have
been employed from the beginning. Having been taken, they
ought to be annulled, to justify the injured party in demand-
ing redress from the injurer. This interdict he continues to
view as suggested merely by the outrage on the Chesapeake;
and as either a species of reparation for that wrong only; or
a means of compelling the injurer to redress that wrong only;
or as a measure of precaution against that wrong only. Con-
sidered in either of the two first lights, he accounts the sim-
ple disavowal of his government, of any right to search pub-
lic vessels for deserters, as removing the occasion of it.
Considered in the third point of view, the same disavowal
affords ample security against the repetition of the wrong.

With regard to the conduct of the British squadron after
the attack upon the Chesapeake, he resolves it all into a jus-
tifiable precaution against the hostility which seemed to me-
nace them. After that apprehension was removed, no im-
proper acts, he says, have been imputed to them. They stu-
diously acquiesced in the refusal of supplies, though great in-
conveniences accrued to them on that account. Their remain-
ing in the American waters is described as “necessitated by
the circumstances of the war;” and, so far from warding off
the inferences drawn by the secretary from this contempt of
the proclamation, he plainly insinuates that, had they depart-
ed in obedience to the interdict, sufficient cause of war would
have been afforded to Great Britain.

He next attempts to justify the consideration of the inter-
dict, as occasioned solely by the affray with the Chesapeake.
He refers to the time and circumstances in which it was
issued, and the spirit of its prohibitions. He censures the
hostile spirit which it breathes, and which he considers as by
no means warranted by, or proportioned to, what “was
known to be an unauthorized offence *.” If it really flowed
from prior transgressions, the American government should
have explained this circumstance to the British, in London,
when a special mission to America was first proposed, and
should have deigned to make some reply to the remonstrance
against it, presented by the resident ambassador, Mr. Ers-
kine. He again refers to the acknowledgment of Mr.
Monroe, in a letter to Mr. Canning, of the impropriety of

  * It was not known, when the proclamation was issued, to be unau-
thorized. It has since been declared by the British minister, while this
declaration is by no means supported by the subsequent conduct of that
government towards its officers, and the seamen taken from the Che-

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mingling any other matter with that of the Chesapeake, as
confirming his government in the opinion that the proclama-
tion truly and properly referred to no other matter, whence it
happened that he came unfurnished by such documents and
testimonies as could qualify him for discussing other matters.
He insinuates, however, that his personal knowledge of some
of the transactions complained of, would enable him, on a
suitable occasion, to place these matters in a light by no means
so disadvantageous to Great Britain. To strengthen this
view, he again appeals to the acknowledgment of Mr. Mon-
roe, that the differences between the two nations “were in a
train of adjustment.”

To warrant the separation of the question concerning the
impressment of seamen from one connected with the Chesa-
peake, he dwells upon the difficulties that have hitherto em-
barrassed the former subject *, and the clearness and simpli-
city of the latter. Since the latter can be easily settled, it is
proper to do so, while the former remains wholly unaffected
by that settlement, and may be left on the former footing; a
footing not incompatible, as experience had evinced, with the
continuance of peace and friendship.

To vindicate himself from a charge implied in a passage
of Mr. Madison's letter, that he started objections and raised
obstacles in disingenuous succession, he reminds the secretary
that the recal of the interdict was stated as a necessary pre-
liminary, before the president had consented to separate the
consideration of the attack of the Chesapeake from that of
the general impressment from trading vessels.

Thus closed this momentous controversy. The British
minister refused to offer, or even to mention the redress of
which he was the bearer, till the American proclamation was
recalled. The American secretary refused to recal this pro-


* It will be amusing, and will evince the futility, as to practical conse-
quences, of all debates upon the tenor of national law, to place in con-
trast the opposite pleas of the minister and secretary on this occasion.
Mr. Rose maintains, that “universal law gives to every state the right
of requiring the aid and assistance of her native citizens. In pursuance
of this principle, Great Britain may rightfully enforce her claim to the
service of her natural-born subjects, found on board merchant vessels of
other nations. She has always asserted this right, and enforced it when
convenient to herself.”

Mr. Madison affirms, on the other hand, that, “by the national law, one
state has no right to molest the trading ships of another, unless the lat-
ter are detected in conveying to an enemy of the former contraband of war,
or on supplying a blockaded port. The right alleged by Great Britain
flows only from her municipal law, and implies this manifest injustice and
absurdity, that a nation may rightfully execute its own laws on board of
foreign ships not within its territorial limits.”

 image pending 91

clamation till the reparation was offered and accepted. That
edict was considered by the former as occasioned solely by
the attack on the Chesapeake, and proper, therefore, to be can-
celled on a simple disavowal of the act by the British govern-
ment. It was represented by the latter as rising from a
long series of unredressed injuries, and proper, therefore, to
be enforced till all these injuries were redressed, or adequate
security obtained that they would not be iterated. The mere
disavowal was denied to be an adequate security against the
recurrence even of violences similar to that committed on
the Chesapeake, because that outrage was still continued by
the treatment of the prisoners.

Different judgments were formed of this catastrophe, as
men were influenced by factious or by national biases, and even
appeared in very different lights to different men, whose in-
tegrity was unimpeachable. It is easily perceived, by the
most impartial, that the whole was matter of punctilio. That
the British government should be powerfully affected by the
provocations that preceded the attack of the Chesapeake, and
the injuries that accrued from the interdict, as well as by the
reproaches and invectives it contained, was unavoidable, be-
cause the case was their own. For the same reason they
could not consider the attack of the Chesapeake as a matter
of much consequence, because they were the assailants, and
their power was signalized by executing it.

America, on the contrary, could not fail to be deeply irri-
tated by the injuries and humiliations she herself had suf-
fered, and could not be made to comprehend how the insults
of her citizens, or the invectives of her statesmen could dis-
turb the tranquillity of the injurer, whose own injustice had
incurred them.

Viewed through the medium of self-love, the indignity and
injury accruing to Great Britain from the president's inter-
dict formed a sufficient, or more than sufficient compensation
for the injury complained of. Had it been fully executed by
the compulsory departure of the British squadron, ample
cause of war would doubtless be considered as having been
given; and to be satisfied with merely the recal of this inter-
dict, on the disavowal of the conduct of the Leopard, appear-
ed unavoidably to the British government as an illustrious
proof of moderation and forbearance in a powerful nation to
a weaker.

That the proclamation was occasioned by the attack of the
Chesapeake is undeniable. Whether it was occasioned by
this alone is of no consequence, since without this it would not

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have been issued. Therefore, to annihilate this by repara-
tion or atonement is to place matters in the state in which
they were before its occurence: a state in which no such in-
terdict was thought of. The previous injuries may be ad-
mitted to be real and atrocious, but they were not sufficient,
without the assistance of the last violence, to produce this in-
terdict. This, therefore, being subtracted, they were left to
operate by their own weight. Though Mr. Madison pro-
fessed himself willing to accept of reparation for the outrage
on the Chesapeake as a pledge or security against the repeti-
tion of previous wrongs, and though Mr. Rose refused to
give, expressly or by implication, any such pledge, yet there
is no doubt that, if other obstacles had been overcome, this
would have been easily surmounted.

With regard to the order of time in which the reparation
should be made and the interdict annulled, it is manifest that
this was matter merely of punctilio. The revocation, as to
its practical effects, would be to both parties merely nominal.
The interval between this act and the acceptance or refusal of
the tendered compensation must necessarily have been very
brief. If the tendered recompense were accepted, the revo-
cation would follow of course. If it were deemed unsatis-
factory, and in consequence declined, the edict might have
been instantly revived. It is therefore to be considered how
far true dignity required the American government to sacri-
fice the show to the substance; to give way in a point of mere

But had these obstacles been set aside, what reparation
had the British government to offer? Could America have
been satisfied with less than the restitution of the surviving
seamen taken from the Chesapeake? Would the British
government have failed to annex severe and humiliating con-
ditions, with regard to the surrender of British subjects,
when demanded even from ships of war? As, therefore, the
conditions annexed to the treaty by America would never
have been complied with by Great Britain, and those annex-
ed to it by Great Britain would never have obtained the
acquiescence of America, an amicable issue to this debate was
entirely hopeless; punctilio would have been sacrificed by
either party in vain; nor can it be of any material consequence
whether the negotiation stopped at the second step or the

  * We may observe that the English diplomatic style of the present age
is remarkably distinguished by prolix and intricate sentences, and emi-
nently wanting in that perspicuity, resulting from a proper choice of

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terms, and from the accuracy of grammatical arrangement, which so in-
tricate a model doubly requires. A great many new words have like-
wise been added to the dictionary. It is pervaded by a caution and
forbearance, by a ceremonious politeness, which, though otherwise be-
neficial, abstracts greatly from the force of the reasoning. The appear-
ance of the utmost respect, personal and national, is carefully supported;
each professes to feel the utmost regret at the necessity of proving his
adversary in the wrong, and the most vehement desire to heal their mu-
tual dissentions. This temper is favourable to national harmony, and is
honourable to the present age.

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